June 13, 2021

Dry spells

A friend of mine announced in December that she was pregnant. A few of us were at their house to have a sort of a pod-safe gathering ahead of Christmas when they told us the news. After some cheering and rule-breaking hugging, we talked about what life would be like for them in the year ahead.

This being our biking group, we quickly recognized that the due date was right around the time we were signed up to ride Ramrod in July. The soon-to-be father was obviously out, and the rest of us more or less decided that we would train, but if the baby decided to show up on race day, we would skip the ride to be at the hospital. 

As we continued to chat, the mom-to-be mentioned that she had been filling the fridge with new non-alcoholic beverages to replace the wine and beer she was giving up, and she asked for other drink suggestions. I suggested we all give up drinking for January as a small show of support. 

I have participated in "Dry January", no alcohol for the month, a number of times. It is a reset after the holiday indulgence, and a check-in to make sure that setting drinking aside is as easy as it should be. This time around, even though it followed nine months of sheltering in place where drinking was more of a temptation, it was remarkably easy. 

I did have one slip up mid-month. My brothers and I had found a restaurant with an open outdoor patio, and we got together to discuss Mom's current condition, and I suppose to check in on each other as well. We were about an hour in when I shared that I had given up drinking for January. I said this while taking a sip of my second beer. 

I had just completely spaced, falling into a routine, I suppose highlighting that habits run along in the background unless we consciously make the effort to change them. I wasn't giving into a craving, just drinking without thinking. I added on four or five "dry" days at the beginning of February to offset the slip up. 

Unfortunately, three better habits have also gone dry this year. A slight modification of the grade school three Rs they are Reading, Writing and Running. These three habits are a big part of what keeps me healthy in both body and mind. My writing has obviously been neglected for quite some time, but through the 2020 part of the pandemic, I managed to keep up the other two when the world was turned upside down and making less and less sense. I was able to read 26 books last year, and though I had grander plans, I ran semi-regularly and covered a little over 500 miles. 

2021 has been an absolute struggle on all three fronts, and to be honest I am just plain struggling. I'll pick up on the running dry spell in the next post. 


March 16, 2021

A eulogy for Mom, a first of many

 In the Leaving by Jan Richardson

In the leaving,
in the letting go,
let there be this
to hold onto
at the last:

the enduring of love,
the persisting of hope,
the remembering of joy.

the offering of gratitude,
the receiving of grace,
the blessing of peace.

When I first started to think about what I would say here today, it was just overwhelming. How do you sum up a person in a few paragraphs or pages? It is a difficult thing to look for the light in dark times, but there have been some small blessings in the past week or two. As part of this process, we were encouraged to tell stories. One story led to another, and it was just nice to talk about Mom, and what she meant to me, and to our family.

There are a few memories that have stuck with me always, but in getting to talk about Mom over the past week, random stories would pop up that I hadn't thought about in years. And while I was thinking of stories to tell, little coincidences would pop up to provide a little wonder and mystery.

One of the silly memories that Jim mentioned was about the bucket of rocks. Mom and Dad would take us on hikes as kids. We of course grumbled about it most of the time, because we were kids. But more than the aluminum frame backpacks, and the false promise that the lake was just over the next hill, the thing that I remember most is Mom coming back with a pocket full of rocks. It was like she was bringing back a little talisman that carried the memory of the time and the place. Soon there were a couple of gallon-sized, plastic ice cream tubs full of them sitting in the garage. She could no longer match a rock to a memory, but I don't suppose that really mattered. The collection of rocks was just a way of marking days well spent.

Mom was not big on speeches or hitting you over the head with spelled-out lessons. She was more subtle, making you sort of work them out for yourself. I remember her somehow weaving in a lesson on empathy when she was teaching me how to drive. Consider others always, see things that they are seeing. But she mostly taught me things by example, by living in a caring way. She had this calm presence, a grounded way that I have tried to emulate.

I was walking through a park an hour or two before she passed, looking at bare trees, gathering my thoughts, and listening to a podcast. Toward the end of the episode, Sister Helen said, "The only way I know what I really believe, is by keeping watch over what I do."

Don’t get me wrong, Mom was no Buddha always floating on a sea of Zen. I remember her chewing out a theater manager when a scene was cut out of the movie The Fiddler on the Roof, and she could write a letter of complaint with the best of them. But she didn’t seem to seek out irritation, and even when she found it, she didn’t hang onto it for very long.

There is one memory that has always stuck with me. It was Christmastime several years ago, when Mom and Dad were living in their house above Eastgate. I was over at the house, Mom was working on something in the kitchen, and "It's A Wonderful Life" was on in the family room. This movie always hits me right in the feels, and I try and watch it every season. I don't remember what scene it was, or exactly what Mom said, but the gist of it was "I don't think when I look back on my life, that I will have had that much of an impact."

I know I said something to the effect that impacts can seem small and hardly noticed at the time, but that all those little moments add up. You can never know what chain of events can be set off with the simplest of actions or moments of kindness. And of course that is the lesson of the movie. George Bailey has no idea what a hole there would be if he had never existed.

While this memory was running through my head, I walked into Mom’s room at hospice. The TV was typically tuned to a station of relaxing music with occasional quotes popping up on the screen, but the TV was off when I walked in. When I turned it on the first quote read, "To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world."

I know Mom had an impact on far more people than she could have imagined, but of course I will always remember what she did for me specifically in all those small moments. Everything she did to make me who I am. All the strength that she gave me. I knew no matter how I faltered in this life, Mom would be there in my corner, believing in me when I simply couldn't.

She will live on in the way that I walk through this life. She will be there in every decision I make, every time I offer a small kindness, every time I try to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

One of the things she taught me in that pile of rocks was that if a rock had a band of different colored minerals encircling it, that it was considered a wish rock. Though I have Mom's tendency to be a sentimental packrat, I have resisted collecting a bucket full myself, but when I am hiking these days I will occasionally pick up a rock, and I have a few wish rocks on a shelf at home.

My wish is that we keep our hearts and minds open, and not shut off in pain. May we continue to see those little reminders and strange coincidences that bring her to mind. May the stories we tell and retell keep her alive in the hearts of those she loved, and those that loved her. May those little reminders and stories bring us joy, even when we don't feel like we are ready for it.

May she have felt love in all her days, and may that love sustain us in all of ours.

There is a saying that goes "Every dog owner thinks that their dog is the best. And they are all correct."

I suppose the same goes for Moms. My Mom was the best.




