My name is…


I had a few beers Saturday night.

Nothing excessive or dangerous. We just got together with some friends (thanks Naceys!) and I enjoyed a few bottles of Redhook ESB – a personal favorite.

And, as sometimes happens on the day after consuming a few beers, my body chose to cleanse itself Sunday afternoon. Again, nothing excessive or dangerous. Pretty routine stuff.

But, as I resumed my position behind my computer to continue working (cuz I'm a 24/7 kinda guy that way), Quinn happened to make his way down one flight of stairs:

Q: What the…?! Oh man, who died down here? What stinks? Dad, what did you do?! Ohmigosh, JOSH! You've got to come down and smell this!

[stomp, stomp, stomp]

J: Ohhhhh man, that's terrible! What IS that?!

Q: CLAUDIA! Come down here and smell this! It's terrible!

[stomp, stomp, stomp]

C: Aaaaahhhhhh!!! Oh, that's gross!…

And so it continued until I kicked them all out of the house. (Except Molly, who was blissfully ignorant of the entire situation.)

Now, I by no means want to minimize the severity of the situation. (I took corrective measures and all. I mean, I turned on the fan.) But let me say this: as a male of some worldly experience – a man with experience in athletic locker rooms, college dorms and Army barracks – this was nothing close to a cataclysmic incident.

The reaction outweighed the action. And it quickly became merely a vehicle for launching into all manner of 14-year-old scatological humor (which, of course, is guaranteed to elicit all manner of 10- and 12-year-old laughter and approval).

So when dinner time came I presented my son with a proposition. Quinn, we can go out to Blue Line this evening, and you can get the bacon-cheeseburger you so crave. But you have to wear your sign all through dinner.

“What? All the way through dinner? But that would be embarrassing.”


PS: I didn’t actually make him wear his sign out to dinner. But I did use it as a vehicle to start a nice little conversation about his current (14-year-old) tendency to dish out tons of abuse on siblings, cousins…and occasionally parents!

In defense of crabgrass


Crabgrass is the Delmon Young of the horticultural world.

Yes, yes, I get it. There are totally times and spots where crabgrass can only be described as a noxious weed. I cringe when I see it growing up between the cracks in the landscaping rocks (in much the same way that I cringe when I see Delmon tear off after a fly ball over his left shoulder, only to switch to his right shoulder…and then back to his left). And I agree that it looks awful there with its wicked little tentacles flailing across the flagstones (in much the same way that Delmon looks awful there with his desperate arms flailing across the outfield).

But there's more to crabgrass than that. And this season, I've become a fan.

For who knows what reason, my lawn has just about totally given itself over to crabgrass this summer. (It's not like there's something I haven't been doing this year that I usually do. I usually do nothing.) But the spots that crabgrass has taken over are primarily the spots where my pretentious, hoity-toity "real" grass doesn't want to go in the first place. It's the spots where my lawn usually fries out and dies by mid-July. (Okay, I'm in danger of switching metaphors in midstream here. Because, in this case, crabgrass is totally the illegal Mexican migrant worker of the horticultural world [is that redundant?]. But screw it. I'm sticking with my original Delmon metaphor. Cuz the Twins game is in a rain delay and I've got some time to kill.)

This year with all the crabgrass, most all of my lawn is still a lush green (although, in the above-mentioned spots, it's kind of an eerie, slightly fluorescent green). And I, for one, don't care that some parts of that green are more broad-leafed than others. Or that there are inconsistent, spiral patterns to some of the growth in that green. So what? It's green. And normally, it would be dead-brown.

So Delmon, ignore all the haters. You keep driving in those runs and keep knocking the ball out of the park.

And crabgrass, pay no attention when that pussy "real-grass" crowd talks their Zima-swilling crap. You're welcome in my lawn any time. (Just stay clear of the landscaping.)


Teach a man to fish…

And he’ll waste one of the best weekends of the year.

Every summer about this time, my mom’s side of the family gets together at Lake Miltona for the annual fishing trip. And my key measuring stick for how good a weekend it was is how well I do at avoiding actual “fishing.” By that standard, this was a good year.

