Today was the Mach Tenn – a sprint triathlon in Middle Tennessee. I’ve been away from triathlon racing for a while, and this one is a great way to jump back in. I’ve done this race a half-dozen times over the last 10 or 12 years, and it’s always a good time.
Triathlon is always the same 3 sports: swimming, cycling, running, but there’s a great variance in the distances. Everyone knows the big guy: Iron-distance, which is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 on the bike, and a full 26.2 marathon running. Sprint distance is a little mini-version of all that.
Today’s race was 0.6 mile in the lake, 14m on the bike, and a 4-miler to close. It was fun and fast, but what made this race special, and different from all the others was my support crew.
Team Gammy consisted of my ever-patient and most-supportive honey, Eliott, and my no-longer-a-child-yet-not-quite-a-man grandson Aden.
They helped me practice my transitions the week leading up to the race (tri-talk for the frantic moments between events in a race when one drops wetsuit/goggles/swimcap and dons bike shoes/helmet/sunglasses and so forth, while the race timer casually clicks away the seconds).
They loaded the car with all the flotsam and jetsam necessary for triathlon.
They got up pre-dawn so we could drive to the race, check-in, lay out the gear, and talk through our strategy.
They watched for me at every turn, took pictures, shouted my checklist, and cheered me on from beginning to end.
And they celebrated with me as I crossed the finish line, marking my return to triathlon for the next couple of years.
Showing all the restraint I could muster, I didn’t register Aden when I realized he would be in town during this race. He’s an athlete, and has mastered all 3 of these sports. He’s been riding his bike on our annual cross-Iowa family bike ride for years, riding every mile (428) in 2018. We even ran a 5k together when he was 8 years old. One of the things I learned as a parent is that children have to find their own way to their interests; our job is to expose them to as many opportunities as possible.
Just as my evil scheme planned, he has expressed an interest in participating in a race with me. I’ll be looking for a sprint-distance we can do together. My children have raced with me in the past (Amy and Sam), and those moments have been life-highlights. To now share the joy of racing with my grand marks a new point on the spectrum of gratitude and humility.
Watch for more race reports to come. I’ve enjoyed my hiatus from racing and blogging, and I’m thoroughly enjoying my return to both.
Friends: I haven’t visited this blog in a while. There have been times when I’ve gone on a writing streak for weeks and months at a time, and here now has been a 2-year lull in my muse.
Analyzing the Why is a post for another time, but you might notice it parallels quite closely our national heartbreak in November of 2016. Let’s pick up that thread on another post in the near future, shall we?
This post is about life and all of its changes.
It is with excitement and great anticipation that I announce here that we have been offered the tremendous opportunity to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest. Sometime in October, Eliott and I will be driving transamerica to the west coast, dogs and cats in tow, to overwinter in Florence, Oregon.
We will be one hour from daughter Amy in Eugene, and a day’s drive from son Ben in Spokane. Son Sam and daughter Glenda are the southwest children for the time being, but this move still puts me closer to them than I am here in Tennessee!
Freethought Cottage is in the very capable hands of a property management company, and will be waiting for us upon our return. We plan to relocate the cattle, donkeys, goats, ducks, and chickens, but of course the pups and kittens will be with us. After we’re settled into our new place, we’ll share some pictures and blog posts about life in Oregon.
As has always been our policy at Freethought Farm, we’d like to extend an open offer for friends to visit, anytime! We would love to see familiar faces, and walk along and view the left coast with you.
After a winter of some inside projects, pulling up old carpet and refinishing hardwood floors, and redoing a suspended ceiling, it was time to turn attention to an outdoor living addition to Freethought Cottage!
Son Sam, with a few weeks to spare before beginning graduate school, came home and brought his construction experience with him. He is a teaching and research assistant at the University of Wyoming, and there is a reason he was selected for that position. He is a patient and knowledgeable teacher in addition to being a competent craftsman with an eye for detail. Along with constructing the porch, Sam walked me through the steps of building.
The weather, in typical Tennessee spring fashion, was different every day. In our week of construction, we had a warm sunny day, 2 cold rainy days, a cold clear day, and an overcast day.
Let’s begin with the before pictures:
I have a killer patio on the south side of the house, which is great all summer long – it’s completed shaded by big leafy trees, from morning til sunset, and in the dog days of summer it’s wonderful for picnics, coffee, cocktails. But in the fall and spring, I’m longing for warm sun. The deck will get sun almost all day long.
The obligatory Home Depot trip:
It’s perfect. The sun is warm and delicious at sunrise, and soft and beautiful at sunset. C’mon over for coffee in the morning, picnic in the afternoon, or wine at dusk.
