Gary Jackson: Fire When Ready Pottery
A Chicago potter’s somewhat slanted view of clay & play
Categories: IRONMAN, workout

Who knows?…
After this tough IRONMAN weekend, this might just be my next race…

Categories: food, IRONMAN

ANYthing and EVERYthing you want!!!

So I kicked off my “morning after” with some blueberry pie, roasted nuts & Gatorade left over in the hotel room… but soon enough I found myself at the local WAFFLE HOUSE before heading out of town on the expressway!

Categories: IRONMAN, workout

Well, this was the weekend to try it again!
Emphasis on “try”…

We signed up for another IRONMAN way back in January… kind of my way to kick my butt and get my lazy Covid-body off the sofa! During the shut-down it was so tough to get motivated to do anything physically exerting. It was so much easier to lay around and mope. I made quite the nice dent on my sofa during that time binge-watching far too much TV.

So by signing up for another race, I knew that I would have to get my act together and make something happen! So I signed-up for another FULL IRONMAN… while my friends Chris & Nancy both signed up for the Half IRONMAN.

Let’s just say… they took this a lot more serious than I did. They both have training plans… and dedicated a lot of time to training. However I had too much Summer Camp, too many art fairs, too much studio time… trying to make a living and make ends meet during the crazy Covid-Days!

So we arrived in Muncie and went to at the Horizon Conference Center… fully masked! All of the indoor functions were masked… and a lot of changes in terms of pre-scheduled meeting times, spaced out check-ins, fewer vendors and limited access. It was weird being back in a large group situation like this, but it felt kinda like we were getting “back to normal”… a little bit.

After check-in, it was time to drive over to the race location at the Prairie Creek Reservoir. You need to set-up your bike in the Transition Area, along with your gear for the Bike & Run, and leave it there overnight… ready for the race the next morning. You’ve got to plan ahead with all of your clothing, shoes, water, nutrition, etc. that you might want during the race… which is grueling enough to plan everything ahead of time!!!

Flash forward to the next morning… very early… we got up at 4:30am!!!

We left the hotel at 5:00am to drive over to the race location. Pitch black with a lot of anxiety & nerves… yet looking forward to a long race day!

My pals Chris & Nancy were there to support me so early in the morning… and yet we need to remember that these Selfies are never attractive! They were there bright & early to see me off… and then had to wait for a couple hours until their race started at 10:00am… as they were doing the 70.3 Half Ironman.

Ironically, their 70.3 Half Ironman was the same race & same location where the three of us did our very first IRONMAN event several years ago… and vowed at the end of that race that we would NEVER be doing one of those again! Too long, too sore, too painful. And look at us now, we’ve all done a full IRONMAN… now with a collective seven FULL IRONMAN races amongst us!

Another early morning race ritual is the ever-present banks of porto-potties! And the anxiety of trying to time your visit correctly… close enough to race time so you’re “ready”… and yet gauge the long lines so as not to stress out as your race time gets closer if your still stuck in one of the long lines waiting!

And then the sun began to rise, the sunrise was beautiful and red… uh oh… red skies in morning… you know the rest!

Nerves were settling in as my swim start time was drawing nearer. And remember, pretty much no one looks good in a wetsuit!!! Be kind.

And my friend Chris was out there supporting another one of her training buddies Ganesh from “ET : Experience Triathlon”… also anxious about the Swim start.

So here’s the IRONMAN story… sadly, no pictures as you can’t take your phone on the race course… and both of my friends were also racing THEIR races!

THE SWIM – 2.4 miles
The Swim Start is a rolling start where you self-seat yourself in designated time slots… guesstimating when you think you will be finishing the swim portion. In my three previous IRONMAN races, I came in somewhere around an hour and fifty minutes… good for me as I am not a strong swimmer. Even better because there is a cut-off deadline of two hours & twenty minutes.

So I started my race, walking into the water and starting to swim. I thought the water temperature was pretty good, thanks to my wetsuit. I expected it to be colder from the way people were talking about it… and the cold weather we were standing around waiting in with out jackets on! The water was choppy & murky… so much so that you couldn’t ever see your own arm under the water?!

My first segment down the long side was pretty good. Although I had kinda forgotten how tough the IRONMAN swim is… what with so many athletes all pushing, kicking, scraping & bumping me out of the way. They actually will swim right over you if you’re not careful. So you definitely need to be mentally prepared for that as it can be quite daunting & frightening. But when I turned around that first red pylon in the water, you could feel the current pushing you in all directions. It was hard to swim straight. It felt like I was paddling hard and getting no where fast! Ugh.

When I made the first loop, I felt pretty good as I got out of the water, crossed the beach and got back in for loop #2. The water seemed choppier, or maybe I was just more exhausted? But when I tried to swim across the short ends… again, the current was crazy and seemed to be pushing me in the wrong direction! There were people out there hanging onto the rafts & kayaks just trying to take a break, catch a breath, and hopefully move on! At one point, I tried to flip over and switch sides… but ended up getting a bit of vertigo dizziness!!! What?… I’ve never had that before! A little scary… but you gotta catch a breath and keep moving forward!

After the race, my friends referred to the swim like “it was swimming in the gentle cycle of a washing machine!”… and they’re GOOD SWIMMERS!… and I’m not!

I got out of the water just in time… making the cut-off with mere minutes to spare. I stumbled out to the transition area and started to get ready for the bike portion of the triathlon. Stomach a little out of whack… a little nauseous… ugh… that swim was TOUGH!!!

THE BIKE – 112 miles
After churning in the water, my stomach was a bit upset. I was feeling nauseous as I was changing into my biking clothes & gear. I’ve never had that feeling before during a triathlon, so it was a bit weird to not want to eat & drink before heading out on my bike.

The first 15-20 miles of the ride I was still a bit nauseous… and I didn’t feel like I had any “power” or muscles in my legs. I think I had used them all in the water for the Swim! It wasn’t until the nausea settled down, and I finally at some food while pedaling and my legs started feeling better… and a little more back to normal.

Unfortunately, that was also the time when the rain started!

