Monthly Archives: August 2007

st. croix river day

Sunday, we all drove down to Taylor’s Falls, and went on a riverboat excursion on the Saint Croix.  This was a holdover from my mother in law’s birthday celebration back in May, and it turned out to be a pretty nice day.

We went a bit early and enjoyed a picnic in Interstate Park, along the shore.  We celebrated John’s birthday too.

After cake, we headed over for a walk on the cliffs.  My youngest gave me several cardiac ‘events’ as she skipped along the edge of the 50′ drop into shallow water.

After our walk, we headed over to the boat.

Towards the end of the ‘cruise’, my mother in law prevailed on one of the guides to take the inevitable family picture.  Didn’t turn out too badly.

goings on at the cabin – ahem “lake home”

Friday we set out midmorning to visit Kris’ Aunt Rose, who lives near Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  We had a very nice visit with her.  She’s a lively person, who always has something nice to say about our kids.  We had a nice visit, even though we all nearly busted our guts with the ginormous portions at Perkins’ Restaurant.  Holy cow – eggs, pancakes, and potatoes, all on the same plate!  And that was just what Kayla got.

After lunch, we headed north to the Solem lake home, about 80 minutes south of Duluth-Superior.  Friday night was low-key … dinner, then bed for the kids.  It was oddly quiet up at the lake.  Possibly this has something to do with the very low water level.  The weather was just about perfect though : warm, but not too warm, and the bugs were not bad at all.

Saturday we played in the water most of the day.  Uncle John gave lessons on how to pilot a swamped canoe back to shore, and Eric and Kayla went for a short solo paddle (first time without an adult piloting).

The time right around dusk was beautiful.  The lake was almost like glass, and there was a bit of color in the sky.


We snapped some pictures as the moon came up, and then went inside for cards and reading.

swimming in the weeds

We spent this weekend at my wife’s parent’s lake home in northern Wisconsin.  It’s always a good time there, once you allow for the close quarters, many people sharing one bathroom, the bugs, and the occasional bit of familial fireworks.

Just kidding.  We had a really nice time.

A couple of times before this, I’d escorted Kris on an open water swim in the lake, paddling nearby in a canoe.  It’s usually a good way for her to get a workout in, and I always like an excuse to get out and paddle.  But this year, the lake’s lower than I’ve seen it in the fifteen or so years I’ve been visiting.  Consequently, swimming is a bit of an adventure.

I took Rachel with me to paddle alongside Kris on Friday, and apparently the going was pretty miserable.  A couple of time Kris actually ran aground, standing up and walking to the other end of a sand bar.  The rest of the time, she was swimming with weeds in her face.  Not pleasant.

Yesterday we tried something different.  She and I went out, with her brother John escorting us (with two of the kids along), as we swam the 1.1 miles directly across the lake and back.  We’d typically not done this route, as it can involve a fair bit of boat traffic, which makes both swimmer and paddler nervous.  But given the prevalence of the weeds and shallowness of our usual route, we were willing to try anything.  Also – given the dearth of good boating water, there weren’t the usual number of jetskis and speedboats about.

Aside from sounding like a man needing an oxygen tank, the swim felt great.  The weeds weren’t that bad, and it was good endurance and sighting practice for me.  I ended up enjoying it so much that I prevailed on Kris to paddle for me again this morning.

Another bonus workout was a reasonably paced 6.8 mile run from the cabin along some of the local roads.  Going early in the day means not much traffic, and most of the way you can run on the side of the road, in some nice soft dirt.  Just what my soul needed.

mosquito hunting in minnesota

We’re spending this week in the midwest, visiting Kris’ family and some of our good friends from California.

We spent the first two days in the Twin Cities, visiting with our friends Lisa and Mike (and kids!) near Saint Paul.  They moved to Minnesota from the Bay Area last summer,  to be close to her family and their cabin.  Also to get out of the rat race.  One year later they report that they’re sleeping more soundly than ever, and loving their new surroundings.  He works remotely for Yahoo,  and she homeschools their two kids.  Apparently no one ever actually has to leave the house :).  It’s a big house too – about twice the size of ours, and it’s on a nice big pond.  Thursday while we were visiting, I enjoyed watching the birds splash around in the monsoon-like weather outside.