Sammy, what a wonderful gift you have given me. Best kid ever.
Before I blog about my latest cottage DIY, can I just restate that I am SO HAPPY IT IS CHRISTMAS 2015 and no longer CHRISTMAS 2014??
Last year at this time I was hip-deep in Bar Review, so much that I didn’t get out a single Christmas decoration, not a nutcracker, not an ornament, not a light. I had asked my sweet family for solitude for these months, and I was down to 1/2 day off per week to get away from studying. Everything festive has double the meaning this year since I missed the whole season last year.
So on to the project. When I moved in to this cottage 4 years ago, one of the first things I added were shelves in the library. I had to move a big corner wall unit to do so, and when I did, I discovered a little secret under the carpet.
I realize it doesn’t look like much here, but I knew that someday I was going to pull up the carpet in that room to get to that floor. No better time than the busiest season of the year, amirite?!
The walls in the library are lined with shelves, which makes the room a large rectangle with a door in the middle of each of the 4 walls. I often keep a table in the middle of the room, and a chair in a couple of the corners.
That exposed corner there is where I originally found the hardwood, under both the current beige carpet, and the groovy 70’s-era green carpet under that.
First order of business was old carpet removal. This home is a home of pets, so you know both layers of carpet and the padding were….pungent.
Carpet and pad out. Now the real work begins. Eliott and I are complete amateurs, but we’ll Youtube the crap out of home projects to figure it out. I already had a belt sander, so our 1st trip to Home Depot was for sandpaper, and lots of it, kneepads, safety glasses and mask.
Now we have a room full of raw wood. This room is in the center of the house, with no windows of its own, so opted not to add any stain. We knew the polyurethane layers would darken the wood a bit. We think this wood is pine, and our resident wood expert coincidentally was home this week and agreed with us.
Second trip to Home Depot. This time it’s for polyurethane, brushes, and more sandpaper (very fine, to use between coats).
Now all that’s left is trim and thresholds. Since the shelves are unfinished, we chose to use an unfinished quarter-round for the base trim. Experienced remodelers already know we’re off for trip #3 to Home Depot for a mitre-box and saw, nails, and of course the thresholds.
The finished look:
I am delighted with this adventure! Next up is the living room floor (and if I can talk Eliott into it, the living room ceiling…).
It’s a tale of hard work, frustration, more hard work, and incredible achievement.
I know the wearer of bib number 596, and it’s a pleasure to tell this story.
About 2 years ago, son Sam said to me that he wanted to do an Ironman* with me “before I got too old”. Ouch, but yes, I’d love to. We set about searching for a race, and even though we had to defer our registration for a year due to my law school studies, we found ourselves in Sandusky, Ohio on Friday, September 11, ready to swim, ride, and run.
*”Ironman” is a trademarked word, owned by the Ironman corporation. Most of you know the history before you even check out this link. There are many organizations that stage Ironman-distance races, but the word is trademarked so organizers have tried to be creative with what to call their events: Ultra Distance, Full Distance, etc, but outside of the racing community, Ironman is what sticks and is most recognizable. This race was called Challenge Cedar Point, and the distance we raced is the Full, but I’ll use the word Ironman occasionally for clarity.
However, nature had arrived as well. Rain, high winds, cold temperatures had wreaked havoc on well-laid plans of race officials. Of the weekend’s festivities, all but the half and full iron triathlons on Sunday were cancelled. Additionally, the swim had to relocated. The race is staged at Cedar Point, a roller-coaster-based amusement park on a small spit of land which creates a bay to the south. The swim was originally scheduled for Lake Erie, but at 2pm on Saturday, this is what Lake Erie looked like:
So the swim was to take place in the small bay to the south, with high hopes that no additional weather would affect the 7am start time on Sunday.
There is not much more exciting than the check-in/swagbag/chip timer/expo area of a full iron triathlon on the day before a big race. Athletes arriving from all directions, family and support getting signs prepared, volunteers helpful and smiling, vendors selling the latest and greatest in equipment, nutrition, clothing, and training aids. Our support crew of Eliott, Amy, and Jess helped us get checked in, wristbanded, and ID’d.
Mandatory racers’ meeting at 1pm on Saturday, with body-marking, race instructions, and any Q & A from the crowd. Race officials warned that winds were sure to be a challenge all throughout the 17-hour event.
Unsurprisingly, the night before a race is a difficult night to get a good night’s sleep: nerves, minds racing with last-minute prep, pre-dawn wakeup call, hotel bed. Race community advice is to get a good night’s sleep on the night BEFORE the night before.
