An Ironman dedicated to an ironwoman

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By Jack Crowe

Cycling Columnist

When I was growing up in nearby Westchester, the Hinsdale family lived next door.  The Crowes were a big Catholic family, but the Hinsdales were much bigger. I was the youngest of six children, but they had 11.

On Bristol Avenue, the Crowes did some crazy things, but the Hinsdales, given their sheer numbers, were capable of doing far more. 

Nothing criminal mind you, but more mischievous things, like when I saw one young Hinsdale, probably age six, climb out of a second floor bedroom window, somehow cling to the brick wall and launch himself into the adjacent window.  Or when a Hinsdale tyke got into the family car, turned it on and backed it into a tree across the street. 

Toward the end of the line, the triplets were born — one of whom was named Margaret, but was known to everyone at Divine Infant School as Muffy. 

Margaret grew up and moved to San Mateo, Calif. She married and raised a family there.  She must have inherited the Hinsdale sense of risk taking, because 10 years ago she became a triathlete. Margaret competed in Hawaii and was an experienced half Ironman competitor. 

One week ago, Margaret and her brother-in-law participated in the Vineman Half Ironman in the wine country around Sonoma County, Calif. Something went terribly wrong at the beginning of the swim in the Russian River.

 When people get into trouble in a triathlon it almost always happens at the beginning of the swim. It must be a combination of the cold water, the crowds, the adrenaline.

An emergency crew pulled Margaret from the water. Though in perfectly good health, Margaret apparently suffered a heart attack and died the next day. She was 50 years old. 

I heard about this the way people hear about such things these days, on Facebook.  Someone from the old neighborhood posted the news.     

While the Vineman Half was last weekend, the Vineman Full distance Ironman is this coming Saturday.  This is my "A" race and I fly out Thursday.

The news of Margaret Hinsdale's death causes me to ask, why do it?  Why put my 52-year-old body through the stress and risk? 

Part of me says that everything is risky, even being a couch potato who never exercises. As we learned from the recent tragedy in Colorado, there can even be a risk in watching a movie in a theater.

But that doesn't quite get to the heart of it. I imagine that Margaret found great friendship in the people with whom she trained. You cannot ride a bike for six hours every Saturday without being on intimate terms with your fellow riders. 

Another thing, triathlons, especially Ironmans, are really hard. The big honking goal of finishing pushes us out of our comfort zone, physically and psychologically, and turns our mundane daily lives into a kind of adventure.    

Margaret's death is of course a tragedy.  I can't imagine anything that would console her children. But like the 6-year-old Hinsdale kid who jumped from window to window, Margaret found a way to make her life adventurous. I will be dedicating my race day to her memory.

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Reader Comments

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Aunt Julie from the FITZ clan from Riverside IL  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 7:38 PM

Continuing She was here for sooo many events. My most recent HAPPY memory of her was @ niece Mary's 50th on the CHGO FAIR LADY boat Memorial wk. end --- when we danced all night! Both of my daughters are runners---the younger has even completed runs with stress frax. I wish all of you would "give it up"!!!!

Fitz family Aunt Julie from Riverside IL  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 7:26 PM

Jack, What a WONDERFUL tribute to an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING "girl". I am the aunt of the Fitzpatrick's---on the corner (2 doors so. of THE Hinnie's!) I remember the name Crowe. "MUFF THE STUFFS" (as many of us called her) death IS one of the TRAJEDIES of life. AS my niece Mary(Muffy was Mary's BEST friend!!!) has so aptly stated "I CAN'T IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT MUFFY". They remained VERY close ,even with the distance!. There were times it seemed as tho Muffy still lived in Chgo. area.

Debbie Ferguson from Lake City Fl  

Posted: July 26th, 2012 4:18 AM

I have chills.. thank you so much for that inspiring column. Muffy will be forever in our hearts... such an amazing, powerful, faithful, dedicated, loving woman!!

Maureen Frawley from La Grange  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 10:13 PM

What an awesome,inspiring, and well written article. Jack, I don't know you, but how incredible of you to keep Muffy's spirit alive! Good luck...God bless you and Muffy:)

Bill Riley  

Posted: July 25th, 2012 5:51 PM

Muffy was one of the nicest and sweetest girls you'd ever want to meet. I can't even imagine seeing her without a smile on her face. she brought out the best in all of her friends and classmates. After all these years, to see so many feeling they have lost someone very special in their lives. It's great to see everyone sharing their fondest memories of her and celebrating her life. One can only feel that we have all been blessed for having known Muffy as a classmate and as a friend!

Joan Hinsdale from Evanston  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 11:21 PM

Jack, You will do well. Keep it even at the beginning and Margaret's swift spirit will get you to the line. The Crowes were a nice family and Westchester had some great people!! I will miss Margaret and her triplet brothers, Mike and Matt feel the loss, too. Our hearts are with her and prayers with you. Joan Hinsdale

Matthew Hinsdale  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 8:56 PM

Jack, from (Muffy's), youngest triplet...Thanks....Matthew Here...

Thomas Hinsdale from Mokena, IL  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 5:24 PM

Really nice of you to honor Muffy, Jack. Godspeed to your race.

Nanette from Pacifica  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 5:02 PM

Dear Jack, All the best of luck to you at the Vineman Ironman. I was Margaret's training buddy for this event - we had completed the all women's Half Ironman (Barb's Race) last year, which inspired us both to compete in Vineman 70.3. No words can express the loss we have all felt - but she experienced life to the fullest and was doing what she wanted to do! Have a great, safe race!

Therese Hinsdale Block from Glenview, IL  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 4:33 PM

Thank you, Jack. I tagged Margaret in a fb post, so all of her tri-buddies in California will see it. Please know that you will have one HUGE cheering section from California and Chicagoland! Best of luck.

Peter H from Chicago  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 3:45 PM

...also, the triplets consisted of one girl and two boys, in case you want to update the article. it is making the rounds and being posted on FB, etc.

William Hinsdale from Burr Ridge, Il  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 3:36 PM

Good luck in your competition, thanks for the kind words about my sister, Muffy. You were fantastic neighbors, God Bless!

Norma Hinsdale from Burr Ridge, IL  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 3:07 PM

Jack, thank you your article on our beautiful Muffy. We are all doing our best to cope with our shocking loss.

Peter H from Chicago  

Posted: July 24th, 2012 2:39 PM

correction...she had three kids, only one is a girl though (the middle). nice article though, thank you.

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