Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas letter, 2012

Late December/January:
Lorelai (Kirk’s granddaughter) baptized. Ann and Barry finish Disney World Goofy Challenge– half marathon Saturday/full on Sunday.
Christopher finishes Mickey Marathon – his first 26.2 – then hops on a plane and starts 2nd semester at Georgia Tech. Barry’s annual golf weekend marked by great weather and exaggerated fish stories.

Ann spends great weekend with the D’Asta family in Phoenix. Barry travels to Brazil and Mexico, and Ann flies up for a visit with Mom D. Ann enjoys Miami’s Farmer’s Market, where a friend gifts her with an heirloom tomato plant and Ann is transported to tomato heaven every day.

Spring break month! 13 visitors over 4 weeks – jet skiing, beach bumming, kite flying, and pool napping. Ann begins full out training for Ironman Florida.
The excitement begins! Barry and Ann sell house and begin work to build their FINAL home on river front property in Libertyville. When we first saw the land, it said “home”.

Amy graduates with her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with a Bilingual Specialization. She runs in Cincinnati Flying Pig half marathon with her Aunt Theresa. Ann’s bible study and choir end. Chris comes to Miami for a week before GT summer session. He takes job at the GT Recreational center. Barry helps Ann train; how many Bakers does it take to change a bike flat? At least two!

Amy hired as dual language 4th grade teacher in Evanston, IL. Kayla completes first year graduate school at ISU. Ann and Barry move north into rental house. Ann drives up with dog and cat – Barry drives the bicycles up one day later. Ann’s van breaks down on 1-75 in the middle of rural Georgia. 95°. Manages to get off interstate and up a ramp to a safe area. Towed to a Days Inn in Ashburn – Ford fixes car next day. Barry meets up with and follows Ann through Atlanta, then veers off to see his parents. Ann safely arrives in Libertyville. Ann joins a coaching group to prepare for Ironman.

She discovers that the only correct aspect of her swimming technique is breathing. Barry and Ann ‘race’ the Bigfoot Olympic length triathlon in Lake Geneva, WI. Shared a terrific time at Kirk and Karen’s lake house with Dunkelberger Clan, complete with a one-mile lake swim.


Swim, Bike, Run. Swim, Bike, Run. Swim, Bike, Run. Ann buys a used triathlon bike and slowly adjusts to the aero (resting on bars) position. She lacks the gift of balance. Bruises and scrapes follow. Enjoy Kayla’s summer visit. While condo hunting, Amy moves in with us. Break ground on house.

Chris is home for two weeks between semesters. He vows never to take summer school again. Amy bids on a Chicago two-bedroom condo. House basement poured. On a mild Sunday, Barry and Ann participate in the Benton Harbor, MI Steelhead 70.3 Ironman. Calm Lake Michigan waters marked the 1.2 mi swim, lights winds graced the 56 mi. bike ride, and cheering volunteers made short work of the 13.1 mi run. LOVED it! Best of all, Mom D. played cheerleader – so much fun to see her face when exiting the swim.

Ann, Barry, Dog and Cat journey down to Clearwater for Ann to finish IM training. Run, bike, and swim intensifies.
Ann swims in the gulf, runs in the heat, and uses an off road trail for bike rides now ranging from 50 – 80 miles. Kayla comes for a long weekend, a nice break from grad school and athletic trainer duties at Normal West High school.

Chris visits for fall break. Amy closes on her condo. Kayla decides to run Mickey Marathon with a friend, starts training. Barry visits his parents and travels to Istanbul. Barry, Christopher and Kirk (Ann’s brother) run into the teeth of Hurricane Sandy, “oo-rahing” through the Marine Corp Marathon, escaping just ahead of the devastating storm.


On November 3, Ann reached her long-held dream, swimming 2.4 miles in strong gulf waters, biking a windy, warm 112 mi., and jog/walking 26.2 mi. in 15:49:55. (Hours/minutes/seconds)
“Ann Baker, IS AN IRONMAN!”
Ann extends unbounded gratitude to those at the event (Barry, Amy, and Lynn D’Asta) and those who supported her from a distance. Ann fundraised for the Boomer Esiason Foundation for Cystic Fibrosis and thanks all that donated to her campaign.

Ann, Barry, Dog, and Cat drive home. House is framed with windows and roof. Moved Amy into her condo. Ann agrees to teach at Carmel Catholic spring semester. Chris gets a research position in adult stem cell lab. Kayla and Chris home for first full family Thanksgiving in 6 years. Barry visits parents.

Looking forward to Holiday, Holy Days, Faith, Fun, Family, and Friends. We pray your year was blessed and that faith in the never -ending love of Christ sustains you through the ups and downs of this life.

With much love and gratitude – Blessed Christmas,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ironman Florida, 2012 Race Report

I award everyone who reads this entire post an honorary "Ironman for Indulging an Ironman".

For the faint of heart: I am a 51 year old female, first time, one training year wannabe with a long-held desire to complete an Ironman. I did so on November 3, 2012, Ironman Florida, in 15:49:55. The end.

For the braver among you...

We arrived in Panama City Beach on Wednesday, October 31. Barry and I checked in at Laketown Wharf (Great rooms, close to Ironman central, only complaint is sparsity of elevators. Two banks at opposite ends of enormous complex). After we got The Girl (my bike) upstairs, I walked to registration.


They bought off my nerves off with charming volunteers and great swag: an Ironman Florida tri backpack and license plate frame. OOHHHH...

Had a ART (active release therapy) treatment for my hamstring and shoulder. I have no pride. I am lying in full public view while the therapist gets his fingers into my hamstring which probably looks like he's doing something completely unprofessional, but in reality is only a hairsbreath away from exceedingly painful. I've had a lot of trouble with inflammation at the insertion point - this did not flare up during the race, so yay to my random ART helper and Dr.Giuseppe Giovatto who treated me during Clearwater training.

Picked up my BFF Lynn D'Asta at the Fort Walton Beach airport (allow 1.5 hours from PCB).

On Thursday, Barry volunteered all day at registration. It was a tight contest, but he is my favorite volunteer.

Lynn and I went to Mass for All Saint's day, then drove the bike route. The roads looked great, the bridge similar to Clearwater's, three or four rolling hills and the cracked road I'd heard about miles 50-60. I didn't think it looked that bad.

Ha ha ha, you foolish, foolish girl.

Back at the condo, Lynn and I methodically over-pack my transition bags.

I was careful to separate things into ziploc bag categories, so the "you-never-know"s didn't interfere with getting into the "necessaries". I was slightly embarrassed by the bulge of my swim-to-bike bag, but the T2 was nicely compact.