I look forward to it every year. I eat too much, drink too much, get sunburned and come home dirty and exhausted. Good times.

This year’s highlights included…

Fantastic food – starting with Friday night ribs and ending with the Sunday afternoon fish fry. I always start out with intentions of moderation. I always end up doing an uncomfortably stuffed waddle through unpacking and cleaning up at home Sunday evening.


Cute little kids. All of ours are so yesterday.* Sami and Antonia are where it’s at now!

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• The cocktail shuttle run for mom, Christine and Corinne. Mom: “I think this time I’ll have one of what Corinne’s drinking. (Jameson/ginger ale) “This time I’ll have one of what Christine’s drinking. (Sweet tea vodka/lemonade)


• Tent-flattening winds. We managed to miss most of Saturday’s severe weather. Never got any hard rain. But what we did get was hour after hour of 20-30 mph straight-line winds coming unabated across the lake.
For a long time our big tent put up a good fight. It rippled and shook itself back and forth loudly like a gerbil in a Cuisinart. And, for those first few hours, when the tent would get pushed down, it would jump right back up as soon as the wind subsided. It was like watching the first Rocky movie. After awhile I started wanting to yell at the tent (in my best gravelly Burgess Merideth), “Stay down, ya greasy WOP!” But the wind never subsided for long.

And eventually, several sections of the fiberglass poles just said screw it and split. So, when the calm finally came, the old tent couldn’t get back on its feet. In the morning, we took Old Yeller on that long, slow, limping walk behind the barn. Rest in peace, old friend.

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• A Polish picnic. Fantastic description, courtesy of my uncle Don. See, in response to the rain (and in defiance of the wind), Ron, our host, decided we should set up one of those half-tent shelter thingies that you use at rainy graduation parties. It was wet and the theory was that folks needed a place to eat dinner. So we started – Ron, George, Brian and I. Occasionally we even referred to the directions. Others joined in to help (after they’d finished eating), but the wind was working against us (see bullet above). Finally I was overcome by hunger and had to take a break and eat my dinner. (Combating the elements is hungry work.)

That’s when Don happened to look over and witness the Polish picnic – five people standing around holding poles o
n a shelter while one person stood underneath enjoying a lovely dinner.


Good taste and family unity prohibit me from going into alternative highlights like:
• The great, Was-it-Something-They-Ate-or-Something-They-Drank debate,
• The most hilarious evening’s conversation that I ever happily missed, and
• Wardrobe failures.

But cheer up. There’s always next year!

*Oh, for Pete's sake, Molly. I'm just kidding. You're very cute. Fantastically cute. Insufferably cute. And I love you!


See all the great photos from our weekend!

Play the ball where it lies?


You've got to be kidding me.

Nice balls though, huh? They were my $5 birthday present from Corinne.

We took the day off to start cleaning and packing for fishing trip. And, when I happened to have the bright idea that we should run over and get in 9 holes of golf, it was the perfect chance for Corinne to surprise me with my birthday present a day early.

Shopping with a $5 cap is tough. I've got about 2 weeks and about 0 ideas for Corinne's birthday. Now the bar's been set pretty high!

PS: In case you're wondering, no, I didn't lose all 6 of my new golf balls. I only lost 2 of them. So there.

Half ironman? Done.

70.3 miles is a long way. Most 70.3-mile car rides are enough to produce at least one round of "are we there yet?"

The idea of a self-propelled 70.3 miles was enough to make me very nervous on Friday, very gratified today…and very tired on Saturday.

I did it! I completed the first (non-annual) Skoog Half Ironman Triathlon. And I beat my target time.

Here's how it went:


Swim    1.2 miles    38:24
Transition #1           3:46
Bike      56 miles     2:53:40
Transition #2           6:55
Run      13.1 miles   2:24:10
Total                        6:05:55


This was the easiest possible half-ironman triathlon. It could not possibly have been easier. So I hereby acknowledge the following areas which diminish the value of my DIY tri versus an organized event.

