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.

It is Well....

Ride report will be coming, featuring friends, hills, humidity, a crash and a near miss with Satan himself...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Do'ers Profile: Meet Li'l Fish!

I have known Li'l Fish her entire life. God occasionally blesses us far beyond what we have earned or deserved. My daughter is the best example I can give of this. It's one of the reasons I formed Team Fish. I wanted to live to see the important things in life, like my daughter graduating from high school...and graduate school...and getting married...and having that order! She is the light of my life.

Home: The small town of Enola

Age: 11...AND A HALF!!!

Profession: I am a student

Hobby: Skateboarding with Murphy

Last Book Read: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

Last Accomplishment: Had Murphy sleep in until 8 am. It was amazing.

Quote: "Is that necessary?"

Profile: Peace-loving, tea-drinking girl

Why You Support Team Fish: My Daddy - DUH!

Do'ers Profile: Mrs. Fish

I have known Mrs. Fish almost half my life. She has been my friend, my girlfriend, my fiance' and my wife and through it all, my best friend. When I was diagnosed, she approached it with the no-nonsense approach that is the Team Fish hallmark: We'll buckle down, toughen up and fight this thing. My prayer for those out there who are fighting this disease is to have a friend, a confidante, and a pillar of support that will help you through. Mine was Mrs. Fish, and I love her more and more deeply than the day I met her: I am blessed.

Home: Wherever my family is.

Age: 44

Profession: I teach elementary kids to learn and work with their differences.

Hobby: Reading.

Last Book Read: So many. Rereading David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice. Hilarious!

Last Accomplishment: Presented at NSA conference this summer.

Quote: "Do one thing everyday that scares you." --Eleanor Roosevelt.

Profile: I once had to use a bathroom in Spain on Good Friday. It looked like a bar, but turned out to be a brothel. I will never forget the look on my father's face when he realized where we were.

Why You Support Team Fish: Team Fish is all about my husband, a cancer survivor whom I love and admire very much. Go Rob!

UPDATE: Team Fish crosses $3,000

BAM! That's what I am talking about! And, the LiveSTRONG Philadelphia is approaching $3,000,000! People ask me sometimes, "Does my donation make a difference?" Clearly, the answer is yes.

I awoke early, as I often did, just before sunrise to walk by the ocean's edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint, far away motion. I saw a youth, bending and reaching and flailing arms, dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day soon to begin.

As I approached, I sadly realized that the youth was not dancing to the bay, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night's tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea. I asked the youth the purpose of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves," the youth replied. "When the sun rises, they will die, unless I throw them back to the sea."

As the youth explained, I surveyed the vast expanse of beach, strectching in both directions beyond my sight. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The hopelessness of the youth's plan became clear to me and I countered, "But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference."

The youth paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me he simply said, "I made a difference to that one."

I left the boy and went home, deep in thought of what the boy had said. I returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping the boy throw starfish in to the sea.

---From the story by Loren Eisly

Want to make a difference? CLICK HERE!

UPDATE: Leg Shaving has been achieved!

That's right! Yours truly will once again be trimming the Wookie Forest of his legs in honor of those on Team Fish. If I get about twenty more people, the head gets shaved. So, what do you say? Want to see Fish as Mr. Clean?

CLICK HERE and make a donation. NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL.

Thank You!

Team Fish is assembled and ready to go kick cancer's ASS! You can still join me by CLICKING HERE and making a donation: NO AMOUNT IS TOO SMALL!

