Monthly Archives: January 2019

We have a Dig Date.


March 1st.

A “dig date” means the day that the are actually supposed to start digging for the foundation. Implicit in this concept is the idea that they will have, prior to this date, prepped the land – staked it out and cut down the trees.

Having a dig date a month away means that we are now in the throes of much paperwork and moving money around – appraisal, getting the construction loan, getting the approval from the HOA for our plans and colors and landscaping, firming up all the bids, and a lot of things from which Ethel is insulating me (for which I am very grateful).

Building a home is a new thing for us. We’ve bought three new homes – two were completed, and one was down to colors and finishes that we got to select. This is something entirely different – everything here is Puckett defined. We chose the lot, we chose the builder. We designed the home – gave the architect the desired layout, and then spent six months refining the plans.

Having designed the floor plan and layout, we are selecting everything from the drywall in – colors, hardwood and carpet, cabinets, appliances, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, the whole nine yards.

Which means that when we’re done, we have nobody but ourselves to blame πŸ™‚

So now starts the process of watching – watching them stake out the dig, at which time we’ll be walking around and saying “Oh – so THIS is where the dining room will be!… You mean that will be the view from the bedroom?”

Seeing the hole in the ground, and seeing it filled with concrete. Watching the pipes go in – seeing the walls go up – then the trusses, at which point we’ll see the skyline.

Then drywall – and there’s a house!

But first, they dig a hole.





I’ve been swimming better and better lately, and yesterday, this happened:


Numbers are dumb things, and we do dumb things for numbers – but often they drive us to be better than we are in some way. And, on this day, I did a workout with an average pace of 1:39 – one minute and thirty-nine seconds per 100 yards.

Six months ago, I was swimming in the high 1:40s – even had a few above 1:50. Now, that may not seem like much improvement – but 1:40 is 100 seconds, so to go from 1:54 for this same workout on July 30 to 1:39 yesterday is a 15 percent improvement.

I haven’t managed to improve anything else, at all, by 15 percent, in a long, long time.

A few weeks ago, I managed to do a swim with a 1:40 average time, and that was very satisfying – but I wanted the 1:39. As I said, numbers are dumb things.

Surprisingly, the last couple of 500 yard repeats yesterday felt easy enough, but that’s a “felt”, and I don’t trust “felt” πŸ™‚ I suspect that tomorrow’s repeats will probably be much slower than I would like, because I probably worked harder yesterday than I intended.

I’d like to move into a world where both my pulls workout and my repeats were all in the 1:30s – to the point where it’s no longer remarkable. If that happens, I’ll shorten the rests, which will then cause the swims to get slower again – but that’s all part and parcel of getting better.

When I look back a few years in my Garmin history, I see a time when my pool workouts were as likely to be at 2:20 pace as 2:00. So there’s definite progress, and it seems to be gains made and not lost. For a 60 year old endurance athlete, those sorts of gains are hard to come by.

I will now shut up about this – until that day, if it ever comes, when I do a full workout with an average pace in the 1:20s. At that point, I will gloat, preen, and strut about obnoxiously πŸ™‚


Now, let’s get some stuff out of the way.

I love jumping out of airplanes.

That said, I admit that, while the plane is going up, I tend to find spots of fear in my belly, and they must be addressed with Step 10 and gotten rid of. But then I jump out of the plane and I have a great time all the way down!

I ski double-black diamond runs, I go to the dentist with no trepidation, I enjoy rock climbing and riding my road bike down steep mountain highways. I have what my financial advisor calls “high risk tolerance”. I can watch most any scary movie with insouciance.

But there’s one thing that terrifies me to my core.


I started seeing ads for “A Place for Mom” during the latter part of this past football season. (I only see commercials during football season, because I only see TV during football season). And the first time I saw one, it struck me way down deep.

I followed up quickly with prayers and affirmations, but the next time I saw one – BAM! terrified again.

Ethel and I are getting older (I might have mentioned that I turned 60 this month). And, most likely, I’ll die first, based purely on genetics.

