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

Fun with friends along the lakefront… swimming, biking & running! We all ran our own race while dealing with the heat, humidity & freak rainstorm! It was the first time that Tracy & I got to run together as we signed up for the “Clydesdale & Athena” division for we “larger” normal-sized people!

Fun to have Chris, Nancy & Don racing with us. Seeing Nancy in our favorite “Rapid Reboots” after the race… and Chris winning second place in her age group!

Despite the challenging weather today, we all had a great time playing down along the lakefront for the 2021 CHICAGO TRIATHLON.

Categories: Chicago, special events, workout

Today was sunny, hot & steamy… with a side of gusty winds & stormy clouds with a quick deluge of a raining downpour!!! Not quite ideal… but another fun day at the 2021 CHICAGO TRIATHLON!!! Sure my finish time might not have been my best, but we had a great time swimming, biking & running with friends!!! It felt so good to get back to a little slice of “normal” during these crazy times! Luckily, we were all outside with plenty of fresh… err, make that thick & humid air!!!

Categories: Chicago, production, stamped, studio, vases, workout

With this being the hottest weekend of the summer, I’m tagged & ready for another Chicago Triathlon tomorrow! It’s going to be a sweaty race… as I’m currently in the studio sweating & racing to finish a new batch of oval vases. We’ve had no air conditioning on the second floor of Lillstreet for over a week now!!! Not good during the heat wave hitting Chicago this week! Just trying to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate…

Categories: Chicago, workout

Another beautiful day in Chicago. Still a little on the cool side, but perfect for an afternoon jog along the lake… less sweaty when it’s a bit cooler! Beautiful sights along the way… but now that I’m home, I’ve got to focus… and get into the studio tonight!!! Gotta get some work done… as I’ve been playing hooky a bit too much lately!!!

Starting with a beautiful view of Lake Michigan from Loyola University…

And the church at Loyola University…

Some beautiful late summer flowers…

And some crazy seed pods on some kind of a bush. Anyone have any clue as to what kind of plant this is?! It looks a little too much like a Coronavirus molecule for my liking. Just sayin’…

And this is apparently what things have come to… when parents need to figure out new ways to take on the role of teaching their kids!

Some wonderfully whimsical “embellishments” along a cement wall at Tobey Prinz Beach. A little tough to see… but wonderful for those with a keen eye!

The cooler weather today also makes it wonderful at the beach…
I practically had the whole beach to myself. Easy to enjoy the natural setting and stay safe & socially-distant at the same time… when there’s no one there to be socially-distant from!!!

I found my very first beach glass MARBLE today!!!

Plus I spotted a little “gallery” of painted beach rocks. It will be interesting to see how this grows over the next few weeks. And I feel as though I might just need to add one of my own in the next couple weeks!!!

So here’s the additions to my new “quarantine collection” of beach glass. I started finding it when I had to mix-up my morning bike ride up towards the beaches of Evanston & beyond. And by now I have quite the collection started!!!

Categories: Dad, family, Taylor, workout

Yesterday was the HOT CHOCOLATE RUN through downtown Chicago!
So much fun spending the day with my Dad & niece Taylor who both completed their first ever 5K Race… okay, so we walked… but still, a 5K!!! Gotta start somewhere!!!

Categories: Chicago, friends, workout

Just remembering back six years ago when I ran the Chicago Marathon to celebrate my birthday! So much fun!!! I never knew a marathon could be so much fun… with such great support, encouragement & entertainment from the spectators! Thanks to my pal Tracy who ran the marathon that year as well for sharing this photo today!!!

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!


Categories: Chicago, special events, workout

Yesterday was a beautiful day for the Chicago Triathlon. Well, beautiful except for the crazy waves in Lake Michigan. So crazy that they called off the entire swim portion, and changed it to a Duathlon – run, bike, run. Always a fun day “racing” downtown with one of the best bike courses EVER!!! Up & down Lake Shore Drive, through Lower Wacker Drive and down along the Bus Lane… all 100% closed to traffic! Always a fun day playing downtown with my Tri-pal Tracy!

And this is what happens sometimes when you ask a total strange if she can take a few pictures for you. Still not quite sure what happened… some errant filter somewhere maybe? At least she tried…

At the Finish Line… thousands of medals are waiting for the Finishers! The Chicago Triathlon is the city’s only downtown Triathlon… and one of the world’s largest with over ten thousand athletes competing over the weekend!

Also after the Finish Line, there are an assortment of vendors, team tents, recovery stations and medics. My favorite of course is the Rapid Reboot tent. We’ve tried them many times at both Chicago Triathlon & a few IRONMAN Expos… and so much better when you get to use these AMAZING compression pants after the race when your legs could really use the boost! #rapidreboot

A rare Selfie... with a bit of a post-race afterglow much attributed to the compression pants massaging my legs at this very moment. Thanks to Clark and the fun folks at Rapid Reboot!!!

After the race, we decided to “walk it off” with a nice stroll through Millennium Park since the day was so gorgeous!

After having the SWIM portion of our race cancelled…
the day just didn’t feel complete without getting a little WET!!!
So we decided to play in the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park.

Scroll through the next few photos quickly, and you’ll see my friend Tracy doing her best Snow Angel Stroke in the fountain… to “complete” the third leg of our Triathlon!

And notice my still sealed, never-been-opened Swim Cap and extremely dry goggles!

We still lined up to start our race at the Swim Start arch… even though the lettering had been removed already. I guess to avoid confusion?! As we would basically be RUNNING the swim course instead of swimming it!

All in all, another great day downtown for the Chicago Triathlon… even if it was changed to a Duathlon! Always fun to get another medal to add to the collection… even if it is the THICKEST & heaviest medal yet!!! Rumor has it that if you were to complete all of the Lifetime Triathlons in the series, your medals would stack up to look like a replica of a sports water bottle!


Categories: special events, sunrise, workout

Raining this morning… but luckily it was a gorgeous morning yesterday as we all started early down at Monroe Harbor for the start of the Chicago Triathlon. The sky was amazing… but the waves were crazy! So bad, that they cancelled the swim all together… and instead turned it into a Duathlon… run-bike-run! Better safe than sorry… at least we got a wonderful sunrise show as the Chicago Fire Department was there to show off super-neato water-spraying boat!!!

And an IRONIC “no swimming” sign on a Triathlon morning with NO SWIMMING!!!

And an early morning “attempt” at a sunrise selfie for me & Tracy!