Race Report: Tri For Children Sprint, 2017

This was my FIFTH sprint!!  I decided last week to sign up.  I was getting antsy waiting for the Sugar River tri at the end of August, and looking at the training plan of brick workouts….booooring.  The weather looked promising, and some of my friends are susceptible to peer pressure, so Stefany and I signed up for an early morning 70 minute drive to beautiful, tiny Ottawa Lake yesterday.  **Note–There are no coffee shops, nearby.  *sad face* **

Had to leave at 4:30 am, so planning and organization were dialed in.  Remembered breakfast and actually ate it.

Wave #11 for the swim, and I was pukey-nervous that I didn’t have my wetsuit.  95% of my wave is suited up, and I deliberately left mine at home and have been training for this…but my inner dialog of “what even the hell were you thinking, Tiefenthaler?” is getting louder. Go for a warm-up run. Get in the water. Line up.  I make some joke about no fish around to eat whatever I’m about to vomit in the start corral, and we’re off!

And it’s fine, great even.  We’re swimming close together, the water is dark with tannins, but no weeds.  Fifty meters in, and I’m so glad I don’t have my wetsuit on—-I’m warm but not steaming up my goggles and overheating like in the past.  It’s lovely.  I’m swimming, actually swimming, and sighting and I realize I could pick up the pace, but actually settle for low and slow.  It’s amazing.

Some of the previous wave are ahead, in the swim lane or clutching to the buoy and looking exhausted.  There are no support kayaks around, so, I’m not the only one asking people as we swim past if they’re okay.  They are.

I’ve been following Stef, and actually push her toward the inner lane now.  I don’t know why.  The only hiccup is the field of water lilies we crawl through on the last stretch and I cannot stop myself from screaming like a little kid a few times.  Oh god, the swamp thing is touching meeee!  Make it through!

A minute slower than what I’ve done with a wet suit, but I know I don’t need it as a crutch any longer.  Yes!

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Onto the bike, and I’m so pumped about the swim I war-whoop as I leave.  This was an interesting bike, and the first time I’ve been disappointed in fellow athletes.  I don’t know the route, despite what I  learned at the last race, but I hear it is “flat and fast with gentle sloping.”  It is. Some new pavement, some very old, some shade, lots of farmland. It is also ridiculously crowded with both sprint and Olympic athletes doing the same course (two loops for the Olympic).  It makes me nervous—narrow country roads, tons and tons of newbie athletes including a whole wave of cancer survivors doing their very best on hybrid bikes, and a couple hundred hot-shot jerks who somehow can’t remember what it’s like to be a beginner.  It’s not a closed course–we’re on the road with vans and pickups and even semis.  TWO bikers of the hundred who pass me call out ahead of time.  Just two.  They’re flying by, no warning, a handful even cross double yellow ON HILLS, and I’m worried we’re about to see a semi cab-bike duel.  You know who’d win that.   **Elite athletes:  Clean up your act.  You were unsafe, unwelcoming, and unkind yesterday and hugely disappointing.  Pick a different race or tone it way the hell down.**

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An unnerving bike.  Told to stay left first and last miles, with a crowd who are new to the rules and a crowd of rule-breakers.  Hard to pass or be passed safely.

I stay in my drop handles the whole time, and just keep eyes are ears out for speed demons on the left and these amazing cancer warriors on the right.  Both are apt to swerve without announcement and it takes a lot of concentration.  It’s the fastest I’ve ever biked, and a relief to be done.

I messed up T2 a bit, forgetting my bib number and rack placement, not taking in any salt, hunting for a bathroom, but the win here is that I’ve gotten so used to numb hands and feet I’m calm and capable and can still tie my shoes.

The run is a struggle, as my calves are so tight I’m afraid they’re tearing in half.  Soon it’s hamstrings, too. I’m wearing my ice vest, but it thaws so quickly and starts to feel heavy and hot. My hands are on fire, but it’s a familiar feeling, and hell, it hasn’t killed me yet. It’s two out-and-back tangents and a tiny piece on a single-track grass trail.  A little shade.  Lots of water stations, thankfully.  See some familiar faces and am so grateful to be out here.  Stefany blows past me with encouragement, and I try to stick with her, but I hit the wall with a quarter mile to go.

