Lila Perry Survives Triathlon

We Steinhoffs are an athletic bunch. Son Matt (left) is a cyclist. Lila Perry Steinhoff, CHS Class of 1966, has been a swimmer since she was a tadpole. She still swims one to two miles a couple of times a week or more. Adam (right) is a triathlete, who does cycling, running and swimming. I ride a bike and jump to conclusions for exercise.

Adam asked Matt and his mother if they’d like to do a family Olympic distance relay at the 19th Annual Huntington’s Disease Triathlon in Miami on August 1, 2010. Each would do a leg of their specialty: Matt would ride his bike 40 kilometers, Lila would swim 1.5K and Adam would run 10K.

I would photograph the event and jump to the conclusion that they were nuts for doing this in August in Florida.

The Triathlon started at Dark O’Clock

These things start long before the rooster even turns over to smack the snooze alarm for the first time. We decided to stay in a Miami hotel to keep from having to get up even before we went to bed to be there in the pre-dawn hours. The hotel was upscale enough that they provided a couple of bottles of water (if you wanted to pay $6.50 a bottle). If we were hungry, room service would be happy to bring up a $4 Three Musketeer bar for a $3 delivery charge, plus a 21% gratuity.

I didn’t hear anyone snoring

Lila complained that she didn’t get any sleep because someone in the room was snoring very loudly. I didn’t hear him, and he didn’t keep ME awake, so I think she was imagining it.

They must be afraid of sharks

One of the first things they had to do was to check in and get race numbers attached to Matt’s bike and for Adam to display while he ran. Because swimming was involved, everyone had to have their race number written on their arms and legs in waterproof marker. When I saw them scrawling a big R on the back of Lila’s leg, I thought, “Man, they must be concerned about sharks out in Virgina Key Bay if they want to be able to tell which were the Left and Right legs of the swimmers.”

I found out later that I was getting my jumping to conclusions exercise. “R” stood for relay, meaning that it was a team, and not an individual entry. (I like my original theory better.)

Lila is NOT under house arrest

Lila is wearing an electronic device around her ankle, but she’s not under house arrest, nor has she been palling around with Lindsay Lohan.

The ankle straps contain timing chips that tell how long each athlete takes to cover a particular leg and how long they take in the “transition area” to switch to the next specialty. Swimmers, for example, have to make it out of the water, find their bicycles, put on cycling shoes and a helmet and hit the bike course.

Lila’s chip said she finished her swim in 47 minutes, 53 seconds. When she got to the bike transition area, she handed off the timing chip to Matt and was done for the day. She was lucky that her timing chip stayed on. Right after one of the elite groups took off, a timing anklet was seen floating about 40 feet offshore. Losing the chip can mean disqualification and having to pay $35 to replace it.

The wonders of digital cameras

When the swimmers went to check out the Swim Start area, it was so dark that about all you could see was the Miami skyline in the distance. I was amazed at how much detail the Nikon D40 will pick up with almost no light.

Lila tests the waters

Lila has had few experiences doing long swims in salt water. When the kids were younger, she was in the water shepherding a bunch of Boy Scouts qualifying for their Mile Swim badge. All of a sudden, this huge, dark object rolled over right in their path. She could just see herself writing a packet of “I regret to inform you that your son was eaten by an alligator while in my charge” letters.

Fortunately, the large object turned out to be a harmless manatee.

You can see that the sun was just beginning to think about waking up when she waded into the 87.9 degree water.

Danger: Spilled Testosterone

Before the races start, there’s a lot of kidding around and socializing. Don’t think for a moment, though, that these folks don’t take the event seriously. There was so much testosterone oozing out that the course was slippery.

Starts are controlled chaos

When the starter says “GO!!!” there’s a mad dash to get into the water and start churning. The guy on the right looks like he’s figured out a way to run on top of the water.

Lila’s a Diesel engine

Lila opted for a more sedate water entry, which put her at the back of the pack. She had no illusions about winning her first triathlon; her goal was to finish, hopefully in under an hour. I had no doubt that she’d make it, but some of the lifeguards may not have been so sure.

“As I passed the guys on the paddle boards,  some asked how I was doing?  I told them I have a Diesel engine. I’m not fast, but I can go all day.  They could see that I wasn’t winded or struggling, so all was good. The only problem I had was that, without my glasses, unlike the bright orange buoys at the beginning of the course, the yellow buoys were hard to see against the green along the  shore  in the early morning light. As I went around the last two buoys, I had to ask the guys on the paddle boards to point me to the next buoy.'”

How Did Team DedicatedIT do?

You can see the course here.

Adam’s goal was to do his run in an hour. His last best time was 1:30. He was disappointed that his final time was 1:09:46. He said that the heat had pushed his heart rate above what he could sustain.