Yes, the dark clouds rolled in and the rain & wind started around mile 30. It rained on & off for most of the ride. Not the best situation for over a hundred miles on a bike. At the halfway point, I did stop for my Special Needs bag… as I had some food in there, as well as some dry socks that I was looking forward to! However… about five miles later THOSE socks were soaking wet too!

So the map shows the route for the bike course… which we had to do TWO loops on. At the end, after the two loops, we had a little surprise turn that took us onto the Cardinal Greenway Bike Path. Wait… what?! Kind of a weird choice for a race, as the path was pretty secluded and narrow… and not really conducive for a race… as everyone’s pace slowed down a LOT on the narrow & bumpy path!

Two funny moments on the bike though…

At one point, some guy rode up from behind me and said…
“You must do a lot of biking. Your legs are HUGE.. and those calves are tight!”

And then about thirty miles later, another guy rolled up behind me and said…
“Dude, you could crush cans with those calves!!!”

Now I know that my leg muscles are pretty big, but aren’t everyone’s legs that are out there doing the IRONMAN??? I know I saw a lot of nice legs out there both male & female. I found it odd that people would go out of their way to make a comment like that to me.

I’ll take the compliment… if that’s what it was?!

THE RUN – 26.2 miles
When I got to the transition area again, all I wanted to do was get out of my rain-sweat soaked clothes! My bike shoes & socks were soaking wet & literally dripping. My feet were all wet & shriveled up. So I switched clothes to a dry set for the run… after adding a layer of Body Glide & baby powder to my already sore feet. I gently started a slow jog out of the transition area… headed out for a measley little 26.2 mile marathon – HA!!!

I started with a slow jog as my legs were still tired from the bike. So I decided to do a combination of run-walk. Run for some, and then do a bit of walking, back to run,,, alternating back & forth. Soon enough I met up with a guy from Texas who asked if I was on my first loop or second… and I admitted that I was just starting… and it was my First Loop too! He asked if it would be okay if he stuck with me for awhile. I said “sure!” as it’s always better to have a someone to pace along with, and to have some conversations with along the way!

Soon enough we realized that our “run” segments were slowing down as we were plodding along.. We determined that we could walk just as fast as our running was… with a lot less impact to our legs. So we started speed-walking even more! And it was hard to keep the momentum moving forward as it was raining again…. the same ugly misty rain!

Travis from Texas and I continued on as the mile slowly passed. We barely made it to the halfway point cut-off time… and Travis was questioning if he even wanted to continue at that point. I did a little quick talking, and convinced him to stick with me for the second loop. A lot of the people that were around us didn’t continue after that point… they called it. But I’m more stubborn than that.

We stopped at the pre-arranged Special Needs area where I got out my visor and headlamp to help illuminate the road… as it was pitch-black out there in some places… and yes, STILL RAINING!

As the second loop continued, there were fewer & fewer people running… as most people out there had converted to the walking version of a marathon! Darker & darker… slower & slower… just keep moving forward!

At mile 20, my new walking companion decided to bow-out… and quit right there!!! He was tired, sore and confident he wasn’t going to finish. So then I was stuck out there all alone! In the middle of nowhere… in the dark… me and my headlamp! Soon enough, a guy pulled up in his pick-up truck and told me he was going to be my escort to the end. So nice… he was one of the volunteers and used his headlights & flashing lights to illuminate the road ahead of me and to keep me safe!

Sadly, as my night went on… I knew I wasn’t going to finish the race. That the “official” Finish Line would already be closed down. The Official Race finishes somewhere around 12:30am… and I was still a couple miles out at that point. I knew I wasn’t doing good, but I was still determined to finish! Every time a vehicle would drive down to check on me, I totally expected them to tell me it was done and then drive me back in. Instead, they kept encouraging me to keep pushing… “You got this!” Even the volunteers at the Aid Stations were still there waiting for me… now officially THE VERY LAST PERSON on the course!

As the mile markers ticked down…. three more miles… two more miles… I started to get confident. I GOT THIS!!! One more mile…

But then it happened.

A vehicle drove out and told me my race was done.
The official shut-down time was 12:50am… and it was now 1:00am!
He could not leave me out there any longer. Even though I was just ONE MILE away from the Finish Line. I tried my best to let me go, telling him that I had this “escort car” with me for safety, but he said legally they couldn’t leave me out there any longer. So I climbed in his car… sadly… dejected… but my feet were glad to not be walking any more!

I met my friends at the finish are as they had already finished their Half Ironman HOURS ago!!! They had gone back to the hotel, showered, napped, had dinner, and then come back to watch me finish the race. They were tracking me on the Ironman App so they could see my progress… and they knew I was struggling. They became concerned when the Ironman App stopped tracking me – and my time just dropped off their phones?! Apparently after a certain time, the App just stops. So they had no idea where I was somewhere after Mile 18 or so?! They were concerned as they kept hearing random reports of people being pulled in, some people injured, some going to hospitals, etc… but nothing official about me!

When I got out of the race official’s car, I walked around for awhile looking for my friends. They were already dis-assembling the Finish Line, taking down all of the transition area fencing, and basically closing up the race! All of the bikes were gone… as my friends had put mine in my car already for me along with all of my gear!

I finally found them out there waiting for me… so good to see their friendly & supportive faces. Such troopers to have waited that long for me to finally make it in! I regaled some of the stories for them… and they concurred about much of it as they had done the Half Ironman in the same choppy water & biked in the same wind & rain! They made me feel a little better about not finishing… we all know how tough it is to complete… as we’ve all done it before! This would have been my fourth Full IRONMAN if I had completed the race.

If it were easy, EVERYONE would be an IRONMAN, right?!

As my friend Kelly told me shortly after the race via text message… “at least you can say you’ve done 3.9999999 IRONMAN’s” And that’s more than most people can say… or have ever even considered!

LATER THAT NIGHTerr, early morning…
When we finally got back to our hotel , my legs were all stiff & sore, so I hobbled my way back to the room. I slowly pried off my sweaty running clothes & shoes… only to find a new “additions” to my right foot. A painful blister on the bottom about the size of Guatemala which I could feel forming around & growing around Mile 18.

