Overcoming Panic in an Open Water Swim

The title of this post may be a bit misleading. I’m not going to directly explain how to avoid a panic attack in an open water swim. What I will do is share my experience.

Lake Nighthorse

Above Durango, Colorado there is an unlikely lake: Lake Nighthorse. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t make sense. There is no river or stream that feeds into it so someone must have been thinking outside the box when it came time to put water behind the dam. Most lakes I know of are created by damming a stream or river and flooding the upstream low lying areas. Not this lake. Water is pumped out of the Animas River 500 feet below to create and maintain the lake in which I had my second ever swim induced panic attack. The pumping of water has nothing to do with the panic attack. But the 7000 foot elevation just might.

There is nothing unusual about a lake 7000 feet above sea level. I’m sure there are lakes at much higher altitudes. The problem is that I have only been at this altitude for a little more than a week. I’m used to slightly lower altitudes… around 20 feet above sea level. The air is so much thinner up here. I’m out of breath typing this blog. Air is good. People shouldn’t compete in triathlons so far away from oxygen.

Two days ago the Durango Triathlon Club held the inaugural Nighthorse Sprint race at beautiful Lake Nighthorse. First, let me say it was a blast. Just being at a race and around other athletes was fun. It was an intimate affair of about 60 athletes and the mood was relaxed. Unfortunately for me, the competition was not. I’m used to being well above average with a fourth place finish, but there’s no reason to be upset about being last in the age group. In fact, statistically speaking, my performance was not an outlier 1) Grubb’s Test For Outliers , which means I performed at an appropriate level for my age and gender in this race. Being familiar with statistics is a great way to stay positive (or in my case, pathologically optimistic).

Now let me just say that I’m a pretty good swimmer, in the pool and in the open. One of my better swims without a current was at IRONMAN Lake Placid, 2.4 miles in an hour, ten minutes and change. Last Saturday’s swim should have been 15 minutes or less for the 750 meters. Instead, the official results say that the swim was just shy of 22 minutes2) https://thedriven.net/site/modules/step/frontend/upload/39707134589_1631710306.pdf . I panicked in the water which lead to actions not conducive to a fast swim.

LG's race results
At least T1, Bike and T2 were very fast given the hills of the course

The big question is, “Why did I panic?” Factors I know about that contribute to a mid swim freak-out include water temperature, swimming in a crowd, dark water, a tight wetsuit, and I’m sure there are others. For my particular case, I’m ruling out temperature, crowds, and dark water.

To gain an understanding of what happened, let’s look at the symptoms.

About 200 meters into the swim my heart rate shot up and I was having trouble getting enough air. Normally, breathing bilaterally every third stroke is sufficient for me until about 500 or 600 meters. However, by that 200 meter mark I was breathing every second stroke and still couldn’t get enough air. Two hundred meters ago I intentionally began the swim in an easy pace so I wouldn’t get out of breath. I knew the air was thin and wanted to swim accordingly. I’ve gotten into trouble before by starting out too strong.

After feeling the heart rate jump the only rational thing to do was slow down the pace a little. The inner talk was still positive, “You’re doing just fine. It’s only the thin air. Keep it easy and you’ll be ok.” The focus up to this point had been on swim form, high elbows, roll and stretch, activated core, etc. That changed when the wetsuit in which I was encased shrank two sizes.

Back on shore, the wetsuit felt fine. It’s a sleeveless little number with the neck split open for comfort. Of course, the suit didn’t really shrink, but it felt like it did after four minutes of swimming. Everything closed in on me. It wasn’t just my body. The face felt like it was wrapped in cellophane. Turning the head to breath gave slight relief, but facing the bottom of the lake became intolerable. Internal negative talk grew louder, “You can’t breath. You have to get out of this wetsuit.” I had tried calming my self by replaying the words of my friend, Mike, who use to say he felt comfortably cradled in his wetsuit. Thoughts like that used to work for me, but now I was falling apart. My arms slapped the water for several strokes. The legs sank. The core had deactivated. Mike’s voice faded into the void that lay beyond my tightly neoprene wrapped little world.

I did the only thing I could do… unzip the wetsuit and swim with the upper part dragging underneath me. As soon as the torso was out of the wet suit, the panic was gone and rational thought returned. I did have a few thoughts of taking off the whole suit and letting it go, but someone would find it and I’d get disqualified for abandonment of equipment.

As you can imagine, the drag of the wetsuit is the reason my swim was six minutes slower than expected. But, WOW! What a workout I got. My arms still hate me for forcing them through that situation. Rational thought began to leave again, because, at 500 meters, I was thinking to myself that I was doing quite well. I had visions of getting out of the water and hearing the spectators and volunteers and officials congratulating me for having such a good swim with such a huge handicap.

