Monthly Archives: September 2014

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.

Good bye, Unit 129, Cascade Village, Purgatory, CO…


sniffIn two days, we close on the sale of our second Purgatory condo. This first one sold this last spring; as this one changes hands, our Colorado days are officially over.

It’s not easy to let go of this place; the problems that we had with it had nothing to do with the condo itself, or its proximity to the ski hill, or the views, or the price or the HOA. It was all about a stick of butter; no matter what, we were 27 miles from a stick of butter. And where the “stick of butter” lay, so lay the doctor’s office, and the dentist, and the pharmacy – and meetings. And church.

We found ways to mitigate this – we’d drive down on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, make the 5:30 meeting, then go out to eat, get groceries, and run our errands, then make the 8:00 meeting and drive back up; this got almost everything we needed in just two trips per week. I was okay with this, myself.

But once Ethel needed a prescription, and I tried to head down to Durango to pick it up, and I had to turn around halfway there – traffic and poor snow removal kept me from making it down the mountain. (N.B. – this was in an all-wheel drive car with Blizzaks; we’re not talking rear-wheel drive here). And it seems to me, in retrospect, that that event – which happened in the first week that we had moved into the second condo – was the death knoll. From that point on, Ethel was not comfortable with the distance from town.

I agreed with her stance, but I was always willing to live with it. Heck, I was living at 9000 feet in the Rocky Moutains, 1.5 miles from the chairlift. I’d’a put up with ground-glass hemorrhoids.

Then we moved to Utah, and it didn’t make sense to have ski condos in both states; here recently, it has seemed that it would be just as easy to live in Colorado as in Utah, as I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with working remotely on this job, but Ethel has remained adamant – 27 miles from a stick of butter. And I couldn’t disagree.

And now we’re about 2.8 miles from a stick of butter, and the dentist, and a bunch of restaurants – including reasonably good, reasonably priced sushi, as long as we’re there in time for happy hour. We have plenty of bandwidth, we’re two minutes from the freeway, twenty-five minutes from a real airport, and there is a lot more skiing available in Park City than there ever will be at Purgatory. Being where we are is smart and practical; being where we were was difficult and impractical. And I have always loved Park City, and always will.

But it’s still hard to let go of that little condo. At some point, I’m going to cry.

This morning I didn’t do Ironman Lake Tahoe 70.3 about ten times.

Here’s the swim map:

imlt swimThey are saying that the water will be down near 60 F by race day – two weeks and two days from now. The water at Sand Hollow Reservoir in Sts George was 67 F, and that sent me into cold shock, hyperventilating and panicking. I can’t imagine what 60 F water will do to me – probably make my eyebrow hair stand on end and change my gender.

I don’t WANT to find out what 60 F water will do to me. It terrifies me. I still remember that feeling of being unable to breathe – even though I was breathing, it didn’t feel like I was taking in enough air. I remember turning back towards shore and trying to swim in measured strokes, and then going crazily into a full-tilt sprint because I had to get to shore because I couldn’t breathe.

That was no fun.

Since then, I’ve swum quite a bit in open water, but it hasn’t been in that cold open water that sent me into shock and hyperventilation. Maybe I’ll be all right, but I don’t know anybody else who reacted as badly to St George’s water temperature as I did. I can climb rocks. I can ski off of (small) cliffs. I can jump out of airplanes. But I’m not sure that I can swim back into cold open water.

The internet tells me that the hyperventilation will be over shortly; that the shock will pass, and I will be able to calm down. Well, at St. George, I came back in to shore, and swam back out into that water three more times, and the hyperventilation never stopped. I couldn’t beat it. It beat me, and I came home with my tail between my legs.

I look at the map, above, and I imagine having to swim six-tenths of a mile out into a lake where the water is 60 F; feeling that terror grip me, and then I imagine living in that terror for most of an hour. I’m afraid of the fear; I’m terrified of the terror. FDR said “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. But FDR was talking about fear as an abstract; of being afraid of something “out there”. Fear like that is where a threat is perceived, and the brain, having perceived a threat, generates adrenaline to deal with the threat, and the adrenals themselves cause the “flight or fight” reaction. This can be mitigated by perceiving the situation differently; by deciding that there is no threat, or that it can be dealt with without the fear.

The fear that I am afraid of is actually being generated by the body itself as a reaction to an environmental trigger, the cold water hitting the nerves on the face; there’s no consciousness involved. There is no place in the mind where the perception can be intercepted and overridden; it’s happening down at the reflex arch level, where consciousness has no power at all. It’s as though I were getting a shot of adrenaline while deciding to remain calm – too bad. Church is out. I’m going to be scared, and I’m going to stay scared, and there is nothing that I can do to stop it.

