Trying to Beat the Heat

It’s not often that the temperatures in Duluth reach 90 degrees.  And after the three week string of 40-degree weather we had in June, hitting that mark seemed inconceivable.  But today was the day.  There was no mistaking it.

It was the kind of day where it was impossible to escape the heat.  With the humidity also close to the 90% mark, the hot sticky air seemed to envelope everything, particularly one’s body.  But there were plenty of people seeking all sorts of ways to try and cool off. Myself included.

My choice was to head up the shore on my bike.  Although the air was hot, it still felt better to be creating my own breeze.  There was little respite from Lake Superior, despite the fact that it remains chilly.  I had only occasional cool spells when there were no trees between me and the lake.  But I welcomed each and everyone of them.  Along the way I enjoyed people watching and surveying the variety of ways folks flocked to the water to relieve the summer heat.

Lake Superior was a natural.  Brighton Beach attracted its share of families, but they didn’t venture very far into the lake.  There’s cooling off, and then there’s frigid.  The lake was the latter.IMG_4906It’s not often one sees a jet-ski in Lake Superior, but the water was so calm today that it invited such activity.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen a double before!IMG_4901 Lester River had its share of swimmers, and the youngsters seemed to enjoy jumping off the rocks into the water.IMG_4908However that was nothing compared to the feats of the local teenage crowd.  Lower down the river, they demonstrated their fearlessness on a rope swing attached to the railroad bridge.  Others jumped straight from the rock cliff.IMG_4896 trimmedBut nothing beats The Deeps for daring do.  Right there in our own back yard, the water hole beneath the waterfall on Amity Creek is a magnet for teenagers, eager to show off by jumping from increasing heights above the pool.  I found it chilling enough just to watch.IMG_4915 trimmed There’s something for everyone here.  It just takes the rare day that we have to go to such lengths to beat the heat here in Duluth.

Triathlon Musings

It’s all of one day since finishing my first triathlon, and as with any big race my mind keeps replaying the event and re-examining all the details. My family is probably growing weary of the topic, and hoping it will soon wear out. But I can’t resist one final post in review.

One of the biggest impressions left by the event was just how well organized and orchestrated it was. The Life Time Tri Minneapolis was a model of efficiency. And although it catered to Pro and Elite athletes, it was equally friendly to novices like me. Friends had advised me that it was a large event, and perhaps high on the scale for the athletes it attracts. And since I had chosen to skip the Sprint distance in favor of going straight to the longer International distance for my first time out, that could have been intimidating. But to the credit of the race organizers, it was exactly the opposite. The high level athletes started well in advance of my “old lady” wave, and it was great fun to hear the announcer covering their race while I waited.

It was in the bike portion of the race that I was most wowed. The athletes’ meeting had prepared me for the presence of bad pavement, sharp turns, two-way traffic and potentially confusing intersections. But the race was so well staffed by volunteers that it was impossible to make a mistake.  I wish I could have personally thanked every single volunteer who made the event so smooth for us participants.  In addition, there were signs in advance of any trouble spots warning us of what we’d find up ahead.  And I always had plenty of room to maneuver on the roadways.  I’m convinced that choosing the Lifetime Tri for my first triathlon was a big factor in making it such a positive experience.

DSC_0945The hype and excitement of the race rivaled any marathon I’ve done – perhaps exceeded it because of the extent of the venue and on-side expo that continued during and after the race. It appears that triathlons have not yet reached the general public appeal that marathons have, with smaller cheering sections along the way. But it had other advantages for spectators like Rich and Erik who came out to cheer me on. Because of the multiple sports and more compact nature of the course, they could easily position themselves at frequent intervals along my route, boosting their support power (along with the “Power of the Pig” – a story in itself…).

IMG_9115And how did I feel afterwards? Great! Although I pressed harder than I have in years on the final running segment and was gasping for the finish, I felt less spent than I do at the end of marathons. Or perhaps more accurately, I should say my legs were not as weary. Even though it was about 3 hours of straight competitive exercise, the variety of the sports didn’t deplete one set of muscles. But once the glow of the finish receded, once I had a good shower and my favorite post-race bagel sandwich, my body told me I was tired. Every bit as tired as after a marathon.