Did you see that guy? He swam the whole way with his wetsuit dragging under him. What a machine!

Obviously, no one knew what happened. Nor were there any comments about my swim. Once I stumbled out of the water, reality returned and the delusions of grandeur faded. It felt good to be on solid ground.

Nighthorse sprint swim
Even with the wetsuit dragging me at the waist, I was able to make forward movement. That red shoulder is mine. Photo credit: Chris Neal

Looking back, I think I can fix this panic thing. It’s going to take a lot of work. If qualifying for the IRONMAN World Championship is going to be my goal, then I’m likely going to have to swim about 4 kilometers in a wetsuit at some point. This panic thing has to be fixed.

Heck! I swam Lake Placid in a full sleeve wetsuit, so I know it can be fixed.

Ideas:

  • Practice more often in the wetsuit.
  • Try to recreate the panic attack in a controlled environment to better understand the causes.
  • Swim slower.
  • Meditate for focus and awareness.
  • Hypnotherapy and tons of psychotic drugs (the legal ones, of course). Maybe not this one so much.

That’s about all I’ve got. If you know of anything else that might help, please share.

Oh. By the way. I did great on the bike. My transitions were fast as usual. The run was a leisurely stroll in the park. Not because it was easy or enjoyable, but because it took a long time. The photographer even got a shot of me at the finish line.

Nighthorse Sprint 2021 finish line photo
There’s photos of me at the finish line! I’m the one in the red, white and black tri suit eating a bagel. Photo credit: Chris Neal

If they have this race again next year, I’M DOING IT.

Until next time…

References   [ + ]

#AmpersandDay

Who decides these things? How does the & get its own national day?

Yesterday Lori & I were driving into Farmington for a swim workout. For a city of roughly 40 thousand residents, Farmington has some surprisingly good swimming facilities. The main pool at the Farmington Aquatic Center is 50 meters long & 25 yards wide. Every time I go, I get a lane to myself. And at 5500 feet of elevation, I thought my lungs were going to explode in the first 100 yards of the 2050 yard workout.

So. Anyway. Lori & I were in the car and listening to satellite radio. The radio announcer announced that the nation was celebrating National Ampersand Day. “You should write a blog post about that,” Lori said.

I’m a nerd & I find the history & etiology of the ampersand interesting. But a national day to celebrate this little ligature? What is next? National Don’t-Go-To-Work-Day? What the heck, make it a month. Our nation is already suffering from a labor shortage because too many people are celebrating that one.

Let’s stick with grammatical symbols and ligatures, shall we? How about National Octothorp Day. You know the octothorp, right? It’s what social media has commandeered as the “hash-tag” (#). Some people call it the “pound sign.” Here are a couple of other suggestions:

National Question Mark Day: ?.

For the entire day, observers of this holiday will only speak and write in questions.

- How are you today, John?
- How should I be?
- Is that a trick question?
- Are you questioning my intent?
- How long can we keep up this nonsense?

American Bang Week: !

Computer programmers have a language of their own. A bang may be a loud noise to some, but us code monkeys often use it to mean an exclamation point. Alternatively, maybe the holiday should be called American Overused Punctuation Week.

- BIG SALE TODAY!!!!!
- OMG!!!!! 
- That is so awesome!!!!!!!!
- !!!!!!!!!!! (no words needed)

If one exclamation point means surprise or shock, then five consecutive exclamation points must mean…

I don’t know what it means.

At Pride Month: @

This little gem deserves an entire month. Where would email be if we didn’t have the @ symbol so neatly placed above the number 2 on our QWERTY keyboards?

What’s that you say? Email is so 2000’s?

Alrighty then. How about social media? Out of all those people waiting in line at the DMV, most are thumb-typing like mad into their mobile devices. Are they solving great world problems? No. They are tagging other people in facebook.

- In line @NC_DMV. 2 hours already!!!!!!
- After this I'm going to @FluffyPancakes for a late breakfast with @everybodysBFF. 
- Don't you just love @TriRiot? I do!!!!!

@$!#?# Festival

This one is celebrated all year long by many graduates of our fine educational institutions that failed to teach their students how to express themselves with civility, intelligence and precision. I’m not talking about everyone who drops an F-bomb or the occasional use of the present tense of shat.

