This morning was the Acuatlon de Panama, in Amador, in the city. It was a beautiful day for a race.

Here’s our crew from Coronodo – that’s me in the front. I’m the oldest, and shortest* 🙂 Then, across left to right, are Karyn, Myles and Tom.

The race was 2.5 k run, 1k swim (hah!) and then a 2.5 k run. My Garmin tells me that the swim was long.

And the run was slow. I’ve been hitting 5k at the start of 5 mile training runs in around 25 minutes, but I was averaging around 9:45 for this race. So either Thursday’s run – which was a big step back for me – signaled the end of this great stretch of running training, or I just found out that both of our local treadmills are lying sacks of poop when it comes to recording distance 🙂

So I’ve ordered a Garmin Foot Pod. That’s a gizmo that you put on your shoe and run outside, and it learns your mechanics, and then it tells you what you’re really doing on the treadmill. We’ll get down to the truth, even if the truth is awful.

This was my second salt-water open water race, and the swim was really nice – the water was calm and it was Panamanian warm, and it’s nice being able to go into an open water swim with no trepidation at all. That’s a long way from the day that I squealed like a girl at St. George.

I’m holding off the “circling the drain” mentality that I often get after a bad race – at least, so far. We’ll see what happens at 3 AM 🙂 The buzzards might appear on the bedpost and inform me that my career in endurance athletics is over.**

I’m asking God for how He wants me to see this, I hope I get an answer that doesn’t involve “woe is me” and trying to sell my bicycles. There’s no Craigslist down here 🙂

*I’m also the only Amurrican. They’re all Canadian.

**If they’re going to do that, I hope that they hurry up, so that when and if we buy down here, I won’t have to have a lap pool 🙂

Yesterday, I was drinking a coconut.

(editor’s note – if you read Dos Gringos, then you’ve already seen this photo. I’m using it as well).

We were at the pool beside the beach, and one of the locals shook down some coconuts, whacked a piece off with a machete, and gave them to us to drink. It was good.

Paradise. After the religious examples, the dictionary defines it as “an idyllic place or state”. Okay, we’ll jump to “idyllic”, and we have “extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque”.

Yeah, that’s spot on, if you get rid of the “or” and put in an “and”.

Of course, we folk in the temperate zones often have the modifier on the term – “tropical paradise”. Well, we’re at 8.6 degrees north latitude. That’s about as tropical as it gets.

It really is like this. It gets warm every day, but it never gets hot. It gets stormy, but there are never any hurricanes – just storms, making big lightning shows to gawk over. It never gets cold. It’s always beautiful. And the living is easy – I don’t bother looking at my bank account. I know that my income is seriously exceeding my outgo. It’s pretty cheap.

Every “problem” that I have is a side effect of my deciding to do something – usually something that generates a challenge, and that very challenge is the “problem”. It’s “problems” like in a video game or a puzzle. Training, piano, Spanish – that sort of thing.

Sometimes there are inconveniences, because we live in a different country and they do things differently. And sometimes those differences make a fellow go “huh?” But none of those issues are every really problems. Heck, if I didn’t want “different”, I’d still be in Alabama.

So yesterday we’re sitting there by the pool – temperature was perfect, sun was warm, breeze was cool, sky was blue and so was the ocean, and the next thing we know, we’re drinking cool, sweet coconut water.

Paradise.

Today Duolingo is ridiculously difficult – so much so that I’m ready to go to one of the Three Bs – Barbados, Belize, or the British Virgin Islands.

Those three places all have two things in common – they’re tropical, and they have English as their official language. And right now, Spanish has me defeated.

Some of the places that one uses ser vs estar are just, well, dumb. “Ser” is supposed to be for permanent traits, and “estar” is for temporary – but you have to say “esta muerte”, even though being dead is much more permanent than being alive.*

But that ain’t all – it just seems like today I can’t get any of it right. I need to call and get a new gynecologist in Panama City, and I’m sort of scared to do so, because I’m going to say “Queria hablar con Doctora Tatiana Oblablibida**” and they are going to answer a whole lot of syllables that sound like molasses gurgling out of a jug***, and I’m gonna hang up in despair.

Thursdays are like that. It might have something to do with being the end of my training week. Tired often looks like stupid. And, since the things I do to get this tired, are pretty stupid, maybe it’s the same thing.

So I have tomorrow off, then I do my regular long ride on Saturday, but instead of my long run Sunday, I’ll be doing a Acuatlon in Panama City – 2.5k run, 1k swim in the Canal, 2.5k run. That will actually leave me very short this week, but that’s okay – it’s just one lost workout.

Maybe in a few days, when I’ve recovered a bit, I’ll start blazing through those Duo lessons again. But right now, I just feel dumb.

And hot. And sweaty. Now, it’s not hot or sweaty, but it is mildly humid, and yesterday I did a 2600 meter long swim wearing my wetsuit, but forgot to put the Body Glide on my neck, so now my neck hurts – and the sweat on the burn really feels bad. So I’m uncomfortable, and feel dumb, and I feel like this because I am already two different kinds of dumb – the kind of dumb that would do a 2600 m swim, and the kind that would forget the Body Glide.

Okay, since I don’t think that it’s possible for me to feel worse right now, I’ll go ahead and try to call Doctora Obabawadalaba.

*yes, I know, actually, in the world of the Spirit, life is eternal, and death means nothing. Work with me here.

**after a day of trying to study Spanish, it all starts sounding like that

***That poetic description courtesy of Robert Heinlein

I recently changed my nationality in Zwift. Now I ride sporting the Panamanian flag 🙂

Ethel says that I’m in danger of becoming boring.

Some friends here asked me about going to a race this weekend in Panama City. It’s not a triathlon – it’s called an “acuatlon” – it’s a run/swim/run. 2.5 k on the roads, then a 1k swim,, then another 2.5 k run. Doesn’t sound like a lot of work.

But I don’t really want to do it. I mean, it interferes with my training – it’ll cost me my long run this week. It means leaving Nueva Gorgona to go to the City – and we already have to do that for two days next week, for immigration and drivers’ license issues. It’s bother and fuss.

When it comes right down to it, I really don’t want to change anything that I’m doing right now. I like my “monastic” lifestyle 🙂 My workouts are still improving. I’m generally able to get in at least 40 minutes a day on the piano – currently, I’m working on Layla, by Derek and the Dominoes. I do my Duolingo and I go to meetings and I’m sponsoring. And I get at least one good nap a day 🙂

I’ve had some friends ask me to go to Cozumel in September to train with them, and that sounds nice, but….but it means bother and fuss. Flying to Cancun, doing the bag drag to get our stuff to Cozumel, and having to change the venues of my rides, runs and swims. Going to different meetings. Living in a hotel. I think I’ve had enough of hotels for a while – this last two years really burned me out on hotels.

So Ethel says that I’m in danger of becoming boring. That scares me, a little, because I don’t want to bore Ethel. Of course, she says that she didn’t mean that I’m going to be boring her – just that I’d be boring to other people. Well, why would I care about that? It’s not like I’ve ever been exciting to other people 🙂

This morning I woke up and went out on the balcony to do my 11th Step. This is what I saw, looking east.

How boring is that?

Now I face a decision – what to do next? Piano, swim workout, or Duo? I’m leaning towards starting the piano, and stopping somewhere in the middle and going down to the pool….but I just checked, and that older couple has the pool reserved from 9 to 10. So, I’ll rearrange things. That’s what I get for waiting 🙂

Today I have my normal stuff, and I also need to – help Ethel figure out what’s going wrong with her Zwift and cadence sensor connections on her bike. Investigate using Hulu or some other streaming service for our college football, which starts in three weeks (first games are August 27th).

In all of that, I’m sure that I’ll still get my nap in 🙂

It’s been rainy a good bit lately.

I didn’t say “raining”, but “rainy”, as in gray and overcast. Now, we had two days in a row of blue skies and sunshine, and most days even if we get rain (which is “usually”, during the rainy season) we’ll still get some sun. But here lately, we’ve had a lot of hours that look like this.

WE INTERRUPT THIS POST ON THE RAINY SEASON FOR A SPECIAL REPORT.

I typed the above some days ago. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to get my swim in, so I changed into my swim gear, grabbed my bag of pool toys, and my carabiner of keys. We have a key to the door (which I rarely use) but we also have a couple of small rubberized fobs that we have to use in the elevator or to get into certain resident-restricted areas here at Bahia.

So as the elevator door opened, I clicked my carabiner of keys onto the pool toy bag – and as the biner was open for an instant, the keys fell off the biner…

….and they fell through the crack of the elevator door, and dropped eighteen floors or so to the basement.

I was able to watch them fall….all…the….way….down….the….elevator…shaft. In slow motion.

And bounce when they hit the bottom 🙂

So that sort of restructured the afternoon. As it happens, somebody was here servicing one of the elevators anyway, so we got the keys back a couple of hours later. But it really struck me as strange – that the keys would fall at that particular instant, and would go through the elevator crack.

The building manager, Jose, let me know that it’s definitely happened before 🙂

It’s two days later. Yesterday was ride, run and core – except no core, because my run was my first full set of intervals in a good many years, and intervals take longer – and we had to go to the city to meet with our immigration attorney, and do official looking stuff, and hand her our passports. We’ll go back in a couple of weeks and get our temporary visa cards, and do drivers’ license stuff at the Embassy, who has reopened their appointment books because so many people couldn’t get there last month.

Today was another, different swim. I’m pretty much in the best swimming shape I’ve ever been in, and the best running shape – at least at shorter distances – that I’ve seen since I started this triathlon thing. We’ll see what happens there.

Of course, life is often Whack-A-Mole – now I’m way behind on my piano and my Duolingo. I still haven’t gotten a piano teacher down here – I think I’m waiting until my Spanish is good enough so that I can take a lesson from a local. But the last few days, I’ve fallen way behind on my Spanish, as well.

I am carrying the key carabiner a lot more carefully these days, though 🙂

Today I did an open water swim, around the point at the corner of the bay, over to Royal Palm condos and back. It was just a little farther than a 70.3 Ironman swim, and it was in full swells. I was just slower than two minute pace, and I’m quite happy with that.

Here lately, my runs have been in the 8s and 9s – short five milers in the 8:XX pace range, and the longer 90 minute efforts at 9-something. I’m quite happy with that, as well.

Wish I could lose weight – or, at least, “lose weight faster”. But I’m not running my life, am I? God is solving my problems. I’ll let him figure out what those solutions look like, and what the results will be. That’s my conscious decision – although I fall short many times, thinking “if I can do this now, what can I do in a month? Or in seven months, at the Panama Ironman?” And then I have to catch myself and remember that I’m no longer running the show, and that becoming results oriented is just another sneaky way of playing God – of pretending that I want something that God might not want for me.

Swimming like this, in these conditions, is a confidence booster. I wanted to swim in the Semi Olympic pool, but – even though it looks like they’re through working on it – the rope is still up around it. And I thought “I could go out and do a 45 minute swim in the ocean” and felt a little catch of fear – uh-oh. That won’t do. So I asked God to remove my fear, and grabbed my wetsuit.

Swimming better than I ever have. Running better than I have in years. Of course, there are always trade-offs – my bike is stuck where it’s been for a long time. But I don’t want to mess with anything now. I want to keep going with what I’m doing until it stops working. My brain keeps coming up with sneaky ways that I could try to push the bike back, as well, but I’ll wait until those stop feeling sneaky.

I didn’t ever expect to be in the 8s and 9s again. I’m quite happy with that.

It’s seemed to me lately that my life is starting to starting to seem kind of monastic.

Here’s the monastery of the Carmlitas Descaldas, here in Panama.

I think that means “Monks Carmelized and Scalded”. But don’t quote me on that.

Now, I’m not referring to anything about the state of my marriage when I say “monastic”. I mean simply that my life is getting simpler and simpler. And more disciplined.

I wake up, and do the 11th Step stuff. Then four days a week I do my workout; three days a week, after the morning meditation, we go off to Yoga instead, and then two of those days I go do my swim.

I have an hour or so of piano, and most of that is drills these days. Nothing says “monastic” like Hanon piano drills.

Four days a week is a meeting. And I often have obligations to pigeons.

And a lot of the time in between is filled in with Duolingo. This last week, Duo said that I did something like 16 hours of Duolingo. That’s a lot.

I always get a nap.*

And usually, in the evenings, we will watch two episodes of whatever series we are currently watching.

And almost always heading for bed by 8:30.

Now, yes, we do go to the beach or the pool in between these other things, and of course we exercise the dog. Those things happen around the other things – unless, of course, Juneau starts singing about how she needs to poop, in which case that takes top priority.

But the days are quiet, and ordered, and disciplined.

Now, Ethel goes off with her friends to watch videos of Thunder down Under (or “play dominos”, if you want to believe the party line) and sometimes she goes shopping or running errands with those folks. Me, I don’t really have any friends down here, as in “friends to do things with”. And how could I? Where would I fit it in?

If you looked at Bahia Torre 1, our tower here on the beach, you might not think “monastery” while gazing up at it. But I don’t know any better way to describe my life today.

*and sometimes, at naptime, I’m listening to Gregorian Chant Radio on Pandora.

This is the US Embassy in Panama City.

I’m posting this picture off the web, because….we’re not in Panama City at the Embassy.

Back in April, when we found out all the things that we needed to do if we moved here, Ethel made an appointment for us at the Embassy to get our US drivers’ licenses certified, so that we could get our Panamanian licenses with a minimum of hassle.

But now the strikes are happening, and we’re not about to take off for Panama City when there is actually no reason to believe that we’ll arrive there.

I don’t know who the strikers are or what they want, and I’m keeping out of it. But it seems like they are interfering in my life. Of course, if I really did the Third Step, then that’s not possible, is it?

So Ethel is attempting to find workarounds to get us there, and, failing that, we’ll have to make arrangements later to make it to Penonome to take the test – in Spanish.

“We constantly remind ourselves that we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day ‘Thy Will be done.'” So that’s what I’m doing.

We have ninety days after arriving in country to get our Panamanian license. Currently, we’re at 57 days, so we have just over a month. And it’s entirely possible that allowances will be made, because everybody else is in the same boat that we are – or, rather, we’re all on the same highway; a highway that isn’t moving. So, it’ll all work out.

Or maybe it won’t. But that’s just another way for things to work out – to not work out.,

I admit to some disappointment at not going to the Embassy. Embassies are always cool in the movies. As it happens, for some reason, there’s no Ambassador here – there’s a Charge d’Affairs, which according to the dictionary is somebody who “temporarily” takes the place of the Ambassador. Apparently he’s been doing this for a couple of years. He has a French title because French is the language of diplomacy, because the French never actually fight – they just surrender, and enter into negotiations.

So we won’t be running around the Embassy doing international espionage or subterfuge, or even just looking for the men’s room (“room d’urinal” in diplomatic French) or irritating the Marines. There are always Marines – Marines, in addition to the other stuff they do, always guard Embassies, and they provide security for anywhere that we have nuclear weapons.

So, we’re not going to the Embassy, unless something happens. And it’ll have to happen quick, because our appointment is tomorrow at 8 AM.

Seems strange to use that term, but I can’t find a sprint triathlon that I’ve done in this time – or with these times – before.

Yesterday, at the end of my “easy week”, I did a sprint triathlon. Now, it’s a virtual tri, because I did the bike in Zwift and the run on the treadmill, but it’s still a triathlon. 750 meter swim, 40K ride, and 5K run. The swim wound up being 744 meters, because I wasn’t allowed in the lap pool – they’ve been working on it for a week – but I’m okay with the discrepancy.

My transitions were rather leisurely, since I had to go up 16 floors in the elevator to get to the bike from the pool, and then down 16 floors to get to the treadmill 🙂

But my time for the total thing – including the elevator rides 🙂 – was 1:25, which is excellent for me.

Now I go back to my regular 8 & 1/2 hour weeks. I keep wanting to ramp things up, but why mess with what’s working now? If I reach a plateau like this, and it doesn’t break me, then I’ll pick things up later – increase the volume, I mean. Obviously I’m increasing intensity, just because I’m going faster.

There’s a voice in my head telling me to forget about Arizona, because if I start thinking about Arizona, then I’ll start increasing my volume now, and I don’t want to do that, because this is working. I haven’t run a 5K that fast since – at least – 2015.

Stay the course. Level flight. Stick with what works.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

On Monday, the mask mandate was lifted for Panama.

This morning, I went to the grocery – early, in order to avoid any road closures due to protests.

The store was crowded, and the lines were long – something, again, I suppose having to do with the protests. There were probably a couple of hundred people there.

And, with one exception, all of the Panamenos were still wearing masks.

I can’t understand it. Kim says that the government must have scared these people pretty badly.

BTW – I saw plenty of folks who weren’t wearing masks; they were all foreigners. It seemed so strange – all of these Americans laughing and smiling, and the locals all furtive and scurrying around with their masks one. At least, that’s what it looked like to me.

I don’t know what’s going to have to change before these folks take their masks off. But right now, it looks like oppression – like there are people who are still being forced to wear their masks, and others who are free from such a burden.

But I know that it’s not like that. Yesterday we had folks working on wiring here in the condo, and I asked one of the why he was wearing a mask. He said that it was a precaution. And he said that his wearing a mask was good for him, and good for me.

Yep, somebody scared these folks to death.