Friday, November 26, 2010

Dash for Drew


I ran. In a race. Frequent readers of the Fish Blog will remember my friend Randy Taylor who lost his son in a horrible car crash. Out of that tragedy, he and his wife Marcie created the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation. Through the Foundation, they have created a regional resource for people grieving the loss of loved ones, as well as providing athletic activities for underpriveleged youth. Pretty amazing stuff.

The Foundation also sponsors a race, the Dash for Drew. It's held every year to raise money for the Foundation. This year I went down with my two friends, Carl and Justin. My goal was to race the 2 miles in less than 20 minutes, a pretty solid goal given my recent practice performance and the fact that it is held on a cross-country course. We got there about an hour early, which is surprising since none of us knew exactly where we were going, a fact I learned as Carl drove south toward the race. Thank God for mobile phone apps and the power of Teh Inatrwebz (and like that).

Sign-in was effortless, then Justin went for a run while Carl and I went for a jog. We ended up doing a one-mile light jog around the track. It felt good and I stretched at the end of the jog. I felt nice and loose as the race approached. I pulled the laces tight and got up to the start area. The horn sounded and off we went.

I started in the middle-back of the pack, not comfortable to run with the rabbits, including Carl and Justin. That being said, I felt really good as the race started and began stretching it out a bit very shortly into the run. There was a small hill about a half-mile in, and I started powering up and forward. I still felt good. Coming down the trail, it narrowed and I settled in to a comfortable pace with some guys my own age. We came up on the first mile and the guy was belting out the current times: 9:07, 9:08, 9:09, 9:10... I had gone out fast, but I still felt good. I pushed passed the guys I was with and felt my lungs reach their limits.

It's not a bad thing, that feeling. I felt like it was sustainable pace with a mile to go. I decided to try to hold that faster pace through the end. The race comes out through the forest and back to a loop outside the track. I measured the track and the distance left to go and notched it up a half a beat. When I hit the track, I busted into a full (for me) sprint and finished strong.

All-in-all, it felt fantastic. I still felt I had more left at the end, but my time was 17:10, which is waaaaay faster than I anticipated.I was 24 out of 38 in my age group and 94 out of 178 overall. I can't wait to do it again next year!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

...And Justice for Some...

It's not often that I have no words, but this story coming out of Colorado absolutely takes everything right out of my mouth. It seems Martin Erzinger, a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley ran over a Doctor, one Steven Milo. But the doctor made the mistake of being on a bicycle, and accidents involving cyclists often seem to create a situation where justice is meted out in appallingly sparse portions and in an equally incomprehensible manner. After running over the good doctor, our wealth manager left him. For dead, presumably.

But, see, Marty invests over $1 Billion dollars in assets in the local Colorado community. So the District Attorney, Mark Hurlburt, decided that it would not be in anyone's best interest to prosecute this as a felony, and is hitting Marty with a couple of misdemeanors. Apparently, that's the going rate for getting run over and left in a ditch with spinal cord injuries and bleeding on the brain, not to mention what might be the end of his career as a liver transplant doctor.

Thank goodness Morgan Stanley has decided to do the right thing! Oh. Wait. "This unfortunate situation was not related to the individual's professional activities, but we are continuing to monitor the situation and will cooperate fully with law enforcement, if requested," said a Morgan Stanley representative. Translation: We'll keep this jerk on the payroll unless people stop investing their money with us.

Oh HAI!!!!

Yes, I still live. They say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Not sure what it does to a Fish, but it can't be good. That being said, it's not been all salt mines and unhappiness. So, to catch you up on my life, here's the basic rundown:

Item I: Youth Group
I am helping to lead my church's Middle School and High School youth group, including a group of Seventh Grade boys. It's something that has been following me for more than 10 years, since I left teaching. I'm really digging it, actually, and like the guys I have been grouped with. They bring a lot of energy and ideas, and it has made for a lively group with good discussion and high activity. Plus, we're tackling real issues for kids that age: purity, honesty, integrity, and the like.

Item II: My Gut
I haven't worked out consistently since August's LiveSTRONG Challenge. Funny how quickly that can get away from you. Clearly, cycling season is largely over, but I have begun running again. Or rather, tried to start running. I have a pair of orthotics and the right one is turning the bottom of my foot into hamburger. A half-dozen adjustments haven't made a difference and I am alternating between frustration and being homicidal. I'm not sure how that would sit with the youth group, but Christ did ask us to visit those in prison, so maybe that's something.

Item III: Back to school.
Mrs. Fish is a teacher and Li'l Fish is a student. Man, that'll take a bite. I went on a field trip with Li'l Fish to a ropes course and did a lot of the activities. Climbing is sooooo much fun, and I had a great time with her and her classmates. A highlight was climbing a thirty foot obstacle as part of a team with one of the neighbor kids. I have to say it was awesome watching Li'l Fish challenge herself past her preconceived notions of what she thought was possible. I was very proud of her...and still am.

There are probably about 20,000 other things I haven't even touched on, but in the end we just know it as life. I simply wanted to throw it out there and say, "HEY! I'm still Alive!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

LiveSTRONG IV: Part III

It was pouring down rain but we soldiered onward. A lot of people came out to wish us well, clapping, yelling, cheering and cowbelling. A bunch of families even set up tents in their front lawns to stay out of the rain but remain in shouting distance. Passing out BUTNZ! in the rain proved challenging, but I found if you gave them a Chinese-throwing-star action, they sailed farther. It was kind of cool to watch them flying through the air like something out of a Ridley Scott movie.

We arrived at the 70-100 mile route split and the race organizers said the 100 mile route was now closed. CLOSED! WHY? "There's lightning up on top of the mountain." Oh. That's a good reason. The bad news was we weren't going to get to ride 100 miles today. The good news is that instead of being 1/3 of the way done, we were now 1/2 way done.

There were a couple of guys that went up into 100 mile route, heading toward the hills. Kurt asked me if I would consider riding the 100 mile course unsupported. I said, "If something bad happens up there, you are alone. No help, probably no phone reception (it was spotty at best last year) and the hills all have switchbacks up and down them. I think 70 is plenty of riding today." He quickly agreed and off we went, with Sean, on the 70 mile course. The rain continued to pour down, but was getting lighter.

At one point Kurt, who is naturally gregarious, met a guy named Dana, who decided to ride with us. Dana was a good guy and we enjoyed riding with him the rest of the way. As we crested a hill, I looked and saw a long, slow, downhill ride ahead of me. I saw there was no shoulder to the right, and the right side of the road had been "repaired" by the local construction crews whose mandate was clearly, "Throw something in that hole; it's Miller Time."