I once had a professor who would cuss on occasion and make it sound like poetry. You hardly knew he was saying anything that would offend anyone. A woman I knew in college had a thick drawl (that is not a body part) and would sometimes say, “shee-it”, splitting a single syllable word right down the middle. Now that’s talent.

What makes me hang my head in sorrow for the future of literacy are those people who can’t open their mouths without @$!#?# coming out. Every other word!!!! Lori and I were at the Durango – La Plata Airport about a month ago when we witnessed a major public display of an F-bomb in action. It was more like an F-Machine gun. A would-be passenger missed his flight and was quite upset. He spewed, “F this” and “F that” and “F’n F-ity F F F”. I’m sure he noticed 10 of us standing in line, but he didn’t care if anyone was offended, because he was celebrating the festival of @$!#?#.

As long as I’m ranting, I’ll add this little bit. Have you ever noticed how so many modern comedians rely on harsh, offensive language to make people laugh? It’s pitiful. If the only laughs they can get are from that kind of language, they should switch professions; quickly.


That’s my take on National Ampersand Day. At least triathlon has a whole week to celebrate.

Until next time…

Fundraiser Update – Habitat For Humanity

The donations are rolling in.

In a recent post, I mentioned my intent to raise money for the charity, Habitat For Humanity. The 2021 Cal Tri Newport Dunes triathlon has partnered with Habitat so when registering for the race, I set up a fundraising page. To date we’ve collected over $200.

Everyone asks for money these days. Amazon.com wants my money so they can give me free shipping. The Humane Society of the U.S. wants my money so they can put farmers out of business and the National Rifle Association wants everyones’ money so their executives can have lavish meals, private air travel and expensive golf club memberships1)https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/04/politics/nra-withdraws-lawsuit-letitia-james/index.html 2)https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-new-york-attorney-general/new-york-sues-to-break-up-nra-accuses-it-of-corruption-idUSKCN2522BG.

DISCLAIMER: I do have a subscription to Amazon Prime.

So if little ‘ol me is going to capture some of those dollars flowing to charity, I have to get creative. Here’s how you and I can help Habitat for Humanity:

LG trimming horse hooves
Reaching for the hoof nippers
  1. If you have horses, I’ll trim their hooves and turn over the whole $30 fee to Habitat. 3)Through October 24, 2021. Your horses should probably live somewhere near Farmington, NM or Durango CO
  2. I’ll donate $2.00 for every comment left on this post or on the post I mentioned above.
  3. If you subscribe to this blog, I’ll donate $5.00 in your name (you can subscribe on the “About” page or email me at admin@tririot.com) 4)Blog subscription donations up to $100 until October 24, 2021
  4. If you subscribe to the TriRiot YouTube channel, I’ll donate $5.00 in your name 5)YouTube subscription donations up to $100 until October 24, 2021
  5. AND MY FAVORITE… you can donate any amount you like on the fundraiser page.
The horse handler’s view… and this is why I tuck in my shirts!

So far, I’ve trimmed four horses, acknowledged three comments and received $75 in straight donations. I’ve also made some of my own donations through a self imposed challenge. Each day I go without buying an expensive coffee to fuel my caffeine addiction, I donate a dollar to Habitat.

As far as triathlon goes, I’ve been working on a web page to calculate the effects of aerodynamic changes on the bike. Popular press articles talk about the time advantages of various position and equipment changes, but I am fairly certain we can answer those questions for ourselves using little more than a power meter, a long stretch of highway and the right computing algorithm.

Until next time…

References   [ + ]

1. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/04/politics/nra-withdraws-lawsuit-letitia-james/index.html
2. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-new-york-attorney-general/new-york-sues-to-break-up-nra-accuses-it-of-corruption-idUSKCN2522BG
3. Through October 24, 2021. Your horses should probably live somewhere near Farmington, NM or Durango CO
4. Blog subscription donations up to $100 until October 24, 2021
5. YouTube subscription donations up to $100 until October 24, 2021

Remembering One Of The Greats

On this day eighty six years ago, newspapers around the U.S. carried a story that shocked the nation. People everywhere woke up to the news that one of the most beloved Americans and one of the most celebrated aviators had died.

Will Rogers and Wiley Post perished in a plane crash near Point Barrow Alaska.

Post was known for several aviation breakthroughs including the fastest flight from Los Angeles to Chicago (9:08:02) 1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiley_Post and his solo flight around the world in 19332)Ibid. Can you imagine? Nine hours to fly from L.A. to The Windy City. We’ve come a long way in the last 90 years! But it was the passenger in Post’s pontoon plane on that foggy August day in 1935 for whom I mourn.