Now, in college, my brother ran cross country, and he joked about running (it might have been a long run after a long night)…it was something like “I’m just going to lay down and die.  In a ditch.  That ditch right there.  I’m just going to lay down in that ditch and die.”

And that is all I can think at the end of this race, laying down in a ditch and dying. I know I backed off the swim a little, and twice, I relaxed on purpose on the bike, but at this point, I’ve given everything.  I’m crabby and exhausted and rip off my sun sleeves, hat and ice vest and throw them in the grass as I power by .  I don’t care if I’m DQ’d right now.

The Team Phoenix cancer survivor fans are in full force and they cheer me past the finish line.  What a privilege to race with them and their supporters.  It’s the first race I’ve ever heard my name (and Stefany cheering!) at the finish.  I did it.

I have to sit down before I fall down, have volunteers open bottles and pour water on me, and Stef gets me ice which I shove indelicately down my shorts and bra. Drink the best Coke I’ve ever had.  As rough as I was at the finish, I bounce back really fast. I am more than a little surprised by this.

We go collect all the filthy heat gear I dropped, which some kind person has gathered into one disgusting pile for me. ❤ We gather our post-race snacks from the Controlling Lunch Matron, trade in t-shirts and drift around until my mind starts working again and transition opens back up.

If you can’t tell, I’m totally hooked on this sport.  I loved being out there with all the Team Phoenix warriors and cheering them on.  I love being up early, watching the fog on the lake, getting barfy and nervous, joking, on a new beach with strangers.  I love knowing all the ways my body is alive and capable, and finding new ways to challenge myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Race Report: 2017 Lake Mills Sprint Tri

This was my fourth sprint triathlon, and definitely the hardest yet.

Three things in the last two weeks have jabbed me in the gut, hard, about the way people use social media to enhance their image by deliberately omitting the gritty/real/unattractive bits…..and it got me thinking.  I want to tell the story of this race because it wasn’t all guns and roses, or whatever.

This one was the one I wanted to quit.

I’ve had a week to think about it and I know that everything that was hard about this race, except the warm temperature, was something I created by either not being prepared, or by letting my mind get the better of me.

Anyway….Race morning, 4:30 alarm.  I’m up, confident, moving well.  Dressed and fortified with coffee and breakfast in hand, playlist specially curated by my husband starting up and I drive to pick up a friend.

“Chatty Cathy” shows up and I talk, talk, talk the whole 40 minute drive and forget to eat my breakfast (rookie mistake #1).  We arrive and bike into transition to set up.  It’s a beautiful morning.  I see the amazing elite athletes we know, and avoid them like the plague.  God bless them, but I’m a straight-up bitch and I can’t handle talking to anyone I know about anything right now.  Tell me it’s a great day to race and I will punch you in the throat.  Ask me if I’m ready and your beanbag will never be right again. Talk to me about something banal like what I’m doing later and I’ll scream obscenities.  Note to Mom, twenty-some years late:  Sorry about all the high school cross-country meets.  

I set up transition, and here, I shine.  I have got this down.  I’m pleasant with my neighbors. There’s laughter and confidence-boosting. I offer my opinion about socks or no socks when asked.  I make room for latecomers.  I am the ambassador of tri.

And now we wait.  I try to convince my friend to pee in her sleeveless wet suit on land to see if the pee will run out her leg or her arm holes first.  She declines, then goes off to warm up.  There’s no one I know in my age group, and so I mill about with strangers for 50 minutes, alternately running to warm up and flinching whenever the start count and horn goes off for the waves ahead of me.  This is exactly like HS Cross Country and “puke” describes how I feel to a T.  Someone is controlling a drone to film the event and I want so badly to have the means and the skill to kill it with a bow and arrow and watch it burst into flame and fall into the lake.  I dwell on this far too long and overstretch my hamstrings instead of drinking any water (rookie mistake #2).  I’m failing at calm.

I finally get in my wet suit, and get in the water to warm up and my heart-rate skyrockets.  Calm the f*ck down, Tiefenthaler. I back float for a while and think about staying in the roped-off swim area forever.