Thursday evening was the athlete dinner, featuring normal hotel buffet food and very crowded seating. It was almost impossible to move between the tables once others were seated.

The pep rally portion was inspirational. It was great to hear some Ironman stories, see a "Pump you up!" video. I was disappointed to learn only 35 athletes participated in Ironman Foundation - one can race for a cause, fundraising with the help of the Foundation. My cause was Cystic Fibrosis, the Boomer Esiason Foundation.

Athlete meeting next - snagged a sweet seat in the VIP section. For some reason, the presenters rushed through the material. What? What?!! For the first timer, it was a little crazy deciphering the details. As an obsessive reader/researcher, I had enough "experience" through race reports, two friend mentors, and books to piece it all together.

Late Thursday night, Barry drove back to the airport to pick up my eldest daughter, Amy. Other than super fan and sign designer, she also functioned as official team photographer, and is therefore not pictured in any of the images. Love you!

Friday awoke with a knot in my stomach. It wasn't that I had any specific fear thoughts; I seem to have conscious control of my anxiety. SUBCONSCIOUSLY, it appears to be a completely different story. I could not eat, so I put in what I could, but did not meet my pre-race meal plan.

Dropped off The Girl and transition bags. Took a morning swim in the ocean - saw two large, gorgeous pink jelly fish and did a "yikes!" full stop in the water. Good to get that shock out of the way - never saw one in Clearwater.

Best decision all day: Endurance Nation seminar. In my hunger for all information, these coaches provide a bonanza of gratis online materials I found extremely beneficial. Their seminar was motivating, amusing, and informational. In the end, the concepts of "staying in my box" and "you will have problems" were pivotal to my Ironman finish. Very grateful for their generosity.

Had a Skype interview with Amy's 4th graders. Best question: "Are you doing this for money, or for fun?" Best moment: Audible group gasp when I revealed I am a decrepit 51 years old!

Took an evening walk on the beach, but was feeling the tension. Did some yoga stretching and gentle rolling of the IT bands and quads, but nothing seemed to help.

Did not sleep - or perhaps dozed a little, but mostly was awake, fighting nausea I am sure was anxiety. Prayed, breathed, changed from the bed to the sofa - nothing helped. By 4 a.m. when I got up to eat, I couldn't manage any breakfast. I drank my FRS energy drink, but felt very sick.

Barry is my rock. He got up, was this oasis of calmness, reassuring me. We both figured once I started, the physical exercise would knock out the anxiety and my stomach would return to normal.

Yeah, sure.

Went to transition, dropped off my special needs bags. Pumped up the bike tires, filled the water bottle. The Girl was ready to roll.

Since the condo was so close, we returned so I could wiggle into my wetsuit in peace. Yank, Yank, tug, tug - Barry grabs and pulls - and I'm in. I grab another FRS and a GU and we head back to the start.

I'm still not fearful per se, but emotionally overwhelmed, and nauseous.



Barry and I take a moment to pray before I enter the corral.

The swim conditions were challenging. The safety boats were rolling in some decent swells. Chop danced across the water. The current was very strong from right to left, so I positioned myself two thirds of the way back around some women, and about two thirds towards the right barrier.

Pros start. National anthem. Sun rises. Cannon reports. Swimmers attack - 3000 charging the water, moving en masse along the buoys.

My mind was closed to everything except starting the swim. All shut down except moving forward and focusing on technique. I guess I was "in the box". I didn't have too much trouble with the crowded conditions - someone swam over me when I had to stop when the guy in front of me stopped - I swam next to another man for a long time, but the close quarters in pool practice (thank you Vision Quest coach, Marcia Cleveland for creating open water crowd conditions in our lanes!) prepared me for this and I liked turning my head and seeing him every other breath, keeping pace. The draft was outstanding - I stayed well within my abilities, no shortness of breath or chest tightness. I probably could have gone harder, but felt great, so stayed the course. The swells were big enough I could feel the swim UUUPPP and swim DDOOOWWNN. Later, I probably spoke with a dozen people who, with an odd pride, shared they vomited during the swim.


I did NOT need to know that.

Coolest moment - hitting the shallows approaching the turn around, I was swimming with a petite woman just to my left. Her pace was great so I focused on keeping up and drafting with her. As we exited the water, she ran to the chute, and I had to turn to begin again. The announcer said, "Miranda Carfrae exits the water!" OHHH! I was swimming (for two minutes) next to one of the best Ironman pros.

Second lap was tougher. I worked very hard fighting the current. Hooked up with a couple groups, but mostly was swimming alone and hard. Here the open water Clearwater swimming really paid off, especially the rougher surf days near the end. I was happy and positive when I ran through the swim finish.

Amy, Lynn, and Barry had spots immediately behind the volunteers. I was so into the race I did not understand the sign "Jesus walked this part!" I thought it meant walk to transition. Instead, it referred to the swim. Oh, I get it. He walked on water. Very funny, now!

Bless the volunteers - super fast wetsuit strippers. I wish I had a set of these every swim!

Long walk through the showers, around the bend, over to my transition bag, and into the changing building. I would guess I was at the back third of participants, so plenty of space and volunteers in changing area.
SUPER helpful - they emptied my bag, loaded up my wetsuit. Hard to completely get dry and I was paranoid about blisters, but I did my best. I had a gatorade and gu and I did manage to get the gu down, but could not tolerate much of gatorade. Loaded up my pockets (I was a pack camel, carrying all my nutrition, plus chamois cream, chapstick, biofreeze packets - in case my neck/back screamed), and out the door. Had to walk a ways to get to sunscreen volunteers - again, thank you! - and then bathroom break. On to the bikes, where ANOTHER wonderful volunteer had The Girl un-racked and waiting.

And off I went...

Had to play close attention first 10 miles - many potholes and such to avoid.

The bridge was no big deal, and I enjoyed the speedo clad young men who cheered us on.

The winds were not bad for the pros and fast age-groupers. However, for the long-cyclists like me, wind speeds picked up throughout the day, and sadly changed direction. I was mentally prepared for this from the forecast. So the start of my ride north, the wind was in my face. Turning West, my MPH popped up. I was in a great cadence, comfortable, but still fighting my stomach. I threw up twice, and since I'd never done this on the bike before, I discovered it is hard not to hit one's self or one's bicycle when this occurs.

When I reached the "oh, this is not so bad" bumpy road, I discovered that on a bicycle, it is bad. Very bad. My hoo-haw area was already unhappy, and the BUMP, BANG, BUMP BUMP was extraordinarily unpleasant. I tried aero, I tried upright; I couldn't get much speed, and was busy avoiding the bottles, gu's, tubes, and other flotsam from this road's havoc.