All that to say I was riding about 2-3 feet into the road, which by Pennsylvania law is exactly where I should have been. I say that because suddenly there was a car behind me, honking. Urgently. There was no place for me to go, so I held me line, thinking this person would go around me, which they easily could have done as there was no traffic coming the other way. In short, I was being harassed because I had the temerity to ride a bike in a cancer event. Surely there must be something else going on. Finally, the Prius passed me and one of the fattest sausage-fingered hands came out of a rolled-down passenger-side window, and a single finger was extended. The Prius then rolled on ahead.

A woman cycled up next to me and said the car had been harassing people all the way down the mountain. I said, "I find they're often nicer when you catch up to them and let you know what you're doing" then dropped down a couple of gears and went up ahead. Sure enough, he was stuck behind another group of riders. I came up behind and said, "Sir, you know we're raising money for charity here, right?"
The guy rolled down the window, stuck his Duff Goldman-looking Fat-head out and launched into an expletive laced tirade about how we jam his roads up every year, how he pays taxes for these roads and we don't, how he's tired of people like me yada, yada, yada. Dude was pissed. I just looked at him and said, "Really? Really" Begin tirade two. We came to a crossroad and the car turned right. I'm glad it didn't escalate any farther, but I really don't understand how a Prius owner of all people could have a problem with cyclists. Really. I looked right behind me and Kurt was hanging next to me. He had seen the whole things and decided to get my back, riding up in support just in case. He looked at me and kind of laughed, but I know he was thinking, "Only the Irish guy can find trouble on a freaking charity ride." And, he's right. Note to Mrs. Fish - I never go looking for trouble, it just seems to find me. Honestly.

The rain had slowed a lot and we continued to ride. We came to yet another section of hills, with a sizable downhill. Volunteers at the top of the hill were telling people to slow down and take it VERY easy. I asked one of the volunteers, "What, no bombing the hill?"
"No," was all she said.
Of course, I was joking, having seen what happens when people overestimate their abilities and/or underestimate the treachery of the course. Neither of these scenarios appealed to me, so I pumped the brakes to make sure they were good and dry, then tilted myself down the hill.

Experienced riders lean their bicycles to steer. Inexperienced riders use their handlebars to steer. On a downhill, the difference is even more pronounced, because when you use the handlebars, the bike pitches to the side you are steering toward. Amateurs sense this pitching, this shift in weight of the bike, and it feels like they are going down. The natural response in this situation is to steer the opposite direction and brake. This is one case where the natural response is also the wrong response. The slowing down takes the energy out of your bike, the energy that is required to make the turn. And keep the bike upright. Which is why the guy directly in front of me went through this exact series of disastrous-ballet moves and went down in a heap right in front of me. In a way it was my fault, having not left enough room in the likely event this happened.

There is a promise that God gives that he will send his angels to protect us when we need them, and I believe this was (yet another) one for me. Everything slowed down to the proverbial slow motion. I saw him try to make the right turn, panic, overcorrect and fall to the left. I steered to the right so I didn't run him over and knew immediately I was going to clip the back end of his bike and go down. I unclipped my shoes from my pedals as the bike started too go down.
I yelled as loud as I could "CRASH CRASH CRASH!!!1!" so people behind us would know and avoid us. I flew over the handlebars, stepped down with my left foot right into his chainring teeth. My body pitched forward into a semi-pushup and my left hand got a rock stuck in it where it hit. I was so glad I went back to retrieve my gloves before the ride began.The whole thing took less than 2 seconds.

I did a self-inventory and realized nothing was broken. There was a terrible stinging in my left foot where his chainring had bitten into my leg, and now rain and sweat were mingling in the shark bite there. My second thought was immediately to see if the other guy was okay. He had, in effect, just laid the bike down, and was fine. He kept apologizing over and over and asking if I was okay, and except for the hand and leg, I was okay. Then I remembered: My BABY!!! I reluctantly looked at my ride and there she was, lying on her side in the rain. I picked her up, gingerly, checking the frame. Fine. The wheels? Fine. The brakes and shifters? Also good. My water bottle had tumbled 50 feet down the hill, my odometer had gone about 10 feet int he same direction. I gingerly hobbled down to get both, but mercifully, everything was fine.

Sean, Kurt and Dana kept asking if I was fine, but I realized the real test was going to be getting back on the bike. I did. It hurt. A lot, actually. I pedalled and took a quick physical inventory. The leg hurt, the hand too, my collarbones/shoulders were both sore and my lower back was tightening up a bit, but I had maintained my record of 43 years without a broken bone. In the pain I was feeling, I actually gave more than a passing thought to one of my own cycling heroes, Jens Voigt, a man among men in the professional peloton. He crashed spectacularly in this year's Tour de France but refused to quit (Amazing story and funny interview about that: CLICK HERE). If Jens could do that, I could surely finish this. I also thought about how hard cancer survivors have to fight every day, and I knew I could finish for them. My guys asked me one more time if I was okay.
"Yeah. I got this."

We rode the last 20 miles or so in good humor. The riding was getting things moving, and except for my lower back, everything else felt a little better. It was more of a blur this year, and the time went more quickly, I think in part due to the shortening of the course. I took the lead for Team Fish and rode in, Kurt, Sean and Dana riding in behind me. It's my favorite part of the ride for many reasons, but mostly for the remembrance of all the people who make up Team Fish, of those who are with us and those who are not. Some years it's just a little too much and this year was one of them; I finished with tears in my eyes this year thinking about all of the people who made up Team Fish, and for those who are no longer with us.

Thank you, Team Fish, for all of your thoughtful support over the past four years. Words cannot express the depth or breadth of my gratitude, and just how much it means to have you with me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

LiveSTRONG IV: Part II

Papa Behr and Patfish decided to do the 45 miles. Team Fish usually rides the first 20 miles or so as a Team and we decided to do exactly that, riding out of the 100 mile chute in a light drizzle. All things considered, and in light of just how hot it has been in past years, I was actually welcoming the change. The first year we did it, the temperature rose to triple digits and the humidity was above 90%; the suffering was epic.In fact, this marked the first year where the temperature did not rise into the 90s.

I spent the time riding back and forth between Team Fish members, chatting with them and just generally enjoying the time we had together. It was good to reconnect with my brother, and we talked about his beautiful twins, and how fast they're growing up, how different they are, and how funny. The power stops were well organized and well-spaced again this year, about every twelve miles, so the first one was a perfect place to regroup. Having passed the place where Patfish got three flats in an eight mile span the first year, I felt like we could breathe a little, even though the rain seemed to be picking up.

About 15 miles into the ride, two police motorcycles came cruising over a hill going the opposite direction. I looked to see if it was officers John and Poncharello, but it was too hard to tell. Nonetheless, I knew they were harbingers of a different sort of arrival and said to those around me, "Here comes LANCE!" Sure enojavascript:void(0)ugh, riding right behind them was a small cadre of riders with Lance right in the middle. He passed within 10 feet of me, and while I should have turned around and dusted him over the next hill (I spared him THAT embarrassment, this being his special day and all), or at least said, "On yer left" what I managed was, "Thank you, Lance!"

