Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Don't Care Who You Are...

....this is just plain funny.

Good find by Len.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Year in Pictures

Every year, The Boston Globe features a review of the year, based on photographs that defined the year. You can see this year's by CLICKING HERE. Note: It's three separate parts.

This one hit me hard:

I liked this one:

One of the things that I realized this year was just how much strife there is in the world, and how incredibly blessed we are to be so far removed, relatively speaking, from it.

Back At It

So, I am trying to get back into shape. There are several liabilities, not the least of which seems too be a lingering Achilles tendinitis problem. This getting older thing is absolutely the worst. In a fair world, I am convinced, we'd all be able to go Benjamin Button and take our accumulated wisdom into our youthful, vigorous years. Youth is wasted on the young, they say.

By way of inspiration, I watched this video (I missed the 2009 version, so I'll look forward to Hulu getting that one up, too)...

Sunday, December 13, 2009


My brother and his wife are having TWINS! I am so stoked for them...and, I get to be "The Fun Uncle" now...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving: Two Perspectives

This year has been a rough-and-tumble one for the country, the region and for a lot of us. I wanted to take a moment to make sure I wished you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving. I am reminded equally of two great Americans with distinctly insightful looks at this uniquely American holiday.

Theodore Roosevelt offered a humbling reminder to show our gratitude, not just say it, when he said, "Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds."

Of equal importance was the observation of Kevin James, who put it perhaps more succinctly when he said, "Thanksgiving, man; Not a good day to be my pants."

Whether you're focused on gathering close to friends and family or simply getting some prime turkey, I hope you and yours have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. And, thank you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

So Cool....

Liu Bolin is the invisible man. He's an artsit who paints himself to become invisible. To wit:

You can find even more by CLICKING HERE. There are some amazing examples...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Amazing Story...

In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.

Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Mbembe was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapu were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe' s legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

Car Buying by the Numbers...

11-07-96 - Purchase date my Honda Acccord. Since then...

4 - Doors on the car, which put a small dent in my soul, at the time
5 - Speed manual transmission, it's saving grace at the time..and it's black
0 - Accidents, large or small
0 - Major mechanical malfunctions
0 - Tickets (lucky, I am sure)
1 - Little Fish who came home from the hospital as a newborn
1 - Parades the car has been in (I inadvertantly turned onto a parade route and was quickly escorted off...still, it counts)
2 - Clutches
3 - Homes in which I have lived
5 - Jobs
8 - Pets (doesn't include fish)
13 - States visited
63 - Approximate number of oil changes
252,132 - Miles driven (picture taken as I turned it over a quarter of a million)

10 - Number of times that would be driving around the entire Earth (over the poles)
11-07-09 Date of sale, 13 years to the day

1 - week I have owned The Replacement, a 2006 Infiniti G35 Coupe. Some big, durable shoes it needs to fill, but we're off to a good start...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bike for Collin

Know anyone that needs a 54cm road bike. You're not going to find a better buy that THIS ONE. You might remember Collin, who was a big part oof the inspiration for this year's team Fish LiveSTRONG ride. He continues to fight cancer and the fine folks of Teh Lounje at RoadBike Review built a bike and are auctioning it off as a fundraiser. Click above to see the auction. Go Collin!

Veteran's Day

I make a point to touch base This from my friend Eric, who is currently serving in the Air Force, every year at this time. This was his reply: I had the good fortune to meet some real heroes.

I spoke at a small town Veterans Day celebration today in St Peters, MO. I was amazed at the hundreds of vets whose hands I shook. They had served from World War 2 to the present. The one vet that was most unforgettable was an elderly gentleman that was tottering away from the event at the end; he was by himself and I just wanted to make sure I shook his hand and said thank you and good-bye.

When I walked over to him to tell him goodbye, he slowly looked up at me (he couldn’t have been much over 5 feet tall), deliberately eyed my rack of ribbons and then said: “I bet I’ve got one you don’t.” I smiled, laughed, and said “I’m sure you do”. Then I took a guess. “Is it from the Korean War?”—although he clearly looked old enough to have served in WW2, I didn’t want to insult him by over-estimating his age. He answered by taking a trembling hand and slowly reaching inside his jacket and into his shirt pocket. Then, he haltingly pulled out two ribbons I had never seen in my life. I took one and turned it over in my hand so I could read its front. I nearly hit the floor when I realized it was for landing on Omaha Beach during Operation Overlord. At first I was struck dumb. Then all I could think to do was say how honored I was to speak with him and simply say “thank you” to this living legend—a man who had survived D-Day.

Not knowing how to speak intelligently to a man that had already awed me so much, I simply said “it must have taken tremendous courage to step off that landing craft and into bad-guy country”. He looked at me and deadpanned, “I didn’t have much choice, the people in the back were pushing.” (It wasn’t until later that I thought, why were the guys in back pushing? If I was in back I’d be saying “no hurry, you guys take your time up there; I’m fine back here).

