Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Farewell 2009

Random thoughts on the year 2009:
I am so pleased about making several new friends this year. Most are triathletes I've just bumped into enough times we started getting to know one another. I think also that I may have gained some credibility and recognition after sharing 5 years of swim, bike and run events with this great group of people in the Jackson area. Though I'll never be known as fast in any tri discipline, these folks respect effort and willingness to sacrifice for a worthy goal.

I'm reminded now of Tea, a triathlete friend and fellow blogger in Colorado. I hesitate to celebrate a wonderful year too loudly, for Tea has endured a harsh string of misfortunes lately. But like the spandex in her Barney-colored tri suit, she has snapped back into shape and has a new set of goals for 2010. Tea's blog has been an inspiration to many, and I am proud to call her my friend.

My 1997 Toyota 4Runner rolled by the 200,000 mile mark recently, and as a gesture of appreciation I've had preventive maintenance done with a commitment to drive it another 100,000!

Not so great news for my bike, the 1992 Dave Scott Ironman Centurion. Gary at Pro Bike says there is play in the bracket at the crank, a potentially dangerous condition. Along with continuing rust problems, the end may be near for my faithful friend, or maybe just a peaceful trainer retirement in the storage barn. So 2010 will be the year of the new bike! It will most likely be custom-made from components gradually purchased and assembled at Gary's shop.

Our Masters Swim Team has enjoyed a great year. We have a coach and 6 regular members, that's double the original team of me, Kate and Paul. More people are asking about joining us all the time. Pic below is Coach Whitney showing Matt the video of his stroke.
One year ago, I never would have believed I would own an iPhone and use Facebook. Though there is much about Facebook I dislike, it's been lots of fun and brought back some old friendships. It's also a strange new way to get to know people you wouldn't have had the opportunity to spend time with otherwise.

Time to say thanks to all those who have supported me in my selfish, mid-life crisis, denial of old age, born again athlete, "reinventing me" ways. Of course most thanks to ever-loving and supportive Wifeunit Ruthie, but also to those who say they're proud of me or keep pushing me to go for more, or to at least not quit. Thank you ML, Kate, KayVee, Mary Catherine, Tea, Susan, Anna, Jenni, Whitney, Mustang Sally, Paul, Mike, Harry, Wes, Bill, Matt, Bruce, Jeff and many others. I salute the leadership and members of the Mississippi Heat Triathlon Team, Amanda, Matt, Becky, and Jackson Metro Cyclists, people seriously interested in fun and fitness for everyone.

That paragraph sounded too much like I had won an Oscar, but I'll leave it in anyway.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Memphis Thanksgiving

Continuing our new tradition of making Thanksgiving a vacation trip, Ruthie and I drove north to Memphis on Wednesday, the 25th to spend two nights at the famous Peabody Hotel. It was a fine, easy drive of slightly over 3 hours on a clear, cool day. We made it to Memphis in plenty of time to visit some friends from my aircraft parts manager days, and I was able to finally see a friend I've known for over 25 years but have only spoken to on the telephone.

At the hotel we watched the Peabody Ducks do their daily elevator ride from the fountain in the lobby to their accomodations on the rooftop. The ducks' schedule happened to coincide with a nice sunset view of the Mississippi River.

Later that evening, we scouted out the Beale Street situation. There weren't many people out, though most everything was open. We made our way back to the alley where hides the home of the world-famous Rendezvous Ribs. With no waiting for a table, we enjoyed ribs and a pitcher of beer while watching the entertaining wait staff.

I was up early the next morning for a short run down to Lee Park by the river. It was cold and windy, but great fun, as always, running a new route in a memorable venue.

Our Thanksgiving meal was the grand buffet on the mezzanine at the Peabody. As we had hoped, there were all kinds of delicious items lined up around the rail in the hotel's beatiful silver. From scrambled eggs to prime rib, nearly anything you could imagine was there to choose from. We enjoyed Mimosas, champagne and coffee with our feast, and Ruthie inspected both huge tables full of dozens of dessert options. I think she fell just short of sampling everything available, and proclaimed each extra delicious!