So am I hooked? All my friends told me I would be after this first triathlon. I’m not sure. As I wrestled with the preparations and unknowns of the race beforehand, I thought that this was going to be a “bucket list” event I could cross off. But now I don’t know. There are all the usual temptations.  Now I understand how it all works and could certainly improve on the pieces with little effort. Next year I will be in an even older age bracket – which always works to advantage. And it was just plain fun. Stay tuned. I’ll have to muse on this a while longer.

Success on the first Tri

If Erik hadn’t challenged me to do a triathlon, this would have been just an ordinary Saturday.  And I might never have had the courage go give it a “tri.”  Instead, I spent the morning swimming-biking-running in the Lifetime Tri.  And loved it!

On the way to the race, I happened to check Facebook on my phone, and found several good wishes for my race.  But most important were the ones that said “have fun.”  It was just the message I needed to hear, and helped me keep my focus on fun for the entire morning.  When I was tempted to worry too much or feel myself getting too serious or competitive, I was able to return to the Fun theme.

We set off for the swim in pairs every few seconds.  The line moved quickly, and before I knew it I was splashing into the water.  The temperature was fine (thankfully, since I had no wetsuit) and the waves were minimal.  The lake was so murky that I couldn’t even see the swimmers right next to me, so I just forged on.  Fortunately, we were reasonably spaced out.  Staying on course was a challenge, though, as I kept finding myself drifting away from the buoys.  I’m sure I did more than my share of the .93 mile distance.

IMG_9087My transition to the bike didn’t set any speed records.  But I didn’t care.  Fun, remember?  And I made it without incident.  Cycling turned out to be a lot less stressful than I expected.  Perhaps because I was near the back (youngest go first) we were weren’t the least bit bunched up and there was plenty of room on the roads.  And every intersection was well marked.  They were right about the bad pavement, though – Minnesota winters left rough spots all up and down River Road.  But once IMG_9090we got to Minnehaha Parkway, it was smooth sailing and easy riding.  I especially enjoyed that bit.  My pace was fast for me, and it felt good to press a good steady speed for 24 miles.  But let’s face it, I’m not a racing cyclist.  I’m convinced that most of the small crowd behind me passed me along the way.

Transition two was quicker.  As was my run.  Finally, I was in my element.  Before I was even out of the transition area, I’d hit stride and I was booking it down the running path.  Yes, that is my sport!  I loved the strong kick I felt, surging forward while everyone else adopted a tired shuffle.  Passing runner after runner gave me such a high, and I conveniently ignored the fact that I was merely regaining the ground I’d lost on my bike.

DSC_0948Rich and Erik were out on the course, cheering me on all along the way.  But they really made their mark on the running segment.  To help me see them, they initiated “Tri Pig” which truly served its purpose – I could spot them from well down the course.  With Tri Pig they entertained many a runner, chanting IMG_9110“Feel the Power of the Pig” as folks went by.  I’m sure they raised more spirits than just my own.

The final mile of the 6.2 mile run seemed endless.  Rich and Erik cycled alongside the course yelling encouragement, and I managed to push on to a strong finish.  And oh, it felt so good!

My overall time was 3:08:53.  My swim and bike times were about what I expected, and I blew away the run with 8:08 minute miles – a pace I haven’t done in years!  I even placed first in my age group for the run.

It certainly was no ordinary Saturday.  It was a very successful Tri.  Especially for my first one.IMG_9114

 

 

Tri-bulations

Tomorrow’s the day.  My first triathlon.  I’ve done a decent amount of training.  I’ve figured out what to wear.  I’ve planned my transitions.  And I’m really nervous.  Since it’s a race involving not one but three sports, perhaps I’m justified in being three times as worried.