But the blood blister on the side of my big toe was kind of a surprise! I didn’t feel that one during the race… he just happened to show up! Another lucky souvenir! I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of the excess abuse a marathon does anyways… compounded by my feet being soaking wet for most of the hundred & twelve miles prior on my bike. The blister on the bottom pretty much lines up with where the cleat is n the bottom of my biking shoes. And I got the exact same “blister the size of Guatemala” in the same place two years ago when I did IRONMAN Lake Placid. I tried to prevent it this time by using Body Glide and baby powder in my shoes before the run… but to no avail.

The next morning after a quick sleep, I had to return to the race site to collect my Special Needs bags. I could have left them there, but the race people said you could pick then up so I left a couple rain coats & things I wanted back in them. It was like an explosion of rain-soaked bags everywhere – many with their racer numbers washed off by the rain!

And then I drove home… stiff, sore and a little dejected. To have come so far only to miss the “finish” by ONE MILE!!! I mean, I know I wasn’t going to make the “official” finish, but it would have felt better to have made it across the Finish Line even if it was just for myself. I’m still pretty proud of myself for making it as far as I did. It was a rough day – starting with that churning swim that started the day off on a bad note, followed by the rain & wind on the bike! I was persistent. I persevered. I never gave up. I just didn’t finish… just ONE MORE MILE!!! Ugh.

Driving home was uneventful. Just siting back enjoying the rural landscape of Central Indiana… hungry… and stopping for snacks a couple times!

Always good to see the Chicago Skyway bridge again… the same bridge I posted two days again when I was headed to the race in the other direction at sunrise!

And when I got home, I started unpacking my soaking wet backs & clothes… some sweat-soaked, some rain-soaked! So many pieces of gear, leftover power-snacks, nutrition bars, etc. Dug down far enough to pull out my souvenir t-shirt & backpack!

Sadly, the one thing missing from this photo is my Finisher’s Medal… because I DIDN’T FINISH!!! So close…

Categories: classes, friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

We woke up early somewhere in the middle of Ohio.
Broke into the second Amish pie… showered and got ready to go.
Repack the car… gear, bike, bags. It’s amazing how much stuff the two of us had
with us for just a week’s trip! And some pie…

In the morning light, we could see that the Day’s Inn was pretty old & tired. But it didn’t matter all that much. I slept well in the bed and that’s really all that mattered. But you could see that the town it was in was kind of closing down, and parts of the hotel obviously were too. Like the pool that looks like it’s been closed for quite awhile… and I’m guessing will never open again!

But the shining morning bright spot was the complimentary breakfast…
and let me just say, I think Aunt Jemima and I are dating now!!!

I mean really, who doesn’t LOVE freshly homemade waffles?!
And after race day you feel like you can eat ANYTHING!!! So I did… twice…
hot fluffy waffles with peanut butter & syrup! Yum!

As we were leaving the little town, Chris decided that this shot might “compensate” for her lack of “Welcome” signs in Pennsylvania & Ohio. Sure, this is a welcome sign, but it’s more fun to keep saying she just missed the other ones!!!

And then the storm clouds moved in again… again, so glad this weather didn’t hit us in Lake Placid. We totally lucked out with AMAZING weather in Lake Placid!!!

At some point, the drive is just that… a drive. And you just drive, and drive, and drive…
Chris is a trooper. And lucky for me, she would rather drive than be the passenger!
And I was more than welcome to oblige!

We did find it funny in Ohio that they are so big into their directional highway arrows!
Like they REALLY want to make sure you’re staying on the right path!!!

And then finally we made it to Cleveland… the “Mistake On The Lake.”

Oh look… the sun was coming back out… and so did the Amish pies!!!

Beautiful blue skies and plenty of farm fields as we were smack dab in the Midwest!
Gotta love good cornfields, soy fields, orchards & vineyards!!!

“Holy Toledo Batman!”

And then more farms… more fields… more clouds & blue skies!

Soon enough we were running out of gas… and we didn’t quite notice it until it was getting REALLY close. Chris has been so good the whole trip to try and refuel whenever we got close to a 1/4 tank. But somehow this time… the “range” of how far you can still go on the gas you have left in the tank went to NOTHING!!! Uh oh…

Luckily, the Service Center was pretty close… pretty sure we could roll in on fumes if we had to! But we didn’t – all good. Made it in easily, re-fueled… and re-filled with more food for lunch!!!

And then more farms… more fun.

Soon enough I had to rub it in… and “prove to Chris” and rub it in a bit more…
that you can indeed get a photo of the Welcome Sign!!!

We were group texting with our friends and one of them pointed out that we were going to cross the time change soon… giving us an “extra” hour… thanks Nancy! We were kind of on a mission to get home as I needed to teach my Tuesday night class at 7:00pm. But the “extra” hour gave us a few options… like searching for Amish pies in Goshen, Indiana. Huge thanks to Rose for dropping that hint… AMISH… PIE!!!

We searched through Goshen, but didn’t find much in the way of Amish. No horse. No buggy. No pie. So we followed some signs and ended up in Shipshewana. Much better right away as the horse & buggies were all around!

And even better… Amish bakery… with LOTS of homemade PIES!!!
If all goes well, this big cherry pie will make it’s way to share with my pottery class tonight!

But it wasn’t just about PIE… as Chris couldn’t resist a package of sugar cookies!
This feeding frenzy has GOT TO STOP!!! But when we get home… not now…

Soon enough… we started seeing signs for Chicago!!! YIPPEE!!!

And in true Chicago fashion.. Welcome to Illinois…. Welcome to Construction!
Even worse, all of these pylon cones and NO construction anywhere to be seen!!!

Then we made it to Gary, Indiana… “The Armpit of the Midwest.”
All too soon the beauty of the rural farms was gone!!!

Back over the Skyway Toll Bridge… and back towards Chicago!!!

Okay, Gary, Indiana might not be too nice, but some of the industrial pieces, parts & architecture are pretty darn cool.

We finally made it back to my place. We unpacked my stuff out of Chris’ car…
and put her stuff back in . Still a LOT of gear. Especially when you need to shlep it all
up THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS… just two days after running a full IRONMAN!!!

I got everything upstairs… ran through the shower…
and then I was off to teach my 7:000pm Pottery Class!!! No rest for the weary!
And yes, of course I had to wear my Finisher’s shirt to class. Who wouldn’t?!