But, were something to happen to her, I might wind up in “A Place for Mom”. (The companion fear is that after I pass away, she might wind up in “A Place For Mom”. I’ve told her that we should move to Alabama so that she’ll be near family, but she won’t do it. So I can’t do anything about that).

And the idea of being in an old folks’ home chills me to the bone.

Infirm, immobile, in pain – smelly, poorly groomed, in pajamas. Eating steamed cauliflower and prunes. Being in a wheelchair. Not remembering what happened this morning. Being alone.

Now, it’s possible that, since I’m a pretty darn active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, that I might get daily rides to meetings by generous, compassionate folks who want to keep the oldtimers around, if for no other reason than that we’re supposed to be wise. But, then, again, I tend to emulate the Circuit Riding Preacher, who has come “to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable” – and so maybe nobody will WANT me at meetings when I’m too old to get there myself. “Curmudgeon” comes with a price.

So there I’ll sit, forgotten, feeble, and forlorn, either incontinent or constipated.

I reckon the only way that I can be sure of avoiding such a fate is to be MORE reckless – ski off cliffs. Bigger cliffs. Climbing more dangerous routes – maybe freeclimbing them. Open water swimming through waterskiing areas. ANYTHING to keep myself out of “A Place for Mom”.

(N.B. – it’s actually very difficult to make skydiving actually DANGEROUS. They’ve got safeguards built into those things now, such that they will fire the reserve chute at 1500 feet above ground, even if one forgets. I’d have to actually sabotage the mechanics of the chute for that to be really dangerous, and that moves over from “reckless abandonment” to “suicide”, which He probably wouldn’t approve of).

Or I could, possibly, work the Steps and get free of the fear. I mean, if that sort of thing worked.

Better to work ’em now, than to try to work ’em in “A Place for Mom”, by which time I might be forgetting which Step follows which.

Here lately, I’ve been skiing a bit faster, from time to time.

A couple of weeks ago, I hit 58.9 MPH; Walt, at the Big Mountain Club, heard me say that, and suggested that I set a goal of “skiing my age” in miles-per-hour. Sounded like a good idea.

Since I was a few days away from turning 60, that meant that I needed to at least go another 0.2 MPH to hit 59. So, the next day, I decided to hit that landmark.

That morning, during Dawn Patrol, we were skiing down the back side before the mountain opened up. Now, I’m not likely to go that fast on any of those groomed slopes on the back side, but I figured I’d work on my form, so I zipped down the Ant Hill.

Down at the bottom of the Ant Hill, there were some ski patrollers doing some fence and sign work, so I gave them a wide berth, although I saw one of them motioning as I went by.

(I briefly wondered if the patroller was motioning to ME, but quickly dismissed the idea, since I knew that the mountain wasn’t even open, there weren’t any SLOW signs up, and I was well away from them).

Well, at the next stop, our Big Mountain guide, Eric, told me that the patroller, Betty, had, indeed, been motioning at me to SLOW DOWN, and was upset with me for not doing so.


So I gave her a while to get back to the Patrol shack, then I skied over to the shack, went inside, pulled off my helmet and balaclava, and asked to see her.

She motioned into the back room, and I went back in there and told her, “Ma’am, I’d like to apologize. Eric says that you were telling me to slow down, and I wasn’t paying any attention – it seems that I’m supposed to go slow through that section, even though the mountain isn’t open yet. I’m sorry.”

She looked at me, bald with a gray soul patch, and shook her head, and she said, “No, no, it wasn’t you. It was that kid in front of you who was going way too fast.”

“Uh, ma’am, I hate to tell you this…” I said, looking sheepish, “but…there wasn’t any kid in front of me. There was absolutely nobody in front of me, at all.”

She looked at me, amazed, and said, “Oh, my goodness – I thought you were a kid!”


Well, to have Ski Patrol think that I’m skiing like a teenager may not be entirely a bad thing, right? πŸ™‚

N.B. I did get that 59 MPH later that day, and then I turned 60 and now I’m covered for at least another year:


We just signed up for this year’s edition of the Lake Challenge Swim at the Wave.