4am alarm, awake and trying to hydrate, consume calories, and yes, poop. (The things you didn’t know [and would rather not] about endurance races.) Because of the high winds the day before, bike and bag check-in had to also occur before sunrise.
Finally, into the wetsuits and over to the ramp.
This race had a time-trial start, which meant 2 swimmers every 3-4 seconds. Sam and I lined up, listened to the national anthem, and then it was time.
Ours was a 2-loop swim around the marina and into the bay. Inside the protected marina the swim was delightful, but the bay was choppy on the first loop, and horrible on the 2nd. As soon as all the full-distance swimmers were out, and before the half-distance swimmers were in, race officials changed the course to stay in the marina and out of the bay.
Sam was out in just under 2 hours, and I was out in just over 2. Those are relatively slow times in our divisions, but the swim was not our strength, and we both opted to play it safe instead of fast. This race had “wetsuit strippers”, which is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. As swimmers exit the water, 2 volunteers assist with wetsuit removal – unzip the back, pull down from upper body, gently set the racer on her rump, off comes the suit, and then those 2 volunteers pull you right back up to standing – about a 4-second operation.
Run the half-mile in a wet swimsuit in the cold and the wind, pick up transition bag, run into changing tent, change clothes, grab a snack, apply butt butter liberally, hop on the bike, wave to support crew, and off you go.
Here’s a chance to learn some new racing lingo. The bike route was a lollipop – head out from transition, do a loop from the tip of stem of the lollipop, then an identical second loop, then back to transition on the stem. (It’s on page 30 of this race brief if you’re really interested.) The scenery was beautiful and the terrain was nice, gentle rollers – just the kind of route you’d like on a 112-mile bike ride. Except for the winds. Here’s the official race recap from Challenge:
When the swim was moved to the marina, the start became a time trial start so athletes could never really know how they placed until later in the day. Athletes faced consistent winds of 15 to 20 knots and gusts up to 25 knots on the bike course. A look of relief was on the face of most competitors as they came off the bike.
Those winds proved to be my undoing in this race. I can average about 16 mph on the bike, depending upon terrain and winds. This race was USAT sanctioned (USA Triathlon), so there are time limits in place for each leg of the event. The swim had a limit of 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike had a 5:30pm course close, and the run had to be completed by 12:05am.
Our heroic support crew found a little cafe out on the route with an outside deck and planted themselves there to see us on both loops. It was at around mile 50 (mile 88 on the second go), and they were able to catch us as we pedaled by.
At 4:30, I was at mile 92. I had been working the mental math in my head for miles, trying to figure if there was any way I could make up the time. The tail-end charlie support vehicle was behind me (not the first time I’ve been the race sweeper), and I stopped and chatted with them. My options, as they explained it, were: go ahead and ride in and they would escort me and allow me to finish even though the course would close at 5:30 (which means no intersection support – no volunteers or LEO stopping traffic so you could blow through without stopping), which would mean I couldn’t begin the run portion OR allow them to take me in so I could cross the chip mat in time to begin the run. I opted for a hybrid – I wanted to pedal as far as I could and still make it to the cutoff. I got to mile 98, and didn’t want to cut it any closer. I crossed the chip mat just under the deadline and headed into transition. If you’re keeping track, this makes me 1 for 3 for ironman attempts. Ask me sometime if I’m going to try another one…
In the meantime, Sam had made it in and back out to start the run around 4:00.
Because at this point I was a DNF (more race lingo – Did Not Finish – hateful, hateful words), I chose not to head out on the marathon, and planned to hop on when Sam came to the turnaround and do the second half of the race with him. There was some confusion about the turnaround point, however, and I missed that. Instead, I started out on the route backwards – meeting finishers as they were coming in until I reached Sam. It was dark and he was a tired boy when I found him, but he was still running.
Bib #596 crossed the finish line somewhere around 10pm – 15 hours, 1 minute, and 16 seconds after he went into the water. The 16 seconds may have come from the PUSHUPS HE DID AT THE FINISH LINE before he crossed. Cheering, applauding, laughing, one step across the chip mat, and then Sam Jordan is an Ironman.
The expression “blood, sweat, and tears” is often used to describe what goes into an accomplishment like this. The triathlon version is “blisters, sweat, tears, and time”. If you happen to see ole number 596, let him know what you think of his achievement. And for the mushy part, to have participated with Sam as he reached this goal goes into my book as one of the highlights of my life. I am so proud of this kid, for a multitude of reasons that go beyond this 140.6 miles. Thank you, Sammy, from the bottom of my mother’s heart.
