Category Archives: Ramblings

Bike Wreck – The Demon Revisited

About six months after my bike wreck I wrote a piece simply called bike wreck. I alluded to “The Demon” who knocked me off my bike. A couple of things that happened in the last couple of months have brought some of those emotions back, and now it’s time to finish the story.

In that post, I wrote about some of the everyday things that were difficult to do, or the need to find a different way of doing them. The original bike wreck story was written about six months after the race. I thought at the time I was back to normal, but it took almost a year and a half before my recovery brought me to my new normal whatever that is. You would have to know me well to understand some of these musings. I am quiet and laid back, but inside my mind is always churning with things that I hear, and the thoughts often morph into “where the heck did that come from” reactions from things I say.

Throughout my recovery, I noticed that my left side wasn’t as strong as it had been and seemed less coordinated than it should be. My swim times in races increased to the point where I was nearly last coming out of the water. People would cheer me on like I was leading the race, but inside I knew I was very slow and I was terribly embarrased. I didn’t let on, and I would joke about it, but inside I was angry at myself, and depressed that I knew I wouldn’t get much better. I would swim in pools and would get dizzy turning my head back and forth to breath. My otherwise straight swim line turned into a zig zag set of lines that added time and distance to my “manatee like” swims. Again, I was very frustrated but didn’t let on to anyone.

Then came the bike. I started training for the following year’s Ironman Wisconsin race to face down the demon that lived under the overpass on McCoy Road. Every time I got down in my aero bars I would spend 10 seconds of sheer terror, and would get back up on the handlebars where I could reach the brakes in time to miss the raccoon, or squirrel, or you name the animal that might run out in front of me and make me lose control of the bike. I rode a lot with the Trilander group but would hang back just in case someone slowed down to keep from running into the back of them. Again, I would come in last and would joke about being so slow, but I was angry that I couldn’t ride any faster and, like the swim, probably wouldn’t get any better.

The run was the least of my issues. I never was very fast, and being the last one to finish the run wasn’t unexpected. So it never really bothered me very much. Maybe I should have cared more and it would have made me work harder to run faster, but after a slow swim and slow bike, a faster run (still slow by race standards) wasn’t going to win the race for me.

Outside of racing and training, the changes still affected me. During my recovery, every once in a while, when I couldn’t remember someone’s name, someone would jokingly say something like “That’s not a surprise. You can hardly remember your own”. Most of the time I could laugh it off, because I knew they were just joking, but every once in a while I would get so angry so quickly that I would get up and leave so I didn’t say something to that person that I would regret later. My friends would ask Jean “What’s wrong with him”. She would shrug her shoulders and say “I don’t know”, but she knew. Wives always know. I’m sure if they had known that, inside, I was so angry because what they said was true, they probably wouldn’t have said it. Sometimes I would have to think hard to remember my last name when I signed a check. I don’t think I ever told that to anyone.

When I went to Mary Free Bed for post trauma evaluation, and I do remember doing some of the tests, they told me (and Jean in case I couldn’t remember) that most of what I had known in the past was in there, but my brain had to find new pathways past the damaged areas to draw it out. I’ve never said I was extra smart but I’m not a dummy either (no comments please). I had always prided myself in knowing over half of the answers on Jeopardy, and often getting the answer right on Final Jeopardy when none of the contestants did. But what I did notice, especially when I was watching with someone else who knew a lot of the answers and would blurt them out, it took me longer to get the word to come out. I wouldn’t have made a good on stage contestant because I would be last to press my button. It was frustrating and I would feel inferior when the only answers I got first were the answers that no one else knew. I never let on that this was a problem, but it deflated my already bruised ego.

I mentioned earlier that I needed to face down that demon in the next Ironman Wisconsin, so I signed up with Roch Frey and Paul Huddle’s on-line training program. I followed it faithfully during the spring/summer of 2004, and did what I could to be ready for the race. Since I wasn’t able to ride for five months after the wreck, I had no base to start the rigorous training schedule. Maybe it wasn’ the best idea to do the race, but inside I felt I needed to show that I could do it. As a part of that program, they held an optional training weekend in Madison. It was a little pricy (no, a lot pricy), but I knew I had to do the race course on the bike or I would never be able to do it race day.

I signed up for the slowest training group, knowing that I would be slow, and it allowed me to hang back and do things at my own pace without being dropped but the faster bikers. That morning I was petrified. For those of you who know Bill Bradley on race day, I was in peak Bill Bradley form. I was trying to think of every reason on earth why I shouldn’t ride that day, to the point of wondering how I could sabotage my bike beyond repair and not have anyone know who did it. I was so nervous I forgot my bike sunglasses and was wearing my wire rimmed bifocals. They were terrible for trying to look ahead to see where you’re going and also seeing right in front of you to not run over “the junk” on the roads.

The training ride consisted of riding 16 miles out to Verona, riding one 40 mile loop, and riding 16 miles back to Madison. We passed the 7-11 store, the last place I remember before my bike wreck. I was nervous, but didn’t show much emotion. When we got to McCoy road, Paul Huddle, leader of our bike group, drifted back and asked if I was OK. I said yes, why? He said this was where I had the bike wreck, at least two miles past my last memory. Outwardly I was “macho calm”, but inside a year’s worth of fears, frustrations, anger, and self deprication was raging. To be kind to myself, I was “kind of slow” finishing the ride, By that time, I had even been dropped by the slow ride group, and was alone when I passed under the bridge on McCoy Road where the demon lived. As I said in the original bike wreck post, I knew that the demon was me, but that didn’t stop me from waving that “one fingered salute” and I may have said out loud “Yeah, I kicked your butt”.

At the end of the training weekend, at the last luncheon, Roch and Paul asked me if I would mind telling the other participants what had happened to me at the last race. I did, in abbreviated form, and many of them came up and talked with me about my courage to come back and try it again.

Without going through a step by step (literally) recap of the race, I was slow on the swim, slow on the bike, and pretty much walked the run. But in the last loop of the run, people from the training weekend would come up and give me hugs and say “You can do it. Keep it up”. Strangers that they were walking with, after hearing my story, gave me hugs as well. Most of you who know me, know that I rarely show any emotion, but the emotion is always inside anyway, and I was moved to tears many, many times. I hid them very well (I thought) because real men don’t cry…or do they?

As I finished that last 1/4 mile I was sprinting to the finish line (it probably was a really slow jog, but it seemed like a sprint to me) emotions overtook me, and I don’t remember whether I hid the tears or not, but they were there. After the post race hugs, after the congratulations, and the after race meal of scraps of cold pizza left by the 2,000 people that finished the race ahead of me, three things became really clear in my mind.

Not just race day, but in all the trials and tribulations of training, your real friends and family are there for you. When you are your lowest point, they will be there to lift you up, so rely on them. Asking for help takes strength, it doesn’t show weakness.

With all of those negative thoughts inside, recognizing that you are “the real demon” isn’t enough. It’s taking that knowledge and knowing that with God’s help, you can make that demon go away. Once you know that, it’s easy.

Lastly, I beat my self up often for knowing that God was there to help me in my darkest hours, and I never asked HIM for the strength to get through it. But God knew that with my brain injury, I didn’t know enough to ask, and he was there anyway. Thanks be to God.

Written for Sara and Cody

I’m An Idiot

I purchased a villa in a Florida golf community this past September. The villa is on the ninth fairway of the South Golf Course, and is close to the center of many of the community activities. We have been spending time, and lots of money, getting the place just the way we want it. Being a retired CPA, I guess you’re never quite able to shake that need to document everything down to the penny. Our property taxes and insurance are paid from an escrow account, and I keep watch to see that the taxes are paid when they should be, and the balance in the escrow account looks reasonable. It also has to agree with the figures I keep on Quicken.

In November, as expected, a disbursement was made for property taxes, reducing the amount in the escrow account. At the end of each month I check to be sure the balance is increasing. When I checked at the end of February, the balance had jumped up by well over $2,000. I looked into the detail, and the property taxes that were paid in November were refunded. All of a sudden I had this sinking feeling that my property taxes were not paid, that the escrow company had sent the money to the wrong bank, and they were just now getting it back. I went to the Highlands County Tax Collector website, looked up the property, and it said the taxes were paid. I drilled down farther and was able to see the receipt. It showed a payment on November 20, 2012. That was a day before the escrow company had sent my payment.

Then it dawned on me. The villa we bought was one that the company that owns all the amenities at Highlands Ridge built as a model. We had looked at it two years ago in the “Parade of Homes”, and again a year ago when the price was reduced, but still not low enough. The owner of the holding company is extremely wealthy, and owns the amenities in many communities around the country. My guess is that the county had changed the payer for the villa, and that bill went to the escrow company, which they paid. The county didn’t change the information copy they send to the owner so the owner can include the property tax deduction on their income taxes. The company got the bill along with a stack of other bills from other properties they still own, and paid them all.

I knew what I had to do. I wrote a letter to the on-site property manager, explaining the situation, and telling her I would bring down a check when she found out, for certain, that the holding company had paid the bill by mistake. This is where the “I’m an idiot” comes in. It’s a little surprising how many ways you can think of that make you feel foolish for volunteering to reimburse them. Thoughts like, “Let them find it, it’s their mistake”, or “Mrs. XXX (not her real name) has more money than she can ever spend. You need it more than she does”. Even the ones that try to rationalize why you shouldn’t tell them like, “They probably like you so much for buying the place that they paid the taxes for you as a gift. Don’t embarrass them by returning it”, or “You’re probably going to get somebody fired for a screw-up like that. Saving their job is important in this economy”.