The idea here is that we start swimming on Monday 21 January, and log our yardage, and it finishes on 13 April. We are supposedly “swimming” the lengths of these lakes, in order; I thought that we had to give them a goal (like last year) but, no, we just swim, and whatever “prizes” we win are based on how many of the lakes we make it through.

I’m aiming at Lake Coeur d’Alene, which is a total of 41 miles, which they say is 5985 yards/week. I’ve been swimming 5300 yards every week, which won’t get me there, so I’ve added a third, short, day – Flippin’ Friday.

In December of 2017, after Ironman Arizona, I decided that I was finally going to learn to do flip turns. I worked on doing ladders in the pool, nothing but flip turns. It didn’t go well.

There was one day, in the pool in California, where I did the whole hour swim with flip turns, but I’ll be darned if I can find it in my log. But it was very slow, as I recall, and I lost interest. I eventually gave up.

Now I’m swimming faster than I’ve ever swum, but I’m still not doing flip turns – and it just doesn’t seem right, that a fellow can swim about 1.3 million yards without doing flip turns. So now I’ve decided that, yes, I’m going to do them.

We’ll see what happens.

In other news, Ethel is also signed up for the Lake Challenge, although she hasn’t swum in months. If she can do 800 yards/week, she can make it through Whitefish Lake, which will probably put her in the top 1% of swimming distance for her age and gender πŸ™‚


Here’s last Friday’s forecast pic:


…and it’s still just like that. Foggy, overcast, cold – highs in the 20s. Bleak. Sort of like Phil Connor’s later forecast – “It’s gonna be cold. It’s gonna be gray. And it’s gonna last you for the rest of your life.” It’s been like that for almost a week, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight.

Contrariwise, here’s the forecast for the same period for the summit of Big Mountain, just a few miles away:


I was up there on Saturday and Sunday, and I can assure you, it was just like that πŸ™‚ Gorgeous, sunny, blue skies – wonderful soft bumps on the backside.

When I lived in Utah, an “inversion” meant that the Salt Lake Valley was full of gooey nastiness that you could taste on your tongue. When we’d drive down from Park City through Parley’s Canyon, we could see the layer of brown cloud, usually right around the East Canyon exit.

Here in NW Montana, an inversion has the same causes, but the effects are much different. The air doesn’t go bad, you can’t smell it – and it really doesn’t last anywhere near as long. Usually only a couple of weeks.

But the nice thing about an inversion is when one goes skiing – then the view from the top is amazing:


The world becomes an ocean of cloud, with mountain islands everywhere. And, since one is above the clouds – there aren’t any clouds above you. Wonderful.

And one can ski down the front side from the sunshine, into the clouds, into the clear area below – and then ride back up the lift in the other direction. Wonderful.

I’m sort of gray and overcast myself, today – it’s my 60th birthday. I’m having to type that over and over – SIXTY. SIXTIETH. 60.

When I was a kid – or a very young adult – I bought a science fiction anthology called “2020”. In it the editor offered to buy anyone a drink if they brought a copy of the book to a particular science fiction convention in the year 2020.

I remember thinking, at the time, that when 2020 rolled around, I’d be SIXTY YEARS OLD. It was unfathomable.

Well, it still is.

I’ve had 59 years to get used to the idea of being 60. You’d think that I would have adjusted by now. But, no, I reckon I kept thinking that something or Someone would intervene and keep it from happening :)So now, here I am, turning 60. And, right now, things are foggy all around me – nothing is clear. Nothing is normal.I’d like to think that I’m riding the lift up through the clouds, and that soon, I’ll break out into the blue skies and sunshine.But I’m afraid that, no, I’m skiing down at high speed through the clouds, and when I finally break through, I’ll be down in the overcast πŸ™‚(*editor’s note – on Saturday, I was skiing fast down Big Ravine [where Ethel broke her shoulder last year] and hit 58.2 MPH. Walt at the club pointed out that I should have gone ahead and “skied my age” by hitting 59 MPH. So the next day, I hit 61.0. Maybe I should consider “downhill racer” as my new hobby πŸ™‚

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide ended their 2019 season in ugly fashion on Monday night.


