The Eight Days of Hanukkah – Day 2

Guilt vs. Gelt

Jewish mothers are so often satirized as being the quintessential sources of guilt. For example,

“So? 25 years I’ve raised you and you can’t yet find a nice Jewish girl and make me a grandmother?”


“No.  I’m alright.  I don’t need a sweater.  Even when I visit,  you can keep your house at 55 degrees to save energy if you like.”

My mother is nothing like that.  She’s an angel.  I mean that.   But when I was a kid, I thought there was such a thing as Hanukkah guilt. Yes, I was a confused child.   It reminds me of that Rugrats episode where the grandfather mentioned the MEANING of Hanukkah and the children thought he said the MEANY of Hanukkah.  It’s really quite a funny episode.

As a seven year old, I was keenly aware that my non-Jewish friends celebrated Christmas with trees, lights, Santa, and lots of really cool presents.  I asked Dad what gifts I might get for Hanukkah and he said, “Hanukkah gelt.”  He said GELT and I heard GUILT.  Talk about disappointment.  I was not very happy with that answer and became even more envious of my Christmas celebrating friends.

One night at dinner, Dad pulled out a wad of bills and gave it to me as my Hanukkah GELT.  First of all, let explain that two one dollar bills is like a wad if you’re seven years old in the pre-inflationary economy of the early seventies.  And second, my father spoke Yiddish;  not fluently, but enough that he could sound like Billy Crystal’s grandfather character.  And gelt, in Yiddish, means money.

Don’t forget, I’m going to somehow tie all this in with the theme of the web site which is triathlon.  But that’s for day eight.  See you tomorrow.

The Eight Days of Hanukkah – Day 1

The Jewish Festival of Lights Begins

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah for 2015.   It has very little to do with the main subject of this blog, but I can probably tie it in somehow.  I’ll do that on day 8.  That’s how many days Hanukkah lasts.

Because last night was the first night of Hanukkah, that makes today the first full day of Hanukkah which will end at sundown tonight to begin the second day of this festival.  Confused?  I am.

But I do know that I lit the candles last night.  Only one last night.  Actually it was two, but it only counts as one.   Jewish math, I guess.  And each night for the remainder of the holiday, I’ll add an additional candle until we have eight candles burning next Sunday night.  Actually, it will be nine (that Jewish math thing again).   You can bet that I’ll be doing a lot of praying for Hanukkah: praying that the house doesn’t burn down!

And if anyone asks me about the icicle lights, which look like Christmas lights, attached to the eve of my barn, I can tell them that it’s my way of celebrating the Jewish festival of lights.   I have a little more trouble explaining the red and green twinkly lights wrapped around the tree in my house.

Come back tomorrow.  I’m going to write about my least favorite part of Hanukkah.


How Many Pushups Is Too Many?

When I was a soldier, I could do 72 pushups in two minutes.  That was over 33 years ago.   Today?  Not half that number.   Most people would have trouble knocking out 10, but I am confident that most anyone who can do 5 pushups, can do 100.  That’s my goal:  100 pushups in three minutes.

It may take a while to get there, but I know what it’s like to have a goal and slowly work toward it.    If you had asked me eight years ago if I would consider racing in an Ironman, I would have dismissed the idea.  But here I am, three Ironman races later.  How did I get here? By believing I could.

I don’t know how long it will take to build up to 100 pushups.  It shouldn’t take too long, because I believe I can do it.

(This gives me a great idea for a video series!)

A Day in the Microcosm of Life

Micro What?

In a previous post, I talked about how endurance sport is a microcosm of life.  I’ve had a bit of time to think about that…

2010 NYC Triathlon
2010 NYC Triathlon

… and yep.  I still think it is, but I really should stop using the word microcosm.  If you’re not familiar with that word, you might mistake it for meaning a small orgasm and there’s nothing orgasmic about triathlon.  Not for me anyway.

New York City Here I Come

New York, New York

For the life of me, I can not get that Sinatra song out of my head.

“Start spreadin’ the news…”

And whenever I hear that song, I think of the Belmont Stakes race.  You know?  The third leg of the Triple Crown?  But that’s another story I’ll have to tell sometime.

The reason I’m singing New York, New York is because I just got into the  NYC Triathlon.  It was a lottery process, so I guess you could say that I won the NYC Triathlon (along with a couple thousand others).  There will be at least 9 of us from Wilmington going.  This is exciting.

