Zombie flies beat biker butt

I’m failing as a parent.

I know, I know…every parent thinks that, but this time it’s for real!

So how, exactly, am I failing. Drugs? Porn? Grades in the tank? Nope.

My son won’t bike with me. *gasp*little mac bike path

His resistance started two years ago when he and his sister were 11 and 13. It was spring break and I’d loaded up the bikes and headed to the Duck Creek Bike Path in Bettendorf. We had a history, us three, of rolling along on the Clinton and Fulton-Thompson bike paths. I wanted to increase our two-wheeled sojourns and introduce them to new views.

It was the first ride of the year so I knew it’d be short, but around 2 miles, KidBoy started to derail. His butt hurt. Despite several breaks, we eventually had tears…and a very brief ride. It pretty much set the tone for the year.Mo on trainer

So last year, saddled with new bikes and high hopes, the butt pain and tears continued. Not with his sister, though. Except for a literal run-in with a fence, KidGirl’s a natural, even on the trainer.

The kids wear all the proper gear, we’ve adjusted saddle height, tilt, even added one of those BS cushioned seat covers. But it’s clear, KidBoy doesn’t want to ride and is holding on to any excuse. While Marty and I both believe it’s a “time in the saddle” issue, our son is unwilling to put in the time to get his duff toughened up.

Today was their last day of spring break and since KidGirl was hitting the links with Marty, I offered KidBoy the following: an hour of relaxed cruising or sweeping the attic and ShopVac’ing a winter’s worth of nasty-ass dead and undead flies.

He chose the flies. FLIES!!! An afternoon in a gross, web-filled attic with a bazillion zombie flies vs. a glorious spring day in the fresh country air…20160329_131814

Last winter he made the comment, “Just because you like fitness doesn’t mean I like fitness.” Was he pushing my buttons? Of course. But was there a nugget of truth? A glimpse into his personal teenage angst? Probably. So what do I do???

Journeying to a healthier ‘bass’


The other day I saw a video clip of a horse in his stall, bobbing his head to the Meghan Trainor song, “All About That Bass.” Aside from the humorous aspect of seeing horses, like humans, enjoy a fun, funky beat, the song lyrics speak to the weird obsession our American culture has with size.

“I see the magazines workin’ that Photoshop.
We know that s*#t ain’t real, come on now, make it stop.
If you got beauty beauty just raise ‘em up ‘cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.
Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size.
She says, boys like a little more booty to hold at night.
You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll.
So, if that’s what you’re into than go ahead and move along.
Because you know I’m all about that bass ‘bout that bass, no treble.”

The song was released last summer and was an instant hit. While Trainor, the singer, was lauded for its message, it’s a sad reflection on the qualities our culture holds dear.

brrry scurry 2015Our culture has an extremely weird view of body image. I have a dear friend who lives with a disease that’s ravaged her body down to a size two. At her most unhealthy, I had another friend tell me how fabulous she looked. Knowing she wasn’t even capable of taking a daily walk, I was aghast.

And then there’s the flip side, enabling obesity. Given how much goes into the obesity issue: poverty, genetics, lifestyle, healthcare, etc., it’s no surprise that a large chunk (forgive the pun) of our nation is heading toward the blubber-esque future depicted on the spaceship in the 2008 movie “WALL-E” in which humans simply sat in hover chairs and motored around.

Mixed into this psychosis is the anti-aging business: Botex, tummy tucks, neck lifts and all sorts of breast enhancements.

Just last week there was the un-retouched photo of Cindy Crawford in which she’s rocking sexy lingerie despite a wrinkly, fleshy belly.

The responses were as varied as our craziness: there were many who supported the photo for its “realness,” others said it was re-touched to amplify the flaws, while still others lambasted people for praising Crawford’s aging body in an effort to make themselves feel better about their own aging, flawed bodies.

I can’t be the only one who sees this madness for what it is!

Personally? I’m not one to obsess too much about my looks. My sisters would prefer I learn to accessorize, but really, what goes better with jeans and a race shirt than tennis shoes and a hoodie?! I’ll admit, I color my hair, but make-up? Ugh.
That’s not to say I judge others for rocking the latest infinity scarf and never leaving the house without lipstick. I’m actually quite jealous. Just last week I told a sister, “You need to take me shopping. Teach me!”

But looks are not really my thing. Performance, I guess, is what pushes me to try to eat healthy, count my calories, pump the iron and pound the pavement.