A huge thanks to those who have already given. It means the world to me to have so many of you with us. Thank you, Team Fish! From The Bard's Henry V about another small band who faced a supposedly overwhelming force.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
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; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Poetry Thursday: Sword

I have sharpened my sword
With the maddened determination of a hermit
In the long, cold silence of winter

I have ground off rust
In the morning minutes before dawn
With my breath a cloud of finite warmth before me

I have burnished out those signature spots
Black warts of weakened steel
Banished for their weakness, their threatened failure

I have removed ridges, imperceptible
That could spell disaster in battle
There is nothing left but what is required

Oh yes, I have sharpened my sword
And I have no fear
The sword, like the man, is ready.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do'ers Profile: Karen "Madkat" Price

I have known Karen through the wonders of the Intarwebz for a little over a year now, a fellow Cup of Joe denizen from Beginner Triathlete. We actually started an e-mail exchange from last year's Team Fish excursion into the LiveSTRONG Challenge. Karen's friends and family have a long history of dealing with cancer and we spent a lot of time talking about that. She even brought another friend in to support Team Fish in honor of her husband. HUGE THANKS thanks for being part of Team Fish, and to you and your family for fighting the good fight.

Home: Santa Rosa, CA
Age: 39 - old enough to know better, but still young enough to get away with it
Profession: Facebook Farmer and part-time Production Manager - like a cross between a cat-herder and a sweeper in the sport of curling.
Hobby: acting as human cat furniture, playing dumb, and rockin' the house
Last Book Read: The Random House Rhyming Dictionary, 4th Edition
Last Accomplishment: I came up with a pretty good pun the other day. When walking along the trail with some friends, we saw some dog droppings. When we came by it again on our way back, I mention that I thought I'd see it before, and was having a strong sense of DejaPoo.
Quote: "I'm so into you, But I'm way too smart for you. Even my henchmen think I'm crazy. I'm not surprised that you agree. If you could find some way to be A little bit less afraid of me, You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head Say I shouldn't kill you yet."
Profile: A failed perfectionist, an optimistic realist, and the nicest you'll ever meet.
Why You Support Team Fish: Because Rob promised he would clean my gutters.

If you want me to clean your gutters, CLICK HERE to join Team Fish!

Do'ers Profile: Nick "Ninjabookey" Bromberg

Nick Bromberg is about as crazy a cat as you will ever know...I hope things work out with him and Danica. I've spent a lot of time thinking about Nick this year, and about how blessed we are to have our health. One can go through an entire lifetime and take health for granted, or we can brush our mortality from time to time and realize how wonderfully and fearfully we are made. I'm glad to know you, Ninja.

Home: A Place With A NASCAR Track
Age: Just started my 25th trip around the sun. My life is over as I know it.
Profession: I write stuff, I read stuff, but mostly I dream about stuff
Hobby: Things that start with the letter "s"
Last Book Read: Among the Thugs. The one lasting image from this book I probably shouldn't share, but if you read the book, you'll know it when you read it.
Last Accomplishment: Seven straight strikes on Wii Bowling. Twice. In two days.
Quote: "He's used to driving her down in there and cocking her sideways."
Profile: Wanna cyber? A/S/L please.
Why You Support Team Fish: How can anyone pass up a supporting role in One Nut to Live?

Wanna be like a Ninja? CLICK HERE to support Team Fish.

Do'ers Profile: Tom "Matchy" Matchinsky

Matchy is one of those 21st Century fathers who is taking full advantage of the new role of father's, allowing us to be uber-involved in the lives of our children. Matchy is one of the good guys who balances career, family and a boatload of other interests, Upon reflection, I do seem to know a lot of these types of people, don't I?