Prayer won’t help – prayer is powerful stuff, but prayer can only change my mind; it can’t directly affect what’s going on at a cellular level. I’m a big proponent of asking God to remove my fear, and directing my attention to what He would have me be, but I can’t see that helping in this situation.

So this morning, while swimming 200 yard repeats, I decided to do Tahoe, and to not do Tahoe, and to do Tahoe, and to not do Tahoe…I think I ended up deciding to do Tahoe, but when I look at this calmly and rationally, I can’t imagine doing Tahoe at all. I can wait until next year, and find some nice IM/2 where the water doesn’t cause hyperventilation.

If this were a character building thing, I think I’d be all over it; again, “jumping out of airplanes”. But this isn’t anything that my character can overcome; I do believe that my character could force me to do the swim. Even if I couldn’t breathe, I could find a way to swim from buoy to buoy, and then I could stop in the water, hold on to a buoy, and squeal like a girl for ten minutes, and then make it to the next buoy. And then, when I finished, I could tell myself that I’d done it.

But then I would still have to bike 56 miles of mountains and run a half marathon, after an ordeal that makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

I really need a smarter hobby. Or a warmer one.



We need an FWD for the bedroom. I’m thinking this 50″ Visio will do just fine:


The problem, like most problems in the real world, involves college football; living in the Mountain time zone, we can pretty much watch college football on Saturdays from can ’till cain’t, and “cain’t” is defined as “when we fall asleep watching football”.

However, it’s much more difficult to fall asleep watching football on the couch than it is in bed, because the awareness that one will have to wake up and walk up the stairs to one’s bedroom is never far from one’s consciousness. So it’s better to have an FWD (Football Watching Device) in the bedroom, so that one can nod off to one’s heart’s content during that all-important Oregon State@Hawaii game that started at 10PM local.

However, the size and shape of our bedroom is not conducive to putting a reasonably-sized FWD anywhere near the bed, so we’re going to have to put one on a side wall, on an articulating mount such that it can be extended out into the room on football-watching days. And the framed walls in our condo use metal studs, not wood, so there are complications to putting a mount with that much moment-arm on the wall.

So now I’m waiting to hear from my installer, to insure that we can, indeed, use this TV (based on weight) before I order it; I suppose he’ll bring the mount and suchlike equipment. So we won’t have it on the wall in time for Saturday’s viewing – and, as it happens, OSU@Hawaii this year is this Saturday, at 8:30 local time, which would be fine in bed but not worth a hoot in the living room. So the Warriors and Beavers will have to do without our support, for one more year.


College Football Season is here.


It’s rather strange – after waiting all this time, I find I’m underwhelmed. Not that I’m not enjoying college football; it’s more that triathlon training is taking all of the time and energy, so even watching the games is anticlimactic.

With almost all of the games this weekend, I was purely an observer, with no emotional stake whatever. Usually I have a complex “rootology” worked out – who I’ll root for against whom, for what reasons, and how intensely. There are long and involved rules about this: they start with “Team, State, Conference” (Alabama, then Auburn, then the Western Division of the SEC, then the SEC as a whole) and go down a long and involved flow chart, ending with “…and root against Notre Dame, USC, Oregon, Ohio State, and Oklahoma State”.

But this weekend, none of that mattered; even the Alabama game didn’t generate much in the way of passion (not that it was necessary; that game was never in doubt) and the rest of the slate left me flat as fizzed coke. I generally do not watch football games leaning backwards; this weekend, I barely got vertical.

That’s a bad thing. And it probably feels worse right now, since I’m so tired. When I’m this tired, it seems like I’ve ALWAYS been this tired, that I’ve never felt better and I’ll never feel better. Things become sort of fuzzy; I find I don’t care as much. I don’t like it, and I don’t like not liking it.

Now, this is the first weekend, and we’ve played West Virginia, and we haven’t settled on a quarterback yet, and the next two weeks are cupcakes; three Saturdays from now, we play Florida, who shouldn’t be any threat, and that weekend I’ll be in Tahoe getting ready for the Big Race(tm), so I might not be worked up yet.

After that, who knows? Maybe when SEC play sets in, and this triathlon is over, it will feel like football season. I sure hope so.

(editor’s note: two paragraphs above, I almost typed “I’m supposed to be in Tahoe”. My training has worn me down; I’m in worse shape now than I was three, or six, or nine, months ago. I can swim farther, but that’s the only real improvement. And indications are that the water is going to be even colder than it was in St. George, when cold shock sent me into hyperventilation, so even though I’m “committed’ to completing Tahoe, I wake up at night worrying about it; sometimes I am dreaming about it and the anxiety wakes me up. My sponsor once said “when something stops being fun, then it stops being recreation”. We’ll see.)