1. Pool swim. This was huge. Especially since my swim technique is so terrible that I don't do flip turns. I got a clean breath every 25 yards. And I always knew exactly how far I'd gone and how far I had left to go.


2. Pool swim WITH NO ONE ELSE IN THE POOL. Okay, this is getting a little bit ridiculous. Not only did I not have to fight a kicking and flailing crowd… Not only did I not have to circle swim and share a lane… I didn't even have to deal with anyone else's ripples. It made for a REALLY simple swim. 88 times across the pool. Not a problem, even for a swim-hater like me.

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3. Straight-line bike course. Unlike a normal race that starts and ends at the same place (and, therefore, has to loop around and head in all directions), my race was from Sartell to Osakis. And I had winds from the SW. That means I never had to fight the wind and sometimes I had a tailwind.

4. Biking on the Lake Wobegon Trail. Former railroad bed. That means never more than a 2% grade. No evil climbs.

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5. Course measurement via MapMyRide rather than some officially certified course organizer. There were slight variances between MapMyRide and my bike computer and MapMyRide and my Nike Fit chip. I went with the MapMyRide distances (which were shorter in both cases) for logistical reasons.

There. That's it. I'm done apologizing. I went 70.3 miles (according to MapMyRide). Quit your bitching.


This whole thing went so smoothly because of the people I had helping me. It started with my sister, Christine, getting me into Gold's in the morning and patiently, supportively cheering me on while I swam.

Then there were Eric Nacey and Jon Kern, who kept me company and helped me set an aggressive pace on the bike. Eric came along till Albany. Jon stayed with me till the halfway point. After that it was just me and my iPod. (Oh yeah, that's another difference between my tri and an organized race. Yes, I wore my iPod. Got a problem with that? Go screw yourself.)

But the end-all-be-all of race-day support was Corinne. She unracked my bike and set up my gear in transition while I swam. She drove ahead while I biked and met me in Avon, and in Melrose with water bottles. She drove ahead to set up the transition point (which she had researched and selected in advanced).

(Yes, she thoroughly caffeinated herself for the trip – see photo.) Then, after I started running (this is where it gets
ridiculously awesome), she drove ahead to Alexandria, parked the truck at the finish point, unracked her bike and came back down the trail to meet me with a backpack full of water and Gatorade. (It's a sweet little insulated cooler backpack with a Leinie's logo on it that I won at HOP this spring.) She caught up to me just before halfway on my run and then kept me company for the rest of the run. She's officially the coolest. Believe me, I know it.

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Finally, there were my parents, who met me at about three points as I trudged through Alexandria toward the finish line. They cheered me on, then rewarded me with a great lunch, an even better shower and a couple of fantastic Leinie's Summer Shandys.


Weather couldn't have been better. A slight breeze (sometimes at my back). Mostly sunny – with just enough clouds to keep the temperature down and occasionally provide a few cooling sprinkles. Great day. Great weather all around. (Well, we ditched Alexandria before the severe thunderstorms rolled through in the evening.)


We were totally lucky when we set up the course. Corinne mapped it out for me and found cross streets at the appropriate distances. But when we got there, it was even better. Both the bike-to-run transition area and my final turn off the trail had nice, open space and public access parking lots. It was perfect.


What did I ingest?

I'd often wondered how people fuel themselves for real distance races like this. Usually, for sprint triathlons, I'm pretty low-tech. I'll have a bowl of cereal or a donut and a can of Diet Coke. This spring, when I did the 20-mile race, I hit a few of the water/Gatorade stops and had a GU or a Hammer gel or whatever they were handing out around the 14-mile mark.

For this distance, I knew I'd need more. Especially since the forecast was for 89 degrees. So, in case you're curious, here's what I did, and the consequences.

Friday I made sure I got in a solid gallon of water.

First thing in the morning on Saturday, I drank a pint of water, ate a banana and had a Clif bar (black cherry – yum!).

After the swim, I had one of those new Gatorade Perform01 pouches that you're supposed to drink "before" your workout.

