This last Saturday, Ethel completed the Powell3 Sprint Distance Triathlon.

EthelT1This is Ethel smiling in T1. She’d finished the 750 meter open-water swim, and was getting ready to climb onto her bike. Climbing on the bike is always a smiling time, since it means that the swim is over. And bikes are fun, and easier than running, especially since the run comes at the end of all of this silliness. So T1 is usually a happy time, and this is a happy Ethel.

Climbing onto the bikes, we headed out of the park, uphill, then onto US 89, uphill, and then some more uphill, until finally it was time to go downhill back to the transition area. During this time, Ethel passed quite a few cyclists, which is something that Ethel wasn’t expecting to do; once, she got frustrated with the cyclist in front of her, and Ethel crossed the vibration grooving at full speed to get around her. However, she did NOT let the bike get up to full speed on the downhill; she kept a good grip on that rear brake all the way down to the transition area.

She was not quite as happy at T2, after riding up that hill, and getting ready for the run. And while she was smiling coming in from the run, she wasn’t feeling well, but she did finish. The run was hot, and Ethel had used up her legs on the bike. But she did finish. And she was smiling as she ran in.

Then the smiling seemed to almost give way to crying (this is a female thing that we guys have trouble understanding) as she walked around the finish area. She was pretty emotional.

So we went back to the hotel, where I let ‘em know that we’d be a while before checking out, because My Wife The Triathlete would need time to shower and change.

And all the way home back to Park City, she kept telling me that she was a triathlete. Every so often she would raise her arms into the air triumphantly and say “I’m a triathlete!” (full disclosure – after a while, maybe her arms weren’t going all the way up in the air – just sort of slightly above horizontal).

Now she’s home and she’s rested (almost – haven’t seen her doing any training yet, though) and she’s hired a professional triathacoach and they will be setting up her training schedule and determining her target race for next year.  (Ethel is a true Puckett – anything worth doing is worth overdoing.) Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the sidelines with a case of shingles, hoping to start back up my own training shortly; I’m definitely the sideshow now, though, and TriathaEthel is the main event.

This last Saturday, the University of Mississippi Black Bear Colonel Ackbar Rebels defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in the game of football.

And Ole Miss says that, even if they don’t win the game, they’ll win the party. They did that in spades.


Not only did they tear down the goalposts after the game – both of them – but they actually took the goalposts on tours of Oxford, Mississippi, carrying them around town and introducing them at all the best sorority houses. (one of the goalposts will be rushed by the fraternity Omicron Sigma Poloshirt this weekend).

Losing that game was like a punch in the gut; a sudden outrush of wind, followed by a dull pain and a loss of consciousness. There was a certain kind of inevitability to the game, though – the whole time, I just knew in the back of my mind that we were going to lose, while maintaining a separate awareness in the frontal lobes that such an outcome had to be unlikely. The dichotomy between cerebral hemispheres (front and back, not right and left) showed up in my actions, as well – the defeatism of my hindbrain resulted in my leaning back the whole game, while the rebellious optimism of my forebrain had me yelling vigorously from a reclined position.

But we lost, and we lost truly. No sense in recriminations or second guessing; it’s over and it’s done.

And I have to admit that if you’re gonna lose, it’s nice to lose to somebody who really appreciates it! Ole Miss had never in their history beaten a team that had a #1 ranking; even though our #1 was in the coaches’ poll and not the AP poll, CBS showed that big “1” beside our name during the whole game, and when the game was over, as far as Ole Miss was concerned, they’d beaten the best team in the country. As far as I know, they are still partying.

And, unlike our little brother across the state, their joy comes from their winning, and not our losing. That, too, goes down pretty easily :)

There’s still a lot of football to be played in this season; while it’s more doubtful now than ever that we’ll be in the playoff, much, much, MUCH stranger things have happened (the 2012 BCS Championship Rematch comes to mind). Right after the game, I didn’t want to watch any more college football, but now we’re in the curious situation (as I’ve said before in similar circumstances) where we can hope to win rather than fearing to lose, and hope is always more fun than fear.

This weekend, we might have to actually listen to the start of the Arkansas game on Sirius XM, as we’re going to Page, AZ for Ethel’s first triathlon, and the game starts at 4 PM local, so I’ll have to do the whole race right behind her with a cattle prod to remind her that the faster she competes, the more of the game we’ll get to see on TV.

