The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Ali Wood: It takes a strong woman to make an ironman

Written by David Green.


Picture Alexe (Wood) Lawrence standing at the edge of the ocean, wrapped in a wet suit, staring out at large boat anchored more than a mile off shore.

As a girl growing up in Morenci, she knew how to dog paddle, but not much more. That’s not good enough for the Ironman Triathlon. You can’t dog paddle 1.2 miles out into ocean, then turn around and paddle back to land. Not if you’re competing with hundreds of other super athletes.

That was the dilemma Ali faced back in 1999 when she made the decision to become a triathlete. It happened on the way to the starting line of the Boston Marathon.

“While I was on the bus they used to transport the runners to the starting line, I talked with a gentleman who did triathlons as well as marathons,” she said. “Listening to his stories made me want to try a triathlon.”

The decision was made, but action didn’t follow immediately.

iron “It took me a while to get up the courage to try one.”

In the meantime, she ran another marathon in Chicago later that year and in the San Diego Rock ’n Roll run in June 2000.

“By then I was pretty burnt out from just running,” Ali said, “so I decided to try the triathlon.”


Learning to swim was high on the to-do list. She joined a local gym in suburban Detroit and taught herself to swim. All of her training was done in a pool, however, and it was quite a different experience to swim in Lake Michigan in her first race in Chicago.

It was a good intermediate step toward the Ironman. Classified as a sprint marathon, competitors covered about half a mile through the water.

Ali had done a lot of bicycling over the years, but it wasn’t for speed and her experience with shifting gears was limited.

“I was never very efficient with changing speeds, etc., so I had to learn that.”

She did some road work on weekends, but during the week she trained indoors, converting her racing bike into a stationary bike by using a tension device that attaches to the rear wheel.

Her preparation was aided by a software program that produces training schedules based on race distance and available practice time.

Much has been said about “the loneliness of the long distance runner,” but that’s not always how it feels.

“I enjoy it,” Ali said. “Some days not so much, but generally exercise is my stress reliever.”

At that time, she was the manager of a systems department for a Ford Motor Company supplier. The job produced plenty of stress.

She listened to music or read books while cycling indoors, but she kept the earphones off outdoors. Her concerns about traffic took away the music. Running is a time to sort through your life, keep track of things to do, get organized, solve problems.

The toughest part of training was simply to work it all into her life.

ali2 “When I was training for the Ironman, so much time had to go into training—and yet I was trying not to let it consume my life.”

She played volleyball in a recreational league, she wanted to do things with friends, she had a husband, Jake. She became good at juggling time.

“Luckily, Jake has a job in which he works later at night,” Ali said. “I usually timed it so that I was just finishing my workout when he got home.”

Weekends were more difficult, but she tried to get training out of the way early in the morning so they had the day together.


With four marathons behind her, Ali traveled to Chicago in 2000 for the Mrs. T’s Triathalon. The sprint event covered about half a mile of swimming, 14 miles of bike riding and 3.2 miles of running.

“I really liked it,” she said, “but it was intimidating. It was before the Summer Olympics and there were many professional triathletes there.”

It whetted her appetite—she knew the Ironman was in her future. She started training for the Panama City (Fla.) event and added a bigger triathlon in July 2001. A race in Cleveland followed the Olympic (or International) Triathlon distances: almost one mile of swimming, 25 miles of biking and 6.4 miles of running.

Not quite a Sunday stroll, but definitely lightweight compared to the Ironman.

Panama City

Now, back to that image of Ali Lawrence in her wet suit, staring out into the Gulf of Mexico, knowing she would travel 2.4 miles before reaching dry land again.

“I’d never really swam in the ocean before,” she said. “The water was a little choppier, and by the time I was done I felt like my tongue was two sizes bigger.”

The hardest thing about the swim, she says, is the mass of bodies in what’s always the first event of a triathlon. Everyone is trying to swim as fast as they can and there’s a lot of jostling about.

“I read somewhere that swimming in a triathlon is like having someone throw lawnchairs at you the whole time. You get kicked, punched, run into—never on purpose, but everyone is always bunched up together.”

The swim is the toughest part for Ali. She usually hyperventilates at first, but then relaxes into the flow of the event.

Next comes a 112-mile bicycle ride.

“The transition is hard because you’re still wet and you’re trying to get you bike gear on and make sure you’re comfortable.”

Comfort can be a challenge for someone perched atop a bike seat for a few hours.

“The transition to running is probably the hardest. It depends on how the bike ride was. You can be very sore and very tired.”

Now it’s 26.2 miles on foot. Each of the three events tugs on a different set of muscles. The race starts at 7 a.m. and closes up 17 hours later at midnight. Ali completed the grueling course in 14 hours and 25 minutes.

More than a year passed before she did it once again. It wasn’t an Ironman this time, but a regular triathlon based in Windsor, Ont., with a swim in the Detroit River.

That was last August and currently she is off the heavy training schedule. She has a different job assignment—less stress, longer hours—but with warmer weather and more daylight, she’s once again feeling the urge. Besides, she’s never been really satisfied with her finishing times.

It sounds as if it’s about time to once again hit the road, the pool and the stationary bike.

And what keeps her going after more? That’s easy, says Ali Lawrence.

“It’s the feeling of accomplishment you get when you cross the finish line.”

     – April 23, 2003 

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