We spent the evening at my friend Greg's home and enjoyed a light dose of turkey and some other interesting dishes. Back at the hotel, we watched more food in the movie Julie and Julia, a nice story if you are a fan of Julia Child or Meryl Streep.

Before heading home Friday we stopped at Macy's for a while, then pointed the truckster south and arrived back home before dark after another great holiday vacation.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Think I Can Do It!

I've been training for the Mississippi Blues Marathon since August, and after yesterday's 18-mile run, I finally feel optimistic. I've had some good training runs and some bad, and one that started very well and suddenly went bad.

The 18-mile was my longest distance ever and it was easier than I expected. It was also the first time I've run with a partner and the first really long run since my friend KayVee began oversight of my training. I'm beginning to understand the importance of managing fuel and fluids and I'm improving my overall running skills.

Becky A., a well known and enthusiastic local triathlete and 2-time Ironman Finisher, is a little faster runner than I (everyone else is a lot faster). She runs the same roads and trails as I do and is on the same marathon training plan. She agreed to slow down and run a patient 18 miles with me yesterday. We were very pleased with ourselves after the run and will do the 20-mile run together also.

I've combined my training runs with some 5k races, simply adding the extra miles after the race. I improvised some run routes and ran one 5k four times, stopping after the second loop just long enough to collect a nice door prize. I ran a 15k one and half times, finishing just as the awards were all distributed.
Wifeunit and I made our annual trip to Ocean Springs on the Gulf Coast and the Peter Anderson Arts Festival 2 weeks ago, staying overnight with ML & Harry in Gautier. The festival was nice and the weather superb. Lots of doggies and interesting people were enjoying a great day.

The next morning I needed a 16-mile run, so Wifeunit left me at the Ocean Springs side of the Biloxi Bay Bridge with an eventual destination of Highway 49 in Gulfport. It was wonderful to run along the beach (on a sidewalk) and watch the sea birds and the guys surfing with the kites. Wifenunit met me every 3-4 miles with the water and power gels, and I did really well until finishing 14 miles. That's when I started getting cramps in my calves, my shoulders got weak as if they were tired of holding my arms up, and things began looking dark. I felt like I was beginning to go to sleep. Wifeunit was watching me from far ahead through binoculars, and said I would stagger a while, then try to walk straight, and stagger some more. I knew I might be in trouble, but there was nothing to do but keep moving. I walked up to the car after 15.5 miles, still happy I had travelled from Ocean Springs to Gulfport on foot in roughly 2.5 hours.

I followed the run with my first ice bath, per KayVee's direction. That means fill a bathtub with enough water to cover your legs, get in, sit down and pour in a bag or two of ice. Grit teeth and chill for 10 minutes. Have yourself removed from bathtub. Drain cold water and return to tub, rinse with hot shower and moan loudly. It really, really works. Legs recover quicker and you don't feel crippled all day and the next.
So for now I'm hoping to stay healthy and positive for the next 6 weeks, train smarter and finish my first marathon with no problems. With the great support I've been getting from Wifeunit and all my friends and family, I just can't imagine anything but a great marathon experience.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Birthday & Dog Party

It's been another busy fall with some kind of race nearly every weekend. A nice change of pace lately was Amy & JD's birthday, and a chance for doggy cousins to meet for the first time. Amy, my niece, and her husband JD were born 5 days apart, so sharing the day is fun. They are an unbelievably cute couple and fun to be around. Their dogs, Bonnie & Bruce got to meet our dog, Rabbit at my mom's for the birthday party. A fun afternoon on a beautiful fall day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Race Report - DSU Triathlon

These happy folks, the oft mentioned Flowood Fighting Flounders, pose with trophies from a fun sprint distance triathlon at Delta State University.

Disclaimer: This race is a fund raiser for the DSU swim and cross country teams, is not USAT sanctioned, there are no judges or officials, no chip timing, a small field, lots of beginners, students and a few geezers. My kind of race. 500 yard pool swim, 2 per lane with lap counters, 18 mile bike through flat delta fields, and a 5k flat out and back run. Just showing up sometimes gets you a trophy.