Does Will Rogers really need an introduction? I wish he were as widely known today as he was 86 years ago. Unfortunately, the collective memory of a nation has only so much room to hold events, dates and people. What and who do we remember? Stock market crashes, Shirley Temple, The Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt? Even Pickford and Fairbanks are hardly known in this 21st century. They were as big an item as Jen and Brad. Or is it Brad and Angelina?

Bogart and Bacall? Who? Do we at least know who Groucho Marx is?

Buildings are often named after great historical figures, government or university buildings for example. Some city streets are named after notable persons. But there is only one “Oklahoma’s Native Son” as far as I know. An entire state proudly accepts that nickname bestowed on a man who made a positive difference in peoples’ lives; not just Americans. In Ft. Worth Texas there is a coliseum named after Will Rogers and an airport in Oklahoma City carries his name.

As far as movie stars go, Will Rogers was the top box office draw of 19343)https://classicfilmguru.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/the-box-office-stars-1932-to-1939-part-1/ putting him above recognizable names like Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Bing Crosby. In 1935, the year of his death, he was second only to Shirley Temple4)Ibid. Rogers’ acting career, however, is a tiny fraction of his value to a nation with a fresh memory of the first world war and deeply entrenched in an economy that had more functioning bread lines than assembly lines.

Regular folk who worked hard only to end up out of work in the early 1930s soaked up Rogers’ words of humor, wit, and perspective with each radio broadcast, newspaper column and film. Today those same words are just as pertinent as they were almost a century ago. Cutting through the fog of oratory statesmanship and big PR campaigns came easy to this Oklahoma cowboy turned entertainer turned unofficial diplomat. His was the gift of gab: he delivered messages about everything from fashion to foreign policy that you and I and everyone could understand. Our chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank should take a lesson from Will Rogers.

“We’ll hold the distinction of being the only nation in the history of the world that ever went to the poorhouse in an automobile.”

Will Rogers, 1931. “Bacon, Beans and Limousines” radio broadcast
Bacon, Beans and Limousines

Not a single politician with lofty ideals and big plans could escape the humor and wit that Americans loved to read each day in the papers. As early as December 1922, The New York Times began publishing some of the most famous ramblings which continued until that tragic August day in 1935. But if this humorist’s words poked at prominent men of the day, the poking was done with a finger and a smile. No harm was meant to anyone.

Where are those words today?

They’re around. Here and there. Mostly dim and twisted echos of what they were. Often not attributed to the Cowboy Philosopher who gave hope to the common folk of America. Oh Sure. Recordings are out there and volumes of his writings can be found if you know where to look. But the major cultural influence that was Will Rogers was laid to rest with the man who died in that plane crash. America was changing fast.

Dust was everywhere in the middle of the country. Farmers throughout the nation unhitched their mules and headed for better lives in the cities. Then that date which will live in infamy came and pulled the U.S. into another world war. Science quickly spread its objective form of democracy throughout the land and became the new savior of all things outside Sunday mass and the Sabbath. The honest and plain spoken words of a well traveled cowboy from Oologa, Oklahoma lost favor to political divisiveness, educated oratory and scientific explanation. That’s just my opinion. Nothing more.

I wonder how the junior tyrant senator from Wisconsin would have taken the words of America’s Cowboy Philosopher. Would McCarthyism have branded the beloved hero more red than white or blue?

Today, we don’t have anyone like Will Rogers to uplift us. Instead, we have politicians who lie to us and hide their real agendas from us. We have comedians who spew filthy language as a proxy for humor. We have self help gurus who want us to be the best version of ourselves possible… or so they say. We have fake news.

But hey. We have Dr. Phil. We should be fine, right?

Maybe this year, or the next, I will take a trip to the memorial in Claremore Oklahoma to see if the tale is true. To see if he will be sitting there proudly reading his own epitaph.

Until next time…

References   [ + ]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiley_Post
2, 4. Ibid
3. https://classicfilmguru.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/the-box-office-stars-1932-to-1939-part-1/

Fund Raising and Endurance Events

On October 31 of this year (2021) I will participate in the Cal Tri Newport Dunes Sprint triathlon. That particular race has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and I want to help raise money for the cause.

Here’s The Pitch

Click here to donate on my fundraiser page

Not so long ago, Hurricane Florence introduced herself to Southeast North Carolina.  She came bearing gifts: five feet of water on my property.  For an entire year, my family and I lived in FEMA trailers.   We were lucky.  While spending the first night after evacuation in a shelter,  I realized that so many of the other evacuees had it much worse than we did.  We had a home (damaged and condemned but repairable) to return to when the waters receded.  Many had nothing.  