Home: Edina, MN - a suburb of Minneapolis. Stands for Every Day I Need Attention. Which makes me fit right in on Team Fish.
Age: 33
Profession: Insurance consultant by day, singer by night (and weekend and holiday and whenever it fits)
Hobby: Semi-professional singer
Last Book Read: "The Year of Living Biblically" by AJ Jacobs. It's a non-fiction story of an agnostic man with Jewish heritage who endeavors to live by the rule of the Bible for a year. Very interesting and often funny read. And further proof that people are just plain WEIRD.
Last Accomplishment: God, I hope its not my last but I think becoming a dad has been awfully cool. My son, Luke, is now 19 months old and is turning into an awesome little guy.
Quote: "I drank what?" - Socrates
Profile: If I were a child, I'd be described as "always getting into things". I love to try new stuff. I love adventure. I love to learn new things. But only if they're interesting things. I may come off as a know-it-all on occasion but that's just my way of telling you you're totally wrong. I will always love with my whole heart and not worry about the eventual pain it causes me. I'm curious, like a cat. That's why my friends call me "Freckles". I'd much rather be the top scientist in my field than have Mad Cow. I know the moon is not made of green cheese but if it were made of BBQ spareribs, I'd definitely take a bite.
Why You Support Team Fish: Because Rob is the epitome of putting your money where your mouth is - he's taking this disease on head-on. And because I've lost too many friends and relatives to cancer to count. And because my mom is currently winning her battle against this wicked disease.

Bonus pixxor of Mama Matchy and L'il Matchy. I love this picture -- thanks Tom!

Want to help people spend more time with their loved ones instead of in chemo? CLICK HERE!

Do'ers Profile: Eric Martin

The second in the Colorado contingent...who knew? I have known Eric for many years and seen him enter triathlons (he's competed at the half-Ironman level: FREAK!), road races, and marriage, all with amazing success. His drive and his wit make him a force to be reckoned with, but mostly I admire his eclectic interests. He's talking about moving east, but everything I have read about Colorado makes me wonder if he's lost his marbles. He's on Team Fish, so probably. It's a prerequisite.

Home: Lafayette, CO
Age: 27
Profession: Auditor
Hobby: Triathlon, Cooking, Mountain Biking, Hanging out with my wife
Last Book Read: Paleo Diet for Athletes
Quote: "Start slow, pull back, and fade."
Profile: I like going fast.
Why You Support Team Fish: I find Fish an inspiration in the way he attacks life with such vigor and positivity. Plus, cancer sucks.

Thanks for being part of Team Fish, Brother! Want to join him -- CLICK HERE!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Kurt BUTNZ! Johnson

BUTNZ! Where would Team Fish be without BUTNZ? Three years ago when I got this harebrained idea to start a Team Fish to ride against cancer, this guy contacted me from Roadbike Review. He said he wished he could ride with me, but he is in Colorado so that was out. But, he makes BUTNZ and people love them and I could use them to commemorate the event. I could give them out to donors. I could give them out to riders on the Challenge. I could pass them to volunteers as a thank you. So Kurt made up a boatload of BUTNZ and sent them to me. For free. Because that's the kind of guy he is. I was blown away by his generosity, but also by the intense professionalism he brought to the effort, then and now. If you're looking for something cool to commemorate a special event, I can't recommend BUTNZ and Kurt's work enough. The proof is in the smiles of every person who gets one. Here he is on a ride with the Mrs. at an altitude that would probably kill you and me. And, they're smiling.
Home: As little as possible. Usually out riding in the summer or skiing in the winter with my wife and daughter. If not that, I'm probably at work, possibly working
Age: AARP is warming up the presses.
Profession: Butnz maker extraordinaire (along with being a corporate grunt)
Hobby: Riding, skiing and being a father and husband.
Last Book Read: Lily's Pesky Plant - hey, I have a kid.
Last Accomplishment: Eating lunch without getting any on my shirt.
Profile: A little chubby from the side
Why You Support Team Fish or Cut Bait: He's one of the nicest guys I've never met.

Join Kurt on Team Fish (and get a BUTNZ!) by CLICKING HERE!

Do'ers Profile: Brad "Q" and Yvonne Smith

Brad and I have been friends for many years. Occasionally you get the opportunity to meet someone you've "met" on the intarwebz with the relative assurance that you won't end up being transported across the border in the trunk of a car to some third-world country. So it was with Brad, whom I met at a JP Fitness event several years ago after conversing through the net. Brad is committed to his family and to a healthy lifestyle and a lifelong love of learning. I liked him immediately and we have conversed regularly since then. The picture to the right is of Brad and his lovely bride Yvonne as they recently renewed their vows in front of their children. Yvonne has been battling cancer and just finished a second round of chemo. I know a lot of you who read this blog are in the habit of serious prayer, so remembering her would be very much apppreciated.

