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.




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.



All over but the shouting

June 12, 2009

Tomorrow is the big day.

First tri of the season.

Bag is packed.

I’m out of my head; nervous, anxious, excited…

Wish me luck. I’ll tell you all about it when it’s done.



Triathlete’s Ruin – The Freezing

June 11, 2009

The chilling conclusion of the Triathlete’s Ruin Trilogy.

After our ride, Trimom and I drove over to my Uncle Jim and Aunt Patty’s lake house. Several of my family members have houses on or around Elkhart Lake, and Patty and Jim’s place is always the place people gather for summer holidays. They had already said it was fine to go swimming off their pier, and already warned us the lake was pretty cold. Additionally, a colleague who lives near the lake had taken the temperature and reported it was 62 degrees, but that was at the surface. So I was prepared for the worst.

We got down to the pier and Trimom began to put on her wetsuit for the first time. If you ever have tried to put on a wetsuit, especially a triathlon-specific wetsuit, you know it’s like trying to stuff a watermelon into a balloon. At first, I just watched, and tried not to giggle openly. Then, as her frustration grew, I stepped over to help. I’m pulling and pinching and yanking, and she keeps saying things like “Ow” or “that’s my skin you’re grabbing” or “I’ll never get this thing on on race day.”

Finally, she got her suit on, and we were ready to go. I did not have my wetsuit (it has since arrived), but we did have neoprene water shoes, which I had insisted Trimom buy. Last year, I cut my toe open on a zebra mussel during my training swim, and I wasn’t going to repeat that mistake.

I jumped in the knee-deep water off the end of the pier, and extended my hand to Trimom to help her in. “I’m pretty good here,” she said, so I did what I had to do; I grabbed her around the waist and plopped her in the water next to me. We started walking out towards deeper water, avoiding weeds and picking our way over rocks.

We finally got to chest-deep water, and took the plunge. The water was very cold, to be sure, but it wasn’t unbearable on most of my body. The worst part was my hands. Pulling my hands through the water as I swam a dozen strokes froze my fingers right to the bone. With no fat or muscle to insulate them, my poor paws went all numb and tingly. I just hope the air temperature is warm on race day, or it will be a white-knuckle bike ride.

After a minute or two of splashing around, we headed back in. Patty and Jim let us dry off and change clothes in their spare bedroom, and we headed home after a late lunch at the Elkhart Lake Subway.

I was glad I got in the lake and felt the water temperature and reminded myself of what it’s like to swim in a lake versus a pool. I was glad I rode the course, so there won’t be any surprises.

I’m ready. I’m so ready. In fact, I just want Saturday to come so badly, this week has dragged on like the week before Christmas did when I was a kid.

Tomorrow is packet pick-up. I’ll let y’all know how I’m feeling after I get my race number.



Triathlete’s Ruin, Part 2

June 9, 2009

If you haven’t yet, please read Triathlete’s Ruin, Part 1, or this won’t make ANY sense.

Sunday, I woke up much as I feared I would, groggy and vaguely nauseous. I have never been so attuned to my own body and my own state-of-being as I have been training this year, and so not only was I very slightly hungover (after ONE drink!) but I was very slightly hungover in High-Definition.

I took the kids downstairs for breakfast, had a bagel and some cereal and started hydrating like it was going out of style. We had gone to Thursday night church, so mercifully I was spared having to swing right into “get ready for the day” mode.

We had a sitter coming at 11 a.m. to let Trimom and I head out to Elkhart Lake to bike the race course and jump in the lake. I was feeling better about 10:30 as I loaded up the bikes and got changed and ready to go. We drove out to the resort that hosts the race, parked in the lot, consulted the course map Trimom had printed off and set out.

The course is pretty nice – there’s only one really busy road and only two county road crossings, which I’m sure will be controlled on race day. There are fewer hills on the course than last year, but the only way there could be more hills is if the transition area was at Everest Base Camp.