It was the worst loss in the Saban era – in fact, the worst loss since at least 2004. I haven’t been able to find out exactly when the last time was that we lost a game by 28 points. I don’t have a database, and have “neither the time nor the inclination” to go digging through the Interwebs.

It wasn’t a lot of fun to watch πŸ™‚

I’ve learned how to watch football. I come from a state where folks get serious about college football. I suppose that, at one time, I might have been like that.

But I’m not serious about college football today. In fact, I dropped the seriousness soon after I got sober; had to do so, in order to be able to watch football without it affecting my serenity.

Now, there are probably folks who watch college football with me who might tell you that I AM, indeed, serious about it, but they would be mistaken.

I’m not serious. I’m earnest.

I’ve looked at the definitions, and they each seem to use the other word as a synonym. But there’s a word missing from the definitions ofΒ  “earnest” which is important to me – that word is GRAVE.

I can play volleyball earnestly without being serious about it. When I’m serious, I’m not smiling, but I’m often smiling earnestly – in fact, I’m usually doing so πŸ™‚

The difference for me involves the presences of FEAR.

In that volleyball game, I’m not afraid πŸ™‚ Whenever I am being SERIOUS, I am aware of fear – it’s the driving force behind my seriousness.

So I watch college football EARNESTLY. But not SERIOUSLY πŸ™‚

I sometimes have to take a break from watching – whenever, say, I start to think that it actually matters. At such times, I’m in danger of taking it seriously. So I have to detach to remind myself to detach. It really doesn’t matter.

It’s like a movie – I have to be invested in the story of the game as it’s going on, or I won’t care, and if I don’t care, then why watch the movie? But when the movie is over, it’s time to go on with life. Same with a football game.

Or a volleyball game.

When I’m EARNEST, I’m fully invested in the effort;Β  when I’m SERIOUS, I’m all concerned about the outcome.

Earnest is happy. Serious is unhappy.

Of course, there’s always Mitch Henessey‘s take –

“I’m always frank and earnest with women. In New York, I’m Frank, and in Chicago, I’m Ernest.”


Last year, I “ran” only 535 miles. (Most of that was actually on the elliptical; when I ellipticate, I hit a running cadence and a running heart rate. That’s as close as an injured runner can get to actual running).

Bike wasn’t spectacular, either – just over 4000 miles, which is cool, but my FTP was down about 10% from the year before. I suspect that that will work itself out, if I can avoid immobilizing knee injuries and surgeries for a while. It’s started to work its way back up.

Then there’s the swim:

100 second average pace

I do two workouts per week, generally – one that’s all 500 yard pulls with paddles and buoy, and one that’s repeats in a ladderΒ  – 200, 150, 100, 50, 25.

In the last two weeks, I’ve done my fastest-ever paced pulls, and today I hit a 1:40 average in my repeats. For me, that’s really fast.

So I can swim better than ever, and I can bike almost okay, but I can’t run.

So, we adjust.

Here’s my planned race calendar for this year:

Troika Olympic Aquabike – 31 May
IMCdA 70.3 – 30 June
Whitefish Sprint Triathlon – 21 July
IMAZ – 24 November

The Aquabike was suggested by my friend Ryan. Okay, I’m cool with that. It’s with the triathletes, but one just hits the finish line at the end of the bike. That actually sounds refreshing πŸ˜‰

The half and full Ironman distances? The plan there is to RACEWALK. Or, failing that, just to powerwalk. Currently, I’ve started adding some short racewalk after my elliptical workouts, at 13:20 pace. If I could actually do that pace for a full, that would be faster than my PR “run” in 2017.Β  So who knows?