He then went on to say:

I wasn’t one of the first ones in, so we’d heard some chatter on the radio about how bad it was. We’d heard people were getting mowed down and some were even drowning as soon as they stepped off their landing craft. I’ve never liked water, so I was more worried about drowning than anything else. I was really pretty scared of drowning. As it turned out, that wasn’t a problem, when the front of our landing craft came down the bodies were piled so deep I was able to walk on them all the way to the beach.

In my lifetime, I have had a number of heroes. This man, stooped, trembling, and moving slowly, now towers above them all.

Join me in thanking this giant by taking full advantage of all the rights that he and other veterans have defended. Vote in every election; write letters to the editor of your local paper; volunteer your time for a worthy cause; fulfill your jury duty; be a volunteer fire fighter; mentor a child; represent your country well while abroad; live your life, and be a good American. By doing all these things, veterans will be proud to know their sacrifices were not in vain. This is the thanks Americans can give. Live your lives well, as productive citizens should.

Quoted with permission.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Saints Day -- Reflections and Meditations

I went for a hike to the top of a local mountain with my daughter and our dog today. It's All Saint's Day, the day we remember the departed saints who have gone before us into eternal rest. I had a great time getting up to the top, hiking and talking with my daughter in our easy, casual style.

Church was good, and I spent time in prayer and thought for a departed friend who lost her fight with cancer this year. I miss you, Terri.

I also got out for a bike ride, my first in almost two months. Again, I spent a lot of time thinking about friends who have passed into their rest. I had someone ask me about the meditative nature of my workouts, and this is an example. My mind focuses on the things that I don't get to think about in the hectic nature of my general week.

I also spent time this weekend in discussion about how we, as men, have a tendency to hang on to our sins, our garbage. We believe they offer more than the incredible power of our Lord. Of course, it's a lie, but we like to hang onto that garbage. I was reminded of this scene from The Mission. To set it up, DeNiro has been persecuting the Guarani, a tribe of local natives, enslaving them. He meets Jeremy Irons, a priest, and his heart begins to soften, but he recognizes he needs to do penance...he needs to hang on to his "stuff", in this case the armor and weapons that are a symbol of his old self, a little longer. Watch this, and recognize the freedom God offers us in forgiveness, and let's let go of our stuff"....

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tests are Back

And according to the doctor, I am "normal". I never would have guessed it, but if the doctor says I'm normal, then it must be true.

Thanks for the kind thoughts and prayers, all.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"I am the CEO of My Own Life"

I thought this was a cool article on personal responsibility, written by Steven. While he comes at it from the perspective of a person who stutters, I feel we can apply it from the vantage point of our own lives, whatever that place may be.

Thanks, Steven. I am the CEO of my own life.


Time once agin for the annual CT scan, blood work and all that. Everything went normally, for those of you keeping score at home. Results will be out soon...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Need More Cowfields!

Further proof we nee more cyclocross in our lives...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

World's Greatest Athlete?

It's one of those things that people sometimes debate simply to prove their point. Who is the world's greatest athlete today? There are those who would argue Tiger Woods, and I think it's a start. Roger Federer certainly comes to mind as well.

All that being said, I think we are in the midst of a performance by the world's greatest athlete, and most people don't even know who it is. In fact, 99% of America could sit right next to this person at a cafe and have no idea they are in the presence of an extraordinary talent who is redefining what is possible in their sport, as well as with the human body.

Chrissie Wellington burst onto the Ironman scene three years ago, coming out of nowhere to obliterate the field at Ironman Kona. That's the triathlon world's version of the Superbowl. Think 2.4 mile swim. Then a 112 mile bike ride. Then follow that up with a full marathon, another 26.2 miles. All of this occurs in 100+ degree heat and winds that have knocked bicycle riders over. Wellington won last year too, even though people knew her and what she was capable of. Her second victory came in spite of a flat tire on the bike (Rebekah Keal, in a display of sportsmanship that defines Ironman, gave Chrissie her extra CO2 canister so Wellington could get back in the race).

So you had to figure this year everyone was gunning for her. They were. The problem was, no one could catch her. She swam and biked her heart out. At one point, she was in 11th place. Not 11th woman. 11th person. To put that in perspective, these are the best of the best in triathlon today. If it were the NFL, she would be a starter. With the men. She got off and ran 26.2 miles through that 100+ degree heat and never stopped smiling. As she approached the finish line, she high-fived volunteers along the course. And she never stopped...wait, was she smiling? Why, yes, she was. She was smiling at everyone, because she knew just how special her performance was.

She set a course record. She beat the next nearest woman by 20 minutes, an eternity in Ironman terms. And, after she rolled across the finish line in a salute to Jon Blais, an Ironman finisher who passed away from ALS but forever left his mark upon the race, she left the finisher's area, took a shower, then returned to pass out finisher's medals and sign autographs for hours, revelling in the spirit of just what it means to be an Ironman Champion. Mahalo, Chrissie.

Uh Oh...

I mentioned a while back that I might need to buy a mountain bike. It looks like I might need a cyclocross bike too. Tell me this doesn't look like fun (courtesy of KRAM, who rode LiveSTRONG with me)...

