Sunday, July 29, 2007

All-Women Triathlon

Well, I did it today. I had never planned on doing more than one triathlon per year since I started doing them when I turned 50. That seems to be enough to keep me strong and healthy. But I had heard lots of great comments about this new format...a women's only triathlon of a sprint distance (400 yard swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run). Last year's participants told me it was fun, well-organized, well-mannered, and had good food! They said it was inspiring to see so many women of so many ages, sizes, and abilities setting themselves up for something new, and most are new to the sport. But interest is growing. Last year, the first year for this event in the Toledo area, there were 230 racers. This year it closed out at 350. I knew the race directors, Joyce and Jim Donaldson and their Elite Endeavor crew, had a good reputation and lots of experience in managing complicated events like a triathlon, so I had to "tri" it.
And I tried hard. I won my age group, 55-59. There were two things that I found striking. One, I never heard so many "I'm sorry" and "Excuse me" pardons in my life, and two, this Sprint distance (less than half the olympic distance I usually do) is begging me to switch over. You see, I have enough energy in reserve to brag. Do you see the photo of my trophy?
You can see the race results and more information about Elite Endeavor events at
You might get inspired and decide to try a "tri" too!

3 Little Dippers

Two girlfriends and I completed our annual "girls only" swim a couple of weeks ago. Usually the three of us swim together every Sunday in a local pool on the master's swim team. The coach directs us and the other team members how to make our free, back, and breast-strokes more efficient and powerful. We work hard for an hour with drill and speed laps, always rewarded with a relaxed body and mind for Sunday evening's weekend wind-down. We also have become much stronger and confident swimmers, propelling us in challenging events like triathlons.
But once a year the three of us want to try something different; a more unique kind of swimming experience. A night swim, to be precise....naked, to be more precise. We drop our clothes on the shore, swim 1/8 mile to the opposite shore, run back around to our stack of clothing before finding our way through the dark to the unofficial exit. We doggy-paddle so we can gaze at stars, giggle, and spurt whispered exclamations, "It's so beautiful!" "It's so quiet out here!" "Look at the Big Dipper!"
Yes, we feel playful, girlish, and skinny, like the 3 little dippers we are.
(Photos omitted: just imagine 3 little dippers smiling at one Big Dipper)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Bear of a Run

Oh, I dread the day when I have to do the long run. (See Blog title "Natural Talents") Each year I try to get one 6-mile training run in, the distance I must run in the olympic- length triathlon I challenge myself to each August. I was on vacation up-north and I decided to run around the lake. A real runner would be thrilled with this convenient,10K, out-the-door, fantastically beautiful route through the forest and along the shore on trails and dirt roads. "Alright, let's get this over with," was my bummer attitude. I checked the clock on the garage wall before I left: 8:57 a.m.
When I was 3 miles into my run, there were two trucks parked on the road and a couple of guys walking slowly in the road, looking down. I stopped to see what they were looking for. Bear Tracks! I drew a circle in the sand around some of them, with the intention of returning to get some photos. But first I had to run all the way back home, and since I was half-way around the lake, there was no short route. I ran, and fast, I think. I can hardly remember the hills, the heat, the distance. I was determined to get a photo before a car ran over the tracks. I hurried in the house to fetch my camera and a ruler, and mounted my bicycle to return as quickly as possible. I did it! See the photos! I also learned from these bear hunters much about bear behavior, diet, and habitat, and that the location for the State of Michigan record bear (32 1/8 skull size) is less than 2 miles from my house.
How long did it take me to do the 6-mile run? Does it matter? I enjoyed that run!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Early Bird Morning

I was taking the compost out before 7 a.m. this morning, when a lot of commotion stirred up just as I was passing under the tall, virgin pine on the way to the compost bin. The squirrels were chattering, the song birds squealing, the loons wailing, and then I heard that high pitch call of the eagle. No wonder! I watched the eagle as well as I could from 80 feet below and decided to get my camera, a little Sony Cyber-shot digital pocket camera. Not too hopeful about getting a good shot, but I do have one to show you. And then it flew over the lake and you can barely see it on the left side of the second photo.
It was a beautiful morning, before the sun burnt off the fog, so I took one more photo to show you what prize awaits the early bird, even on a walk to the compost bin.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No Shortcut