It’s the classic “devil on you shoulder” routine. I guess the angel on the other shoulder won out. As I tell people that thank me when I’m doing volunteer work, I’ve racked up a few minuses on my scorecard throughout my life, and I’m trying to get in a few pluses to offset them. You never know when you’ll be called to “settle up”.

Just (I’m An Idiot That Can Look At Myself In The Mirror) Jack


I haven’t written anything in a while, and I don’t plan to “catch up” with everything that’s been going on, but I feel the need to vent every once in a while, and this is a great way for me to do it.

We bought a place in Florida this past September, and we’ve been busy getting things the way we want them. We’re not there yet, but well on our way. We’re settling into Florida life quite well, but every once in a while, I repeat, I feel the need to vent. The other day I was shopping…don’t panic, I was actually buying. Women shop. They go into a store, and their speed goes from “I can hardly keep up with you”, to “Walk any slower and you’d be going backwards”. Men go into a store, walk right to what they want, buy it, and leave as fast as they came in.

But, I digress. After leaving the mall, I stopped at a produce stand in the mall parking lot. There was a woman standing at the check out area, buying a few things, and another woman picking some things out and piling them on the counter. I wandered around looking at the produce while the clerk finished up with the woman checking out. The entire time the clerk was ranting on about same sex marriage (against, not for). She never stopped long enough to take a breath, and continued as I walked up to the counter. I grabbed a tomato and placed it on the counter. Still talking, she picked up the tomato, rang it up, and started ringing up things in the other womans pile (she wasn’t at the counter yet). I said, “Wait, we’re not together”. She paused her rant long enough to say, sorry. I handed her a dollar bill which she placed under the other woman’s banana, then put the tomato in a plastic bag.

She continued talking, and started ringing up the other woman’s things, again. I stood there listening for a while, then calmly said, “So, do you think I could get my tomato and change so I can leave?”. She stopped talking just long enough to laugh at herself, handed me my change and, as she started her monologue again, away I went. The old Jack would have vented right then and there, but I’m sure whatever I said would have been lost in her soapbox speech.

Today, I knew I needed to go for a walk. It was nice out (70 and mostly sunny, unlike the rest of the country), and I had walked about four of the four and a third miles on my route. I was walking in the street at the end on the ninth hole of the South Course (there are no sidewalks), when two couples finished playing golf. One of the couples headed for the clubhouse, and the other couple said they were going home for a minute, but would be right back. They pulled out in front of me and passed by quite close. The other couple said something, so they turned around in the middle of the street with their golf cart. Their “circle” came very close to me, close enough that I had to step into the grass on the side of the road to keep from getting hit. The woman said “Hello”, and I said nothing. The guy then said, quite loudly,”We said hello.” Again I said nothing.

The old Jack would have said something like, “You saw me walking down the street, and you pull out in front of me anyway. Then you do a circle in the middle of the road, forcing me to step into the grass so I won’t get hit, and you have the balls to try and make me feel guilty for not saying hello? You’re not only an idiot, but a self-centered, arrogant idiot as well.” I’m proud of myself for not saying it, but I’m not completely cured until I don’t think it either.

Just (Serenity Now..Serenity Now…Serenity Now) Jack

Cottage Rules

1.If you brought food and or drink and it doesn’t get eaten or drank, take it home with you. I don’t want your leftovers. I don’t need it, and if I ate or drank everything everyone left behind, I’d be fatter than I already am. If you do leave food, I’ll save it for the next time you come. Hurry back!

2.  Don’t leave your cans and bottles behind. First of all, I don’t need the money. Second of all, it’s a pain in the butt to take that stuff to the grocery store and stand behind the college kids that each have 50 cans ($5.00 limit on returns). And last of all, if the local store doesn’t sell your brand, they won’t take it, and I will embarrass myself walking out of the store with it.

3.If you leave a hat, clothing, etc., I’ll save it for you and you can get it the next time you come. I don’t deliver. Delivery services are available at

4.  No glass bottles, glasses, coffee cups or anything else breakable on the beach, dock or boat. I know you’ll pick up all the glass when (not if, but when) you break it, but there’s a 95% chance I’ll find the last piece in my foot the next day.

5.  No eating or smoking on the boat. I don’t want to clean up your messes and I don’t like the looks of burn holes on the pontoon seats/carpet. I’m busy enough driving the boat and I don’t have time to catch your glowing ashes before they get to the gas tank. If you don’t think you can go an hour without eating or smoking, counselors are available at Barry County Mental Health Services.

6.  You may be the best barbeque chef around, but show me at your house. Don’t turn my meat, don’t tell me how you would do it, and don’t keep opening the lid of the grill to see how things are coming. It just lets the heat out and takes longer to cook. If you don’t like the way I cook, feed it to the neighbor’s dog (her name is Jasmine), and stop at McDonalds on the way home.

7.  If you have too much to drink, please do not drive yourself home. You are welcome to stay, but not in my bed. I love you too man, but not in that way.

8.  Pursuant to number 7 above, vomiting on the premises is subject to a $25.00 gross out fee. Cleaning materials are under the kitchen counter and there’s laundry soap in the cupboard above the washing machine. Retching with your head in the toilet while I’m trying to sleep is also subject to a $25.00 surcharge over and above the gross out fee.

9.  You are welcome to help clean the kitchen and put things in the dishwasher. However, please don’t help me by putting things away. It usually takes me a couple of days to find the weird places other people put things. If I can’t find it by the third day, I have to buy a replacement and I’m on a fixed income.

Infractions of the above rules are subject to a $5.00 fee per infraction (plus the fees described in rule 8 above). All fees are donated to the YMCA of Barry County.

Eric Chase Fundraiser Race Report

Thank you for your generous support to the Eric Chase Fund at Woodgrove Brethren Christian Parish. I sent most of you thank you notes already, but I can’t say it too many times. As of today, together, we raised $4,677.60 for the Chase family to help with Eric’s rehabilitation needs. You should be proud of yourselves.

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, or at least some of you have been waiting for…the race report. Many of you have heard already that I completed the race and didn’t fall off the bike this time. So here are the details from my perspective.

I looked at the weather a week before the race and the experts at the weather channel said the high on race day would be 65. I looked a couple of days before the race and the experts predicted the high to be 70. The day before the race the high was predicted to be 74. The morning of the race at 4:30 AM the high was supposed to be 83. My son tells me that the temperature he saw consistently on the car thermometer was 87 and saw a spike of 89 for a short time. Since most of you haven’t raced with me, you probably don’t know that I am definitely not a hot weather racer.

The race started out with 2,188 swimmers, the most ever in any Ironman Triathlon. It was a zoo out there and it was difficult to find a place to swim where someone wasn’t hitting you with every stroke. About halfway down the first ½ mile someone’s hand hit my foot and their heart rate monitor watch left a one inch cut on the top of my foot. OK, I’ll stop whining about it. With the hot conditions, my body knew I would need plenty of fluids, so I drank several mouthfuls of lake water. I wouldn’t recommend it. I clenched my teeth so no critters could find their way in. My swim was nine minutes slower than last year, but I was happy enough just to get through it.

I felt comfortable on the bike after I passed the scene of “The Wreck of 2003” on McCoy Road. Most of the potholes and expansion joint separations had been fixed (where were the road crews last year?) but I was still careful driving through there. At about mile 32, on the hill leading into Mt. Horeb, I had a flat tire. That was my first flat during a race and I may have said a bad word or two. Sorry!! I spent several minutes trying to find what caused it so I wouldn’t flat the spare tube, but couldn’t see or feel a thing. I changed the tube, pumped the tire with a CO2 cartridge and it held the rest of the race. Since then I found where something gashed the side of the tire. The tire is ruined ($55 for a new one and this one only had around 200 miles on it), and why it didn’t flat again I’ll never know.

With the hot conditions, I drank as much as I could hold and still was slightly dehydrated. I was near puke sick (sorry to be so graphic) from the halfway point on the bike to the end of the race, a total of around 10 hours. At about the 90 mile mark on the bike I was climbing the second of three tough hills in a row for the second time when I saw my family and friends cheering me on. Of course I had to show off a little. Within a mile I was on the third and final tough hill when both quads cramped. I knew if I got off the bike at that point, they would freeze up and I probably couldn’t get back on, so I toughed it out (Macho Jack took over). I started the run with cramped legs, but the pain was tolerable. However, the more I ran the worse the nausea got. I ran as long as I could until I could sense a barf coming just around the corner, and then started walking. Once I started feeling slightly better, I would run again for as long as I could and repeat the process.

On the first loop of the run, in a construction area, the pavement was uneven and I folded my right ankle over. It’s happened so many times in the past it wasn’t a serious strain, but it nagged at me continuously the rest of the race. I finished the race in 16 hours, 18 minutes, and 54 seconds (53 second slower than my last race at Ironman Florida). I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not built for long distance racing. When you see world class triathletes, you generally see fairly short, slender people. I’m neither of those things. With my build, the sport I’m most adapted for is chess, and I’m not any good at that either.