Third Time’s a Charm

I don’t know where that saying comes from or what is so special about the number three.  The genie gives you three wishes. Three strikes and you’re out.  Three’s a crowd.  Three’s Company.  All three teeth (maybe you have to live in the rural south to get that).

This will be my third time in the NYC Triathlon, and I am excited!  It is a fun day.  You get to :

  1. Swim in the Hudson River.  After one of the races, I was chatting with some local law enforcement and they couldn’t believe that a couple thousand people voluntarily put themselves in that river. They had stories about stuff in that river that I can’t repeat here.  I can’t repeat it, because they wouldn’t tell me any good details.
  2. Bike into the Bronx on the Henry Hudson Parkway.  You don’t go near Yankee Stadium or the Bronx Zoo, but it’s an awesome bike ride and you get to see New York from a totally different perspective than what you’re used to.
  3. Run down the middle of 72nd Street.  I guess that’s not so unusual, but for the triathlon, they stop traffic at the major cross roads, including Broadway.   Actually, they only TRY to stop traffic.  My friend, Marty, got hit while he was running because a car didn’t stop.  (Marty’s OK… sort of).  NYC Triathlon Run.jpg

A Goal to Reach

I haven’t had a goal for the last couple of months.  I’ve been training just to train.  Now I have a goal and even though it’s a long way off, I’m motivated.

Other Races for 2016

The December registration for Challenge Roth is coming up.  Because that race is so close to the NYC race, I won’t try for Roth in 2016.  I do want to find an Ironman or two.  I thought about Wisconsin, but I thought too long and now the general entries are sold out.  Vineman in California’s wine country is a possibility: especially if the aid stations have wine tastings!

If I could get to the Canary Islands cheaply, I’d do Lanzarote.   Maybe Coure d’ Lane if that’s still open.  Or Beach2Battleship if they kick me off the organizing committee.  Actually, that’s not a bad idea.  Now I just have to do something devious to get kicked off!


Athletic Inspiration from Two Books

The purpose of TriRiot is to explore WHY people push themselves to their physical, mental and emotional limits through sporting events like triathlon.   Here’s a couple of books that inspire me to keep pushing to my limits.

From the Story of a Cancer Survivor

Bishop's story of beating brain cancer.
Bishop’s story of beating brain cancer.

Nobody asks for cancer.   On the other hand, have you ever heard anyone say they were grateful for having cancer?  I have.  Actually I read it.  Bryan Bishop  has experience with brain cancer.  In his book, “Shrinkage: Manhood, Marriage and the Tumor That Tried to Kill Me“,  Bishop talks about appreciation for his condition because it gave him a new and valuable perspective on life.   My interpretation is that he came away from the experience a better person.  He’s lucky, because he has lived to tell about his fight and many do not.

Bishop’s sense of humor makes this book a pleasure to read.   I found myself laughing out loud at his sarcasm and wit.  But Bishop doesn’t just give a superficial peek at what it’s like to battle brain cancer.  He gets detailed.  For some readers, he may get too detailed.  He gets into the things that really matter:  the relationships, the regrets, the fears, the bowel movements.  He even gives advice based on his experiences.

I like this book because, Bishop made me laugh.  He reminds me that even the darkest moments can yield humor.  I’m not talking about joy.  Just laughter.   The only trouble is that I have to be sure to survive the dark moments in order to look back and laugh.   In the case of triathlon, I can look back and laugh about the time I fell out of a race due to hypothermia.  But that’s a story I’ve already covered in an earlier post.

To the Story of a World Champion

Chrissie Wellington's story of being a world champion triathlete.
Chrissie Wellington’s story of being a world champion triathlete.

Chrissie Wellington, who I consider the best triathlete EVER, wrote something in her book to the effect that a great satisfaction came from knowing that she gave her all in a race.  Winning was good, but pushing herself to her limits was what it seems she wanted.  Wellington’s book, “A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey,” tells how she went from a non athletic young adult to an undefeated champion of every Ironman race she entered.   There’s plenty of detail for the reader to realize that Wellington is an ordinary person with a wonderfully positive outlook on life.  From battling internal fears and self doubt to fighting for acceptance among her peers, there are many of examples that show the human side of this superstar athlete.   Even the details of her experiences with famed triathlon coach Brett Sutton are insightful and interesting.