Home: San Marcos, Texas
Age: 55
Profession: University Landscape Guy and Horticulture Instructor
Hobby: Swimming, plant stuff
Last Book Read: I tend to jump around a lot in reference books but I'm reading The Talent Code now.
Last Accomplishment: Swam 1.5 miles two days ago and am looking at open water swims
Why You Support Team Fish or Cut Bait: FISH is DA MAN!... and to KICK CANCER'S ASS!

Here's some Beta Vulgaris to help with your mission:

Want to join Team Fish? CLICK HERE!

Do'ers Profile: SnapDragen!

I have never met Janet "SnapDragen" Lemon. In a fair world, someday I will. You see, Janet and I were first introduced through the miracle of the Intarwebz, through RoadBike Review, a site I visit to yuck it up with like-minded cyclists. Snap is funny, self-deprecating in a healthy way, exhibits a general joie de vivre that makes those around her better and shares my affinity for seven-legged spiders. I think she may have also been the very first person to join Team Fish or Cut Bait when we started all of this madness three years ago. Thanks Janet: you're a gem...and a Princess!

Home: Northern California
Age: Not quite dead yet...
Profession: Management Systems Analyst, but I want to be a Princess.
Hobby: Evidently it has become having surgery......I like bikes and making jewelry too.
Last Book Read: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Last Accomplishment: Survived Cooper’s party
Quote: "I am quite certain that given a cape and a nice tiara I could save the world."
Why You Support Team Fish or Cut Bait: Because cancer sucks, and I don’t want to lose any more friends.

Here's your tiara, Snaps. You earned it.

Want to join SnapDragen on Team Fish? CLICK HERE.

LiveSTRONG Tuneup

My buddy Kurt decided that what we really needed in preparation for LiveSTRONG this year was a proper tuneup. I should have known what I was in for when he sent me a map of the ride. It had a two-mile climb to the top of a mountain near Ickesburg. "How bad can it be," I thought.

We met at Lowe's restaurant, a local landmark in Liverpool, Perry County in rural PA. I was greeted by Kurt's always smiling and enthusiastic face, and his buddy Andy, who decided to join us, in spite of knowing Kurt for years and years. Surely, he must know how these things end, but there he was, nonetheless. "How bad can it be," I thought. "Even Andy's here." Kurt's father was there to offer his support as well, and promised to have lunch on the other side of the mountain.

Then we clipped in and started pedaling. The first ten miles are always about getting your legs under you and figuring out where you are in the scheme of things. I could feel some deep-down muscle soreness but nothing to worry about. I was also a little stiff in the lower back but that worked out pretty quickly. The first twenty miles we rolled over the hills, some of them sizable but mostly what qualify as "rollers" in the parlance of local cyclists. I was feeling pretty good, all-in-all.

"OW! What the????" I felt a sharp sting on my stomach. I thought maybe it was just a bug so I swatted it. I rode for another three minutes.
"OW!!!! Holy #&%$! What the?" I swatted again. Nothing.
Okay. I'm okay but that was quite unpleasan....
"Ouchy-wouchy-WHAT-THE-%$&$KY!!!!!!" I pulled over and smacked my jersey and pulled it up to shake out a yellow jacket. Clearly the kind that stings more than once because I had 4 stinger marks where he took umbrage with me interrupting his flight path with my cycling jersey. That really kind of hurt.

On we pedaled to Ickesburg. As we were riding along next to the fields Kurt kindly pointed out the growing mountain on our right (you can see them on the left in the picture above). Behold: The Apps. We pulled into Ickesburg and stopped at a local store. Kurt declared that "Gatorade is on me!" which is a good thing because I realized that when I shook the bee out of my jersey, I also shook the $20 bill I had in my pocket into the street. Perfect.