So you’re probably thinking I’m disappointed with the race and I’m not. Even with all those low points, I had an absolute blast. First of all, I completed the race I couldn’t finish last year. In and of itself, that’s probably enough. But more than that, I enjoyed the entire experience. I had all of you, all my friends and family, wishing me well. I had family and friends at the race cheering me up those tough hills on the bike and at several points on the run course. I got to ride through the crowds at Verona with people cheering and shouting “Go Walker (my name was on my race number bib), you can do it”. I got to see the “devil” at Old Sauk Pass running along side each bike jabbing the air with a pitchfork (fake one made of cardboard and tin foil) encouraging each rider to make it up the hill. I thanked every law enforcement officer at every corner directing traffic for being there on the course. I high-fived it with hundreds of people, many of them children (what were they doing up at 11 P.M.?), in the last 300 yards of the race. I had great conversations with people on the race course that I didn’t know and probably will never see again. I had people who knew I was the guy that had the serious bike wreck last year, but didn’t know my name, give me hugs on the run, telling me I was going to make it this year.

Even with all the pain, how much better can life get?

Before you hear this next part from someone else, I should confess my misadventures on Friday night before the race. Roch Frey and Paul Huddle are well known trainers to triathletes at all levels. Roch is married to Heather Fuhr, winner of eight Ironman Triathlon races around the world. Paul is married to Paula Newby-Frazier, winner of the Ironman Triathlon Championships in Hawaii eight times and winner of 30 other Ironman Triathlon races around the world. Roch and Paul are the race directors for the bike and run and present humorous instructional segments for the carbo loading dinner on Friday night and the required athletes’ meeting on Saturday.

I have known them since the accident and have used their on-line training program for Ironman Wisconsin at I knew they had started a tradition of an “Underpants Run” at the World Triathlon Championships in Hawaii for the past six years. It breaks the tension for athletes and raises money for some worthy causes. I sent them a note thanking them for their help throughout the year and asking them if there would be an underpants run at Madison. They sent back an e-mail saying “There never has been one, but what do you think about starting one and raising some money for your friend, Eric”? So, Friday night at 8 PM, about 30 of us stripped down to our “tighty whities” and jogged a few hundred yards down State Street and back.

There was a home football game Saturday and the streets were packed. The crowds got a big kick out of it, gave us high fives, and took plenty of pictures. We would stop at the traffic signals like all runners should, and did calisthenics until the light changed. One girl requested that we bend over and touch our toes…yes, I was the only one that did. Paula Newby-Frazier acted as treasurer (she was just shaking her head at her husband Paul and the rest of us lunatics). Underpants runners and spectators gave $427 in cash donations. At the awards banquet after the race on Monday, an individual came up to Paul and wrote a check for $100 to add to the funds.

If you have a morbid curiosity to see pictures of the underpants run, go to and click the picture that says “Ironman Wisconsin post race coverage click here”. There is a menu banner across the top and one of the choices is “photos”. Click that choice and, when the photo appears, click “previous” several times. There are lots of pictures of the race and racers, and the underpants run pictures are quite a few back. If you can pick me out, you may win a prize.

Thanks again for your generous support. You have made a difference and, to me, that’s what life is all about.

Bike Wreck

I woke up sometime the day after the “big race”. I was doing Ironman Wisconsin which consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. I remembered the swim and the start of the bike but couldn’t remember any of the rest. I thought our triathlon group had celebrated when everyone had finished and I thought I drank too much because I felt like I had a terrible hangover. Those thoughts sound like it was a while before I understood I had been in a bike accident but what seemed like a long time was about three seconds. I don’t remember who was there but it didn’t take me long to realize that I had been hurt and was in a hospital.

The first people I remember were my wife, Jean, and Roch Frey, the Ironman bike race director. I don’t remember what we said to each other but I’m told we discussed the benefits of morphine. Jean had been pulled out of the race, a race she would have won in her age group to qualify for the world championships in Hawaii, by Roch when she was half-way through the bike portion because I was in the hospital and “wasn’t good”. He had brought her to the hospital and had gone back to our hotel room to pick up a change of clothes since she was wearing her bike riding outfit.

At first I didn’t know how severe the injuries were. Jean, the doctors and the nurses told me things but I would forget quickly and it was much later before the words stuck with me. I had suffered a fractured skull, fractured scapula (we didn’t find that out until much later in Grand Rapids), left eye contusions with the eye swollen shut, road rash on both elbows, both knees and my right ankle, and three brain hematomas-one epidural and two subdural (my right ankle took five weeks to heal which was the least of my worries). When I was taking my first shower I noticed a huge bruise that went from my butt cheek to the joint on the back of my leg. I was extremely dizzy and lost most of the hearing in my right ear. That was because I had bled both inside and outside the ear and the dried blood had caked on the eardrum. My hearing came back eventually.

Bleeding inside and outside my eardrum frightened me. I knew that when people bled like that there was likely to be brain injuries and I didn’t know where that would lead me. I knew who I was and who everyone else was too so I knew I wouldn’t be a vegetable but would I ever be normal? And what would normal be anyway? Would I ever be able to ride a bike again? How about run or even walk?

I only remember small pieces of my stay in the hospital at Madison but it seems like I had tests all the time. Jean told me that I wanted to leave the hospital and was happy when I was discharged. She was not. She had been in telephone contact with our family doctor and he said it sounded like I shouldn’t be discharged but the doctors in Madison did it anyway. He told Jean to keep an eye on me and, if anything serious happened, pull into the first hospital she could find. Jean flew Sara, my daughter, over to Madison to help her get me home since she couldn’t drive and watch over me at the same time.

I don’t remember the night I was discharged from Meriter Hospital in Madison. Jean said we went to a Perkins restaurant to eat dinner and all she could get me to eat was a chocolate milk shake. I vaguely remember getting in the car the next morning and, when we pulled out of the parking lot, telling Jean we were going the wrong way. I don’t know how I knew that since I had never been to that motel and had no idea what part of town it was in. I would guess that somewhere in my memory I had seen signs from the day before when we came from the hospital.

I remember very little of the trip home and I’m told I slept sitting up off and on most of the way. I remember we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch in Michigan City, Indiana and, when I got out of the car, I felt terrible. I remember walking around in circles in the parking lot. When Jean got the food I’m told I went inside and ate some of it. I don’t remember much of the rest of the trip home and little about going into the house. I vaguely remember Pat Loftus, a good friend of mine, being in my bedroom telling me I had to go to the emergency room at the hospital so I did.

When we got to the hospital I remember they got me a wheelchair and it seems like I went into an examining room right away. The rest of the examination was a blur and I only remember Doug Smendik, a doctor but not an ER doctor nor my regular doctor, telling me I was sick and had to go to Grand Rapids to another hospital. I remember they put me in an ambulance, strapped me to a narrow gurney, and away we went. I don’t remember much of the trip and don’t remember arriving at Spectrum Hospital (I still call it Butterworth).

I remembered more of the stay at Spectrum than in Madison but I still would forget many things. I’m told I would receive telephone calls, talk at some length, and then forget the call soon after I hung up. I’m told I was flirtatious with the nurses which is not at all like me. I do remember trying to give one of the nurses a $10 tip because she was doing such a good job and telling Jean she was really nice but quite homely after she left the room. I’m told I had one day that I swore constantly. I don’t remember much of that although I do remember swearing some when I got in the shower for the first time. It seemed like every spot on my body hurt and, when the water hit me, hurt even worse. At the same time I was hooked up to an IV and a bunch of wires and was a little irritated that I couldn’t unhook them all and shower like I used to. Jean tells me I was a little snippy with her when she tried to help me into the bathroom.

I’m told that there were times when I would quit breathing and my heart rate would go down to around 20. The nurses didn’t know what to do so they would send me down to intensive care where I would get straightened out and get sent back to the floor. Jean says eventually they told her to rub my feet when I wouldn’t breathe and that would stimulate me to start again. I do remember some of the tests and the nurses or aides getting me up to walk around the hallways.

One of the procedures I remember was when they sent me to be tested for seizures. It seemed to me I was in the basement in a small room. I remember the start of the test but don’t remember anything they did. I may have fallen asleep or they may have “put me out” but I do know that when I awoke I felt my face and it seemed like it was covered with spider webs. I felt like I was in the basement of a haunted castle in some mid-fifties horror movie.

At another time they sent me down to have a “Cat Scan”. Again I felt like I was in a basement but the room seemed brighter and I was in a conversation with the tech administering the test. She told me that the results would be read by a radiologist named Scott Lancaster, a doctor who had practiced at Pennock Hospital where I was a member of the board of trustees. I don’t know whether I told her or someone later but I remember saying “Oh yeah. He’s the radiologist that’s suing us”.  Again that’s not like me because I spent thirty years in Public Accounting where confidentiality was a way of life.

I went home after the fifth day and thought I felt fine. When I got home there were a couple of friends from our triathlon group and we visited about things I don’t remember. My mother and my two other children had flown in from Florida and California and I remember them being there the next day. I know they were concerned and I told them I felt fine but they knew differently. I couldn’t sleep in a bed because it hurt to lay my head down on a pillow so I slept in a Laz-e-Boy chair for six weeks.

