Can you see in color now?

Who’s cuter, Erin or Abbey? (Tough choice, I know, they both could give you that look.)

When Erin was only 5, we had to put down one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever owned. And I can’t make up my mind whether that makes her lucky on balance because she got to spend those first 5 years with such an amazing, gentle, loveable companion – or whether it makes her unlucky on balance because she had to experience that kind of loss at such a young age. I guess I have to go with lucky. Abbey was a great dog.

And I remember that, when the time came, Erin insisted on coming along to the vet’s. Looking back, I have NO IDEA what I was thinking, bringing a 5-year-old to watch the dog she’d spent every day of her life with be put to sleep. There was something about her insistence and the understanding way she talked about wanting to come along. I just knew – she needed to be there.

And she was.

She and I gently stroked Abbey’s head and neck and fought back tears as we watched the life slowly fade in her eyes. I remember walking out through the lobby, holding a leash that suddenly seemed impossibly pointless and out of place. Someone in the lobby made some kind of encouraging comment and I coughed out something intended to sound dismissive and chipper. But really, I don’t think Erin or I even really heard what the woman said. We were so focused on just making it to the car. Just get me to the car. Then I can collapse and bawl like a 5-year-old.

And we did.

Copper, the best beagle in the world.

A month or so ago, my friends Heidi and Dan had to put down Copper. To be honest, I haven’t seen Heidi or Dan in years – much less Copper. But when Heidi and I worked together, we all used to get daily Copper updates. That dog was so spoiled and so loved and we used to hear all about it. And when I heard that Copper had died, I felt a loss – even if it was just that ricocheted kind of loss you feel when you know someone you care about is hurting.

Coaster was family, the best kind of family.

This week Gina and Eric finally had to make the decision I think Gina’s been avoiding for awhile (which is easy to do when you’re too close to see). Coaster’s gone now. All of our kids loved Coaster. Corinne and I still laugh about the great time we had watching after Coaster (though they never asked us again…Coaster must have told stories when he got home). And when everyone around you loves a dog (even you, Eric) it makes perfect sense to hang on as tight as you can for as long as you can.

Shouko, I don’t think she’ll ever stop being a puppy.

Shouko’s 10 (and a half!) now. And she still barks ferociously at pedestrians, and she still sucks it up and takes the shock every now and again so she can take off out of the yard and go scavenge for something cool to bring home. So she’s fine. (“Greg, she’s been sleeping since we got home in that same position – do you think maybe something’s wrong?” “NO, SHE’S FINE!”)

(sigh) I think it’s a cruel evolutionary joke that our caveman ancestors chose wolves, with their frustratingly short lifespans, to befriend. Why the hell didn’t cavemen pick turtles?

Gina, when Shouko’s time comes, I pray I have the strength and honesty to recognize it as gracefully as you have.

And since, as we all know, all dogs go to heaven, some day I hope to hang out with Abbey and Copper and Coaster and Shouko (but not Lassie, that prima donna bitch) and ask them: Can you guys see in color now?

[Editor’s note: Justin Gauerke, where you’re going, I’m pretty sure you’ll still be color blind!]

Bag Bitch?

Actually, I prefer the term Logistic Support Engineer.* But,
for sake of clarification, a bag bitch is a friend and/or loved one who
accompanies a runner or multi-sport athlete to events and keeps stuff
organized. Knights had their squires. Golfers have their caddies. Triathletes
have their bag bitches…. If they’re lucky.

The undisputed king of the bag bitches is Chad Gertken. He
gets the title partly because he’s so thorough and so well prepared … and
partly just for sheer time served. Jodi does a lot of events. And, as far as I
know, Chad’s always there. But Corinne has to be in that bag bitch all-star

At your service

This weekend though, it was my turn. This weekend was the 8th
running of the Blomington Iron Girl Duathlon. It was a celebration of
womanly spirit and a raw testament to the power of the sacred feminine, and
among the fine-lookin’ honeys prancing around that course were Gina Nacey, Corinne Skoog, Jodi Gertken, Janet Skoog and Tammy Moore (not pictured).

First up, let me just acknowledge what I had long suspected.
Being a bag bitch kinda sucks. It’s harder than it looks and – on the whole –
it’s just as boring as you’d imagine. I got to drive down to Bloomington at
4:30 in the morning and then drive home after a nice, filling meal at Big Bowl
in Edina. (Thank God there was a good Vikings game on the radio on that drive
home.) I got to operate a camera that was clearly 2-3 levels above my pay
grade. I got to cheer for a few seconds at a time and shuffle around looking
for warm sunshine the rest of the time. After the experience, it’s important
that I reaffirm my love for Corinne, my respect for Chad and my admiration for
bag bitches everywhere. Believe me – you are appreciated.