So I made it to my Pottery Class in time… with the cherry pie from Amishland Indiana!
Such a great way to finish off the Lake Placid Adventure!!! Sharing my stories & my accomplishments with my pottery class… most of who didn’t know I was even going for it again!

And here’s my other Lake Placid t-shirt…
and the one where they print everybody’s name on the back! Pretty cool…
almost 3,000 athletes listed alphabetically!!!

And yes, there I am in the top left corner of the M… see it?… there I am…






Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

What a difference a day makes…
We set the alarm for 10:00am… as we needed to pick-up our bikes and gear bags from TriBike Transport by 11:00am. We went to bed expecting to be sore in the mornig, but I was feeling surprisingly well… okay, except for that blister the size of Guatemala!!! Oh yeah, and did I mention that toenail on my right foot that was falling off too?! My feet were hurting… but everything else was surprisingly good.

So good that I actually woke up about and hour and half BEFORE the alarm went off. What?!!!… crazy talk. Chris was still sleeping soundly so I took my shower, packed my clothes, did the dishes and started cleaning up the place. Chris finally got up and we headed own to collect our bikes & gear bags from TriBike Transport. Such a wonderful service… well worth the extra cash!

We came back to the room, finished packing up all of our stuff… and then started to pack the car one more time! It was a LOT tougher getting all of our bags, gear and bikes back down to the car… as we had to take them down a set of stairs that didn’t seem to be such a big deal before the race?! We met a few of our neighbors doing the same thing packing up their cars as well. Some of them had some “horror stories” to share as some didn’t finish the race but instead ended up in the hospital. Sad stories, but it made me appreciate my race so much more!

Chris and I finished packing and we were on the road!!! Homeward bound…
and hopefully NOT through Canada this time!

The drive was nice… seeing the beautiful sights again and NOT needing to bike or run to see them. Like the ski slope towers from the Winter Olympics!

It was kind of fun driving on the same route that we had just raced on the day before – like returning to the scene of the crime. You definitely had a new admiration and appreciation after spending the day out there up-close & personal.

As Chris was driving, and I once again “assumed” the pivotal role as trip photographer…
I just had to document the foot injuries… CAUTION : GRAPHIC PHOTOS AHEAD!!!

So here’s the toe that was losing the toenail…
no band-aids, so a bit of toilet paper and duct tape worked well to keep it protected.

And then here’s my left foot… and the blister the size of Guatemala!!!
Yep, she’s a beaut. About as wide as three toes, and covering a good portion of my foot.
Just imagine running on that baby!!!… for a full MARATHON!!!

Such beautiful scenery… as seen from the front seat of the car. Like this AMAZING downhill that we pedaled down yesterday!!! This huge downhill section was literally about six miles long… smooth roads… good viewpoint… so good that you could “safely” let it rip and go for speed! I was speeding down around 50 miles per hour at times! So much fun… just a bit scary!

Zooming down the hill with one lane closed for us… while the other lane was being used cautiously by cars timed & spaced out by the cops at each end. Flying down the road with such amazing beauty on the right side… with just a small barricade separating us!

We didn’t get all that far… down the big downhill section and into the town of Keene. Not surprisingly, Chris and I were both hungry… and at this point, you totally feel like you DESERVE to eat whatever you want! So we did!!! We pulled over at a cute little roadside cafe’… half expecting to have breakfast. But of course we had missed that and we were onto lunch.

We started with these amazing bread rolls & handmade potato chips. The rolls were made with duck-fat… but it was the blue-cheese butter spread that really took it over the top!!! SO YUMMY… so good that we actually asked if they package up the butter for sale. Sadly no.

Then the real food arrive… pulled pork for me, and a chicken salad for Chris.
Kind of healthy, right?! I’m sure we’ll compensate for that somewhere
along the long road trip home!

Chris continued driving for most of the way… as I was the photographer.
When we first started the trip, we sent a few photos to her training teammates at home.
Little did I know that I would get so into it… and continued this group-text photo journalism project for the ENTIRE trip!!! So much fun for all of us! But there I was capturing every sight along the way… bridge after bridge… field after field… clouds… trees… whatever… PIE!!!… everything!

At one of the rest stops in New York, we stopped for gas and found a little Amish tent at the entrance… and look, they were selling handmade pies! We couldn’t decide which flavor… so we GOT BOTH!!!

More bridges, more sights… like this shot of the historic Erie Canal…

And then the rain clouds came back. We had such amazing weather all weekend long for the IRONMAN race… so glad that the stronger storm clouds stayed away from Lake Placid. I’m okay with rain on the expressway… so much better than on the race course!

Soon enough, the storm dissipated and the clouds cleared up… back to blue skies!

We kept driving on out of New York, through Pennsylvania and into Ohio. It was during that time that I was taking a turn driving… and Chris had to take on the challenge of photographer! Needless to say, she missed the “Welcome” signs for both Pennsylvania AND Ohio!!! She had a simple task.. and she missed the opportunity!

Okay, in full transparency… there was no Welcome sign in Ohio….
but my story is still that she missed both states!!!    HA!!!

It started getting dark, and we were getting tired. We need to get gas…
and it all added up to the same thing. Time to stop for the night, find a hotel and sleep it off. We found this Days Inn in the middle of nowhere… we had hoped to make it to Cleveland, but we didn’t quite make it. Just a little more mileage tomorrow, but a good place to stop for tonight.

We unpacked all of our gear, our bikes and our bags into the hotel room…
and crashed.                           Okay, maybe after a few bites of Amish pie!!!





Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events


Early Sunday morning 3:00am and here’s the view from our room.
Dark, quiet… like the calm before the storm. Soon enough this quaint little street running through Lake Placid would be a hub of frenzy as we near the start of race day! I got up earlier than Chris so I could shower & shave, have some breakfast and gather my thoughts. With all of the drama going on at home with my Mom, I’ve had a lot going on in my head these days. Hard to focus on anything or everything! But I know she would have wanted me to continue and finish this IRONMAN… so I’m going to!!! For my Mom.

Once we were both up and ready, we walked back down to the Transition Area… conveniently about two blocks from our room. We wanted to double-check our bikes and add some air to the tires. We also had to drop off our Special Needs bags. The bike one went up on the hill by these colored lights on the side of the Olympic Training Center. The swim bag went down the road a bit on the road that borders Mirror Lake… a bit of walk.

