My mom can beat up your mom


My mom rocks.

And Saturday she rocked her very first full triathlon. I’m just totally proud of her. Now, I’m not going to divulge her age here on my blog. But let’s put it this way: I’m just about 43. And I wasn’t any kind of teen pregnancy.

She’s come to a few of my races in the past. And last year Corinne talked her and my dad into teaming up for the Green Lake Triathlon. My dad swam, Corinne biked and mom ran the 5K at the end.

And when she finished, she knew she wanted to try one all on her own. Her hang up (as is most people’s hang up) was the swim. Open water distance swimming is a daunting challenge. So the natural answer was the Chain of Lakes Triathlon in Alexandria. It’s in her summer hometown and it includes a pool swim. I told her I’d get her signed up…but it didn’t happen. The race filled up before my tax refund came in.

Fortunately I found the Mid-Minnesota Early Bird Triathlon. It’s right next door to us in Sauk Rapids and it also features a pool swim. Unfortunately, I was about the only one who found the Mid-Minnesota Early Bird Triathlon. They cancelled it due to lack of participation. (sigh)

So mom had been training all winter long…and I couldn’t find a race for her. Then I found this.

Yes, it’s a “lake swim”. But it’s only 300 yards and it starts/ends on a nice, sandy beach.

Deal. So I signed us up. And she did it. And here’s how it went.

The gang’s all here
We managed to bring along 9 of 10 grandkids with a minimum of whining, even though it meant getting out of bed at 6 on a summer Saturday. (If you’re looking for an answer to the question, “But why do I have to get out of bed?”, apparently, “Because your grandmother is running a triathlon,” is an answer that not even a teenager can argue.)

So mom had tons of support. Corinne brought along a white shower curtain and a pack of multi-colored Sharpies and the kids all made a big, supportive banner while mom was out on the bike course.

And when she came back in on the run, even Erin woke up and came out of the truck to cheer her on (in her own way).

I’m glad we were all there. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.

It went swimmingly

I’m trying to think of a way they could have made this lake swim more tolerable. Short of adding a ton of bubble bath and handing out rubber duckies, I’m drawing a blank.

It’s a 300-yard swim…if you want it to be. “There are two turnaround points,” explained the bubbly race director. “Out to the farthest paddle boat and back is 300 yards. If you don’t want to swim that far, you can just go out to the swim raft and back.”

Mom had great intentions of swimming all the way to the paddle boat. She and Christine started out together. Somewhere between the swim raft and the paddle boat though, common sense kicked in and she turned around. Good choice, mom.

It’s just like riding a bicycle
Mom owns a bike. It’s a relatively comfortable Schwinn mountain bike and it’s less than 20 years old. (Unfortunately, mom’s bike is “less than 20 years old” in the same way that Michele Bachmann is an “elected official”. Sure, it’s an accurate statement…but just barely.)

Corinne, Christine and I have all ridden triathlons on comfort/mountain bikes. It’s a slow, heavy process. So we tried talking mom into riding Corinne’s road bike.

I brought Corinne’s bike with us when we went to pick mom up on race day and (what do you know?) I just couldn’t get mom’s mountain bike to fit on the rack. So she agreed to ride Corinne’s. (Hesitantly. She was very nervous.)

When we got to Pine City, Corinne decided it would be a good idea to hop on and put mom’s fears to rest by demonstrating just how easy it is to shift gears. To her credit, she did a fantastic job of demonstrating gear shifting. On the other hand, she also did a great job of demonstrating how easy it is to get mired down in a patch of sand, tip over and scrape your knee all up. On balance, I don’t think mom’s fears were allayed.

Didn’t matter though. The worm has turned for my mom. She flew on that bike race. No problem at all. She talked the whole drive home about what a difference the bike made and that she passed 9 people! Very cute. I knew for sure that it made an impact on her when the first thing my dad said when we sat down to lunch was, “Well, if you happen to come across another one of those bikes, I guess you’d better let me know so we can pick one up for your mom.”

Gran on the run
Now, the run here was advertised as 2 miles. Mom’s sure she heard some guy say that he was pretty sure it was more like 2.3 miles. (Could be. It did feel a little long. But I didn’t want to be a buzzkill and explain that every triathlon run feels longer than you think it’s going to. Might be because you just got done SWIMMING AND BIKING!)