But enough of my
bitching – what about the racers?

More important than my pathetic bitching about bag bitching,
however, were the racers themselves. They were amazing. The “watching them
compete” part was really a blast. The course included a 2-mile run around Mt.
Normandale Lake, 22 miles of (debatably) flat biking, and another 2-mile loop
around that lake. (The image below shows two things — the top part is the elevation diagram I got when I plotted the course on MapMyRide before the race. The bottom part is what the GPS on Corinne’s heart rate monitor showed after the race. Nice sandbagging, MapMyRide.)

And all of our participants rocked it. I was extremely
proud. Jodi showed us she really can ride a bike. Gina clearly remembers more
about high school cross country than the fact that she used to date a
three-time state champion (he was kind of a big deal). Corinne has made a joke
of her old racing goal: “I just don’t want to finish last.” Of the 1,064
finishers, about 700 of them got to fight it out for “last”, because they were
all behind my wife. Tammy kept Corinne company for most of the morning (which
was nice, because we just don’t see enough of Tammy these days) till Corinne
started cramping up on that last run and Tammy passed her by. And Mom? At 70
years old, Mom not only beat everyone in the 70-74 age group (granted, there
were only 3 of them), she beat over 350 people. She was clearly not just a
bucket lister. She was a competitor.

Shut up and get out
of my way!

And make no mistake about it, there were plenty of those
bucket listers on the course yesterday. I’m not sure what my opinion of that
was. I think there are real advantages to a woman-only event like Iron Girl. I
asked Corinne the biggest advantage she saw and she agreed: “There aren’t guys
whizzing past you constantly. It’s less intimidating.” And if that’s the case
and that freedom enables a few women who wouldn’t otherwise feel confident
enough to run a race like this to step up and take part, that’s a good thing.
There’s no arguing that.

And it is a legitimate event. That’s four miles of running
and 22 miles on a bike. This isn’t one of the little “mini triathlons
with their 300-yard swim, 12-mile bike and 2-mile run or some such nonsense.
This is a true physical test.

But the thing is, that warm, enabling environment enables a
whole lot of people who just want to take part in an event like this to prove
they can go the distance and to “cross it off their bucket list.” That’s great.
I love to see people getting active and testing themselves. Multi-sport in
general is just such a welcoming and encouraging culture and that’s always been
one of my very favorite things about every race I’ve attended. It’s just
that…well…a lot of these women weren’t racing. They were just out there going
the distance.

With over a thousand bodies on the course, the challenge
there is congestion. For every “competitor” who would come flying out of
transition to hop into the saddle and crank down aggressively, there were a
couple of lollygaggers climbing on carefully and wobbling back and forth across
the narrow chute heading out onto the bike course. (It didn’t exactly look safe.)
And on a bike course filled with turns and intersections, the side-by-side,
chit-chatting comfort bikers get to be an obstacle and a safety hazard.

When it comes right down to it, I guess I’m in favor of Iron
Girl and its power to draw all kinds of participants – especially when I think
of how much I love the Apple and how many times I’ve tried to convince people
that they can do it. This is a comparable event, without the stigma of
intimidation. I think there’s probably some special value for women in getting
out there on a course filled with that many other women. And if you’re looking
for that kind of camaraderie, this is a good event for you. But, if you’re
looking for a fast track on which to set some kind of personal best, mark your
calendar for Saturday, May 25, 2013 – Apple Duathlon!

*Actually, Eric and I originally planned on getting together
and making some Bag Bitch t-shirts for he and I and Chad and Brent. But we
never got around to it. Good thing – it was so cold all day I never took my fleece
off. Would have been a total waste of effort. Score one for procrastination!

Thanks, ESPN!

Yeah, I was sporting my colors today. I had on my Peterson jersey and the lucky Vikings slippers that my mom made for me. (She made Corinne a pair too, but I don’t force her to wear them unless it’s a REALLY important game.)

Yeah, I had the gear on. I guess I just figured that there probably aren’t going to be a lot of opportunities this year to be optimistic. So I was going to seize this one. I suited up.

I watched the game. I’m not going to get into the mechanics of the game or break down film clips for you. Let’s just cut to the chase: Vikings had a 5-point lead late in the game and gave up a (nearly) 40-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion to go down by 3 with 20 seconds left. Corinne was disturbed by both the volume and the intensity of the profanity that issued forth from my mouth. 20 seconds.

But, wonder of wonders, Christian Ponder, Blair Walsh and the Vikings managed to get into position and nail a 55-yard field goal within those 20 seconds. Overtime, baby!