February 7, 2021

That time I could've died young

There are times in our lives where you dodge the worst, and wonder if there isn't someone out there looking out for you. If you had left your house a moment earlier or later, you would have been in that car crash you narrowly missed. If you hadn't caught your balance at the last minute, you could have pitched off the roof. If someone hadn't grabbed your collar, you would have walked mindlessly into traffic.

One of those moments was when I was a kid, flying a kite. I don't remember why I was flying a kite on that day. I don't have any solid memories of flying one before this day, or any day after it. Anyway, some random afternoon I was in my neighborhood having some stereotypical Leave it to Beaver childhood fun. 

It surprises me to remember that I ever got that kite off the ground. My limited memory of kite flying is that it is a massive pain in the butt to get the thing airborne, and I can't imagine how I did it alone. Somehow I did, and it took me down the street and up into a nearby cul-de-sac. And then into the power lines. 

Rather than walk away from a ten dollar toy, or more likely not wanting to leave trash behind, I tried to figure out how to get it down. Then I remembered that we had a tree pruner in the garage. If you don't know what a tree pruner is, it is a sevenish foot pole with a long cord attached to a set of pruners to cut branches that are far out of reach. If the branches are are too thick for the pruner, there is a large saw blade on the end. 

When I went to the Home Depot website to swipe this picture, I found out the poles are made of fiberglass now. Back then, the pole was metal. People are smarter now (sometimes). 

I first grabbed a ladder and then went back for the tree pruner. I remember trying to manage this heavy and unwieldy tool, ready to cut the kite string away from the power lines. I assumed the power lines were wrapped in some form of insulation. It seemed ridiculous that they wouldn't be, and of course I had seen birds on the lines all my life. I did not understand electricity, or what grounding meant. Truth be told, I still don't totally understand it.

Anyway, there I was, ready to extend this metal pole to touch the live wire. Then someone stopped me. A neighbor not quite ran out of his house, but did a solid power walk to stop me. He didn't yell, didn't make me feel stupid, didn't grab me by the shoulders and shake into me how dangerous and possibly deadly this was. In what seemed a perfect dad-like delivery he said something like, "looks like you got your kite stuck up there."

He also didn't tell me to just go home and call the kite a loss. He had me put down the tree pruner and we walked to his garage. He grabbed a fishing pole, some duct tape, and a steak knife. He duct taped the steak knife to the end of the fishing pole, and then taped the bamboo fishing pole to the tree pruner. Back to the ladder, he rather deftly cut away the kite string from the power line with this now fifteen foot contraption, and sent me away. If it was Leave it to Beaver, he would have tousled my hair. 

I didn't understand the bullet I had dodged until many years later when I found out that power lines are unprotected, and birds can die if they ground themselves by touching something other than the power line. I didn't recall ever meeting this neighbor before this day, and I don't know that I ever saw him again, but he may have saved my life that afternoon. Since I didn't understand the significance of what had just happened, I doubt I even told my parents about it.

I don't know what the odds were that this mystery neighbor would have been looking out the window at just the right time. I don't believe in guardian angels, destiny or fate, but I also don't want to look too hard behind the veil. Happy to have a little mystery, and be thankful when story ends happily.

January 24, 2021

Mom

 This is a post I have been avoiding writing. In a similar way, when my marriage was crumbling I didn't write about it publicly, maybe hoping to put off the inevitable outcome, and keeping it to myself in the meantime. But like so many things I have written about here, avoidance and trying to go it alone only leads to deeper troubles. Unable to see most of you in person these days, I will start the process here, beginning to work through it by getting it out of my head and down on paper.

Mom has cancer.

My brothers and I have been meeting once a month off and on over the last couple of years to grab a beer and catch up on life. This has obviously been paused during the pandemic, but in late October a gathering was called, and we were told about the diagnosis. 

She has been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer that forms in white blood/plasma cells. It accumulates in, and attacks your bone marrow. It was discovered when my mom was having back pain. After a couple of appointments, they discovered she had some broken ribs. This made them look a little closer, and they found the cancer, which had been basically dissolving the bones. As a strange coincidence, though multiple myeloma is a relatively uncommon cancer, this is the same type of cancer that my former father in law had. 

The cancer is in the later stages, and the outlook did not look good on initial diagnosis. Mom was put on a chemo regimen, taking a pill once a day in three week cycles. In the beginning, Mom was in a lot of pain due to the broken ribs. Every movement seemed to hurt, and she was very frustrated. Unfortunately, a few days before Thanksgiving Mom went downhill rapidly. She was lethargic, somewhat unresponsive and been sleeping most of the day. 

She was taken to the hospital the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and was there for a week. We brought her back home, hired in-home healthcare to help during the daytime, and I moved in to help out in the evenings. She briefly improved, but a couple of weeks later she was back in the hospital for another two weeks, coming home the evening of Christmas Day. 

Of course, since this is all happening in a pandemic, she couldn't have any visitors while she was in the hospital. We weren't even allowed in the building, so she was going through this all alone. I can't fully understand what that was like for her. They released her on Christmas, not because she had improved much, but because they weren't getting anywhere in improving her physical health. She was too weak to be moved to skilled nursing care, so home was the only real option.

She has been home again for almost a month now. On one hand, being at home is better for her mental state, and her ribs seem to be mostly healed. However, she is still weak, unable to do much more than lie on the couch during the day, and often has difficulty following trains of thought. Strangely, her decline does not seem to be directly related to the cancer, as those numbers seem to be responding to the chemo. It has basically been diagnosed as "failure to thrive", a phrase that seems to put it all on her (and us). She definitely isn't eating or drinking enough, and that is contributing to the inability to get better. I don't know if it is a confluence of the multiple drugs she is on that is making her not want to eat, or if it is something else.

We are trying our best. There is still a healthcare worker there during the day, and one of the brothers is over there every evening to see Mom, and help Dad out with her evening care. But we are at a loss right now. We aren't seeing any real progress, have fewer answers, and we just generally feel helpless. 

There is much more to process and work through, more detailed stories to tell, but this is a starting point of where we are right now. Thanks for reading, for being a part of my circle, and for being part of the conversation.

As always, hug your humans (when it is safe to do so). 

December 31, 2020

Looking back on parts of 2020

A friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook:

Name a good thing that happened during 2020.

For me I made a bunch of new friends that I would have never known were it not for this year.

I drew a blank when trying to answer this seemingly easy question. After reading through the many responses, small and good things that had happened to people I didn't know, my comment to the post was simply, "this thread" because I appreciated so much the question and the answers. 

