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!

Because writing something is better than writing nothing.

June 24, 2009

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. In my pitiful defense, I’ve had two of the most insanely busy weeks I’ve ever had. I have some exciting news I’m working on for tomorrow, but in the meantime, here’s the highlights from the past couple of days.

On Father’s Day every year, my dad’s family gathers at my Aunt Patty and Uncle Jim’s cottage on Elkhart Lake. It’s always a great, relaxing time and the kids love to play in the lake and on the beach. My oldest daughter (almost four) was very brave, walking out to the little yellow raft off my aunt and uncle’s pier and climbing up on it all by herself. She’s a cautious little girl sometimes, but I was proud of her.

I also have to give a shout-out to Aunt Patty and Uncle Jim, not only for hosting Father’s Day, but also for their support of the Elkhart Lake Triathlon. Jim volunteers every year to take his boat out on the lake with a lifeguard to patrol the swim course, which is very cool. Plus, when Trimom and I want to practice lake swimming, they always let us use their pier and their spare bedroom to change.

On Monday and Tuesday, I was at the National Plastics Exposition (NPE) in Chicago. Working in the plastics industry, this is my nerd-vana every three years. The show always has the best technology and newest materials, and it’s almost impossible not to come away with a couple of good ideas. I won’t bore you with the details of the show, but I do want to make one point. The plastics industry is often vilified as being environmentally unfriendly and plastic products are held up as unhealthy for people and the planet. I wish those who criticize our industry could have been at the show, because the theme in almost every booth was “green.” From materials suppliers using post-consumer waste in new materials, to machinery makers using less electricity to run machines, to extensive recycling efforts to minimize the show’s own solid waste, care for our planet was everywhere. I was proud of my industry’s commitment to the environment, and bolstered that the marketplace sees an opportunity in making the world cleaner and healthier.

Being in Chicago also gave me the opportunity to see my good friend Al, albeit briefly. A few years ago, there would be no curfew and we might have hit the bars and an “arcade” or two until closing time. Today, responsible adulthood has us firmly in its grasp, so we agreed to meet for breakfast. At 7:30 a.m. God, I’m old.

However pathetically square I felt, I was quickly won over by the cafe at Fox and Obel, where we met. I took a quick spin through the store while I was waiting for Al. I was in ecstasy. Artisanal cheeses. Olive varieties I didn’t know existed. Gorgeous meats, beautiful produce and exotic chocolates and caramels. I didn’t buy anything, but it’s only because I wasn’t mentally prepared for how wonderful it would be. I was overwhelmed with gastronomic pleasure. But my feast for the eyes was nothing compared to breakfast. I had truffled eggs Benedict and fresh-squeezed orange juice and I could have died, right then, a happy man.

I didn’t die, and I headed home via cab, train and car. I made it back just in time to catch Trimom for the run leg of a practice triathlon with her tri training group. It wasn’t unbearably hot in Chicago, but back home, even at 7 p.m., it was damn near 90 degrees. It was a hot, slow run, but we ran (okay we walked some) the whole way together, which was a nice way to see Trimom after a night away.

Tomorrow, the big news I teased you with ‘way back at the beginning.



Hot time on the old trail tonight

June 20, 2009

Well, summer is finally upon us here in Southeastern Wisconsin. It took until mid-June, but the temperature is above 70, the sun is shining, the humidity creeping up.

Which is great. Long evenings for cooking out and enjoying sunsets, getting together at parks or zoos or lake houses, summer camp; these are all things that just aren’t as much fun when the weather’s cool and the sky overcast.

However, for the Fat Triathlete, the long-delayed arrival of true summer weather is a mixed blessing.

I actually like the cool weather of late spring, and even the downright cold weather of early spring. Forty-five degrees is warm enough to bike, and definitely plenty warm to run, so I’m out on the road as early as late March. (I know some folks run all winter; I’m not sure I’m there yet.) Late spring is the best, though. Mid-60’s, gray skies, muted sun: that’s the ideal environment for the hefty athlete.

But in the heat, I tend to fade. I sweat plenty when it’s cool, so when it’s in the mid to upper 70’s, I’m pouring sweat like Ted Stryker in the cockpit. I also am not a highly efficient VO2 max machine (yet), so humidity over 60% means I’m sucking wind.

The solution, of course, is to work out early in the morning or in the cool of the evening, which I do as often as possible. But even then, there’s no guarantees.

Tonight, I went for a run (after taking yesterday off to recover from my run on Thursday after recovery from the triathlon) at about 7:45 on the Plank Road Trail. It was, all-in-all, a good run; just over a half-hour, just under three miles, just over 11 minute miles.

However, my T-shirt wasn’t “just” anything. It was plain SOAKED. Dripping. I took it off and wrung it out, which made a puddle at my feet, and then I shook it out, sending mists of sweat into the air. And it still wasn’t dry.

In previous years, this is when I would start to give up working out. The heat, the humidity, the UV rays on my pasty German-Irish skin – it would all just be too much. But not this year. This year, I have triathlons to run and PR’s to set. I have goals to meet and a couple dozen of you people watching. The stakes are too high.

So I’ll be out there. Sweating, panting, pushing through.

Send me luck.



Back on the horse

June 18, 2009

I’ve decided today is the day to get back into my training routine. The various constituencies of my body and mind are a little split along partisan lines on this issue.

The limbic region of my brain, concerned with instant gratification, is firmly opposed to exercise of any kind, and vocally opposed to re-starting exercise now. In an impassioned filibuster conducted this week, Senator Limbic extolled at great length the virtues of french fries, Double Stuf Oreos, breakfast skillets and Snickers bars. In an attempt to appease him, I gave him what he wanted, but like all power-hungry wingnuts, he’s not satisfied and demanding more.

My conservative rational mind is expressing greater and greater concern that I won’t be ready for the Tri-ing for Children Triathlon in Eagle on July 26th if I don’t get my butt back in gear. “You lose one week of training for every one day you don’t exercise,” it whispers worriedly. “If you don’t get going now, you’ll get de-motivated and you won’t do well.”

In a stunning show of working together across the aisle and bipartisanship, my, um, testosterone glands (go ahead and wiki that) agree totally with my rational mind, normally its greatest rival. “We crushed the Elkhart Lake tri, now we must stay vigilant and crush the Eagle tri as well!”

My quads, hammies, and knees have formed a minority bloc against the rest of my body and are threatening to strike if I resume exercise. They don’t hurt anymore, but they remember the hurt. Despite that rogue faction, the rest of my body is voting in favor of training, citing a “general malaise” they wanted to overcome.

I wish I could say I was truly torn about this, but the fact is, I’m not.

There is a powerful voice in my internal Galactic Senate. Chancellor Endorphin has, through sinister backroom negotiations and devious political savvy, made itself the de facto ruler of me. And he is a demanding ruler. He wants more triathlons conquered, so he may steal from them the “feel-good” hormones that only they can provide. The Force is strong with him, and he uses competitiveness and adrenaline as his weapons.

When people ask me why I do triathlons, I tell them it’s because endorphins make heroin look like caffeine.

So I’ll be going for a run today. Gotta feed the beast.