Taper time! And more!

15 October, 2012

The training is coming to an end! Endurance athletes call this the “taper.” All of the  distance training that’s consumed my time since Monday, July 23 is wrapping up. My body is (or so they tell me) slowly recovering and will peak Saturday morning  when the flag drops and I set out on my 2.4 mile swim down the Intracoastal Waterway in Wilmington, NC. It’s one of my favorite swims anywhere. I climb out of the water and get my wetsuit off and my cycling gear on and pedal away for a beautiful 112 mile bike ride through southeastern North Carolina. After finishing the bike I begin a 26.2 mile run that consists of two 13.1 mile loops through downtown Wilmington and around Greenfield Lake. I am dedicatedly un-fond of running and I walk a lot. But that route is also among my favorite ever.

I typically begin the run between 3:30 and 4:00 on the afternoon. Each loop takes me just over three hours. Sunset that evening will be around 6:30. So even if I’m having a peak performance, the second loop will be almost entirely in the dark. Running (and walking) around that lake, chatting with volunteers and spectators and other runners, suffused with an endorphin/dopamine tsunami, the final three hours of an ironman is my favorite three hours of the year. There is just nothing else like it. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity.

Lots of thoughts are going through my head. But I’m also preparing for the race, plus working. So let me put a few pictures in here and continue with race preparations. Here’s the race website, by the way: PPD Beach2Battleship

As an aside, I think they’re going to have live athlete tracking this year. You may be able to follow my progress online. When I learn more about that I’ll try to get the word out. Meanwhile, it was a month ago today (!) that I put up my last post. I’ll scrounge up a handful of pictures to put here. I may get another post up before the race, but if not I’ll definitely post one after.

I know I already posted a picture of this enormous fungus last month, with the dog leashes. This one is really cool – my iphone is inside it, set on FaceTime, so it’s taking a picture of me taking a picture of it. If you click on the picture you can zoom way in. And see me with my gray hat on, holding my camera. It’s nerdy + fun, at least to me:

iphone in a fungus taking a picture of me taking a picture of it. Not weird, but it could be seen that way if you’re so inclined.

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (last month’s) that I develop a mild (sometimes not-mild) obsession with photographing late season flowers as the days grow shorter and the nights get cool. This pale yellow rose is in my backyard, amazingly enough. My camera really took advantage of the light and the picture is stunning:

I’m very happy with this one

I took that rose picture with my “real” camera but I used my iphone to get this picture of Dash, my cat, looking out the back porch door:

Dash! Isn’t he dashing?!

Harper Lee published the Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill A Mockingbird in 1961. I heard an interview with her not long ago and the interviewer asked her why she didn’t publish anything after Mockingbird. She responded that “when you start at the top, there’s only one direction you can go.” You may or may not agree with that but it’s among the greatest American novels. I took the following picture in my front yard, of this mockingbird in the top of an old dogwood. And Ms. Lee can provide the caption, taken here from the book:

“”Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.” – Miss Maudie, to Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, 1961

For those who have tired of my fascination with giant locomotives – this time another of the 6,000 HP variety – did you watch the Gangnam Style youtube  video? You shouldn’t miss it; it’s youtube’s “most watched K-pop video” according to wikipedia. First class distraction if you’re over this whole locomotive thing: Gangnam Style

But if you still like big locomotives, here’s yet another GE AC6000:


Here’s a bizarre detail – this is a closeup of the horns from that locomotive. See that unusual looking black-garter-like-object wrapped around the back (right-hand side)? Your guess here is as good as mine:

Closeup of locomotive horns. Isn’t that wild? And what in the world is that thing wrapped around the back?

Here’s another cool detail. I should have composed this picture better. But see in the lower right corner, that vacuum-cleaner-nozzle-resembling thing pointing at the front of the wheel? When the wheel is slipping, that sprays sand to give it better grip. I think it’s sort of cool:

Closeup of sand sprayer, to prevent wheels from slipping (lower right hand corner)

Now for true locomotive arcania. The pairs of wheels on trains are called “trucks.” In boxcars and coal cars etc. they only have two axles per truck and the trucks aren’t very long. But on these big engines they’re really long. When they go around curves, they tear up the flanges on the inside of the wheels and the tracks get torn up. To correct this, on big locomotives they have “self-steering” or “radial” trucks that lean and turn a little bit on curves. If you’ve ever wondered about that always-blurry line that separates interest from obsession, it’s right around here somewhere. When first you like looking at trains and gradually you want to know how radial trucks work. Anyway, here’s a picture:

Radial steering or “self-steering” trucks carrying the weight (200+ tons) an AC6000 locomotive.

To snap myself out of my train-obsessed-funk, of course I turn my attention to our beautiful James River. First, the water:

Beautiful James River water

Followed by a rock:

Beautiful James River granite

And in closing, the water, the sky, the rocks, the plants, this is the antidote to train-obsessed-or-any-other-funk:

Where it all comes together

No story today, but hopefully soon. All best,


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Rivers, Trains. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Taper time! And more!

  1. Ed says:

    Best of luck with BtoB Jay. Can’t wait to read your post race report! God speed and God bless.

    • Thanks Ed! Looking forward to it! Right now I have more anxiety about getting to the starting line than I do about the race itself. But I do that every year. All the preps are in place and I’m ready to go! I hope your race goes great too! Talk with you soon,


  2. Gil Netter says:

    I’ll echolalia what Ed said. Be golden on race day!

    • Gil! It’s been forever! I hope your net profits continue to be favorable! Wait – is there an echolalia in here? Reminds me of my old spelunking days. Thanks for the note, looking forward to the experience. Talk with you soon,


  3. Pingback: Brothers and sisters | NEWFAZE

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