You can see now how the Transition Area has totally filled up with thousands of bicycles. Keep in mind, they’re all numbered both the bike and the rack. And each athlete will be looking for their bike here when they come in from the Swim.

Looks like the Gear Bag area has been completely filled up too!

After we dropped of our bags, re-pumped our tires, and mentally walked through everything… we went back to our room to relax for a few minutes before heading down to the lake.

The Lake Placid Swim Course is in Mirror Lake. A beautifully clean & calm lake. The buoys have been in place for the last few days, so we’ve been looking at it with fear & dread… well, at least I have been. Also this time, we will be swimming the same loop TWICE… and we even need to get out on the beach and run through the starting arch again for the second half… crazy, right?! This IRONMAN swim is a self-seeded start… meaning you decide for yourself which corral and Wave you want to be in. The Pros go first, and then everyone else start after they’ve completed their first loop. Being a very unconfident swimmer… I chose to start in the 1:50-2:00 hour wave. Which I was assuming was a bit faster than I would really finish it in. But I hoped it might help speed me along a bit??? Which I might need.. as the deadline to complete the 2.4 mile swim is two hours and twenty minutes. If you don’t finish in time, you’re done with the race!!!

And sure, this isn’t me running in… but you get the idea..

When you finish your second loop, you get out of the water and start running towards the Transition Area. See the blue line on the map above?… that’s a couple city blocks that they carpet for the athletes to run down in their bare feet. Along the way, there are plenty of volunteers lined up to help people wriggle out of their wetsuits if needed.

I was just pleased to have made it out of the water with time to spare! I actually surprised myself by finishing the Swim in one hour and fifty-five minutes!!! Not bad… considering this was only my FIFTH time in the water this entire season!!! Yep, did I mention that I didn’t really have a lot of time to train for this race?!!! Plus, everything going on at home with my Mom… you get it.

After you run from Swim to the Transition Area, you grab your Bike Gear bag and head into the changing tent. You strip off your swim gear, dry off and switch into your bike clothes, shoes, glasses, helmet, etc. You also have a chance to drink some Gatorade and eat some food if you pre-packed them in your bike bag… and I did. Not my first rodeo.

Then you run out of the changing tent, around part of the speed skating rink and into Transition. Because I’m a slow swimmer, and a LOT of the athletes had already come before me… there were plenty of volunteers on hand to help with my bike. As you’re running around the rink, they call out your race number and a volunteer was waiting there with my bike pulled out and ready for me. So nice. And then you run with your bike out of the Transition Area before you can get on. You saddle up… and head off onto the Bike Route. Geared up for the long 112 miles to come!!! And did I mention yet that we’re biking in the Adirondack Mountains?… so I knew to expect some big hills!!!

The Bike Route is a double loop as well… so as you’re leaving the Transition Area and head out, you know that you’ll be back again at the halfway mark… and then do it all over again!!!

So glad that Chris and I took some time two days ago to drive the Bike Route. I would not have been happy flying by on my bike and not really being able to appreciate the natural beauty while pedaling on my bike, And did I mention hills?…. notice the elevation chart above this… times TWO! Yes, that big downhill into Keene was pretty amazing!!! Flying down the beautiful road at about 50mph!!! But in the back of your head… the more you go downhill, the more you are fully aware that you will need to pedal back up that same elevation at some other point.

The bike ride was SO MUCH FUN!!!
Of course, this is my strongest suit in the triathlon. I enjoy hills both up and down. The scenery was amazing, and I was catching up and passing a few people along the way! After the first loop, we made it back to the Transition Area to find our Special Needs bags waiting for us. I knew that I had packed some food for lunch, so I stopped for a couple minutes and scarfed down some food. And then it was off again for another 56-mile loop!!!

I thought that the second loop seemed a little easier than the first. I think my legs had gotten over the Swim, and the muscles were all working together on my bike. It felt good… and the hills didn’t seem all that bad. Part way through the second loop, it started to rain. And rain hard… it hurt, so many people were thinking it might have been some hail mixed in. Luckily, the rain “waited” for us to make it down those huge downhills… which was great because that would not have been safe if they were wet & slippery! The rain stopped pretty quickly, and we were back to nice weather for the rest of the ride!

When you finish the second loop of the Bike Course, you roll back into the Transition Area and hand your bike off to one of the volunteers. They will take your bike and put it back in the rack for you. You go back to the Gear Bag racks and find your Run Gear Bag. Back into the changing tent to switch all of your clothes one more time. Plus, another opportunity to eat some food and hydrate. All the time thinking about the run coming up… and making sure you’re wearing all the right things for the long night ahead.

So I switched in to my run clothes and started jogging out onto the course. I made it about a mile or two and I felt something weird inside my shoe. Something didn’t feel right. So I stopped, sat down on the roadside guardrail, took off my shoe & sock to make sure nothing was stuck inside. And there wasn’t. Uh oh… something wasn’t feeling right… but nothing obvious inside that would have been causing it. My immediate fear is that there might be a blister already setting in.With all of the rain & sweat during the bike ride, my bike shoes & socks were soaked. And when I went to change them to running shoes, my feet were all slimy & pruney.

But, you can’t let it stop your race. So I put my shoe & sock back on and started jogging again. But not for long… and not for very far…

Okay, so here’s the deal… because I’m kind of an idiot… and I don’t train & plan a lot for these kinds of things… and I kind of have a tendency to jump in blindly… I had no idea of what I was in for. For my other two IRONMAN races in Louisville, the course as pretty flat as you run through town, through the college campus, past some museums, through a suburb, around Churchhill Downs, etc. When Chris did Madison, that course is kind of the same. I knew that the bike course would be hilly as we’re in the Adirondack Mountains. I get it. Hills.

But it NEVER once crossed my mind that the run would be hilly too!!! Wait, what?…
Running up & down hills?! When did THIS happen???!!! I was not at all prepared for this either mentally or physically. I new right away this was going to be a tough course!!! You run the first mile or two through the town of Lake Placid and go past a couple old Olympic venues… and then town ends. There are no suburbs. No college campus. Just the surrounding forest wooded roads way out in the country… going up & down the hills!!! Who knew?! Well, not me!!!