Don't mind the music, though. I personally would have gone with Yakkety-Sax with this video.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Amazing Melons!

These are just amazing. LINK HERE.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Debate: Finished

Finally, an end to the debate "Who would win in a battle between a shark and a bear?" Answer? The Bearsharktopus. BAM!

A Career in Bikes? Sign Me Up...Maybe...

The Art of Manliness has an interview with Luke Elrath, product manager (design and marketing) for Breezer Bicycles in Philadelphia, offering insight into just what his job is like. It certainly sounds glamorous and fun...
On the 15th day of a recent trip oversees I found myself atop Five Finger Mountain above Taipei beginning a descent where I would hit speeds exceeding 40 mph. The sun was just coming up and burning away the mist in the valleys below, and I was doing what I truly love to do in a beautiful, exotic locale.

...but, of course, there's the other side, too...
The time spent away from home for factory visits, trade shows and promotions leaves less time to spend with my incredibly supportive wife. Though few and far between, the best trips have been the ones in which she joins me.

I think I'd miss the Fish Family too much to travel the way Elrath does. Read the FULL ARTICLE HERE.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


I'm not a fan of huge extravagances, but I am a fan of clever, incredible design. This yacht fits the bill....

Just WOW...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm No Hipster

In the parlance of cycling lingo, I'm no hipster. In fact, I might be closer to a Fred. I do not have a singlespeed, do not have a star tattoo on my wrist (in fact, I have no tattoos. I don't look down on those who do, except maybe if they're stupid about it, it's just not my bag.), and I don't wear a beanie and listen to Kraftwerk. I don't roll up the right leg of my pants to ride, and I usually wear bright colors, including neon, to stand out. It's a side effect of being hit-and-run.

I did, however, visit my pseudo-hipster roots this week when my beautiful Honda was in the shop. I commuted to work on my bike. It's been quite a long time since I did it, and I have to say I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. It was a nice little jaunt. I saw, along the way:

-- Two guys in a square-bottomed boat, one of whom had a sizable fish on

-- A lot of people looking at me like I was crazy, and an equal number of people who were equally disinterested in me

-- A car full of young kids. I thought they might be trouble when they pulled up next to me with the windows down, but then I heard a terrible noise. Apparently, one of them had just bought a fart-machine and wired it through the stereo. Not only gross, but loud. He'd hit it and they laughed uncontrollably, then hit it again. The process played out couple of times (it's a long light) and I thought for a second and decided too play along. After one horrifically long and juicy blast, followed by guffaws, I looked over at the kid in the passenger seat and said, "You might want to have that looked by a doctor." They just howled, laughing as they pulled away.

-- It might just be me, but I saw a lot more people riding to work on bicycles.

-- An owl

-- It's easier to do hills now that I am in decent shape. That being said, I couldn't figure out why I was having a harder time on Friday. Then it occurred to me: I was carrying a 20+ pound pack on my back with my clothes and work stuff. I remembered when I started, and I was carrying those 20+ pounds on my gut.

-- I got home and really didn't want the ride to end. I found my car was ready and Mrs. Fish and Little Fish were off to see Fame (Verdict: Save your money). BONUS! That gave me a little over an hour to get to my car. I hopped back on my bike and pedalled as afst as I could, reaching the shop right before sundown. All's well that ends well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oh So Close....

My car broke down. I was driving back from a client appointment, which is sooooo much better than having it happen driving to a client appointment, when the check engine light came on. At first I thought it was odd, because it looks exactly like the low-fuel light (which is almost always on, for some reason which may or may not be related to my penchant for trying to eek out just one...or two more trips before fueling) and I had a quarter of a tank of gas. Then I realized with a shock just what it was.

I was on Route 581, which for those of you in the know is most decidedly NOT the place to break down. If the trucks barreling through the region don't run you over, the cars will pick you off sniper-style. I was fortunate to be arriving into Harrisburg when it happened, so I pulled off the exit, into an apartment complex, turned off the car and watched in horror as steam billowed from the car in a mushroom cloud with a noticeable antifreeze/coolant odor. Something was clearly, terribly wrong.

I called Mrs Fish and told her what was going on, and that I was going to walk into town and get some coolant, then try to nurse it to the service station. I found a Rite Aid about half a mile away that had coolant, and bought two bottles, then hiked back to my car...those bottles are heavy, for the record. I let the car cool down, then poured the coolant in.

I made it to the repair place after two more stops to let then engine cool down, then adding more coolant. In short, it was an overall unpleasant experience, but prayers and my trusty Honda saw me through. My goal was to get a quarter-of-a-million miles out of the Honda. I pulled into the station at 249,089. Oh so close...I knew I was facing decision-time if the bill was high, and given the nature of what was going on, it looked pretty bad. And smelled pretty bad, too.

The Repair place called me the next day. A hose had broken and the repair bill was going to be....less than $300! Done and DONE! We're back in business and looking to clear 250,000 miles by next month. ROCK ON!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Can See!

It's been a good week, all-in-all.

