Good heavens, MORE hills?

September 20, 2009

With apologies to Charlie Daniels, who may not even know what a triathlon is.

The Devil went up to Baraboo, he was looking for soul to steal.

He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind:

He was willing to make a deal.

When he came across this young man pedalin’ on a Pilot and ridin’ it hot

And the devil jumped on a hickory stump and said,

“Boy, let me tell you what,

“I bet you didn’t know it, but I’m a triathlete too.

“And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you

“Now you run a pretty good triathlon, boy, but give the devil his due:

“I bet a cycle of gold against your soul, ‘cos I think I’m better than you.”

The boy said, “My name’s Jonny and it might be a sin,

“But I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret, ‘cos I’m the best that’s ever been.”


Jonny you clip into your bike and ride that cycle hard.

‘Cos hell’s broke loose in Baraboo and the Devil deals it hard.

And if you finish you’ll wear your pride much shinier than gold

But if you quit, the Devil gets your soul.


The Devil laid out the course and he said: “I’ll start this show.”

And hills flew from his fingertips for the bikes to go.

And he pulled one climb after another, and Jonny wanted to cry.

Then a band of breezes came along and Jonny wanted to die.

When the Devil finished, Jonny said: “That’s pretty steep, ol’son.

“But if you’ll sit down in that chair, right there, let me show you how it’s done.”


Fire in my hamstrings, run boys, run.

My quads are burnin’ like the risin’ sun.

Calves are screaming, knees like dough.

“Jonny, does this hill bite?”

“No, Devil, no.”


The Devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat.

The finish line lay just ahead in front of Jonny’s feet.

Jonny said: “Devil, I’ll come on back and run this race again.

“I told you once, you bitch of a race, I’m the best that’s ever been.”


And I swam in the Devil’s lake, run boys, run.

Biked the hills of Baraboo ‘til I was done.

Runnin’ on tired legs like warm Jell-o

“Jonny, did you give up?”

“No, Devil, no.”

Bad things happen in threes

August 10, 2009

Another triathlete lost her life this weekend.  An Oshkosh woman died during the swim portion of her first sprint tri.  That’s three in Wisconsin, just this year.  My thoughts and prayers go out to Kim Schmidt’s family, and continue to be with Daniel Murry’s and Julie Silletti’s families.

As of mid-July (so, not including this most recent death), there have been 23 deaths in USAT-sanctioned events since 2004. The New York Times reported on the phenomenon of triathlon deaths back in 2008.  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal weighed in after Daniel Murry’s death at Pewaukee. It hasn’t escaped the mainstream media that more than half the deaths are during the swim portion.

There is lots of speculation about the cause of swimming deaths, from cold water to long-QT syndrome to jellyfish.

The truth is that competing in triathlons is either just slightly less or slightly more dangerous than running marathons, (depending on which study you read) and that there is some inherent danger in any physical activity.

However, there is inherent danger in LIFE.  From skydiving to showing horses, and from driving a car to eating wheat, the hooded figure of Death will visit you at a time and place of his choosing, not yours.

As I did after Daniel Murry died, I re-affirm my committment to risk my life by living it. Every time I pull on a swimsuit, strap on a helmet or lace up my sneakers, I’m gambling with my life.  I could have a heart attack, drown, stroke, get hit by a car, attacked by a dog, anything.

I welcome it.

I’m not reckless, I don’t have a death wish, I don’t take silly risks.  But when I’m training or racing, and my heart is pumping, my breathing is ragged, my legs feel like lead and I’m soaked with sweat, I feel alive, and I feel healthy.  I’m not going to let that go, not for anything.

I hope lots more people do triathlons.  I encourage my friends and family to get into it, and always am willing to offer advice or be a training buddy.  I hope YOU do a triathlon someday.  But be safe.  This article from the Journal-Sentinal’s blog gives some good tips for preparing for your first tri, and some good tips for making the swim go a little easier even if you’ve done it before.  In summary: Prepare. Swim in open water (with a buddy or a support boat) BEFORE the race.  Swim in your wetsuit BEFORE the race.  On race day, get in the water BEFORE you have to line up for the start.  Knowing what it feels like to swim in colder, choppier water than your local pool will help you not panic on race day.