Our memories seemed pre-disposed to remember our struggles more than our victories, the bad over the good. On top of that, my memory is chronically poor so 2020 (maybe more so than other years) is all just a haze. But on this last day of the year I sat down and tried to remember some of the more positive things that happened this year among all the general suffering. Since my memory is terrible, this is by no means a complete list, and I look forward to people reminding me of things I forgot. 

  • When the shelter-in-place orders came in, so many were stuck at home. Some were fortunate to be able to work from home and thus keep their jobs. However, cabin fever still exists and with few places open and many outlets restricted, many took to walking around the neighborhood. Many seemed to adopt dogs to give them an excuse to get outdoors. Since they were now home more than ever, it was also a great time to help the new pups adjust. While walking around the neighborhood, most everyone was more friendly, exchanging waves and greetings from a distance, deftly maneuvering off and onto the sidewalks to give each other space. The neighborhood felt more neighborly this year.

  • The neighborly feeling also extended beyond the neighborhood. There are obviously endless stories of how people are not taking Covid seriously, and just generally behaving as if providing even the smallest amount of concern for their fellow man is beyond them. However, I have seen so many small gestures of kindness that made me see the care in other people. All the small things that said that though were are not all in the same boat, that we see that we are all weathering the same storm. That we are all in this together. 

  • This was to be a huge fitness year for me. My 2020 schedule included Ramrod, two Half Ironman events, and my first full Ironman. All were ultimately postponed to 2021. As I have mentioned here previously, having an event on the calendar provides the motivation to get out there running, biking and now swimming. The literal finish line gives me something to shoot for, and a proper deadline to make sure the workouts happen. Without the deadlines this year, it was easier to stay on the couch, but various virtual challenges helped keep me from falling too far off the wagon. My regular Thursday night running group the North Bend Beer Runners stuck together all year online. People posted pictures and stories of their runs, as well as pictures of them toasting each other, now at a distance instead of gathered in local pub or brewery. Northwest Trails also held a trail running challenge over the summer. Each week there were new routes and scavenger hunts that kept us outdoors and engaged. Even the silly challenges on Strava (workout four days a week, run a solo 5k or half marathon, etc.) helped keep me moving forward. While I definitely missed the atmosphere and comradery of in-person events, the virtual version definitely did some good.

  • And speaking of virtual communities, it was the year of Zoom and the like. For a number of weeks in the summer, several long time friends from the Keg Restaurant would have a weekly Zoom gathering on Fridays. It was nice to see all the faces and hear their stories once a week. My biking group also "gathered" somewhat less formally on the Marco Polo app. The app lets you send short video messages to individuals and groups. Sometimes we would send random clips of what we were doing, but there would also be semi-regular gatherings with Jenica kicking things off with a "Roll call, watcha drinking?" Of course nothing will replace being able to see each other in person, but in this strange year of distancing, there was still some connection.

  • For about a month I did a "Friends in Photos" project on Facebook and Instagram. I posted a photo each day of a different friend, most often a picture of the two of us side by side. The project was intended to run until we could gather in person once again, but of course this has gone on longer than most of us anticipated. Sometimes I would write a little note with the picture, sometimes they were posted with little context, but it was great to revisit all the faces and places and remind myself how fortunate I am. 

  • At the end of last year I purchased something called a Five Year Journal. The journal is set up with a page for each day, but with room on the page for entries for five consecutive years. My writing habit has obviously been neglected these past few years, and I suppose I decided to begin using this journal to jump start it a bit. It was also meant for me to pay more attention. As noted above, I often have trouble recalling the smaller things that brought me joy in the moment. In previous years I have tried writing the smaller things down on strips of paper and putting them in a jar to read back again at the new year, but after the first month or two I would forget and lose the habit. This journal has been more successful, but again there are weeks here and there where nothing was written down. I finally put a daily reminder on my calendar so at 8:00 each night it pings me to recall the day. It ended up being a very strange year, and I am glad to have this journal as a small window into all that that 2020 was, and to have it continue to keep me paying attention in the years ahead. 

This was such a terrible year in so many respects. Global and personal suffering. Hardships for friends and myself. People we have lost, and beliefs that have been fractured. 2020 is a year that we will all be glad to have in our rearview mirror. However, a flip of the calendar page will not wash it all away, and 2021 will also be difficult for many of the same reasons. The light at the end of the tunnel can seem far off, but I will continue the effort to look for the small joys that bring us light. 




December 24, 2020

Favorite Christmas Memory

The holidays in 2020 may go down as the least memorable. Well, they may be memorable, but not in a positive way. I was recently reminded of one of my favorite Christmas memories, so I thought I would share it here. 

I was living in my first apartment with a buddy of mine. It was a two bedroom in the Crossroads area, with a shared laundry in another part of the building, and had this strange rollaway dishwasher that you connected to the sink with a hose. I remember the messy lesson that you when you are out of dishwashing soap, you shouldn't substitute dish soap. I can still picture the soap suds pouring out of the dishwasher and filling the kitchen. 

We both worked at the McDonald's down the hill. We could walk, or in my roommate's case skateboard, to work. We worked early morning shifts to open up the place, unloaded the delivery trucks each week, and had closing shifts where we were there past midnight. I remember I started at $3.35 an hour and we couldn't have been making much more than four or five dollars an hour when we moved in together. Things were obviously cheaper back then, but we were still just scraping by. We took advantage of the free meal each day we were at work, and our cupboards were filled with Top Ramen and Campbells soup. There was certainly no money for much of a Christmas. 

We were both working the night shift a day or two before Christmas. When we arrived home, there was a Christmas tree set up and decorated in our living room. Our girlfriends had sweet-talked a guy at a Christmas tree lot into giving them a Christmas tree for free or nearly so. Since it was almost Christmas, maybe he wasn't going to sell any more trees anyway. Maybe the trees were all headed to the woodchipper by that point. Maybe our girlfriends were particularly charming or told a great story. Somehow they made it happen even though they were about as broke as we were. 

They decorated the tree with ornaments and tinsel they had swiped from their parent's trees. It was probably a bit of mess of mismatched and sparse decoration, but even then all I could see was the beautiful tree through Charlie Brown eyes, and fill my lungs with that wonderful fresh pine tree smell. It was such a wonderful gesture, and one of those little Christmas miracles. 

I have had grander Christmases, and many special moments shared with wonderful friends and family who I love. There have been other gifts that were perfectly chosen, sometimes revealing how well someone knows me. Still, I cannot recall a Christmas gift or moment that meant quite as much as that one thirty five years ago. 


November 25, 2019

November

For the last decade, November has been sort of a second spring.