One summer morning while I was studying the county map of the area where our home is located in northern Michigan, it occurred to me that the Amish grocery store is directly south of our home via dirt roads. I wondered if I would be able to take this direct route, which when measured against the scale of miles on the map, would be 16 miles one way. This would save us 24 miles round trip and about $3 in gas each time we drove there. I decided to check it out on my bicycle first.
I gathered the map, compass, water bottle, energy bars and ID and headed south on my bike. The terrain was rolling through many square miles of state forest and dirt roads, but while I was on a more open section of road I was surprised by a bird attack......straight for my face.
She didn't drop to the ground until I ducked and she was 2 feet from my helmet. I had noticed 3 small birds in the roadside grasses and this adult was protecting her young rather fiercely, I thought, as a drive-by cyclist. Quickly regaining my balance and breath, I cycled another 6 miles before I had dozens of dragon-flies flitting around me. I was surrounded by woods, but understood that these insects are dependant on water and there should be a source near-by. A few hundred more feet and I could see blue through small openings in the trees. It was worth breaking and the short walk through the woods to see this uninhabited lake and more dragon-flies than I had ever seen in one location. Shortly after this lake, the road became very sandy for a long distance and it was obvious that our car would never make it. Time to turn around, return home and chalk up another fun 17 mile bike ride that I could count as a triathlon training ride. Best of all though, I was inspired to create a mantle piece resembling the ground-dwelling bird that attacked me. I do love it when even dead-ends lead to something!
(Photo Credit: Cheryl McCormick)

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Natural Talents

Running is not a fitness choice of mine , but a necessary component of a triathlon. I have chosen to do one olympic-length triathlon (1mile swim, 26 mile bike, 6 mile run) per year. This helps me to stay strong and healthy all year and also helps to avoid injury through cross-training rather than concentrating on any one repetitive activity. Besides, all the components can be done outdoors which offers more interests and healthier air.
The other day I needed to pass through a school playground to return to my car after a 4-mile training run in a local park. I decided to check out the funny- mirror, something I use to love playing with as a kid visiting county fairs. Some would make me look tall and skinny, others would make me look short and fat, and they all made me laugh. The funny-mirror in the playground was the short and fat kind and it didn't make me laugh. It made me look exactly like I felt.....heavy and tired. Distance running always does that to me.
After that embarrassing photo I can proudly ask you to view the one of me swimming across the lake up-north, something I usually look forward to even when it is chilly. I move with ease, feel light and fluid, and am always invigorated when I finish. What a joy!
Have you given yourself enough play to figure out what you are good at, and the time to enjoy it?
(Photo Credit: Cheryl McCormick, Dan McCormick)

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Inside or Out?

We have a beautiful home on one of the cleanest lakes in northern Michigan. It was built by my husband's parents in 1979 and they lived there until they passed away in 2001 and 2002. We have held on to the home but have not relocated from Toledo where we built our own home in 1982-1985.
But look at this place up-north! "Up-north" is the name we endearingly give that house 254 miles north of our Ohio home. Each room has a door-wall and tremendous views of the lake or marsh which surround the island upon which it is nestled. The front deck extends to within 15 feet of the water's edge with a wide-screen view of the setting sun.
So why do I choose to sometimes sleep in a small tent outside the house? It's closer. Closer to the sounds of the frogs, owls, loons, eagles, song birds. Closer to the unexpected night visitors...deer, coyote, beaver, mink, otter, mice, flying squirrel, bear. Closer to the smell of the minerals in the water and the sweet fern upon the land. Closer to the full-moon's amazing brilliance, the morning sun's low-angled rays, and the fog lifting from the lake. Closer to the pure air and the organic earth to which I will ultimately resign this body in a supine position anyway.
Are you suggesting that I should sleep outdoors, under the stars, tentless? Ha! My friend Peggy did that. She woke during the night to feel a soft and furry bundle cuddled in the palm of her warm hand which was tucked deep into her sleeping bag. What is cool about warm Peggy is that she slept outside and tentless again on her next visit. Peggy knows, out is in!
(Photo Credit: Cheryl McCormick)