There are always some surprise benefits of getting older. In my four times to do this race I've finished in my age group 2006 3rd, 2007 2nd, 2008 5th, and suddenly as a 55 year old, I win the Top Grand Masters Male. The results aren't published yet, but I suspect I soundly thrashed a 65 and 72 year old to claim my title.

The 500 yard swim leg is held in the nationally acclaimed DSU Aquatics Center. Two swimmers share a lane. There are 18 lanes and as many waves as necessary are started as swimmers exit the pool. DSU swim team members count the laps and hold cards underwater to signal your final lap. Kate, Paul and I, being devoted Masters swimmers with a real coach, were able to use our flip turn skills and other training to fly through this leg easily. Two swimmers who may finish with the same time in an open water venue will finish as much as 30 seconds apart in a pool swim if one uses flip turns and the other just turns and pushes off.
I rode a good bike leg, again not using my speedometer, only the cadence counter. The course, of course, was flat as it gets, and I settled in a gear where I could maintain 85 pedal strokes per minute. I was overtaken by a rider who I judged would not be able to maintain his slow power strokes, so I stayed within 100 yards of him for 14-15 miles. He would slow in the turns much more than I, so I decided when we got within 2 miles of the finish I would pass him and try to sprint the rest of the way in. My strategy worked and he complimented me on my riding right after the race.
I began the run leg with a positive attitude. The weather was somewhat cooler than normal and there was no sun and a gentle breeze. I've been running 15-20 miles a week lately, and just did a 9 mile run the weekend before, so I was glad my legs felt up to the flat 5k. I only walked at the water stops while I drank and finished with energy to spare.

This race was especially satisfying for several reasons, one being that our swim coach, a DSU swim team alum, was there to cheer us on. She was in her old stomping grounds with friends and enjoyed seeing her team members win trophies. We should have asked the race director to recognize her and give her some of the credit for our success. She is the best coach around, or if not the best, the cutest.
Credit Wifeunit for the great photos. These are only three of the 58 she took on race day. She and Kate and I rode to Cleveland, Ms on Friday afternoon and stayed at a cheap, crummy motel for the night. I was so happy to have the two of them together as company, and to hear them share the stories I've heard from each of them. We had a great evening with a few drinks in the room before dinner and enjoyed our evening meal at the Warehouse restaurant in Cleveland. The food and service was very good, and unusual characters were in the huge warehouse-size dining area to drive our conversation.
After the race and awards, we showered and met at the Sharpe Street shopping area. We had no firm plan for lunch, so we bought gourmet pimento cheese, spinach and artichoke dip, egg salad and tasty rolls from one of the shops. These we took to a gazebo in the park and had a fine picnic. Wifeunit did the driving home through rain showers while Kate and I dozed off for short naps. Life is good!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cotton States Triathlon 09

I had trouble posting pics on Facebook, so I'll just hang them here. I haven't posted here in quite a while anyway.

It was great weather for swimming, biking and running - about 65 degrees and clear with a light north wind. The water was warmer than the cool morning air, and as some of us warmed up with a quick pre-race swim, I thought to myself, "it's 6:45 a.m., I've been up since 3 a.m., drove 2 hours to get here, and I'm 150 yards from shore, treading water in Lake Providence." Not so long ago I would never have believed I would consider this so much fun. But most of you few who read this blog will understand.
There were 81 participants in two waves to start the 400 yard swim. Males over 55 were in the same wave as the females, so my friend Kate and I decided to try something different and line up at the front of the wave and fight for the clear water instead of picking our way through the pack from the outside. It worked wonderfully and I only had to yield to one faster swimmer.
The bike leg was as flat as you would expect in Louisiana cotton farmland. Just like the Mississippi Delta. I rode really hard trying to maintain an 85-90 cadence and never looked at my speed. There was a girl with a gecko tatoo on her lower back that I played yo-yo with for a while and then let her get ahead of me by 10 or so bike lenghts. I made myself stay within that distance of her and hung there for about 10 miles. We came to a slight downhill and I saw her stop pedalling, so I caught up and passed her and never looked back to see where she was. She came into transition about 10 seconds behind me.
The run leg was disappointing. I might have gone too hard on the bike, but I wasn't worried about it since I've been doing lots of running lately, it was relatively cool and this was only a 5K distance. But I ran poorly and kept thinking I would settle into a good pace, but it never happened. Then one side of my back core muscles started tightening up and it was run a few minutes and walk 30 seconds. I think my pace was about 10:30. A bad finish to an otherwise good race.