As a guy who prepares taxes for a living, there are two major seasons during the year. The first crush of work/hours is to make the March 15th and April 15th deadlines, and the second is the extension deadlines of September and October 15th.

After the spring deadlines, we take a breather, get out of town for a bit, but there is still a bunch of work to do over the summer to make the fall deadlines less brutal. After the October 15th deadline, the tax year is really over. Well, mostly but there really is much less to do. This is the time when all those things I ignored and which faded into the background for much of the year suddenly move out of the shadows to be seen. There are days of office cleaning, scanning and shredding prior year stuff to make room for the current year's paperwork, doctors appointments are made, car maintenance is taken care of, etc.

It is the same thing on the home front. After weeks of long hours and few days off, it is time for (second) spring cleaning. After catching up on sleep and arriving home during daylight hours, you see your home in a different light. First, there are cobwebs. Everywhere. There is a large stack of newspapers I haven't read, but couldn't quite admit I wasn't going to get to. I only get the paper on Sundays, but the stack was still pretty high. Similarly there is a large backlog of books I want to read, but since most of them are on the Kindle or still at the library, the stack is less obvious. My desk is covered in receipts and I haven't balanced my checkbook since the end of the previous year. I reconcile other people's books all year, but can't seem to get to my own, like a carpenter that can't seem to find the time to finish the baseboard in his house. It is satisfying to dig into it, but man the list of set aside projects is long.

The other November re-birth for the past decade has been about writing. It began with that first Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) in November of 2010. The other Sean threw down the gauntlet to join in the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month and I could not ignore his enthusiasm. I made that 50,000 word deadline and came away with a novel that first year. However, I have attempted it a few other times but have not been able to recapture the magic.

I have been on the Nanowrimo mailing list since that first year, and the encouraging emails start rolling in each year around early September. This year a singer I follow was going to take it on and she encouraged me to join. November comes and I have the time and mental space to imagine taking it on again.  Like in previous years though, I did not have a sufficient idea to pursue, but also as in previous years, November sparked something inside that made me want to clear away the mental dust that I had let gather.

Back when I was writing more consistently, I carried around a little notebook to jot down ideas that crossed my mind. Now the notes are jotted down on a phone app when they appear, but they appear less often. To no one's surprise, part of the reason is the phone itself. Moments when I previously let my mind wander are now occupied by the world behind the small screen I carry around. There are fewer creative thoughts because I don't make time for them. When I am busy I can make the excuse that my mind is full, but not in November.

Several nights this month I have been reading old posts, and going through the note-taking apps on my phone. I have found posts that I am proud of, and little snippets of scenes I jotted down for possible stories that make me smile with possibility. It reminds me that there was something in there once, and that it could be there again if I allow the time, make the space, and do the work I have been neglecting.


November 14, 2019

Black Diamond Half-Ironman Triathlon

So my summer of triathlon ramped up pretty quickly.

June - Did a sprint triathlon thirteen years ago.
July - Sprint distance - .5 mile swim, 14 mile bike, 3.1 mile run
August - Olympic distance - .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
September - Half-Iron distance - 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

As under prepared as I felt for Lake Meridian in August, well you can pretty much double that feeling for Black Diamond. Since the swim was the newest element, I had spent most of my mental energy, if not time, on that discipline so felt OK there. I had some running training in the bank from earlier events, but I wasn't exactly ready. What I really hadn't made enough time for was getting on the bike. And as I mentioned in the previous post, this would only be the third time riding on the new tri bike. Like my marathon in Big Sur earlier in the year, I just planned to do the best I could, and focus on enjoying the experience.

The day did not start out great. Well, really the day before. I had some shall we say, intestinal issues the day before. This did not bode well for being squeezed into a wetsuit for an hour, or out on a bike for 56 miles. Then I couldn't find my swim goggles when I was packing up the gear the night before. I fortunately had bought a similar pair that were tinted and mirrored for sunnier days, but had never worn them. One more thing to go against the adage of "nothing new on race day"

I drove down to the start area early, but you actually had to park about two miles down the road from the event. They offered a shuttle and you were allowed to take your bike onto the bus, but they encouraged people to ride to the start to try and eliminate a logjam. Though I had my gear in a backpack so I could ride to the start, I hadn't thought ahead that it would still be before sunrise and the country roads would be dark. Luckily I found a headlamp in my car, so I followed the little circle of light down the road to the park.

The early arrival meant that I found a good spot in the transition area, had plenty of time to wake up, pee, chat with other runners, pee some more, and just get in a good frame of mind. As I wandered around I saw Kathleen and a few other friendly faces in the volunteer tent, and was early enough to see them setting up the swim course.




My watch has a countdown timer for my next event. It counts down for weeks and months, and then suddenly you are there with just minutes to go. Time to start.


The lake was small enough that we had to do two loops. There were different colored buoys for the different events/distances, so you had to keep aiming for the right color. It was another crowded start and I tried to stay to the side of the main pack, but I found myself crawling up on people and having to steer around to find a lane for much of the swim. Overall the swim went pretty well. The goggles worked fine, if a little dark for the overcast day. Other than steering around people I didn't wander off course too much, and I came out of the water feeling pretty good.

I ran/shuffled to the transition area. I am always surprised how awkward I feel walking out of the water since I feel like I barely use my legs during the swim. I somewhat clumsily stripped off my wetsuit, dried my feet, put on my socks, shoes and other bike gear and ran to the exit. Ann was there cheering me on, encouraging as she always is, and snapping some good photos.




When transitioning to the bike you have to run for a bit to a specific area before you can get on and start riding. After crossing the grassy area, cutting down a trail we found pavement and the place where could start. I hopped on and started pedaling.

And my legs felt...empty.

They weren't sore, there was just nothing there, somehow already completely spent.  I tried not to panic, but I had more than five hours of riding and running ahead of me. I stayed in a low gear and started spinning, hoping they would wake up and come back online.

The bike route was another two loop course. I had looked at the elevation profile ahead of time but that doesn't always translate. With riding around it twice we got to scout it out on the first lap, and decide where to be conservative and aggressive on the second lap. Well that was the theory. I just did not have anything in my legs for the hills. I took them slowly and tried to make up for lost time on the downhills and flats. I tucked into my tri position and it really felt like I moving faster than my body was capable.

As a follow up to the discussion about body position and wind resistance in the last post, here are photos from Lake Meridian on my road bike, and from Black Diamond on my tri bike.