I was unable to drive a car and was allowed to walk by myself for a half hour at a time. I would walk to the bank, walk to the post office and would walk through the downtown area. I saw many people I knew and would talk about my recovery from the accident. As time went on I walked farther each day but still was not allowed to exercise much. Jean tells me I was an SOB for the first couple of days and she “couldn’t do anything right”. I don’t remember any of that and, apparently, it didn’t last long.

About six weeks after the accident my mother and Jean drove me down to Florida where I would spend time recuperating. The nice weather made it easier to walk outdoors and I was able to walk farther and at a faster pace than my walks in Michigan. I began driving at around eight weeks and started lifting weights and swimming around that same period of time. I noticed improvements each week up to around three months. I felt entirely recovered but that wasn’t really the case. After that the changes came about more slowly and still continue today, but I consider myself cured.

All through the recovery period I would have memory difficulties and would be unable to think of certain words. I would often have trouble coming up with someone’s name. It was often a friend or someone I had known for several years. I would remember where they lived, where they worked, their wife’s name, but theirs wouldn’t come. I would usually remember it later. Sometimes it took two minutes, sometimes two hours and sometimes two days but I always would get it eventually.

Sometimes the words I couldn’t get are everyday words I have known all my life. I remember telling my son a story about my first visit to New York City. I was staying at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and I described the train ride into the city in vivid detail. It was a long story and ended with the sentence “Then the other drunks helped him to his feet and took him back to sit on the …….”. I couldn’t get that last word but I knew what it was. I described it to him as a thing that comes up out of the ground that flattens out with two “ears” and has water in it. He asked “Do you mean fire hydrant?” and I said “Yes”. I went home and told my wife the strangest thing had just happened and described the story to her in a short version. I said “When I got to the end I couldn’t remember the words ……”. They wouldn’t come again.

Those episodes continue today nearly six months from the accident except that when I finally get the word I usually don’t forget it. The words have been common like resume and shoulder and convoy among many others. Most of my friends and family know that missing words may happen and they are very understanding. Jean and I have an agreement that she won’t help me with missed words or forgotten names. We both feel that forcing me to work on remembering may help in the recovery process. If not at least it’s a fun little game. Often minutes and sometimes hours later I’ll walk by her and say nothing but the missed word. Sometimes it takes her a minute to figure out what I’m talking about but she always remembers the situation and says “Yes, that’s it”.

There are many stories about what I did during the hospital stays. Some I remember and some I have learned second hand. During recovery I would e-mail my friends and family with my recovery progress. Looking back at those e-mails I can see many changes. The early ones were brief and told limited information about my progress. As time went on they became lengthier. Sometimes they were serious and talked about the accident and other times they contained stories in my strange sense of humor. Whether for the humor or the information on the healing process many friends and family told me how much they enjoyed the e-mails and I should “keep them coming”.

I have been very open with my progress and have noticed some changes in my personality. Before the accident I was quiet and soft spoken. Since the accident I notice I talk much more than I did before and usually say exactly what I think. I don’t think I say things that are offensive to people and I don’t walk up to women on the street and say “My, what a nice set of jugs you have”. I find myself at meetings talking more than I should and have attempted to tone it down a little. I still say things I think need to be heard but I try not to go overboard to the point of boring everyone.

Without going into detail about the countless adventures during my recovery this would be the end. But there are many parts that only I know about. I have told a couple of people a couple of the stories but not in much detail. Borrowing from radio personality Paul Harvey, “Here’s the rest of the story”.

In one of the e-mails I sent to friends and family keeping them informed of my progress, or at least my take on my progress, I mentioned that when I first awoke I felt like I was coming from a spot that was pitch black, quiet and I was alone. I’m sure that many felt I was thinking I was in that spot between living and dying and was having one of those “near death experiences”. That isn’t what I felt at all. My accounting geek thought process had to put everything into its proper niche. I thought the appropriate niche was the reaction of the brain when severe trauma occurs. I have no medical background but felt that when the brain is injured it shuts down all non-essential processes (dreaming; unrelated thoughts, etc.) and devotes its entire existence into healing and recovery.

That doesn’t mean I never worried that I was close to death. I’m not afraid of dying. It will happen to all of us sooner or later, but I wanted it to be later. I have some things left undone and probably always will. Maybe I see the need now to tie up all the loose ends because life can change in one split second. I joke about wanting to spend the money I worked hard for all my working life rather than let Jean spend it on Guido, the cabana boy but that really is a joke unless anyone has seen Jean and Guido while I was in Florida. My worry was that what I set up in my trust in 1991 when all the kids were home it is different than what I would set up now that they are all grown up (no jabs intended-they are all grown up much as Mothers think they aren’t). So it’s time to get the trust fixed along with Jean’s will which leaves everything to me that I don’t need and her boys do.

I’m sure that many also felt that the part that talks about feeling all alone was a scary part to me and it wasn’t. I felt all alone because I was. I know there were doctors, nurses, family members and friends around but they were only around part of the time. I had lots of trouble sleeping at night, probably due to the pain, and I was alone most of that time. Family and friends were home sleeping in their beds and the nurses were trying not to bother patients so they could sleep so there was no one there.

It sounds like a complaint but it’s not at all. It’s great to have friends that come by and show that they care; doctors come by and tell you that you are improving; nurses that come by and take care of your basic needs (I hope I was never catheterized or had to crap in a bedpan); family that would come by and show you their love and concern; but you are still alone with your thoughts-sometimes for long periods of time. I also don’t think I had life changing revelations. I thought about the thoughts and beliefs I have had all my life even though they often oppose the accounting geek side of me.

In that same e-mail I say I fear that …”an arm could reach out and pull me back to the black hole”. I’m sure that many readers felt again that I was worried about dying or becoming a vegetable and that wasn’t it at all. During that long time alone I had lots of time to think about my life and life in general. I worried about family and friends and their uncertainties but in the long run my biggest worry was that I would be the kind of person I read about in the papers or hear about on the news programs that spend all their time trying to blame someone else for their misfortune. My heart breaks when I think about the victims of the 9/11 tragedy but it wretches when I hear newscasters push and prod people to put a price tag on “compensation” for their loss. The same goes for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and the other disasters in life; some man-made and some natural disasters.

It’s not that I disagree that individuals that directly cause tragedies should not be accountable, but the blame finger points in too many directions and tries to include too many of the indirect sources. The argument can go on and on and many people feel strongly that the blame should go as far as it can. But how many people agree with the jury award of millions of dollars for the woman that sued McDonalds because she spilled hot coffee in her lap? A friend of mine is the treasurer for a boat manufacturer that was sued by the family of a man who drank liquor all day long, was extremely drunk, pulled the pontoon boat into two feet of water, climbed onto the roof of the pontoon and dove into the water breaking his back because there wasn’t a sign that said “DO NOT DIVE OFF THE ROOF OF THE PONTOON-IT MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH”. The family won the case.

My worry was, is and will always be that I try to blame someone or something for the bike wreck or other things that changed my life. I think it’s healthy to try and find out how it happened so I can do what I can to prevent it from happening again. But first of all my accounting logical brain tells me that there’s a huge possibility that the wreck was my own fault. I don’t care if a six foot trench caused the accident. Probably 1,200 plus riders went by that same spot before I did and didn’t fall so I shouldn’t have either. I have second guessed all kinds of possibilities and the Ironman organization has been no help at all. From the front tire catching in an expansion joint or road crack to too much weight forward causing a loss of control and everything in between, blame doesn’t matter. I was telling one of the guys at the YMCA about the accident and he asked me if I was wearing a helmet. I said yes but it broke into three pieces (that’s second-hand information-someone threw my helmet away for me so I’ve not seen it). He said “You ought to sue them”. I said “If I didn’t have the helmet on I would probably be dead by now”.

I’ve made arrangements to enter the Ironman Wisconsin again in 2004 against the advice of some of my friends but mostly with support and understanding. I’ve used the macho explanation that I have to “beat the race that beat me” but that’s not really how I feel. I feel that I have to face down the “demon” and the demon is me. I’m sure I will make a pilgrimage to the spot where the wreck happened and spend a few minutes alone to look or pray or swear and that may be a necessary part of the race but I need to do the race without trying to pawn the blame on to myself or anyone else. What happened has happened and nothing in this world will change it. If I use the tragedy as an excuse I’ll be losing control of my choices and that’s not the way I want things to be.

For some people maybe pointing the blame finger works so they feel better. I could blame someone else or myself and use that crutch to excuse myself for drinking too much or living in anger or carousing in bars or becoming depressed. Maybe some people feel that I do any or all of those things although half my time in bars is spent drinking caffeine free diet coke but that’s not the point. We all live all our lives the best way we know how but do things that are “life’s choices”. We are on this earth to live and we make our own life’s choices every day. Some of those choices are good and some (mine included) are, in hindsight, not so good. But that’s the human condition. And when our final number comes up we add the pluses and minuses and see if we are where we wanted to be. For those who have a base in religion as I do, we feel we are ultimately judged by God. For those who aren’t religious and those who are, we know we are judged by everyone who has ever known us.

But before those other judgments happen we spend our whole lives living and judging ourselves on an ongoing basis and I want to think I have a rolling “A”. As Anna recently put in an e-mail about her history test, maybe only a 90 but still an “A”.