At any rate, I saw mom take off out of transition at a run…and I saw her slow down to a walk a couple of blocks down the street. No matter. Running right after you’ve climbed off a bike is brutal. It just is.

So sooner or later she must have picked it back up because we eventually spotted her jogging gamely down the street toward us at the finish line. That was all the incentive our girls needed to rush out and escort her to the finish line. And there she was; my mother – a woman whom I’ve described before as one careless date away from being a great-grandma – pushing across the finish line, flanked by her entourage.

Completely fantastic.

My first tri
This was a great race for a first triathlon. For one thing, it was cheap. I missed the early-bird sign-up rate, so it cost us $20 each. (Early-bird was $15.) And it still comes with a t-shirt (long sleeve and everything!).

For another thing, it was short. A 300-yard swim (or something close to that), a 12-mile bike ride and a 2-mile run. All manageable distances.

For a third thing, it was small. They were very excited about their registration numbers this year. I believe there were about 65 of us. (Last year, I believe they said, was 19.)

And, lastly, it was totally informal. No timing chips, no big clocks, no uptight race marshals touring the course on motorcycles and assessing penalties for drafting. If you wanted to know your time, you started your stopwatch at the word Go.

Just my luck
Of course, you knew that comfortable informality would have a downside. My first podium finish comes in a race without a podium. (sigh) You just finish up, get your water bottle and pick up your t-shirt.

But, for the record, I was third across the line. And, I’m not bitching here (yes I am), but I think I might have won…if I hadn't beat the race volunteers out on the bike course.

See, I caught the lead biker at about the 4
-mile mark and they had the ambulance in front, sort of serving as a pace vehicle. That worked well for the most part. (Sucking diesel fumes sucked, but having someone to show me where to go was cool.) But, at about the 7-mile mark, the ambulance driver decided to stop and chat with the volunteer at one of the corners. So I STOPPED and asked, “Which way am I going?”

“That way,” said the ambulance driver. And I started out again. That stop was kind of a drag, because that turn brought me into what little wind there was and started me up a little bit of a hill. Irritating, but not devastating.

Still, a quick glance over my shoulder reassured me that I still couldn’t even see the next cyclist. On I went until a little before the 9-mile mark…when I came to a T in the road. With no one there. And no markings. I stopped. I looked one way. I looked the other way. I swore. I turned back; deciding that I must have missed a very quiet volunteer sitting at a corner somewhere back up the road.

I started heading back up the road and eventually ran into the second cyclist. We stopped and both pulled out the little printed business cards we’d been given with the course directions on them. Just as we’d decided that we weren’t off course and that we should take a right at the T, a volunteer drove up and started pointing to the right. “Go to the right!”

“Um…Let’s stick together,” I said to the kid on the bike next to me. So we rode on for those last 3+ miles at a pretty decent pace…but not a flat-out race pace. And eventually a third cyclist caught up to us and joined us.

When we got to transition I waved my co-rider in ahead of me, since it had been his reading of the direction card that got us back on the road. (Mine was wet, smudged and illegible in spots.) I was first out of transition…but I couldn’t run with those two. They caught me, passed me and beat me by about a minute and a half.

Still, I wonder how much of a lead I would have built up on the cycle if I hadn’t ever had to stop…

(sigh) C’est la vie

The results

Greg — 54:45
Christine — 1:12:24
Janet — 1:22:12

Great job, mom! (And you too, Christine!)

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(Half) Iron Supplements

[Note: This is a reposting of a blog post I put together for the House of Pizza Fit Club blog. So it's not directly applicable to my audience (whoever that is), but I thought it still might have some relevance. Plus, I'm looking for content to meet my twice-a-week obligation.]

On the podium at Green Lake!
I had two race goals this year – both stretch goals. I wanted to do the 20-mile distance at Earth Day. And I wanted to do a half-ironman triathlon.

First goal; achieved. Went great.

But when it came time to register for the second goal…I couldn’t pull the trigger. It’s not that I’m afraid of that distance or that I don’t think I’ve trained properly. (Those things are both TOTALLY true.) It was more the deep, abiding sense of cheapness that grips me at my core. With current circumstances being what they are (which I shan’t go into in this forum), I couldn’t bring myself to spring for $100 for the registration fee.