When I reached special needs (56 miles), I got my bag and went to re-stock my fuel. I realize I am massively behind nutrition - had only eaten four gu, two cookies. I was about 500 calories short. As I was exchanging items and refilling my front aero bottle, a female athlete asked me if I had chamois cream, "I'm in AGONY!"

I shared my packet, but as I did so, got out of rhythm, and must have dropped or set aside the rubber cap for my aero bottle. This is a large cap that one can turn a bottle upside down on and fill when riding. I took it off to put in some concentrated calorie gel and water.

I did not even realize it was missing until I started to ride. BUMP. SPLASH. BUMP SPLASH. Yikes. I pull over. I can't think straight. I decide to ride back to see if I can find it.

No deal.

Now I'm not thinking at all. I've lost 15 or more minutes. I feel I have to ride.


I get back on the bike and endure four miles of...

BUMP. SPLASH. BUMP. SPLASH...until I'm laughing at myself and this ridiculousness.

That's when the Endurance nation info kicks in - I calm down and start thinking.

I am struggling with bonking due to poor nutrition. I am biking into the strongest wind direction and up and down the only course hills. I am covered in sticky sugar. It was sunny and fairly warm; I had trained in high 80 heat and humidity and don't think this is affecting me too much, but I am warm. I lost my biking pals and am fairly isolated, feeling like I might not make the 5:30 p.m. deadline.

I want to quit. I want to stop and lie down and sleep. I think "I can't go on."

I pray, and it helps me focus and problem solve.

I need to get more nutrition. No matter my nausea, I was going to down a gu every six miles.

I need water and not to be splashed - stop at each of last three aid stations, fill bottle half way and drink the rest.

I need to stop feeling defeated and focus on why I am racing. The thought of my waiting husband, daughter, and friend; my Mom; my kids at home, worried by their computers; my amazing friends tracking me; my brothers and their families, especially my niece Julia, a staunch supporter of me and my CF fundraising - at that small, terrible, alone moment in time, I find solace. They are all present - powerful in their thoughts and prayers, riding with me.

I ate, I prayed, and about mile 80 I felt better and my pace returned to normal. I pictured my usual ride, a 32.5 mile loop. I realized I had exactly that many miles to go, so I mentally pretended I was going point to point. I had done it a dozen times in training. All I had to do was complete the route one more time.

I start to pass a number of people, and distracted myself with chat, encouragement, and laughter. Thanks, Caroline, for a great conversation (yelled back and forth from the required seven bike lengths, although I don't think the refs were bothering with us at that point).

I cannot express fully the hoo-haw agony at this point. OW. OW. OW. Enough said.

The wind turned from the south, so all but one small pre-bridge stretch was into winds that had picked up.

Over the bridge, passed an athlete walking his bike up. "How you doing?" I yell.

"Great - what a view!" He waves toward the water.

Now that's a cup half full, I'd say!

Turning into town, had a tailwind. Nice rest and relief for last 10 miles.

Seven hours, 45 minutes after I began cycling, I hit the dismount line. I walked my bike to a volunteer. "Please burn this. I will never ride it again." We all laugh (I was half serious), and I toddled off to transition.

A motherly, caring volunteer took me under her wing. I had wet wipes, and she told me to get my face - dried snot and sugar. Great. I accidentally wiped my neck where I had a wetsuit burn. The volunteer BLEW ON MY NECK to soothe it and ran off for vaseline.

Are these the world's greatest people, or what?

Changed fairly quickly, ran out to mug for Team Baker (their love and encouragement energizes me - I LOVE YOU), used bathroom (from curiousity rather than need; I want to make sure I could still pee. Despite the pain, everything did indeed still function).

So, ten hours into my Ironman, I start the marathon. I try to run (my strongest leg) go. I'm still nauseous. I follow Endurance Nation advice.

I drink the coke.

By mile three, I can run a little. I decide to try a thirty count run (about a minute) and a thirty count walk.

I become obsessed with this.

I do not stop counting unless I am chatting with someone for a few minutes or stopping in the bathroom (TMI ALERT! I now had gas and was terrified of "sharting" (pooping while farting)).

And the counting works. I'm consistently between 12 - 13 minute miles, and considering the circumstances, I'm fine with that!

Darkness falls when I'm in the state park. The sunset has beautifully colored the sky, and I have a short moment of appreciation. My focus has narrowed to the step count and to reaching the turn with plenty of time for the second 13.1 mile loop.

At the run start, most walkers I passed were exhausted second loopers. Near the end, I found more on my round. To keep myself distracted, I tried to time my walking breaks to meet up with another athlete and converse for a few minutes. Most were enthusiastic, some...not so much. One prompts me to try to the chicken broth - I do, and it is WONDERFUL. I still push my gu's in, but the broth eliminates my stomach pain. I LOVE CHICKEN BROTH. I LOVE COCA COLA.

At the turn around, Barry finds me and runs alongside as we circle by the special needs bags. He is wonderful. Best husband in the world. Seriously. Amy and Lynn are around the corner, and they cheer me on. Barry tells me later they were impressed with how good I looked.

Had them fooled!

Second loop is a blur. Kept up my run/walk for 10 miles. Spoke with many athletes, passed about 200 total on the "run". Volunteers, spectators, tri coaches wonderful, encouraging, amazing.

After turn around in park, I know I will finish.

Three miles out I develop a serious side stitch, so gave up running and walked. I could hear the announcers calling out the finishers' names.

Just outside of the chute, an older man yelled for me to run. I still had a stitch...

But as I reach the chute...

I start to run...

I never felt the stitch again...

The spectators cheer, pound the rail, and hold out hands for high fives...

I start to cry...

"Ann Baker...

of Clearwater Florida...






My "catcher" guides me to the medal presenter.

It's a good thing there are catchers, because I am one big, empty, blank at this point.

He then very gently asks me my shirt size. HUH?

Luckily it is written on my bib.

Then I get a foil cape-wrap. I'm pretty hot, but appreciate the thought.
Catcher leaves me in line for my picture. I am behind an incredibly perky young woman, dancing and wearing a tutu.

Inside, I am dancing and wearing a tutu.

Outside, I am dazed and confused.

I can't eat, so we head for home. Barry and Lynn escort me, while Amy documents the occasion.

Team Baker is outstanding. Lynn forcefully gets me a place in the condo elevator. Once in the condo, it is into the ice bath.


Lynn helps me stay in, and Amy distracts me by showing me the video of my finish. Kayla (daughter) recorded finishers for an hour before I crossed the line so she wouldn't miss it. Kayla calls, in tears. Christopher (son) calls.