Trilander Dinner 2003

Two years ago we heard the story about the Trilanders and how our group was formed. Last year we looked back at the season, our accomplishments, our injuries and our training. This year the committee thought it would be appropriate to look to the future.

On January 19th I asked everyone to e-mail me with their 2003 season goals and their 2003 training objectives. Some e-mails were not functioning so they never got the message and some chose not to send them in. Some may have feared that they would be held up to public scrutiny or ridicule which may be true. Others may have been afraid to commit themselves for fear of being considered cocky or overly aggressive. Still others may have been afraid of failure and that not committing to a goal means you can’t possibly fail. Some may have thought this was a really cheesy idea and didn’t want any part of it. But many did respond. Some goals and objectives were short and simple. Others were quite detailed and specific. Here are the responses. The committee may have edited and corrected for spelling and punctuation. But as Tom Brokaw would say, “Here they are in their own words”.

Harry’s season goal is to finish Ironman Wisconsin. His training objective is to not allow the Ironman training to consume and dominate his life considering his personal and work obligations.

Kim’s season goals are to do the White Pine Stampede 20k cross-country ski race in 2 hours or less, to complete an Olympic distance triathlon this summer, to complete the Fifth Third Riverbank Run and to possibly complete the Bayshore Marathon in less than 4 hours. Her training objective is to complete a 10k race in 8 minute miles or better.

Gary said his season goal is to keep having fun doing what we are doing and his training objective is to keep training. He is looking forward to the long distance training we will be doing this summer and is glad he will have the summer off. Gary was once overheard saying that his goal at Ironman Wisconsin is to run the entire run portion which sounds redundant but if you’ve done an Ironman you know what he means.

Jenifer’s priority season goal is to arrive at the Ironman Wisconsin start uninjured and to complete the race. Her main training objectives would be to train wisely, consistently, and listen closely to her body. When something hurts…stop! When needing some time off…take it! Her other season goals are to do the Fifth Third Riverbank Run in 2:05 (does that mean if she gets to the finish line in 2:04 she’ll wait a minute to cross?), place 1st, 2nd or 3rd in her age group at the shorter triathlons and to “drink less and weigh less”. (She says the two are closely linked and appears to be off to a bad start on the drinking less part tonight). Her other training objectives are to return to sub 8 minute mile pace by the Fifth Third Riverbank Run, have a 12 minute half mile swim time, do the long time trial in 1:04 or less, remain uninjured, and to train wisely.

Diane’s season goals are to finish the Boston Marathon in less than 4:30, finish Ironman Wisconsin in less than 14 hours, to beat Karen Standley in at least one race this year and not to finish in 4th place in any race this year. Her training objective is to remain injury free.

Bill Bradley’s season goals are to complete the Fifth Third Riverbank Run, to do an early summer triathlon (either Johann’s or Macatawa), complete the Seahorse Challenge (which by the way is early this year…the day after Macatawa) and to complete his first half Ironman race at the Muncie Endurathon.

Martin’s season goals are to finish Ironman Wisconsin in less than 12:30 and to finish the Fifth Third Riverbank Run in less than 2:05. His training objectives are to improve his long distance running pace to less than 8 minute miles and to average 24 miles per hour on the 16 mile bike time trial. He plans to do the Fifth Third Riverbank Run, The Ann Arbor Triathlon, the Seahorse Challenge Triathlon, Hubbard Lake or Johann’s (they are on the same weekend), the Muncie Endurathon and Ironman Wisconsin.

Lynette says her goals are very simple. She hopes to start the season injury free and remain that way. She feels that will help her improve her time and distance.

Pat Purgiel’s goals are to successfully complete a triathlon (any triathlon), run a marathon in 3:45 or less (which is Boston Marathon qualifying time for the for the elderly), run the Fifth Third Riverbank Run in less than 2 hours, and meet the dream woman of his life except that I should only list the first three so would the jury please disregard that last one about meeting the dream woman of his life because that would embarrass him and we wouldn’t want that.

Judy Anderson says she doesn’t do triathlons but her training objective is to run pain free at some point in the near future and to finish the Fifth Third Riverbank Run.

Becky’s goal is to swim 1.2 miles in less than 1:30 or whatever the swim cutoff is for the Half Ironman. Her training objective is to not get injured, something that is proving hard to do.
Jim’s season goal is, and I quote “To kick ass and take names later and also to see the entire team cross the white line at Ironman Wisconsin”. His training objectives are to stay focused and have a sub-13 hour Ironman God willing.

Larry Etter’s goals for 2003 are to make it to the start line at Ironman Wisconsin capable of competing, to finish Ironman Wisconsin in less than 13 hours, to finish in the upper 20% of swimmers in his age group in all races, to finish in the top 50% of all bikers in his age group in all races, to finish close to 50% of all runners in his age group in all races, and to have fun doing all of the above.

Jack’s goals are to finish an Olympic distance triathlon in less than 2:45, improve his times in all repeat races by at least five minutes, to complete the Muncie Endurathon in less than 6:15, and to finish Ironman Wisconsin in less than 16:18:01. His training objectives are to integrate lactate threshold training and VO2 max training in his schedule, improve swim times by at least 5% in all races, solve his leg cramping problem through better conditioning and hydration, and most importantly lose 30 pounds by the first triathlon. First of all 170 pounds on a 4 inch wide bike seat has to be more comfortable than 200 pounds on the same seat. Secondly I defy anyone to get in their season’s best condition, strap on a thirty pound pack, ride the 24 hour challenge route and then run any distance, let alone a marathon.

Jean’s season goal is to make it to the start line at Ironman Wisconsin injury free. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Her training objectives are to improve times in all three sports and to do the 24 hour challenge route once a week beginning in June. She also says she wants to be the strongest woman in her age group.

Jon Anderson’s schedule has changed drastically since Mark got called up for the reserves and may be gone for a year or more. His season goal would be to finish Ironman Wisconsin in the shortest time possible with the least amount of training. He would like to finish the swim in less than 1:05 and complete the bike course in 5 hours or less. His training objective is to get faster on the bike and concentrate his training to that end. He plans to train no more than 15 hours per week.

The one common theme that stands out is that everyone wants to remain injury free. After three years of hip tendonitis, shin splints, an AC joint separation, a flake fracture and a large hematoma, I’m not the one to give advice on how to do that.

This is the point on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson would turn to Ed McMahon and say “With all these season goals and training objectives you would think that everything was covered”. Ed, by that time half in the bag, would reply according to the script “With all those goals and objectives there couldn’t possibly be any more that haven’t been thought of. If there was a book of goals and objectives, it wouldn’t have any that weren’t thought of by this group”. At this point, after the set-up, Johnny would say in his dorkiest voice “Not so my large pickled friend”. The committee came up with some suggestions that we may not have considered. As always, I apologize to the spouses and supporters for all the inside jokes.

Most of you know that Harry is Chief Operating Officer at Pennock Hospital. You also may know that there is a critical shortage in nursing and many other health care fields including Pharmacists. Harry, by training, is a Pharmacist. So after Harry spends all day at his regular duties he often works at the Pennock Pharmacy to help with staffing issues. Some people on the Board of Trustees have noticed that several months after Harry started working in the pharmacy there were a lot of pharmacy techs off on maternity leave. There may be no connection but the committee feels that Harry may have more energy for training if he spent less time with those young women.

One member of the committee noted that Kim has a little trouble sticking with her own training schedule. She comes to the Sunday runs saying she plans on running 5 miles, but ends up running whatever distance everyone else goes, often 8, 9 or 10 miles. Unlike Jack she may want to put on a little weight so she isn’t sucked along by the team vacuum.

It’s hard for the committee to suggest anything to Gary. He can lay off running for two weeks and then go out and run 10 miles just to keep someone company so they don’t have to run alone and he usually has to slow down to do that. However, the committee did feel that Gary is just a little too hyper, should calm down a little and learn to just take life as it comes.

Jenifer’s goals and objectives said it all. Just listen to your body and it will tell you what to do. But the committee suggests that Jenifer not train alone so much. It may be beneficial to find a training partner to work with. It might be helpful if that person liked to talk a lot too because they could share their experiences. We also hope that giving up her 30 minute pool soak before swim workouts doesn’t have a negative effect on her training. Jenifer should also try to be a little more upbeat and enthusiastic about life and her training.

With a new Softride, VO2 max testing, a swim workout book, attending a Florida Triathlon Training Camp, a new computrainer and Boston Marathon training, what ever happened to Diane’s workout philosophy that “Less is better”? The committee does suggest that when she runs with Pat and they come to a fork in the road that she turns the opposite direction that Pat thinks is correct.

In his list of goals and training objectives Bill said that he wants to be just like Jack. Does that mean he wants the guys in the locker room to comment on his anatomy? For those of you that don’t know what that means, let me know and I’ll see that you get a copy of the e-mail from Florida.

Medically we know that people have different levels of testosterone in their bodies. We also know that an important part of training is to know your lactate threshold and incorporate lactate threshold training into your schedule. The committee feels that Martin may be the most technically qualified to develop a machine to determine a person’s testosterone threshold. The test might consist of blood tests while reading a variety of men’s magazines, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Once the threshold is established it could be correlated to the lactate threshold so that overtraining due to testosterone overload doesn’t occur. We’re not sure what kind of training would be necessary to alter the testosterone threshold but we do feel sorry for Jane.

