Friday, April 30, 2010


                     Nicole                     Stephen                     Christie

Last week I was invited to be a guest blogger by Tamara Linse on her blog:  Tamara Linse - Writer, Cogitator, Recovering Ranch Girl .  She asked me to do a piece on how triathlon training complemented my writing efforts.  The following was posted on her blog earlier this week and I thought it was an appropriate reminder as I get ready for my first half-marathon tomorrow in Packerland.

I was honored earlier this week when Tamara invited me to be one of her “Cool Person Guest Bloggers.” I’m definitely a cool person. One of my daughters once told her mom that “even Dad is cooler than you,” which is pretty solid evidence, I think. However, just to be safe, I’m completing my guest assignment before Tamara has second thoughts.

In my blog, “Do Not Go Gentle,” I chronicle my efforts to become an age-group competitive triathlete and a writer. While the activities have obvious differences, the endeavors do complement each other and my triathlon experience has helped me to develop as a writer.

Five years ago, on a whim, I signed up for a sprint triathlon (400 yards in a pool, 12 mile bike ride, 3.1 mile run). I figured it wouldn’t be that difficult as I knew how to swim, bike and run. I just hadn’t ever had any reason to do all three at once. It does make a difference. As Donald Rumsfeld liked to say, there are things we know we don’t know and then there are those things that we don’t know we don’t know. Before my first triathlon I didn’t know there was such a thing as a triathlon suit so after my swim, I changed from my soggy swimsuit to running shorts in the, fortunately not very populated, transition area.

Not knowing anything is a big advantage when you’re getting started. Ignorance allowed me to enter the race and by the time I finished I was exhausted, but hooked. Started reading about the sport – learned important stuff such as don’t wear socks and don’t bother drying off after the swim and use shoelaces you don’t have to tie.

All on my own, I improved. In my second year I finished in the top three for my age group in all my races and even took a first in one of the smaller local sprints. Of course I’m in the 55 to 59 year age group so there are only a few survivors still competing.

Three years ago I decided to try an Olympic distance race (.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). I signed up for the Chicago Accenture Triathlon – the largest triathlon in the country with over seven thousand participants. Swimming was my weakest event. The sprints all took place in rec center swimming pools. The Accenture was nearly a mile in Lake Michigan. I bought a wetsuit and decided I should probably try it out before the race. So one morning I got up early and drove to the lake. The waves were a foot high so I went home. The next day it was calm, but then I discovered I needed someone to help me zip my wetsuit. I recruited an early morning jogger to help me and was able to get one practice swim in before the race.

The open water swim was a learning experience. I learned I should have waited for everyone to start so they didn’t all have to swim over the top of me. And I learned a mile is a long distance to swim. I was so happy to survive the swim that I got on my bike and start pedaling like it was a five mile race. And I had a really good time for the first five miles, but unfortunately the course went on for another twenty miles.

It was noon by the time I started the run. It was hot and I wasn’t prepared to run six miles after a long bike ride. It took me over three hours to finish the race, almost an hour longer than the top finishers in my age group.

After the race I thought about what I needed to do become competitive and realized I had no idea. So I hired a coach. Craig Strong (Precision Multisport) happened to be the instructor for the Masters swim class at the Evanston Y. With Craig’s guidance I’ve learned how to train, upgraded my equipment, even started to pay attention to nutritional needs. This March I took a 3rd place in the Lake Havasu Triathlon and later this summer I plan to compete in my first Half-Ironman triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 52 mile bike, 13.2 mile run).

My writing career has followed a similar arc. Six years ago on a whim I took a writing course at the University of Chicago’s Writer’s Studio. I’d always had a vague desire to be a writer, but needed a push. After the first course, I was encouraged enough to take another course and then another. That summer I went to the Iowa Writer’s Festival for a week and a year later to Tin House (where I met Tamara). This year I plan to attend the New York State Writers Institue at Skidmore and I won a scholarship to the Norman Mailer Writers Colony in Cape Cod . That should be fun.

As it was with triathlons, when I started I was benevolently ignorant. After that first year I thought I was ready to write a novel, and I did. Four years later, I’m still writing that novel. I guess I’m not going to be an overnight success.

But like training for a race or raising kids, the reward is in the journey.

Christie                     Stephen                   Nicole               

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cheesehead Marathon - Kenosha, Wisconsin - May 1st

Packers Fan

Okay, it’s actually the Wisconsin Marathon , but apparently if I was willing to wear some cheese-oriented apparel I could race for free. I’m thinking of buying a Bears jersey, maybe the Urlacher one. I hear they love the Bears up there in Wisconsin.

I’m going to compete in the half-marathon, not the marathon. I’ve never raced at that distance before. Later this year, I’m going to compete in two half-Ironmans:  Musselman Triathlon in Geneva, New York on July 11 and then Steelhead 70.3 Triathlon in Benton Harbor, Michigan on July 31. I'll have to run the half-marathon for those events so this race will be a good test.

I’ve had a couple of 12 mile runs in recent weeks so I’m confident I can do the distance, but hoping I can sustain a decent pace. My goal is to complete the race in 1 hour 45 minutes, which is an 8 minute per mile pace.

Week:    3/21     3/28     4/4     4/11    4/18     4/25
Weight     185      188     186     186    186      186
Swim        1.0       1.0      3.2      3.1      2.2       4.2
Bike         2.0        2.5     2.4       4.4      4.1       2.5
Run         1.0         3.3     4.0       4.8       4.1      3.0
Strength   1.0         1.0    1.0                   1.0
Chiro       1.0                                                     1.0
Basketball 2.0       2.0     2.0                  1.0       2.0 
Massage                                                 1.0      1.0
Race        3.0

Total       7.0        9.8     10.6     15.3    13.4     13.7 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Panty Lines and the Bush Doctrine

From time to time I am posting some of my flash fiction pieces which have been published, but are not available on line. This story was originally published in Bannock Street Books last year.  It is inspired by the years I spent in Phoenix in the engine remanufacturing business.  It would probably be considered "R" rated, meaning I fixed some of the language when I read it to Mom.

Panty Lines and the Bush Doctrine

Quigley’s upset. I can tell by the way his face is scrunched. Or maybe he’s confused. Hard to tell with Quigley, but he’s usually not confused. Not many grey areas in his universe.

As I head towards the corner-booth where he’s wedged, I consider the possibilities. Accounting might have challenged his expense report – that always sets him off. Or perhaps it’s because our waitperson’s a guy – he does like the ladies. Or maybe he’s still bitter about the City Council’s ban on smoking. It’s been six months, but Quig doesn’t let go easily.

“How’s it going?” I ask.

Quig’s hand dwarfs the bacon-double-cheeseburger he’s shoveling into his mouth.

“Couldn’t wait,” he says. “Here’s your salad.” Slides the plate to my side. “That shit’ll kill you.”

He finishes his burger, cracks his neck. Stares out the window. “Got email from Ralphie,” he says.

Ralph’s retired. Cruises the net for good porn to share. Family man – no hardcore stuff. Likes women with large breasts. Last week a naked gal driving a Beemer down I-94.

“Convertible gal?”

“No. This is a video.”

“Not that patriotic bullshit again?” I ask. After 9-11, Ralphie went all red-state. Started sending slideshows of marching bands, flags, parades. America the Beautiful as background music. I’m as god-fearing country-loving commie-arab-hating as the next guy, but that stuff gets old. Took awhile, but by the time we marched into Iraq, Ralphie was back to sending tit pics.

“This was a weather-girl video,” Quig says.


He shakes his head, turns sideways trying to get comfortable. “Chick’s some hotshot weather-person. Got on a tight-fitting dress that clings to her boobs.” The server comes over and fills Quig’s water glass. He’s a guy so Quigley doesn’t bother flirting. “She’s doing her weather thing, hi-low temps, five-day forecast, the usual. When she’s done, the news-anchor invites her to sit down for some happy-talk bullshit. Camera zooms in.”


“Like instant replay.”

“Got it. Zooms.”

“She sits down and I swear to god she’s not wearing panties. Un-fucking believable.”

I swear Quigley’s blushing.

“Do you think she forget them?” he asks.

“Maybe the panty line thing?” I suggest.

“Exactly.” He slaps the table, rattling his ice glass. “She figured, this dress makes my ass look great. Don’t want some panty line ruining my look. Exactly what happened to Bush in Iraq.”

I stare at him.

“Bush had the right idea,” he says. “Looked good on paper. Take out Saddam, show Bin Laden we can fuck him up. But he didn’t think it through. Didn’t figure on those goddamn Sunnis and Shiites getting into it.”

He pauses. This is where he would have lit a cigarette.

“Weather-gal looked great moving that high pressure around the map, but she hadn’t planned on a sitdown with the anchor. Didn’t expect them to have a camera filming at pussy level. Didn’t consider all the possibilities.” He pokes the table with every word.

“You’re right,” I say. “Exactly like Bush.”

Quigley nods. Pushes the bill to my side. Squeezes out of the booth.

“Know what scares me?” he asks.

I shake my head.

“A thousand weather-girls out there and nine hundred and ninety-nine are wearing panties. Every goddamn day. So how does this girl get caught?”

“Unlucky I guess.”

“Hah!” he says. Gives me a look like I’m a salad-eating wienie with no idea how the world works. “They’re watching us.”

“They are?” I ask.

“Every move we make my friend.”

And with that he grabs his keys, heads to the exit. When he gets to the door he turns and points to the security camera.

He mouths the words: “Every move.”


Monday, April 12, 2010

Training April 5 to April 11


Three weeks until the Wisconsin Half-Marathon. Sunday I ran 11.2 miles in the morning and played basketball for two hours in the evening. I wasn't very good - but I survived. My left foot gets sore about an hour in to my run and my right hamstring doesn't feel quite right, but no serious problems. I've had treatment from Dr. Tony Breitbach The Wellness Revolution and today I had a massage from Arawa McClendon ( and she concentrated on the problem areas.

I'm hoping to complete the race in something less than an hour and fifty mintues - I'd like to average close to 8 minute miles - and I should be able to, if the hamstring doesn't flare up. That's my goal anyway.

Week:              3/21           3/28           4/4         4/11
Weight              185.5         188.0        186.6      185.9

Swim                  1.0            1.0              3.2          3.1
Bike                   2.0            2.5              2.4          4.4
Run                    1.0            3.3              4.0          4.8
Strength             1.0            1.0              1.0
Chiro                                                                    1.0
Basketball                           2.0                             2.0
Race                  3.0

Total Hours      7.0           9.8           10.6          15.3

Friday, April 9, 2010

Norman Mailer Writers Colony

Last month after I learned I wasn’t accepted for the Sewanee Writer’s Conference (see blog post, “Disappointed, Not Discouraged – March 14, 2010”) I looked for alternative conferences to attend.

Reading through Poets & Writers magazine I saw an ad for the Norman Mailer Writers Colony. I checked out their website and it really seemed too good to be true:

• great location in Provincetown, Massachusetts (Cape Cod area)

• small group setting – only seven attendees per workshop;

• great rooms - everyone stays at Mailer’s Provincetown estate

• no tuition or board if you’re accepted;

The last part was hard to believe. Most of the conferences cost over two grand. It cost $20 to apply, so I figured it was like buying a lottery ticket for a chance to win a really cool summer vacation.

I filled out the application, sent them my writing sample, and forgot about it. Yesterday I got an email telling me I had been awarded a scholarship to attend the weeklong seminar I had applied for, Fiction: The Protagonists, which will be hosted by Marita Golden who has written the memoir “Affairs of the Heart” and whose novel “AFTER” received the Fiction Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

I will be attending from August 8 to August 15. It should be fun.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Riding a Greyhound Bus into the New World

I noticed a couple of days ago that the link to my short story, "Riding a Greyhound Bus into the New World" did not contain the entire story. I also realized that some of the links are not to the story, but to the publisher's website. Over the next few weeks, to break up the excitement of my training logs, I am going to post those stories here on the blog. 

I decided as an experiment to try and video me reading a story, using my never-before-used webcam.  After attempting this for over an hour, I have a much much greater appreciation for those folks who read stuff in front of camera. Very difficult. You can't go back and correct mistakes like we can do in the writing world. I gave up after six takes.

I made the font on the story really large so I could read it without my glasses, and I tried to look into the camera but I kept losing my place. Also I don't think my nose is as big or my eyebrows as browy as they appear in this video. I blame the camera. And I don't like how that arrow is pasted over my mouth:

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Training Update


It has been two weeks since the Lake Havasu Race.  My next race is the Wisconsin Half-Marathon on May 1. This is a run, not a triathlon and it will be the first time I've attempted that distance. The last two Sundays I've run 10 miles at a pace around nine minutes per mile. I'm hoping  I can run closer to an 8 minute pace for the race. 

Weather is turning warm in Chicago so it should be easier to complete the planned activities like bike rides. Last two Saturdays, I've cut my ride short - two weeks ago because it was 40 degrees out and my hands started to ache, and yesterday an hour into the ride it started to rain and the temperature had dropped from 70 to 50. I guess Phoenix has spoiled me.

Week Ending:           3/21/2010          3/28/2010         4/4/2010

Weight                       185.5                 188.0                186.6

Swim                             1.0                    1.0                   3.2
Bike                               2.0                    2.5                   2.4
Run                                1.0                    3.3                    4.0
Strength                          1.0                   1.0                    1.0
Basketball                                               2.0                                   
Race                              3.0

Total Hours                     7.0                  9.8                    10.6