Sadly, there was one lady right next to me who said, "That wasn't really Lance, was it?"
"I told you he was coming, didn't I."
"Yeah, but I didn't believe you." She was seriously bummed out.
A guy pulled up next to us and said, "Thanks for the heads-up that he was coming. That was SO COOL!"
"See," I said to the lady. "He believed me."
We talked for a while longer, then I gave her something even better than a moment with Lance. I gave her a BUTNZ!


I pedalled up with Kurt, Sean, Patfish and Papa Behr with Randy up ahead slightly. I noticed a guy in some distress on the right side of the road, and as is customary of riders, I asked, "You good?"
"Do you have any air?" he asked.
I told Team Fish to go on, I was going to get this guy some air for his flat tire.Sure enough, he had a flat, had replaced his inner tube and then jettisoned his air capsule all over the outside of his tire. I retrieved my air capsule (cyclists can carry an inner tube and enough air to inflate it under the seats of their bikes) gave it to him and showed him how to use it. He didn't look so sure, so I asked him if he wanted me to do it. "Please!" he said. I pushed the button and the air went into the tire. And right back out again. His inner tube had a flat in it. Either it was faulty or he didn't check the inside of the tire before putting a new one on. Either way, he was stuck and had to wait for one of the support vehicles, telling me he would be fine. Then, I gave him something that made the rain and the flat tire and the frustration all disappear: a BUTNZ!


I pedalled on faster, now, trying to catch up to Team Fish, and came upon a guy who went down badly. The medics were arriving, and there were a couple of cyclists with him, one sitting next to him and just speaking quietly. I later learned that he lost control in the turn and slammed into the guardrail on the opposite side of the road. It happened right in front of Randy, who stopped immediately to help. He stayed with him until the medics had things under control. Randy said he was sure bones were broken and that internal bleeding was even a possibility, but the response of the medics was very swift. I didn't see Randy there as I passed, but he remained behind us for the rest of the day. He is a strong cyclist, so I assumed he was ahead of us, rather than behind, and spent the rest of the day looking the wrong direction to find him.

And then the Heavens opened up. The light drizzle that had been present all day, sprinkled with intermittent rain, turned into a full onslaught of barbaric proportions. It was one of those sudden downpours and I couldn't see more than 10 feet ahead. We were riding over hills, and the uphills slowed me down and the hard pedalling served to help me stay warm. The downhills caused an increase in speed, and the rain stung like being shot with rock-salt. They bill this ride every year as a Challenge and every year the Challenge is a little different. Heat. Humidity. Hills. And now, rain. Surely, no amount of BUTNZ! would make this better. It sucked.

But then, something amazing happened. I prayed for help to get through this, and I started thinking about all of the people I knew who had cancer, including those who have passed. I thought specifically of the tears that have been shed BY them, and especially FOR them by their friends, their families, by the people who love them. And, I thought about how the heavens were crying now, reminding me of that. Like cancer itself, there was no use in complaining about it sucking, no sense in wishing it would stop. There was only the realization that we were all in this together, going forward, wrapped in a veil of love and tears.

I pedalled on with new resolve. And better perspective.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

LiveSTRONG IV: Part I

I woke up and rolled my bicycle out of the hotel, the swish of the doors closing behind me, hermetically sealing in my still-sleeping family. It was 6.00 am and the riders of Team Fish were arriving to the site, with me only minutes behind. The parking lot was glazed over with a light sheen from an evening rain, and the way the skies were lightening gave me the feeling that there was more on the way. I ran back inside, grabbed a couple of donuts from the continental breakfast, and then piled into my car. I changed my routine this year: I always lay out my complete ensemble the night before, meticulously accounting for everything I need and making sure it is exactly where I want it to be. In hindsight, I wish I had done it again Saturday night. The traffic was about the same as always, which meant that I was going to be right on time. But, upon pulling in, I really would have liked to have had more time to get things ship-top-shape and squared away.

This was my fourth tour of duty with LiveSTRONG and I was joined this year by my brother, Patfish Hunter (4th Tour): Kurt Fishmagic (3rd Tour); Papa Behr, the Patron Saint of BUTNZ! (1st Tour); Sean (2nd Tour, 1st with Team Fish) and Randy (1st Tour). I set a goal of six riders (the most we have ever had was four) and I was so glad these guys came out to ride with Team Fish this year. I contacted (a different) Kurt, the BUTNZ guru, and he designed and created pint glasses for the Team Fish riders, which I presented to them as a thanks for riding with me. It was like passing out really cool groomsmen's gifts, and they were very well received. Now all we had to do was pedal 100 miles to fill them.

Last year, Lance was at the World Cancer Summit, the beginning of an attempt to bring the nations of the world together to make collaboratively curing cancer a global concern. This year, he chose to spend the Sunday with us. The LiveSTRONG Philadelphia event offically kicked off with a great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by a local soul/jazz singer. Note to humans: when the Anthem is sung, one is to remove one's hat/helmet, stand still and at attention facing the flag (or the music, if you can't see the flag), and SHUT UP! KTHXBAI. Lance gave a speech about how much he appreciated 3,200 riders coming out and raising more than $3 million to fight cancer. He also stated that Philadelphia had significantly raised the bar in fund-raising, and that his home town of Austin now had some catching up to do. He finished up by saying that he really likes the Philadelphia course because it's a particularly challenging course. I think a lot of people kind of perked up at that. I heard more than one person say, "Wait. Did he say Challenging? Lance thinks this is challenging? What did I get myself into?" There was the obligatory safety speech, which I actually listened to, given the conditions. I think a lot of people gave it the same attention they do airline attendants and company webinars, and I wondered how many of them would later regret not listening.

And then it was time. We started rolling out over the names of riders, chalked into the road Tour de France-style, a reminder of just how many people were involved in this event. The crowd was huge and everyone was cheering for us. I was reminded of those scenes in war movies where the soldiers march out (there's a great one in Glory) and people are trying to pass on their strength and courage to the guys going into battle. It felt like that, I imagined, and then I realized that we are at war. And we're going to WIN! It actually gave me goosebumps (yes, again) to hear the cheers of all those people and to think of Team Fish and the support you gave this year, to look around at the riders of Team Fish, a bunch of guys who decided to give up a lot of time to train to do this, to fundraise, and then spend a Sunday riding in the rain with some fool who thought it would be a good idea three years ago and hasn't had the good sense to quit. I love TEAM FISH!

And out onto the course we rode....

Monday, August 23, 2010

LiveSTRONG IV: Prelude

First, I need to say a huge thanks to Team Fish, who reached EVERY GOAL we set this year! LiveSTRONG, and indeed surviving cancer, is all about the incredible people who surround me. I could not do ANY of this without you, and the words to express just how much I cherish you fail me.