The run course is a double loop as well. You start at the Transition Area.. inside the dotted line rectangle above. You run down the U-shaped course and back up the right side, turn around and come back. When you get close to the Transition Area, you go off to the right to parallel along the lake that we swam in earlier, tun around and head back. It’s on that leg of the race that your Run Special Needs bag is there waiting for you. So of course, I stopped to take in some more food, and fill my jersey pockets with some more snacks for the road.

But look at the chart below, you can see how steep some of these hills were…
like that HUGE one in the center!!! Good God Man!!!
And remember, everything has to be done TWICE!!!

And here’s the real kicker… as you take that road paralleling the lake and turn around to head back… there are SO many people on the sides of the route cheering you on. So exciting. So much fun!!! You can also start to hear the Finish Line, the crowd, the cheering and the announcer announcing the names of those people already finishing their race!!! And the crowd on the side of course “assumes” that you’re almost done too… so they’re cheering you on… “only a few more feet to go!”… “you’re almost done!”… “you got this!”

It kills you just a little inside knowing that you still have another half marathon to go!!! So within sight & hearing distance of the Finish Line… you make a sharp left turn and head out back onto the run course! And if that weren’t hard enough… the number of people running with you at this point drops drastically too… as many of them are already finishing… and I still have a LONG ways to go!!!

So you’re starting the second half of the marathon… feet are hurting…
that blister is definitely growing… and you already know where the tough hills are and how tough this is going to get! You’ve been here once before… and get to do it all again! Lucky me!!!

So the run becomes more of a “shuffle” and everything slows down. Many of the hills are easier to walk up & down… and at this point, I think it’s even FASTER than the shuffling I was doing before??? To add insult to injury, the sun is now going down and it’s getting very dark out their in the woods on those country roads. There are no street lights. There are no house lights. Just dark nature. Pitch black!!!

Along the route, they have set up some large generator lights like you see on the highway construction zones. Good try, but far too spaced out. So it’s PITCH BLACK for a long distance, and then suddenly blindingly-bright followed by long, drawn-out shadows sweeping the road. It was getting difficult to even see where you were running?! The volunteers start passing out green glow sticks… so at some point you’re just following the glow stick in front of you hoping that you’re still running on the road!!!

I won’t sugar-coat this. IT WAS HARD!!!
My feet were killing me. You’re out there on the pitch black roads. No music. No distractions. And all too often you get caught in your own head… thinking & overthinking everything. Like how far it is still to go. How far away the Finish Line is. How big that blister on my foot must be. How much time I have left… and will I even be able to finish in time?! Let alone many thoughts and “conversations” with my Mom… who I knew was back at home in her hospice bed somehow still willing me forward! You can’t quit now. I’m more stubborn than that. Gotta keep pushing. But it was TOUGH!!!

It was somewhere about six miles away from the Finish Line and I was dragging.
Walking very slowly up one really long & steep bridge. When I got to the top, there was a lady on the side cheering me on! Shes like “How you doing???”… I started to say fine, but then I kinda broke down a bit and admitted I was struggling. She didn’t hesitate a bit.. and she just jumped right in and started walking with me. Step for step, right there next to me. Her name was Eileen and she’s a apparently trainer from Long Island, New York. Turns out her daughter is an IRONMAN… much stronger & faster than I. She’s one of the top finishers in her age group, and has already gone to Kona for the IRONMAN Championships. Eileen’s daughter had finished her Lake Placid race hours ago… but Eileen was out there on the course waiting for one of her training teammates to pass by. She offered to stick with me while expecting her daughter’s friend to catch up with us.

EILEEN is my new Best Friend!!!
She started walking with me… but then she spurred me on to a faster Power Walk. All the while “coaching” and training me along the way… swing your arms, breath in through your nose, breath out through your mouth, hydrate, keep moving… let’s jog for awhile! She apologized for talking too much… I said she should keep it up as it kept my mind off of things… including that ever growing blister on my left foot!!!

She stuck with me and got me all the way back into town. As I turned right near Transition to take that road that parallels the Lake, she said I should keep going, jog as much as I can and she would be waiting for me when I came back. I could tell over the past few miles that she was “secretly” checking the time on her phone. Very subtle, but I could see her doing it… and eventually figured out that she was calculating my finish time. She was checking to make sure I still had time to finish within the deadline. So she was gently prodding me to speed it up where I could… encouraging me to jog a bit more here, run a little faster there… to make up some time… but she never made it seem urgent. She was always very encouraging and upbeat. Always making me feel that if I just kept going I would finish in time!!!

So I made it to the farthest out turn-around point and knew that I had to muster up all I had and jog a little faster. About half way down that road, there she was waiting for me!!! Eileen was there cheering me on… and now her daughter had joined her too!!! Yes, the daughter that had finished her own IRONMAN race hours ago was out there running with me cheering me on! Crazy, right!!! So much encouragement & camaraderie out there!!!

We made it to the entrance of the Transition Area and I knew I had it. We all high-fived and I entered the “stadium” by myself. The final leg of the race is half a lap around the Speed Skating Rink. As you turn one of the tight ends of the oval, it changes to the Finish Line… banners, barricades, cheering crowds, bright lights and the Finish Line within sight. And that’s when the adrenaline REALLY kicks in!!! Nothing hurts any more. You are just so elated to be finishing. SO EXCITED!!! So proud when you cross the Finish Line and the announcer announces YOUR name… “Gary Jackson, YOU are an IRONMAN!!!”

Still smiling. Still happy…        happy that it’s over!!!

And with just 15 minutes to spare!!! I crossed the Finish Line right around 11:45pm… and it officially closes at midnight! I was SO close to not making it.. and if it weren’t for my new best friend Eileen… I’m not sure I would have made it… or at least would not have had as much fun finishing as I did with her!!!

When you cross the Finish Line, you’re greeted by a volunteer who is your personal handler. First they make sure you’re not going to faint or pass-out on them. They then assist you through the Finish Line gauntlet… medal… water… Finisher’s t-shirt & hat… silver foil mylar blanket if you’re chilled… Finisher’s photos… and then the food tent!!! Chris and a few of her training teammates were there at the Finish Line waiting for me! Some of them saw me actually cross the Finish Line.. while Chris and Chilly were still chilling & eating at the tent.