Mrs. Fish started the fall cleaning project on my golf night (WIN -WIN!)and while moving a chair in the living room she found my glasses (WIN-WIN-WIN? Win cubed?). So now I have my glasses back, but not before I went to the eye doctor, got my prescription updated and oredered a new pair (Winner, Winner! Chicken Dinner!). I have two pair of glasses, which, as some astute and anonymous observer pointed out in the comments section, is probably where I should have been all along. That being said, I have enough problem keeping track of one pair.

Speaking of winner, winner, I won a sales contest today for setting the most appointments in a two hour period (I managed 14--sweeeet!) Prize was only $50.00, but it's $50.00 more than anything I ever won for teaching.

Earlier this week, I won a different recognition along the same lines, when I was named Sales Performer of the Quarter for the entire company. That's saying a lot, because I work with some awesome salespeople and business is tough right now.

And, the best thing? It's not even Friday yet! Game on!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GAH! I'm Blind!

Or mostly. My glasses have run away. Or, I lost them. Or something. Anyway, they're gone, and while my eyesight is not bad, it's just off enough to cause general discomfort and eye strain of the variety and strength that I am pretty much wiped out at the end of the day.

I remember when I had fighter-pilot vision. Today? Not so much.

From Bad Things, Good People Do Amazing Things

My friend Randy is one of them...

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Last night I shot 8 over on 9 holes. I made a 30-foot downhill putt for par to win a hole. I stuck a 120 yard 9-iron inside of 10 feet. I hit a 200 yard 4-iron that came up 3 feet short of the green.

I LOVE this game.

Ask me again next week.

Friday, September 04, 2009


The shots at the 4 minute mark are awesome...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

LiveSTRONG 09: The Totals

So, just what exactly did Team Fish do this year? Here is an overview, by the numbers.

98.6 - Miles for the course
15,085 - Feet of climbing, over hill, over dale
7,998 - Calories burned, according to Kurt's Garmin (that's 4 days of foood for some people)
4 - Riders on Team Fish
6,300 - People who rode, ran or walked in Philadelphia
3,200,000+ - Dollars Raised in Philadelphia: Holy CARP!
41 - People who made contributions to me
4,190 - Dollars raised by TEAM FISH! THANK YOU!!!!!!

355 - Days left until we do it all again! Surely that's enough time for you to get yourself READY and into shape, SET your plans, and GO RIDE WITH US!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

LiveSTRONG 09: It Is Finished

All's Well That Ends Well.


I climbed the rest of the hill, leaving the Devil behind me. At the top of the hill is Landis Store, where they have an all day party with a live band and chicken soup. Now, it wouldn't seem like a good thing to have chicken soup on a day in the mid-to-high 80s, with high humidity, but that's exactly why it works. When you're cramping up like I was, that warm, salty broth hits the system like a bullet train, and everything just melts away.

I looked for Kurt at the top of the hill and saw him standing near the bike racks...bleeding. What the hell? There was a family with cowbells and triangles cheering on the riders and Kurt decided he wanted to toss them BUTNZ. When he went to throw the BUTNZ across his body, he misjudged his momentum and went down in a heap. He was sore on the shoulder where he hit first, and his knee and elbow were scraped up pretty badly.
"Rub some dirt on it. You'll be fine," I said. I didn't need to. Kurt is a former Marine who served in Iraq, The guy is plenty tough already.

So, we mounted back up and laughed as we passed a sign that said It's All Downhill From Here. Yeah. Until the next hill. Granted, the hills are smaller, but they're no less steep and they come with surprising frequency. Kurt and I were both feeling it at this point, and the heat was beginning to take its toll. It was time to dig deep.

When I found myself needing to go there, the best thing I can do is to think about people that are supporting me and those who have gone before me. I found myself thinking about Terri Doyle, a friend who passed away earlier this year, but not before taking cancer through a Irish-scrapper-style ass-whupping. I thought a lot about the people who had given to my ride, those who are a part of Team Fish. I thought about the names of the loved ones you sent me, the stories behind them and just what they meant to you...and to us. I thought of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons and sisters and brothers and friends, of those who are still with us fighting and the dear saints departed. Your willingness to share their memory with me and to trust me to ride in their honor was a source of strength, especially through the end of the ride, the hardest part of the day.

In some ways, this part of the ride is very much like having Cancer. You have periods of frantic activity, where all you can focus on is the one task immediately in front of you. It's followed by longer periods of what can best be described as the doldrums. It would be easy to lose focus, or to have your mind wander, but then someone or something snaps you back, and you remember why you are riding, why you are here, and why you simply, above all, must not ever, EVER QUIT.