Lynette had some concerns about staying healthy and injury free during her training schedule. One way to achieve this is to not train when you are overly tired. Lynette may want to consider having Harry work more hours at the pharmacy so she gets her needed rest.

The books say that when you are training at an aerobic level you should be able to carry on a conversation with your training partner. Pat must be extremely concerned that he is going anaerobic because he is continually testing to see that he is in that aerobic range. To combat this behavior the committee suggests that Pat try to run the entire 7 mile Cook/Quimby/Broadway loop with at least one other person without saying a word. He may also want to consider wearing a pin-on GPS so he isn’t led astray by Diane on the Sunday runs.

We can’t criticize Judy’s training objectives because of her physical problems. We do suggest, however, that she sit down with Jenifer and Jean and find out how they are able to listen to their doctors, completely stop training and let their injuries heal properly.

We hope that Becky doesn’t have a bladder control problem. When Bill and I follow her on these long winter runs we see urine at every mailbox but she blames it on the dogs. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and happens to lots of people. Also, we don’t know of any triathlon that allows dogs to assist the participants so we suggest that Becky try to get her heart rate above 115 as the dogs pull her up the Yeckley/Cook/Quimby road hills.

It sounds like Jim may have his hands full as Trish’s due date is just before Ironman Wisconsin. We do, however, suggest that Jim make it a training objective to swim at least once before each race. Also, there will be a collection taken up later so Jim can invest in a pre-race hair brush.

Larry’s training is by the book or more precisely by the books. But remember the old saying “Don’t judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes”. The committee thinks it would be helpful for Larry to see how well off he is and how the other half lives. They suggest that he go a week without wearing his heart rate monitor, charting his training activities or logging his running shoe mileage. If he has difficulty, there are support groups that would be willing to talk him through the rough times.

The committee couldn’t find any fault with Jack’s scheduled activities. His season goals are realistic and attainable and his training objectives are reasonable and appear to be complete. He doesn’t appear to have any quirks or idiosyncrasies that they could poke fun at. The committee is concerned that if Jack does lose 30 pounds, he will also lose his excuse for not doing well in some of his races. He is encouraged to develop a stand-by injury in the event of a poor performance.

The committee is concerned that any criticism or jokes directed at Jean may be met with physical and/or sexual consequences. The committee is not at all concerned that she spends all of her waking hours either swimming, running, spinning, lifting weights, riding her trainer, attending yoga classes, attending Pilates classes, doing Pilates tapes at home, doing yoga tapes at home, reading nutrition books, reading running books, reading biking books, and reading triathlon magazines. The committee likes her decorating theme in the bedroom that makes it look like a Dr. Scholl’s display case. Jack was a little concerned in Florida when he caught Jean eying his foot for a transplant. They aren’t the same blood type but Jack has seen calls on the caller ID from the Duke University Medical Center.

The committee has heard unconfirmed rumors that Jon Anderson spent much of his recent vacation on the cruise ship working on alternative training techniques. An anonymous senior level White House official has told CNN that the new training formats may include consuming large amounts of alcohol before talking on a cell phone, walking around in our underwear and some cross-dressing. I know a guy at the Seven Springs Y in Florida that may be interested in the last two parts.

If any of you are offended by any of these suggestions don’t blame me. Talk to the committee although I’m not really sure who the committee is.

To be serious for just a minute, it was a common theme that everyone wanted to stay healthy and injury free. That’s not likely to happen but we can minimize the occurrence rate and severity if we plan our workouts carefully, think about what we are doing and, as Jen suggests, listen to our bodies. I look around and see people like my next door neighbor, who is younger than me, healthy one day and fighting for his life the next. Like Johann Visser, he is running a race he probably won’t finish. We should thank God every day that we are able to whine about our injuries, listen to a good friend all 7 miles of a 7 mile run, cross dress and even pee on mailboxes.

Above all, Larry and Gary said it best “No matter what your season goals and training objectives are, the most important thing is to have fun”.

Alcatraz Fundraiser Race Report

Thank you for your donation to support the purchase of a Wall Mount Infant Warmer for the family birthing center at Pennock Hospital. No goods or services were provided for this contribution and this letter will serve as your receipt for income tax purposes.

As promised, here is the race report! June 16, 2002-Fathers Day

We arrived at the transition area at 5:30AM to set up our bikes and arrange our biking and running gear. Buses transported us several blocks away to catch the boat to Alcatraz. When we arrived at Pier 33 we were “body marked” on our arms and legs with our race number and age. Jack went back and had the top of his head marked with his race number so when they unzipped the body bag, they would know immediately who he was. Diane kept trying to sneak away while in line, but Jack has been lifting weights all winter so he was able to drag her on board. Our two boats left Pier 33 at 7:20AM for Alcatraz. The first boat contained the professionals, special interest athletes and “younger” competitors. Our boat contained all athletes over 40, female athletes under 29 and all relay teams.

At 8AM the horn sounded and the athletes from both boats started jumping in the water and swimming toward shore. Our “wave” was second to go off a minute later. After a group hug we jumped in. We heard many of the swimmers gasping for breath when they hit the water, but all three of us thought the 57-degree water was “refreshing” (probably due to the practice swim in Gun Lake in April when the water was 54-degrees in the warm spots and 48-degrees in the cool spots).

The race organizers told us to swim directly toward the Transamerica building, which was not where we were going to end up. About two thirds of the way through the mile and a half swim the current would catch us and would sweep us toward the St. Francis Yacht Club (half a mile down the waterfront). If we swam directly toward the yacht club, the current would take us out to sea, rescue boats would pick us up, and our race would be over. The chop was rougher and the swells were bigger than any of us expected. Harry saw two sea lions swim right under him. Maybe Max Rappaport was right and the real danger was overly amorous sea lions and not sharks. Apparently Jack thought it would be easier to swim if the Bay was shallower so he swallowed a lot of water, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. All of us finished the swim safely and were very relieved.

From there we put on our running shoes to run the half-mile to our bikes. Harry couldn’t find his transition bag, so he ran in his wet suit and swim booties (how cute). We changed into our bike shoes, bike helmets, jumped on our bikes and took off for an 18-mile ride through San Francisco. Our ride took us through the Presidio, along the waterfront and up the first long climb to the Golden Gate Bridge. We went through a tunnel under the approach to the bridge, past the Palace of the Legion of Honor, through a golf course, through Seacliff (right past Robin Williams’ house), past Cliff House and along the Pacific Ocean on the Great Highway. We turned east into Golden Gate Park, made a long two-mile climb and then started back on the same route we came on. The hills were long and steep and we were all very cautious. Jack was on the brakes on every downhill and his bike computer still showed a maximum speed of 47 mph. We all finished the ride safely and again we were relieved. We hopped off the bikes, took off our bike shoes and helmets, put on our running shoes and headed out for the 8 mile run.

The run took us along the waterfront through Crissy Field to Fort Point (underneath the Golden Gate Bridge). There we climbed the steps to the ” Presidio headlands”. Through this whole area it was single-track trail running with runners going both ways. There were many places we had to step off the path and let runners go by (the returning runners had the right of way). We went on the “coast trail” past the “coastal defense batteries” and through a tunnel under the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. The tunnel was pitch black, was full of rocks and roots, and you had to bend over to exit the far end (Jack didn’t think the run was tough enough so he wore his sunglasses through the tunnel-big mistake!!). He didn’t fall but took 7 of the fastest steps anyone has ever taken with his chin a foot off the ground. Diane wanted to prolong the run so she took a couple hundred-yard side trip before someone told her she missed a turn.

The run turned onto Baker Beach (Jack and Harry were looking for the nude sunbathers, but only saw a large fisherman and they prayed he had his clothes on), went a quarter of a mile and made a u-turn. A half-mile later was the dreaded “sand ladder”. We all three put our heads down and climbed to the top. We still had a half mile of “up” before we started the long downhill back to the start. We ran back along the same trail as we came on and met several runners who were still on their way out. After leaving the headlands, we went back down the steps to Fort Point, back through Crissy Field, along the “Golden Gate promenade” and back to the finish. We all finished and none of us got hurt. That was our goal and we made it!!

Our cheering section was all there at the finish line just as relieved as we were. No, we didn’t win but in our families’ eyes we were all winners. The cheering section consisted of Harry’s wife, Lynette (also the photographer and team nurse); Diane’s daughter, Jill (also the photographer): Jack’s children, Matt, Sara and Anna (that made Father’s Day special); Matt’s friend Tonya Carlson and Sara’s friend Ian. Matt, Sara, Tonya and Ian are all living in San Francisco and Anna will be moving there in August. Eric Gahan (former Hastings resident) and his wife Heather also joined us to watch the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup on Thursday night at one of the local “restaurants”. Jack had lunch on Saturday with former Pennock Village residents Ruth and Ernest “Bud” Meyer near Aquatic Park.

We all agreed that it was a very difficult race but it was a great experience, one that we would never forget. The panoramas from the trails above the Golden Gate Bridge were spectacular. Harry slowed down on the bike just to admire the view, and all three of us wished we had cameras on the run.

