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



So it’s RACE DAY!!!

Starts off VERY early in the morning. Nervously waking up, running through the shower, shaving, eating some food, double-checking everything… just to get in line and sit for hours waiting for your chance to jump in the water.

So the way they did it in Louisville last year was that each athlete had to “choose” which group they belonged in based on their estimated swim finish time. Now I know I’m NOT a good swimmer… and I would be LUCKY to finish in under two hours… but I thought that if I started in  a slightly faster group it might spur me along a bit.

Keep in mind, there’s a HARD CUT-OFF DEADLINE of two hours & twenty minutes for the swim. Don’t make it out of the water in two hours, twenty minutes and your race day is OVER!!! My biggest fear!

And then after waiting in the darkness for over an hour, the line finally started to move as the sun was just coming up. Nervousness sinks in as you get closer to the pier where the jump-in happens!

Excited and nervous all at the same time!!!

So everyone jumps in the Ohio River off the pier. Your time starts when you actually jump off.

You swim upstream between the shoreline and a small island. This is a Google photo… but trust me, this is what it looks like as you’re swimming in the morning sunrise with steam coming up from the the warm water!

Once you get past the island, you swim a bit further and turn around the floating pylon way out in the water. You turn around and start swimming back the other way. You need to cross under two of the huge expressway bridges before you can think about getting out!

And yes… there are a LOT of people splashing around in the water. Bumping you. Scratching you. Swimming over you. Takes awhile to get used to that part. Most of them are actually swimming. I’m more in the side-stroke category!!! I’m not a good swimmer… so I call mine more like “flailing & floundering in a forward direction.”

Eventually you get to the end of the swim. With a HUGE sigh of relief.
You see Joe’s Crab Shack and the exit arch for SWIM OUT.
And you just hope that you made it in under the cut-off time!

And I did!!!
I made it in under two hours!!! So excited… I get to keep moving on in my race day!
So excited to see Chris there at the Swim Exit cheering me on!… and taking photos!

And then it’s back to the Transition Area to find you Bike Gear Bag so I can change clothes and put on my biking shoes & helmet. You drop off your bag that now has your Swim Gear in it… and you’re heading off for a “leisurely” 112 mile bike ride!

And here we go… after a quick high-five and words of encouragement from Chris on the sidelines!

And let’s just say, it’s not really all that FLAT in Louisville… there are a few hills along the way too!

So you’re out there biking through rural Louisville.
Lots of rolling hills and bluegrass horse farms. Beautiful weather…
and then… uh ohSTORM CLOUDS!!!

Seemingly out of nowhere… huge clouds, gusts of wind and sharp sprinkles of rain.
The combination of wind & rain made the drops feel spiky on your skin! It was pretty much the last half of the ride through the stormfront!!! It was so bad that many people were posting videos on Facebook!!!

While others were posting weather facts & updates!!! And YES, it was tough pedaling through the gusty winds! You just had to keep your head down, tuck it in on the aero bars and keep pedaling!!!

When I finally got back to the Transition Area on my bike, I was more than ready to get off. It was cold with gusty winds. My fingers & ears were frozen. The sweaty clothing made your chilled very quickly when you stopped pedaling. Couldn’t wait to get out of my wet biking clothes and into some dry running clothes. Not quite sure what to wear for the run portion. You only have the clothing options that you packed in your Run Gear Bag. Which luckily I had plenty of options. But the “problem” is that you don’t want to wear too much and overheat along the way. You also don’t want to wear too little and get chilled… again!

So I finally made my choices, went for shorts & bike jersey with snacks & gloves in my back pockets! Ready to head off for a full marathon of fun!!! So god to see Chris waiting for me at the end of the Transition chute… huge encouragement and support!!! Much needed after the chilly bike ride… hoping that the storm front had moved out of the area for the run!

Halfway through the run, you finish your first lap and they bring you so close to the Finish Line you can see the lights, hear the applause, feel the music… and then they make your turn right a block before… turning you around for another 13.1 miles!!! PSYCH!! Like it’s not hard enough after 13 miles, the sun has gone down, it’s now dark & cold… and the TEASE YOU with the Finish Line!!!

Luckily, Chris was right there waiting for me at the Special Needs station…
right after that vicious right hand turn away from the Finish Line!

Bad camera, blurry photo… trust me, it’s NOT that I’m running so fast that I’m a big blur!!!

And then I got to stop for my Special Needs Bag… at the half-way point of the marathon. Pre-planned with some more food, chance to change clothes, Chapstick, etc. Luckily Chris was there to snap a couple pictures and to see me snarfing down some food… like a pouch of tuna fish with my fingers!