I went to the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Expo this afternoon.  There I got my race packet and goodies, picked up my t-shirt, and tested my chip. So far so good – all that is familiar from marathons and other running races.  It did feel a little strange wheeling my bike into the registration tent, however.  But what else was I to do with it?

My next stop was the transition area.  I decided it was a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity to drop off my bike a day in advance.   Just one less thing to worry about in the wee hours of the morning when I arrive for the race.  There was no need to hunt for a prime spot, it’s all pre-assigned by race number.  The area seemed ominously empty.  I hoped it wasn’t because others felt it was not such a good IMG_1129idea to abandon a critical piece of equipment overnight.  Once I found my spot, I discovered that my small bike didn’t exactly fit well onto the rack.  In fact, once I balanced my seat on the bar, the bike was swinging freely in the breeze.  It didn’t even come close to touching the ground.  Ugh.  For now, it’s firmly anchored by my bike lock.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow when I liberate it.

IMG_1132I made sure to attend the 2pm athletes’ meeting.  Being such a newbie, I needed all the information I could get.  The speaker was very knowledgeable and helpful, with loads of details about each segment of the race.  But honestly, the more I learned, the more I felt I had to worry about.  The bike piece especially – he pointed out all the sharp turns, bad pavement, intersections and two-way traffic sections.  All potential problem areas.  Good to know, but worrisome.  I did find the cycling etiquette rules to be reassuring, however.  I like the bit about keeping 3 bike lengths between bikes, and the process for passing.  I just hope the other cyclists are equally well versed in these fine points.  Somehow it seems like a long shot…

IMG_1134Normally I might have lingered at the Expo to take in some of the booths.  There were plenty of specialty companies catering to this audience of tri-athletes.  But the afternoon was waning and it was time to head home.  I did take a look at the lake where they were busy setting up the buoys for the swim, but it was my head that was swimming by that point.IMG_1135

I thought I my mind would be more at ease by now. Coming home and sorting through my gear, packing my transition bag and laying out tomorrow’s clothes helped.  And I’ve had my fill of pre-race spaghetti dinner.  All that remains now is to get a reasonable night’s sleep and show up for the race tomorrow.  Then it will be time to leave all these tribulations behind and just do it!

The Rainy Lake Experience

When friends invited us to visit their cabin on Rainy Lake, we jumped at the chance to see their place and the famed lake on the border of Minnesota and Canada.  Like us, they have a “true cabin,” with just the basic amenities and lots of character.  But the similarities end at the shoreline.

As soon as we arrived, we were recruited to outfit the boat for an afternoon on the lake.  With respectable waves and the sheer size of the lake, a good sized boat and motor are a necessity.  Theirs is an old workhorse of a boat, but stable and large enough to take us across the expansive open waters.  And hold all the fixings for our adventure.  We soon began to learn what Rainy Lake was all about.

Rainy Lake Map 2Lesson number 1.  A boat ride on Rainy Lake can take all afternoon and still cover only a tiny fraction of the lake.  With 360 square miles of water, almost 1,000 miles of shoreline and about 2,500 islands, there are endless areas to explore.  Our friends took us to their favorite spots, starting with the dam and waterfall.  There we clambered down to the base of the falls to see the thundering rush of the water from the recent flooding.

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IMG_1100Lesson number 2.  It’s like being in the Boundary Waters.  The tall pines, rocky outcroppings and lack of population all reminded me of the solitary feeling one gets in the Boundary Waters.  In all of our wanderings we spotted only two other boats.  We saw plenty of scenery, fascinating birds and natural beauty instead.  And there was always something new around the next bend.

IMG_1098 trimmed

Lesson number 3.  Shore lunch doesn’t necessarily mean fish.  The first step was selecting an appealing island.  We then built a rock fire scar (that was a new term to me), hunted down dry wood and started up a fire to cook our lunch – brats.  They were mighty tasty cooked in the open air with a beautiful view of the lake from our perch on a huge rock.

Rainy Lake Pelicans

Lesson number 4.  Bring along a photographer husband to catch the magical moments.  Rich was in his element with birds in abundance, and we all got a kick out of “bird island” with its population of pelicans.  The best part was watching their comical take-off as we approached.