I have a bunch of stories to tell, and I’m a bad blogger.  But hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of posting this week as I prepare for the Pleasant Prarie sprint on Sunday, Aug. 16.


July 15, 2009

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks – I have no better excuse than laziness.

However, something happened over the weekend that shook me to the core.

While I was cheering on Trimom and our good friend Luna in the Trek Women’s Triathlon in Pleasant Prarie, WI (Trimom PR’d), a young man named Daniel Murry was drowning in Pewaukee Lake during the Pewaukee Triathlon.

From Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV.  Emphases mine.

Parents Speak Out on Triathlete’s Death

By Charles Benson

We now know what killed a triathlete in Sunday’s race in Pewaukee. Daniel Murry, 33, died of an accidental drowning.

Tuesday night his parents shared their grief.

Lee and Sharon Murry struggle with Dan’s death. They know he battled weight problems. But training for the Pewaukee Triathlon was a turning point in Dan’s life.

“It was a challenge,” said Lee Murry.
Murry says his son Dan once weighed 400 pounds. Earlier this year he decided to compete in the Pewaukee Triathlon.
“Everyone was happy seeing him lose weight and he looked good,” said his father.

This was Dan’s first triathlon but he didn’t decide to just jump into the lake. His family says he had been training for months and had lost 100 pounds.

But Dan never made it through the swim despite being a good swimmer. Investigators called it an accidental drowning but a doctor told the Murry’s it was a heart attack.

Reporter Charles Benson asked, “Do you have any doubts or concerns about the event itself?”
Lee Murry said, “Either way, we realized it was an accident.”

An accident that has left Dan’s co-workers at Culver’s stunned and saddened. His race number and bike helmet are now part of the many memories his family has.

“He was my youngest and he was the light of everybody’s life,” said Dan’s mom.

Sharon Murry never got to see Dan at the finish line but she believes someday she will.

“He really believed and trusted in the Lord,” said Sharon. “He knew where he was going to be going. We have no problems where he is. We’ve just got to meet him at the finish line one day.”

Dan’s funeral is set for Wednesday.

I had heard that “someone” had died during the Pewaukee Triathlon, but I hadn’t heard any details until driving to work this morning, when the radioman said that Murry had lost 100 pounds from his once 400-pound frame. Simple math says he was probably about 300 pounds when he got in the water on Sunday.

I weigh 305.

Daniel Murry was 33. I’m 31.

He is me, and I am him.

Why didn’t I die?

Could I still die?

I’ve taken a lot of pride in pushing myself. Longer swims, faster rides, harder runs. I’ve dropped my time in sprint tris by more than 30 minutes. I told everyone I know I’m doing Devil’s Challenge this year, and I committed myself to doing an Olympic distance next season. I’ve been reading a book about first-time Ironman finishers, and I was just talking to Trimom last night about how someday, when our kids are a little older, we would do an Ironman.

Now I feel like I’m cheating death every time I get a race number.

Here’s the scary part: I’m not quitting. I didn’t even think about quitting. In fact, when I finished reading the story, I decided I would dedicate the rest of my races this season to Daniel.

I’m going to write to his parents and offer my sympathy, and I’m going to let them know Daniel will be swimming, biking and running right next to me in every race I ever do for the rest of my life. Having never met him, I will carry his memory across every finish line, and every race I finish, he’ll finish.

In a very real way, I’ve been swimming, biking and running away from the fat, unhappy person I’d become and towards health and happiness. I’m sure Daniel was dong much the same thing.

I hope that in heaven the water’s always still, tires never flat, and the course is always fast.

Godspeed, Daniel.