Here's the group photo of the great ladies who put the race on. There's also great support from the East Carrol Parish Sheriff's Department.
Mississippi Heat Tri Team was well represented

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer Already

I've got some cathching up to do. I've been using Facebook lately as my main time waster, playing games and exploring peoples' friends. But I like that I've touched base with some people I haven't spoken to in many years. Some I've even become better friends with than before.

Lately, we had a nice Easter Feaster here at the house, with Mom and Beck and Bro. Paul, Kate, Mariel and I did our annual swim across Lake St. John, adding a 17 mile bike ride around the lake afterward.

We did a JMC club ride in Madison County and I did the annual Ridgeland Century, (just 62 miles - metric century - for me).

Last weekend. our triathlon club, the Mississippi Heat, put on our 5th begjnner tri. The participation more than doubled over last year. We had about 400 taking part, about 180 first timers. I headed up the swim leg volunteers and was really pleased with how things came together. There were some problems with the timing people and we ran low on water and snacks, but it was a huge success overall.

This Spring was a great year for birding. Some of our favorites dropped in and stayed for several days on their way north. Below, a Rose Breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting.
Here's some other critters I've been running around with.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sweet Potato Queens' Big Day - Part 2

I biked back to the parade area and found my base of operations was right where all the parade participants were lining up. I proceeded to take over 250 pictures. Here's a few I've selected. (the "buns" are plastic)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sweet Potato Queens' Big Day - Part 1

I commented last year that I didn't care to participate in the famous Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade here in Jackson, Miss. It has become such a huge success that it can be a huge pain in the neck to deal with. The traffic, the crowds, the drunks - all the common hazards of a big celebration. 25 years ago I would have been there amongst the revelers, and I was, back in the day. Now in 2009, my sister, ML has been initiated into the celebration as a VIP of sorts, having been a friend, Girl Scout veteran, high school classmate, etc., of the world famous H.R.H. Jill Conner Brown, THE Sweet Potato Queen.

See the website: http://www.sweetpotatoqueens.com/ if you don't understand the significance, and after doing so you still may not. ML and other high school friends marched in the parade as The Queen's Revirginated Classy Mates.

There were zany things associated with this year's event, like a wedding on the float during the parade, the Classy Mates serving as bridesmaids.

Anyway, it was time to attend and pay homage, and I could run the early morning 5K and meet up with the Mississippi Heat Triathlon Team contingent with an area staked out with snacks and drinks. Fellow Flounder KE promised prime parking at her office a sweet potato's throw from the parade route and directly in the parade lineup area.

Wifeunit was laid up with a mysterious illness, so I headed out at 7 am for downtown Jackson and the St. Paddy's Day 5K. The race is very popular and well attended, and it's fun to run through the city with the tall buildings, the State Capitol and other landmarks decked out in a spring bloom of azaleas, dogwoods and lush green grass.

I ran a leisurely pace enjoying the cool air and scenery, and milled around post-race with friends. ML called and reported her position and marching orders, and I called KE to review the parking situation. I had loaded my bike in the truckster to ensure mobility in case I needed to keep claim on my parking spot, which did turn out to be crucial. I had planned to bike to the nearby YMCA for a shower, but KE offered her home facilities even nearer and less hazardous, with coffee and a pleasant garden seat to kill a little time before the parade.
To be continued...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mardi Gras 2009 - Pascagoula, Mississippi

Here we go again, down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, close enough to New Orleans to be in mandatory Mardi Gras Parade Territory. It was another great day for a parade. Lots of interesting people having a great time.

First, you need transportation.

You might get lucky and find a party with boiled crawfish.

Royalty and celebrities are always out to greet their loyal fans.

Animals in attendance: