Wednesday, July 20, 2011

1st chapter of American Jukebox awarded Honorable Mention!

Maybe the exclamation mark is overkill, but it was nice to get some recognition for American Jukebox, the novel I’ve been working on for four years.

This week the first chapter of American Jukebox was awarded an Honorable Mention in the New Millennium Writings competition for fiction. The chapter is titled, “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.” New Millennium will publish the top finishers and a few of the Honorable Mention stories. I won’t know until September whether my story will be selected. I would be happy to send an electronic copy of the story to anyone who’s interested. Just send me an email at

American Jukebox is “finished,” but right now I am having it read by an editor, Sue Williams, who works through Grub Street, Inc. – a creative writing center headquartered in Boston - to make sure the manuscript is as perfect as I can make it.

I plan to send out agent query letters (again) starting in September.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Evergreen Lake Triathlon Results – July 16, 2011

While the water was too warm for wetsuits, we did catch a break on the weather. It was overcast and not blistering hot as had been predicted. I was grateful for the cloud cover on the run.

Despite all of the difficulties on Friday, I slept well and had no problem getting up at 4:45 to have my delicious apple juice and carbo-pro breakfast. Ever since having to endure apple juice smells when the kids were little, it has been my least favorite juice. It didn't help that the hotel had run out of ice.

Swim:  Without the wetsuit buoyancy I knew my swim time would be slower than it had been in Phoenix. I was satisfied with my performance I just wish it was faster. I swam from buoy to buoy, never veering off-course, and I exerted myself (sometimes I have a tendency to sort of cruise on the swim, but this time I pushed it). My time of 35:51 was basically the same as it had been back in 2008 when I wore a wetsuit and two minutes faster than 2009 when I didn't wear a wetsuit – so it seems clear that my swimming has improved. Just not enough.

Bike:  I was hopeful I would exceed 20 mph on this flat course. I got off to a decent start and pushed hard for the entire distance. This segment is about the same length as our Tuesday morning workouts so I knew I had the stamina to push for the entire distance. I finished in 1:10:39, a 21.1 mph pace – five minutes faster than my last race here.

Run:  While my swim and bike times have been improving, my run times have been declining. Some of this is probably due to exerting greater effort on the first two segments. In this race I finished the first mile at 8:36, which is not a great pace, but one I thought I could sustain. But each succeeding mile was slightly slower and the last three took over 9 minutes per mile.

I need to build endurance so I can sustain my pace throughout the run and finish strong instead of weak.

Overall: My time of 2:47:11 was 4 minutes short of my goal (mostly due to the swim portion).

This was my personal best for this distance – two minutes faster than my time at Tempe last year.

Next race:  USAT National Championships – Montpelier, Vermont – August 20, 2011

This is the race I targeted two years ago when I began my blog. My goal at that time was to finish in the top ten and I figured it would take a time of 2:36 to accomplish that goal.

Vermont is a difficult, hilly course and given that I only finished 5th in this Midwest regional race, it's extremely unlikely that I will be able to finish in 2:36.

But we'll see.

EVERGREEN LAKE International Distance Race Results

DateTotal TimeSwimPer / 100T1 BikeMPHT2RunMin/Mile

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Down and Out in the Land Beyond O’Hare

The key to a successful race is preparation. I was prepared for the Evergreen Lake Triathlon. On Friday I had checked out all my equipment, done a mini-triathlon training set (20 minutes for each segment) and started drinking Gatorade and water to get ready for the expected heat and humidity of downstate Illinois.

I drove away at 1:15 PM and figured I would be pulling into the race site right after it opened up at four o'clock. I would get my bike racked in one of the coveted outside positions and then check-in to my hotel for a leisurely early dinner.

The route that Google maps had plotted for me went through Chicago on I-94 and then south on I-55 to Normal. There was construction on I-94 and traffic was slow but still moving and I figured once I got to I-55 everything would be fine. And sure enough, as soon as I took the exit off 94 the highway was virtually empty. Until I went around the last bend and then, for as far as they eye could see, I-55 was a gigantic parking lot. We crept along at about 3 mph for forty minutes.

I wasn't worried. It was cool and comfortable in the car and even if I got to the race site at 6 pm, I would still have plenty of time to set up.

Then I looked at the car's temperature gauge.

It was almost to the red zone – the engine was close to overheating. I immediately turned off the air and opened the windows. The needle dropped back a fraction. I figured once the traffic jam ended I would be fine. The airflow would cool off the engine once the car started moving. We continue to creep along and the stream of cars and trucks ahead of me appeared endless. And now it was full-fledged Friday afternoon rush hour and more cars were anxious to join the parking lot. The needle crept upwards again almost touching the red zone.

At 3:45 I called my friend Andy for advice. He owns the service station where I take my car. He said to turn on the heater full blast. He told me why that was a good idea, but it was so loud with all the trucks all around me I couldn't hear. I followed his advice and the needle dropped, slightly. I was sweating like I was already in the race. I started drinking my race day Gatorade.

At 4:20 we turned a bend in the road and I saw the problem. A tractor trailer truck had crashed on the ramp and there were emergency vehicles and police everywhere. After I passed the carnage, the road was relatively clear. I accelerated to 60 mph, expecting the needle to drop back to the normal zone. It didn't. It moved into the red zone.

I called Andy again. He said it might be that the thermostat is stuck – preventing the radiator from providing coolant. I wasn't going to make it to Normal without getting the car fixed. I live in the northern suburbs. It had taken me three hours to get to the land beyond O'Hare.

I need a new plan. I wasn't going to make it 120 miles. I needed to get the car fixed. Quickly. On a Friday afternoon. And I had no clue where I was. I took the first exit I came to. I stopped at a ramshackle gasmart and asked the kid behind the counter if he knew where there might be a garage. He shook his head. Apparently only paying customers were allowed to hear his voice. I just stared back at him hoping I was using the look that my daughters said used to scare their friends.

Finally he told me there was a Broadway station up the street. I drove there. It was another gasmart. I asked the counterman if he knew of anyplace that could help with an overheated car. He pointed down the road. AutoDoc on Highway 83, he said. I pulled into AutoDoc at 4:55 PM. It looked promising. Multiple bays with real mechanics and a guy working the front counter, with "Mark", embroidered on his workshirt.

Mark was friendly and professional, but he told me they couldn't get to the car until Saturday. He asked if I wanted to leave it. I asked if there was a rental car nearby. My luck had changed. Next door (literally) was an Enterprise location and they had a small SUV that would accommodate my bike easily. It was $132 per day, and I had to rent if for the whole weekend. I told Mark I'd leave my car, and then switched all my gear to the rental car and was back on the road by 5:30 PM.

I made it to Evergreen Lake minutes before they closed down for the evening. I racked my bike and got my race numbers. I drove on to my hotel, checked in, and then hustled over to Steak and Shake for a pre-race meal of cheeseburger and fries (I only ate half). I was four hours behind schedule.

I told myself that I wouldn't let the disruption affect my race performance.

Sometimes I listen to myself. Sometimes I don't.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Next Race: Evergreen Lake International Distance Triathlon – 7/16/11

Christine Anderson - 2010 Evergreen Lake Triathlon
1st Place Finisher - Women's Pro Division

Tomorrow morning I am competing in the Evergreen Lake International Distance Triathlon, just outside of Normal, Illinois.  I always look through Google images for photos of previous races at the venue where I am going to compete. The course is not classically scenic so this picture of Christine Anderson finishing in 2 hours 12 minutes last year was the best picture I could find. I never see anyone like her on the course when I'm racing but that's because they've all finished and gone home by the time I get across the line.

It's going to be hot and humid and right now the water temperature of Evergreen Lake is 82 degrees, so unless there is an unexpected rainstorm, wetsuits won't be allowed.

Two years ago when I raced here and didn't use my wetsuit it took me over 38 minutes. I think I can do a lot better now, but I probably won't be below at the 30 minute pace that I achieved in Arizona earlier this year. I figure the wetsuit probably makes me 3 to 4 minutes faster. Of course I will save about a minute in transition as I won't have to take it off.
This morning I did a mini-tri – 20 minutes in the Lake Michigan (water was great, just a little chop), then 20 minutes on the bike and a 15 minute run. My hamstring has been sore for the last week, but it felt great this morning. This is a flat course so I should have my best time ever on the bike. I'm hoping to finally average over 20 mph. The table below shows how I did the last two times I raced this course and my goal for this year.

Total Time
Per /100

I'll post the actual results on Sunday.