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.



I’m not crazy

June 17, 2009

I mentioned in my post-race post that I was having trouble with my front chainring. Trimom was headed down to Milwaukee, so she agreed (because she’s awesome) to take my bike down and drop it off at the bike shop.

So this afternoon, I get a call from Trimom. She’s at the bike shop, and she’s reporting that the mechanic found NOTHING WRONG. He even took it out for a ride and couldn’t find any problem with the chainring.

That leads to four choices:

1) I’m crazy, and hallucinated the problems I (thought I) had on Saturday.

2) The problem truly existed, but magically fixed itself between Saturday and today.

3) The mechanic at the bike shop has a powerful aura that makes problems go away when he’s within five feet of a bicycle.

4) There’s actually a problem, and the mechanic couldn’t recreate it.

No matter what, I’m not sure what to do. I told Trimom that I wasn’t crazy (which I’m now having doubts about) and that I had real problems, and would the mechanic please take one more look at it.

That was almost two hours ago and I haven’t heard anything back. That can’t be good.



UPDATE: The mechanic couldn’t find anything, and so sent the bike home without any adjustment. I’m terrified to go riding, because now I’m about fifty percent sure I am insane.

By the way, Trimom thinks option #2 above is what actually happened. I guess that is the least unlikely.

Tired but happy

June 14, 2009
Leah, Justin, Trimom, Me, Dan, Aaron, John and Josh (L-R) after the 2009 Elkhart Lake Triathlon

Leah, Justin, Trimom, Me, Dan, Aaron, John and Josh (L-R) after the 2009 Elkhart Lake Triathlon

…and it was good.

June 13, 2009

Well, folks, what can I tell you. It was AWESOME. It was damn near PERFECT.

But first things first.

Trimom and I left the house about 5:30, got a reasonably good parking spot and headed to transition. It took longer than we thought it would to get there because every ten feet was someone else we knew; a family member, someone from a training group, someone from my work… It was great, though. It was an excellent vibe to start the day to feel like this was a reunion of old friends.

We got set up, clambered into our wetsuits, and headed down to the beach to wait in line. The weather was great; low 60’s, overcast, no wind. It had drizzled early, but by the time we were on the beach, the rain had stopped.

Waiting there, my buddy Dan wandered off to talk to a friend of his who had checked out the water earlier. Dan came back and told me his friend had said the water wasn’t too bad. The quote was, “It’s not like it’s ice-cream-headache cold or anything.” Surprisingly, that didn’t make me feel better, but it was the funniest line of the day.

Now, I’m a nervous pee-er. And standing in line, I realized I had to pee something fierce. But I had already put my wetsuit on; there was no way I was taking it off now. I settled on the idea that I would just pee when I got in the lake. It was a good plan, but I have no idea if I actually did it, because when I got in the water, the only thing I could think of was “dear God in heaven, it’s COLD.” And it was. It took a little while to catch my breath, but by the time I got into deep water, I was in a rhythm. Face in the water, stroke, face out, breathe, face in the water… I popped my head up every four or five strokes to sight where I was going, which worked great until the return leg. By then, my goggles had fogged up and I couldn’t really see where I was going, and I kept drifting to the right. I swam a lot further than I needed to, because the whole return leg was a zig-zag.

The bright side is that I swam the whole way freestyle, didn’t panic, and though I was pumping blood pretty hard when I got out of the water, my head was clear and I wasn’t totally exhausted like last year.

I ran up to the transition area to the cheers of my mom and her boyfriend (which was AWESEOME), and when I got there, I saw Trimom was still there. She had gone off a couple of minutes before me, so I knew I’d had a good swim.

T1 went pretty well except for three minor problems. The first was that I sat on one of my socks and couldn’t find it for a couple of seconds. The second was that I tried to put my bike gloves on the wrong hands, like a complete moron. The third was that I had trouble getting the plastic covers off my bike shoes. Next time, I’ll take them off before the race starts.

Right from the get-go, I knew I was having a good ride. My legs felt strong, my breathing was good. I was passing slower riders and keeping up with quick ones. And then, just past the halfway point, I spotted Trimom ahead of me. I caught her, and then I passed her. We exchanged a quick hello, I asked her if she was okay, she said yes, and I was off. She was not having her best day, but I was having a fantastic day so far.

I had only a couple of troubles during the bike. First, I had problems with my front chainring. I ride a triple, and for some reason, the bike wouldn’t stay in the middle gear. The other issue was that with a mile to go, a cement truck pulled up behind me and pulled next to me! I don’t know how a cement truck got on the course, but it was kind of dangerous, and I couldn’t get ahead of it until the police stopped it in Elkhart Lake.

T2 went fine, and I changed into my stylin’ Dancing Fairy League team shirt. (Pics soon.)

My legs were like lead coming out of transition. I had anticipated this, but I hadn’t anticipated how heavy they’d feel or for how long. It took me a good mile-and-a-quarter to loosen up, and I had to walk some just to get my legs right. This was not going to be my best run ever. But I trucked on, and finally settled into a reasonable pace right around 11 minutes per mile.

With about a half-mile left, who comes running up the road towards me but my buddy Dan! I would find out later he finished in 1:16 and took 39th overall, despite not doing ANY swimming to prepare. He was running out to find me and other members of the team, and ran with me almost to the finish line. He helped me a ton, because I gave it a little more kick than I might have otherwise. (By the way, he then ran back out to run in more members of the Dancing Fairy League. He’s a hero, and a true friend.)

I sprinted across the finish line and had my bagel and banana, and waited for Trimom. She took longer than I thought, but was happy when she came across the line. Our girls were there too, thanks to our awesome race-day babysitter Kayla, and it was great to see them at the end.

They posted results on the side of a porta-potty, which was amusing. My cousin Jason actually saw my results before I did, and came up to tell me how I did.

You want to know? You’ve read almost a thousand words so far, you deserve it.

Remember, my goal was 1:39.

My time was 1:38:29.

Up until today, I thought I’d set too aggressive a goal. Turns out, I had set a perfect goal.

They haven’t posted splits yet, but I’ll let you know when they do.

Thanks to Trimom for letting me have the time to train, thanks to Sue at the YMCA for a great plan and great encouragement, and thanks to everyone in the Dancing Fairy League (Dan, Aaron, Josh, John, Justin, Leah and Trimom) for showing up and having fun.

Next up is Trimom’s Trek Women’s Triathlon in mid-July, and then we’re looking at a couple more in late July, August and September that we might do together. Stay tuned; I’ll still be here.

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.