May the Fourth Be With You!

4 May, 2014    May the Fourth Be With You!

Thanks and groans to my friend Andrew for the title to this post. And for helping today be meaningful! Because he invited me to do a triathlon today! More at the end of this post. Andrew (and his brother Peter) are big Star Wars fans. So am I, but mostly of the original 1977 Star Wars, which predates I suspect some readers of this blog. “May the Force be with you” is from that original movie and even has (who knew) its own wikipedia entry. Which opens thus: “The expression “May the Force be with you” has achieved cult status and is symbolic of the Star Wars legacy. The line has been said by at least one character in each of the Star Wars movies.”


So, first my usual few pictures I’ve taken during the week, then this blog post. Normally I only put up pictures I’ve taken during the week since the last post. But I took this one last Sunday and didn’t put it up and decided it deserved to be on a post. This is a bumblebee on the rhododendron in our backyard:

Pretty in Pink!

Pretty in Pink!

As much as I enjoy living in the present, I still miss the dogwood blossoms when they go. This beauty’ll be gone soon. There were gorgeous dogwoods all over the race course today. But none as lovely as this one is from my front yard:

If I live to be a hundred I'll still smile every time I see a dogwood.

If I live to be a hundred I’ll still smile every time I see a dogwood.

Of course, while the dogwoods are going away, dozens of other plants are just coming in. I’m currently reading Aldo Leopold’s 1949 classic A Sand County Almanac. Great timing. I had never in my life heard of a “pine candle.” When I went to bed one evening last week I read the passage “The pine’s new year begins in May, when the terminal bud becomes ‘the candle.’ Whoever coined that name for the new growth had subtlety in his soul. ‘The candle’ sounds like a platitudinous reference to obvious facts: the new shoot is waxy, upright, brittle. But he who lives with pines knows that candle has a deeper meaning, for at its tip burns the eternal flame that lights a path into the future. May after May my pines follow their candles skyward, each headed straight for the zenith, and each meaning to get there if only there be years enough before the last trumpet blows. It is a very old pine who at last forgets which of his many candles is the most important, and thus flattens his crown against the sky. You may forget, but no pine of your own planting will do so in your lifetime.”


Leopold, Aldo (1966-12-31). A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River. Oxford University Press.


Isn’t that a gorgeous piece of writing? I would give anything to be able to write that way. I once heard that book referred to as a “prose poem.” Anyway, true story, I go out the next day and I pull up in a parking lot near Innsbrook and get out of my car and there are pine trees right in front of me. And I looked at them and – pine candles!:

Look at this! A pine candle!

Look at this! A pine candle!

I didn’t exert myself as much as I could have today, but it’s been a long, long, long one and I’m wiped out and headed for bed. Next week will be a little more detailed. Until then, have a great week. And May the Fourth be With You!


All best,



Wait – this just in! Literally! Andrew, who pushed himself way harder today than I did (you can look up the race results) just sent me a bunch of pictures! And he took one of me crossing the finish line!:

I finished in the DAYTIME! This is INCREDIBLE! Thanks Andrew! May the Fourth Be With You!!!

I finished in the DAYTIME! This is INCREDIBLE! Thanks Andrew! May the Fourth Be With You!!!

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May the Fourth be with you

Earlier this year my old friend Andrew (the one responsible for or to blame for the title of this post) gave me a gift he didn’t know he was giving. On January 16 he included me in an email that began “Hello, gentlemen.


I have signed up for the Monticello Man Triathlon. It is on MAY 4th at Lake Monticello in Fluvanna.


Anyone else interested?


After eleven consecutive years of Iron distance (140.6 miles) triathlons, I’d decided to take my foot off the gas a little bit in 2014. But I was aimless. Andrew’s invitation came at just the right time! Since I’m giving Andrew credit (and blame) I will include a line he wrote in another email the same day: “ALSO, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the race is on MAY THE 4TH!  StarWars Day!!!!!!!!!!!” I will finish this post with a nod to that important date.


Triathlons have been an integral piece of the structure I’ve used to rebuild my life following my accident in 1988. I was training for a triathlon when I had the accident and going back to triathlons felt like the best way to prove to myself that the accident hadn’t slowed me down. The truth is it slowed me down (a lot) but it brought my stubbornness to the fore. I had done two “sprint” triathlons (½ mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) before my accident. In the years following it I did a hundred plus short distance triathlons then in 2003 moved up to Iron distance (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). And did that once a year for eleven years. This year I decided to take it easy I had the maximum imaginable amount of fun today at Monticelloman.


I’ve written before and I’ll write again – my goal in any triathlon is to “have a good time.” Which, since they’re timed, might imply a fast time. I am most assuredly not fast. But I do know how to enjoy myself – that is also what it means to “have a good time.” So I go out every race and focus on a “good time” and so far I’ve been one hundred percent successful. If I do a race some day and don’t have a good time, maybe I’ll stop. But if history is any guide, that won’t happen soon.


Here are a couple of pictures of Andrew and me from this today. The first picture is just when we pulled up, around 7:30 this morning:

Chillin' (pre-)

Chillin’ (pre-)


And the second picture is post race – that lake we swam in (Lake Monticello) is in the background. Notice Andrew wearing that awesome custom-made Darth Vader t-shirt in honor of the date:

Chillin' post-

Chillin’ post- (see the lake in the background?)

Very, very excellent finisher’s medal:



Anyway – I shamelessly snagged this image off the internet because I liked that at the bottom it said “HOW WILL YOU CELEBRATE?” And we celebrated in fine style by swimming and biking and running around central Virginia for half the day:

Additional text unnecessary

Additional text superfluous

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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, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!). Bookmark the permalink.

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