Aug 22

Milwaukee; we were in Milwaukee

Seems so obvious now, right? It was in the photos and everything. And if you looked up the Roosevelt story, or tried to figure out that tree joke, you would have figured it out, or given up, in short order.

We were in Milwaukee for the USA Triathlon National Championships. The Yankee raced twice. On Saturday she competed in the Olympic distance triathlon, a 1,500-meter swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run. Here are a few quick clips, where she is rocking the bright kit of her sponsor, Team Zoot:

This was her third national championship event, and she finished just barely outside the top 100. Pretty great at a national championship level. (She was 33rd in the swim and 79th on the bike. In the nation!)

That was on Saturday. On Sunday, she competed in the sprint distance national triathlon, her fourth national championship event. This particular national championship was abbreviated a bit because of approaching weather. That just made it faster and more fun. A few more clips, and you’ll see her in her coach’s team kit, Dream Big.

In Sunday’s super-sprint she finished inside the top 100, and in her individual legs she was 34 in the water, 69th on the bike and 99th in the run. And she doesn’t even like the run.

Also, she had those surgeries, and these are second and third races she’s had while still recovering from those. (She just finished the official physical therapy about 45 minutes ago.) So, it was a successful weekend of racing. Quite impressive. A lot of fun. And it was all in Milwaukee.

Here are some photographs.

This is the pier at Discovery World where they started the race. On Saturday they did a mass start by age group. So if you were a male 25-29, you started at the same time as all the other guys in that bunch. On Sunday, because of the weather and the logistics, they did a self-seeded time trial start. Four people went in at a time based on their self-reported swim times. It is in no way official or make-or-break, but it has the benefit of being slower, which spreads out the field, particularly on the bike course. This was important on Sunday because they shrank that route in a concession to the weather, but they didn’t have fewer athletes. It’s all about spreading things out. And, theoretically, the staggered time trial start does that. Also you just watched people jump in the water for hours. Discovery World sounds pretty awesome. And the front of the building will be a banner here, soon.

Here, The Yankee is coming out of the water in the Saturday race. Barely off the ramp and already making muscle poses.

And her finish on Saturday.

Here’s a big from Sunday, where she is showing off one of the medals she won.

This is really cool. This is Madonna Buder, who is known in the sport as the Iron Nun. (Yep, she was a nun, and last year she crashed on a training ride and fractured her shoulder, collarbone, and got four fractures in a rib. Nun means the one thing, but the iron part of her nickname has several meanings.) She has opened six age groups for triathlons – meaning she was the oldest in the field each of those times, starting with 50 and over. She’s also the world’s oldest female Ironman finisher, a record she’s held since she was … 82! She’s done some 45 Ironman races.

Buder was smiling all weekend, constantly. She’s a celebrity. Everyone knows it, and they all think they know her. She’s probably met all the long timers. She did her first triathlon at 55. Yep, she has been doing this for 37 years, including those 45 full triathlons and some 350 more at shorter distances. This weekend, now a fresh 92 years young, she was doing the sprint at the national championships. She’s getting a little help up the ramp and hill from the swim, which an awful lot of people did. I also saw her heading out on the bike, and she was in perfect control.

You’re intrigued now, so here are some of videos.

She was in a Nike commercial a few years ago. One of the best Nike commercials of all time. Just watch it.

Here’s a brief interview she did in 2020.

And here’s a longform piece on her, from 2019.

Sunday, she ran, ran, across the finish line.

Oct 21

Ironman Indiana

This weekend we were in beautiful, bucolic Selma, Indiana, a rural community just outside exotic Muncie, which is in Indiana. And so it was that they named the event Ironman Indiana. It’s a bit of a one-off from the Ironman company. A lot of races were shut down last year. A lot of events didn’t get the chance to make money; a lot of outstanding athletes didn’t get to do their thing. So, this year, they decided “Let’s run a half Ironman and a full Ironman on the same day in the middle of a pandemic!”

We drove up Friday evening, because The Yankee was in this race. She did her packet pickup in Muncie, indoors but there was no one around. We went to the hotel(s) — and more on that in a moment. Saturday morning she got up very early and started the race.

Here she is after the 2.4 mile swim, and the conclusion of her 112 mile bike ride. Still a great big smile …

This is just outside the transition area, so she’s slowed down enough to allow us a glimpse as she’s preparing for the run.

Again, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile run, and then you wrap up a light day’s work with a 26.2 mile run, which she’s starting here.

At some point on the run it becomes a mental thing as much as a physical thing. You’ve been out there for hours. You’ve surpassed your longest workouts. It can be tedious or boring or painful or entertaining. And as this course was a series of out-and-backs, you only saw your personal cheering sections a few times. But at least the weather was nice and mild today, and downright cool after the last of the rain had passed through. Really, it was a bit of everything, and so much of this particular course is in such a delightfully rural area that the only people you would see for long stretches of time are other athletes and the occasional aid station. You spend a lot of time in your head. A lot of time.

And yet, having done half the run, 13.1 miles down and 13.1 to go, she’s still got that big smile.

Later in the evening, having slashed through the water and ground on the pedals and pounded the pavement, the finish line.