A year ago, I gave full disclosure of my physical progress toward a stronger, healthier body. Here’s a comparison, in pounds and inches between then and the last time I was weighed and measured…

Feb. 10, 2014                 vs                Jan. 28, 2015
Lbs-175.8                                          Lbs-162.2 (down 13.6)
Neck-14.75                                       Neck-13.5 (down 1.25)
Chest-41                                          Chest-40.5 (down .5)
Waist-38                                          Waist-35 (down 3)
Hips-42                                            Hips-38 (down 4)
Thighs-23                                        Thighs-22 (down 1)
Arms-12                                           Arms-No change
Body Fat-38%                                  Body Fat-29.2% (down 8.8)

With an overall loss of 13.6 pounds, 9.75 inches and 8.8 percentage points, I’m making some real progress. Especially considering my eating during much of the last year was pretty crazy. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve refocused my efforts.

As I’ve written before, I can’t exercise my way to a healthier body, I MUST be mindful of what’s going in my mouth. I don’t pay much attention to popular fads like Atkins and Paleo because of my person needs. Given the year-round triathlon training I do, I get the majority of my calories from carbohydrates, followed by proteins with the least amount in fat.

That said, I LOVE FAT! Specifically? Movie popcorn with extra butter (mixed throughout, if you wouldn’t mind).

But seriously, I put this information out there in an effort to stop with the fat shaming, the anorexia adoration, the Barbie doll idolatry and the desire for quick fixes. Change that comes quickly rarely stays. And change without a deeply personal idea of what that change will look and feel like, unfortunately, will never happen. We have to do the work, day in and day out, repeatedly.

So what’s my change look like? For 2015, a little more rational than last year. Just one ultra, one full marathon and two 70.3 Ironman events with lots of little stuff sprinkled throughout.


Originally published 21 February 2015 in The Observer.

Old Farmer’s Almanac 2015 forecast


The opening verse of the song “Like the Weather” by 10,000 Maniacs pops to mind during cold, rainy periods such as the recent soaking we suffered earlier this week. . .

              “Color of the sky as far as I can see is coal grey.

              “Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again.

              “Shiver in my bones, just thinking about the weather.

              “Quiver in my lip as if I might cry.”

Those dreary days can be easily forgotten as Wednesday gave way to gentle fall conditions. Is anyone with me in noticing the tree color? Could I be hallucinating or do the reds seem incredible this year? Even the sumac, usually a gorgeous deep burgundy is a flaming candy-apple red in many places!

I suffer such a love/hate reaction to this time of year. One the hand, the temperatures are falling and the changing leaves are lovely. But on the other hand, days are shortening . . . and I need my Vitamin D!

Admittedly, my schizophrenic-like attitude toward the weather is one in which I’m seldom content. Heat is my constant foe, and humidity? Forget it! I will never complain about the cold because you can always put on more layers (though my sisters would argue otherwise). But during those thick, steamy days of summer? You can only get so naked before you’re arrested, and then you’re still gross and sweaty!

In spite of my aversion to warmer climes, I must admit my recent sadness. All the glorious leaf colors and cooler temps serve as sentinels to my seasonal depression, heralding shorter days, cabin fever and miles waiting to be slogged on the treadmill.

While I truly appreciate temps in the teens, the limitations winter places on our lives is a total bummer. Thanks to wool socks and all sorts of layers, at least the cold and wind do not imprison me. But snow and ice? Yeah, I’m out . . . or rather, in.

When I asked my 11-year-old son his thoughts on the coming winter, he shared his excitement, claiming “there’s more to do outside during the winter.” Maclane noted sledding, snowboarding, snowball fighting. (I’ll remember this when he wants to be a toad, sit on the couch and play Minecraft all day.)

It was about six weeks ago, listening to Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa” with Charity Nebbe, that I caught her interview with an editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The winter forecast? Cold and blustery.

Seriously? After last winter?! Honestly, I hate to complain about last winter, but even I found it a little . . . long.

And now it would truly seem that our last hot days are behind us. Hurray! But does that mean I’m ready for cold and blustery? Nope, which is why I opted to snag a copy of the 2015 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac to find out for myself all that next year has in store for us.

Scanning the table of contents, there’s an actual guide to using The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a good thing considering there are parts which read like Galileo’s notebook. The calendar pages are the meat of the almanac, “these pages are unchanged since 1792, when Robert B. Thomas published his first edition. The long columns of numbers and symbols reveal all of nature’s precision, rhythm and glory, providing an astronomical look at the year 2015.”

One thing I remember from the public radio program was that the Almanac claims to have an 80 percent accuracy rate. Googling the question, “How accurate is The Old Farmer’s Almanac” I found many sites itching to complain about such a boastful claim.

A meteorologist writing for Slate, an online magazine, reported “Independent verifications of its forecasts by actual meteorologists over the years showed skill that was ‘laughable at best and abysmal at worst’ with accuracy about as good as a coin toss.”

But doesn’t longevity give its predictions a little cred? The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been released continually on an annual basis since first published 1792. And come on, am I alone in believing the science of meteorology can be a tad “iffy” at times?

While science is reporting a “warmish” winter, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting temperatures, precipitation and snowfall “below normal.” Could this be an indication of less ice i.e. fewer miles on the treadmill? Time will tell.