In my opinion, this woman is a model for all of us: not just young girls, or women, but all people who want to live a fulfilling life.  As I read her words, I could feel her energetic personality bouncing along, guiding me toward a life without limits.

I like this book, because Wellington reveals her thoughts on what makes a good endurance athlete.  For example, she tells us that in order to learn to endure boredom, we must endure boredom.  It’s so simple, it sounds silly.  However, just that piece of advice has helped me tremendously.    Basically, her message to her readers is that we need to get out of our own way and start pushing our limits.

Inspiration From Others

I often find inspiration in the words of others.  Books, blogs, movies, podcasts, poetry are all great sources of inspiration to keep going when the going gets tough.

Let me know what inspires you.

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The Endurance Event For Which No One Signs Up

First, A Disclaimer…

I think I bit off more than a I can chew with this blog post.  But you know what?  That’s fine, because I’ve got a big mouth and a small brain, so I should be able to digest any “big” ideas that drift through my head.  

OK.  I’m ready.  Let’s do this.

Looking Forward to the Race

After eight years of training and racing for triathlon, I still get excited when it comes time to sign up for a race:  especially a big race.   That moment of registration is when the race becomes a reality for me.  Before that, it’s just a dream or a fantasy.

There are other endurance events that don’t require registration:  no fees, no memberships, no applications.  I’ve often said that life is an endurance event and training for triathlon is training for life.

Not Everyone Signs Up

Those who battle a debilitating disease are in the midst of an endurance event for which they did not register.

Last Monday I visited my friends Darla and Sheldon at Cedars Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills, California.  Darla is currently battling brain cancer.   I say, “currently,” because that’s not the whole story.   She has survived skin cancer, breast cancer, an inoperable brain tumor, an operable brain tumor and now four more brain tumors.    But wait, that’s not all.

Darla and Sheldon

Last fall, Darla’s mother, Peggy,  traveled across the country to help with recovery from one of the operations.   At that time Peggy was a widow and had been for only a few months.  So the family was going through quite a bit of emotional turmoil.   Within a week of arriving at Darla and Sheldon’s house, Peggy fell ill.  Doctor’s diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer: a very advanced stage.  Caregiver became patient and passed away shortly after.

To say this has been tough on both Darla and Sheldon would be an understatement.  Yet I haven’t heard either of them complain; quite the opposite.   Sheldon’s love for Darla is endless and at the end of a long day at the hospital, he still bounces around greeting guests, helping the attendants and making sure Darla is comfortable.

The end of this story hasn’t been written.  We expect Darla to be discharged from the hospital on November 3: Sheldon’s birthday!  Then two months later she’ll be evaluated to see if treatments are working.

So What’s the Connection to Triathlon?

After visiting Darla, I realized why so many endurance events are associated with a charitable cause.  I’m thinking about Susan G. Komen 5Ks, Team In Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Walk for MS, Jerry Lewis Telethons for the MDA, and the list goes on (don’t get me started on Labor Day Telethon jokes).

For me a really challenging triathlon like Ironman Wisconsin, is, among other things,  a microcosm of a battle with a serious life or death illness.  I can already hear a few readers protesting because I’m comparing a sporting event to cancer, “How dare you trivialize my husband’s disease.”

First of all, I’m not trivializing anyone’s malady.  I would never wish to go through what I’ve seen my friends and family endure: colon cancer, non Hodgkins lymphoma, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, prostate cancer,  traumatic brain injury, drug addiction, depression, lupus, parkinson’s, emphysema, alzheimer’s.  Each one has been a difficult struggle.  Some have survived, thankfully.  Others have not.

Second,  if you’re not familiar with an Ironman, let me explain: each participant has 17 hours to complete 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running (in that order).   Muscles ache and cramp.  Food doesn’t always want to stay down.  Blisters make walking unbearable.  Despair is common.  Rational thought can become difficult.  Pain is inescapable.  You should have seen me at the South Beach Triathlon. I was so sick from the ocean swim that I was throwing up all day.  Keep in mind, this suffering is by my own choice and no where near as life threatening as a battle with ALS or pancreatic cancer.

For me the connection is clear.  A difficult race reminds me of the struggles of others.  I want them to know that, in some small way, I empathize with them.  I draw on their stories for inspiration to help me complete my journey and I hope my journey inspires them to never give up.

Dad on the basebars.
I carry my father with me in every race.