Lynn and Barry get me out of my clothes and into the shower.

I DO stink.

Lynn brushes my hair while I get the teeth.

Under the covers - and more covers - and more covers - the chills have set in - Lynn brings me crackers and a banana. My team listens to my ramblings but starts to yawn; I look at the clock and it's nearly midnight. Off to bed, dedicated Team Baker.

For the second night, I cannot sleep, but now I am at peace.

I am an Ironman. I am grateful to my family and friends, most especially my loving husband who trained alongside me for much of the journey and supported me throughout. Lynn and Amy - you made the day for me! Kayla and Christopher - knowing you were watching me, praying for me, kept me going. Amy was posting to facebook all day, and so many people I love tuned into Ironman live to see the finish. I was astounded by the support and long-distance participation. I was never alone. Thank you volunteers for your astonishing investment of time and emotion.

I am an Ironman!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tale of Two Beaches

8:30 a.m. Arrive at the beach, set up a location just above high tide line. Today are the super boat races. First, however, is the Ann race. The water is calm - Barry and I swim 1.3 miles.

9:20 return to our mat for a Gu and some water. A couple is camped out next to us - Barbie and Ken - yes, for real. They are very nice. The water is now VERY choppy and wavy as a massive number of boats has lined up on the opposite side of the race "track"

10:20 I swim .6 against the current - tough but rewarding psychologically. I can do it! Barry and I walk back.

10:30 Man passing out water, with attached paper talking about the "water of Life" Jesus Christ. Wow, great, low key evangelization. Barry notices two chairs set up behind our mat, one man in one chair. We leave, but then Barry decides to go back to tell the guy that when we return we will have chairs and an umbrella. There is still TONS of open space next to us on the main set up line. Man says "ok".

11:15 We return to beach and set up umbrella and chairs.

11:18 OTHER chair man arrives and starts to scream at Barry. "You F...A....F... set up in front of us....F put it f... you have to be 60 years old, don't you know better...(Low blow...worse than the F's)" Boasting a significant beer gut, this large, tan man is massively inebriated; his friend, to whom Barry spoke, sits silently in the chair.

11:20 Barry replies using logic. Never a good move. "We've been here since 8:30 and I told your friend we would be putting up an umbrella." Barry offers to help them move their two folding chairs and small cooler to the wide open spot on the front chair line next to us. This offer is not well received.

11:21 After stating HE had been on the beach since 7:30 a.m., he threatens to kick Barry's F-in A. Barbie speaks up. "They were before we were and we got here at 9:15." He denies this possibility and states he is willing to go to jail in order to experience the gratification of hitting Barry. I am very nervous. If he attacks Barry, they will both go to jail. I do not particularly want to bail Barry out of jail. I have never bailed anyone out of jail. I don't suppose it is terribly complicated, but I do not particularly want to find out. I shake my head at Barry and urge him not to speak anymore at all. Barry trusts my instincts as I have 12 years psychiatric nursing experience. This is definitely an out-of-hospital psych type encounter. I whisper that we should simply move; this option does not appeal to Barry (man response).

11:23 I am going to skip over a lot of repetitive dialogue which mainly consisted of using the f word as an adjective, noun, verb and adverb. Man repeats urge to beat Barry up and go to jail. He then says he is calling his friends the cops who will come down and show Barry "what was F-in what."

11:27 Crazy big drunk guy calls "police". His Police cannot come for 45 minutes. Tells His Police he is being "f'd with by some guy". Gets off phone and tells us we will get ours in 45 minutes. I am not terribly worried about police. Umbrella beach law is very ambiguous.

11:30 He quietly asks his friend why friend told us we could put up the umbrella. Friend has a lame response "I didn't know it would be big (as in beach umbrella size)." He sits down and begin to make 'clever' remarks about the situation - mostly involving the f-word.

11:45 He joins friends in the water to watch the first race.

12 noon First race begins with slightly smaller speed race boats.

12:15 His Police never show.

1 p.m. Returns to shore. Chairs remain but no one sits in them.

2 p.m. Big super sleek boat race starts. We watch for 15 minutes, but our day is soured, and we pack up and go home.

3 p.m. Write blog. Barry is amused. I am...discouraged? Disturbed? Sad? Wondering if we should have moved. I am thinking about the kindness and faith of the water evangelizer contrasted with the desperate anger of chair man. Were we right or stubborn...or both? Hmmm...interesting to have two such disparate experiences within an hour - the tale of two beaches.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Life's a beach!

Over a month ago, I left off talking about the choice: group or solo training.

Today I reaped the benefits of group.

When I joined Vision Quest coaching, one of the available activities was a coached swim practice.

I had been swimming on my own, attempting to learn Total Immersion swimming from the book, Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier.

I thought I was doing...swimmingly...well.

The coach, Marcia Cleveland, was fantastic. I was quickly overwhelmed by the practice pace...

WAIT - maybe I should mention here that I had at least 7-10 years of swimming lessons as a kid. The YMCA was a reasonable investment for my limited-income family. So I do cope with water without fear.

...and Marcia carefully, week by week, corrected my stroke, starting with "you are all crunched up."

No, I was sleek as a dolphin, stretching and reaching...crunched up? Really?

Yes, really. Turns out what was in my head was not translating to the reality of my body.

So I stretched out...and she said "nope, not yet!" and stretched, and stretched...and then got to work on not crossing my arms over the center line.

REALLY - I'm shooting them straight ahead!

Ah, No.

And so on...and today, in the Clearwater gulf waters, I reaped the reward of all of Marcia's work. I swam two miles, in relative comfort, understanding my body position and working FAR less hard than I did in the past.

If you are thinking triathlon, unless you were a swim team swimmer, swimming lessons are probably an essential.

Open water swimming in water similar to your triathlon is essential as well. I say similar water because swimming in Lake James, where my brother has a cottage, is harder than the pool; and the ocean, although not choppy this morning, is harder than Lake James.

Swimming in the gulf:

1. Is noisier. It's weird, but I put my head in and there is all sorts of noise, distracting and overwhelming my technique focus.
2. Is salty (duh). BUT this is something to get used to - it burns the back of my throat and does not taste so good. My stomach is more upset after a gulf than lake swim (I can't swim without swallowing some water, can you?)
3. Is fishier. Smells fishier, feels fishier, and appears fishier (see more fish!). I touched a few - eep!

Today there were quite a few gulf swimmmers using the long "lane" formed by the protected swimming area posts. It's just over a half mile long - perfect for my Ironman training. I decided to go for it, and swam my farthest - two miles - ish (hard to tell exactly).