Matt, who was doing this for the first time, didn’t know what his goal was other than not being last. He completed his 24.8-mile bike ride in 1:26:03, an average of a little over 17 mph. Considering the heat and that the course involved climbing the Key Biscayne Bridge four times, that’s pretty good. Another consideration was that he was riding a bike handed down by his uncle, Mark, instead of the specialty bikes favored by the hard-core racers. Some of those bikes are worth more than Matt’s car.

Lila’s swim time for 1.5K (just a hair under a mile), as mentioned before, was 47:53, beating her goal of an hour.

They WERE a little disappointed to find that their gold medals weren’t REAL gold.

One-Shot Frony

GD Fronabarger c 1967

Everyone’s been shot by Frony

There’s probably nobody who lived in Southeast Missouri between 1927 and 1986 who hadn’t had his or her picture taken by One-Shot Frony.

G.D. Fronabarger started working at The Southeast Missourian in 1927 and stayed 59 years.

When I knew him, he was called One-Shot because he seldom took more than one picture per assignment. He’d line up a group shot with 50 people in it, growl through the cigar clenched between his teeth, “Don’t blink. I’m taking one shot,” push the shutter release and walk off.

He and I had a somewhat tense relationship in our early days. I was a reporter who got paid $5 for each shot that ran… when one ran. Because most of the staffers liked my candid style, as opposed to Frony’s more formal posed pictures, they’d connive to slip assigments to me on days when they knew Frony wasn’t available. He was gruff with everybody, but it always felt like he was a little more gruff with me.

Frony defended a controversial picture

Barge fatalities 12-05-1966That all changed after I went out on an early-morning spot news run Dec. 5, 1966.

A 19-year-old and another man were cleaning the inside of a closed barge with gasoline when they were overcome by the fumes. I took a front-page picture of the young man laying face-down on the cold barge deck while rescue workers lifted his partner out of the hold.

It was the first body I had ever seen outside of a funeral home – certainly the only one of someone my age – and it was one of the few I can recall The Missourian running. Seeing that, and writing the obituary of a kid I went to kindergarten with, showed me just how fragile life is. I never forgot it.

Predictably, the paper came in for a lot of criticism

I was surprised one day when I was in a coffee shop and overheard Frony defending “the kid” who took the picture to someone who was bending his ear. After that, Frony treated me a lot differently. Maybe he felt like I had paid my dues and had what it took to be a real newspaper photographer.

Fred Lynch is preserving Frony’s early work

Southeast Missourian Photographer Fred Lynch

I dropped in to see Fred Lynch, a Missourian photographer since 1975. I had seen his work over the years, but had never met him. While we were sharing war stories, he said that he was involved in a project to digitize all of Frony’s 4×5 negatives.

Frony was an early adopter of 35mm technology. He showed me a long telephoto lens one afternoon, and I asked what he planned to use it for.

“I’m going to stand here and shoot corruption in Illinois,” he groused, without a hint of a smile.

Fred pulled out a series of prints that showed a completely different side of Frony, the photographer. There were images that would qualify as art in any museum. He managed to capture a portrait of his era in a way I hope my pictures do.

I’m not sure how The Missourian will ultimately use the photos, but I’ll be first in line to buy the book if they publish one.

Frony’s Twister Tornado Warning Alarm

Tornado Warning Alarm owned by G.D. FronabargerI happened to be in town when many of Frony’s possessions were auctioned off. (A copy of the picture of him on the river front was one of the things that sold. I was touched that he had hung onto it for all those years.)

One thing that caught my eye was a Twister Tornado Warning Alarm. It was a quirky device that had a metal can in the middle. If the air pressure dropped suddenly, a buzzer would sound and a light would light. It had no practical use, but it was neat.

Auctioneer sweetened the deal

I bid two or three bucks and figured I had a clear shot. The auctioneer, though, wanted to boost the bid, so he threw in two pairs of Frony’s old shoes. One was an orangish color not seen in nature. NOW folks were getting interested. I think I finally had to go to five or seven bucks for my trophy, plus the bleeping shoes.

I felt foolish enough buying the Twister Torado Warning Alarm (which, by the way, is on permanent loan to the Mark Steinhoff Memorial Museum in St. Louis), the shoes made me feel REALLY foolish.

Frony Shoes are still in service

Frony Shoes, modeled by Matt SteinhoffIt turned out that Kid Matt, who was in high school at the time, thought they were the most comfortable things he’d ever found. And, showing that he had inherited his fashion sense from me, he insisted on wearing them in public.

I asked him the other night what ever happened to his Frony Shoes.

He was more than happy to pull them out of his closet to pose for this picture.

I guess you could say that the Steinhoffs have walked a mile in Frony’s shoes.