The Sprint? Heck, I’ll hammer the swim and bike and maybe try to run. If it goes bad, there’s always time for surgery and recovery before IMAZ πŸ™‚

….Disclaimer: Ethel wants to do a staged ride this year; possibly RAGBRAI, which would supersede the Whitefish Sprint, or possibly one of the catered rides on the Natchez Trace, from Nashville to Natchez. Whatever she wants to do will certainly preempt any of my plans.

That’s the phrase that gets you there – to the place where one realizes just who’s to blame, and how badly.

Here’s a quick drawing of the moves that we’ve made since I married Ethel:


Decatur, AL, to Athens, back to Decatur, to Bisbee, AZ,Β  to Tucson, to Waterbury, VT, to Salt Lake City UT (briefly) to Park City, to Anthem, AZ and then New River just east, then back to Park City, then to Bozeman, MT, then west and north to Whitefish.

And, now, getting ready to move across the highway here in Whitefish.

I’ve always enjoyed moving around; and Kim Puckett has always said that she enjoyed it, too. Going to a new place has always been exciting – new places, new activities, new people.

However, like many things that bring enjoyment and distraction, it’s possible that I’ve become addicted to it. I may have gotten used to staying somewhere for a while, and then running off to somewhere else.

AAs talk about a “geographic cure”, and, as one of the stories in the Fourth Edition points out, there’s something to it – at least in the early stages of the illness, it seems that a major move can sort of slow the illness down or even put it on the back burner for a while. But, of course, eventually the bottle catches up with us.

Well, that’s never been an issue for me – at 108 East Texas Street in Kileen, TX, they schooled me on the Steps out of the Big Book some 12297 days ago, and the illness of alcoholism has not darkened my door since.

And it’s been a great life – “the only good life life I’ve ever known, the only easy life that’s ever been mine”. Eighteen months later I met Ethel, and it’s been wonderful ever since.

And we’ve lived in all of these cool places and done all of these cools things – and they are enjoyable, entertaining and distracting.

However, now we’re HERE, and Ethel won’t go any farther.

We thought that we were moving to Mexico earlier this year – Ethel spent the last two years pining away for the tropics, so we went down and did a lot of househunting on Cozumel, and then decided instead to buy in the Baja, because of the dogs – we can’t drive to Cozumel, and we can’t fly the dogs there, because of the temperature on the tarmac.

So we made a househunting trip to Baja California, and after a week, we had three homes, any of which would work – so we decided to wait until we got home to Montana to make our choice. A nice, mature, sensible resolve.

When we got here, Ethel said, in a very small voice, “I want to stay in Whitefish.”

So we’re staying in Whitefish, and building a house.

But, by that time, my “moving self” had already gotten used to the idea of Mexico. So I was sort ofΒ  “leaning forward” and fell over – like the top step on the stairs, in the dark, that isn’t there.

I’ve been adjusting to staying here, but, well, there are things wrong now – things wrong with me. My body is betraying me – I haven’t been able to run a step for months. Doctor says that it’s age – wear and tear on my knees. If I spend a few hours skiing the way that I want to ski, it hurts.

Work is not going well – now, it hasn’t been going well for a long, long time, but sometimes I can stay busy enough to not notice the fact that I’m not productive. That hasn’t been the case, lately.

And so I find myself wanting to run away.

Mexico would be fine – cheap enough so that I don’t have to work, and enough different things to do that I might not notice that I can’t run or ski anymore. And the “new and different” would be nice, all by itself, in that it might keep me from noticing everything that’s going wrong in my life.

But we’re not going to Mexico. And I have to keep working to build this house. And I go do workouts four to six days per week, and even if my knee doesn’t stop me, my age does. I’m not going to get better, or faster, or stronger.

And maybe I just want to run away because I’m used to always changing my life every few years, and maybe I’m now addicted to those big, expansive changes. Change is fun. And it distracts me from the things that are going wrong, or painful, or static, in my life.

But it ain’t gonna happen. And I have brought this on by all of the moves that I have made – that have given me the HABIT of moving, and that have caused Ethel to dig her heels in and refuse to go any farther.

Oh, what a mess I’ve made of things.