I went down to the ride early on Saturday because I had to get my car serviced while I was in the area. I dropped my car off at the shop and took off for a ride, one of the advantages of having my bike with me. My tire had gone flat from the reinflation I did with the air canister (for some reason, when you use a canister to inflate the tube, it deflates drastically in about a day or so). Then I went 21st Century, cranked up my Blackberry and checked for bike shops near me. There was one 3 minutes from where I was, so I rode over there, borrowed a pump and rode on. I tooled around the Main Line, took a wrong turn and ended up in Philadelphia, then eventually found my way back, putting in about 20 miles. It was (mostly) a nice, easy meandering spin and it was cool to see the area from a bike.


One of my favorite things to do is go to the Expo the day before. Patty, a very personable volunteer, took the Team Fish information and promised to pull together our packets, then encouraged me to go enjoy the Expo. I always write down the names of the people who supported me, and the people they have asked me to remember, adding them to the wall. I had a really hard time adding Collin Marsh to a Memory Card instead of an Honor Card, this year. I miss Terri and Bob and Christine, and my friend Will's wife, Beth. But, I still was able to add a lot of Honor cards, and survivor cards for some friends, including my friends Bev, Bill and Doug. There were so many more cards, and it has always been bittersweet to hang them on the wall; this year was no different.

I returned back to see Patty and she had put all of the Team Fish packages together. I also was able to meet Dylan Trakas, who has helped put together the Philadelphia event every year. I always look forward to seeing him, and he seems to bring a positive attitude and a lot of energy to what he does. The volunteers are really what makes this event run, and they are incredible people for doing what they do. I picked up the packages and also went to the Long's Cycle tent, picking up 2 pairs of sunglasses (one normal and one high-tint yellow) and an Irish cycling cap for less than $20: Score!

My family has a tradition of eating dinner with Mrs. Fish's mom and we did it again for the fourth straight year. She has had health concerns, so I was ecstatic when I saw how good she looked and that she was able to join us yet again. We went to a local restaurant, got terrible service, but still managed to have a great time. Wrapping up, Mrs. Fish, Li'l Fish and I checked into a local hotel, had some Ben & Jerry's Imagine World Peace, and retired for the evening.

LiveSTRONG IV

We survived another LiveSTRONG event. There was weather, crashes, road-rage and a few tears. Full ride report is coming up, and BUTNZ! will be coming out shortly. A HUGE THANK YOU to Team Fish for everything you did this year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010



When I set p my goals for this year's LiveSTRONG Challenge, I was trying to be optimistic. I set a goal of 6 riders, and lo and behold, six riders agreed to be part of Team Fish. I set a goal of $5,000, significantly more than I raised last year in an economy that is still down. Still, there it was. To date, we are already above $4,000. My personal goal was to raise $2,500 and I am currently just this side of $2,000.

What that means is this: we're close. REALLY CLOSE. Would you please consider joining Team Fish. This year's Philadelphia Challenge is complete covered by corporate sponsorships, which means that all of the fundraising money goes directly to the cause, to help kill cancer.

I already have 40 people who have joined me on Team Fish. If you'd like to make a contribution, no matter how small, CLICK HERE. It's quick, it's easy, and it helps me kill cancer. Thanks so much!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cancer: Four Years Later

Today is the fourth anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. I celebrated by riding 68 miles with my buddy Kurt and a bunch of his buddies. I was pretty good until about mile 55, at which point I began to realize I hadn't eaten enough. I started to bonk, but managed to get through the last 10 miles by gritting my teeth and thinking about how much it hurts to have cancer. I thought about people I have known and people I have never met and people who have passed and how much they would love to be riding with me on this day.

Upon arriving home, I found that Teh BUTNZ! have arrived! I think it's my other buddy Kurt's best work ever. The second BUTNZ has a place to put names on it - how incredibly cool is that? Cheggit:


I then cooked shrimp and pasta for the beautiful Mrs. Fish and for Li'l Fish and we're going to enjoy (I think) Julie and Julia.

I always think I had a good handle on how blessed my life was, even before cancer, so I haven't really have any life-altering revelations in the four years since I was diagnosed. Maybe I appreciate, a little more, how fragile life can be, and how sweet, and like all things fragile and sweet, it's meant to be savored a little more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doubts

Every year around this time I go through a period of doubt. I think wrestling with the mental part of the LiveSTRONG Challenge is almost as big a part of the Challenge as the physical part. I have less than two weeks to go and those niggling details hit the back of my mind.
Have I ridden enough miles?
Have I covered enough hills? I still haven't made it up Lamb's Gap, my test of preparedness in past years.
Have I prepared enough? Am I going to cramp up like I have in past years in the heat?
Has my diet been what it should have been?
Have I done enough fundraising, because that's really what this is all about?
Have I neglected other things to do the Challenge?

The doubts come and go and for the most part I can keep them at bay. I realize also that being mentally tough is a HUGE part of survivorship, and that's probably why the Challenge is set up the way it is.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts, prayers, and support. It means so very much.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Second Milestone!



I went away for a week, camping with Li'l Fish, and came back to see that Team Fish or Cut Bait has cleared $2,000 in the fight to beat cancer! A huge thank you to Team Fish for your continued thoughtful support.

Want to be a part of Team Fish or Cut Bait? CLICK HERE and follow the simple directions to make a pledge. No amount is too small - we just want you with us!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

FBS: Where Have You Been All of my Life?

My buddy Brad, in between bouts of complaining about the government, comes up with some excellent ideas and shares some great information (actually, he still manages to do that while complaining about the government, too). He was part of the brain-trust that came up with the Men's Moving Mission, a group of guys from church that help people in difficult places move, including a lot of women who are in domestic violence situations. It was Brad who first invited me to go to Belarus (which, incidentally, was the catalyst for starting this blog).

So, when we were talking about favorite foods one day, and he mentioned a Fried Bologna Sammich (FBS) I knew I was in for something special. I'd never had one, having grown up in my mother's house, a land of baking from scratch and whole-food ingredients long before it was the fashionable thing to do. I remember we used to go down to the local farm early in the morning so Mom could get the freshest eggs, which were brown as eggs should be. It wasn't until I started eating at the homes of friends that I learned there were white eggs. Mom's house was most definitely NOT a home that included the standard white-trash comfort foods of Middle America, though I suspect this was as much out of ignorance (Mom was born in Dublin) as choice. Hot dogs, rarely served, anyway, came with ketchup and without baked beans, mac-n-cheese was never served in my house, and even soup was just as often made from scratch as from the ubiquitous red, white and gold can of Warhol's suburbia.

I determined that I had to try a fried bologna sandwich and committed to doing it properly. I made slits through the center of three slices of bologna in an "X" pattern. I dropped them into a non-stick pan a cooked them until crispy, then plopped them on wheat bread (I know, if it was a real FBS it would have been white, but I can still, at 43, hear Mom's disapproval and I don't doubt for a second she would have called me the second I took a bite and asked just "what do you think you're DOING?"). I put on a slice of American cheese (I now prefer Colby-Jack), lettuce and tomato, and settled in to eat my creation with a mixture of fear and anxious anticipation.