For some reason, I had occasion to look at Bisbee in Google Maps the other day, and just happened to zero in on 223 Tombstone Canyon Road – and voila! There was a street view picture!

TombstoneCanyonThis is where we lived when we first moved to Arizona from Alabama in 1994 – in a little Victorian miner’s cottage on the canyon wall in Bisbee that we rented from one of the local hippies. I found this place when I came out west in July, and Ethel and Silas showed up a month later. We loved this place, and we lived here until the following spring, when I took a more stable job in Tucson and we moved there and bought a place.

That garage entry and the walkway are bridges over the canyon creek, twenty feet or so below this viewpoint; you would park in the entry (the garage wasn’t there then) and then come out and walk across the bridge and up the stairs. That first door opened into the basement, which is where I kept my desktop; it had a phone line, so I could access the Internet via modem (remember modems?)

From there, you could walk up the stairs to the front porch, which ran most of the length of the home. That front porch caused us quite a bit of concern, as the wall on the front of this porch was only a couple of feet tall, and Ethel was afraid that Silas would jump off of the front porch and plummet to his death. We solved this by going to Home Depot and buying some small cactus in rectangular pots, and placing them at short intervals across the wall; Silas was by this time very up on his Dr Suess, and in Hop On Pop, there’s a triplet that goes like this:

Pat, Hat, pat sat on hat
Pat, Cat, pat sat on cat
(picture of a cactus) No, Pat, no, don’t sit on that!

…and once those cacti were in place, Silas would walk out onto the porch, point at them, and say “No, Pat, no!” and wouldn’t go near the porch wall…for many years, prickly pear were referred to as “No Pats” in our household.

The home was a shotgun house, with kitchen at the far left (Silas’ little room in front of that) then the football-watching room, and the L at the right end was the bathroom (clawfoot tub) and bedroom.There was a tiny back yard where Silas could play without fear of him falling to his death. The whole place was probably less than 1000 square feet.

There was no A/C, as Tombstone Canyon never got hot enough to need it; not only was it near 6000 feet of elevation, but the canyon was north/south, so the sun didn’t shine down into it long enough to heat it up. We would lay in the bed on summer evenings, while the monsoons would come through, and listen to the thunder roll up and down the canyon – amazed and delighted that we did, indeed, live in the West. Sometimes in the afternoon Ethel would put Silas in his little red wagon and take him downtown to let him play in the park or they would wander around the little shops; pulling Silas back home up Tombstone Canyon was always a bit more difficult.

(I’m trying to imagine Ethel pulling Silas in a little red wagon NOW – all 6’3″ of him).

We didn’t spend many weekend days here; we would climb into the white Dodge Caravan and take off for someplace in Arizona or New Mexico, or even up into southern Utah or Colorado. But we’d always return home by Sunday evening, driving along the highway from Tombstone and watching the little desert cities shining like diamonds in the distance.

We loved Bisbee, but the place was as weird as snake suspenders; it’s a very “artistic” town, which means weirdos galore. No doubt a great place to live unless you have a small child; it’s doubtful that Silas would ever have learned to ride a bicycle in Bisbee, as there wasn’t a flat spot big enough to learn on, and the roads were too windy and narrow for us to let him ride anyway. And I just didn’t want to raise a child in that much diversity. Pucketts are strange enough without diverse role models.

If I didn’t ski, I’d probably move back to Bisbee now – you can still buy a home in Tombstone Canyon for under 100K, and it’s still a short walk to meetings and church. Cochise County is still one of the prettiest places in the West, and the food is great.

But it’s a ways from the chairlift. And as I get older, I might not like having to walk back home from downtown, unless I can get Ethel to pull me in a little red wagon.

Today, I did a very short run at lunchtime, to and from a meeting.

And that’s the first thing I’d done since coming out of the water on Saturday morning, after doing my second short swim in Lake Tahoe.

tahoeswimThat’s my friend Ian, who talks me into stupid stuff. I need friends who have my best interests at heart.

After not doing Tahoe, Ethel and I drove around the lake, and then drove home the next day – and travel always wears me out. So that brings us up to Monday night. Tuesday I didn’t do anything but work – didn’t leave the house at all. This morning, I made it in to a morning meeting, and then work, and then did my short jog to and from a noon meeting, and back to work, and I’ll go to a 5:30 meeting on the way home.