The remains of my Special Needs bag…

A quick breather… and then it was time for the next 13.1 miles.
The toughest part of the race! You’re SO close… and yet SO far away. It’s dark and cold,
and you’ve still got another couple HOURS of running ahead of you!

So you know what it looks like… and some of you don’t?! Here’s what Fourth Street Live looks like on race day at the Finish Line. Lights glaring. Musing blasting. Crowds cheering. Bellowing for each and every athlete to cross that elusive Finish Line. SO  EXCITING!!!

A system of volunteers ready to help the athletes navigate the Finish Line…
photos, water, metallic blankets, photos… and of course, Finisher medals!!!

But then again… back to ME!!!
I finally made it… as the Announcer blares out on the microphone…


The phrase that every athlete has been looking forward to all day long!

And there it is… and the sense of accomplishment. 140.6miles of fun!!!
And my SECOND FULL IRONMAN!!!and still smiling!!!

So here are my official IRONMAN Louisville results…
almost an hour and half better than last year!!!

And for those who care for a bit more detail… more than I need to know…

All in all… another wonderful day in Louisville.
LONG… but wonderful.







Categories: bike, special events, workout



Saturday starts early with a lot of nervous energy & prepping for everything! So much fun being surrounded with so much energy & camaraderie. So many athletes who have worked so hard to get to theis place. All ready for a great weekend. A lot of organization & planning… starting with checking in at IRONMAN Village. You pick up your bag & race info, get your timing chip and race numbers. Then they funnel you out through the IRONMAN Merchandise Tent… convenient, huh?

Enjoying some of the Louisville waterfront along the Ohio River. Amazing bridges crossing the river. Beautiful now… but a bit overwhelming just knowing that tomorrow I would be in that huge river swimming for my life… a full 2.4 miles of swimming in the Ohio River!

And then it was back to the hotel to pack up my gear bags and prep my bike. An IRONMAN race is organized to perfection… and a system of gear bags staged at different points along the way. So you’ve got to plan accordingly… and then hope for the best.

After placing your gear bags, you have put your bike into the Transition Area according to your race number in the sea of bicycles on the pre-numbered racks. Gotta keep track of where you leave your bike… so you can find it later!!! It gets a little hectic during the race with athletes racing in & out scrambling all over the place – coming in, going out, finding their bike & bags!!!

A lot of bikes… 2,000 athletes means 2,000 bikes!!!

With the bridges off in the distance, it was time to go have a quick bite of lunch. So we went down to Fourth Street Live… kind of the hip & happening area of town. Also exciting knowing that the IRONMAN Finish Line would be right here in the same spot tomorrow!!!

So Chris and I  hung out for awhile, went back to the hotel for a nap, and then it was time for a quick dinner. So we went back to Fourth Street Live area for a nutritious dinner that would get me through the race tomorrow. I chose my favorite Chipotle. I know, not too exciting. But I like it. And I know it works well with my stomach with good nutrition for tomorrow. And quite honestly… there was a bit of “superstition” in it as well. I ate Chipotle last year for my first IRONMAN and all went well. No need to change that, right?! So we finished dinner, went for a quick walk through downtown Louisville to work off some nerves… and “maybe” some ice cream… when the sun had set it was time to get to bed for an early night’s sleep. For tomorrow is going to be a  BIG DAY!!!







Categories: bike, special events, workout

So I’ve been a little busy… one thing leads to another…
suddenly it was the holidays, then art fair season, then Summer Camp…
and all of a sudden before I knew it… it was a year later!!! A year ago TODAY!!!

But IRONMAN is more than just one day. It’s a full weekend of fun!
That also means I also have a full weekend of photos & stories to share.

So here we go… a year later… hopefully worth the wait… and several posts to go!!!



Categories: friends, special events, workout

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to my buddies Chris, Nancy & Rose who just crossed the Finish Line of IRONMAN MADISON!!! It was the first full IM for Nancy & Rose, and the second for Chris! All three of these ladies rocked it today! I just wish I could have been up there to cheer them on!!! But duty called… and I had a great weekend at ART IN THE GARDEN. Some of us had to work… while others got to workout!!


Pay no attention to that man in the crazy pink shirt… she’s IN FRONT of him!!!

Shortly behind was Chris…

And then it was Rose’s turn to cross the Finish Line…

Again, HUGE CONGRATS to all three of these amazing friends! They did an amazing job completing the 140.6 ile course…and still all smiles!!!


Categories: friends, special events, workout

Best of luck to my buddies Chris, Nancy & Rose as they race in the IRONMAN Madison today! So excited for them… right now they should be in the middle of their 2.4 mile swim! It’s going to be a long day, but I’m confident they can make it through the 140.6 miles of fun!!! This will be Chris’ second IRONMAN, while it is Nancy and Rose’s first full IRONMAN.