Did I feel guilt?  No.  I felt a sense of responsibility and a desire to make life better.  

Please join me in support of Habitat For Humanity

  1. They help people build their own houses. 
  2. They revitalize neighborhoods. 
  3. They help older adults age in place.  

You don’t even have to spend any money. Keep reading.   

Skin In The Game

And I’m not just asking for handouts. I’m putting some skin in the game.

Do you have horses? I will trim their hooves and donate 100% of the fee to Habitat up to October 24, 2021. Details are on the fundraising page. Unfortunately, my tools are at the ranch headquarters in New Mexico so your horses need to live near Farmington, NM or Durango, CO.

If your horses are too far away, let’s do a virtual trim. You donate $30, I pretend to trim your horse’s hooves and everyone’s happy. If you’re not ready to donate the full $30 trim fee, then consider donating $5 and you can pretend to trim my horse’s hooves.

Click here to donate on my fundraiser page

Also each day that I don’t eat a donut or drink expensive coffee between August 15 and September 30, I’ll put in $1 toward my $300 goal. As if that’s not enough, for every distinct person who comments on this blog post between the same dates, I’ll donate $2 in their name (up to $100)1)Don’t worry. If you have to provide an email address to comment, I promise not to sell it or use it to build a mega database of contacts for marketing my… Nevermind. I don’t really market anything, so you have nothing to worry about. 🙂 . You can say whatever you want about anything (just keep it clean please).

Share The Love

If you know someone who might be interested in helping Habitat for Humanity, please share this post with them. Maybe you know a horse owner that needs a farrier. Perhaps you know someone who can leave a comment.

Thank You

Until next time…

References   [ + ]

1. Don’t worry. If you have to provide an email address to comment, I promise not to sell it or use it to build a mega database of contacts for marketing my… Nevermind. I don’t really market anything, so you have nothing to worry about. 🙂

The Apps Of Adventure

Today is a travel day. I know this because my TrainingPeaks calendar tells me so. I also know it because I’m traveling.

“What is TrainingPeaks?”, you ask. It is a service that schedules workouts and records progress toward big athletic goals such as marathons, triathlons and travel days. Like everything else in the 21st century, it is on line. It is an “app”.

A partial view of my TrainingPeaks calendar for the week

An App For Everything

Since when did our lives get reduced to an app?

Life, version 1.01.

Renting a car? Use an app. Need directions to the car rental place? Use an app. Hungry? Use an app. Lonely? There’s an app for that too so I am told.

Today’s travel takes me though Phoenix’s Sky Harbour Airport with a four hour layover. And four hours in Phoenix Arizona is a mini adventure just waiting to happen.

The key to a layover adventure (layoventure?), is transportation. Public transportation in some cities is very good. Unfortunately, Phoenix is not one of those cities, so the only option is to rent a car or know someone. Knowing someone, or several someones in my case, is not a problem here, but last minute announcements of, “Hey, I’m in the airport. Pick me up. I’ll buy lunch,” just doesn’t feel right. Thus my reliance on apps. Sometimes I feel like apps take away our humanity, buy I have nothing against apps and smartphones, because today’s layoventure was powered by a car reservation app, a GPS navigation app, and a scooter rental app.

I almost forgot to mention… the selfie camera app.

A Little Adventure

Do you have any idea what happened to rental car prices? That’s not a rhetorical quesiton. I’m really asking, because last year I could rent a car for $29.90/day without a discount. Today’s rental (for two hours) cost $54 after discounts and before taxes.

Between landing in Phoenix and arriveing at the gate at 7:20AM, I was able to reserve the car using an app.

By 7:50AM I was driving down the 202 expressway toward the Henhouse Cafe guided by a trusty GPS app. I hadn’t been to the Dobson Road location of the Henhouse before, so I needed the guidance.

The Dobson Road location of the Henhouse Cafe

After arriving at the Henhouse, however, I was app free. No app was needed to order a pancake and two eggs over easy. Actually, I take that back. I did use the messaging app to let Lori know that I was about to eat the biggest pancake ever. To finish just one Henhouse Cafe pancake requires more than an appetite. It requires the gastric storage space of the three Johns combined (John Candy, John Belushi and John Pinette).

Huge pancake… singular. Cant finish one.

For me, the Henhouse Cafe itself is not an adventure like The Real Milk and Honey was in College Park, Georgia. Instead it’s a great place get a reliably good local meal and soak up a bit of the environment I used to enjoy with my wife’s family when they lived here. And although my visits to this restaurant are bordering on predictable, even today’s visit had something new. I met one of the owners, Cole, and had a short, but pleasant conversation about the origins of the restaurant.