My wave.  Thank god for earplugs that dampen the whole experience because it is beyond overwhelming right now.  I’m positioned close to the front on the outside edge and the gun goes off.  Beach start. We run in and it’s a nice quick drop-off so we’re swimming right out the gate.  For three seconds, I’m holding my own, and then it’s chaos.  Now, I believe my age group, women 30-39 are some of the nicest racers out there.  They don’t deliberately kick you and if they do, they take a second to apologize during the swim.  However, this is the biggest group I’ve ever swam with, it is a full-body press, and I suddenly can’t remember how to swim.  I’m doing a sort of head-up beginner crawl my six-year-old knows.  I’m thinking “ice cream scoop hands” and then I take and elbow to the head and breathe in the lake.  I come back up, disoriented.  We’re only halfway to the first buoy and I’m mentally done.  I’m overheating and let water in my suit over and over and think “And that’s how you get swimmer’s itch in your crotch.” I drift along and let most of the group go. It’s not until midway that I actually start swimming again.  I’m not the best at judging distance, but this is at least 20% too long.  Longest ten minutes of my life.  Excepting all those minutes of birthing my children. Maybe.

Transition.  Shake it off.  Thought there was a water station at the transition entrance.  There is.  But no cups–it’s for you to refill your water bottle with?  How? Get on the bike with just half a bottle of water and can’t remember the way out. (Mistakes #3  and 4.)

The bike course is beautiful.  I’ve studied the map, but haven’t ridden the course, even in the car, and immediately, I see this is another mistake, especially since the course doesn’t have any mile markers.  The road is smooth, with giant divots and cracks now and then, but it’s distractingly beautiful out here.  I see herons and sandhill cranes, adorable chicken coops and wide open farm fields. The adrenaline from the swim is fading and I’m running out of steam.  I run out of water by mile 6-ish.  Very big mistake.  I knew there were no aid stations out here and yet, here I am, ten miles to go with a dry mouth and an unsettled mind.  It’s gentle, rolling hills, and excepting the young bucks on $6000 bikes rocketing past me, I’m alone.  I never expected to be alone so much in triathlon.  Just me and my (now, toxic) thoughts for miles and miles.  I give myself a weak pep-talk, which peters out when I have to wipe the dry-mouth cotton off my teeth and think about how I’ve never, not once, washed these year-old cooling arm-sleeves. Ew.

And then my stomach goes volcanically numb.  I don’t know how else to describe it, but it is the final warning flag for me that I’ve gotten too hot.  It usually goes along the path of the initial nerve damage I got from MS:  Right hand goes tingly, then I lose my grip, left foot goes tingly, then numb, right hand starts on fire, right foot goes numb and then this sort of firework display in my right, low stomach.  This time, it went immediately to highest alert.  And I start to cry.  I can’t do this. It’s too fucking hot and I’m so stupidly unprepared.  If I use the drop handles at all, both legs go numb.

For the second time this race, I quit.

And yet—how can I?  There’s no shade.  There’s not even a ditch to lay down and die in (This is exactly what I’m looking for.)  If I stop biking, it will only get worse, all alone in the beating sun on a remote country highway.

I keep biking.

I get it together for a bit.  The numbness spreads.  I cry again.  I come up on a guy with his whole leg taped up who is moving even slower than I am.  I pass him going maybe 6 mph and tell him to catch me.  He does and we leap-frog our way down the course.  I see a course sign that is just an arrow, but looks like a giant one, and even though we’re four or five miles out I interpret this as “one mile left” and kick my own butt into gear for a while.  I am beyond thirsty.  All I know is hot pain.

And there’s still three miles to go.

I cry on the way in to transition, drop my bike against the fence since the rack, and my spot, is full, and sit down and sob.  I pull on my ice vest and, of course, there’s no spare water bottle packed.  What even??

I quit. Again.

Except…how?  Take the timing chip off and give it to…who?  Where? Saying what exactly?  “This sucks and I’m done.”?  Just pack up and go to my car?  I drove someone else here.  And here is one of the very few times in life that being a non-confrontational introvert helps me—I don’t know how to quit, so I can’t quit.