Status: Not crazy

June 29, 2009

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a problem with my bike had manifested during the Elkhart Lake tri, and that an initial visit to the bike shop (Thanks to Trimom) proved fruitless. Last week, I whined and complained about my bike STILL not being quite right. So I’ve been looking for an opportunity to go back to the bike store and find out, once and for all, if I’m crazy.

I have some free time this week because the factory at the company where I work is shut down. I was catching up on some desk time, when the Information Systems guys announced the computers would be down, for the rest of the day. So, rather than sit around and stare at a blank computer screen (which definitely would have been crazy) I decided to head down to the Emery’s and ask them to take a look.

It’s important that I pause here and pimp Emery’s. Owned by a former Olympic cyclist (and silver medalist!) they carry Trek, Gary Fisher, Cervelo and I think a couple of other brands. They have a full-service shop and lots of accessories, and like so many bike shops, they sell fitness equipment so the off-season isn’t completely dead. But what really sets Emery’s apart is their commitment to a good bike fit. If you buy a bike from them, they will take serious time making sure it fits correctly. Even if you didn’t buy your bike from them, for a reasonable fee, they’ll fit you from hands to cleats. The day they discovered how badly misaligned my feet were and added wedges to my shoes was the day I started to really enjoy riding.

Anyway, I rolled into Emery’s and Brent himself asked how he could help. I described the problem, gave the whole backstory, and he said, “Well, let’s take a look.” He put my bike up on a rack and proceeded to examine it. He didn’t just check it out, he diagnosed it. He was moving the pedals back and forth, changing through the gears, listening to the chain… I was standing there thinking, “This guy is like Dr. House, but for bikes.”

Sure enough, he soon found that in certain gears in the rear, there was a problem with the chain jumping on the front middle chainring. He made an adjustment to the front derailleur, which didn’t prevent the jumping, but kept the chain on the center ring. I took it for a test ride, and it didn’t slip off once.

He sent me on my way with a doctorly, “Try that for a couple weeks, and if it gets worse, bring it back in.”

Thanks, Emery’s. Thanks for fixing my bike and thanks for validating my sanity.



My maternal great-granduncle was part dolphin

June 28, 2009

A woman in Trimom’s triathlon training group lives on Elkhart Lake, and offered to let anyone come and swim off her pier this morning as long as they did a buddy system. Trimom and I talked to some friends of ours, and found another couple to go out there with us. M- and C- have kids about our kids’ ages, and we all got out to the lake about 9:40 a.m. Trimom was feeling a little under the weather, and C- doesn’t do triathlons (yet), so it was decided that M- and I would swim, and Trimom and C- would lifeguard.

Standing on the shore, looking across a lake is always daunting. It looks REALLY, REALLY far. It wouldn’t look far to run, or to bike, but something about open water makes everything look like it’s a million miles away. We were assured by our hostess, however, that the boathouse on the opposite shore was really only a little more than a quarter-mile.

Now, I’ve swam quarter-miles in three triathlons, so I wasn’t concerned about getting there. I was concerned about getting back. Swimming over half-a-mile would the longest I’ve ever swam, and definitely the longest in open water. Plus, it was a little windy and there were some mild waves on the lake; nothing that I worried about drowning in, but enough that I knew staying on a straight line would be tricky.

But, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead, as they say.

M- and I set out across the lake, with C- in a rowboat with three of the girls, and Trimom in a kayak with our two-year-old. The rowboat didn’t last too long, as the girls got bored, and C- turned back. After 25 yards or so of breaststroke, just to get used the the water, I took a breath, put my head in, and started to crawl across the lake.

I wish it was more of an ordeal; it would make a better story. The truth is, I felt great. I swam at a steady, calm pace, popping my head up every four or five strokes to sight where I was going.

I was Finding Nemo; “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

We got to the other side, and M- was right behind me. I had lost sight of her, because she was swimming on my left, but she was right there. We took a quick breather, Trimom turned the kayak around, and we headed back.