Back on the road in the overpriced rental car, the adventure was just beginning. Destination: Tempe Beach Park. For a couple of months I have been intrigued by the concept of electric scooters that can be rented ad hoc. The concept is simple. A company places scooters around a metropolitan area in strategic locations. Pedestrians with the appropriate app can ride the scooters within an invisible boundary. Once they ride outside the boundary, the scooter shuts off. When said pedestrians have tired of riding said scooters, they can dismount and leave the scooters profectus in loco. The app I downloaded for this adventure is called BIRD. Or maybe that’s the name of the company that makes the scooters. Not sure, but I did know where to find some BIRD scooters.

The old mill in Tempe is quite a landmark: a dilapidated icon of Tempe’s agricultural roots among shiny new corporate buildings and a trendy university environment. Maybe the city forgot to demolish it. Or maybe a wealthy patron is waiting for the right time to turn it into the latest attraction to bring tourists to this hip Arizona city. Whatever it’s fate, it has hardly changed in the last 35 or more years while the steakhouse that used to be across the street is just a memory. Or maybe my memory is faulty and the steakhouse was somewhere else.

Overpriced rental car (ORC) and I parked in front of the spot where I thought the steak house existed. We parked in that spot not for sentimental reasons, but because that’s where I saw the scooter. No app needed to identify the rays of heavenly light emanating from that two wheeled little object of my desire illegally parked on the sidewalk. At that point in time, however, I did not know it was illegally parked. But there I was, face to face with my latest adventure and an economic decision.

A Lesson In Economics

Renting a rectangle of pavement along Old Mill Avenue in Tempe costs $1.50 for 45 minutes. Renting a scooter costs $0.39 for one minute. By that math, the parking spot is a better deal. But the rules of math and Return on Investment fall apart when adventure is at stake. Economics is not about money. It’s about why we do what we do. Download the apps, pay the money and enjoy life for a few moments. Net worth on the balance sheet might drop and the P&L might bleed red, but the heart will beat a happier tune and as long as the memory lasts, you will have that: a mental video to relive the excitement.

Car parked and meter fed, I was free to explore this new (to me) technology/concept of the ad hoc scooter system. Phone in hand. App loaded.

Now what?

How the hell do I make this magic carpet on wheels work? Ah! QR code on the handles. Scan it with the phone. Done.

Now what?

Pressing the throttle does nothing. Try pushing off with one foot. You know… get it going and then press the throttle. Nothing.

The app on the phone is quietly yelling at me: a warning. The scooter is out of bounds.

Huh?

That’s when I realized it was illegally parked on the sidewalk. Walking it across the street produced the same results: nothing. Maybe that one was defective.

All this time, the meters were ticking: the parking meter AND the scooter meter. I was being charged for pushing a scooter across the street. The parking spot was looking like a much much better deal, but I persisted.

In times like this I ask myself, “What would Casey Neistat do?”

Success Is Sweet

Tempe Beach Park is a short, two block stroll from the mill and the ghost steakhouse where Overpriced Rental Car was safely parked. Surely there would be a working scooter in the park. Sure enough, at the entrance to the park, the law of averages was on my side. There was an entire herd of BIRD scooters parked there and with so many to choose from, I could logically expect one to work. Then, as Marty Robins so famously sang,

“I picked a good one, it looked like it could run.”

Im certainly not going to choose the one lying down on the job!

After 57 years doing stupid things, I am pretty good at feeling stupid. Some college graduate sitting in a cubicle in Silicon Valley is probably getting paid big bucks to write the instructions for riding BIRD scooters. So hey! If she’s putting in all that effort to write the instructions, the least I can do is read them.

I read the instructions. I followed the instructions. And Viola! I felt stupid again for the umteenth time.

If feeling stupid was required to achieve success, then so be it. Feeling stupid was nothing compared to the joy of cruising down a section of the IRONMAN Arizona run course at 10 miles per hour on two wheels of magic. That’s when the selfie app came in. But let me warn you. If you rent one of these steeds, keep both hands on the reins. I’m pretty good at the “Look, Ma. No hands” trick yet we got a bit wobbly when I just used one hand.

What a fun way to get around.

Now I’m wondering how long BIRD scooters can be ridden before the battery dies. At $0.39 per minute I probably won’t find out.

And thank God I didn’t have to walk much, because my legs were shot from yesterday’s bike workout. That workout, by the way, was facilitated by an app (appropriately named Sufferfest) and recorded in the TrainingPeaks app.