"Oh. My. Gawd! FBS, where have you been all of my life?" It was fantastic. Amazing. The slight crunch of the crispy bologna was reminiscent of the current culture vogue item, bacon. The contrast of cold lettuce and hot bologna, sweet tomato and salty bologna were like the magic of Siegfried and Roy: good on their own merits, but infinitesimally better together.

Now I am off and running into the exploration phase of FBS. With so many options out there, there's simply so much to explore, and I have 40+ years of catching up to do. Want to make a FBS and don't know a Brad or similar Bologna-Zen-Master who can guide you? I also found this simple video helpful:



Bon apetit...fer real!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Team Fish or Cut Bait: First Milestone!


Team Fish or Cut Bait has cleared it's first $1,000 in the fight to beat cancer! A huge thank you to those who have made contributions for your thoughtful support. An equally huge thank you to those of you who have e-mailed, called, PM'd and otherwise pledged your support for our ride.

Want to be a part of Team Fish or Cut Bait? CLICK HERE and follow the simple directions to make a pledge. No amount is too small - we just want you with us!

The Manifesto of the Lance Armstrong Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

We are Team Fish, and we believe in life. If you can support our ride, we would really appreciate it. CLICK HERE to contribute and become part of Team Fish. No amount is too small - we just want you with us!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Group Riders

Dear Sir or Madam,

You are going on a group ride. That means that you know when it is planned and that there will be other people on said ride. You know that the general format for these types of rides that includes pacelines. You know that in any given paceline there is likely to be someone in front of you and someone behind you.

Recognizing these facts, I think it would be in everyone's best interest if you followed some simple rules. First, wash your clothes and make sure the ones you are wearing are clean. Second, wash yourself - there is really no excuse for this, not even if you are French. When in Rome, do as the Romans, and when in America take a shower with soap and warm water. Third, if you can't do this, at least have the common courtesy/decency to roll on a little deodorant.

I know what you're trying to do. I know you believe there is nothing that instills the feeling of riding in Le Tour de France quite like being in a paceline behind a person who is clearly trying to emulate their favorite French rider. That being said, it is one of life's more unpleasant experiences to paceline behind someone who smells like they're rolling along with an army of elves grating onions underneath one's kit.

Please commit yourself to the aforementioned guidelines before our next club ride. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Thank you.

Best,

Fishr

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Team Fish or Cut Bait's Fourth Annual LiveSTRONG Ride


I remember asking God to make me more like Lance Armstrong (you're welcome, ladies). Four years ago, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Maybe I should have been more specific.

I went through a range of emotions when I was diagnosed: fear, confusion, depression, denial. But mostly I felt anger. Anger that this disease might take me away from my family and a full lifetime of memories with Mrs. Fish, that it might keep me from seeing my daughter graduate or get married or raise a family of her own. I vowed to fight cancer every moment, to take it out to the street and stomp it, to throw down the gloves and give it a Broad Street Bullies-style whupping. I've been in the battle ever since.

Regular readers of the Fish-Blog know my cancer story and have been instrumental in my survival. My team came together and I was incredibly blessed to have a strong family, an incredible team of doctors and nurses, and a group of friends who supported me in ways I never would have or could have imagined. You visited me, cooked for my family, cut my lawn, delivered care packages, e-mailed me, prayed for me, and supported me in my fight. I learned cancer, and more importantly, surviving cancer, is about people coming together.

Three years ago, we formed Team Fish or Cut Bait and went to the LiveSTRONG Challenge, a 100-mile bike ride in Philadelphia, to raise money to fight cancer. The first Challenge featured my brother, Patfish Hunter, and I riding through what was one of the most difficult and most amazing things I have ever done. Difficult because it was about 100 degrees with Pennsylvania's legendary humidity (if it's not hazy, hot, and humid, it's not August). Amazing because of the incredible outpouring of support I received and the people I met along the way. I was the very last person to cross the line of the 2007 LiveSTRONG Challenge. Yet, I can still hear the P-A system announcer saying: “NOW CROSSING THE LINE, NUMBER 468, ROBERT DUFFIELD. SURVIVOR!”

What started as my brother and I riding and a small, dedicated group of supporters who helped raise nearly $1,000 has evolved into a team of riders, and features nearly 100 people pledging their support to help us fight cancer and raising more than $4,000. Team Fish continues to grow because of the generous support we have received.

It's been a tough year. Last year, I dedicated a good portion of my ride to Collin Marsh, the two-year-old boy who fought so valiantly to beat a rare form of cancer. This year, I'll ride in his memory, thinking of the brave fight he put up, and how he inspired so many of us to be better people. As I was writing this, I heard from a guy I barely knew, a husband and father of two young children who is gearing up for the fight of his life. A man who helped form the foundations of my faith was diagnosed this year, and my Uncle Ted as well. We ride for all of them, for our friends and family and those dealing with the diagnosis of a mom or dad, a friend, a brother or sister, or even a child. You'll meet them throughout the course of the ramp-up to this year's event.

I am asking you to join Team Fish or Cut Bait once again. My friend Greg kicked things off in grand style, covering the ENTIRE RACE INSTALLMENT for me. My friend Bob quickly followed suit to get me started off and moving, and for their gifts, I am eternally grateful. If you'd like to join them and be part of Team Fish, we would LOVE to have you with us. I assure you no amount is too small -- all I want is to have you stand with us. It's easy: CLICK HERE to make a donation and become part of the team.

Now, who's with us?

Friday, July 16, 2010

National Stuttering Association Annual Conference: Part II

The best part of the NSA Conference is the people, and this year my family was very involved with the conference. Mrs. Fish gave a presentation for the third year on how to negotiate the Individualized Education Program to get the best services for your child. There have been a lot of changes and Mrs. Fish offered a lot of help to the parents there.

The highlight for me was the NSA All-Stars presentation. About a month ago, Li'l Fish was asked if she would like to give a 3-5 minute speech to the entire conference on a topic of her choice. She chose to speak about what it's like to be a kid who stutters, how to be an advocate for yourself, and how to stand up to bullies. After her speech, she sat with the other five panelists and answered questions. I have never been prouder.

Li'l Fish's speech:
I have to confess something before I start. When I started thinking about this speech, I really wasn’t sure what to start with or what I wanted to say. I’m just a kid who wants to advocate for myself and others who stutter. My name is [Li'l Fish](I know, it’s a long name to stutter on – it’s not my fault. I didn’t choose it). I am a twelve year-old from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and I want to talk about being a student who stutters, and how to be an advocate for yourself, especially against bullies.

Speaking in public used to scare me. I didn’t want to stand out from others. Now I know it’s good to stand out. I have been made fun of because I stutter. But, this is a place where I can be myself without worrying about other people’s criticism. People make fun of what they don’t understand. So if enough people understand stuttering, things will become easier for stutterers. Be an advocate: stand up for yourself. It took me a while to figure that out.