Thank you again for your donations to Pennock Foundation and your support. It made the race easier knowing that there are friends pulling for us. We have pictures and Lynette took some videos. We would be happy to bore you with them, just ask. At the pre-race meeting, they told us the race would be televised on September 22 on CBS at 4PM. Check your local listings as the time and date may change. Chances are you won’t see the three of us, but who knows???

On Dad’s Death

I got the call at the hospital that Dad had suffered a mild heart attack,
And I was feeling a little sorry for myself anyway,
Because I couldn’t do the Tri I had trained for,
And I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong, and after all, it was just a mild heart attack,
Wasn’t it?
And besides, real men don’t cry do they?

I got the call from Bill that the mild heart attack wasn’t so mild after all,
While I was at the Day of Caring,
And I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And all my employees were there,
And they’ve never seen me cry,
So what would they think?
And besides, real men don’t cry do they?

When we walked in the waiting room and saw Mom,
And she looked so tired,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And if I had, Mom would have broken down and so would Bill,
And I didn’t want that.
And besides, real men don’t cry do they?

When we went into Dad’s room,
And we saw him lying there with tubes going in and out from every direction,
And he struggled so hard to breathe,
And he looked so sick,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And if I had,
Dad would know that things weren’t good,
And we wanted him to get well.
And besides, real men don’t cry do they?

When we left to come back home,
And I knew deep down that it was the last time I would see Dad,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And there was still hope,
So it would appear like I had given up,
And I hadn’t.
And besides, real men don’t cry do they?

When I got the call from Bob that Dad had passed away,
And Bob couldn’t talk,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And someone had to talk to Mom and calm her down,
And Bill wasn’t there and neither was I,
And Bob was too broken up,
So we talked on the phone,
And Mom sounded better after she talked to me,
And besides real men don’t cry do they?

When I got down to Florida,
And Bill and I pulled into the driveway,
And I saw Mom and Bob and Debbie,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And if I would have cried,
They would too,
And they were probably all cried out,
And it wouldn’t help anyway.
And besides real men don’t cry do they?

When I got up during the service to read Dad’s eulogy,
And I saw the whole family there,
And I saw the church was full,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
Because I was doing it for Dad,
And he had done hundreds of funerals,
And he had to be strong,
Because he had to comfort the families,
And I did too.
And besides real men don’t cry do they?

When we took Dad’s ashes out in Bob’s boat,
I felt the tears welling up inside,
But I stifled them,
And I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to be strong,
And if I had cried,
Bill and Bob and Mom would have too,
And nobody could have opened the box,
And spread the ashes,
And couldn’t have said a few words.
And besides real men don’t cry do they?

When I got to the airport,
And I was leaving Mom,
I wanted to cry,
But I didn’t because I had to stay strong,
And Mary Lois was there to ride back with Mom,
And Didge was coming that evening,
And I was at the airport,
And what would all those people think?
And besides real men don’t cry anyway do they?

So Monday was my first day back to normal,
And it was a new normal,
But it was normal,
So I went out for a bike ride to Middleville,
And my legs got tired,
But it felt good to be back on the bike,
And I thought about how I had been so strong,
And how it helped everyone else,
And made Dad’s passing a little easier to accept,
And I was so proud of myself for being such a real man,
I cried.

Trilander Dinner 2001

We all remember the end of the 2000 Triathlon season, but let’s recap. The season ended for some at Reeds Lake and for some at Pineman, but wherever it ended, there was a bit of sadness and anticipation. Sadness that the competition had ended and we would have to wait 8 months to see competitors that we only saw at Triathlons; wait 8 months to have lunch at some bar/restaurant in sweaty clothes with numbers on our arms and legs, talking about what went right and wrong and sharing stories about what we saw and experienced; wait 8 months to see some of the team members that trained alone, or didn’t spin; wait 8 months to sit around a motel room drinking beer/wine/soft drinks replaying the entire day for each other and for families who felt a little left out because they weren’t privy to the “inside stories” or couldn’t identify with the “Triathlon High”. Anticipation to see which of the Trilanders would stick with it; who new would join the group next season; who would go out of our age group or come into our age group; what would be our next “big goal”; how would we improve and what we would do if we didn’t.

Over the winter training continued for most of the team members. Some decided that Triathlon wasn’t their “thing” and some decided to pursue other interests. Harry had a wreck at Reeds Lake, which broke the front fork on his bike and did something nasty to his shoulder. After spending all those years in health care, he knew better than to seek medical attention for a serious injury, so he didn’t. Being a Pharmacist by training, I’m sure he knew better than to self-medicate. He passed the “Old Warrior” baton to the “Young Warrior”, King JD and semi-retired from Triathlon (although later we will find out that he didn’t completely retire).

Jack did an endo at Iceman 2000 and ended up with an AC separation. The judges gave him sevens and eights for the dive because his feet separated and he made a large splash when he landed. Not knowing any better, he did seek medical attention (although he didn’t have an answer for the ER Doctor who asked “If you had the fall at the twentieth mile, why in the hell did you finish the race”?)

Jean decided to run into Larry’s back tire in the 65th mile of a 70-mile bike ride. She admitted that she wasn’t paying close enough attention, which shocked everyone but Jack. She did her dive in the tuck position along the M-79 pavement. The judges gave her all nines because, although her leg position was good, she made a large splash when she landed (kind of runs in the family, doesn’t it). She broke her thumb in two places, had a serious road rash, and had multiple bruises that affected her training for several weeks.

Bill was running with the normal (or abnormal) group from Diane’s on an icy Sunday morning. Diane thought Bill was spiritually moved when she looked over at him on one of the hills because he was on his knees talking to God. Being the medical professional she is, she soon realized that he had fallen and hurt himself. She called Mike who came and picked him up. While rehabbing the knee that he had munged up (ask Diane if you don’t understand this medical terminology) he developed problems with his Achilles, which added to his down time. We would learn later that it took him out of most of the season.

Jen developed plantar fasciitis. No stories, no jokes, it just happened. It took Jen out of the entire Triathlon season. But she’s on the mend and is looking forward to next year with some trepidation and a lot of hope.

Kim and Lynette both developed plumbing problems. If it were prostate problems, penile frostbite, jock itch, sensitivity due to lack of support or any of those “man problems” I could think of something really sarcastic and clever to say, but let’s just say “the plumber was called in and the pipes were repaired” and leave it at that.

Over the winter King JD found several new victims for his diabolical schemes. Martin, Becky, Katie, Tom and Patty answered the call. They said it was under their own free will, but the bruising showed a little bit on the edges.

Martin had a testosterone surge a week before Lake Macatawa and decided to do some speed work on the treadmill. When his hamstring went, onlookers thought he had been touched by the Holy Spirit, but when they heard the language, they knew it was something less Biblical. Apparently Martin has a high testosterone threshold, because he limped through two races before deciding the hamstring needed some rest. Jane and the girls swept him off to the Grand Canyon before he could hurt himself any worse.

Lake Macatawa (or Lake Macatoilet to some of the Trilanders) was the first Tri of the season. Katie, Tim, Jim, Jon, Dennis, Jerry, Martin, Diane, Becky, Jack and Jean all competed. Age group awards went to Jon with a third, Diane with a third, and Jean with a third. From the highlight reel, Katie completed the swim in good form (although a week before at Algonquin Lake, she looked like she was going to have a panic attack in the water); Jean got a third using her mountain bike and wearing a pretty purple cast; Jon had an outstanding bike leg and finally won one for the men’s team; and Becky almost lost her favorite water bottle but whined so much that Jack gave in and took her back to find it. And by the way, we missed Jen, John, Larry, Kim, Gary, Patty and Bill.

The second Tri of the season was Seahorse. It was a new venue this season and consisted of a Sprint race and a Challenge race. It was a hot and humid day. Diane had a panicked expectant mother go into hysterics when she thought that Diane was going to be gone for a few hours, so Diane didn’t go (Diane, we need to work on priorities). Participants complained of not enough water stops and confusing directions at some of the spots in the run, but all in all, things went well. Katie, Kim and Becky did the Sprint race and Jim, Jon, John, Gary, Larry, Jack, Tim and Martin did the Challenge race. From the highlight reel, Kim got a second……… If you’re waiting for more, that’s it. Everyone had good races, no one got hurt, and everyone finished. Katie had a flat with about 5 miles to go but rode it in on the rim and learned something in the process (don’t ride it in on the rim). Jim left soon after the race muttering something like “I don’t know what makes me think I can do an Ironman after that exhibition” (which Jack also said but not in repeatable words); and Jon was so exhausted that he skipped the group lunch, went home and took a nap. And by the way, we missed Jean, Jen, Patty, Diane, Dennis, Jerry and Bill.

The third race of the season was Gun Lake aka the Great Lakes Chamionships aka Evil King Adriano’s race. The day was stormy, hot and humid. There was rain when some of the participants were leaving the water, thunder and rain on the bike and some rain on the run. Jon set up the Trek tent with a big poster of Lance Armstrong only to be commandeered by Adriano for the awards ceremony. The race consisted of a Triathlon and a Duathlon. Tom and Harry (see he didn’t really retire) competed in the duathlon and Becky, Katie, Jim, Jon, John, Jerry, Kim, Diane, Larry and Jack competed in the Triathlon. From the highlight reel, Diane got a third. Jon had another outstanding bike and everyone seemed to have a good time at the “hometown classic”. Harry couldn’t seem to catch Jerry on the bike so, in a burst of gamesmanship, he snuck up behind him and yelled so loud that Jerry lost control, fell down and went “Boom”. Harry could be seen riding off chuckling and sarcastically saying “poor Jerry”. John Hopkins, in an effort to show off for the girls at the bike transition, dove over the handlebars thinking one of them would catch him. They didn’t. The judges gave him a 9.9 for a near perfect dive (the only 10.0 given in recent memory was Diane’s endo at Deep Lake, the easy part). And by the way, we missed Jean, Jen, Gary, Martin, Dennis, Tim, Patty and Bill.