We had a great visit with them … the kids got along famously, and we got some nice visiting time in too.  It’s always a treat visiting with Lisa and Mike.

gotta run fast to run faster

Yesterday morning I shook the cobwebs out with a challenging track workout, courtesy of the Eastside Runners.  I did 5 sets of 400/200 meter repeats on a local junior high school track.  I didn’t make it to the track for the first two, so I improvised, running 2 minute and 1 minute fast repeats instead.  Well – fast may be an overstatement – I felt like I was running in slow motion.

But, here’s the magic of a tough workout.  Unless there’s specific pain or injury involved, working hard is a great way to shake the doldrums loose.  By the end of the third 200, I’d hit a decent rhythm, and was even exceeding my time goal by a bit.  I managed a consistent sub-1:35 for the 400s, and 0:42 for the 200s.  Now that’s not going to break any speed records anyplace, but it’s consistent with a 3:50 marathon plan, and it made me feel pretty good.

vietnam : not just a simile for “quagmire” anymore

There was a startling moment in President Bush’s speech to the VFW yesterday. He intimated to the crowd of veterans that we erred in withdrawing, leaving a power vacuum in places like Cambodia.  There was no mention of western interests destabilizing these governments in the first place.

His recommendation, given nearly 35 years of hindsight after the cease-fire was "stay the course".

This development is alarming in numerous ways. 

First, it confirms that the hand of Kissinger is still active in our foreign policy.  Remember that his tack during the Paris Peace talks in the early 1970s was to establish just enough of regional strength to be able to withdraw without appearing to "lose the war".  Didn’t work then either.  Second concern here is that bush wasn’t immediately laughed off the podium.  I worry that there isn’t enough memory of Vietnam’s costs weighing into our decisions today.

The costs go well beyond the immediate human toll, both civilian and military, but those are pretty staggering.  Remember hearing about soldiers without the appropriate body armor?  Think reports that our military resources are spread very thin are hyperbole?  What about the scandalous care offered at Walter Reed?  Read this article from yesterday’s NY Times about a photographic exhibit of injured vets.  Read about the substandard medical care we offer our veterans.  90% of war injuries are survivable now, owing to advances in emergency medical care, meaning many more vets return requiring long-term care.

Now – about those Iraqis.  Think about the lack of infrastructure available in Baghdad.  Access to basic services like clean water and electricity remains very sporadic, four years after Mr. Bush rode in on a jet under the "Mission Accomplished" banner.  Control over the electrical grid is very much in play among the local militias.  There’s no way that our military can impose and sustain control under these conditions.  This is exactly what happened in Vietnam, except that the enemy was more exposed, and therefore much more easy to confront.

The truly worrying thing about all of this is that there is not nearly enough solidarity around a cogent set of solutions.  The Democrats focus way too much on using the right words for the "withdraw now" crowd, and not enough on providing adult supervision for the inmates currently running the asylum.

day-of-race + 1

Yesterday morning I did the Beaver Lake Sprint Tri, my first triathlon in fourteen years. 

For the past decade and a half, I’d smugly proclaimed myself "too lazy to train for more than one event", and focused on marathons and halfs.  Eventually too much running took its toll, and I faced a choice between continuing my boring cross-training regimen in the gym, or getting outside and having some fun.


During the month leading up to the race I went up to 30 miles on the bike, 18 running, and about 2200 years swimming.  In terms of distance, that was more than was required.  Naturally, during the race I learned some things about training quality that may help next time.

The short version is this : I finished and was pretty happy with my effort.  I need to work on my transitions (probably gave away 2 min yesterday!).  And I’d definitely improve my running and biking with some hill and speed work.  I did surprisingly well in the swim, well in the bike, and okay in the run. 

The numbers work out like this :

overall : 1:31:47 (138th of 453 overall, 21st of 47 in age div
swim : 7:50 (108th overall)
t1 : 3:29
bike : 45:10 (145th overall)
t2 : 1:43 (149th overall for t1, t2)
run : 33:34 (136th overall)

bike1  - cropped bike2 - cropped run1 - cropped run2 - cropped

I could talk about the event itself, how I felt during the swim, plodding up the 2 mile-long hill on my bike, gritting my teeth when I got a stitch 3 miles into the run.  But doing that seems pointless, unless there’s something to learn or impart from the experience.  And the thing I learned from the experience is how much fun participating is. 

Owing to some expert advice, and support from Kris, things went pretty well.  The highlight of the day for me was that Kris and the kids were working at the finish.  I felt really proud of them supporting the event.  Without volunteers, there are no races.

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I’m thinking hard about doing the Black Hills Tri in a couple of weeks, mostly to further the experiment.