All of my friends know that I stutter and they’re okay with it. If people ask me what it is, then I tell them. I try to make as many people as aware as possible. If someone makes fun of me, it doesn’t matter. But, I try to tell them about stuttering, so they at least know what it is. My stuttering makes me special in my own way. And, I’m good just the way I am. Although I am very positive now, I wasn’t always this perky. It was hard for me to make friends when I switched schools this year. It may be hard for many of you to believe, but I was shy. Incredibly shy. People thought I was quiet because I didn’t like speaking, but they didn’t know why. Finally, I got tired of being ignored. It didn’t matter what people thought – I wanted to make friends. I met a girl named Mikala. I called her Kayla because saying the M-I made me stutter too much. After I opened up, we became close, and I started making many other friends. I had a friend who was pretty tall, almost 6 feet. When he heard someone making fun of me, he said he would help. Adjin had a “discussion” with the bully. The next day? No more bullying. I am glad he was there to help, but now I also know how to take care of myself.

I think all stutterers should be able to advocate for themselves without being scared. You are the only you (unless someone commits identity theft then there is two of you). But you shouldn’t let anyone bring you down.

Monday, July 12, 2010

National Stuttering Association Annual Conference: Part I

This marks the fourth year we have attended the National Stuttering Association's Annual Conference. My daughter started stuttering as soon as she started talking. Pediatricians and other specialists told us to relax, that she would grow out of it. Then they told us to lighten up, we were stressing her out. Then they told us to talk slowly (we're from Philadelphia - it's not happening). In our search for proper answers, we found the National Stuttering Association and it changed our lives, especially Li'l Fish.

This year, the conference was in Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. I know, I thought the same thing, too. I mean, LeBron couldn't make it fun with $100 million dollars (We were in the city when he made his announcement. I thought they were going to burn the city down, but I think Clevelanders have pretty much resigned themselves to being the ones who get sooooo close they can taste excellence, only too get punched in the gut, doubled over and pounded into the mud. I think they knew LeBron was leaving before he did, because they have learned that disappoint follows Cleveland the way night follows day.) That being said, the city itself was a blast! It was far more fun than I thought it would be, and I was especially struck by the incredible friendliness of the people who live there. The restuarants where we ate were very good as well, with a big cheer for Chinato.

We did the obligatory tour of the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. I was prepared for a Hard Rock Cafe style of outlay and was completely blown away. The early years, showcasing how rock came from the blues and gospel and early country music was fascinating. Other highlights included the history of Austin City Limits; a Bruce Springsteen exhibit featuring his notebooks, interviews on his creative process and the Corvette he bought when he finally hit it big; there was a section on how different regions influenced and were influenced by the artists who played there (Liverpool in the Beatles era, Seattle and grunge, London and New York for punk). There were the costumes of Hendrix, Stevie Nicks, and of course, The King. The Pink Floyd exhibit was awesome as well, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the 3-D U2 show...except for the conversations before the show. This really happened:
Guy 1: Oh, this is 3-D?
Guy 2: Yeah.
Guy 1: I didn't know this was going to be 3-D
Guy 2: You mean, "U2 3D" didn't give it away?
Guy 1: What?
Movie, mercifully, begins.

As a history teacher, I always thought of history in terms of conflict, with those eras and epochs determined by shifts in power, by victories and defeats. The Hall opened me to a new idea, that history could be defined and delineated by music. I like a museum that can challenge one's perceoption of how we view something, especially oof how we define ourselves. The Hall did that foor me, and such, is a must-see highlight of Cleveland. Spend a day there.

But the real highlight for me was, of course, the Conference itself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Droogs: Assemble the Durango


TEAM FISH is now up to three riders. My brother Pat is in, saying he is going to ride the 70 mile loop. Pat was part of the original Team Fish and has ridden this every year with me. The fact that he is doing the evnt after the recent birth of his twins has me even more stoked than normal. I think we should put them in baskets on the front of our bikes, but somehow I don't see his wife, being the more sensible type, allowing it. Still, though....


Additionally, my buddy Kurt, is in for his third consecutive year. Readers of this blog and followers of the event might recall The Epic Strudel War, between Kurt and I. This year I plan on laying off the strudel...starting tomorrow.

If you want to join us, you can CLICK HERE: we'd love to have you.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Training Ride

What is it like on a Fish training ride? If you're a rider, I suspect a lot of this is going to sound familiar, in one way, shape or form. If you're not a rider, perhaps this will give you a little insight. Or, at least a frame of reference. Or leave you scratching your head.

Mile 0
I rode out of the driveway and did the loop up to the top of my neighborhood. About 300 yards into the ride, I saw a wasp flying across my path. Wasps and other stinging insects are not typically a concern unless they get stuck in your helmet or behind your glasses. This little guy was zipping along at seat level so I didn't give him a second thought. Until he hit my leg and stung me. HOLY CARP! It hurt so bad I had to pull over and see what had happened. There was a single red spot, and a quickly expanding series of red tendrils, like one of those World War II movies where they show Germany taking over Europe and Hitler's armies are shown in rapidly moving red arrows. Except it was on my leg. I thought some water might cool it down and I looked down and realized I had forgotten my water bottles. This is enough of a problem on a regular day, but it was 95 degrees out, not to mention I had just been dive-bombed by a Stuka-wasp. I turned around to get my water bottles, determined to continue forward. I went home, grabbed my water bottles and left the house for the second time. I still had not reached my first mile.

Mile 3
I have a couple of early-season marks of fitness that enable me to benchmark where I am. Most of them are related to hills, inasmuch as I can see that I am in decent shape if I can reach the top of this hill or that hill without being totally gassed. This circuit has one particular hill early in, and I climbed to the top with relative ease, a good sign for me. The only real difficulty I encountered was the throbbing in my right leg, the wasp-sting now resembling a map of Greenland, or the aforementioned WWII map, Hitler using his Stuka-wasp and now having conquered the entire region.

Mile 8
There is something about riding past a manufacturing plant for making dog food. If you're a pet owner, you know the smell when you first open the bag of food and it kind of jumps up into your face. Yeah. It's a lot like that. Only bigger, and therefor worse.

Mile 11
There is usually a point where the ride goes from uncomfortable to comfortable. Your legs get under you, your body adjusts to the position you're in, and you just start spinning. For me, this happens around mile 10, most often. I'm not sure why it is, but it's been this way for as long as I have been riding distances. This ride was no exception.

Mile 20
One of my favorite parts of riding is going past the Yellow Breeches, a world-famous limestone trout-fishing stream. It's lined by trees that overhang the stream, and also line the road that runs next to the stream. The road itself always has the feel of fresh pavement, clean and smooth, and it's a place where people often sprint on the club rides to showcase their mojo ("I'm Thor Hushovd!" "I'm Mark Cavendish!") and blow a little of the carbon out. Similarly, I used it for a place to raise my body's lactic acid threshold, a measure of how well the muscles move the acid out and away from your muscles. It's this acid that, when it builds up, produces the burn that athletes feel at high levels of exertion. By the end of this stretch, my legs are burning. I settle into a nice recovery spin.