This is her third Ironman. First there was Ironman Louisville in 2017. Then there was the North American Championship in Texas in 2019. And now, Ironman Indiana.

She finished, got her medal, took the publicity photos, grabbed a roast beef sandwich and sat on a bench to collect herself with her coach and his wife. And then we carried all of the tools of the Ironman trade to the car. Then she shivered as we drove back to the hotel.

We had two hotels this weekend. The first place had to put some rooms out of order, which we’re guessing, means they overbooked. But they were nice enough to reserve us a room in a much less nice hotel across town.

The sign out front inspires a lot of confidence.

But! We got a room with a king size bed, better than we were expecting in the first hotel. This place was undergoing renovations, however, and smelled funny. It probably always smells funny.

It was a smell that was even weirder through your mask.

So we settled in there Friday. On Saturday, the desk manager says to me “Checkout is at 11.

“No sir, it is not. The other hotel booked us for two nights.”

He had our little note from the other hotel right there on the desk. He was waiting on me.

It says here one night.

“Yes it does,” I said. “And the attendant there assured me this was a typo on a form letter and that our visit with you was for two nights.”

OK, let me call them.

“Yes, please do call them. Call Chris, the manager. Call Chris at home.

He calls, asks for Chris. Chris isn’t there, because it is Saturday on one of the busiest weekends in their town. Why would the manager of a teaching hotel be on hand?

He asks for whoever was close by. He gets put on hold.

Then the desk manager gentleman turns to me and nicely says “I know this isn’t your fault.

I said, “And I know this isn’t your fault. I also know I have two nights with you.”

At which point he hangs up and says “They were taking too long. I’m going to make them pay for it anyway.

Which is where I say, “And when I come back tonight, my stuff is still going to be in the room, and not on the curb, and this key is going to still work, right?”

Which is a question I asked him two different ways, just to be sure we had an understanding. And we did.

You put that out of your head for the day, but after the triathlon it’s a half-hour ride back to the hotel and you’re wondering the whole way: Is our stuff still going to be in the room? Is this key still going to work? It’ll be a whole new shift of people working in the hotel this time of night. What if Robert didn’t pass along this information, and we’re tired and hungry and cold and it’s late and we’re also sweaty? No one wants a scene in their smelly, renovating hotel, in front of people putting “cigerettes” out in the flower pots.

But the key worked, our things were still in the room. The three-time Ironman had a nice soothing shower and a snack and I said, “Since we’re safely in the room I can tell you this story now … ” which she laughed at until she fell asleep.

And on Sunday, we left exotic Muncie, got a quick breakfast and drove back to Bloomington. Sunday was a low key day spent resting and cleaning. Today was a Monday; tomorrow will be a full Tuesday.

Aug 20

Arrivederci, Augst

If we’re doing that thing where we blame everything on the year, and we are doing that thing, let us do it quickly. Let’s divest ourselves of September. Let us brush aside October and ignore November. Bring on the grimness of December and weird, unfulfilled holidays.

Or at least let us move past August. It’ll all be … different … by December. Better different? Who among us can say? It will be different-different. So let’s consider that.

The cats are in perfect agreement.

Let’s assume they are. Whenever they sit this closely together, I’m convinced, something is up, and it may as well be this. They’re trying, in their own cat way, to whisk away the calendar too.

You’re welcome, humanity.

On Saturday, we held a little miniature Olympic distance triathlon. The Yankee was supposed to do a formal one that day, but, you know, 2020. So, not having that opportunity, we ran the #GoRenGo tri.

We went out to the lake early in the morning. Early enough that we were out there alone. (Don’t think I didn’t notice the hour.)

And she swam a quick and easy 1,500 yards.

Exiting the water, she had a T1 right there on the lake and hopped on her bike and set out on a 24-mile ride.

I tracked her at two points on the road, and then she got back to the house for T2, and then set out for a nice easy 10K.

I followed her around on my bike for part of her run. She had a great swim and ride, but didn’t like her run. I’m looking at the times though, and she’s still amazing, even when I’m the only support on the course.

Apr 19


At the Hermann Memorial North American Championship in Texas The Yankee completed her second Ironman on Saturday. That’s a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a marathon. Louisville in 2017, and Texas this week makes her a two-time Ironman!

Here are a few highlights of her day:

It was warm. Hot, even. A bit more so than forecast, and the sun was beating down something fierce, even for Texas. The woman who on the professional side said, in her post-race interview, that it was the hardest course she’d ever been on. And we saw it all unfold, while my best girl did it all, again.

View this post on Instagram

‪Getting my mileage in, too. #GoRenGo‬

A post shared by Kenny Smith (@kennydsmith) on

I did get some miles in, as it turned out. My phone recorded 10 miles of me hoofing it around the course, and a fair amount of that was running. I’m not even supposed to be doing any distance right now.

You can see more details under this hashtag.

Jan 18

You just had to be there

They make posters at races and before the 2017 Ironman in Louisville, which The Yankee completed, we were batting around ideas. And for some reason I thought it’d be funny to make one of those old Civil War-era style letters home that you often hear read in documentaries. It got a big laugh.

The next morning someone had made that sign. We brought it home, and it is proudly on display in our bike room. It came up in a Twitter thread tonight.