I tie my shoes and get the fuck up and walk out of transition in tears.  I mercifully walk past the finish line and grab a water bottle over the fence. There’s no shame in walking….so I start running.  The numbness fire in my belly has morphed into regular old cramps and I laugh out loud, alone on a trail in the woods because hell if I can’t handle those.  God bless periods.  I walk.  I run.  I know the course from watching last year and I feel more comfortable now that the trees provide some cover.  Herons fish alongside the berm. It’s a gorgeous day. The mosquitoes are hovering so I don’t even think of lying down to die in a ditch.  A runner coming back in has a t-shirt on that says “GET UP” and I nod.  I see my biking pal with all the KT tape and keep him in my sight.  I try some Gatorade-like stuff at the aid station and cough it right back up. All glamour, all the time.  I finally pass the tape-guy and tell him one last time to catch up.   I run the last stretch in tears.

I finish.

I did it.  Despite all the mistakes and all the doubts.  I finished.* I quit again and again. I’m never doing it again.

Well…until next weekend, anyway.

*Here’s the thing.  Despite all that, I still finished three minutes faster than I had figured I could do it, best-case scenario. Perhaps, I’m stronger and more capable than I thought. Perhaps you are too.

I found my uneaten breakfast and two full water bottles in the van.  Training on a hybrid bike forever gives a bit of an advantage when you then race on a much lighter road bike.  The best way to train for swimming with a pack is swimming with a pack. I need a sleeveless or shortie wetsuit to stay cool. Travelling with someone to the race just might keep me from quitting.  A second and third water-bottle cage is a good idea, but actually putting the water in the one I’ve got is better.  Biking the course beforehand, or driving it in a pinch, is a must.  

Through it all, I remembered the advice someone gave me before my first race:  Look up.  Enjoy it.  You GET to do this.  

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Race Report: Door County Triathlon

I’m sure I haven’t mentioned that I did a triathlon this summer, or again this Labor Day weekend.  I kept it pretty quiet.  You know me, so quiet.  So humble.  I was uncharacteristically out of words afterwards…but I’ve finally found them.  Here’s my first race report:

Door County Sprint Tri, July 16th or therabouts, 2016

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First, the swim. I was ready far too early. I paced and did some swim sprints to get my heart rate up. I peed in my wet suit a dozen times (while in the water, of course) before my wave went off, third to last. I wade out with the pack when the buzzer goes.  I dove in and start free-style.  I was a pro.  I put my face in the water.  I had conquered the totally rational, everyone-has-it-even-if-they-lie-fear of sea monsters.  I was sailing along. Five strokes, ten.  But there were all these other people in the water.  Polite ones, sure (thanks, ladies!!), but also people in kayaks telling you stuff and a boat and someone with a megaphone, I think, and it was too much.  It was all pulling at my attention and I just couldn’t stop looking around. None of these conditions are trustworthy! All these moving pieces! So I did the side-stroke for a quarter mile to keep my head up and in the game.  No biggie.  I can do a front crawl at the same pace I can side-stroke.  (I’m doing a Masters class now—and it turns out side-stroke is not an actual thing.  When she says 100 yds, free choice, she doesn’t mean side-stroke.  Wut?)

I fall a bit behind my wave and it gets nicer out in the water.  I am a seal.  I am a sylph of the water.  I am a selkie.  God, this is such a long quarter mile.

I schlepp onto shore and someone calls my name and I flash a million-watt smile. I have been advised to find the camera, let it be my friend. Lo! The very woman who suggested this tri thing seven months ago is the wet-suit peeler right in front of me!  She yells “Oh!  I get this one!!” and she and her dad unzip me and rip that suit off and get me back on my feet in nanoseconds and I’m rubber-legging it up the ramp to my bike.

I don’t remember transition.  I’m already out on my bike, and it is quiet out here on the road.  And the bay is to my right and there’s hardly anyone else on the road and it is amazing.  I laugh out loud and startle myself.  What a charmed life, to have this body, this time, this ability to move, this gorgeous earth to speed across.  Then my left arm goes densely, leadenly, numb.  And my toes start to go pins-and-needles and I start to wonder what I’m going to do next.  It has only been five miles.  I put my head down. I pick up the pace.  I fly into the water station at the turn-around at mile nine and ask everyone for ice. Ice.  Ice! They are confused.  I wheel my way into their supply line and grab ice out of the buckets, cooling bottles of Gatorade, and shove it down my shorts and into my left arm sleeve. The volunteers just goggle at me.  I want to tell them to volunteer at an Ironman after 9 pm and they’ll see it all, then.