Without all these apps, my layoventure would have just been a four hour layover in the Phoenix Sky Harbour airport. Gosh! That sounds exciting, right?

Until next time…

The Injured Athlete

My left hand is out of commission for a while.

No matter who you are, riding a bike comes with risk. It is not necessarily risky, but there is a level of risk. Is that clear? Or have I just contradicted myself?

Mountain biking is a big deal out here. And by “out here” I mean Northwest New Mexico. It’s a big deal for me, because I don’t yet trust the paved road in front of my house. If the drivers here believe they are obeying the 35 mile per hour speed limit, they’re using a different math than what I was taught in school. So I do most of my riding on the dirt roads that connect the gas and oil wells of this rugged desert.

The New Mexico high desert
The desert behind my house is a great training ground

After a long day of work in front of a computer, it’s nice to get out and ride the bike. I consider myself a novice mountain biker with more guts than brains, but risky is not a precise adjective to describe this noun (me). Risk, yes. Risky, no.

Risk can be calculated, estimated or assumed. It can be measured. It can be mitigated. It can be minimized. It can also be managed. Managing risk is managing uncertainty. Risk is inherent in every decision. You can’t escape it.

On the other hand, risky describes behavior that knows nothing of risk. Risky decisions are based on hope and emotion. Nothing is measured, nothing is calculated. Because of bravado, arrogance or ignorance the novice mountain biker rides too fast on equipment not designed for speed. The same novice takes sharp turns and descends steep hills on tires that are not meant for either. And ruts in the dirt road? They are meant to be jumped at every opportunity.

Risky Behavior

There is, however, a point where risk meets risky. Sometimes it takes a calculated risk to push beyond limits that confine an athlete’s performance. There are those rare occasions where undisciplined, risky behavior actually results in a breakthrough, either during training or during the heat of competition. Today, there were no major breakthroughs, no pushing the limits. Just a risky miscalculation.

The fact is that rutted dirt roads are my training grounds when I’m at home in New Mexico. And, for some reason, the ruts call to me: the Sirens of the well traveled desert. Had Odysseus ridden a dirt bike I’m sure he would have done the same and jumped every rut and gully in the path. After crossing dozens of such obstacles, I met my match: the rut that wouldn’t be jumped… by this novice. I was going too slow and this rut was wider than others I had been easily flying over. The front tire landed inside the rut and I flew like a an anvil in a Warner Brother’s cartoon. The left wrist absorbed the shock.

A Miscalculated Risk

What followed was the usual denial: It’s not broken, it will be fine in a day or two. How the hell would I know? I’ve never had a broken bone in my life which is really quite amazing considering all the crazy stuff I’ve done. All I really knew was the pain. It was 8.63 on the ten point scale. How I got home is a story in itself. Suffice it to say that I rode the bike with one hand.

Sleep was almost impossible and the next morning Lori insisted that she take me to a walk-in clinic. I was still in denial, but agreed to take the time off work because typing computer code with one hand is not so productive. The first clinic was too crowded. The second clinic wanted to see my COVID vaccination card which I left at home. At that point, a trip to the ER was not on the radar. We just didn’t think about going to the hospital. At least I didn’t.

A Risk Worth Taking

Schedules can be altered for medical emergencies, but I was insistent that Lori make her appointment to help Gretchen with a horse that was having minor surgery. Because we didn’t get in to see a doctor, we ended up seeing a veterinarian. After the surgery, Lori arranged for the veterinarian to take X-Rays of my wrist. We knew the veterinarian could not make a medical diagnosis, but we’ve seen enough x-rays of horse hooves to know when there is a problem. Horse hooves. Human hands. How different can they be?

Wrist radiograph
Lori arranged to get X-Rays of my wrist from the veterinarian

The films didn’t show any obvious signs of damage, but did hint that there could be some abnormalities. It definitely put us at ease because there were no obvious fractures, but the hint of an abnormality was a bit disturbing.

Long story short: The hospital in Durango was not so far way so we went there for a human diagnosis. No broken bones. No dislocations.

A magazine makes a good splint to stabilize the wrist for running.

A torn ligament is still a possibility, but not likely, because the wrist feels so much better three days post incident. There is still some pain and I won’t be swimming or seriously biking for about a week. Oh sure. I can sit up on the bike in the house and spin, but not with intensity.


But I can run and I can type.

Until next time…

Beyond The Comfort Zone

DISCLAIMER

There is little mention of triathlon in this post. In fact, it’s somewhat about breakfast and airline travel and authenticity. It’s not that breakfast is terribly exciting or noteworthy. The real purpose of this post is to share an experience I recently had which could inspire others to enjoy the richness of life beyond the comfort zone.