Each race I start, I do so with my many friends and relatives who have struggled with pain and uncertainty and infirmity. Sometimes I write their names on my arms. Sometimes I say a little prayer for each of them as I tread water waiting for the race to begin.  I lost my father to prostate cancer in 2010.  His picture is on the base bars of my bike.

No Fees?

Earlier, I said there are no registration fees for these types of endurance events.  That’s only partially true.  There are no fees to get MS, MD, cancer, etc.  But the costs to get out are tremendous.   Most normal families can not possibly afford the treatments, the caregivers, time away from work, etc.

In Sheldon and Darla’s case, Sheldon has been upgrading their house to make it more accessible for Darla.  Among other improvements, he’s added handrails in key locations and will purchase a special bed.

DarlaAndSheldonI have donated on their GoFundMe site and I want to do more.  You can help them too by clicking here and/or sharing their story with your friends.   You can be sure that I’ll write Darla’s name on my arm before my next big race.

At the very least, I hope Darla’s story will inspire you to think compassionately about those in your life who are enduring with their own struggles.

 Wrap It Up Already.

Like I said, I probably bit off more than I could chew with this blog post.  However, if you see me at a race you can be assured that I’ve got someone on my mind who can’t race. And I bet I won’t be the only athlete like that.


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Looking Forward to 2016

It’s been well over a month since I’ve posted anything to this blog.   I guess life has gotten a bit busy.

Looking Forward to 2016

This time of year is the off season or “out” season time.  For me, that means no more triathlons until after the new year.  It also means that I need to work on my race schedule for 2016.

I definitely want to do an ultra distance race: Ironman or not, it doesn’t matter.   I’ve already talked about how I tried to get into Challenge Roth.  There’s still a chance that I could get in that race through their December registration.   And to hedge my position, I’ve decided to register for Ironman Muskoka which will be held August 28th.

When my triathlon friend, Misty, first mentioned that race, I got hung up on the name.  Muskoka sounds like a cross between cheap mens cologne and a fancy chocolate bar.  After looking at the pictures on the race website and on Google Earth, I think that race will be a tough challenge in a beautiful venue.  And if you’re not familiar with the location, it’s just a bit north of Toronto Canada.   And as Groucho Marx famously sang…

“It’s better to live in Toronto, than to live in a place you don’t want to.”

Trust me.  That actually rhymes when you sing it.  So I’ve made one decision based on the words of a deceased comedian.   The only thing left to do is register which means I may not get in if I’m not fast enough at the computer.

Another race that I’m planning of for 2016 is NYC.  I’ve done the New York City triathlon twice before and it’s a great race.  You get to swim in the Hudson River.  Or maybe I should say you HAVE to swim in the Hudson River.  I don’t know too many people who dream of swimming in that river.  The first time I swam the Hudson, I ran into several pieces of debris lumber and many jelly fish.  But I survived.  The bike ride goes up the Henry Hudson Parkway into the Bronx and then back down to the TA at the 79th street boat basin.  The run takes you down 72nd St. through Central Park and finishes at the bandshell in the park.  How cool is THAT!

I’ll probably do several local sprint races as well.  But those three that I’ve already mentioned, NYC, Roth and Muskoka, are my main focus for 2016.

Let me know what races you’re doing.   And I hope you have a great off/out season.

Know The Course

A Few Noisy Triathletes

I think triathletes, for the most part, are a tough group.  They like the challenge and they accept the conditions on race day.  However, because I read several blogs and follow some forum posts, I know there are athletes that complain about things loudly and repeatedly.  There are those few arrogant people who feel that their “poor” race performance is the fault of race management. On the other hand, if there were no complainers, maybe the course was too easy.  That’s that statistician coming out in me.

Their Problem Is My Solution

When a race is tough or uncomfortable, I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.  I’ll only complain to race management if I feel they have violated their own rules that they publish.   Given that, I’ve never complained.  I’ve whined.  But I’ve never complained, that I can remember, to race management.  After all, if a triathlon is not difficult, you’re not doing it right.

The way I look at it is this.  If there’s a tough spot in a race, I want to know about it and I want to prepare for it.  The upcoming long course race in White Lake, North Carolina is a prime example of complainers and the rest of us.

Secrets Of White Lake’s Bike Course

ALERT!  WARNING!  I’m going to reveal a secret about the White Lake long course bike route.  For the most part, it’s pretty flat and smooth.  But I’ve heard athletes say they will never again compete at White Lake if the course remains the same.  It’s all because of a stretch of NC Highway 53.