I feel like I just want to sit. I don’t know if that’s the result of overtraining, or the letdown from Tahoe, or if it is just my natural laziness rearing its ugly head. I am the laziest person that I know; just like an alcoholic will be the one person in the room not having a beer, we lazy folks have to try to stay busy, else the laziness take over our lives and leave us indolent victims of inertia.

So while overtraining would indicate that I should REST, laziness means that I have to get BUSY. And I have no way to know which has me in its grip. And yet it is essential that I find out, because to work out while overtrained will make me weaker, whereas to not work out because of laziness will make me…weaker still.

In seventeen days, Ethel will compete in her first ever triathlon (although I’m sure she’d say she’s “completing not competing”, it doesn’t work in English to say “Ethel will complete her first triathlon”, because we don’t know that that will happen, although confidence is high). And I’m going down there to do the race with her, so I have to be able to do a sprint – although I suspect I could do that without doing anything in the meantime.

But it wouldn’t be fun to do that. If I’m going to swim, bike and run, I want to be in good enough shape to swim, bike and run.

I’m just going to have to play it by ear – try to listen to my body rather than listening to my Sloth Demon. I sure wish I knew the difference in how they sound; to me, everything seems to be saying “Just lay down and forget about it” all the time about everything.


Ironman Lake Tahoe 2014 was cancelled at the last minute.


I’m not doing well with this – I’m petulant and frustrated, in several different directions.

Now, I’m one to practice and preach acceptance, but sometimes, as St. Cindy told me, “…you just have to accept that you can’t accept something”.  And that’s where I am right now. To quote Larry Niven – “I know I’m going to have to get over this sometime. Why not now?”  — to answer Larry Niven, “…because I can’t”.

It’s not as simple as “I trained for a long time and spend a lot of money and travelled and got out of my comfort zone and set up transitions areas for the race and got up and got to the start of the race and didn’t get to do it”. It’s a little more complicated than that.

For one thing, this was the second IM/2 that I signed up for and trained for(*) – the first was St. George, in May, when I squealed like a girl and couldn’t even start the swim. So then I backed off, redirected my efforts, spent a lot of time doing open water swims so that wouldn’t happen again, and then brought all of that to the table at Tahoe.

However, whenever I get near an open water swim that goes straight out into a lake, I get the willies; even though I’ve done three Olympic distance OWSes, something goes awry in my belly when I see those buoys heading into the infinite distance. So, even though it certainly seemed that I was ready to do IMLT/2, it was still possible that I might not have been able to start – or that the stress of the swim might have worn me out and kept me from finishing. “Probably not”, sure, but there is NO WAY TO KNOW THAT I CAN DO IT UNTIL IT IS DONE.

So I was full of fear while setting up T1 and T2 at Tahoe, and full of fear when I went to bed Saturday night, and full of fear when I got to Kings Beach on Sunday morning. I had my wetsuit on and was prepared to walk out into the water and get it done, while at the same time terrifed – as my friend Harlan would say, all I could really do was pray for a Russian air strike, because doing the race and not doing the race were both unacceptable options – although I knew that I was going to do the race, my reptile hindbrain and my adrenals had not signed off on that way of thinking.

So when the cancellation came,  I was angry and relieved at the same time – and angry at myself because I was relieved, and angry because I wouldn’t be able to get the monkey off of my back such that I’d not be afraid any more.

That’s a lot of anger, and a lot of other fear that wants to be released as anger. So I just directed it at the World Triathlon Corporation, since I figured they wouldn’t notice one more angry triathlete :)

There was so much going on inside that I was worn out just being alive; I went back to the house and lay down on the bed, and I was OUT; deeply asleep very quickly, such that when my wife woke me up an hour later, I was groggy and couldn’t form simple sentences. Or make simple decisions. And this resulted in us staying in Tahoe another day.

Now it’s two days later and I still don’t know what to think or how to feel or what to do.

So I signed up for IM/2 St George next May, because not doing that race once isn’t enough – I want to not do it again next year. But I’m not willing to drive all the way to Tahoe again to not do a race; St. George is less than four hours away, and that’s plenty of traveling to not do something.


(*) – I also signed up for, and didn’t do, the Utah Half, a non-WTC event; the week before that took place, I found out that it wasn’t a wetsuit swim, and ALL of my open water swimming had been in a wetsuit or happy pants, so I wasn’t about to try that, and I then signed up for the Cache Valley Century bike event for the same day; immediately after signing up for that, the Utah Half sent out an email saying that wetsuits would be allowed, and then I was confused – and then the forecasts for both events were solid, certain thunderstorms following a week of heavy rain, so the night before, I decided not to do either event, and did a century on the trainer in my home gym, instead. I’ve certainly not done a lot of things this year.