So we pedalled on. Kurt and I, heading for the next stop, a firehouse that was, by all reports from the last two years, kind of lame. It always makes me think of Donny Carnes, the son of a dear friend of mine, who died in a car crash in his sophomore year. Donny was a firefighter, and never would have settled for a lame rest stop at his firehouse. This year was a pleasant surprise, and I couldn't help but smile for Donny. There was music, a massage table, lots of food (SALT!) and the world's largest, coldest, most delicious grapes EVAR! There was a little girl serving the riders and I gave her one of my BUTNZ! You would have thought I gave her a pony, the way her face lit up. There was also a mom and her two sons way in the back, cutting up oranges. I mde my way back there and gave them BUTNZ and the reaction was the same. Kids love BUTNZ!
"Thanks so much for supporting us," I said.
She said, "No, thank you for riding for all of us."

My mantra fro the last 20 miles became "The harder I pedal, the sooner this is over." I was hurting. I didn't care. I just wanted to finish. When you get that close, you start thinking about the finish, and it was surprisingly emotional for me; I knew it was going to be a tough finish for me.

The last miles ticked away in a series of rolling hills. Kurt told me to go ahead as we approached the finish, and I zipped up my jersey (hey! I'm a professional--you have to be able to read the sponsor, right?) and rolled into the chutes. As I approached the finish, I heard my announcer buddy say, "Now finishing: Rob Duffield, Survivor. Hey--THE LOUNGE! I LOVE IT!"
I shouted up to him: "TEAM FISH! CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?"
"TEAM FISH!" he said.

Damned right!

LiveSTRONG 09: Hell in the Hills

I think the devil will not have me damned, lest the
oil that's in me should set hell on fire...


So Kurt and set about climbing again. The back side of the Challenge contains some pretty serious hills, so to break it up a bit, I began recounting the 2001 Tour, casting my bulky self as Jan Ullrich and Kurt, who probably weighs a buck-fifty soaking wet with rocks in his pockets, as Lance Armstrong. He was probably a good 25feet ahead of me on one hill when I started yelling to him in a thick German accent.

This is what it looked like in 2001:

So I am yelling at Kurt/Lance: "Heah I come, Lance! Der Strudel is coming for you! You better get on zee pedals and dance little man...HEAH I COME!!!"
People around us were laughing their butts off, and we were having fun with it.
"Zee Strudel will not slow me down zis ye-ah! I AM STRONGER ZAN YOU!!!! I am POWAHED by Zee STRUDEL!
Kurt/Lance stepped on the pedals a bit and I went with him. "HEAH I COME, LITTLE MAN!"
Then Kurt/Lance takes a look back at me gaining on him as we approach the top of one of the climbs. I know what's coming. "And now," says Kurt/Lance, "a reenactment." And he gives me THE LOOK. Only this year, I am powered by ZEE STRUDEL! I cannot be stopped, As soon as he turns around, I drop into the big ring, jump out of the saddle and mash it, flying past him over the top. People were cheering us on.

Mark it in your books: Ullrich beats Armstrong on a mountain climb in Philadelphia. I am fairly certain it's the first and last time that will ever happen.
"Well," said Lance/Kurt as we coasted down the other side, "we probably burned half-a-pack of matches on that climb." Got that right.

Kurt and I were rising up over the hills in pretty good shape, but I knew the climb to Landis Store, a one-mile suffer-fest was coming. And, I knew the Devil would show up there again. Some things you just know. I was starting to cramp up a bit, so I pulled off before the hill and shook my leg out, rubbing the muscle out (for those of you keeping track at home, it was the Vastus Medialis). And then I started.

Kurt asked if he wanted me to have him ride with me, but I just said I was going into Fish's House of Pain for a while and I would see him at the top. No strudel this time. Just hurt, and lots of it. I was really beginning to feel the pounding from the hills and the increasing heat. The first part of the climb is steep, and my quad started cramping, but not as bad as before. I tried to get out of the saddle to stretch it out, but that just made it hurt worse, so I settled back in and pressed my thumb as deeply as I could into the muscle. This helped a bit. There were a lot for people around me and they were encouraging me, which meant a lot.

About half-way up, there stood the Devil once again. I knew he would be somewhere up here. He was taunting the other riders in the usual fashion, and the worst f what he was saying was because of where he was positioned: right on a turn. He could see the riders struggling up and he was telling them, "Landis Store is right around the corner! You only have about 50 feet to go! COME! YOU CAN DO IT!" Having been in two Challenges before, I knew exactly where I was, but I couldn't stop those poor fools from sprinting around that corner....only to see another half-mile of steep climbing. The vitriol that spewed back down to the Devil of the Hills was music to his ears: He had won.
"I know exactly how far I have to go," I said.
"You can quit anytime you want. NOBODY WILL KNOW!"
"I'll know!"
"Just take a break for a while....c'mon. What can it hurt?"
I looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan." And I left him behind for good, rising through my hurt to the highlight of the Challenge: Landis Store.

LiveSTRONG 09: Pleased to Meet You, Hope You Guess My Name

I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil; and the devil hath power
T' assume a pleasing shape...


We exited the rest stop and started up the first climb. It's a funny little spot, because you round a corner right before you reach the climb, so if you don't know what's coming up, you can be totally ambushed by just how quick the climb is upon and how steep it is. And then there's this: We climbed about halfway up, and there he stood! Fans of Le Tour de France will recognize him as the the Master of Pain who waits in the toughest spots, urging the riders on by threatening to claim them and drag them back to his lair. I refer, of course, to Satan.