Even feeling pretty weak I was encouraged by my average pace in the first hour, around 17 mph. I continued to try and ride conservatively, knowing there was little juice in my legs, and that I had a half marathon to run when I finished riding. I did a better job of fueling during the ride than I had in the past, but I still think I needed to take on more calories. There were a couple of water stations and I managed to grab a bottle and squeeze it into the container on my handlebars without crashing. I was not feeling completely at home as I would have on my road bike, but I am still surprised at how quickly I felt comfortable on the new bike

I rolled into the transition area after 56 miles and a little over three hours on the bike. Time to swap out for running shoes and then back out to take on the half marathon. As I hit the pavement once again I headed left. Ann was there to tell me I was going the wrong way, but I assured her I was not, pointing to the porta potties. Apparently I had hydrated well on the bike because I had needed to pee for the last hour of the ride. Very fortunately, none of my intestinal issues from the day before resurfaced.

After the quick pit stop I was back on course. My legs, feeling dead on the bike, actually felt pretty good on the run. I mean I was definitely tired, but they absolutely felt better than during the bike-to-run transitions on the last two triathlons. Man I love this new bike! I checked my pace on the first mile out of curiosity but did not check it for the rest of the race. I just ran by feel. The route certainly wasn't crowded, but there were generally a few runners up ahead to encourage you on.

As I said I ran by feel, and for the first half I felt pretty good. Then after mile seven the wheels started coming off. I was pretty done in physically. I started walking up sections of hills, and then I started walking at regular intervals no matter if the road was pointing up or not. Like in Big Sur, I just took it as it came. I tried to find a comfortable pace when running, and walked when I needed to. I find that running at near my normal pace and then walking is easier mentally if not physically than just running really slow. I smiled, I waved, I pressed on.

The route returned to the park at about mile ten. The course then took you around the lake twice before reaching the finish line. I saw Ann again as I started the first loop. She encouraged me on, telling me I was doing great, but I told her I was struggling. She would have none of that and had me smiling as I ran past.


The route around the lake was groomed trails and was quite lovely. I was walking more often with each mile, but staying in the moment. There were a couple of volunteers near the end of the first loop to make sure we went the right direction, and soon I was passing by the finish line, teasing me as I made my way onto the next loop. More trails, more trees, more run/walking. As I approached those volunteers for the second time, I started walking. They encouraged me on, telling me it was just around the corner, and I smiled and said, "I know. I'm taking my last walk break so I can run across the finish."

And then there it was.




Ann was there chatting with her trainees and I got to debrief a bit, sharing the experience of the day. Soon though, a wave of nausea and stomach cramping hit and I had to walk away. There was food at the finish, but I couldn't stomach anything at that point. Though spent, I had felt pretty good crossing the line, but my body was rebelling soon after.

About ten minutes after I finished, Joe and Jenica arrived and they brought with them the thing that would turn my day around - an ice cold Coke. I don't drink it all that often anymore, but there is something about the sugar and carbonation that revives me like nothing else. It has saved me before during a hot STP, and has brought me back to life after burying myself on a couple of marathons. The Coke revived me once more, and soon I was feeling human again and I could enjoy the fried chicken Jenica brought as well.



After chatting and regaling in the day, we packed up and headed back to our cars so we could find a brewery and share more stories over a cold one. The two mile bike ride back to the car were the hardest miles of the day. I really had nothing left.

At some point Jenica asked if I had cried when I crossed the finish line. It was a great question. After decades of stoically keeping emotions in check I am more of a crier these days, and nothing gets me like seeing someone cross a finish line, whether it is me or someone else. Even though this was a big accomplishment for me, one I was not entirely prepared for, emotions did not overwhelm me this time. It might have been the two loops around the lake, knowing when the finish was coming, and the rest break before rounding the corner. Maybe it was the state of mind during the day. Maybe my mind was just empty, not even thinking about what I had just done.

Emotional or not, I am pretty proud of what I did that day. Some stats for those that are interested in those things:

Swim: 43:06, 1:55/100 yards
Bike: 3:07:28, 17.9 mph
Run: 2:12:39, 10:06/mile
Total time: 6:10:35

Triathlon season is over, but I already have the next one on the calendar. Sean and the other Sean will be back together again, headed to Oceanside in April for the Half-Ironman. I can't wait.

November 13, 2019

The fastest thing on two wheels

I have had my road bike for about thirteen years now. I started biking a couple years earlier, first using a rust bucket I had from college, and then slightly upgrading to a hybrid bike I picked up for about $150 at a bike shop no longer in existence. I rode that hybrid for a few years, and it actually carried me through two-day, 200 mile STP bike rides for the first three years that I rode that event.

But the road bike changed things.

As I have mentioned previously, I hesitate to replace things that still work. Of course the biggest part of riding is fitness, but the hybrid wasn't really built for more "serious" biking. I couldn't quite justify the upgrade, especially since there was lots I could do toward fitness and weight loss, but I did want it pretty badly. Then I had the opportunity to build a deck for my brother, and that earned me enough money to buy a good entry level road bike.

My Specialized Roubaix has a basic aluminum frame, and though it was definitely faster than the hybrid, it was still built for the comfort of long haul rides rather than for pure speed. It is nothing special to look at, but it feels like a sleeper vehicle that has some hidden power you can't see. It has taken me on a couple one-day STP rides, around Mount Rainier twice, over the Continental Divide, and on a 1,000 mile trek from Seattle to San Francisco.

Of course I see all manner of beautiful bikes when I am out riding. Feather-light carbon frames with gorgeous construction and higher grade components. But I have never really considered getting another road bike. For one, I didn't feel that my stock Roubaix was holding be back, and for another I sort of embraced the beat up old classic taking on the shinier new vehicles.

Then I got into triathlons.

When I first started thinking about triathlons a decade ago, I had read that a tri bike can make a real difference even over the nicest road bike. The differences are two-fold. First it is about aerodynamics for the bike segment of the event. The frames of tri bikes are more blade-like and cut through the wind more easily than the more typical road bike frame. More importantly though is the body position. The largest aerodynamic drag is not the bike, but your body. On a tri bike (also called a time trial bike) you ride in a lower, more stretched out position. On most other bikes you are sitting upright and your chest/body creates a lot of wind resistance. On the tri bike, your arms are stretched out and your torso more horizontal. Less frontal area, less resistance.

The other difference is also related to that stretched out position. Since the triathlon is a multi-discipline event, you need to constantly think about saving energy from one section to the next. From what I have read the position works slightly different muscles than you use when you are running. The theory goes (and my later experience would confirm) you finish the bike leg of the event with fresher legs for the run.