Mile 26

I pulled into the local Sheetz, a convenience store that's good for a bottle of Gatorade and to fill up the water bottles with ice. I usually go to the little shop in Boiling Springs, but once Summer hits, they seem to run out of ice at the soda machine. The temperature was now in the high-90s, so I didn't want to chance missing out on the ice. At the Sheetz, the woman asked me absentmindedly, "How are you?" then realized I was a spandex clad, sweat-soaked, disheveled mess. She literally looked me up with a mix of confusion and horror as I replied, "I've never had a bad day in my life." The ice was a God-send and it cooled me off just in time.

Somewhere between Mile 26 and Mile 54
The truth of the matter is, a good deal of time spent in the saddle is pretty mindless stuff, relatively speaking. So what does one do with all of that time? Some of it is spent watching the road (don't hit that pothole) or the wildlife (hope that squirrel stays over there) or the wildlife on the road (wonder what happened to that Opossum?). I also tend to spend quite a bit of time thinking about people, particularly those in need of prayer. I thought a lot of time thinking about Collin and his family. I thought a lot about Mrs. Fish and the Li'l Fish, who were down visiting my mother-in-law who is in declining health. I also spent time wondering what my friend Bill is up to in Iowa, about cancer, about my fight, and about Team Fish, which is now TWO MEMBERS STRONG! I think a lot about the things for which I am thankful, especially my health and my family.

Mile 54
I cramped. Or, more specifically, my quad cramped, in the exact spot the wasp-sting occurred. I'm not sure the two were connected, and I suspect it was more a function of the heat and humidity. I was halfway up the final hill on the way home and my leg cramped so badly I had to pull over (before I fell over) and stretch it out. I got off my bike and tried to stretch my leg straight, but couldn't, then tried to bend it and couldn't. I laid down on someone's lawn and chugged the last of the Gatorade, hoping the electrolytes and potassium would be enough to stop the cramps. Minutes passed and the cramp subsided. Eventually I was able to stand. "Well, there's only one way home," I thought and hopped back on and pedalled up the remainder of the hill and the rest of the way home.

Mile 57
Cool shower and a big bowl of pasta. Life is sweet. Life is good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day



At 43 (when did THAT happen), I realize I look at my time with my father as more of a series of snapshots than a continuum. Maybe it's part of the natural acceleration of time, Einstein's relativity at work. I remember fishing with my Dad, going to the local lake to cast for pike and bass, but ending up with sunfish, then trying to convince myself they tasted good. They don't, but my father never discouraged me. On this, I wish he had.

I remember when my brother and I were about eight, in a time when kids owned the streets and could actually be outside without checking in every 30 minutes. There was a group of teenage bullies who took my brother and me by surprise while we were riding and grabbed our bikes, then threw them into a stream. They laughed and chased us away. We walked home and told my dad, because if Dad couldn't fix it, the world was broken for sure. He piled us into the family car and we drove over to where the bullies were still sitting. I never saw my father move as fast as when he set upon those kids, nor have I seen that kind of fury. He picked the two of them up and literally threw them into the stream to retrieve the bikes, then made them apologize to my brother and me. We never saw them again.

I remember playing soccer and running track in high school, and though my father worked a lot in those days, there were times when he would just show up, often at away meets. I was an average soccer player at best, but I was something of a standout in track. One day my father showed up for a match against Palmyra, and I had the best run of my life, anchoring the 4x400 and catching a guy who had about an 80 yard head start. I was so proud my father saw that, and though he probably doesn't remember, the fact that he was there is what keeps it with me today.

One day, he took my brother and I to work (this was before the whole Take Your Kids to Work day) I was about 13. He was building the Fort Dix high-tech military simulation center, a place where soldiers could learn the finer points of using the Army's latest weapons in a simulated environment. Think: video game where you actually get to sit in an M-1 Abrams and laser site an enemy tank. One of the simulators was an M-16 firing range, and my dad asked my brother and I if we wanted to shoot it. We're young teens and your asking if we want to shoot an M-16...um...YES!!! He instructed us to keep both our eyes open, showed how to hold the weapon, how to squeeeeze the trigger. My brother was pretty good, then I got on it and hit the target at the farthest range, popping the target with multiple body shots. I was feeling really proud of myself when Dad said it was time to go. My brother and I asked him to ry before we left but he declined. Still, we begged him and whined and he relented and said he would. My brother and I chose the farthest target for him, naturally. I never thought of my dad as athletic or powerful, but he picked up the M-16 with a natural fluidity, shouldered the weapon with the grace of a big cat and squeezed the entire clip, one shot at a time, into the inner circle of the head at the farthest range. Then he placed the weapon at rest and said, "Okay, who wants some ice cream?" The whole affair took less than 4 seconds but I think it took my brother and I another 4 days to pick our jaws up, to reconcile ourselves to the fact that our father, a normally gentle man (bullies notwithstanding) had the capability to be a stone-cold killer.

When Mrs. Fish and I got engaged, my father went out and bought a tennis bracelet to present to her at our engagement dinner. It was one of the most thoughtful things I have ever seen a man do, and for his kindness I am eternally grateful. Being in my family is certainly not easy, but my dad made the effort that eased that transition for Mrs. Fish to become part of the family.

There are a million things my father taught me, showing me how to drive, change a flat tire and change the oil (there was no Jiffy Lube back then); how to bait a hook, catch a fish and gut it; how to season (less is more with good beef) and grill a proper burger; how to mow a lawn and how to maintain the mower; how to shine my shoes...and why it matters (the first thing a woman notices are your shoes); the importance of being on time; how to fix a bike and lube a chain; how to be a Boy Scout and make a Pinewood Derby winner (I still have the trophy, Dad); how to paint a room; and a thousand other things, besides. But most importantly, Dad taught me the importance of being a father myself, to not take it lightly, and also, frankly, to really enjoy being a Dad. Thanks, Dad...for everything.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Shop...

I have a local bike shop (LBS in cycling parlance). My LBS is World Cup Ski and Cycle. When I went to buy my first bike, they were the ones who sized me up to make sure the bike fit properly. For those of you who ride, you know how important fit is. For those of you who don't, a good fit is like that baseball glove you owned when you were a kid and used every day to play catch with your buddies. And a bad fit? A bad fit is kind of like this...


So anyway, one of the cool things is that I have been dealing with the same guys (Lee and Dave own the joint). When my first bike got run over in a hit and run, they were the ones who empathized with me, recommending voodoo hexes on the jerk that sent me to the hospital. Then they sold me the Cannondale that is my current steed, which has been a great, great ride.