Pedaling out of the store, we passed a bunch of guys stocking up at the local beer distributor down the street. We hailed them and one kindly gentleman held out a cold brew in Tour-de-France perfection. Kurt said, "It looks good, but can you meet us at the top of the mountain?" They looked at us like we were crazy. I suspect they knew more than I did.

Still, Kurt, Andy and I felt good, strong. We pedaled forward and Andy and Kurt rode on ahead of me. I knew it was going to be a long slow grind, so I was in no hurry. I felt my heartrate surge and my breathing got heavier as I rose up the mountain. Kurt and Andy rode on out of sight. I was in my own zone of hurt and effort, and it was not a bad place to be. I thought about my friend Terri, who went down swinging this year against a cancer that was just too big for her to fight. I thought about Collin, a young boy who is fighting for his life right now against Leukemia. I thought a lot about people I know who have survived cancer and those who have not. Too many to count, or name, it seems. Their names are written in my heart, and in the hearts of Team Fish, though. I pedalled on.

I saw Andy on the side of the road ahead of me. He was resting, trying to get his heart rate down. I knew where he was. I rode on and Andy hopped back on and we soldiered on up the mountain. We both hurt. I could feel myself nearing the top. I was barely pedalling, mixing between standing and spinning in the lowest gear I had. I could feel Andy pushing me, willing us both forward.

And then, my bike just stopped. I tried to will myself forward, but my body would not respond. I had not one more turn in my legs, but my mind was screaming to go on. I clipped out just before I fell over, and my leg just barely had the strength to hold me up, quivering as I got off to the side of the road. Andy stopped with me while my strength slowly returned. I got to a point where I was sure I could pedal up the rest of the mountain.

Andy and I hopped on. We rose together and found that I was stopped about 200 yards from the top. It was bitter for me. Of course, Kurt had ridden to the top and now came riding back to check on Andy and me.
"How are you doing, buddy," he asked with a smile.
"I hate you."

If the ride up the mountain was a plodding nightmare, the ride down was a rocket flight at 50 miles per hour. It took us about 20 minutes to ride up the mountain. We took about two minutes to get down. The only part that was a little unnerving is that hairpin turn about one-third of the way down.

Lunch with Kurt's father, step-mom and kids was a treat to behold. The chicken salad with walnuts and celery on whole-wheat rolls, watermelon, salt-laden potato chips, whoopie pies and ice-cold drinks were appropriate fare for our NOM NOM NOM fest. Kurt's father said a blessing over the meal and the riders, which meant a lot to me, and then we commenced to eating to offset everything we had just ridden off. ZOMG! I was brilliant!

But, as with all things, this came to an end and we got back on our bikes. The heat was rising and we were hurting a bit going into the last 20 miles. The heat was hitting my stomach pretty hard and I was not digging the Gatorade. Andy was, I think, in even worse shape and had a hard time with the Gatorade, so he was nursing his lone bottle of water. Nursing is not what you want to do in that kind of heat and humidity. Still, he just kept his head down and pedalled. We saw a lone tree in the middle of a long stretch and decided to stop under it for a spell to get out of the sun.

We pulled under and stretched out a bit. I sat down in true cycling fashion: never stand when you can sit; never sit when you can lay down. Then Kurt said, "Look at that. Is that what i think it is?" I followed his gaze and knew immediately it was what he was hoping. Blackberries. They were small, and a little tart, but very juicy. Bloody brilliant!

We hopped back on and finished the last of the ride. It wasn't always easy, but I would ride with Kurt and Andy anytime. Strong riders with solid constitutions and a good idea of what Team means. I appreciate their spirit and their focus on the task at hand. There are people you ride with who just get on the same page quickly, and these men both fit that bill. Thanks so much, for everything you did to put this together.

And next year: I am going to roll over that mountain.