This new sport gave me a little better excuse to get a new bike. However, even though I had three triathlons planned for 2019 I had no plans to get a tri bike until at least next year. I planned to see how much I enjoyed triathlons, then hopefully I could pick up a used bike somewhere when I started to get more serious about the clock rather than just finishing.

And then of course I won a bike.

As I mentioned earlier, the bike that I won would've been an upgrade to my current road bike, but since I didn't really need/want another road bike, the bike shop owner was willing to use it as store credit toward a tri bike. I went down to the bike shop a week after the raffle to see what we could make happen. They of course had some very nice bikes, but as before with moving from hybrid to road bike, the largest jump in performance was just moving from one type of bike to another. I was looking at a (still very nice) entry level tri bike.

They had two brands to choose from at the entry level and I took each one on a test spin. While they were getting them set up for me I commented to one of the guys working there that I had a triathlon in a few weeks, but had no plans to ride the new bike. He looked confused so I explained that I figured it would take some time to get used to the new bike and riding position, and I just didn't feel confident I could would be comfortable enough in that short of time. He assured me I would be.

And he was right.

The test rides did feel a bit weird, but I felt much more comfortable than expected. One bike felt much better than the other, so it made the choice easy. Since I was setting up a new bike there were several additional purchases to be made at the store, so they got a little of my winnings back. I had to wait another week to get the exact bike I wanted, but it was so worth the wait. I think she's gorgeous.


I was able to get out on my new bike for two Saturday rides of about 20 miles each before the triathlon. Certainly not the best plan to change things so close to the race, but with each pedal stroke felt a bit more comfortable, and I definitely felt faster.

When I talked to my brother about buying the new bike, he was blown away at how much bicycles cost. My original road bike cost $1,200, but I have had thirteen years and thousands of miles to enjoy it. And it is not retired. It will continue to be my regular bike for group rides, and it will carry me around Mount Rainier for a third time in July.

The tri bike was $2,900 before all the additional equipment, so I was very fortunate to have basically won a $1,500 down payment at the raffle. I would not have otherwise made this purchase happen, and hopefully it will see fifteen years and thousands of miles as well. This bike has already made a huge difference after only one race (next post) and it is probably the nicest thing I own.

It certainly isn't a sleeper.

September 22, 2019

Lake Meridian Olympic Triathlon, part two

After crossing the finish line I wandered over to Ann to say hello and briefly debrief on the race. I hung out for a few minutes until Angie crossed the finish line and then made my exit so she could have the finish to herself. Smile on my face, I wandered through the crowd making my way back to my station to get rid of some things and grab my phone for some pictures.

After gathering my breath and letting the day sink in, I found my way over to where the volunteers were dishing out baked potatoes. It didn't sound all that tempting, but I knew I needed to eat. I only ended up finishing about half of it before tossing it out. My stomach is always a bit messed up after any long event. Even though I never seem to take in enough calories while on the road, I never feel much like eating when I finish.

I found some open grass among the crowd and listened as the event organizers went through the awards and raffles. There were actually three events/distances on the day, a Sprint, Super Sprint and Olympic triathlon. They also broke up the age groups in five year increments so the award ceremonies went on for a long time. Every so often they would raffle off some prizes to keep people around and interested.


Many people had left by this point, so when they called out a bib number and no one responded, they would toss that number aside and draw another. They mentioned that even if you won one of the smaller things, your name would still go back into the hat for the grand prize. Part way through Ann sent me a text and then waved me over to join her and a couple of her athletes/trainees. We swapped stories about how the day went, enjoying the day again in the retelling.

As they made their way through the various events and age categories, I kept looking at the clock. I had left the house sometime around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and it was already going to be eight plus hours that Izzy would be cooped up in her crate. I kept debating ducking out, but I was enjoying the sorta-after-party, and hey you never know.

When they finally got to the Olympic distance, and then to my age group I was surprised to find that I had finished fifth. At that point I didn't know how many were actually in my age group, but I was hoping it was at least six. I later found out it was twelve, so not too shabby for my second tri and first time at the distance.

To speed things up a bit, they announced both the men and women in each age group and had them go up to the stage together to get their prize. Angie had placed third in her age group, and the way they had the stage set up we were standing side by side to get our pint glasses. Weird coincidence.




I made my way back up the hill to Ann and her group and shared my amazement that I had placed. It was not a couple of minutes later than one of Ann's friend's name was called. as she placed in her age division as well. Smiles all around. 

Once the awards were finished it was time for the grand drawing. They added back the previous winners, but left all the non-responses sitting on the grass where they had been tossed aside. To add a bit of suspense, the announcer called out the winning bib number one digit at a time. When he started with a 2, I knew I was out. He called out 2, 1, 5...  No response. The person who had won had already left, so that number floated down to the grassy dead pile. 

They dug into the hat again and slowly read off the next number - 3 (me)...9 (also me!)...4 (holy shit, that's me!!). I tossed up my phone in surprise and leapt up raising my hands in the air to make sure they saw me before drawing another number. I jogged down to the front as people clapped and probably started gathering up their things. I showed them my bib to verify I had not misheard, and they waved me up on to the make-shift stage. There waiting for me was Brad from the local bike shop. Also waiting for me was a very nice Cannondale road bike. 




While they were snapping some photos, Brad and I chatted. I noted that the bike was a size too large for me, but obviously this was sort of a placeholder. After chatting for a bit longer, he asked something along the lines of "do you even need a bike?" I guess he has given away a bike at several previous events, and sometimes the winner already has several bikes. Not this guy. 

I mentioned that I already had a road bike that although it wasn't as nice as this one, I didn't feel that it was exactly holding me back. I mentioned that I was just getting into triathlons, but I was hoping to get a triathlon specific bike at some point. He said he couldn't provide a tri bike at the price point of this one, but I could apply the credit to get me partway there. 

Deal.

I hadn't planned on getting a tri bike until at least next year, and even then I would be likely shopping for a used bike. But damn, sometimes you get lucky. 

It was a doubly, triply successful day. I drove home still a bit worried about Izzy, but it turns out she was just fine. When I let her out she just sat down on the lawn and stared out at the lake, very zen-like and apparently not needing to pee. Glad I stayed for the drawing. 

Next, bike shopping. This tri thing is starting to get serious. 

September 17, 2019

Lake Meridian Olympic Triathlon, part one

Immediately after the Seafair sprint triathlon, I signed up to do the Olympic distance four weeks later. The Olympic distance is roughly twice the distance of the sprint with a 1.5k swim, 40k bike ride and 10k run (roughly .9 mile swim, 25 mile bike and a 6.2 mile run). Though I did pretty well at Seafair, I wasn't overly confident I could double the distance in less than a month.