As we were huffing and puffing up the hill, this guy appeared, dressed all in red with a giant gold pitchfork on his chest, shouting at the riders. He was clearly channeling both the Devil of the Tour and the Master of Lies himself...
"You think this is tough? Wait until you get to the HILLS!"
"I've got more hills like this, but they're big ones!"
"You're almost there....just a little farther."
"You can get off your bike and walk anytime you want...or you can just quit now."

I rode up to him and high-fived him.
"I've got something special for you," he spat.
"I'll see you at the Landis Store Hill," I said knowingly.
He just laughed, then continued haranguing the other riders.

There was a lot of climbing after that and Mark and Kurt rode out ahead while Pat and I pedalled ahead at our own pace. Pat's a big guy, not built for the climbing, but he just gritted his teeth and bore down on it. At one point, we got separated, so I waited for him on the side of the road. I thought I saw a familiar face and hopped on my bike to catch the guy. Sure enough, it was Bob, a guy I have ridden with on local club rides out of Mechanicsburg, PA. He and his team from Central PA all share a cancer connection and they ride in honor of their friends and family every year. Interestingly, he is also an accomplished triathlete, so we talked about that as well. I then waited for Pat to catch up, which he soon did. We rode some more together and got separated again, so I just decided to ride ahead at an easy pace and find someone to encourage.

This is the point in the Challenge where riders begin making decisions about going the 100-mile route or the 70-mile route. It's also where those who were going to ride 45-miles, and decided to go for 70, start feeling pain and wondering if they made the right decision. There is a long climb to the 70-mile turn-off, and I came upon David, a rider who was in that latter category of riders. He was clearly hurting and struggling on the hill; there was the beginning of a wobbling weave as he attempted to keep his bike on-line, his head was down as he sought frantically for more oxygen, and his pedal stokes were "square" and uneven.

I spun up next to him. "You're not quitting here are you," I asked.
"I was...going to...until you....asked that." He was having trouble cycling and talking, but he clearly still had something left inside.
"I'll tell you what. How about if we take this one on together?"
"Thanks," was all he could muster.
So I settled in beside him and just encouraged him up the hill, one grinding pedal stroke at a time. "You can do this." "Come on." "Nice and easy." "Keep going." "You got no quit in you." And then, he was at the top, and his whole face lit up. He had done it! I tossed him a BUTNZ and told him he had earned it. Off he went to finish the 70-miler. I waited for my brother as long as I could, then pedalled on ahead to the rest area, where I found Kurt waiting for me. Mark was afraid of cramping up and getting stiff, so he had ridden on ahead, and I was sure we would not see him for the rest of the Challenge, given his prowess on the bike.

So Pat was behind me, riding the 70-miler and Mark was ahead of me setting his own blistering pace. Kurt was beside me and we faced the place where the true Challenge begins: the Big Hills. I wished Mark and Pat Godspeed with a prayer and Kurt and I set off.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

LiveSTRONG 09: Cry Havoc!

"Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war"


And so we were a herd of turtles. From past experience, I knew just to wait and let the throng clear out. When you get that many people, with bicycle skills that vary that widely, moving in roughly the same direction, it can be a recipe for disaster. I had an incident in (I think) my first LiveSTRONG where someone fell over while still clipped in. They fell sideways across my right leg and only an act of God kept it from breaking my leg or damaging my ACL. I honestly don't know how that did NOT happen. So, this year, we just let people ride out ahead.

As we started out, my neck was still stiff, and I worked on loosening it up a bit. My thoughts turned to a special piece of cargo I was carrying with me. I have a friend Phil, whose son Collin is fighting cancer right now. I printed pictures to carry with me in the event, recognizing at some point I would need his strength to be my strength. Collin is a cyclist, too, and someday I want to ride this event with him, in person. For now, though, his picture and his spirit.

As we passed the grandstand, the announcer was talking about people riding by. I shouted out to him as we rode by: "TEAM FISH!" He announced, "...and there goes Team Fish. Let's see if there as rowdy at the end of this thing!"
"Oh, you'll hear from us!"

Once out of the cattle chutes, the ride eases into the rolling hills of the area. We passed the areas where Pat got three flat tires in the first eight miles of our Inaugural LiveSTRONG. I can still see the grandmother and granddaughter rolling past us, encouraging us not to give up. We went through the first eight miles without incident, and I said a prayer of thanks.

We decided to blow past the first rest area, which is always a bit of a zoo anyway. The cowbells were out in force, for sure this year, and people were cheering and clapping as we went by. The enthusiasm of the crowds at the beginning of the ride are incredible, and something to be experienced. I ended up riding with a guy named Eric for a bit. Turns out he is a brain cancer survivor. The cancer he had forms a large cyst which then sends tendrils out across the brain. When he was diagnosed, he said he was cocky and declared, "I got this thing beat (beet?). Piece of cake." His neurologist/oncologist entered his brain and peeled every single one of the tendrils back, one-by-one. With his type of cancer, it's not the cyst that kills you, it's the rupturing of the tendril that leaks all of its toxicity into the brain, so this surgery was critical and very delicate. In the end, it was a success, and Eric just passed seven years. People ask why we haven't made advances against cancer, and I would argue the money we have spent and the things we have learned have taken us light-years ahead. I'm also sure Eric would agree.

