When I took this picture, I was standing outside the back door of our Whitefish condo. The Ram truck that you see is my truck, parked in the lot because I can’t get it into my garage.

Then you see the piece of ground at which the arrow is pointing. That is Lot 35 of Great Northern Heights.


As of the 29th of this month, that piece of ground will belong to Ethel and I.

We’ve gone ’round and ’round about this – should we stay here? Should we build? Should we buy? Should we stay here in Whitefish and buy a second place in Mexico? Should we just sell out and go to Mexico full time? Should we buy here? Should we build?

This all started because we went to Cozumel with Bob and Caroyl. We had talked about getting a place with them near the beach, and we did a good bit of house hunting with them while we were there.

One of the things that I noticed was how we were pretty adamant, with every home that we looked at, that it would have some running room for the dogs. Bob and Caroyl are dog people, and I’m married to a dog person, so it doesn’t seem too strange – until one remembers that we currently live in a condo, and have NO running room for dogs.

(In our defense, when we moved here, we had Lucy and Abby, and Lucy barely moved, so Abby was fairly sedentary as well. After Lucy died, we wound up getting my little blessing, who is not sedentary at all, which means now Abby runs all over the condo with her).

We didn’t buy anything on Cozumel, but when we got home, I was struck by the fact that we were so adamant about doggy running room, but we didn’t have any at home. Also, the snow had melted; what this meant was that I could finally try to get my truck into the garage (the excess of snow had prevented me from attempting the turn during the winter).

…and I found out that I could not get my truck into the garage.

So now it seems that the dog (that Ethel had decided that I needed) and the truck (that Ethel had decided that I needed) no longer allowed me to live in the condo – at least, not without some adjustments. So we started looking around.

Our first choice was the first house that we looked at – which went under contract while we were looking at it. Then we noticed that the Whitefish housing market was pretty darn hot, so after a few more false starts, we started looking at view lots; we looked at several, and then began investigating building on a lot out in The Lakes, just southeast of where we live now.

But the lot that we wanted was narrow, and it would have been very expensive to build there; we spent a good bit of time with Matt from Stumptown Build & Design, and decided not to move ahead; instead, we went under contract on a home over in Columbia Falls.

But, as much as I liked that CFalls home, it…it just didn’t feel right, so we backed out.

Right after we did the formal backing-out, Ethel booked us a flight to Cabo (while I was at a noon meeting) to go house hunting. And we went to Cabo for a week, and found places that we liked in San Jose, San Lucas and Todos Santos

But, as much as we liked them, apparently, they still didn’t feel right, so we didn’t do that. We’ll wait until Bob and Caroyl are ready to split a place, instead; in the meantime, we realized that we really, really wanted to be in Whitefish; not CFalls, and not Kalispell.

So we went back up to one of the first lots that we had looked at, on Vista Drive, and it felt right. It felt quietly right. We met with Matt on the lot, and he was much happier with this lot; said it would work great. We thought about it a bit, and made an offer, and they countered, and we took it.

So now we’re going to be building on a lot that’s apparently (according to gmaps) 366 meters from my back door. It should be finished in January or February.

We’ve bought and sold 11 homes and condos; several of them were new, but they were spec homes, where we might have selected some of the finishings, but that’s it. Now, we’re going to be in the process from the selection of the lot all the way through; whatever the house is or isn’t, there’s only ourselves to blame.

Sounds like an adventure.

Here’s the view from the lot, taken from the realtor’s picture set last winter. This house is on a bluff, so this view can’t ever go away.

I’ll be looking at it for a long time.

207 Vista




This is me at the start of the run in Ironman Arizona 2017.

Last night we were talking about the dogs – how it had been three and a half years after Maia died before I was willing to let Kim get me another dog (which she then appropriated, but that’s not important right now).

Ethel thought that that was a good example of how we are “unable to bring into consciousness, with sufficient force, the memory of the suffering…of even a month or a week ago.” Even though losing Maia left me in a terrible state, I was able to get another dog only 42 months later.

Meanwhile, last year’s IMAZ hurt worse than anything. I’ve had motorcycle wrecks that felt better than that triathlon. And I still signed up for this year’s edition just three days later.

I’d say that that’s a whole different level of dumb.

So I came back to Montana and started training in November. In February, my right knee went out. I kept training – but using the elliptical instead of the treadmill – while doing physical therapy, and after slowly working running back into my regime, was released from PT in the second week of April.

The next day, my run hurt. That weekend, running on Cozumel, both knees hurt, and I thought I had shin splints.

The next weekend, seven miles into an easy jog on dirt roads, my LEFT knee went “whangey” and had a catastrophic failure, so much so that I spent the next two weeks on the island on crutches and when I flew home, had to go through the airports in a wheelchair.

(As an aside – I was able to ride a bicycle with that left knee, even did a couple of centuries on Cozumel, but I had to walk to the bike on crutches. This injury was pretty specific).

I came home from the island, saw a doc, got an MRI on both knees, and pretty much gave up on training. I finally saw the doc a couple of weeks ago, and it turns out that I have a torn meniscus and have to have surgery to fix it.

That surgery is scheduled for July 2, after which it will be two to four weeks before I will be able to start running again.

Now, here’s the thing – last year at this time, I was getting ready for the 70.3 IM in Coeur d’Alene, and my fitness numbers were great. I PRed the race. This year, I’m sitting in the hot tub with the fat old men, and still facing surgery and rehab afterwards.

When I signed up for IMAX ’18, I bought the insurance. An injury – with all this documentation – means that I can get my money back. In addition, I’ll save all of the money of the trip, and all of the time and effort required to get ready for the race.

And let’s tell the truth and shame the devil – if I were to be able to do the race this year, it wouldn’t be pretty. It would probably be a personal worst.

But for some reason, I haven’t cancelled yet. “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” and I seem to harbor some silly notion that I still might do the race. I’ve started training again, I’m dong a century ride with Ethel in early August, and I keep lying to myself, telling myself that maybe it will be okay.

I reckon I’m keeping the insurnace in my back pocket, knowing that at any time I can bail on the race and still get my money back. But “you’d think” that I would bail EARLY so as not to waste a summer and fall training for a race that I might not be able to do.

Well, nobody ever said that triathlon made you smart.



(Actually, yes, this is sorta what I looked like when Ethel met me. The 80s were a happy time…and am I the only one who thinks that the guy second from right looks like “Barry the Blade” in the John Grisham movie “The Client”?)

Living To Retire

(…to the tune of “Livin’ on a Prayer“, with apologies to Bon Jovi)

(oowa oowa oo-oo oowa
oowa oowa oo-oo oowa
oowa oowa oo-oo oowa
oowa oowa oo-oo oowa)

Jimmy used to work in the town
Now he works remote, in his robe and nightgown
It’s cool, so cool
Ethels work for WGU
She’s in pajamas, and her fleece house shoes too
Her school, her school

She says we gotta hold on to our IRAs
Our brokerage accounts, and our 401(k)s!
A few more years, and trust what I say,
We’re gone – we’re going away!

Woah, we plan and perspire –
Woah, working to retire!
Don’t tell me, you’re preaching to the choir
Woah, working to retire

(oowa oowa oo-oo oowa
oowa oowa oo-oo oowa)

Jimmy goes to work in the loft
Now he’s logging in, while his friends ski and golf
It’s rough, so rough…
Ethel dreams of old Mexico
Of sunshine and sand, and the reefs –
Jimmy whispers “I know…we’ll go…..”

We’ve got to hold on, we’re on solid ground
It doesn’t matter if the Dow is up or it’s down
We’ve got our plan and it’s safe and it’s sound
Our time – it’s coming around!

Woah, it’s muck and it’s mire –
Woah, working to retire!
All our doubts, our dreams and desires –
Woah, working to retire –
Working to retire!

Oooooo –
We’ve got to hold out for just three more years,
Then toss out our jobs for our part-time careers!

Woah, set this stuff on fire,
Woah, working to retire!
Take this job, and shove it up higher –
Woah, working to retire!

Woah, let’s find us a buyer
Woah, working to retire!
Sell this place, and go where the temps’ higher –
Woah, working to retire!

This is a Diamondback Andean. This is currently my desktop wallpaper.


The Salt Lake Track Club gets a discount on these puppies. So far, my inquiries as to just how much of a discount seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

But I’ve stopped asking now. I was dropping weight; the idea was that when I got down to race weight, I’d buy a new tri bike (or maybe not, but that’s another story).

But now I’m not dropping weight – I got stuck at 181 lbs, and nothing I tried would push the needle any farther down.

And then the bottom fell out – my knee started hurting again. And I kept getting tireder (surprisingly, my editor didn’t mark “tireder” as a misspelling; I would assume that it should be corrected to “more tired”. But, since I’m so tired, I’m not going to worry about it).

Yesterday, I went to the pool once again to try to swim 45 minutes while doing flip turns, and it still wasn’t working; so then I just tried to swim for the full time while just doing plain old open turns, but I couldn’t seem to keep going at all.

I’ve not been sleeping well, either.

So Coach Carrie just suggested not working out at all, and – while normally I would simply refuse to hear any such suggestion – I jumped on it.

I’m not going to do the workouts that are currently in Training Peaks unless my coach says “Hey Jim – do the workouts”. I’m just so tired. I was looking at the above bike and thinking “Hey, it won’t be long now!”…and now I see it and I think “what in the heck would I do with that thing?”

Now, what experience has shown me is that I always pass through these periods and wind up working out again harder than before. But another thing that even longer experience has taught me is that “the thing that you always did will eventually change”.

There’s a saying that is attributed to Einstein – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”. Of course, Einstein never said it – and anybody who actually thinks about it knows that it is patently false. Many things ONLY change after you have done them over and over – if you swing a sledgehammer at a boulder, the boulder won’t crack. Swing it again, and it won’t crack. You’ll have to swing it a hundred times or so – and THEN, suddenly, surprisingly, the boulder breaks into ten pieces.

In fact, there’s another aphorism that blatantly flies in the false of that whole “insanity is doing the same thing over and over” idea, and that’s Murphy’s Law, which states that “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. Now, Murphy was a computer engineer, and the real implementation of this idea is that “If there is a bug in the code, it will show up, given enough iterations”. In other words, some things CAN’T show up until you’ve done the same thing over and over again.

So now that I’m on the couch, exhausted and injured, I can’t help but wonder if this is the time that I’m going to take time off from working out, and then not go back.

Eventually that will happen.

I just hope it’s not now, because I’ve already signed up for Ironman Arizona 2018.

But I’m also grateful that I bought the insurance for Ironman Arizona, so I can get my money back if necessary 🙂

This morning, I was Riding Like an Egyptian.

Here’s the ride – in TrainerRoad, it’s called “Givens”, and it’s a VO2Max workout with six 3 minute intervals at 110/120/130% of FTP – although, since this is the first intensity workout I’ve done since My Last Stupid Thing(tm), I ran it at 90% intensity.


There were several problems with this workout – the first, of course, being that everything I’ve done since about three weeks before Ironman Arizona has been aerobic. This…is not aerobic. This hurts. And it always hurts whenever I return to it. And it wasn’t just the pain or the effort – I couldn’t get my heart rate down! I kept going up into the 160s during each interval – way higher than I ought to be.

The second thing was that I was using a new laptop to run TrainerRoad and send the display to my 42″ TV on the wall; the new laptop is Windows 10, and it doesn’t speak 720p – I can’t get it to do so, so I had to keep playing with the resolutions. In addition, I kept setting the Power Options and the “What to do when the lid closes” – but it wasn’t paying any attention, and kept ignoring what I was setting. (This is because I was setting them for “when the computer is plugged in”, but I wasn’t plugged in. I wasted a lot of time that way, and getting mad just wore me out BEFORE I started the above ride).

But lastly, I’ve also got a new phone, and my new phone is not behaving in several ways – but, also, I have yet to get my MP3 library loaded onto it. And when I do the Givens workout, I always do it to the tune of “Walk Like An Egyptian” by the Bangles, because that’s right at 204 beats per minute, which works out to 102 RPM, which is the best cadence for me to do this workout.

But since I did’t have my music loaded, I had to find a way to listen to Walk Like An Egyptian in the interim – and so I played it in You Tube.

Well, surprise – I’d never actually seen the video. It’s a good video – and, at least as far as the video evidence, shows, three of the Bangles sang – they got one verse apiece – and the blond one did the whistling. (Yes, to me, they all sounded the same, but I’ll trust that they each sang their peace – although, to be honest, they looked so much alike that they all could have been the same woman, with different hair).

But I couldn’t help but notice that Ethel never wears that outfit for me!…two of them (ostensibly, if the video is accurate, the lead and bass guitarists) looked a lot alike, and they were both wearing what seemed to be the same LBD (“Little Black Dress”)


Ethel HAS that dress, and she looks – quite literally – knock-down gorgeous in it. (Yes, I said “literally”. When Ethel was in the changing room and was trying it on, she called me in to look at it, and I took one look and slammed backward into the wall and slid down onto the floor).

But, for some reason, I can’t get her to wear that dress around the house.

Maybe if I got her a white Fender electric guitar, I could get her to play it and flounce around the next time I’m doing this workout. Some hoop earrings would complete the ensemble.

Although that wouldn’t help me get my heart rate down….

Last week I did pretty well with regards to discipline and commitment.

I didn’t buy a bicycle.

Here’s my Noble Steed, hanging on the wall of the garage:


I had a pretty good bike segment at Ironman Arizona, so of course I immediately started thinking about how I could improve it next time; the first thing that a triathlete always thinks about is upgrading his bike (either getting a new bike, or doing something to improve his current bike).

I saw a lot of really nice bikes at the booths in the Ironman Village, but I’m aware that my bike is better than I am right now; before I should really consider getting a new bike, I should at least lose some weight, as that would make a bigger difference than a frame or components. So I set a goal weight and said, out loud for everyone to hear, “I won’t be getting a new bike until I get to race weight”.

Immediately the Devil, in various guises, decided to tempt me away from my conviction 🙂

Bikes just started coming out of the walls; bike ads showed up in the sidebar of every web site I would visit. And another guy in the Facebook Ironman Arizona training group posted his bike for sale. God forgive me, I actually looked at it, and brought it up for discussion.

My wife said “Why are we talking about this? Buy it.” My friend Allen offered to buy my bike if I wanted to buy that one. My coach gave it his OK. It seemed to make sense, and I decided to buy the other bike.

Then, of course, I went to bed (because you pretty much have to do that every day). And going to bed meant waking up at 3 AM with buzzards on the bedpost, asking me why I was doing things. (The bedpost buzzards always have plenty of questions around 3 AM).

In this case, the buzzards wanted to know why I thought that I was going to go out and buy a bike when I said that I wouldn’t do that until I reached race weight. Now, there is no good answer for this, but I was able to rationalize and justify pretty well, so even if I didn’t shut the buzzards up, at least I made them change the subject.

But then the buzzards wanted to know what was wrong with my current bike?

And, right after that, the buzzards themselves went away, and they were replaced by my bike, and my bike wanted to know “WHY YOU WANT TO LEAVE ME?”

While lying there in bed, I could see my bike hanging on the garage wall – but it was making big puppy-dog eyes at me. It wanted to know what had it done wrong? Hadn’t it gotten me through two Coeur D’Alene halves, IMCdA, and then hadn’t it done well at Ironman Arizona? Was there something wrong with it?

It finally went into full pout and said “When you peed on me during races, did I say anything? Did I complain? No! I just tried all the harder to help you have a good race! Why you want to leave me?”

And I couldn’t come up with a good answer.

So I’m still losing weight, and working towards getting down to race weight.

But I don’t really know what I’m going to do when I get there.


This is the start of the swim for this year’s Ironman Arizona.

Yes, we started swimming in the dark. Made it difficult to sight the route once the sun came up.

But I still had a better swim than I could have imagined – which was followed by a bike segment that was also much better than expected – which was followed by a run which was 15 minutes faster than last year.

All that SOUNDS good. But, in reality – not so much. But, then, maybe so…

“Lemme ‘splain. No, is too much. Lemme sum up.” – Inigo Montoya

For what seemed to be good reasons, I was particularly freaked out about this race; I knew that my training had not gone as well. I hadn’t had as much volume, it had been slower, I had done very few 100+ mile rides. I had also gotten overtrained in late summer, which made me slower; and I had to recover from being overtrained, so that made me slower. I was fat and had been sick.

In addition, the strange injury which had crippled my previous IM had returned. This was a weird something in my calf such that, when I started running, it would seize up, and it wouldn’t even let me walk freely for a few days. I kept testing it in the weeks leading up to the race, and it always showed up. This injury had caused me to walk the 26 miles of IMCdA, only daring to run the last two tenths down the chute.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to this race. I mentioned several times in the weeks leading up to IMAZ that perhaps we should just go ahead and sell out and move to Cozumel; this is my default response to anything I don’t like.

I was actually walking around scared for days before flying down to PHX, and then for the days before the race; on Saturday, I was well-nigh paralyzed. (My friend Tia decided to rub some lavender under my nose, as she thought this would calm me down. I had mixed emotions about that 🙂 I was doing a lot of praying and going through Step 10 over and over again. Ethel was remarkably consistent throughout this period; she just kept telling me that I was going to do the race, even though I kept asking her to take me back to the airport.

So when I woke up on Sunday morning, I could barely move; I thought for a while that fear had actually paralyzed me, or made me comatose. But I got in the car and Ethel drove me to the transition area and I went through the motions and eventually realized that, no, I wasn’t actually scared any more – I was calm. As has happened with so many things in my life, the purpose of the fear was to stop me from acting; once I realized that I was going to go ahead, the fear gave up and went back to wherever it comes from.

I made some mistakes in setting up transition that would haunt me later, but as scattered as I was, that’s to be expected. I said my prayers and got my last set of hugs and kisses and got into the line to go into the water.

Unlike previous Ironman events, I found myself looking forward to getting into the water; Corch Ian had given me his old Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit, and that darn thing was shaving 10-15 seconds/100y of my swim times. I’d done the practice swim the day before and knew that the water felt just the right temperature, so in I went! Wheee!

Corch had told me to stay to the right, out of the craziness, so I did that, and encountered none of the normal panic or shortness of breath that usually attends big swim starts. From the get-go I felt like this was something I knew how to do; the only real issue occurred when the sun came up, and it became more difficult to sight staring directly into the dawn. It cost me about 150 yards worth of wasted distance on the way out, but once I made the turn, that was over. Time to swim!

It seemed like I was passing folks the whole way, and I came out of the water in 1:25:58 – according to my Garmin, the 4224 yards turned into 4331 (due to my wandering) at 1:59/100y.  Sub-2 pace for an Ironman! Woo-hoo!

…While I love the way that the Helix lets me swim, it is a tight fit, so I lost a good bit of time in transition while two volunteers tried to get my rather corpulent self out of the wetsuit. But even though I lost minutes, I was still so excited about my swim that nothing could affect my spirits, and I went through transition in 12-something and was on the bike and heading down the road.

And that’s when the trouble started.

For one thing, I had put my BAT tracking beacon in the wrong bag, so I didn’t have it with me on the bike. And I was going through transition in a hurry, so I forgot to get my FOOD! So I started the bike without having eaten anything yet.

The bike course is a triple out-and-back – surface streets through Tempe, then out the Beeline Highway to the eastern edge of Fountain Hills. It’s a mild uphill on the way out – no real hills for somebody who’s been doing St. George and Coeur D’Alene. I figured it would go great.

The forecast had said “High of 78, calm wind”, but everybody who’d done this race had said beforehand that “There will be a headwind on the Beeline Highway”. I need to remember to listen to folks.

As soon as I came out of the built-up area around the race start, I felt the headwind. The further out I went, the worse the wind got. I watched my speed drop and drop even though I was putting out the same number of Watts, and started to get discouraged.

But I told myself that “winds are usually at their highest in the early morning and late evening, when the temperature changes are greatest” (note: I have no idea if this is true, but it sounded good, and it got me through the first loop).

I stopped on the way back down the Beeline at Special Needs and went ahead and got my bag of goodies, since I hadn’t had anything to eat, and ate my first burrito by holding it between the aero bars. Came back down to Tempe and made the turnaround.

Uh-oh – if anything, the wind has picked up for the second loop! NOOOO!!!!

All the way back out to Fountain Hills, I got more and more discouraged; I finally told God that, if He would get me out of this, I wouldn’t do another Ironman until He told me to do so. Made the turn and ate my second burrito, and really picked up some speed on the way back to town; but as I got near Tempe, I realized that I was about to learn something about my character; would I actually have the will to turn around and head back into that uphill headwind a third time? Or would I just wave at Ethel and head on into the chute and say “Well, it wasn’t my day!” ?

It seems, though, that when I got back to Tempe I was so busy looking for Ethel on the way into town that I forgot to quit, and I headed back out – and Glory be! …the wind had died down!

At this point, something clicked, and I just started pushing hard – all during the third loop, the only folks who passed me were half my age, half my weight, and were on bikes that cost three times as much as my Noble Steed. I was flying, and having a ball! For the second time – wheeee!

Came off the bike in 6:09 – a 59 minute improvement over IMCdA – and came out of the second transition under 8 hours; so if I could maintain the 15 minute pace walking that I did the previous year, I was assured of at least an hour PR. Wheeee!

But the first two walking miles, I wasn’t maintaining that pace; I was more along 16:00 or 16:30 for some reason. I reckon it was pushing the bike so hard that was keeping me from being able to walk with the same stride and cadence as last year.

Well, as Shepard Book told Jayne, “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.”

I decided that, even if I had to limp, I’d still be able to finish under the cutoff, so I might as well try to run. I started running 400 steps and walking 400 steps, and that got my pace down around 12 minutes.

When I came through the transition area after four miles, Ethel saw me running and freaked out. I said “Well, might as well try it”. And I kept going.

The “run” (read: run/walk) went up and down both sides of the river – first a 4 mile east/west, then a 9 mile loop that went west, crossed the river, went east to the turnaround, and back. So from the four mile mark all the way to the half marathon, I didn’t see Ethel. But I kept going – 400 run, 400 walk – and was still doing that at the halfway point, at which point Ethel seemed amazed. Made it around the second 4 mile loop (Ethel was still amazed, but I was starting to hurt) and kept going until the mile 18 sign.

At this point, Church was Out 🙂

The run/walk was now over; the death march began.

It HURT – EVERYTHING hurt. And it kept hurting worse and worse. I just kept walking. I watched my pace get slower and slower, but it didn’t seem to matter – I knew that I could fall down and roll the rest of the way, and I’d still have a PR.

My friends Tia and Chad came out to meet me around mile 24, by which time I was actually whimpering with every step – “hmmpp! hmmpp! hmmpp! hmmpp!” They thought that this was hilarious (I hate my friends Tia and Chad 🙂 and they accompanied me almost all the way to the chute.

I was in more pain than I could recall ever being in before, but I picked up my feet and managed to “jog” through the chute. I was delirious and stupid with fatigue; I did not hear Mike Reilly say that I was an Ironman. But I did see Kim as I came through the chute – in addition, our friends Bob and Caroyl, whom I had understood were in Cozumel, seemed to be with her, and so now I knew delirium had set it.

I crossed the line in 14:22, an hour and twenty-eight minute PR.

Turns out that Bob and Caroyl were really there – they had flown back to PHX, and had decided to come see me finish before going to their house. Corch Ian was waiting for me at the finish as well, and there was my sweetie girl, all smiles and encouragement.

I was in more pain than I would have believed, and I was hungry, and I was tight – gave high-fives all around, and then went into the massage tent.

(The after-race events were rather peculiar, and will be discussed under separate cover).

I was very pleased with the race, and wound up signing up for next year just three days later (I’m assuming that God told me to, but sometimes God sounds like Ethel). I’d’a thought that a 14:22 would be a good place to quit, but the fact that I still wasn’t able to maintain a run/walk through the whole marathon left me determined to do a full Ironman right, at least once.

I had an easy week, and then started winter training. I’ve decided to (maybe) get a new tri bike, but not until I get down to race weight. I’m going to do everything I can to have at least ONE complete race next year.