On the bike I had a water bottle with me, plus Corinne met me with a bottle of water in Avon and a botttle of Gatorade in Melrose. I had a Clif gel shot just before Melrose and another about 10 miles outside of Osakis.

In transition I had another banana, a bottle of Gatorade and I carried a bottle of water with me (which was good, cuz Corinne wouldn't catch up on me till almost halfway through!). I had another Clif gel shot at about the 5-mile mark.

When Corinne caught me (for the last 7.5 miles), she had a backpack full of goodies. I had three bottles of water and a bottle of Gatorade in that time.

At the finish line I had two more bottles of Gatorade. Outside of a mile or so on the run before Corinne caught back up to me, I never really felt dehydrated. I think we managed it really well.

The only downside was that, by the end of the race, the roof of my mouth was killing me. And it only got worse. I was starving at lunch time but I couldn't finish my burger because the roof of my mouth felt completely raw and sore and swallowing any kind of food was tremendously painful. It's still that way. I get anywhere from 5-10 bites of food in before the pain starts. By 20 bites I'm practically crying. I'm starving…and I only managed to get down one piece of pizza and two chicken wings tonight for dinner. My first thought that it was some kind of acidity thing. After all, I had four 12-ounce bottles of orange Gatorade Perform02 and three Clif shots. Corinne started researching allergic reactions. But I think we're settling on just dryness from spending just about 6 hours breathing through my mouth. Don't know.

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How did it feel?

This seems like a dumb question, but it's one I'd always wondered about racing at distances like this. So, how did it feel? I mean, in the past when I've run things like half marathons or the 20-mile race this spring, my knees or my hips or my ankles have started to wear out. You know what I mean? Searing pain in a particular joint/muscle with each step? Terribly painful blisters? Excruciatingly painful chafing?

This race? None of that. Or at least not much of that. I had one blister on my toe. And I had some pretty painful chafing going on. But nothing beyond what I'd expect. Other than that, I was just straight-up, garden-variety tired. Seriously tired. No joint pain at all.

And that's a good thing. Because, even though I was able to auto-pilot my way through a 20-mile run and just keep cranking out the miles, I couldn't do that with this 13.1 miles. I did a bunch of walking. If my hips hurt as badly during this run as they did on my 20-mile or some past half marathons, I wouldn't have been able to start running again if I stopped. This time I managed it just fine. So I set myself up doing half-mile on, half-mile off. And it didn't hurt.

So I made it. That's it. The end. (At least it's the end for now. Next the question becomes, "What future goals does this achievement open me up for?")


Salad days


I've decided to eat a salad for one meal every day for the next 30.

I'll give you a moment to digest that.

For anyone who knows me well, that line hit with about the same impact as Andy Rooney gushing, "You know, I'm totally stoked about these kick-ass seats for the Phish concert." Or Adolf Hitler casually dropping, "Eva, I think I'm going to have a Bat Mitzvah for Blondi – just to cover my bases."

This is Corinne and I on another one of our quirky challenges. (Actually, not much of a challenge at all for her. More of a me thing.)

I'm maintaining full veto power over which salads I will and won't include in this challenge. And I'm aware that some of the choices I'm going to be making here would get the official tsk, tsk from Bob and Jillian. (For example, most of the salads I've eaten since we started this on Friday have included Buffalo chicken. And I washed down my salad last night with a turtle brownie and ice cream.) But screw them. Baby steps. Right?

Half-assed training

NOTE: This one's not going to have anything too witty, clever, funny or emotional in it. It's just me blathering on again about triathlon stuff. So if you're curious about what goes through a less-than-average Joe's head as he contemplates a half ironman triathlon, read on. If you're looking for illuminating wisdom, read the Bible…or the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


Well, less than a week to go until I try my tri. I'm a little nervous, but optimistic.

So, Saturday, I decided I'd better take a test run at that 56-mile bike distance. Corinne and I were meeting my parents to play golf in Osakis, so I just took off a little early and went on the bike. (The distance from door-to-door was freaky perfect. My odometer rolled to 56 right at the golf course. Exactly. Kinda scary, actually.)

