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

So while I’ve had a sore ankle for about a week now, I’m also just a “little bit” stubborn… so… today was the CHICAGO TRIATHLON, and I was not going to miss it!

But when we got downtown, we found put that the Swim portion had been canceled due to the high crashing waves. They quickly turned it into a run-bike-run DUATHLON instead (just like we did in 2019). My ankle was not happy, but I was happier to NOT be swimming! So we ran the distance of the Swim, then did the Bike course, followed by the Run distance. The weather was otherwise perfect, and the Triathlon… err, Duathlon… was great fun once again! As it always is playing with my Tri-Buddies Chris & Nancy!!!

And on a good note… my ankle doesn’t feel any worse for the wear! If anything, if feels better. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow morning?!

Categories: Chicago, workout

Today was the “official” kick-off of the running season… a fun chance to shuffle through downtown Chicago for the annual SHAMROCK SHUFFLE. While many were actually down there to “run” through the closed-down streets… I think it’s more of a chance to play with friends & do a little “touristy” photo-shoot along the way! Sightseeing & shuffling all at the same time!

Categories: Chicago, workout

Another one in the books!

So yesterday morning started out early with the sun rising behind Buckingham Fountain. Not a bad place to start… excited in knowing that it was going to be a long & arduous day!

We checked our extra gear at the official Gear Check area… and then proceeded to our starting corrals. We “may” have fudged our corrals a bit… as I was supposed to be in one, Chris & Nancy in another one, Steve in one and Tray in yet another one. We thought it would be more fun if we could all wait together in one starting corral. And since your official race time doesn’t start until you actually cross the Start Line… no big deal, right?

My marathon pals for the day… Chris, Nancy & Steve who were all well-trained and ready for the race. Then Tracy who is a avid runner, but a more leisurely run-walk kinda racer. And then me… who doesn’t like to run, and didn’t really train AT ALL!!!

My training run was the Chicago Triathlon… and I hadn’t really run since then! I knew it was going to be tough… but I’m stubborn & determined. Plus, I”m never in it to race… I just have three simple goals for any of these endurance events…

Number One : Have fun.
Number Two: Finish.
Number Three : Don’t injure anything!

So then we waited… and waited…
Chilly & breezy with everyone dressed in layers. It’s amazing to see the piles & piles of clothes discarded along the sides as you approach the Start Line. People taking off their warm layers… ready to start running. Luckily, they collect all of that extra discarded clothes and donate it to worth causes.

So you start running through the downtown streets. So much fun to be running down streets that are usually filled with cards & buses!!! Andno matter how many times I’m down here, I end up being the perfect tourist every time… stopping for plenty of photo shoots along the way!!!

More fun crossing the river… across the bridges… through the City!

As you head north, you pass the Lincoln Park Zoo an several parks. Running when I can, stopping at the water & Gatorade stops… and stopping for a few pictures! I mean, I”m never going to WIN the race!!! So I’m in no real hurry… just keep moving forward and enjoy the adventure!

Mile 5 at the south end of Lincoln Park Zoo.

Part of the fun through the race is all of the wonderful spectators who are out there to cheer you on. Plenty of creative signs along the way… and I LOVED this one!!!

After heading north & turning around into Boystown… complete with a drag show performance of “Grease”… you head back into the City. Over the rives & bridges again… kinda cool looking down trough the bridge. Not for those afraid of heights!!!

Almost halfway…

Then the official HALFWAY point of the marathon!!!
Kind of exciting… but this is when the legs start getting tight, sore and the feet start to talk back a bit!

You continue west out of the City and work your out and turn-around neart the United Center. The back in, just to turn around and head out west again – this time through UIC and Little Italy.

Soon enough you’re headed in the Pilsen neighborhood… full of hispanic culture, mural, music & plenty of color & fun everywhere!!! Always good to run through a vibrant & entertaining part of town to take your mind off of the sore legs & feet!!!

Along the way, I made a new friend… the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man!!!
Followed by another great sign.. and the answer was YES!!!

Still moving forward… exiting Pilsen and headed toward Chinatown!
Always fun to see the next Mile Marker as the numbers keep getting closer & closer to 26!!!

Mile 20… and still feeling good!

It’s also so motivating to see all of the people running the marathon… knowing that everyone has a “story” to share. Some of them you get to chat with along the way… others just MOVE you when you come up behind them.

No reason for me to be complaining or aching…

Love all of the murals & artwork along the way…

And some great snacks to avoid muscle cramping… pickles & pickle juice!!!

Welcome to Chinatown!!!
You now you’re getting close to the end when you get this far…
but this is also when “The Wall” hits.

Throughout the race, there are plenty of water & Gatorade stations… so much water… so many paper cups!

Somewhere near Mile 24, a woman was on the side cheering us along and offering up Clementine oranges… YES PLEASE!!! And let me just say… the BEST Clementines EVER!!! Just what I needed right then!!!

After 26.2 miles, you finally make it to the Finish Line to claim your finisher’s medal. That’s a LONG way to run to get another piece of medal on a ribbon! Luckily, my friend Tracy was there waiting for me! Always fun to share these big moments with a good friend!

So here’s some swag… souvenirs from the race.
And another one in the books!

And for now… trying to recover … getting the muscles to settle down & stop barking at me. Shower, change, eat, stretch, relax, all of that stuff! When you’re stumbling home on sore legs & aching feet you think you’ll NEVER do this again! But after a couple days… you start to think… “Well, maybe?”

Categories: Chicago, friends, workout

After the the CHICAGO TRIATHLON (en route back to the Transition Area to reclaim our gear) Tracy and I took a moment for our annual Buckingham Fountain photo-shoot! Always fun to play around with a friend… and even though I live in Chicago, somehow I turn into a total “tourist” when it comes to Chicago Landmarks! Bring out the camera…

Categories: bike, Chicago, workout

So today was another day “playing” down on the Chicago lakefront! Another CHICAGO TRIATHLON under my belt. I went once again for the full International distance… basically a one mile swim in Lake Michigan, followed by twenty-five miles of biking on Lake Shore Drive & Lower Wacker Drive & ending with a six mile run along the lakefront south to 31st Street Beach and back through the Museum Campus towards the Finish Line near the Art Institute.

It was a fun day overall. I felt pretty confident & strong… even though the conditions were less than ideal. The second half of the swim was so choppy it felt like a washing machine! Riding south on Lake Shore Drive all directly into the headwind. And the run was very sunny & humid… so excited to make it to the Finish Line!!!

Categories: workout

After too many years when it “went out of fad”… and a couple years of pandemic… it felt great to get back to a class again this morning! I remembered most of the steps, but didn’t remember it being quite that tough?! Oh, what a couple years can do…

Categories: Chicago, photography, workout

A beautiful day for Shamrock Shuffling through downtown Chicago this morning… a perfect way to kick-off the first day of Spring with my friends!!! Sure, some people were running the race… while others (like me) were “shuffling” and enjoying the sights along the way for a fun photo tour of the downtown route!

Categories: Chicago, workout

Always a special day when the Chicago Marathon works its way through the neighborhoods for 26.2 miles of fun! The weather may not be ideal with some gusty wind & a little drizzles of rain, but all of the runners were off to a good start. So fun cheering them on close to the start as they crossed the Chicago River for the first time. Fun to see the Elite Runners, the parathletes, the “normal” runners… and even cheering on the last one! Give it your all… you got this!!!

And remind me again why I felt compelled to add long swim & an even longer bike ride BEFORE my full marathon last weekend?!

Categories: IRONMAN, workout

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

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…