Just saw this on Facebook, and now I want the T-shirt :)


This weekend, we went for a short swim in Echo Reservoir, and just driving up to open water gave me the heebie-jeebies, even though I had no trouble swimming in it. THINKING about open water swims scares me.

But the idea of swimming 1.2 miles in Lake Tahoe is nowhere near half as bad as the idea of swimming 2.4 miles in Lake Tahoe.

My friend Marc said, with respect to open water swims, “Yeah, that darn swim. I have the same thing, even after 21 triathlons. The fear goes away when the gun goes off. Then it’s time to race.

It might not be ENTIRELY true – I might still have some heebie-jeebies for some time after I start. But it’s true that once I get 1000-1500 yards into the swim, I’ll be all right. And then, when I get out of the water, I know what to do for the next 69.1 miles. I know how to ride a bike for 56 miles, and I for dang sure know how to do a half marathon.

Yeah, there’s travel involved, which can get me all worked up. And there’s all of the logistics – two transition areas to prepare, and I’ll have to prepare for variable weather conditions as well.

There’s a forest fire in the area – smoke seems to be pretty bad right now. I’ve still got a sore throat – it’s not getting better, but at least it’s not worse. And I’ve got almost four days for it to get better. And I hope it does, because racing with a sore throat is no fun; racing with a sore throat in smoky conditions really sounds like even less fun.

But, hey, it’s only a half IM, right?

…and the weather issues seem to be resolving.

kingsbeachThe ten-day reads the same – every day sunny and high 70s, lows in the 50s. Warmer than Park City.

The water is still going to be bone-chilling cold, but we drove up to Bear Lake last weekend and swam in 66 F-ish water, and with the neoprene hood (and with a lot of open water experience) I was able to stave off the terrors.

So now comes everything else.

For almost the last year I’ve been training for this, and the whole time, I’ve been getting slower. I probably traded speed for endurance up until maybe April, but then I started losing endurance, as well. No, it doesn’t make sense that somebody training that much would get into worse shape, but it is what has been happening.

However, not training, to just stop training and somehow hope that that would get me into better shape, is just plain dumb. Maybe what I’ve been doing is simply slowing what would have been a much more rapid decline in my general fitness.

At any rate, the training is just about in the books. I want to get out there and do a longer run or two, but now I’m sick. I’ve had an on-and-off sore throat all week long; today I simply feel fluey, although I have no fever. So there’s no eleventh hour redemption to be had; I’m gonna have to go into this over-trained, unready, and sick.

I suspect that, had I been able to push through the swim at St George, I would probably have been in the mid-7s, maybe 7:45. But now, at Tahoe, I hope to finish. And that’s all. I’m not even sure about “finish within the cut-offs” – confidence is low. But I suspect that I’ll be able to complete the distance.

I’m not asking “what then” yet. I’m aware that that question is out there. I have learned many things in this journey, however. One is this; I enjoy biking and swimming much more than I expected to; I thought I might learn to bike okay, and that I’d learn to not drown, but that’s not been the case. I actually enjoy both activities.

I’m not fast on a bike, but I can climb anything, it seems. When I’m in a long climb, I sort of go into a zone; if I were sitting at home feeling that uncomfortable, I’d be rebelling against my environment, but somehow being on the back of a back in that sort of pain while going uphill doesn’t bother me at all.

And while I’m one of the slowest swimmers you are liable to meet, I can swim long distances, once I get warmed up. And there is much peace for me in swimming (as long as I’m not hyperventilating from the cold) - when I get three or four thousand yards into a workout, I really don’t want to stop; I just want to keep swimming. Slow and steady and quite content.

Looking back over my running log over the last few years, it’s amazing how much I’ve slowed down. And adding triathlon training only slowed me down more. So, when this silliness in Tahoe is over, I’ll have to ask myself some pretty tough questions. Do I want to keep doing triathlons, even though it makes me even slower as a runner, because I enjoy the biking and swimming? Or should I cut my losses in terms of time and effort and go back to just running?

After Tahoe, those questions will have to be addressed. But not until then. Until then, there’s only one thing I have to answer – will I finish? Not “can I finish” or “should I finish” but WILL I FINISH?

I’ll know in ten days.


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