But as I read further, it was next summer’s prediction that had me groaning: “hotter and slightly drier than normal.” Though that could indicate a possibly less humid summer, it sounds like a scorcher could be in store.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll just enjoy fall while we have it: the beautiful colors, the milder temps, and the last few passes with the lawnmower before winter arrives and I batten down the hatches.


Originally published 18 October 2014 in The Observer.

Triathlon: From sprint to 70.3 in 12 months


At this time one year ago I was in the final days of training for my first triathlon, DeWitt’s own Crossroads. Last weekend I completed my first Ironman 70.3 in Racine, Wisconsin.

I’m sharing this not to brag or boast, but to encourage any of you who ever had a whisper of a thought like, “Could I?” to prove to you, “Yes, you can!”

When I completed last year’s Crossroads, my goals were pretty simple: don’t drown, don’t crash, don’t crawl. Time? Reaching that finish line was Numero Uno.

After I finished, I was quite certain I’d do more triathlons and within just a couple of months, with one sprint tri under my belt, I registered for a half Ironman. A couple of my training buddies found it humorous that I’d take such a leap, but given my propensity for action before thought, it made perfect sense to me.

Racine 70.3I am lucky to have a host of local friends who regularly do this type of sport. They are completely to blame, not only for infecting my goals, but also in seeing I achieve them. While some people may have the moxy to train and prepare without the support of others, I am not that island.

So how does a half Ironman compare to a sprint tri? At the Crossroads, the swim is 500 yards in Lake Kildeer compared to Racine’s IM being 1.2 miles in Lake Michigan. The bike is 15 miles of rolling hills as opposed to 56 miles of mostly flat, though bumpy roads with the run being a single 3.1-mile out-and-back route compared with a 2-loop, moderately flat course totaling 13.1 miles.

Because I’d already done plenty of running this year, I cut back my normal running schedule and focused more on swimming and biking. Factor in that I’m an old RAGBRAI’er at heart, even the biking wasn’t too strenuous as muscle memory, even from years ago, allowed me to ramp up my mileage fairly quickly. That, and finally, after enjoying my road bike since 2000, having a “fitting” done.

With several people referring me to Dan Adams at Healthy Habits in Bettendorf, he put my bike on a trainer, watched me ride and then began tinkering. He replaced my stem, handle bars and bike seat, added aero bars and with mere millimeters of adjustment, had me feeling so fabulous I’d swear it was a different bike!

The only thing left was to address my swimming. Throughout the winter, my friend and trainer Ray Porter had dissected and rebuilt my crawl stroke to improve efficiency and power. That’s well and good, but last month’s QC Sprint Tri proved the second I hit open water, anxiety completely renders me incapable of anything other than laying on my back and kicking my feet.

I’m not afraid of the unknown beneath me and while I initially thought it had to do with the feeling of my wetsuit around my neck, is something weirdly mental that seems to only happen in open water. Does it go back to my days as a lifeguard at Wacky Waters when we’d do early-morning lake searches for possible drowning victims? Who knows, but it certainly could.

Fortunately my open water freak outs began decreasing thanks to specific breathing exercises that address the limbic system in my brain where my emotions are controlled. (Like I said, WEIRD.) These, coupled with doing more open water swims at Scott County’s Lost Grove Lake and Lake G, helped get me comfortable in my wetsuit.

But no matter what kind of preparation a person does, once you stand on the shores of Racine’s North Beach and stare at that massive body of water that you’re required to swim in? The prayers come quick and fast.

Fortunately I was not alone in this endeavor as DeWitt resident and local trainer Matt Dingbam of No Limit Fitness and his student (my cousin-in-law) John Melvin, also of DeWitt, committed to the Racine IM, too!

Each of us had our own reasons for doing so and our own goals to reach. And reach them we did! For now, however, I’m saving the experience for next week to encourage you to participate in next week’s Crossroads Triathlon, Saturday Aug. 2!

Whether as a member of a 3-person team or solo, it’s a wonderful event for a first-time tri. It’s not too late to get in on the fun so visit www.crossroadstriathlon.com for event information and registration.

You never know what you can do if you don’t try, or what dreams and goals a tri can unleash!


Originally published 26 July 2014 in The Observer.

Traithlon: Three athletes—one goal—all Ironmen


I’ve seldom met a hair-brained idea I didn’t like, and apparently I’m not alone! Enter No Limit Fitness owner Matt Dingbam and his client-friend (and my cousin-in-law), John Melvin.

Both DeWitt residents and I were among the 2,606 athletes who competed in last month’s July 20th half Ironman in Racine, Wisconsin.

I remember speaking briefly with Matt at last year’s Paul Skeffington Memorial Race during which we both mentioned the I-word. Forget the fact neither of us had an ounce of experience with triathlon, the idea of taking on an Ironman was brewing in each of us.

flat jenny Racine 70.3 2014While I’d run countless races including several marathons, that Skeff Race was quite special for Matt and John. It was their first. EVER.