To celebrate their achievement, one of their training-mates Beckie decided to print “team” photos for them… and asked me to make some custom frames. A great collaboration to commemorate their huge achievement. Way to go girls!!!

Pictured left to right… Rose, Nancy, Coach Chilly, Chris and Beckie.
Missing from the photo?… ME – the “honorary” Team Chilly member!



Categories: bike, friends, special events, workout

What a difference a day makes!
Sunday we ran our last two races in high temperatures & sticky humidity. So hot that they even shortened the International run course due to the red-alert conditions… after WE had already run that leg.

And here are some of the TRIPLE CHALLENGE details…

And for the TRIPLE CHALLENGE… the athletes taking on the challenge do all three distances in two days! SuperSprint on Saturday, and then International/Olympic followed immediately by the Sprint on Sunday.

Of course my favorite part is the bike!
Basically we ride up & down a closed Lake Shore Drive, all the way up to Hollywood and back. Then we turn towards the city and ride on middle Wacker Drive. A covered section of the “underbelly” of the City… SO COOL… so fast… kinda like riding in the Batcave!!! And then onto the “secret” bus lane thatI didn’t even know about that takes you south past Soldier Field and back. Great fun riding on roads closed to auto traffic!

When you finish the bike, you change clothes quick and head out for the run. We follow the lakefront south around the Shedd Aquarium, south of Soldier Field and McCormick Place to turn around at 31st Street Beach. You cross the Finish Line for you International Race and then need to head straight back to the lake for the start of the Sprint race. And it’s a LONG huff through the Finish Line festivities, past Buckingham Fountain, across Lake Shore Drive to pick-up your wetsuit & goggles at the Triple Tent and back to the Swim Start. Then it’s another swim, bike and run to get to the Finish Line AGAIN!!!

So hot & humid that THIS is the actual photo the professional photographer took
with my iPhone camera at the Finish Line… all sweated up from the Sprint run!!!

So sweaty that I couldn’t even swipe to the right, and the camera lens was all fogged up. Guess that’s what happens when the heat index goes well over a hundred!!! Sweaty fun racing with Chris & Beckie doing International followed back-to-back by Sprint to complete our Chicago Triathlon TRIPLE CHALLENGE!!!

Three races. Three medals.
A challenging weekend with the heat & humidity…
and a shortened window to make it to the third race… which I made with just seconds to spare!!! I was literally the very LAST of the Triple racers who made it into the water, just under the deadline! Talk about stress.

Another fun weekend for the Chicago Triathlon TRIPLE CHALLENGE
and my third triple… my Triple Trifecta!




Categories: bike, friends, special events, workout

Getting ready for any triathlon is a bit anxiety ridden. Packing all of the the gear you’ll need for all three events throughout the day. All of the clothing, all of the gear, as well as all of the fluids & nutrition needed. Knowing that your race starts at 6:00am with a big jump into the lake. So you count time backwards to determine what time you need to leave to give yourself plenty of time.

These signs have been posted near my place for about a week. Telling everyone that Lake Shore Drive will be closing on Sunday from 5:00am-12:00pm… as the bike course will be taking up the southbound lanes. So I planned accordingly… knowing that I would need to get on Lake Shore Drive prior to the 5:00am closing!

I counted my time backwards and decided that I needed to leave around 4:00am to get there in plenty of time to settle in, run through the days races in my head, and et acclimated to the Transition Area. But when I got to the entrance ramp of Lake Shore Drive… it was already closed, barricaded and pylon coned!!! Obviously closed a LOT EARLIER than the posted 5:00am!!! Needless to say, I got there quite a bit later than I would have liked. A bit rushed getting into the Transition Area and setting up my stuff. But I made it down to the Swim Start with my wetsuit to find my friends Chris & Beckie waiting to start the race with me. And I was so rushed… that I actually put my wetsuit on inside-out!!! Still flipped after yesterday’s SuperSprint swim!

As I was parking in the Monroe Street Garage, I ran into my friend Tracy who was also getting ready for her race… or at least two-thirds of her race. She’s suffering from a bruised heel bone and will only be swimming & biking, with a friend doing the run for her.

Both a bit tired & groggy… but excited and ready to get on with the races at hand!!!
Swim, bike, run… swim, bike, run. The final two-thirds of my TRIPLE CHALLENGE!!!

Categories: bike, friends, special events, workout

Saturday was the first of three…
as Chris, Beckie and I tackled the Chicago Triathlon TRIPLE CHALLENGE
with a quick SuperSprint at Foster Beach.

