Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pictures from the Event

Gearing's a triathlon habit. Lay everything out so you know what you have and you don't forget anything. Gear it up, then lay it down again. Then gear it up again.

Don't forget your BUTNZ. I got a lot of laughs from the one my friend Dianne gave me for my 40th birthday: "I've Survived Damned Near Everything!"

Welcome to the event....



Team Fish!!!

L-to-R: Rob "FishrCutB8" Duffield, Iron Mike Haws, Kurt "Oorah" Enck (Not pictured: my brother Pat who rode straight to the showers--smart move!) The little moppet in front of us is Mike's son (and my nephew) Nick.

My Number One Fan moves into the you, Little Fish!!!!!


Kurt finished his ride, cleaned up and went to the dinner tent. My family was wiped, having been in the sun for the better part of the hottest time of the day. A couple sat down next to Kurt and he struck up a conversation with them, then gave them a Team Fish BUTNZ! They asked about the significance of Team Fish, and Kurt went on to explain that it was kind of my rallying cry when things needed to change: It's time to either fish or cut bait.

Well, it turns out a woman behind him overheard the conversation and turned around. "Did you say Team Fish," she asked. Kurt replied that he had and the woman introduced herself as Diane. Some of you may remember me writing about Diane last year, a woman I encountered toward the end of the ride as we were both trying to gut it out and finish.

She had scheduled her chemotherapy treatments that year so the LiveSTRONG Challenge fell BETWEEN them and she could ride. I remembered her this year when I hit that particularly lonesome area of road, and I actually rode it apart from everyone so I could remember her and say a prayer that she was well. I had no idea where she was with things, but I know scrappers when I see them and I hoped she was out there kicking butt again.

Well, it turns out she was. Diane has been cancer free for eight months now. Rock on, Diane!

Cool Story

So I pulled into one of the stops and there was a volunteer bringing huge jugs of water around to the riders to refill water bottles. Naturally, I gave him one of my BUTNZ! This guy next to me said, "Hey, you're the button guy! I remember you from last year." Cool.

We spent some time talking, I gave him this year's BUTNZ and we took off.

Little Fish and Big Fish

At the LiveSTRONG Expo, the day before the race.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Unity is Strength

The Iroquois League was a loosely knit group of Native American tribes who lived not far from my area of the country. There is a legend which talks about Peacemaker, who journeyed to all five of the local tribes: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. He asked them to stop fighting and learn to live in peace. He brought good fortune to each of his stops, and the people believed him until he got to the Onondaga. There, the Peacemaker met Tadadaho, who would not consent to the union with the others. The Peacemaker persuaded him to join the League by promising him that he could watch over the Council Fire, a position of respect and power.

When the leaders from the five nations reached the first League meeting, they brought their weapons with them. The Peacemaker had them bury their weapons under the Great Tree of Peace and told everyone who lived under the tree to look ahead for the sake of the League. Then, the Peacemaker gave each leader an arrow. He broke one to show that, apart from each other, they would be easily broken. Then, he bundled the arrows together and failed to break them; they would be strong, unbreakable, if they stood together.

And so it has been with Team Fish. Last year, I got left out alone on the back country and was broken. This year, we rode largely together...and all of us finished. Team Fish's riders featured a strong nucleus of people with one focus: no whining. There is nothing better than riding hard with people who don't whine.

For the second year, my brother Pat rode, this year stretching from 40 to 70 hard miles. The difference at the LiveSTRONG Challenge is much more than 30 miles. After the first 40, the terrain changes rapidly, but Pat (down 20+ pounds from last year!) faced it head on. He lost his the bottom of the aforementioned huge hill. He had to climb it from a dead stop. And, he did. And, because he's Pat, he HAD to have mechanical problems. His rear derailleur malfunctioned. Pat rode to the rest area, had a bike tech monkey-rig it enough that he could finish and gutted it out. To say that I am proud of him would be an understatement. I have a sneaking suspicion he is going to shoot for 100 next year, and he'll be down another 20 pounds...or more. And he will finish, just like he did this year--STRONG.

Riding for the first year with Team Fish was my cousin, Iron Mike Haws. Mike is from New Jersey. South Jersey, to be exact, an area which features terrain that makes South Florida look like the Rockies. And, because this was his first year, he had no way to gauge just how big the hills are. To say Mike had little opportunity (much less understanding of how) to train on hills would be a gross understatement. The biggest hill Mike faced in training was a bridge overpass. But, he gritted his teeth, bore down on the pedals and pushed himself up the hills, because that's what he does. He even rode up the one-mile climb, breaking it out when everyone around him was walking. Mike just said, "No" and kept on climbing. At the end, I could tell he was feeling it, but he just kept going without complaint. Mad respect, Iron Mike. Mad respect.