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the NFL’s new overtime rules (and, evidently, the guy at the helm of ESPN’s Scorecenter is among you), there’s a fairly new deal. If your team DOESN’T win the coin toss, and then proceeds to give up some yardage BUT holds their opponents to a field goal – don’t give up hope. Nowadays, your team gets a turn of their own. If you give up a field goal on the first possession of overtime, you still get a possession of your own. (If you give up a touchdown, it’s all over.)

So we head into overtime. And the Vikings drive the ball to the point where Blair Walsh gets the chance to round out his rich, full day by kicking a 38-yard field goal to put Minnesota up 23-20 in overtime. Then he kicks off, because the Jaguars are going to get their shot.

Tense, nerve-wracking stuff, right? I mean, I’m on the edge of my seat here. What’s going to happen? Will the Vikings succumb to one of their all-too-frequent late-game collapses? Or will they stand tall and hold tough? I was really nervous.

That’s why I was VERY relieved when ESPN’s Scorecenter app did me the glorious favor of pushing me the final score. Thanks to ESPN, I was able to relax and watch that last drive in peaceful comfort, knowing that the Vikings were going to win 23-20. Whew!

Everybody’s all worked up about how unqualified these replacement refs are. They had no trouble with this. But the genius at ESPN clearly skipped out on “new rule day” or whatever they have at ESPN during the preseason. In fact, that reminds me: the booth announcer team
on the TV broadcast was giving the replacement ref a hard time at one
point in the game because he hesitated about which direction to point on
a penalty. I TOTALLY empathize with him on that one. When I used to ref
some soccer games, I was always screwing up the pointing thing when it
came to throw ins. I KNEW whose throw in it was – I’d just mess up which
direction I was supposed to point. My point is, back off the
replacement referees… But, um, go ahead and give the guy at ESPN
Scorecenter all the shit you want to. I guess that’s my life lesson
here. You’re welcome.

Happy anniversary, Corinne!

Life is full of hard choices. Some you make and learn to live with. Some feel like they’re made for you. Some you make and live to regret. And some – if you’re lucky – you make and live happily ever after.

Five years ago today I had the good sense and good luck to make one of that last type of choices. And, to my overwhelming good fortune, Corinne made the same one.

Look, life is a crap shoot. It really is. And I’m a terrible gambler. On this hand though, I was dealt aces. And I bet the house.

So here’s to the lucky few – the ones who find love and are conscious and careful enough to kindle it. Here’s to my wife for seeing my flaws and weaknesses and not just loving me in spite of them, but challenging me to make them strengths … and for watching out for me along the way.

Trust me – she’s awesome. (And did I mention she’s got a great rack?)

One giant leap

Nobody has to tell me about the frustrations of being 14 years old. Trust me – I’ve done 14. (And, if we assume that the sole purpose of being 14 is to cram as much awkwardness into one year as possible, thereby depleting your supply of awkwardness so you’ll have less of it later in life, then I did a kick-ass job of 14.)

So many hot flashes of cringe-worthy embarrassment and gnawing self consciousness flood back that I really don’t want to linger on the subject of being 14 for long. But, for purposes of this post, it’s important that I establish some credibility and verify that, yes, I do indeed know what it’s like to be 14. [It’s critical to note at this point that neither Josh nor Molly is anywhere near as much of a trainwreck as I was at 14. Not even close.]

And, as I recall, one of the most frustrating things about being 14 is the tantalizing knowledge that you’re the smartest person in the house – yet you’re not granted the power to rule your world as you see fit. The stupid powers that be. Look how screwed up this world is. You think a 14-year-old couldn’t do better?

Poor Josh bears the backbreaking weight of this knowledge every day. And he lets it show. So when adults open their ignorant mouths and drool out some kind of idiotic shit about bike helmets, for example, you really shouldn’t expect that frustration NOT to show.

Dumbass Grownups: Yes, you can go ahead and ride this bike. But if you’re going to take it out of the cul de sac, you’ve got to wear a helmet.
Prematurely Wise Adolescent: A WHAT?
DG: A hemet.
DG: Because this is a road bike. It’s much faster than your other bike, and it’s designed for speed – not necessarily handling.
PWA: Uh, SO?
DG: Josh, you have to wear a helmet on this bike. Even Lance Armstrong had to wear a helmet.

Boom. Case closed. I’m out, y’all.

[Editor’s note: Pursuant to article 15, subparagraph 12 of the Fairness in Blogging Act, I’ll probably be coming out soon with a corresponding know-it-all post about Molly. Just got to settle on which of her delightful know-it-all moments to feature!]