So what am I gonna do? Quit? Hell no. I still want to test myself at this distance this summer. I mean, think about it. Did that one Greek guy who ran the first marathon stop off for gyros and ouzo and blow off the rest of his run? Not a chance. Did Teddy Roosevelt get tired and puss out halfway up San Juan Hill? You bet your big stick he didn’t.

I’m doin’ this thing, dammit. Just the way our forefathers would have. I’m building my half-iron from scratch.

Who’s with me?

Here’s the way it’s going to go down. On Saturday, July 10, at 7 a.m., I’m going to start out at Gold’s Gym in Sartell. I’m going to jump in and do my 44 laps to make up 1.2 miles.

After that, I’m going to head out to the parking lot, climb aboard my trusty Stealth Bomber, ride out to St. Joe, pick up the Woebegon trail and ride until my computer says 56 miles.

At that point (somewhere just after Osakis) I’ll hop off my bike, switch shoes, put on my oh-so-techy iPod with its handy Nike Fit chip, and continue on down the trail until the little voice in my ear tells me I’ve run 13.1 miles.

That’s going to leave me somewhere on the outskirts of Alexandria; the city where my parents spend their summers. So I plan on meeting up with them to rehydrate with lots of water…and probably a couple of beers.

Here’s where you come in:

I’m not implying that you might be crazy enough to want to join me for the whole thing (though that would be awesome – I’d love the company). But maybe you’re interested in joining me for an event or two. Know what I mean?

Do you like swimming? (What the f is wrong with you?) Let’s make plans to meet at 7 and crank out a whole bunch of laps.

Looking for a nice, flat bike ride? Let’s hit it! In fact, if your summertime stretch goal was to do a century ride, I’ll bet if you met me at the St. Joe trailhead as I rolled by, my transition point would just about be your turnaround point. Just a thought.

If you’re a runner (with an apparent lack of anything better to do on a Saturday afternoon), get in touch with me and we’ll arrange to meet just past Osakis. We’ll go for a nice, long run and then get something to eat and have a beer. Heck, I could probably even arrange to drop you off at your car in Osakis on my drive home!

I don’t know. I don’t have all the logistics worked out. I’m making this thing up as I go. I’m working on talking my fantastic wife (and potentially a couple of kids) into taking a long, scenic drive up to Alexandria that day, making frequent stops to find the trail and catch me with water bottles as I roll by. If you’re helpful like that, let me know. I’ve got a feeling that’s an area where we could use some helpers.

In the end, don’t feel guilty if you decide this isn’t something you want to do. I was planning on doing this all by myself when I came up with the idea. But it was suggested that I post about this and see if I can get any takers.

So what do you say? You crazy enough to come along and supplement my half-iron experience?

One…and, two


Got word today about a eight-year-old who shall remain here unnamed who was “crabby” after surgery for an undescended left testicle. (If ever there were an excuse for being crabby, I think I just named it. Women, don't start with the menstrual stuff. Usually I totally defer to you on that one. But this trumps that.)

After I finished cringing, I stopped to wonder. Just how, exactly, is an affliction like that discovered?

Cuz, now that I stop to think about it, I'm pretty sure I've never counted Quinn’s testicles.

Am I a bad parent? (That’s rhetorical. Don’t answer that.)

I can see clearly now


I’d like to begin by wishing a vigorous Happy Father’s Day to all dads, granddads, step-dads…even to the occasional well-meaning uncle, because Father’s Day is a day for sharing.

So join me now as I share the answer to today’s $1 question. (What’s the $1 question? “Can I have a dollar?” Just kidding. That’s not it. It’s, “What did Corinne get me for $1 for Father’s Day?”)

This one’s just a little convoluted, so strap on your thinking helmets. Ready? Okay.

I’m pretty cheap. Not always. It’s kind of select and random and there’s no solid logic behind it. For example, I’ll make a $20 pair of khakis last for six years because I’m too cheap to buy a new pair…but I’ll happily drop $20 any day of the week on chips and beer.

Lots of days my bizarrely selective cheapness keeps me out of trouble. But sometimes even I have to admit, it’s a little dysfunctional. And it was standing between me and a new pair of sunglasses. (I had my last pair for five years, but dropped them out of my pocket on a bike ride this spring.)

So a couple of weeks ago when Bike Nashbar sent me a particularly tantalizing e-mail about a 73% off sale on 73 items, I was clutched by indecision. I sat, staring at that list of 73 cool products and ticked off about 10 fantastic deals that I HAD to have and I’d be crazy NOT to spend the money on…but I wouldn’t. I shouldn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t.

Corinne’s Father’s Day gift to me was a liberating bribe.

“If I give you a dollar, will you break down and buy yourself the dumb sunglasses?”

(And, of course, if I was going to break down and order one thing, I might as well order a couple…otherwise it’s not worth the money you’re going to pay in shipping, right? So I ordered a couple of things: a side-loading water bottle cage to fit the tiny frame on Corinne’s road bike and a jersey that I absolutely didn’t need but it looked super-cool and cheap.)

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So I bought them. Guilt free. And I like them.

Happy Father’s Day to me!

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In search of…boredom

I don't think boredom gets its proper respect these days.


Some days I'll find myself chuckling at boredom, giving it a condescending little pat on the head, sending it on its way and then laughing when its back is turned. Other days I might actually pine for a little visit from boredom; thinking an afternoon spent that way must beat frantic, chaotic stress. I treat boredom lots of different ways. But never with respect.

Sometimes as a parent I'll find myself treating boredom like it doesn't even exist. It's merely a figment of an underactive imagination. "What do you mean you're bored? Only boring people get bored. You want something to do? I'll give you something to do!"

The other day though I really stopped to think. I wrapped my head around the idea of boredom and, for just a few minutes, I remembered what it feels like to be a kid and feel truly, profoundly bored.

I'd tell you about it, but I don't think I'd do it justice. So I've invited Molly to help out as a special guest blogger. THIS is what it's like to be 12 and have NOTHING to do on a summer afternoon.


Dear Readers,

As enticing and wooing and my father's blog is, you read it when you are BORED, correct? Today I experienced EXTREME boredocity (assuming such used word is an actual word). If I could capture your attention for just a moment, that would be fantastic. Here are the reasons why I am bored:
1. There is a sibling who is as mad as a bag of spanners. [Editor's note: What the heck is a spanner?]
2. I can't hear myself think over the wind.
3. No one appears to be on Facebook.
4. There is nothing to eat AROUND THIS HOUSE!!!!…pardon me.
5. And, lastly, just the fact that there was nothing to do that I can do without adult supervision, so there was nothing to do.

If you're still reading at this point, you are obviously muchos bored. Here are a few things I do to 'Bust The Boredom.'
1.You will be told to clean your room or do chores for 'fun.' Spoiler Alert: It's worse.
2. You may feel compelled to climb a fence…Don't.
3. Make something fun: Like cooking? That's funny, 'cause I like brownies! Like shopping? That's funny, ME TOO! But I have no money, now I can't go. Maybe if you lent me some money?… I'll stop right there. Like sewing? That's funny, 'cause I see a pattern here! That was….really bad.
4. "Watch T.V.!" Really? If I could would I be standing here asking what to do?
5. Go work at a soup kitchen…if you have a car, unlike me.
6. Kick up the ol' hygiene booster! Take a shower, no one is gonna like it if you stink!
7. If no one is on Facebook, don't go and 'like' your own statuses. Everyone will think you're weird.
8. If you can't go outside, like me, play on a yoga ball. Random, but good for your core.
9. Don't eat. Just don't do it. Not worth the carbs.
and lastly,
10.You may be told to "Read a book." Unless you like the book, it's a headache waiting to happen.

So, thank you for taking time out of your 'bored period' at work and please continue to read my father's postings despite this small interruption from lil' ol' me.
     – Molly Skoog, the daughter of Greg Skoog, the creator of The Nothing Box  ❤

When anniversary parties attack

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Important stuff up front: Anniversaries are big deals. They're a testament to and a symbol of your patience, your commitment, your forgiving heart and your ability to make wise choices in the first place. As a guy who's made it into mid-range numbers before having it all go wrong – and as a guy who's trying again, armed with lessons and perspective – I have serious respect for any two people who can make it to any number. Any number. So congratulations to my in-laws, Sherman and Marie Anundsen, as they get close to their 40th anniversary. That's truly impressive.