We started off together, and I may have ridden a teeny bit faster than Trimom, because all of a sudden I realized I couldn’t see her behind me. I stopped at one of the turns and waited for her to catch up. We did one final review of the course, and then we took off. Again, my rate of speed may have been a smidge higher than Trimom’s, because again, I lost her. I felt a little guilty and then thought, “no, she has the map and she has her flat kit – she’ll be fine.”

I had a great ride – in the drops, head down, legs pumping, good speed. There were two killer short climbs, but nothing major. I finished the out-and-back course and was just getting back into the village of Elkhart Lake when I spied Trimom ahead of me. I knew she hadn’t passed me, so a number of bad possibilities flashed through my brain.

Bad possibility number 1) She got a flat after I was out of sight, had to change it and decided to head for home instead of finishing the course. If that had happened, it would the second time in a row that we had ridden together and she had gotten a flat.

Bad possibility number 2) She was pissed because I rode “too fast” and decided to turn around. In this case, she would be in a sour mood when I caught up to her.

Bad possibility number 3) She had gotten badly lost and had barely made it back to town.

I came up behind her, and her look was more of surprise than seething rage, so I felt like none of the above had happened. What HAD happened is that she accidently cut the course short by a mile or so by turning one road too early on the out loop.

We both had good rides. I averaged 14.7 mph, which is short of the 15.8 mph I need to average to meet my race goal of 47 minutes. I may have to revise that goal a little bit, but maybe the adrenaline and being prepared for the course will help on race day.

Coming up next, the conclusion of Triathlete’s Ruin; The Freezing

Triathlete’s Ruin, Part 1

June 8, 2009

Trimom and I scored a babysitter and went out to dinner last night at Nanakusa, one of our top three favorite places to eat in the United States. (The others are Trattoria Stefano in Sheboygan and Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa. More on those in a future post.)

Nanakusa has unbelieveably creative kitchen dishes. Last night, for example, we had a special salmon roll; lightly seared thin-cut salmon wrapped around parmagiano reggiano cheese and asparagus and topped with a citrus marmalade. Beautiful. They had tempura-battered live soft-shell crab and an amazing crab rangoon roll that is so good it should be illegal.

Of course, they have amazing sushi and sashimi, too. Fatty tuna, powerful mackerel, buttery flounder and perfect salmon are just some of the highlights, and their sushi and sashimi menu is updated every day.

Most of the wait staff has been there for years, which is, in my opinion, one of the hallmarks of a good restaurant. Carlene, Kerstin, Michelle, Erica, Heather and Carrie have been around a long time, a few of them since I started going to Nanakusa seven years ago.

Richard, the owner, is also the patissier, and does great desserts; an espresso/chocolate/vanilla creme brulee trio, a chocolate coconut macadamia nut pie, and an amazing three-chocolate layered “terrine.”

Finally, the bar is manned ably by Jason, the kind of barkeep who starts chilling our martini glasses the minute we walk in the door, and who remembers our favorite drinks and how we like them.

This is, occasionally, a problem.

I have NOT been drinking alcohol much during training, and in the last month, I probably haven’t touched a drop. Until last night. We had to wait a few minutes for a table, so we sat at the bar. Jason asked, not “what would you like?” but “would you like a Vesper?” In a moment of weakness, I agreed. Three parts gin, one part vodka, splash of vermouth, shaken with a twist.

We sat at the bar with our drinks, and were presently shown to our table. Just after ordering appetizers, I realized I felt strange. Kind of woozy, light-headed, even a little flushed. I thought, “damn, I can’t be getting sick, can I?” Then my eyes wobbily scanned the table to my half-consumed martini. There was something relevant there, dammit, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then I realized; I was drunk.

Half a martini and I was in the bag. The formula worked something like this – (Zero alcohol consumed in 30 days plus Metabolism at elevated levels due to training = Fat Triathlete is a cheaper date than a novice nun).

Luckily, I kept my head (sort of) I didn’t do or say anything foolish (I think) and I didn’t order a second drink. I drank lots of water, but fell asleep a little worried about how I’d feel in the morning, especially because Trimom and I were planning on riding the bike course the next day.

To be continued…