Lesson number 5.  The lake is best appreciated when seen through the eyes of those who love it.  Our friends have gotten to know Rainy Lake through four generations of cabin life.  Our tour narrative was rich in stories woven with family history.

The only fitting end to this day on an amazing lake was a sauna.  In this case, a wood-fired sauna which proved to be blistering hot.  That was enough to get me into the lake.  Jumping off the dock into chilling water over my head was both a shock and relief.  All part of the Rainy Lake experience.

Tri Training – Open Water Swim

It’s been hanging over my head all week. Ever since getting to the cabin I’ve been peering out at the lake knowing I was going to have to tackle it. I needed to do an open water swim. But I was also nervous. It didn’t help that my son, Erik, and his girlfriend, Katie, who I consider to be hardy youth, reported that the lake was “really cold” and declined to swim.

wpid-Photo-20140706181238.jpgFirst the wind and the waves provided an excuse. Too wavy to swim. Too cold. Too cloudy. (Too scared, really.) But then came a relatively calm and sunny afternoon. I knew my options were dwindling, screwed up my courage and recruited Rich to come out in the kayak as my safety boat. Too late to back out now – I had to do it.wpid-Photo-20140706181239.jpg

Surprisingly, the water was quite swimmable. It was brisk to be sure, but I’ve suffered worse in that lake. It felt strange to be wearing a swim cap and goggles – something I never do in the lake – and I tried to ignore the now-visible weeds as I passed over them. It’s really better not knowing.

At first it seemed like the distance was insurmountable. I needed to do .93 miles to mimic the triathlon distance. I had thought that swimming to the campground beach and back would be enough, but it turned out I needed to swim even beyond that. Not a good feeling. But as I fell into the rhythm of my strokes and relied on my long distance lap swimming, I felt as though I could manage it.

161-D5-TriAtheleteStaying on course was tricky, and I had to figure out how to lift my head to peer out and spot my destination up ahead. It definitely was a disruption to the cadences of my swimming. I’m sure there are tricks to doing it more efficiently. In addition, I already knew that I had a tendency to drift left when I swim. Rich tried to counter that by yelling “Point!” to try and curb my corkscrew curves. I do so hope they have some bright bouys in the race to help keep me in line.

The waves proved to be a challenge, as I expected. I was swimming into a mild quartering headwind on the way out, with the waves hitting my breathing side. I know I should be able to breath equally well on both sides, but I’ve never pursued that. Now I get why it’s important. But I survived. And turning around to swim with the waves was sweet!

My biggest fear was succumbing to the cold of the water, getting too chilled to swim effectively. But even with my skinny body, I was able to retain enough body heat to swim comfortably. The whole way. Yea! If I could handle North Star Lake’s cold, I should have no problem in Lake Nokomis.

Completing that swim was a huge boost to my confidence. I now know I can do it. I was even more pleased to learn that it was only 5 minutes over my pace in the pool – not bad for all the extra obstacles I figure. Of course, I was all alone out there. No other swimming bodies to dodge or churning water to navigate. I will leave that for race day. At least I’ve conquered the open water.

A Visiting Loon

It's one of my favorite things at the cabin – seeing loons and hearing their plaintive cry. Sometimes I can get fairly close to them when out in the kayak. But ultimately they always dive and swim away, surfacing far off in any direction. So imagine my surprise this morning when we saw a loon paddling languidly at the end of our dock.

Knowing how skittish they are, I set up my camera and monopod on the deck of the cabin. I was afraid that getting any closer was likely to drive him away. But after snapping a multitude of photos, I ventured halfway down to the lake, and eventually right onto the dock. Still Mr. Loon lingered. Swimming slowly back and forth, he seemed to accept our presence, even when Katie and Erik joined me. He wasn't fazed by us in the slightest.

Eventually the loon swam away. But he left us knowing we'd seen something special. Thanks for the visit, Mr. Loon!