Coming back in, I am now completely alone.  There are no more waves coming out and me and my trusty 1995 hybrid are streaming through the countryside.  Med-tent stop.  Beg for more ice.  More stunned and confused volunteers.  Someone gives me a glove with ice tied inside, which I shove, again into my shorts.  Someone else picks up on the urgency and helps me stuff ice into the elbows of my cooling sleeves.

Mile 15.  Three to go.  There is no one to yell “Hybrids for the WIN!!” or, “Go get ’em tiger!” at.  There is no one panting “Good job.  You got this,” as they pass me either.  Just me and the road.  And despair. We soldier through, together.

18 miles, done.  Transition is going fine.  I have this small chest of ice holding my ice vest in it.  I have nailed down the motions of one, two, three, dumping the ice water over my head, zipping up my vest, putting on my shoes…and I can’t tie my shoes.  My fingers will not work.  I look for anyone to help and then can’t remember if officials can help or just other participants or anyone or WTF will I do if I can’t tie my shoes??  And I grab two fistfuls of ice from the pavement and hold them for a minute, and I can finally feel my fingers and tie up clumsily and boom, I’m ready to run.

Good lord.  My body doesn’t work.  I did my due diligence, people.  I did brick workouts.  I know this sensation in my legs is temporary.  But this is ridiculous.  My toes have cramped into tight, little snails.  My left leg is going numb.  My hands are on fire.  I am tired and so freaking pumped.  This jolt hits me–this dichotomy of “Oh boy” and “Yass!” is why there are addicts in this sport.  You are doing this to yourself…and it’s miserable and exhilarating all at once.  I stumble past the big crowds.  I don’t see my family, but I do see a sign for me.  For me??  On this road?  And it’s an inside joke from sixth grade.  SIXTH GRADE!?!  Did you ever once think when you were in sixth grade that 26 years later you would do a triathlon with someone in your classroom??  I didn’t.  I loved it.  I cried and kept running.

The road gets so, so hot.  I finally see people ahead.  I have found my way back to the race.  People are walking, drooping, shuffling.  I shuffle right along with them.  I walk some. I pass a woman with a “Baby On Board” t-shirt and tell her “Hell.  I couldn’t even walk to my mailbox when I was pregnant.” (Partial lie.  I could have.  I just would have vomited if I did.) I thought I would run the whole thing, but nah, son.  Not today.  I can’t uncurl my toes.  I run until I’m just about to vomit, then I walk a minute and try again.  I get the shakes.  I’m so, so hot.  My ice vest has thawed.  I’m dumping water on my feet and head and in my bra at every station.  No weird looks here.  Everyone is wilting.  I’ve set my eye on Sparkle Skirt, who is part of a Team Triumph, a superhero up ahead.  If Sparkle Skirt can push a whole ‘nother person through this, I can push my own damn self.  I yell thanks to those Angels for pushing and for pulling me along, too.  It’s a 5K.  And it feels endless.

I finish.  I don’t see my family.  I fumble and panic with getting my ice vest off, then fall into the ice pool with my finisher medal.

I did it.  It was hard.  My first thought was “Aaaand, never doing that again.”  Only to immediately remember I was already signed up for one in six weeks.

I’m a triathlete.

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Golden God

A few days ago I read about a man, Klaus Obermeyer, who is 95 and still skiing and generally being awesome.  He swims about a mile every day and says it helps him stretch out and stay young.  And I thought “Yeah!  Swimming!   could do that!” -Me, January 2, 2016

***Turns out the link above will get you to the Wall Street Journal article about Klaus Obermeyer, but you have to subscribe to read it all!  Booo! Sorry.***

You guys! I did it! It took 10 1/2 months…but I swam a mile today! 1800 yards, almost all freestyle.  That’s 1.02 miles!

When I first started swimming last January, I would just get in and go for as long as I could.  No breaks, just full speed.  I would make it about 7 minutes.

When I was training for those sprint triathlons, I had this plan to do 1000 yards, in 400 yd sets.  Or 1600 yards.  And I never did that. Never. I would swim 400 yards and I was done. I would go home and do nothing for two days afterwards.