So let me start by saying that I was fully prepared for Sherman and Marie's surprise anniversary party on Sunday to be a traumatically scarring experience. I went through at least a half dozen antacids in the 15 hours before we left Sartell. But that was based totally on my dread over dragging along two grumpy, self-absorbed teenagers with maddeningly narrow definitions of "family."

That part actually went relatively smooth. They both got some quality time to read and nap as they mopily secluded themselves in the truck. They made their brief, command performance for the "surprise" part and then quickly retreated back into their self-imposed sequestration. Given the scenarios that had floated through my mind, I was willing to consider that a ringing success.

I wasn't expecting the trouble to come from Molly. Of my three, Molly's the youngest. She's still willing to be engaged and positive because she thinks it gains my love and approval. Inaccurate (because, of course, I love all of our kids even when they're complete flaming turds). But nice.

Molly helped with set up. She was charming during lunch. She dragged me out to pitch some softballs to her and actually made some good contact…

But she was also modeling for Josie. And when she came up with the idea to pose on top of the fence and scampered on up over the top of the dugout, the die was cast. She jumped down and, somewhere along that journey, her arm had a brief-but-memorable encounter with the top of a chain-link fence.

Model Molly.

Mischief Molly

So we spent the remainder of the afternoon driving to Brainerd and enjoying the hospitality of their hospital emergency room. Molly got six stitches. She also got the part of this summer that she's been consistently dreading for the last four months out of the way when they gave her the tetanus booster she was going to need before starting 7th grade.

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I got to watch two episodes of Spongebob that I hadn't seen before. Erin got to make snarky observations about the fact that the doctor looked like Paul Blart, Mall Cop. (I laughed. I admit it.) Josie got the sense of validation that comes from being our navigator and getting us to Brainerd on the first shot – cuz I had no idea which direction we were going. (That's right, internet, Josie was my navigator and as frightening as that sounds, she did a great job of it.)

In fact, Quinn's was the only afternoon that proved fruitless, since the nurse at the front desk continually refused to let him ride around in one of the wheelchairs.

So there, Quinn. Let that be a lesson to you. Grumpy, mopey teenagers with surly attitudes almost never get to ride in wheelchairs that have cool oxygen tanks on them that look like they could maybe serve as propulsion devices. (And Erin, there must be a lesson for you in there somewhere. I just haven't figured it out yet!)

Molly, I love you. And you're not a klutz.

My dad’s a riot. Just ask him.


“So how’s the book coming?” asks Corinne.

(grumble, grumble)

“You know you’ve got to write a book, right?” she continues. My lovely wife is many things, not the least of which is “persistent.”

“I know. I’m just still not quite sure what to write about. You can’t just write a book because you’re supposed to write a book. There has to be some kind of inspiration. There has to be some story bottled up inside you, yearning to burst forth and be free…”

And that’s when it all starts to spiral southward. Have you met my dad?

“Oh, for chrissake, you’ve got all kinds of stuff to write about. You could write a book about me!”


Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve definitely told my share of stories about my dad. But that’s just the thing — I’ve told stories. There’s just a certain exasperated, bewildered, occasionally profane, cork-blowing je ne sais quoi about Tom Skoog stories…and I’m not sure how I would translate that into the written word.

“Dammit, Janet,” just loses something when you can’t see the eye roll; can’t hear the plaintive hint of a whine as his voice breaks up an octave in desperation; can’t sense the disembodied spirit of Archie Bunker suddenly stumble into the room, borne on the breath of a hot, angry wind.

So sure, there are stories. And some of them could probably be pretty funny if written properly. But a lot of them would be awfully tough to write.* And a lot of them aren’t nearly as funny as he thinks they are.

And so now, in order to demonstrate both of those points, I present to you my father’s favorite joke.

There’s got to be an easier book.

*On the plus side, Dad has given me carte blanche and full creative license to veer away from actual “truth” in telling any stories about him. That would make things significantly easier. Hmmm…