It has been 16 days since I learned that I passed the California Bar Exam. I have been celebrating and traveling and celebrating again since then, but I’m settled for a while (a short while) now, and I want to try to express something.
I’ve written other posts, and am still working on yet another, about the study and test experience, so I don’t want to go over all that here.
What I want to try to do with this post is to express how grateful I am for the people who surrounded and supported me while I was on this journey, and how critically important they were to the success I had on the test. I know it sounds melodramatic and cliche to say that I couldn’t have done it without them, but that is so completely and fundamentally true, I don’t care. I’ve hesitated writing this post for fear of leaving someone out, and if I do, please forgive me. It’s not that I have forgotten your kindness, it’s just that my brain is still recovering from the test.
Facebook family and friends from all over:
If one were to scroll back through my Facebook pages over the law school years, hardly a day would pass without finding some word of encouragement. Add in snail-mail, texts, email, phone calls, and I’ve been marinating in good wishes non-stop. Just before Bar review, my honey put the word out that he was compiling a test-countdown calendar, to be composed of daily words of affirmation for me to read every day for the 100 days leading up to the Bar. The response was overwhelming, and that set of 100 calendar pages will be a treasure to me for the rest of my life.
My freaky-deaky law school has awesome professors. Who knew? They were patient and accessible and, because they are on the cutting edge of the online education experience, really concerned that we students did well. I have no frame of reference from a brick-and-mortar school, but compared to my undergraduate experience, my law school professors were much more engaged and invested. Additionally, as online professors, they must overcome those issues inherent in virtual classrooms and distance learning. I’m grateful for their teaching and their guidance and counsel.
Sometimes you just get lucky. For my season of law school and Bar review, I found myself in a group of strong, brilliant, exceptional women. When you understand that most of us attend online law school because we have jobs, families (in that sweet spot of caring for children and parents), mortgages, and a thousand other obligations, it makes this group of women in more impressive. (Disclaimer: we had brilliant men in our class too, but somehow our little study posse ended up estrogen-heavy.) The ongoing joke is that online law school limits one’s ability to form lasting friendships and study partnerships. Nothing is further from the truth. Whether scratching our heads together in Evidence, or ranting about Remedies, or freaking out during the process of law review, this group of forever friends gave and gave and gave. Whenever one of us was down or frustrated, all the others jumped in to support and encourage. What a joy and pleasure to have gone through this with them. I am grateful for their friendships, and the privilege to call them professional colleagues now.
Rosine is in a category by herself, both in this post and in life. Rosine and I started out together in law school and were study buddies the first 2 years. Rosine hit a bump in the road and couldn’t continue with law school, but she hasn’t relented in her cheering and support for me. She never let a significant date – finals, new law school year, bar review countdown – pass without reaching out by phone/text/skype to tell me she believed in me. There had to have been a personal price for this, but she never let on that there was, even coming to my graduation and celebration. I am so lucky to have had her as my study partner, and even more so to have her as my friend.
My Ish sisters:
Oh my girls. This is my friends’ group in Murfreesboro, the ladies that kept me on track by making me laugh and cry and laugh some more. During my bar review, these girls held me accountable for taking one half-day off per week, when all I wanted to do was stay glued to my desk and do just one more essay. Our Days-Out, whether pizza and beer, wine and cheese, or just gathering at one of our homes, were consistently the highlight of my week, and a re-charger for the next. Susan even got to come out to California for my graduation (and took most of these pictures), and was with me when I logged in for my results. They committed to our schedule in spite of jobs, kids, hubbies, and all the other competitors for their time, and I am so very very grateful to have these women in my life.
I know, I know, I do this all the time. This isn’t my usual my-kids-are-so-great-and-perfect-and-I-love-them-so-big post. This is to say thank you to them for not only inspiring me with their own accomplishments and kickass lives, but also for their constant words of encouragement and support. Never once did they question their 50-year-old mother going to law school, or choosing an online program, or getting a California license while living in Tennessee! They have celebrated every victory along the way, and I am grateful to them and for them for their complete and total awesomeness.
In a post full of mush and gush, this will be the mushi- and gushiest. My honey, who is not known for his patience, was the kindest, most tolerant, loving, supportive partner I could have asked for. For the last 4 years I have taken books on every work trip and every vacation we have had. I was psycho about my study schedule, both during law school and bar review, and never once did he complain or push back or even roll his eyes (outwardly, anyway) when I spread out on hotel desks, or found the library, or had to attend class. He prepared endless meals and brought me snacks and rubbed my neck and shoulders. He took on all the farm tasks when he was in town to give me a break from those. He endured my meltdowns, and when I needed to talk through a legal concept, he listened AND paid attention so he could ask me questions to make sure I understood. He was everything I needed and then some.