I felt great - sleek and fast like a dolphin - and this time, I don't think I'm too far off!

Thanks to all who have contributed to my Ironman Foundation effort for Cystic Fibrosis, in particular the Boomer Esiason Foundation. I am incredibly grateful!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race report, part III

My legs are shaky and unsteady on bike dismount. I wonder if my lack of water/nutrition stops will bite me in the buttuski. My butt-uski certainly aches as I make the long trek to my bike rack spot. I'm finding it hard to focus, but manage the transition routine:
  • I cover myself with towel and wiggle out of bike shorts into running shorts.
  • Manage to avoid disqualification for nudity.
  • Change from bike jersey to sleeveless running shirt.
  • Glide, Gu, water, running belt.
  • Let volunteer apply sunscreen.
Commercial interruption about sunscreen: USE IT! Back to our scheduled programming:

The first three miles were tough. I got a side ache and in general felt cruddy. A guy running by me said, "Try the coke. You'll feel better right away." He was not referring to the drug, but rather to flat coca cola available at each water station. I took his advice (why not? He seemed friendly enough!) and I did feel stronger and less queasy.

The day was mild, mid-70's, and sunny, so while it felt warm in the sun, it was not overwhelming. I stuck with my plan to stay as wet as possible. I put ice in my bra and in a pocket formed by my race belt and shorts top, dumped water on my neck and pony tail. I am soaked in my finish line photo. I found one flaw in this plan - my electrolyte tablets dissolved in my race belt.


The course begins with a pretty difficult hill - most people were walking. The middle portion is two loops around the Whirlpool campus. For a couple miles we were on a walking trail - paved - shady - nice!!!! I loved the run - plenty of people to chat with - many encouraging each other. At the end of the Whirpool loop is a very steep hill - you do this twice. Each time I connected with another athlete and we chatted our way up. Great distraction.

Before the second loop, I saw a young male finisher lounging on his bicycle. "A little part of me hates you!" I yelled. He laughed and said "You are doing great. Keep going!"

My quads start protesting by mile 10, but I know I am going to finish.

Spectators frequented the route, applauding and exhorting. This was one of the best surprises of the day. Pockets of spectators on difficult bike and run hills enthusiastically called participants to persevere. I tried to thank every group I saw. I have been at the tail end of smaller triathlons and it is a discouraging and lonely experience. This was anything but. My spirits soared throughout.

The volunteers amazed me. Every drink stop was well manned with adults and children. These kids were sweet! I cannot believe they stayed out, cheerful and helpful, for so many hours. The race started at 7 a.m. - pro bikers were on the course by 7:30 a.m., then running a couple hours after that. I was running through 12 - 2:30 p.m. Others did not finish until after 5 p.m. That's a long day for a huge number of helpers and spectators. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Down the long starter hill, around a corner, across a beach bridge, down the chute (again, lined with spectators), and the announcers voice congratulating each finisher by name. "Congratulations to Ann Baker!" YAY! Arms extended overhead, I must have been yelling as I crossed the line, because the pictures are pretty funny - massive face contortions. Nice smile once I was across - I'll have to remember that for Ironman Florida.

7:13, and I couldn't be happier!

Found Mom, who had left the finish line area about five minutes earlier. She was disappointed.

I started to worry about Barry. I thought maybe he had passed me on the bike and I missed identifying him. Mom had not seen him, so I knew he hadn't quit the race. Barry finished in 7:17 - struggled with nutrition so pooped out on the run, his strong leg.

Great after party, like everything else at the Steelhead 70.3. The only difficulty emerged after we had eaten, cleaned most of the grime off at the beach bath house outdoor showers, and started the walk to parking.

When you are tired and accompanied by an 87 year old woman, the parking is WAY far from the start. I envied the participants who rode their bikes out - we had a cooler and chair and Mom. Barry could not carry his pack due to back pain, so I balanced his on my handlebars and backpacked mine. Mom was carrying her bag and cooler. Finally, we found an open VIP parking space and dumped it all and Barry walked to the car.

Recovery wasn't too bad, though I pulled some intercostal muscles and they fired up late in the post-event week. Barry pulled a calf muscle, but is back to running now, training for the Marine Corp Marathon.

All in all, a FABULOUS experience. I am blessed. And since Barry and I are each 1/2 an Ironman, together we make a full Ironman! Good mojo for November!

Get out there and swim, bike or run - or simply walk. But get out there. It's a beautiful world with a lot of great people.

Click to read Part I
Click to read Part II

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 2012 race report, Part II

Lake Michigan is shallower this year, due to the drought.

Caught up in race start fever, I leap along the waves...leap...leap...leap...sand bar...leap...finally the water is over two feet deep and I dive in to swim and...

Ah, ah, choke, can't breathe, can't breathe.

I have nicely spiked my middle-aged heart rate.

This also happened to me in my first race.

My husband was plagued by this several times.

Rationally, I am well prepared for this.

I should now remember
a) what is happening
b) how to deal with it.

Instead, I flounder and scream inside my head, "What's wrong? Why can't I swim? Why can't I catch my breath?"

Silly old mom athlete.

I DO switch to breast stroke around the turn buoy and then flip on my back (comforted by other back swimmers at this same juncture).

Calmer, I start over. I have lost ground to the faster age-groupers whom I hoped to draft off a little.


Ten minutes later, faster swimmers of the next waves overtake me. It is not horrible - I occasionally need to stop, breast stroke, clear my space and start again.

By the half way point (buoys were yellow first half, orange second, nice), I was strong and focused on my stroke technique and went MUCH faster.

I was disappointed in my swim time (my watch said 51 min from water enter to exit, official time 52, so maybe they included the 100 meter beach stumble to transition?). This WAS an improvement, but not as big as I thought based on my practices. I plan a lot more open water practice before IM Florida; we will see if that helps. BEST MOMENT: in the second half, often I get tired or frustrated and think negative thoughts. This time I thought, "I feel amazing!"

Out of the water, stumbled around a bit, then jogged down beach chute. I see Mom and she blows me a kiss, "I love you Ann! I'm proud of you!" First time I've had a spectator at any running/triathlon event. Joy!

The bikes were lined up in only two double-sided rows - 1500 entrants - and I was ALL THE WAY at the end. Glass half full - shorter jog on the bike shoe clip.

I manage to change the shorts without being Disqualified for public nudity, but it was a close thing.

I am warm, no shivers, so skip through my safari supplies opting only for my bike jersey, socks and shoes. Lubricant - CHECK! A GU energy gel and water and I'm on my way (nine minutes later, laugh if you must).