Layovers

Have you ever been to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport? It is big. It is busy. And it is no place to spend the better part of a day.

I cant even see the TSA security check point from here!

Actually, no airport is a good hang out place. Of course, many travelers do hang out there for hours at a time, eating crappy food and listening to flight announcements. But you and your friends don’t sit around the house saying, “What should we do today?” and hear the reply, “Let’s go to the airport and hang out.” Therefore, I am offering you a cure for the long layover.

Sky Harbor Airport. Phoenix, Arizona

Ginormous pancakes at Henhouse Cafe.

I came face to face with a five hour layover two weeks ago in Phoenix. Life is too short to waste it in an airport so thirty minutes after landing I was behind the wheel of a cheap rental car and on my way to the “Town of” Gilbert, Arizona. The Henhouse Cafe was the destination because that’s where they say, “The Rooster May Crow But The Hen Delivers.” And boy… do they deliver! Amazing pancakes. Huge too.

After laying flowers at family gravestones and reminiscing at the starting line of IRONMAN Arizona, I returned the car and slipped back through airport security in plenty of time to catch the connecting flight.

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Atlanta, Georgia

As for this current layover, the long walk through the underground corridor from concourse C could have been avoided because the airport provides train service between the concourses and the terminal. But I am a triathlete. Can I really go a whole day without claiming a workout? Besides, sitting on an airplane for long periods charges the batteries of the leg muscles . That’s why you see people walking so fast in airports (just my hypothesis, don’t quote me on that).

Breakfast

There’s no need to rent a car at this airport, because Atlanta’s light rail system has a station next to baggage claim and one station away is the community of College Park. Earlier in the week I found an online review of a restaurant called The Real Milk and Honey in that town and the description was enough to catch my interest.

College Park, Georgia

Let’s spare the details of how I arrived at The Real Milk and Honey, because the train ride from the airport and the walk through downtown to the restaurant were very short.

One thing that seems clear in our modern economy is that some eating establishments try to be something they are not. They design their atmospheres to make you believe you are somewhere else like a cattle station in the Australian Outback or a quaint country store hidden deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And the reality is that you are eating a meal in a corporate business model located along side Interstate Highway 40 in a town with a name you can’t remember.

On the other hand, the decor of The Real Milk and Honey felt like an organic extension of the owners and their community. Instead of feeling like a customer, I felt like a guest at someone’s kitchen. The blueberry waffle with a side of bacon was good, but if we focus on the food, then we are missing the point of this adventure. It was the whole experience in that environment that was so delicious and memorable.

Inside The Real Milk and Honey. Liquor and waffles. Is that a winning combination or what?

Authenticity

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that corporate model of designing an experience, but it does lack authenticity.

There is a passage in Robert Pirsig’s novel, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where Pirsig describes visiting a national park. He mentions that all the signs pointing to the natural features and attractions take away from the experience of their visit. It is a suggestion that being told what is authentic is not nearly as desirable as finding authenticity on your own.

To attempt a definition of authenticity would require an entire blog post. Instead, let’s assume we all know what it is. Finding that which is authentic requires a bit of adventure. It requires you to explore beyond the comfort zone.

Until next time…

Another Year In The Saddle

Fifty seven years in the rear view mirror. If experiences were pages in a book, the book of LG would be thicker than the dictionary at the back of a 1973 4th grade classroom. Although much more interesting, it may not attract many more readers.

What is out the windshield is far more exciting anyway. Always has been. In a 2018 interview with Bob Babbitt, Scott Tinley warns listeners to be careful of nostalgia. The good old days weren’t all that much better than these modern days. Some things do improve over time.

It is perception that makes us believe the best is behind us. Daily routines of the present are perceived as dull so the mind fabricates a glorious fantasy world that suggests salvation is so close as to be reinvented from our past triumphs. Only rarely is a glorious experience truly appreciated for what it is and then locked away in memory for recall when times get dull.

Proof? Is proof really needed to make this point? Mobile devices in the hands of airline passengers are far more interesting than the other humans on board. Empty minds search for entertainment to fill dull moments because it is easier to suck up the electromagnetic waves from a handheld device than it is to say, “Hi. You traveling for business?”

Just as mobile devices distract from the present situation so does the past which is more interesting to talk about when times get dull or difficult.

Fifty seven years in the saddle, but that’s not so important. There’s a whole world right here and right now. There’s also so much ahead. The next 57 are going to be the best ever.

Untill next time…

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