Mark and Kurt rode on ahead, strong riders the two of them. Mark races cyclocross (look in the Bicycle Dictionary for cyclocross - you ride a racing bike on dirt, over barriers, around puddles: think steeplechase on a bike) and he's a tough competitor. Kurt is a tough guy who likes to ride, so the two of them were perfectly suited to ride together. I rode with my brother Pat, and it was good to reconnect with him. We talked about family and health and just rode together to the next rest stop, where Team Fish regrouped.

This rest stop came just in time for me. I wasn't tired or anything, but my neck pain had translated into a monster headache. I rolled in, past the fife and drum corps and cheering volunteers and grabbed a couple of ibuprofen. Sweet relief would (hopefully) soon be mine.

We got ourselves together and rode out, knowing that a hill, our first climb of the day, was coming up. Little did we realize WHO and WHAT was waiting for us....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LiveSTRONG 09: We Few, We Happy Few, We Band of Brothers

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother...


I woke up the morning of the ride about 4.30 am. It's funny to me, not because I woke up at 4.30 am (there is NOTHING funny about that), but because I take such precvautions not to oversleep. I set the alarm on my cell phone for 5.15 and borrowed an alarm clock from my mother-in-law and set that one at 5.20. I do the same routine every year, and have had the same results, my own private hobgoblin of the mind.

I woke up with the worst stiffness in my neck. I could turn my head a total of about 90 degrees. I did a little yoga stretching and that helped a little, but not nearly enough. "This might be a problem later on," I thought. I made myself a big bowl of cereal and scarfed down some turkey breast and an apple, got dressed, and text-messaged my wife and child. Then my phone buzzed. Li'l Fish had texted me back a quick "Luv U" then gone right back to sleep.

I stopped at the local Dunkin' Donut for a bagel and a Cup of Joe, then got back on the road. The traffic was surprisingly and wonderfully light at that time. I honestly expected it to be heavier with all of the people they were expecting, but my guess is that I just barely beat it out. Kurt, who was not far behind me, got caught up in all kinds of shenanigans. He eventually pulled into a parking lot of a local Giant Supermarket and rode the two miles to the departure site...I guess the 100 miles we were slated to do weren't quite enough for him.

I arrived and started putting my bike together and going through the checklist of what I needed and making sure everything was ship-top-shape. Through the magic of technology and cell phones, I managed to hook up with Team Fish: my brother Pat "Patfish Hunter, and my friends Kurt "Fishmagic" Enck and Mark "Kram" Wanco.
Inaugural Team Fish Member Pat "Patfish Hunter" Duffield, ready for his third LiveSTRONG

We went to the 100 mile staging area and hung out, enjoying the loose banter that often precedes epic battles. It's a mix of gallows humor, the joie de vivre of the damned, and the good-natured ribbing enjoyed by men who show affection by making fun of each other and themselves. In truth, there is no one I would want to share the LiveSTRONG foxhole with more than these guys.
Kurt "FishMagic" Enck, getting his game-face on for his second LiveSTRONG

We were all the way in the back, so we missed a lot of the kickoff speech. Lance was not there this year, being in Ireland for the International Cancer Summit. There's a piece of poetry in there somewhere, but I can't find it right now. Someone sang the Star-Spangled Banner (the way I like it: beautifully, and without ridiculous fanfare and flourishes) and then we were given the LiveSTRONG equivalent of "Gentlemen: Start Your Engines."
Mark "Kram" Wanco, in his first LiveSTRONG, and ready for his baptism by fire...and humidity

And then, we were off.

Teh Looooooonje!

That's right: I rode with The Lounge Jersey.

The Lounge (aka The Lownje, Teh Loooonje, etc.) is part of RoadBike Review, a site that I frequent to rub elbows with a psuedo-cycling community. There are those who say The Lounge Jersey is cursed, and countless flat tires, accidents, mishaps and near-misses attest to the continuing need for caution when wearing The Lounge Jersey. Nonetheless, like these guys...

...I decided to tempt the fickle-hand of fate and don the Official Lounge Jersey. My buddy Mark decided to do the same.

And, it's the Maiden Voyage for my Lounge Jersey, so what's the worst that could happen, right?

LiveSTRONG 09: Dinner!

My brother, Pat (aka Patfish Hunter) decided to come up and stay over the night before the ride. This was cool because I usually go out with my mother-in-law and my family the night before. There is a little Italian chain restaurant that was the only place open and available to seat us on short notice, so we went there.

The waiter was a good guy who ended up teasing my daughter, which, of course, made her night. My brother showed up and I gave him his race packet, which I had picked up at the LiveSTRONG Village earlier that day. He, in turn, gave me a wrapped gift.

We sat down, ordered a ton of pasta and I opened my gift. It was Lance's book It's Not About the Bike, an obvious favorite, given my situation. When people ask me about my cancer, I sometimes say, I asked God to make me more like Lance Armstrong and BAM! I got testicular cancer. I guess I should have been more specific."

So then Pat tells me to open it, and on the inside cover it's signed. It turns out my brother, a financial advisor, has a relationship with another finance group for which Lance acts as a spokesperson. My brother shared my story with the guy and he was moved to go get me an autographed copy! So, now I have an autographed copy of Lance Armstrong's book. FREAKING AWESOME!

The rest of the evening passed quickly, with laughter, fun, and Mrs. Fish being her usual charming self. I don't get to see my brother nearly enough, and it's times like this that remind me of how easy and fun it is o be around him. He and I took Little Fish to get some ice cream and finished the night laughing. It was a good time and we said good night, knowing what tomorrow would bring.

I went home and laid out my transition area. It's an old triathlon thing, and one of my favorite things to do. It enables me to focus, to go through my routine and prepare my mind for the next day.

Two other very cool things. I got an e-mail from Bill, encouraging me to ride strong the next day. It meant a lot, brother. And, I received an e-mail from my best friend from high school, Eric, who was trying to get out from Missouri to surprise me. He was just going to show up at the start line and ride with me. At the last moment, he was called back in by his commanding officer, so it didn't happen. It would have been soooooooo brilliant, but that is what next year is for, my friend!

Monday, August 24, 2009

LiveSTRONG '09: Preparation

One of my favorite things about the LiveSTRONG event is actually the activity of the day before. This year was no exception...with certain exceptions.

Little Fish and I love going to the LiveSTRONG village to pick up race packets. So many people there. So many stories. I went to register and the woman there saw our team amount.
"Rob Duffield and TEAM FISH OR CUT BAIT -- more than $4,000!!!!" Everyone in the tent started cheering. It's for you, Team Fish! Thank you!

We also went to the LiveSTRONG wall. It's a place where friends and families can place the names of loved ones who have fought the disease, in their honor or their memory. This year, I brought the names of those remembered by Team Fish's members, and Little Fish and I put every one of them on the wall. It's a very emotional time for me anyway, but this year, even more so. It was the highpoint to celebrate those survivors, and a time for reflection upon those who are not with us. It's one of those times that will always be with me.

As promised, Team Fish or Cut Bait earned the systematic and honorary leg shaving. Let's get a couple of things straight about leg shaving. First, it should get easier if you do it more.

By extension, that means that this year should have been easier than last. Throw that theory right out the window. Ankles and knees? Who the hell invented these things? Stage one was my clippers to get the fur down to a manageable level -- think: dethatch. Their fairly good barber's clippers. I cut myself with those. Who cuts themselves with barber's clippers? Apparently, Fish does.

Second, how does one manage to shave with the razor entire without incident except for the back of the knees? It's like someone wrote a special instruction booklet for this area. I didn't get the instruction booklet. So I shaved it. Badly. Who knew so much blood could some out of that cut? I know. I'll just rinse it off by jumping in the showwwwwOWOWOWOWOWer! What the hell?!?!??!?!? Okay. That just ain't right!

This did not bode well for the Iowa Contingent Challenge. Every year, my friend Bill and his slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing band of troglodytes offer the Iowa Contingent Challenge. This year was a little haphazard in it's approach, but we still managed to pull something together. Bill is a good guy. We like Bill. Bill helps me raise a lot of money. But Bill also likes making Fish suffer a little extra, just for the fun of it, I suspect. This year's Iowa Contingent Challenge was to shave my head.

Now normally, I wouldn't worry too much about that, except in light of what I just went through with my legs and the razor blade. And, the barber's clippers. Verrrrrrrrrrrrrry carefully, I took the first swath. Not bad. The second went just as easily. Turns out barber's clippers are meant for shaving one's head. Who knew? So, I took the rest of it down with the clippers. So far, so good. Then it was blade time, and my hand was shaking worse that the barber who had to give Clint Eastwood's Man-With-No-Name a shave in High Plains Drifter.

I put on shaving oil. I put on shaving cream. And then I took blade to head and went to town. It was rough, but not hard. It's kind of like cutting through low-grit sand paper. It was not a quick process, nor did I expect it to be.

On the second swath, I heard Mrs. Fish ask, "What are you doing in there?"
"Are you shaving your legs, again?"
"NOOOOO." How silly.
"Ummmmm. Nothing?"
"Is this because of that Iowa guy, AGAIN?"
"What ARE you shaving?"
"My head."
A sigh. I don't know if it was relief or despair.
She asked, "How much is he donating?"
"They're giving me $425 dollars," I announced, hopefully.
"I'll give you $500 not to."
"It's a little too late, now."
The sigh again, then silence.

When it was over, I emerged and smiled.
"OH MY GOD!" she screamed. Yeah, it's a little shocking. Might take a bit of getting used to.

"Who wants to eat," I asked.