The bike is my weak event. I have long ridden a commuter bike, but it was late August, 2011 when I started on my road bike with clip-in pedals. This race I'm riding a Tri-bike. I have been practicing in the aero position, but see Midwestern Again for an example of how well THAT went.

I am anxious and that's never good.

The younger age groupers are speeding up from behind. Seriously flying.

And that's not good.

The course winds around and under Route 63 so triathletes get on the road without having to stop the traffic. I take this cautiously, annoying those who do not care how narrow or windy this route is - they want to GO GO GO.

The route is lovely - through fruit and berry fields.

I'm glad Barry and I came three weeks ago, because...

I did not see any of it.

Between managing my own bike, handling snafus (only one terrible mistake in shifting for a hill that nearly unseated me on correction), trying to drink from the bottle in my aero bars (do NOT hassle me about my difficulty!), and the the Speedy McSpeedies who for the most part were courteous and encouraging, but were still speeding speedily and WAY TOO CLOSE to me for comfort - I was mentally freaking.

Fatigue wears down all emotions, and for the second half of the ride I stayed mostly in the aero position and improved my speed.

BEST MOMENT: three weeks ago, I thought the hills were hard. This time, I kept wondering where the overwhelming, big hills were. If you are a newbie, the "rolling hills" description is a little misleading. There are several challenging hills - work on strength,practice on local hills, and down shift. All my passes were on the hills. People make it too hard for themselves.

Eventually, I was exchanging places with the same bikers. They would catch me on the flats, I would pass them on the hills. One man was a relay biker. He probably could kick my wazoo, but was struggling because he was massively overdressed. Leggings, gloves, jacket, camelpak. has a "what to wear" tool. I found it handy in my final choices.

Because of my freak, I did not refill my water bottle. Frankly, I was afraid I would mow down the volunteer line. I came into the race well-hydrated, but that was a risky choice. I need to practice the grab, fill, and toss.

Bike took 3:30.

The end of the course was single lane on an asphalt walking path, sidewalk and boardwalk. Careful, careful, careful - dismount - BLISS!

Shaky and relieved, I had survived the bike. BONUS - I had not taken out any other athlete. SUCCESS.

Click to read Part III

Click to read Part I

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Steelhead 70.3 Race Report 2012, Part I

If you are an experienced triathlete, this entry is NOT for you.

I mean, feel free, but I am NOT an experienced triathlete, unless one loosely defines "experienced" as having done, oh, let's sprint and three olympic length events.

Ah, the other clue: I do not call them races.

When I read race reports, frequently the authors scoff at those who walked up steep hills on the run course.

I and my pals walk up those hills with pride.

We are finishers.

Hear us roar...with a few whimpers and whines thrown in purely as audio accents.

I am a 50 year old woman who is having the best time ever as a Finisher of these fun and fabulous events.

Last Saturday, 8/18/2012, I traveled with my husband and mother to Benton Harbor Michigan to participate in our first Half Ironman - part of my training for Ironman Florida in November.

The Half Ironman is 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, 13.1 mile run.

I have been following the Don Fink Ironfit book training plan, sticking mostly to the "Competitive" level, not because I think I'll be competitive, but because I want to do all I can to make sure I'll successfully finish IM Florida.

I have also joined a local triathlon coaching group. Because of their activities, I am a stronger swimmer and cyclist than I hoped.

SO, arriving at the Steelhead registration, I was not as anxious as at the shorter triathlons of past year.

The volunteers were amazing, from the boy scout parking police to the registration tents and bike area monitors. It went smoothly and quickly. The athlete meeting was succinct and informational.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which is near I-94. The hotel put out early-bird fruit and food at 4:30 a.m. for the participants. We brought our own dinner (I am always afraid of setting off my GI upset with "foreign" food). Each room had a microwave and fridge, so no problem. For a fee, the hotel allowed triathletes to keep room until 4 p.m. Since we had NO idea how long we would take (my goal was under 8 hours)(if you are choking and sputtering right now, please close this window!), we didn't take this option. The race transitions areas and finish line are in Jean Klock park, and the park has two outdoor, public shower areas, so a post-race rinse is possible.

I am a Catholic Christian, so we attended a nice Mass at St. Bernard's Church - 5 p.m. Perfect. The music was very cool - I think one musician was playing a zither! We ate about 3 p.m., and light snack later.

Early to bed, along with most of the hotel guests.

3:30 a.m. - rise and shine!

I've been burping up my usual pre-marathon meal during the swim, so switched to rice cakes with peanut butter and honey and an FRS energy drink.

I ate a banana in the car. I am feeling stuffed. Blech. No more food.

We dropped off our bikes the night before, so took the shuttle from the parking lot to race central.

Nerves nerves nerves.

Set up Momma under a shade tree scouted yesterday afternoon: chair, cooler, book. Oriented her to the general set up for swim return, bike in and out, finish line.

Into bike transition to lay out clothes.

I've gotten a little far without mentioning the outstanding weather.


At 5 a.m., it's 55 degrees, little wind, clear skies. The water is 67 degrees and calm. It should get up to the mid-70's.

I was worried about being cold on the bike, so my transition pile is a little crazy. I see veterans' stacks: socks and shoes. I have:
  • A regular size towel which I will use to hide my bottom half while I change from swim shorts into my padded bike pants. I get too sore on the bike to wear my thin-chamoised tri-shorts.

  • Saddle lubricant for my precious parts.

  • Glide (a protective solid lubricant) for other moving areas.

  • Bike shirt.

  • Sleeveless running shirt which I plan to wear as a base layer if I am cold.

  • Compression calf sleeves.

  • Arm warmers.

  • Socks

  • Shoes

  • Water bottle and small towel to get sand off my feet.

  • Small bottle of alcohol to get water out of my ears (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

    In SECOND pile:

  • Running shoes

  • Fresh socks

  • Mole skin strips for feet sore areas.
Safari or Triathlon, you decide. Back with Momma and my husband, we wait to begin the trek down the beach. The Steelhead starts the swim either a mile north or south of the finish depending on the current. On this day, we walked South. Used the porta-potty for last time - have huge panic attack inside. The usual voices, "WHY ARE YOU HERE?""THIS IS CRAZY!" But I step out, see my Mom and husband, and calm down. I sit next to them for a few minutes and pray. A feeling of protection and peace surrounds me, and I am ready to go. We say goodbye and Barry and I start the walk down the dark shoreline. I am drinking an FRS energy drink, Barry opts for nothing. The sun is rising, pink and golds. The air is cool, but not cold. We arrive at the swim start about 6:40 a.m., and get in the water to warm up. Lake Michigan feels great - warmer than standing on the beach. The announcer calls our waves in to the beach, as we start immediately after pros. We sing the Star Spangled Banner. The sun is up, just behind the American flag. I am chatting with the other 50 and up women, and I feel...great. At 7:05, we are on the edge of the beach, waiting for the starting gun, and I realize I am not scared or anxious or defeated - just eager and excited. Fabulous. Bang! And off we go... Click To read Part II Click to read Part III

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dairy dreamin'....