In the weeks in between races I began to feel a bit better swimming in open water. I started swimming at Lake Sammamish State Park where the swim area is wide enough to get some long laps just swimming along the ropes. My new friend Ann who has done many triathlons, including now 10 Ironmans, joined me one Saturday. She has been a bit of a Godsend, with endless encouragement and advice. The day she joined me we swam roughly the Olympic distance and then hopped on our bikes to ride around the lake we just swam in. I almost always train alone, so having a friend along for the ride was a treat.

A week before the race I went on my (nearly) annual backpacking trip. We have done it each year since I moved back, but couldn't get our schedules to line up last year. I was really looking forward to the trip, but of course it meant one less week to train. It was a great trip, escaping to the woods to disconnect and reconnect, and of course there was a bit of exercise along the way. Unfortunately, I also came home with a strained calf, so that was not the best thing leading into the race.

It was another early morning on race day to get to the start. Parking was available near the start, but they suggested it would fill up by 6:15. I arrived around 6:00 and there was already a long backup to get in, so I moved onto one of the offsite parking areas at the local fire station. I walked my bike to the start, slowly warming up sleepy muscles.

Along with avoiding last minute stress, getting to the start line early allows you to have a better pick of where you get to set up your station. I picked a good spot and wandered around a bit to check out the area. I met Kathleen who had run the volunteer spot at Ramrod a few weeks earlier. She was volunteering here as well and helped me get checked in. She would later help feed us by manning the food station at the finish. Volunteers really do make these events possible.




Another familiar face was Angie. I had found out a few days earlier that she was participating in the same race. We ran into each other as I was wading into the lake for the start and exchanged an awkward wave.

Speaking of waves, unlike Seafair where there were multiple start waves broken up by age and gender, the Lake Meridian Tri only had two waves per event, one for the men and one for the women. It was a much more crowded start, so as soon as the gun went off there was lots of bumping into each other and jostling for space.

Watching Ironman events on TV, and hearing all the stories of people thrashing against each other at the swim start, I had always had this trepidation about the swim. Many describe it as being in a washing machine as soon as the gun goes off. This wasn't anything like that, but where at Seafair the swimmers spread out eventually, there always seemed to be several people around me throughout the race.

I did a bit better job of sighting the buoys we were to swim around, so didn't add too much distance to the swim this time. I also didn't have any panicky feelings, though I did fall in and out of rhythm on a regular basis while pulling up to avoid running (swimming) into other people. The women started only three minutes after the men, so it didn't take too long for the speedier ladies to catch up to me. As I exited the water, I thought that I saw Angie just in front of me, but it turns out it is easy to mistake people hidden behind wetsuits and swim caps. I did a speed walk to the transition area and swapped out gear and headed out for the bike.

My stomach was again feeling pretty poor for the first bit of the ride, so it was difficult to get any fluids much less any food down. I tried to spin up to speed slowly and wait for my body to come back online. The first several miles were a bit of passing and being passed until we all sort of settled into our paces.

The bike course is basically a set of three out and backs so once you made the first right turn there were faster bikers already coming back from the first leg. Again at Seafair there were so many start waves that there were going to be people well ahead of you regardless of your speed, but here it was clear that the people headed the other way were just on another level of fitness and talent. I did not find this discouraging, and just enjoyed having something to look at while pedaling.


Having felt like I pushed it a little too hard on the bike at Seafair, I tried to ease off a bit to save something for the run. Even so, my average speed was similar to last time, so pacing is something I still need to work on.

About sixteen miles into the ride I stood up out of the seat to take a break and stretch my back and legs. A few seconds after returning to pedaling, my right calf seized, knotting with a painful cramp. I actually cried out in pain and veered over to the shoulder of the road. My right foot is the one I always clip out of the pedal first, and with it locked up in a cramp I almost didn't get it out in time. The revenge of backpacking.

Once safely stopped, I hung my head over the handlebars and tried to will the muscle to relax. After a minute or two it did, so I started to slowly pedal again, pressing on without pressing too hard. If I am not going to learn to pace myself, my body is going to painfully intervene until I do.

I finished the bike without further incident and headed back into transition. I changed shoes, grabbed the belt that holds my race bib and headed out over the grassy hill to find the run course. Again it felt like I was shuffling, but I did feel better starting out than at Seafair. I had a bit over six miles to go, so I was happy to slowly ramp up.


The run course was mostly on a paved park path with some small ups and downs in terrain. There was one longer downhill near the start, and I told myself that I would walk it on the way back in. There was a guy dressed in a Tyrannosaurus costume running up and down the hill cheering people on. It is such a wonderful thing to have people dedicate their mornings, dressed up in a silly costume, just to encourage complete strangers. Getting to experience these random bright spots of humanity are one of the many reasons I do these events.

The run course was a completely out and back course, so you ran about three miles in one direction, turned around, and ran the three miles back on the same path. Not the best set up for variety of scenery, but again you were running past other people on your way out and in. There were smiles, some vacant stares, but lots of nod and waves of acknowledgement and encouragement. When I was headed back I saw Angie coming the other way, and we gave each other a much less awkward greeting and some atta boys/atta girls.

When I reached that hill, I walked just as I planned. The Tyrannosaurus guy was still there and cheered me on to get running again, but I smiled and told him this was my promise to myself. It was less than a mile to the finish, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit when I was back running again. I don't know if I went any faster, but the increased swing of my arms made me feel like I was digging in.

Around the grassy hill the finish line appeared. My neighbor had talked about possibly coming down to see me at the finish, and asked me what time I thought I might run. Having only just done the one tri and never this distance, it was a bit of a wild ass guess, but I thought somewhere between three hours and three hours twenty. When the finish line came in sight, I saw the clock and one more smile crossed my face. I finished in 2:52:49.






I am really happy with how the day went. The swim was a much better experience than last time, other than the calf cramp the bike went well over a more hilly course, and I didn't blow up on the run, running a pace I would be happy with without all the swimming and biking preceding it. All in all a great day.

But it would get better... Details in the next post


September 8, 2019

Seafair Sprint Triathlon

Swim, run, bike. I had done the last two pieces for years, but the first one was a relative unknown.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I did a bit of swimming in 2009 but it had been a solid decade since I had been in a pool. I found my way back for some swimming during tax season and then again in June/July once I had put my marker down on an event. The swim stroke is a bit like the golf swing - many tiny things to consider, and you don't really get good at it until you can stop thinking about all those little things.