Chris and I had both completed two full IRONMAN races before this one…
me twice in Louisville, and Chris twice in Madison…
but this was the first full IRONMAN that Chris and I both raced together…
so of course we had to celebrate together too!!!

She’s a BEAST… as she had finished quite awhile ahead of me…
but was a trooper and waited for me to come stumbling across the Finish Line!

We hung out and waited for one more guy from their training team to cross the Finish Line. Then we all compared some stories, and shared injuries… as we carefully stood up again to start the walk home! Luckily, we had pre-purchased a bike valet package… so someone else was going to collect our bikes and gear bags and keep them safe until tomorrow morning.

Back at our hotel room, we dropped all of our stuff… and collapsed on the sofa! She took a much-deserved shower while I gingerly took off my shoes & socks… to reveal a blister the size of Guatemala!!! When Chris got out of the shower, she was shocked that it was SO HUGE and that I could still keep running on it. I was pretty surprised as well… it was HUGE!!! I took my shower, scrubbed off my race numbers and plopped down onto my bed. And that was it. Done.

But so pleased to have successfully completed my THIRD FULL IRONMAN RACE!!!

But even with the blister… ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!




Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

Much of getting ready for race day is organizing all of your gear. Deciding what you’re going to need & what you’re going to want. IRONMAN does a great job of organizing & planning the event. They need to keep everything organized to keep the race running smoothly – especially with all of the gear and special needs of the two thousand athletes!

When you check-in, they give you a set of color-coded bags. Each bag will get packed ahead of time with all of the gear you’re going to need for each stage of the race. You start the day with your Swim gear in hand. All of the clothing you’ll need for the Bike portion is stored in the BLUE bag. Everything for the Run is in the RED bag. The ORANGE bag is your “special needs” bag that will be waiting for you at the halfway point of the bike ride. And the BLACK bag is the “special needs” bag that is waiting for you at the halfway point of the marathon. And just as an added twist… you’ll get back all of the gear in the red & blue bags… but anything left over in the orange or black bags will not be returned. So you want to pack enough food & extras so you have some options… but not too much that you’re throwing away good things you’ll miss after the race!

Once we had our color-coded bags packed, we took our bikes and gear bags to the Transition Area. These are placed there the day before and will be waiting there for you on race day. We also stayed there to do the Athlete Briefing Meeting where they cover course specifics, rules & regulations and a lot more!

Here’s my trusty steed… racked in the center grassy area of the Olympic Speed Skating Rink!!! We were there pretty early…. so it was easy to find my rack & parking space as they are all pre-numbered. Keep in mind, these entire field will eventually be completely PACKED with BIKES!!!

And here’s Chris’ teeny-tiny racing Tri bike. So cute, right?!

After racking your bike, you then drop off your bags at the bag racks off to the side of the bike area. They will both hang on racks right next to the huge changing tents.

And again, we were pretty early… so here’s the bag racks as they start to get filled up. Keep in mind, these racks will be PACKED with bags!!! And when you come running in after the swim… or after the bike… you’ll need to navigate your way through these bags & racks to find your pre-numbered bags!!!

We had brought all four of our gear bags with us… only to find out that the Special Needs bags don’t get placed until Race Morning… oh well, back to the room!

Once we had taken care of our bikes, bags & athlete briefing… we figured we were still at IRONMAN Village… so we decided to “try out” the compression legs again! Why not, right?!!! We were there… they were still giving free demos… and they feel AMAZING!!!

And then there were also cold water bath legs! Kinda like sitting in a cold ice bath after an intense workout. But totally dry?! It’s an odd feeling to feel the cold water coursing through the legs “freezing” your legs to relieve the muscle aches, pains & tensions. Not a big fan… I preferred the compression pants!

And if compression pant-legs are AMAZING… why not try another version!
They were there… Rapid Reboot… and we wouldn’t want them to feel left-out, right?!

Of the three recovery pants… I think I preferred the Rapid Reboot brand!!!

After the Expo, we went for a little drive… to buy a few last-minute things and some lunch. Chris was sporting her new copper bracelet from her training friend Rose! Inside the cuff it is inscribed.. “YOU FUCKING GOT THIS!”… which is SO Rose!!!

We stopped at a nice local deli for lunch…
and loved seeing them all prepared for race weekend in the bakery area!

We behaved ourselves… as we have been eating FAR TOO MUCH over the past couple days. And we had “promised” ourselves that we would stay focused and eat much better today. The day before the big race. Eyes on the prize…. and not the decorated cookies & fruit tarts!

Also loved the cleverness of this license plate we found in the parking lot of the deli.

We finally made it to an early dinner… and I was looking for some good protein. My steak was amazing! And Chris went for a nice burger and homemade chips. It was early as we wanted to digest the food and get to bed early… as the alarm was going to go off EARLY tomorrow for Race Morning!!!

After dinner, we still had an hour or so to hang out… as it was still a bit too early to go to bed yet. So we walked back down to IRONMAN Village and the transition area… both of which are right next to the Olympic Training Center.

And by now, the racks for the gear bags were starting to fill up. Gotta try to remember where your bags are… keeping in mind that you will have just finished one leg of the race, running in along with a lot of other athletes… and you’re all looking for your bags. It gets a bit confusing & congested.

And the bike racks were filling in nicely too. I would LOVE to know how much “money” is sitting her in the Transition Area. As a LOT of these bikes are VERY expensive… and very impressive!!!

When we got back to the room…. a bit nervous knowing that when we wake up next it will be RACE DAY!!! And doesn’t everyone know that a good piece of apple pie will calm your nerves?!!!

And then it was time for bed… so we settled in, set a couple alarms for VERY early!!!
Going to be very early because tomorrow was going to be a VERY long & arduous day!




Categories: friends, IRONMAN, special events, travel, vacation

We woke up in Lake Placid and knew we had to get started. A lot to do today.
It has felt just like a fun vacation so far… but now all of a sudden reality was setting in.