When I went to my first Masters Swim class, I was exhausted and shaking by 30 minutes and I never went back.

When it came time to swim in my first triathlon in July, I was ready, to a point.  I could comfortably do 400 meters, even had done about 600 m in open water. Aaaand I did five breaths of freestyle and the entire rest of the quarter-mile in side-stroke.

When it came time for my second tri in September, I overheated within 20 seconds (probably shouldn’t have had my wet suit on) couldn’t get my breathing under control, and side-stroked that one too.

And now, four weeks in to twice-weekly swim classes, I finally did it.  I have a stroke that resembles actual swimming more than dragging a canoe through the water.  I do an actual warm-up and cool-down in the water.  I swim further each day.

And TODAY I SWAM A MILE!

Two weeks ago, I swam 1550 yards.  I also ran 7 miles the next day, both of which were the furthest distances I’d ever covered.  And then I watched two seasons of Shameless and ate everything, and slept a lot.  I made two false starts getting back in the pool. I missed two weeks of running and dropped out of a half-marathon I won’t be ready for. There’s a small part of me that worries that this is MS, this fatigue I can’t shake.  Fortunately, I have surrounded myself with logical, calm people.  I tell them my worries, and they say, “Uh, didn’t you just do more than you’ve ever done in two different sports, and then travel to a hot place, get dehydrated, get your period, and, uh, get woken up ten times in the night every night for years? Maybe there’s a reason you’re tired?”

I haven’t mastered the slow build-up in training.  I’m either a golden god or a sofa stain.

Today, though, Golden God!

Off to the race!

A few days ago I read about a man, Klaus Obermeyer, who is 95 and still skiing and generally being awesome.  He swims about a mile every day and says it helps him stretch out and stay young.  And I thought “Yeah!  Swimming!   could do that!”

Then, yesterday, someone great said in a chipper voice, ‘Hey, I’m doing a half IRON race in July.  You could do a sprint triathlon the day before!’ and I thought “Okay!”

Never mind that each of the three times I’ve tried to swim, you know, like a real swimmer where my face actually gets wet, I’ve hyperventilated within half a lap.  And those squeezy rubber caps make my head hurt.  And goggles do too.  And I panic if I think water will get in my ears.  And I never, never swim in lakes because things might touch my legs.  Things.   I haven’t run consistently with the exception of six weeks of training for a Color Run a couple years ago in 20 years.  More than half my life.  And there is a biking component too.  18 miles.  I could bike that, right?  With my 20-year-old bike with 20-year-old mountain bike tires?

Anyway, I signed up.  For a triathlon in July.

It is a 1/4 mile swim, an 18 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run.  They call this set the “sprint” of triathlons.  Oho! So sassy!

I started training today.  By which I mean that I bought a biking jersey, some running shorts, two t-shirts and a swim cover-up on clearance.  Ooh, and I signed up for a free intro spin class on Sunday morning.

Then I thought about my first goal for the year, how my family needs and deserves the full weight of my attention right now.

I asked my husband if he was worried about the “diminishing slice of pie” now that I signed up for a triathlon.

“Pie?  What pie?”

“The pie of my attention.”

“Um. No.  I wasn’t.”

You know what?  I have worried about that (needlessly, apparently) for years.  Maybe I should just say stuff out loud more often.

First doubt, hurdled.

Then, my mind turned to MS, as it does often these days.  I’m asymptomatic right now.  Well, sort of.  I get tired sometimes and sometimes my body hurts and only now do I realize that that fatigue might not just be me or the result of “unsleeping” for seven years. Also, I can last only about 30 minutes of boot camp right now before my hands start shooting off sparks.  It used to just irritate me that my grip would go, but lately my fingertips feel like I’ve run an iron over them when I get too hot.  The burning sensation goes away after a while.  It’s never permanent.  But, but…how do I run or bike or swim?  If it makes me tired? If it makes my hands hurt?  Blah, blah.

So my second doubts about this, are easily dealt with too:  I do what I can.  Right now.

Time to live it up and take these (beginner) workouts outside in the cool Wisconsin air.  Well, not the swimming.  Not yet anyway.

                                                   Oh, National Geo.  You bring good things to light.