How'd it go? Well, it had its ups and downs.

• Conditions
If I get weather this coming Saturday like I had this past Saturday, I think I'll make it. Saturday was hot. Really hot. Snakes-frying-on-the-asphalt hot. But I had a good, solid 15-mph wind from the south. That means I was almost never fighting the wind as I moved northwest up the trail. It was either a crosswind or at my back. However, I'm announcing right here, right now, that if next Saturday comes and we have that same wind out of the north or west, I'm not doing this. I'm just not.

• Time
My original guesstimated goal prediction for the bike portion of my race was to average 17.5mph for the 56 miles. I zipped past that for this ride. Part of it was the fact that I hadn't just swam a mile. Part was the wind pushing me. Part was knowing that I didn't have to climb off and run 13 miles at the end. Whatever factored into it, I did this set of 56 miles in 2:52, for a 19.5mph average. This weekend I'll have to find the balance between pushing myself and pacing myself. I think I can beat 17.5 in that context…but I should NOT shoot for 19.5.

• Conditioning
I'm not in great shape right now. I haven't been working out as regularly/rigorously as I'd like and I'm probably carrying at least 5-10 extra pounds. (I've been carefully avoiding scales.) So a large portion of this is going to be a simple test of sheer, stubborn will and determination. We'll see how it goes. On Saturday's ride, my quads were pretty gassed by about 45-50 miles. I was having trouble consistently generating any real power toward the end.

• Gear
I'm a bit torn on what to wear here. My assumption all along was that I would wear my tri shorts and jersey. The shorts are quick-drying, so they'll work on the swim. And they have just a manageable-sized chamois – rather than a gigantic, gel-filled, cushioning crotch pad – so they're okay to run in… But for the ride I just did, I wore a comfy pair of cycling shorts, and my ass was STILL killing me by about 45 miles. It made me really think about finding a way to do at least the bike portion of this weekend's race in my nicest, squishiest pair of cycling shorts. (sigh) Tempting. Still, I think I'll just suck it up and take that pain for an hour or so. I have a feeling it's going to be just one of many breeds of pain I'm going to be in on Saturday. (My back was killing me toward the end of this past ride, too.)

• Transition

I think on Saturday I'm going to have to treat transitions differently than I'm used to in sprint triathlons. I'm used to rushing through, switching some gear and moving on as quickly as possible. And I think I'll still be able to do that in swim-to-bike on Saturday. But that bike-to-run transition is going to be different. When I got off the bike the other day in Osakis, the idea of running 13 miles really didn't sound very attractive. I think this weekend I'm going to have to spend at least a few minutes stretching and maybe getting a quick rubdown on my legs before I start trying to run. It's going to be interesting.

• Other events
I haven't been in a happy place with my swimming all year. So I was pretty worried about that one. But last week I did a full-on test run and it went really well. I need to do 44 laps to get my 1.2 miles in. Nine laps is a quarter mile. So what I'm going to do is 8 laps of front crawl, then a 1-lap recovery of breast stroke or backstroke. I do 4 of those, then I get to finish up with another set of 8 front-crawl laps. My original guesstimated goal prediction was 45 minutes. I did it in 39:20 at a nice, easy pace that didn't leave me gassed.

And as far as running goes, I haven't done any real long training runs, but the 10Ks that I've been doing have felt really good. My original guesstimated goal time for Saturday was 9-minute miles (just about 2 hours for the 13.1 miles). I've been turning in 8:30s pretty easily on my training 10Ks. And everything's been feeling good. No hip pain. No knee pain. Just some toe blisters. The fact that this event comes at the end of my race is going to make it the wild card. But I'm guardedly optimistic about my 2-hour goal.

• All together now
Forty-five minutes in the pool, plus 3:15 on the bike, plus 2 hours running…toss in maybe 25 minutes of transitions. I SHOULD be able to do this in about 6 hours and 30 minutes. I'll be happy with that or anything under it. I'll be satisfied with anything under 7 hours.

Wish me luck.