The Mark Mellon Memorial Triathlon at Gaylord was the next stop for the Trilanders team. However, due to some family commitments, injuries and a plethora of other weak excuses, only Diane and Jack competed. The water didn’t appear any cleaner and the mass start was not any less congested, but the T-shirt won the award as the best over the past two seasons. From the highlight reel, Diane got a second in her age group. Jack knocked 13 minutes off last year’s time so he finally stopped whining. Tim Shaw and his wife and son competed in the twilight and kids events for their 2001 triathlon debut. And by the way, we missed Katie, Kim, Becky, Jean, Jen, Patty, Martin, Larry, Tim, Jim, John, Jon, Dennis, Jerry, Gary and Bill.

The next race of the season was the Great Buckeye Challenge half-ironman at Buckeye Lake near Columbus, Ohio. John, Jean, Becky, Diane, Larry, Jack, John, Jim and Gary competed. Jim’s friend Brian was an adopted Trilander for the weekend. The swim was in Buckeye Lake (it was so shallow that Becky could have walked across) and the water was a green murky color. Race participants were encouraged not to drink the water, as Gatorade was available. The bike consisted of 40 miles of rolling hills with some challenging climbs and some exciting downhills. The last 16 miles were gently rolling, which seemed flat by comparison. The run was 13.1 miles of rolling hills that felt like mountains. Gary said he thought he saw a flat part out there, but it turned out to be an illusion much like “Mystery Spot” at St. Ignace. From the highlight reel, Jon got a fifth in his age group and had one of the top bike times. Jean got a first in her age group after not running most of the summer. Becky was fourth overall woman in the duathlon event. Everyone thought that it was nearly as tough as Pineman was last year (easier bike, much harder run) and everyone was whipped when they finished. Jack’s legs cramped at 35 miles on the bike and he didn’t quit whining about it until September. Larry was away from home without his family and ended up with a hickey on his neck, so the story is that the wetsuit caused it. Diane, who was also away from home without her family, had some chafing in a private area, so the story is that her triathlon suit caused it. Jack was having fun teasing them about their misfortunes until he got in the shower and the soap and hot water disclosed chafing in a very sensitive area. We won’t talk about where it was, but the team physician, Dr. Ebaugh, after an hour of examination, diagnosed the condition by its medical name, penis painis. And by the way, we missed Katie, Kim, Jen, Patty, Martin, Dennis, Jerry, Tim and Bill.

Bill and Becky were the only Trilanders who did the Niles Triathlon. It was on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Although this reporter did not witness the event, the story was told by one of the participants (can we believe him?). This was Bill’s first race of the season after spending most of his time in rehab (not alcohol or drug rehab, physical rehab). The swim started out congested and Bill found himself having a panic attack in the middle of the washing machine (rookie mistake). He headed for some open water and things improved. Becky was turning cartwheels because she wasn’t last out of the water (she has promised to give a demonstration after this is over). After running through mud, then wet sand, then sand and finally grass the participants had to fight hornets at the bike transition. The rest of the race was a good one for Bill and Becky. Becky passed lots of people on the bike and run and so did Bill. And by the way, they missed Diane, Katie, Kim, Larry, Jean, Tim, Jen, Patty, Martin, Jim, John, Jon, Jack, Dennis, Jerry and Gary.

Bill and Martin were the only Trilanders to do Reeds Lake this year. Diane had signed up, but after a middle of the night delivery and a flat tire on her bike, she decided to go back to bed. They both had good races and ended up with times less than two hours. Both had recovered from their injuries and were encouraged by how good they felt. However, a little bird told me about Bill’s escapades in the transition area. Since Bill had been rehabbing all year, he apparently didn’t use that time to practice smooth transitions. On the swim to bike transition, he got out of his wetsuit in good shape, moved his neighbor’s crap that had been piled on Bill’s neatly arranged equipment, and got into his bike gear. As he started out, he realized he only had one sock on, so, not wanting to look like an idiot, he took the time to take his bike shoe off and put his other sock on. As he was coming in on the bike, he had a flashback to not one, not two but three previous Reeds Lake races where he dazzled the crowd with some dismount acrobatics. He was careful not to embarrass himself, so he took his time and made a perfect dismount. He went over to where his run gear ought to be and his neighbor’s bike was laying on it. He gently took the bike off his gear, slammed it on the ground and proceeded to change into his running gear. He got up and started running when he heard clomp, click, clomp, click and realized he was wearing one running shoe and one bike shoe. At least he didn’t embarrass himself more by running the whole race that way. And by the way, they missed Diane, Katie, Kim, Becky, Jean, Jen, Patty, Larry, Tim, Jack, Jim, John, Jon, Dennis, Jerry, and Gary.

The last race of the year for six Trilanders was the Great Floridian in Clermont, Florida. It was a full ironman distance race. Nine people originally made the commitment to train. Jen had her plantar fasciitis and Gary decided to wait until next year so they could do the race together. Jack tried to ride up Jon’s back tire and found out why everyone says don’t do that. Diane, Jean, Jon, John, Larry and Jim did the race and Becky, Martin, Jack, Laura, Emma, Ben and Claire were the support team. Laura did the honors of painting toenails red, white and blue for Jon, Larry, Jim and Jean. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but seemed a little out of place for a man on the beach at Venice and the showers mysteriously cleared for Jon and Larry at the fitness center. Jack knew that Jen and Gary would love to have been there, so he provided up to the minute race reports on his cell phone. The reports were relayed to Jack Wiswell and the rest of Rumplestump. The day was hot and humid. It started out warm and peaked at 85 with a fair breeze both morning and afternoon. Everyone made it out of the swim in about the time they would have guessed. After the wetsuit stripping show, the support crew joined by Jack’s brother Bob (also known as Bobbie Butane) headed for Sugarloaf, a hill longer and steeper than any we had seen before (yes, I think longer and steeper than Butlers Baddest). The view was spectacular and it was interesting to see all the different styles of riding. Some stood, some sat and some did whatever it took to get up the hill. Diane was in some discomfort at that point and had decided to take her time and at least finish the race. Jim ended up with flat tire problems (I never did find out whether it was two or three, but at that point, it wasn’t a question you would want to ask him). Everyone finished the bike, some in better shape than others and it was on to the run. For some it was a smooth run punctuated by some walking. For others it was a forced march punctuated by some running. All finished the race and at that point it didn’t matter how. They were Ironmen. (I suppose the politically correct term is Ironpersons, but until they call it Ironperson Florida, Or the Ironperson World Championships, it will be Ironmen). Jack spoke for all the support crew when he said that it was easier to be in the race than to watch it. When you’re in the race, you are putting forth all the effort you have and you are consumed by the part of the race you are in. As a spectator, when you see your friends having trouble, it’s hard because you can’t do anything about it. From the highlight reel Jon Anderson had a spectacular bike leg, John Hopkins had a sixth, Diane had a third and Jean had a second. And by the way, they missed Katie, Kim, Becky, Jen, Patty, Bill, Tim, Martin, Jack, Dennis, Jerry, and Gary.

And so ends another triathlon season. I am reminded of a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt that I have repeated as a mantra throughout many races the last two years.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat”.

That quote can serve as a great comfort when you turn around and come back because you panic in the swim; when you finish the swim at the same time as the guy pulling the raft with the crippled kid; when you’re the last one out of the water; when you are sitting on the side of the road with your third flat tire; when you start the run portion with the guys who have already finished the race and are cooling down; when you are finishing the run as the awards ceremonies are going on; and when you are in the medical tent during or after the race.

But it’s a two-edged sword. As some of us know only too well, when you are injured you aren’t in the arena. Your face isn’t marred with dust and sweat and blood. You don’t feel like you are a part of the group even though you are. Some of us react by withdrawing from everything. Some of us react with tears. Some of us say things like “The only way I would go to Florida to watch that race is if someone gave me a lobotomy”. (Who would have said something like that?). But however we react initially, we all come to the conclusion that what this whole Trilander thing is about is the journey. It’s not the first tri, or the half ironman or the full ironman or the escape from Alcatraz. It’s a bunch of friends journeying together with a common interest. It’s the Sunday runs and brunches. It’s the long winter of spinning classes with Jon pushing us through “The Race”. It’s swimming Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the pool in the winter and at Diane’s in the summer. It’s the Tuesday night group runs. It’s the training on your own and then comparing training notes with the rest of the group. It’s the weekly summer “Century Rides”. It’s getting together at this dinner with friends and talking about the season and injuries and new goals. So let’s get at it. It’s not the end of this season but the beginning of next season. It’s not six months until the next race; it’s a winter of fun with friends.

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check with King JD to see what your next year’s goal will be.