I signed up for the July 21st Seafair Triathlon which is one of the few triathlons in the Seattle area. It takes place at Seward Park where I had done several runs, and the bike route was along Lake Washington where I had ridden many times. It was nice to have a familiar setting for this new adventure. Packet pickup was the day before the race, and they marked up my arms and legs with my race number and age.



I suppose that doing this the day before saves some time on race day, but some of the black Sharpie ended up rubbing off on my bedsheets.

It was an early night since my alarm would be going off at 4:40 the next morning. When I turned out the lights, the sun was still up, and a beam came through an opening in the curtains. It focused as a spotlight on this photo of Sierra and me, so I took that as a good sign.


I arrived at the start line early, like I always like to do. I like to avoid the last minute stress of running around, and I also like to take in the energy of the start line. This gave me some extra time to re-rack my bike after I figured out I was in the wrong spot, and to hit the restroom several times (those wetsuits really squeeze the bladder). I ended up with extra time as the start was delayed 20 minutes, and I was also in one of the later starting waves due to my "seniority" of age.







It was finally time to start.

My group of 50 year old guys waded into the lake and waited for the horn. I set myself up in the back right to avoid the mayhem of the start. Figuring I would be one of the slower swimmers, I just wanted to stay out of the way.

The swim ended up being a bit of a struggle. I did a terrible job of sighting, so added some extra distance to the planned half mile swim. I also panicked a bit, ended up out of breath and had to do some slow strokes just to gather myself. It felt like I was out there forever, but it ended up only being a bit under seventeen minutes.

The last third of the swim I found a bit of a rhythm and started thinking about all the steps to take in transition. Once I reached the shore I walked/jogged my way to my bike. I managed to get my wetsuit off without too much trouble, then socks, shoes, helmet, bike and I was off to the next leg. I felt nauseous from the swim, but I was moving forward.

As I rode I began to feel better. I rode briskly, trying to press a bit without using up all my energy since there was still a run waiting. I began to pass other riders, but one of the bonuses of those Sharpie markings on our legs was being able to know who I was passing. I saw very few of my age group out on the ride, and was mostly passing people from the earlier waves. The route along the lake is a beautiful one and soon we were at the turnaround point. I continued to press, feeling a bit better as the miles ticked by. Soon I was back in transition, ready to swap my wheels for running shoes.

After racking my bike and switching out shoes, I made my way out of transition for the second time. My legs were feeling pretty spent and jelly-like. It felt more like shuffling than running, but even so I was starting to pass a couple of people. I just tried to keep moving forward, easing up to that line of what I had left in the tank and trying not to go over.

The route around Seward Park is only about two and a half miles, so in order to do a proper 5k we had to head inland and uphill. Parts of it were steep enough that I had to walk, but I wasn't going much slower than the people trying to run it. Power walking for the win.

Then it was downhill and onto the flats again. When I saw the finish line I didn't have anything in me to sprint, but I finished relatively strong. And that finish line felt really sweet.


When I was in the middle of the swim, mildly panicking and veering off course, I had serious doubts about the Olympic Triathlon I had planned a month later, much less anything longer. But after crossing that finish line, I knew I was hooked.



September 3, 2019

My long road to triathlon

I have wanted to (run?) a triathlon for a very long time, at least as far back as 2006. I actually did do a sprint triathlon that year, but had not done one since.

I really enjoyed that first experience, even though I messed up on the swim and had a flat tire on the bike. Sometimes when we fail the first time, it inspires us to try, try again. That was certainly the experience with my first bike event (which I did not finish) and with my first marathon attempt (which I also did not finish). Yet for some reason the triathlon dream/plan lay mostly dormant.

I did plan on attempting another tri in 2009. By that point I had been biking and running for a few years, so I started going to the pool to train since this would be my weakest link. But 2009 would be the year of unraveling, so it did not happen.

No real excuse for the intervening ten years, though.

Still, the dream was there in the background. I have the 2006 and 2007 Ironman Championships on DVD and I regularly watch them whenever I needed inspiration for an upcoming event. Over the years I have run nineteen marathons, twelve half marathons and ridden in several biking events that surpassed one or two hundred miles, but for some reason the triathlon remained a back of my mind/someday sort of thing.

A couple of things finally pushed it from "someday" to the desire to make it finally happen.

The first was when I went down to St George Utah to run the marathon with Sean, Marci, Jonathan and BG in October of 2016. That event and long weekend was a wonderful reunion of great, long-running friends. Sean had found this great place to rent when he had run the event a few years earlier, so as a part of the weekend we all got to hang out on the patio for several nights to catch up on all things great and small since we now lived a couple of states away from each other.

Some months previously Sean shared that he and BG had participated in their first sprint triathlon. They both had a great time and could see themselves doing it again. There on the patio in St. George, Sean let me know that they had both signed up for the Oceanside Half-Ironman Triathlon the following April. I was both rather blown away that Sean was taking on this distance, and bummed when I logged on to find that it was sold out.

We chatted excitedly about the Half-Ironman on their horizon. I can't even remember if this was before or after we ran the marathon that weekend, but the enthusiasm for this future endeavor almost grabbed attention away from the present challenge/accomplishment. I've had this goal percolating in the background for at least a decade, and here I had someone I had run many (many) miles with set to take on the challenge. It made it more real, somehow more realistic. If Sean could do it, maybe Sean could do it.

The second thing that finally pushed "someday" to "this year" was when I was dating Angie. She had done several Half-Ironman and full Ironman events. When we were still in the excited, planning stage of things, she let me know that she was going to do the Half-Ironman in Coeur d'Alene in June of this year. I had tax season and the marathon in Big Sur in April, but I believed I could half-ass my way into training to at least complete the thing. That was the final spark I needed.

Although Angie, and by extension Coeur d'Alene, did not work out, the seed long planted was set to bloom. 2019 would be the year. After the marathon in April, I had no other major running/biking events on the calendar. It wasn't really now or never, but damn it, just shut up and make it happen.

More to follow..


August 31, 2019

The gift of music and friendship

I was in the last mile of my ten mile training run and this song came on. I had not heard the song in years, but I was instantly transported back some 20 years to the first time I heard it

My dear friend Holly had told me to listen to this song, but after a few weeks of me not getting around to it, she intervened. We were in my car, in a parking lot, and she had me sit with the song and the lyrics, while she sang along in the passenger seat. It was such a gift.

This morning I ran along with those lyrics and memories, that wonderful tingling wave of a runner's high washing over me. All of the feels. All of it such a gift once again.