Immediately, things were a bit dicier. We were headed more into the wind and into the waves on the way back, and I had to ride a couple of largish waves once we cleared the bay. I didn’t panic, even though part of me wanted to, and just kept breathing and swimming and looking, trying to stay frosty.

About two-thirds of the way back, I needed a new mantra, so I switched from “just keep swimming” to “I can do an Olympic, I can do an Olympic.” See, an Olympic distance triathlon is 1500 meters, or just over nine-tenths of a mile. I figured if this swim was somewhere in between six- and seven-tenths, and given how good I felt, I was not too far removed from being able to swim Olympic distance. There was only one more hurdle to clear, and that was how I felt when I got out of the water. Swimming along is one thing, but the transition out of the water, moving from a horizontal position to a standing one, suddenly having to support your body weight again, that can get you.

I’m happy to say that when I got back to the starting pier, I was dizzy only for a moment or two, and was able to climb the ladder with no problems. Two minutes later, I was ready to get on a bike and go for a ride. I didn’t, but I felt like I could.

M- beat me back by about 30 seconds, and Trimom had a good core workout paddling the kayak.

We’re planning on going back next Sunday, when I’ll lifeguard and Trimom will swim. Despite the fact she wasn’t feeling well, she was jealous that I got to swim and she didn’t. That’s the nature of this triathlon nonsense; she was JEALOUS she didn’t get to swim ACROSS a LAKE. Even though she’s afraid of fish.

Check out a map of our route. Bear in mind, we did not swim in a perfectly straight line, so the distance was a little more than the .63 miles indicated.



Giving 110 percent

June 27, 2009

So, I’m just a big whiner and excuse-maker this week.

Monday I skipped my workout because I had to leave at 6:30 a.m for the NPE and wasn’t done with my day until 10 p.m.

Tuesday I had a good run with Trimom.

Wednesday I planned on swimming before work, but dilly-dallied around the house and got to the Y late and ended up cutting my swim in half.

Thursday I went for an early run, but because I hadn’t properly hydrated the night before, I got dehydrated and finished lousy.

Today I went for a bike ride, and focused the whole time on the clicking noise coming from my bottom bracket and the problems with my gears, which have recurred, proving I’m not crazy. Thus distracted, I cut my ride short and didn’t push at all.

Plus, I’ve been playing fast and loose with my nutrition. Just a little too much fat, a little too much sugar, a few too many treats. Luckily, I haven’t gained any weight.


I’m not motivated. I did too well at Elkhart Lake, and now I’m having a hard time focusing on a goal. I know I’ve got Eagle coming up in a month, but for some reason, that’s not putting the fear into me.

However, there is a recent development that may help.

Before Elkhart Lake, I was thinking about the other tri’s I wanted to do this summer, and I got it into my head that I wanted to do the Devil’s Challenge in Devil’s Lake, WI. The Devil’s Lake area is very beautiful and very hilly, and Devil’s Challenge is considered one of the more difficult sprint triathlons in the area.

I told Trimom about my plan, and she was less than thrilled. See, she loves me, and she worries that if I push myself too hard, I could injure myself, or worse. She was even concerned that my Elkhart Lake goal was too aggressive. After I met that goal, she didn’t mention Devil’s Lake. I assumed she was still concerned, but Tuesday night, during our run, she surprised me by bringing it up, and telling me she was okay with it. “You kicked ass at Elkhart,” she said. “You proved you could do it.”

Devil’s Challenge is on Sept. 20th. It’ll be the most challenging race I’ve ever done. So, I had better get motivated, or I’m in trouble.

I’m going to make an appointment with my trainer and talk about a plan to get me ready for Devil’s. I’m sure there will be more and harder workouts and I’ll have to pay closer attention to my nutrition. But to be able to say I took the Devil’s Challenge?

That’s motivating.



Lookin’ stylish

June 25, 2009
It's hard to look cool in a swim cap.

It's hard to look cool in a swim cap.

And here I look like I'm going to hurl. Classy.

And here I look like I'm going to hurl. Classy.

Thanks to Tammy from work for taking these pics!