And just for the record, this guy is not built for sprints!!! Just sayin’.

Categories: bike, special events, workout

Today was the Chicago Triathlon sponsored by Lifetime Fitness.
And once again I was playing downtown with over 7,000 other triathletes!
International Olympic Distance… SWIM .93 miles, BIKE 24.8 miles, RUN 6.2 miles.

Unfortunately, I can’t carry my camera or phone with me during the swim,
and don’t want to stop during the bike, so I had to “borrow” a few images
off Google Images to help tell the story. And some of the professional photos the race photographers caught of e along the way!

So the day starts very early in the morning. The transition area opens at 4:00am and closes at 5:45am. So all 7,300 triathletes need to get in there and rack their bikes and organize their gear for the day.

I was in Wave 17… starting the race at 7:16am.

Eventually the waves begin entering the Lake. With approximately a hundred people per wave, and another wave taking off every four minutes, it goes pretty fast and before you now it… it’s time for Wave 17!!!

So you line up with your Wave… in color-coded swim caps…

Then you all climb into the lake to tread water for a couple minutes until the Starting Gun.

And then before you know it, you’re out in the thick of things… people swimming all over the place… People swimming around you, over you, kicking you, scraping you… none of which is fun, but you kinda get used to it after a few triathlons. So you do your best to make it to the finish… which is WAY down by the Chicago Yacht Club. That small gray building way at the far end of the photo!!!

And then you finally get out of the water… with the biggest sigh of relief…

Then you need to  jog back to the Transition Area on a long red carpet. You finally get back and now you need to locate your bike & gear amongst the whole sea of seven thousand!!! Good thing to remember your wave number, and to leave yourself a colored marker to help find your bike.

You think that’s bad?…. try viewing the Transition Area from above to see how huge it is…

So you take off your wetsuit and change into your biking gear. Shoes on. Helmet on and you’re ready to head out. So it’s a quick loop north on Lake Shore Drive, turn around at Hollywood, and back down again. Then it’s a quick trip around the city underground on Lower Wacker Drive, followed by the Busway down to McCormick Place and back. Let me just say… biking Lower Wacker Drive is SO MUCH FUN!!!

I was pretty pleased with my bike ride. It all seemed to go well… pretty fast, pretty consistent. Turns out that my biking average speed for the full course was 21.2 miles per hour. Not too shabby.

Then it’s back to the Transition Area where you change out of bikign gear and into running gear. Helmet off. Change of shoes. Chug down some Gatorade… and you’re off on the run. Along the way you see a lot of signs encouraging the runners. Some are better then others… and some, well… are sadly oh so true. And yes…. I’M SMILING!!!

Such focus… one foot in front of the other…

After a 10K run through Museum Campus down to t31st Street Beach and back, you finally make it back to the Finish Line in Grant Park. Always a welcome sight.

You get greeted by well-wishers, announcers and a full fleet if volunteers passing out water, Gatorade, snacks and the ever-coveted Chicago Triathlon Medal.

Tracy was a few waves behind me, so I was waiting at the Finish Line when she came across to get her medal.

Always a fun time hanging out at the Finish Line… especially when you run into a “new best friend” that Tracy made during her run by encouraging him and keeping him going during the run.

While hanging out at the Finish Line, they offer a full meal, free beer (if you’re into that kind of thing which I’m not), and some vendors giving away treats too. Like these yummy frozen yogurt protein bars… Tracy chose the Chocolate Mint Chip mostly because of the fun quote on the packaging… as she knows she’s been “Hangry” before! I chose to try the S’mores flavor… AND the Salted Caramel one… and then finished off Tracy’s Mint Chocolate Chip so I actually had all three flavors!!!

After stretching, re-hydrating, refueling and relaxing a bit, we decided to have a little “:photo shoot” at Buckingham Fountain on our way back to the Transition Area to pick up our bikes and gear.

When you finally get home, you get to relish in your victory… unpack all of your gear so it can dry before going into the laundry basket. And then choosing to each pretty much anything you want. You deserve it. One night to eat whatever you want… you deserve it… you’re a TRIATHLETE!!!

So what were my final results you may ask?
Just remember, I’m never going to WIN any race. Look at me… not built for speed.
Instead, my goal is always to finish, to have fun, and to not injure anything!
And very pleased to say that this was my fastest International Triathlon race yet!

SWIM – 0.93 miles – 47:55
Transition One – 11:07
BIKE – 24.8 miles – 1:09:56
Transition Two – 8:04
RUN – 6.2 miles – 1:06:53












Categories: bike, production, special events, workout

Tagged & ready to go… err, throw!
Just another relaxing evening behind the wheel before tomorrow’s excitement!