Took Christopher, my baby boy, to the dentist Tuesday.

The baby is 19, home for 12 days from Georgia Tech.

The baby did pretty well in summer school - Spanish: A, Physics 2: A, Computer Science....: A.

MMMMMommma pride.

While he was getting his teeth cleaned, I decided to treat myself.

The dentist is only a mile from our previous home - eight years, seeing the girls through junior high and high school and Chris K-8.

Great years. Amazing family years.

A highlight of the great life we enjoyed was a family bike trip (and many just friends trips and treats) to the local Dairy Dream.

Privately owned, just off the bike path, picnic table perfect ice cream stand.

I drove over and eagerly popped up to the counter, ordering my plain Jane favorite: Chocolate cone dipped in Dark Chocolate.



I'm not often terribly maudlin about the Empty Nest. But today, sitting in the car, watching two families bike up, park, and then chatter and share their treats, I wanted nothing more than to weep and throw my cone away.

Oh my.

I miss those days. If you have your kids at home, go for a bike ride, enjoy the laughter, and snapshot the memory for your mind. Enjoy. Laugh. Love.

The empty nest is ok. I'm working at filling it. But sometimes it is just...empty.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Team or individual athlete?

When I first started running, no way in heck I was going to work with a group.

Remember all the spitting, belly-aching, itching and gasping?

I preferred solitude at that stage - and even after the spitting, itching and most of the gasping subsided, I could not imagine that other than during beach hatching season, the "turtles" gathered to make a run for it.

Today while putting in my last long run before the half-ironman (have I mentioned I'm petrified?), I saw a woman's running group at the Old School forest preserve.

They were turtles of a certain age (mine).

It looked like fun. Well, the social aspect looked intriguing - The hot-day running looked about as fun fun.

It was not fun for the solo runner either. Yikes it was HOT!

How do you decide if you are a team or individual athlete? This decision can determine if you stick to and reach your goal, whether it is a 5K or a marathon.

Time constraints: Does the group meet when you are available? Can you make yourself available? We sabotage ourselves constantly by making excuses rather than accommodations, so think flexibly! I swim at 5:30 a.m. twice a week - most participants then shower and ride off to work. It's okay to go to bed early and miss The Kardashians. (Are they still on TV? Sorry if dated reference!)

Cost: Costs vary a lot! Miami's runner club had a minimal yearly fee and some great coaches, dedicated to improving runners of all ability levels. THEN there are elite coaching venues, with monthly fees comparable to a high-end health club. Consider your financial resources and personal goals in matching to a group. Running with a couple friends is free - be bold and ask a friend!

Intensity level: Do they have a beginner group? When I encounter better athletes (that would be all the time), I am either inspired or discouraged. Remember, the first 5K effort is a BIG DEAL to the first time 5K-er - successful, seasoned runners will most likely celebrate and encourage your efforts. BUT I think it would be easier to quit training if I was the least fit in a group - especially if that gap seemed insurmountable or embarrassing. Again, be wary of self-sabotage.

Personal social preferences: Do you like to be accountable to others? Is it easier for you to exercise with encouragement? Do you prefer someone else to design/direct each workout? Do you work harder with the "pressure" of peers?

Goal: What do you want to accomplish? I was quite content to walk/run my way through a half marathon (By the way, walk/run guru Jeff Galloway has groups! I think this is a GREAT option for all beginning runners.) I read Jeff Galloway, did web research, read (read and read and researched and...well, you know me!), and supported by this bastion of literary knowledge, put together a plan. If you want something more - if you want to improve your running or biking or swimming efficiency, you can do it from expertise books, but coaching makes a big difference.

Remember, you can not SEE yourself unless videoed. If your goals evolve, and efficiency and form become important, an outside eye is almost essential.

If I solo-train, how do I know coaching helps?

That's the subject for another me, it can make a big difference!

Friday, August 3, 2012

I want to be an Olympian!

So, you are watching the Olympics and caught up in the athletes’ drive and determination.

“Why not me?!!”

Why not?

Well, for me, and most of my peer group, the good Ship Olympic sailed, um, 30 years ago.


That doesn’t mean this is an opportunity missed. Rather, let’s channel that motivation into reaching our own “Olympic” goals.

Why not run a 5K? Swim at the Master’s level? Bike in a road race or fundraising event?

From the age of 16 – 46, I claimed I could not run. I attempted running again at 46.

Turns out, I can run.

Not fast, but at least forward.

I bet many of you have some of the same “reasons” why you believe you cannot run:

1) I have bad knees.

I DO have arthritis in both knees. My knees DID hurt when I started running. BUT they were achy – not injury painful. Turns out, my knees hurt for the same reason my thighs and glutes hurt – I was using muscles in new ways. The more I ran, the more this discomfort dissipated. Still...

as I write this, I am icing my knees after a workout.

Ice is our friend.

2) I am allergic to running.


When I started running, I itched insanely. I thought I was allergic to running.


When I was more sedentary, my capillaries stayed small and tight. Running opens the capillaries as they rush blood to the muscles. The nerves near the capillaries are confused by this sudden behavioral change and send a million text messages to the brain: “What is she doing?” “How can we make her stop?” “R u watching this?!”

The brain reads these messages as “itch, itch, itch” (silly brain).

It will stop after a few training sessions.

3) I can’t breathe. My heart is racing. I have to spit. My side hurts.

I am grouping all my physical discomfort complaints. They resolve over time. Five years after my first run, I don’t get short of breath unless I push my pace.
At the beginning, I was immediately gasping (and spitting).
When I built up to a few miles (a year’s undertaking), I would find the first couple miles were hard, then my body adjusted and I was more comfortable.

Running is never completely comfortable, especially at the beginning.

Hang in there.

With my absolute belief I could not run, why did I start?

When I moved to Miami, I complained to my daughter that I could not exercise like my husband who ran every day.

She’s a sassy thing.

“Yes you can. You don’t want to run.”

Gasp. Gurgle. What?

I itch. I spit. I ache. I can’t run.

She sent me a link to a Runner’s World beginner’s program.

For some reason, this time I followed through.