I have a buddy, Kurt Enck that I goaded into triathlons last year. Now he's getting hardware. I like roping Kurt into these insane plots of mine, because: 1)It's so easy and 2) He's always game for an adventure. The easy part was explained to me early on by his wife, with whom I worked. It seems Kurt has friends that are always asking him to come watch them do an event or some insane stunt. Sooner or later, like the proverbial cat, the curiosity gets the better of him, he starts thinking about doing the event and it snowballs (usually out of control) from there. I like Kurt because he's strong and also mentally tough. When things get a little dicey, he brings a youthful enthusiasm that is simply contagious. At one point, somewhere around mile 50, there was a group of guys from Jon's Crew riding with Kurt and me. We got a paceline going and were soon drawing through at 26+ miles per hour. Kurt hopped right in and joined it, even sprinting out at the end in a mad breakaway, shouting like we all used to when we were ten years-old, summers lasted forever and our biggest concern was catching the ice cream truck.

But this event is so much bigger than just those who ride with me. The real driving force is those who supported me, the real team Fish. We more-than-doubled last year's fund raising, hitting OVER $4,000!!!. You are the lifeblood of this effort, and to say that I couldn't have done it without you doesn't even begin to express it. I rode this year for your fathers and your mothers, your husbands and wives, for your sisters and your brothers, for your sons and your daughters. Many of them are still with us, having kicked cancer to the curb like the stupid bully it is. Some of them are no longer with us, having finally been beaten by cancer, but certainly not before they let it know that it was in for one long-assed, knock down, drag-out fight.

There are so many people to thank. My family, especially Mom and Dad, who could not be with me this year because of my Mom's illness, and the Haws family who came out to support us. My neighbors who supported me through the disease, and who now offer their support as I fight cancer on this front. My coworkers, who pushed me over the first $1,000 and forced me to shave my legs. The gang at JP Fitness, for your continued and unwavering support. The boys and girls of Beginner Triathlete, for your constant inspiration. Teh Lownje--God love you, you've brought more smiles to my face than I can count. The boys of Men's Group whose prayers surely helped me over more than one of those hills, and who sent God's angels to lift us when we needed it. To the Iowa contingent, Austin Powers rides strong. Kurt, a huge thanks for Teh BUTNZ! Thank you all for the cards, thoguhts, e-mails, prayers, PMs, and for inviting me into the most important parts of your lives.

I lead a blessed life. Sometimes, we don't realize how truly blessed we are until we almost lose it all. I was talking to my daughter today about the ride and she asked me why I do it. "Because, honey. Someday I hope that you'll be able to tell your kids about a disease that people used to get, called cancer."

Thanks, beyond my feeble attempts to thank you all. I love you.

Unity is Strength.
Knowledge is Power.
Attitude is Everything.

Knowledge is Power

Sophocles once wrote, "Knowledge must come through action; you can have no test which is not fanciful, save by trial." When I was diagnosed with cancer, I went to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the American Cancer Society, the Testicular Cancer Resource Center (Mrs Fish found that one!)and even the government's National Cancer site (where I logged on as a doctor to find out what the doctor's know). I knew I needed to know everything about this disease. When I showed up at the radiation oncologist's office, he said, "I think you know more about the disease than I do."

This year, I attacked the course for the LiveSTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia the same way. I looked at the maps, the terrain and tried to remember last year's ride (IT'S NOT A RACE!!!!). One of the amazing things I remember from last year were the hills. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them. This year, I focused on where they were, what it took to get over them, where the tricky ones were that make you think there's a downhill around the corner. Like Eddie Murphy's ice cream, it's just a giant pssssyyyyyyyche.

Around mile thirty, there is a sizable hill. I remembered it from last year, and I was ready for it. Around mile fifty-five, there is a one-mile climb that will absolutely brutalize you. I was ready for it. This is not to say that I didn't hurt, feel pain going up the hills. A guy named Bob came up on a Klein next to me on the one-mile climb, and tried to coach me through it. While I appreciated the sentiment, and I knew what he was trying to do, I just said to him, "I need to focus on this right now. Really." Then I retreated to what my friend Eric calls his "Pain Cave" and pedalled away. At the top of that climb, I saw Bob again and he congratulated me.