Hard work? Yes. Study? Yes. Sacrifice? Yes. But the real key to the success I had in law school and on the bar exam was the love and support of the people I’m so fortunate to have in my life. Thank you from the bottom of my very grateful heart.
I have been thinking about this day literally for 4 years, and in the abstract for over 50.
Graduation for Concord Law School is held at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. It’s always held on the Saturday following the administration of the California Bar Exam. See an earlier post about that experience.
Beginning with the Thursday night at the close of the test, my large and expanded family began arriving. First on the scene were my twin girls. Amy lives and works in Eugene, Oregon (this, this, and this), and Glenda lives and works in Las Vegas, Nevada (this, this, and this). I was so happy to see their beautiful smiling faces after the 3-day beatdown.
Friday morning was transition day, from the test site in Ontario, California, to the graduation site in Sherman Oaks, California, just outside LA. But first, a quick trip to the airport to get my Steen. Her name is Susan, and we’ve been friends for years. She is as sweet and lovely as I am loud and snarky. I think that’s how we work so well. We share a love of eating well, of reading, and of writing (here’s the link to her column in our local newspaper). She is also a fabulous professional photographer, and produced most of the grad pics here and on my Facebook page.
Steen brought along our friend Flat Emily. Emily and her 2 beautiful babies and ever-loving and patient hubby John live in Murfreesboro. Steen, Emily, and I make up the Ish sisters, which is part support-group, part wine-tasting, picnic-sharing, group-texting, mother-daughter-sister love fest that meets regularly to laugh and cry and share and partay. Emily and the fam cheered me on from Tennessee, and on her Flat Emily stick girlie!
Friday night was the Grad Bash. Because my school is online, our students reside all over the world. The night prior to graduation, our Student Bar Association sponsors an evening at the pub for graduates and alumni. For some of us, it’s the first time we’ve met face to face! And an added bonus for us: a classmate of the girls’ from high school in Tennessee, Kim, who now lives in LA was able to meet up with us!
And this is where Ben and Kirsten (this, this, and this) come in from Colorado!
Back to the hotel where the last of the Jordans arrived – Sam and Jess from Colorado (this, this, and this), and my law school bestie Rosine (this) and her wife Myra from Castro Valley! We must have been partying pretty hard, because evidently we didn’t have time for pictures that night. The next morning brought champagne toasts at 8am and dressing for the ball!
This was without a doubt, one of the most spectacular days of my life. I am so grateful – to Concord for the opportunity to go to law school, to all my professors, to my friends and family for being so loving, and to my honey for being so patient and supportive. I am still so overcome with emotion from the day, I don’t know how long it will take me to process everything. During the weekend, I tried to open my senses and memorize everything – what I was seeing, and hearing, and tasting, and feeling. It’s my plan to take this memory out of storage over and over and relive every moment.
The day was everything I wanted it to be, and so much more. To have my tribe with me for this event, both in spirit and in person, after this long, arduous, gratifying, challenging journey was beyond anything I could have hoped for.
We laid sweet old Boo in the upper pasture today, in a spot where it’s sunny in the morning, and shady in the afternoon.
She’s been with us for 13 years. She has lived the doggiest of lives, and traveled more than most people. She’s been to Colorado and back a few times, to Iowa and back multiple times, to Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, and North and South Carolina. She raised 4 teenagers who will miss her desperately, and a 9-year-old who will remember her only as an old sweet girl who slept a lot.
She has served as comforter and confidant for everyone in our family at different times of our lives. She has had the same spot under the dining room table in 2 different homes, and the same seat on the Ragbrai bus for years. How we will ever pass that seat without a bittersweet memory is more than I can expect.
She has been called the Best Dog Ever by almost everyone who knew her. At friends and family bonfires, she went from person to person to get her head stroked and her ears scratched. She has put up with canine siblings, and was patient and tolerant of their puppy stages.
We know how lucky we have been to have known this beautiful member of our family. We know she lived a long, lovely, happy, healthy life. What we don’t know is how we’ll ever not feel the pain of her absence.
Anyone who has ever had a beloved pet knows how it feels to love and lose such a precious member of the family. Since there are so few words that can describe those feelings, I’ve decided to let the pictures tell the story.
“No Matter how little money and how few possessions, you own, having a dog makes you rich.”