And then it got REAL!!!
Strapped on our official IRONMAN race wristbands… no turning back now…

After checking-in at Registration… we got our wristbands, bags, tags and all of that other important stuff. Then we went over to IRONMAN Village… the Expo area for all of the athletes and the vendors trying to sell more stuff. Always fun to see all of the goodies that we “want” but really don’t “need”… and a few fun photo-ops along the way! Here’s me & Chris at the official step & repeat photo-op!!!

Lots of people milling about in IRONMAN Village… enjoying the beautiful weather again!

And when in Rome… one of our favorite vendors sells these amazing air inflating, compression recovery pants. Even better, they let you try them for free! Sure, we haven’t done anything yet to have “earned” this… but it was FREE!!! So of course we did it!!!

As the legs inflate and gain air pressure, you can feel the muscles in your legs pulsating and the blood flowing & being pushed back up. Sometimes it gets a little “uncomfortable”… just like a good massage! Yes, please!!!

But then when you take the legs off, you can see where all of the seams & air pockets were pressing against your legs. A few indentations as souvenirs… as now my legs felt AMAZING!!!

And look…
pretty sure this will be placed in the right spot to become the actual Finish Line later!!!

Here’s the area of grass that will be filled with thousands of bikes very soon. This is the Transition Area where we will come back between each section of the triathlon. And since we’re in Lake Placid… home to two Winter Olympics… this grassy area is actually in interior of the ice speed skating rink!!!

And while you’re playing in Lake Placid, it only seemed right that we both got to “light” the Olympic Flame!!! In fact, this is the official cauldron from the 1932 Winter Olympics!!!

While we were there being silly and taking photos, Chris set her purse down on the steps. We got all carried away and continued off into the Expo. It wasn’t until we were headed back to our room that she realized she didn’t have her bag. So we rushed back to the Expo and found it right there sitting on the steps… under the watchful eye of the nice lady that was helping with the photo-op in the expo tent across the walkway. So nice of her to keep an eye on it for us!

Soon enough it was time for more food!!! Gotta gear-up and carbo-load for the big race, right?! Or is that just a wonderful excuse to eat more?!!! So we opted for yummy pizzas… both of them on a cauliflower crust. My first time trying it… and not all that much different, really.

We walked through town doing a little window shopping. And found more than souvenirs… maybe it was time to eat again?! So we did… Chris got this HUGE ice cream cone that she polished off in no time… and I got a slice of cheesecake dipped in chocolate and frozen on a stick. Huge and YUMMY!!!

And we figured since we were supposed to be “relaxing”…
why not take some time off for an afternoon matinee?
And such a cute little, family-owned movie theater!!!

When we got back to our AirB&B room, we ran into some of our new neighbors. A cute couple Jackie & Joe from Long Island… he was racing, she was cheering. Another couple where she was from Brazil and a well-seasoned IRONMAN racer and what we now believe to be her Sugar-Daddy! We also ran into a cute family with two kids… but the strange part was that the Mom of that family was the same nice lady we met earlier that had been keeping an eye on Chris’ lost purse at the Expo!!! Small world, huh?!!!

After the movie, Chris and I hopped back in the car to drive the IRONMAN bike route. We figured it would be a great chance to familiarize ourselves with the course a bit. We knew it was going to be hilly, but we didn’t really know how bad. We had also heard “rumor” of a very steep downhill at the beginning, and then an 11-mile uphill at the end getting us back into Lake Placid!!! YIKES!!! So much easier in a car… and it gave me a chance to take some pictures!!! The scenery was SO AMAZING… that if I didn’t get pictures now, I knew I would never be able to finish the ride in time if I could stop for photos (which you can’t, but you get the point.)

So here we go… pedaling up the first big hill… err, well driving for now, but pedaling later.

Did I mention recently that the weather here in Lake Placid has been SPECTACULAR?!
Well it was…. and the scenery was too!!! Like this…

And here we go… this is the road that will be part of that BIG downhill…
right along side of the river and cliffs!

I mean, c’mon… could this get any prettier???
Truth be told, we stopped the car so I could take pictures of the waterfalls that I had seen on the other side of the road. I hopped out and ran across the road to take pictures. Chris was back by the car yelling at me… and yelling for me to come back… but why?…

Turns out THIS amazing waterfall was right next to the parking lot…
and I had completely run right past it to take pictures across the street. HA!!!

And to think… if we didn’t come out tonight to drive the bike course… we would have only seen this scenic beauty while looking over our handlebars and pushing the pedals. It’s gonna be a race!!! No time for sightseeing. No time for my camera! So glad we got to see some of the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains ahead of time… and with my camera!!!

So good to see the route ahead of time. To have some idea of where the ride would take us… and where the hills were going to be. The route is the same loop twice! To see the steep downhill… and to see how bad that 11-mile uphill climb was going to be towards the end… TWICE!!!

After our drive, Chris and I went over to see some of her training friends at the house they were renting. Chris trains with “ET : Experience Triathlon”… and her coach Chilly was going to be racing Lake Placid with us! So we stopped by to see her and a few other teammates. And were so pleasantly surprised to see that some of Chris’s training team mates had sent us some treats!!! And you know how I LOVE treats… and apparently THEY do to! I mean, they’ve all “experienced” my form of training… riding hard & ending with pie!!!

Some of the largest and best cookies ever!!!

And oh, but wait there’s more… not just cookies… but PIE too!!!
We have some of the BEST FRIENDS EVER!!!… definitely the “sweetest”!!!

And then it was time to sleep… another day closer to the big day!!!
Just one more day of “rest” before we tackle our next IRONMAN race!!!





Categories: IRONMAN, special events, workout

Well, just a smidge over a month ago… my third full IRONMAN race!


It was a long time coming, and I would love to say a lot training… but I can’t.
With everything that was going on in my “real life” with work, pottery, summer camp and my Mom’s dire health issues, something had to give. Unfortunately I was heading into IRONMAN weekend without a lot of confidence… but a ton of determination! I know my Mom would have wanted me to carry-on and conquer yet another IRONMAN… and I did. For her.

I have finally sifted, sorted & edited down all of my photos. I am in the process of posting everything here on my blog, and I’ll post links on my Facebook page as well. There’s a LOT of photos and a LOT of stories! Be prepared to settle in for awhile… and read about our latest IRONMAN adventure!