Their experience in DeWitt, from the cheering crowds to seeing family members on the course, prompted the two of them to sign up for more races throughout 2013, culminating with the IMT Des Moines Marathon in October. From 5 miles to 26.2 miles in four months! Even I’d call that cray-cray!

This seemingly over-zealous approach to running offers us a peak into the psyches of Matt and John. Meeting each obstacle with fortitude, each goal with tenacity, it’s no surprise neither man shied away from the challenge of the 70.3, which represents the cumulative mileage of a half Ironman—1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run.

While I’ve logged thousands of miles on foot and bike, and probably as many laps as far back as college, I had a smidgeon of what would be required of me. Matt and John? Gut instinct, alone.

“I had always thought about triathlons,” Matt told me, “but I had never even road biked or really swam for distance. I decided to ‘Go Big or Go Home’ and signed up for Ironman Racine, knowing I would figure it out along the way.

“Of course, John Melvin followed my lead as he did not want me to do this alone!”

John and Matt knew each other, but it wasn’t until John began attending boot camp at No Limit Fitness when Matt unlocked John’s potential and the two developed a friendship that would transform their goals into a partnership.

Matt came at the 70.3 with calculated training and focus while John brought the grit, fine-tuned by his years in the military.

“I’ve always reminded myself to ‘Embrace the Suck,’” noted John, using a mantra made common by Iraq war veteran and writer Col. Austin Bay.

“The truth is that my preparation plan was changed constantly due to weather, work, family, money and any other reason.”

In fact, John’s work took him out of country to India for three weeks during the final month before Racine. As if the surroundings weren’t taxing enough, the 16+ hour work days prevented any training and it was then that John decided the Ironman was lost.

Perfectly understandable, life getting in the way and all, skipping the Ironman gnawed at John. Yes, the training wasn’t there, “but why not try?” he wondered.

At the last minute, John opted to ‘Embrace the Suck’ at a level few of us will experience. “Using this logic,” he explained. “I’ve been able to adapt to obstacles on and off the course that are always working to keep you down.”

He, Matt and I met up at the Ironman Expo the day before the race and then John and I drove the bike course.

It was during that drive when he verbalized the essence of strength: facing the fear regardless of outcome. Fear of the unknown robs so many from achieving greater heights. Sure John wanted to finish, but it was facing the possibility of trying and not finishing that was his foe.

But is it such a novel foe? Matt, John and I all brought our own fears to the 70.3 table. Turns out all three of us were less than enthused about the swim in Lake Michigan.

“When I arrived at Lake Michigan I got a sick feeling,” Matt admitted. “I could not quit looking at the lake and wondering how in the world I was going to be able to swim 1.2 miles in this huge body of water.”

Though water temperature was a chilly 61 degrees that Sunday morning, we were lucky to have calm conditions and a glass-like lake. Starting in waves divided by gender and age, we each navigated the breath-stealing cold and fell into steady swims that, once finished, buoyed our spirits for the remaining bike and run.

While Matt and I were confident of our abilities on the bike, John faced the real “meat” of this challenge during the ride. Prior to the Ironman, the longest John had ridden was 25 miles. Aside from the common aches and pains every cyclists copes with, John rode a borrowed bike in which the seat sloped downward. This would be his proverbial shining hour, shining four hours, to be exact.

He knew he could probably reach the 30-mile point, and the 13.1-mile run? If all else failed, he could walk it, but those final 26 miles on the bike? It was a giant, looming cloud of wonder that he answered with a ROAR by cruising through those 26 miles and on through the run.

All three of us reached our goals.

For Matt, this was his first triathlon and he finished in 6 hours and 28 minutes. “The sense of accomplishment and ‘runner’s high’ lasted for two days straight!” In the Finisher’s Tent, Matt met Lionel Sander, the overall winner who snagged victory with a time of 3:45.

“Even though I was totally satisfied,” Matt said, “I knew I would need to do a full IM (Ironman) to reach my full goal! At the same time I was thinking this, I got a text from John that said the exact same thing!”

For John, this was his second triathlon and despite the training woes and borrowed bike, he conquered the fear and crossed the finish line at 8:04!

“There was a time when the Crossroads (Triathlon) was the most difficult obstacle in front of me, then a marathon, then a 70.3,” John said. “My point to anyone thinking about doing something outside the box is this: keep moving forward and focusing on your goals. Everything else always seems to fall into place.”

Myself? I came in at 7:03, 27 minutes ahead of my goal! And yes, as with Matt and John, I too have set my sights on the bigger, badder full Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run.

Matt put it best, “To be continued . . . when (we) sign up for the 140.6.”


Originally published 2 August 2014 in The Observer.