I went to the health club, and walked one minute, ran one minute.

Repeated this 10 times.

Scared the health club personnel by coughing, gasping, turning red and otherwise appearing to have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro rather than walk/run for 20 minutes.

Nearly a year after that first attempt, I decided to run more than three miles. I told my husband where to find me if I didn’t return in 90 minutes, and ran out the door. Six miles later, I was thrilled.

I coughed all day and was sore for three more.

Then I discovered Jeff Galloway. He was an Olympic runner in 1972 – so he’s just a bit older than me. He has a walk/run training program and a planned run/walk approach to the races. It is great.

It's how I completed the Disney Goofy challenge in 2011 and 2012. I am a little proud of that accomplishment but could not have attempted it without Jeff Galloway.

He recently broke his hip and to show people it can be done, he completed a half marathon doing a planned run/walk once out of rehab. I was both inspired and depressed by this act since his “walk/run” pace post-hip fracture STILL BEATS MY half marathon time.

BUT then I am simply thrilled that I HAVE a half marathon time.

You can too! Tonight, DVR or tape or SKIP (gasp) some of the Olympic broadcast and get outside and MOVE!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Michigan Mayhem

I put mayhem in the title simply to grab your attention.

After a visit with my mom (Barry changed the mower's oil and blade, so I christened the machine by giving the back lawn a fine shaving), Barry and I drove to Benton Harbor late Saturday.

Early Sunday morning, we headed to Jean Klock park, the site of the start/finish/transition of the Steelhead Half Ironman August 19, 2012. We have come to realize our preparation for each increasingly difficult event falls short of the necessary. Today we are beginning to correct our lackadaisical approach by riding the 56 mile bike route.

At this point, it might be helpful for you to know I have not ridden more than 39 miles.


Experts caution to increase workouts by no more than 10%/week.

Hmmm...10% of 39 is 3.9. 43 miles. NOT 56. 56 is 17 miles more than 39.


Also, there's the small matter of my two-day-ago bike crash (see previous blog).

BUT, I'm in Michigan, and I'm determined.

I also have two packets of biofreeze in my jersey.

I will use both.

Not on crash injuries.

On my sitting glutes.

Ow, ow, ow-de-ow!


Have you watched the Tour de France? Those people ride ENDLESSLY. The Wall Street Journal featured some huge bike event across Iowa - 80 miles/day, 500 miles or so?

How do they do it?? They must have butts of steel.

I cannot emphasize this enough:


Aside from my suffering bottom, the ride was lovely. The shore is beautiful - sand and endless lake. The park has outside showers and facilities, tables, beach, shelter. GORGEOUS.

We biked on one main road, with glimpses of the lake and pretty homes - a little busy, but a very wide shoulder.

The other roads wound through the countryside by blueberry fields, vineyards, and farmhouses. We were serenaded by rural Michigan sounds - roosters, tractors, cows, gunshots...

Yes, I pedaled faster...

But not as fast as when a dog charged and made a chomping grab for my leg.

I need that to be a repetitive part of race motivation.

bark snarl bark...pedal pedal pedal...

I was pleased with my effort, except for three terrible hills in the second half when I was reduced to eight struggling miles per hour. The wind destroyed the fun of the downhills, but one cannot go on a bike ride without wind, warmth, and rough road, so all good.

I have to work hard the next three weeks, or I won't be able to run the half marathon after that ride.

But for now...ah...icing my knees and enjoying a glass of vino we picked up on the way home.

I love Michigan!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Midwesterner Again

So, I am no longer a Midwesterner living in Miami.

I’m a Midwesterner living in the Midwest.

Kind of takes the kick out of the blog.

Nothing funny or blog-worthy will ever happen to me again.


As anyone recently trapped in a conversation with me will verify, I am training for an Ironman.

I can’t seem to help mentioning it…

a lot…

… along with all the gory, gritty, grimacing training details.

I’m sorry.

Consider this a blanket apology covering my articulations, both written and verbal, from November 4, 2011 to November 10, 2012. The race is November 3, and I give the 10th to allow for the post-event euphoria to dissipate to a reasonable level.

I’m especially chatty under the influence of endorphins.

An Ironman triathlon is 2.4-mile open water swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run.

In order to survive this, training is essential. I’m currently doing about 15 hours/week of swim, bike, run, and “functional training” (strength, stretch, abs).

I gained some perspective on this effort from an unexpected encounter.

Perspective and four enormous bruise/scrapes.

I am learning to ride in the aero position – where the cyclist has his elbows on pads centered on the bar. I’m taking it slowly, 10 miles at a time, and I am pleased with my progress. I anticipated balance issues, but after a few practices around a small parking lot, I moved onto the circular road in a nearby forest preserve. It is a 1.5-mile track with a bike lane, very limited traffic, some good curves and a gradual uphill to practice bike control.

Slow, slow, a bit faster, faster, full speed.

Woo hoo.

Early in yesterday’s trek, I passed a cross-country squad, running on the left of the single lane road.

On lap five, I saw them again, still grouped on the left. A biker flanked them – for pace or protection – on the open road side. I was going about 16 mph, so moved over to pass on right.

They made a sharp turn into a parking area. The biker moved into my path.

I yelled “ON YOUR RIGHT!” but….



I clearly remember my hip and elbow smacking the pavement, followed by the crack of my helmet.

ALWAYS wear a helmet!

You never know when the unexpected will occur. That’s why it is UNEXPECTED. Without a helmet, my head would be Humpty-Dumptied. Instead, after a few minutes of nausea and a careful exploration of the range of motion of my elbow and shoulder, I was able to get up and walk (hobble) away with the help of the team's coach.

Turns out, this guy was a three time Ironman Wisconsin finisher. As we chatted, he said he encourages the girls to enjoy training. Athletes spend hours training for one event. If something happens at that event – an injury, bike failure, extreme heat, rain – the athlete is disappointed, but should not look at the preparation as time lost, but time enjoyed.


The Ironman will take me between 15 (optimistic, perfect) to 17 (that’s all rules allow) hours.

Conservatively, I will spend 500 hours training.

At 7 a.m., when I did my eight mile run, I realized I would not be out on the beautiful Lake County forest preserve trail if I wasn’t training. I would not have seen how the one-inch rain yielded a foot of prairie plant growth. I saw bluebirds, yellow finches, woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds – and a majestic heron that rose from the pond to fly low over my head. Bunnies, geese, frogs, flowers, ponds…

I am blessed by this process and resolve to enjoy my swims, bikes, and runs. I am seeing beautiful places and meeting fun, supportive people. What a grace!

Be at peace, enjoy the path of your day, and…