The other bonus at the top of that one-mile climb was the Landis Inn and party. This year, it had special meaning because my buddy Kurt (more on him later) was riding with me, and that was his mother's maiden name. He wasn't expecting it, nor was he expecting the party at the top of the climb. I was. They make homemade chicken soup (yes, please!), hot dogs (no thanks), and the world's coldest peach. This was new for this year. There is nothing like climbing a mile in 88 degree heat, cresting the hill, pulling in and eating the world's coldest peach. God himself came down and delivered that peach to me, I am assured.

The last forty miles were amazing. I rode with Dave, who was three months out of treatment, his arm still scarred from the surgery, his hair still growing back. When I asked why he was riding so soon after his surgery, he said, "I just want to show cancer it picked the wrong guy [Now where have I heard that before?]. This is my way of saying *%$# you, cancer!"

At mile 80, we were at a rest area/refueling station when a guy came in. He pulled off to the side of the road and collapsed. We saw it, and I ran over to see if he was okay, saw he was not and ran to get a volunteer (running in cycling cleats....there's a visual). The volunteers and I got ice-cold compresses on him and cooled his body temperature while the doctors were called to the site. It was not the first disaster we saw. Earlier, there was a scene where, I suspect, someone went over the edge of the course on a downhill. Knowing the course, and what it demands of you, is essential to completing it.

I know the course like I know the disease. You can prepare for everything. You can expect the unexpected. And even then, there are surprises. Some are good. Some are bad. But if you train your mind, your body, your spirit, your soul, you will prevail. Luck favors the prepared.

Knowledge is Power.
Attitude is Everything.

Attitude is Everything

This year, Team Fish or Cut Bait came to the LiveSTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia with a renewed focus. First, I wanted to finish the damned thing. Last year, many of you will recall my getting picked up by the "Chuck Wagon" about 2 miles from the finish line (I thought it was 4, but measured it at a very disappointing 2 miles). Last year was an out and out sufferfest. It was nearly 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, my brother Pat got three flat tires in the first eight miles, and we got passed by a very encouraging Grandmother and her granddaughter, which turned out to be very discouraging the third time she went by.

All that to say, I wanted to PWN this thing this year. At first, I wasn't even sure I was going to ride. I've had three jobs since then, life has been nuts, and I wasn't sure I was up to it. Then a some things happened. First, I lost a good friend, Bob Heffenfinger. Bob taught me a lot about living, and just as much about dying...with grace. Even when cancer ate his insides out, he never complained, never whined, always kept a smile on his face and joy in his heart. I miss him dearly, even now. All my brothers in men's group, I am sure, would say the same thing.

I started a new job in June this year. Less than a month after I started, my boss, Corey, was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, they caught his in time, and even though he has been in twice already for back up procedures, he continues to fight and beat his cancer.

These things reminded me of something my friend Bill Moore taught me when I was first diagnosed. We, the living, the survivors, have a responsibility. It's to kick cancer's ass. Seriously. Look, I'm no doctor, and I'm never going to be the scientist who discovers the cure for cancer. But there are things I can do, and one of them is ride a bicycle. Not always fast, not always far, but I can do it. God gave me the strength and the love of riding. He also gave me the lessons I need, the reminders of my responsibilty to the people who came before me, and those who come after me.

So, I gritted my teeth, put my cleats to the pedals and trained, hard, because I wanted to finish this year. I wanted to show cancer it had picked the wrong guy. That I'm still alive. That I'm still here. Still full of fight, because that's what we do. We're survivors, and we fight. Always.

When I arrived, I was down to a trim fighting weight of 191 pounds, the lightest I have been since cancer. The difference was that I was a healthy 191 now. I was focused on the ride. I was focused on why I was here. I was focused on what had to be done. I was ready.

Attitude is Everything.

The Manifesto of the Lance Armstrong Foundation

We believe in life.
Your life.
We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.
And that you must not let cancer take control of it.
We believe in energy: channeled and fierce.
We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong.
Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything.
This is the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

We kick in the moment you’re diagnosed.
We help you accept the tears. Acknowledge the rage.
We believe in your right to live without pain.
We believe in information. Not pity.
And in straight, open talk about cancer.
With husbands, wives and partners. With kids, friends and neighbors. And the people you live with, work with, cry and laugh with.
This is no time to pull punches.
You’re in the fight of your life.

We’re about the hard stuff.
Like finding the nerve to ask for a second opinion.
And a third, or a fourth, if that’s what it takes.
We’re about getting smart about clinical trials.
And if it comes to it, being in control of how your life ends.
It’s your life. You will have it your way.

We’re about the practical stuff.
Planning for surviving. Banking your sperm. Preserving your fertility. Organizing your finances. Dealing with hospitals, specialists, insurance companies and employers.
It’s knowing your rights.
It’s your life.
Take no prisoners.

We’re about the fight.
We’re your champion on Capitol Hill. Your advocate with the healthcare system. Your sponsor in the research labs.
And we know the fight never ends.
Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.
This is the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Founded and inspired by one of the toughest cancer survivors on the planet.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

LiveSTRONG 2008

I survived. I am tired. More later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Not Sure When I'll Get a Chance... write again, so I just wanted to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me on my LiveSTRONG RIDE on Sunday. Your donations, prayers, e-mails and support have meant the world to me. I can not possibly thank you enough, so please know what a huge difference your efforts make.

To date, TEAM FISH has raised over $4,000.00 more than DOUBLING WHAT WE DID LAST YEAR!!! To say that I could not have done it without you would be a gross understatement.

You touch me and you humble me, Team Fish, with your kindness, thoughtfulness and consideration. I am so honored to be the Captain of Team Fish. You make me proud. Thank you for everything.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hey, Little Fish...

...what do you think about the new haircut?

Shave the Head, Part I: In the Beginning...

Annie LeboFish ready to document the insanity...

Before pictures...

So, how am I feeling?

Hey, Little Fish, I'm going to shave my head! Don't roll your eyes at me...

What did I say?

Looking very manly...

So, Little Fish serves as my photographic documentarian. The first pass of the clippers...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shave the Head, Part II: It is Finished...

Clip away!

Not bad, but it needs to be shorter...

No, seriously. SHORTER!


Paige puts the finishing touches on...

Holy carp, that's short!

I PWND Usain Bolt!!!!!!!!!!!

CLICK HERE to test yourself...

$2,000--Team Fish ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!

Almost? Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young should have joined Team Fish....

So, I'm thinking something like this...

...and this:

And one more admittedly gratuitous shot to increase the female readership of my blog:

So, I am hoping to get it done today or tonight. Pictures, as promised, to follow. Follow the numbers by CLICKING HERE!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dangerously Close...

I just checked the numbers and it looks like I am getting very close to shaving the head and giving myself The Lance. I promised that at $2,000I would get the high and (relatively) tight haircut. I'd even go so far as to get it all shorn, but as a fair-skinned Irishman, it doesn't seem prudent to ride 100 miles with the vents in the helmet. In August.

That being said: $2,000? Lance's Race. Lance's Hair. Hmmmmm, what should be the next level? With one week left, I think we might still have room.

Check the progress or make a donation by clicking here....

Saturday, August 16, 2008


One of the great things about LiveSTRONG 2007 was Kurt's BUTNZ!!!! Kurt generously donates the BUTNZ and his time to Team Fish, and I will be eternally greatful to his continued gifts to the team.

As with last year, every contributor to Team Fish gets a BUTNZ! That being said, I'll need your address to mail them out. A lot of you have contributed at sites I frequent and I only know you by your "screen name" so you'll need to PM me there. You can also leave me a message at my e-mail, Let me know your screen name if you found me through a Forum so I know who you are. Put LiveSTRONG BUTNZ in the subject line.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shaving the Wookie: Part I (A Celebration)

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I am told that it is a good thing to use this time in reflection, and to do something special to celebrate. What did I do? I went over my initial fundraising goal of $1,000 for the LiveSTRONG Challenge and fulfilled my obligation to you, (not so) gentle readers. That's right, I dethatched the legs for the LiveSTRONG ride next weekend. Following, the promised pictures.

Slightly happy, slightly worried guy gets ready, and lines up the appropriate tools for the Inquisition.

Some before pictures, to show the extent of the medieval forest that is....errrrr....was my legs.

Let the dethatching begin....

Shaving the Wookie Fish -- Part II (Mid-Game)

Okay, so I'm thinking clippers for the first pass must be a good idea. Except, mine are about 800 years old. Not exactly the superpowered clippers you see in beauty salons. Oh, and they're about an inch wide. This is going to take a while.

I've learned that if I go too fast the clippers scratch the heck out of my legs...and pull the hair. If I go too slow, it just takes too long. Finding the right pace takes a while, but time is something I have. I'm 20 minutes in and I haven't even put the clippers down.

You can see the scratches the clippers left on my thigh, here...

Here is the veritable forest that came off my legs in the first pass...nice. I'm already itching.