The first 30 miles of the long course are beautiful.  You cruise along at a nice speed among beautiful trees and country side.  The only problem during that first 30 miles might be a mammoth truck full of hog or chicken carcasses that charges down the road.  A solid wall of the most foul stench hits you hard.  But that only lasts 20 seconds or so.

At about mile 36, the course turns off of NC Highway 210 and onto NC Highway 53.  And this is where everything changes.

Suddenly the road becomes choppy. There’s wind in your face and if the crotch has not become sore by mile 36, it’s about to get that way here.  Those last 20 miles are the most dreaded.

My Solution

So why do I like this course so much?  Because so few participants are ready for that rough spot.  In previous years, that 20 mile stretch is where I’ve passed other athletes the most.  All you have to do is realize that it is going to be tough and prepare for it mentally. You could also do some training on rough roads.  There are a few things you could do to make it smoother, such as:

  1. Carbon frames
  2. Cushy saddle
  3. Fully padded bike shorts
  4. Let some air out of the tires (not recommended)

But the fact is, it’s going to be rough.  And there’s not much you can do about the wind.

And one other thing you can do is conserve energy in the first 36 miles so you have something left to get you through the last 20.   But this is more a mental game than physical.

If you see me out there this weekend (9/12/15), be sure to say hi and let me know you’re ready for Hwy 53.  Just don’t slap my bottom as you fly pass me.  Leave me with a little dignity.


Filmmaking Secrets Revealed

Why I Do What I Do

Specifically, I’m referring to this BLOG:  why do I contribute to this BLOG?  The answer is simple.  It is a place to write my thoughts related to endurance sports and my philosophies on life.  If that topic is not broad enough for you, then I’m sorry.  You probably suffer from ADD.  (either that or you think I have a very shallow pool of thought)   I admit, it’s a broad topic.  And this entry may seem a bit disconnected from both endurance sport and philosophy, however, it is related.  It is related, because without filmmaking practices, I couldn’t bring you the TriRiot web show.

Filmmaking For Me

One of the reasons I produce the TriRiot web show is to practice my filmmaking skills and, as many of you have already pointed out to me,  those skills are in a state of development.  Thank you for finding a nice way to say my videos suck!  Actually, no one has said they suck. ( I’m just grasping at an opportunity for some  self deprecating  humor.)  But I do eventually want to make good quality films and what better way to learn the craft than to practice on TriRiot.

Last week, I heard about a filmmaking workshop in Charlotte.  Usually, hesitation is something I do very well.  Procrastination and I are good friends.  However, something clicked inside of me and I signed up immediately:  immediately after I obtained the appropriate authorization from work and family.

Monday night after work I drove the four hours to Charlotte, arriving at almost 2300 (that’s 11:00PM for you civilian types!).  The next morning I woke up and, without eating breakfast,  headed straight to the workshop.  That’s how excited I was to attend this gathering of like minds.

Visual Storytelling 2

I’m going to plug this workshop and do it shamelessly.  It’s called Visual Storytelling 2 by Alex Buono and I lOVED IT.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned.  I’m not George Lucas… yet.  But I sure have a better idea of how to create a style in my films and videos.

Meditating on VS2
I got a lot out of this workshop.

There was also a lot of talk about subtext and how to identify it in other films and how to create it in my own.   Alex Buono, who lead the workshop, is a DP (director of photography)  for Saturday Night Live and has worked extensively in the film industry, mostly behind the camera.

Since this website is primarily devoted to triathlon, I’ll spare the details of the workshop.   But I do want to share one humorous anecdote.  There was a point near the end when Alex was trying to stress to the audience the importance of being prolific in film BeAFactoryNotAWarehouseendeavors as opposed to spending all your time on a few works that you cling to.    He used the phrase, “Be a factory, not a warehouse.”  I don’t hear so well and I heard the words FACTORY and WHOREHOUSE in the same sentence.  For a moment, my whole view of the film industry took on a new look.

Thanks for reading and if you’re interested in filmmaking, take a look at the Visual Storytelling 2 Workshop.  You’ll learn something even if you are George Lucas.  But if you are George Lucas and you’re reading MY blog, then I’m not so sure I want to aspire to be George Lucas (that’s a bit more self deprecating humor in case it sounded too serious).