And, when I walk in, they treat me properly. Better than properly, actually. Last week, I had an unexpected rattle in my bottom bracket, which is where the pedals connect through the frame of the bike. It's a place where rattles should not be. Ever. It's a place that, when there is a rattle, bad things can be happening. So I took the Cannondale over thinking it was going to be bad. Very bad. Like, possibly expensive bad. Which would not sit well with Mrs. Fish, either.

"Where are you going?"
"Over to the bike shop."
Why don't you take Li'l Fish with you?"
This is code for "Why don't you take my spy with you."
I always take her anyway, because Li'l Fish likes Buck, the shop dog.

So anyway, I walk in and Lee is there. He says hello and asks what's going on. I explain about "Unexpected Clunk". He gets his tech guy and they take my bike in. Right away. Five minutes later they wheel it back out, and test ride it. Clunk free. He charges me $5.00 and off I go. That's why I do business with World Cup. Just a bunch of decent guys doing good work. If you're lucky, you have a bike shop like this near you.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Riders Wanted: LiveSTRONG Philadelphia, 2010


The time is approaching, and once again Team Fish or Cut Bait is going to ride at the LiveSTRONG event in Philadelphia on August 22, 2010 to raise money too fight cancer. I have a bunch of verbal commitments, but now is when the rubber hits the proverbial road. If you're a rider, I would love to have you as part of Team Fish.

You can choose a 20, 45, 70 or 100 mile course. There is a minimum fundraising goal of $250, but that goes incredibly quickly. Every year I have someone who asks me about it and how daunting it seems at first. Most raise it in a matter of days and are off and running after that. Trust me - it's a cinch.

Last year, we had Do'ers profiles, BUTNZ, and a bunch of other fun things going on in connection with the event. Every year we get a little better at this, and I am always open to suggestions. Rest assured this year will be no exception to the fun rule, and my buddy Kurt is already planning his "fun" group ride over the Pyrenees...as long as those sammiches are waiting for us at the bottom of the hill, I am soooooooo in, brother. So, if you're thinking about joining Team Fish, or if you've been simply putting it off until now, let's get crackin'. You can CLICK HERE AND FOLLOW THIS LINK then just click on "Join Our Team" at the top of the page.

Questions, comments, concerns, fears? E-mail me and let's get that out of the way so we can ride and PWN cancer.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Observations From a Yard Sale

Yard sales are usually about the people. Most of them are interesting, and to hear their stories is often the highlight of my experience. Yesterday's was a ssssllllloooow painful experience for the first two hours, then it picked up as more people came out. It was a very weird yard sale, to be sure.

One of my customers was a young lady in the Tap-Out tee shirt with face tattoos and multiple facial piercings, who came and bought the Happy Family Dollhouse. I was reminded that families come in all shapes and sizes. She was actually a lot of fun to speak with, and I found out she was buying it for her two-year-old daughter.

The clothes. This woman was wearing her lucky yard-sale outfit. Seriously. I don't know what part of the eighties you could possibly consider "lucky" but hey, if it's working for you, run with it. Oh, this does NOT apply to the guy with the Flock of Seagulls hair: that look needs to go.

And an open inquiry for the woman who was gazing at my wares as she cruised past, her two kids screaming in the back of her minivan while she was yakking on her cellie? I think you might want to ask yourself "What could possibly go wrong in this neighborhood filled with kids on bikes and scooters and yard-salers crossing the streets?" Then, hoping you have arrived at any one of the possible correct answers, none of which are good, would you please HANG UP YOUR DAMNED PHONE and pay attention to what you are doing, which is driving in a residential area. KTHXBAI.

Mrs. Fish said the ladies were flirting with me all day (REALLY?!?). I confess a vast amount of ignorance in this area, but I'll take her word for it. If that's the case, I am going to chalk it up to the possibility that men selling jewelry with a pocket full of quarters and having even the remotest interest in yard sales are considered something of a catch on a Saturday morning around here...

Finally, I really liked haggling with the woman and her granddaughter who wanted a book and a ring. The grandmom said her granddaughter lives in the country and "don't have nothin'. Best "sale" I made all day, making a pretense of the hard-driving six-year old and how she was such a tough negotiator that I was forced to practically give it away. Both of them left with the goods, and huge smiles.

Well, This was a Lot of Fun

I really liked this. Enjoy...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lace 'em up...


I laced up my Sauconys and put the orthotic inserts into them. Today my goal was to do intervals, running for two minutes and walking for one minute.

It's weird that, since the injury, I have become incredibly in-tune with my body. I don't usually run with an iPod or other distractions, so it's something that I have always sort of paid attention to, but now it's most decidedly different. I am aware of every tweak (that slight pain in my right ankle, on the outside rolling down under the bone, is still there) and every feeling that is not quite normal. I can feel my Achilles rolling over the bursa sac in the heel, but the inflammation is gone, for the most part. I can also feel the difference the weight and inactivity make. My legs respond more sluggishly, don't swing as freely, nor do they have the bounce that allows them to come up and forward as quickly. The need to push myself hard on my runs is not there, but the desire to do so most certainly is. It would feel good to run fast again, but for now I need to be content with just running. After such a long layoff, I really am.

It was about 65 degrees and there was a light mist falling as I walked out tonight. I had Mango on, with a light tech shirt and it was perfect for the weather. If it was raining any harder, I would have wished for a hat, but as it was, it was just perfect. There have been bunnies on my previous runs, but not tonight. Just a couple of kids outside riding bikes and a couple of folks walking their pooches. I ran the intervals as planned, wiht a 5 minute steady run at the end, followed by a 7 minute cool down.

I can't wait to get out an do it again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Collin

"It seems wrong to me that the people we lose give us such strength and encourage us to be better people, if not for us, for them."
---Bill Moore


One of the things about being a cancer survivor is that you meet and are influenced by amazing, incredible people. The shame of it is that, sometimes, you lose them. So it is with Collin, a two-year-old boy that I never met. I never met his family. But, in the best sense of the word, I knew them.

I found an online community for cyclists when I first got started, and found a place where people talk about cycling, but just as often discuss life. It's ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of family and relationships. Phil came on one day and asked us to pray for his family, and especially for his son, who had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The people of the board rallied, and Collin became a focal point for discussions, for fundraisers to fight childhood cancer, for joining together to beat the disease he and his family were battling so courageously.

Phil gave us updates and we would all anxiously read them, poring over them for signs that Collin was winning. He would get a rash and go back to the hospital and we would groan. Collin's fight had, in many ways, become our fight.

Last year, I dedicated a significant portion of my ride to Collin and his family. There were times when it got tough, and Collin reminded me that it wasn't really tough. There were a couple of times when I wasn't sure I would make it. Collin's courage, his fight, reminded me that I would.

Collin is done fighting. It's not because he quit, because he had no quit in him. And now he is in a better place, a place with no pain, and no fear, and no tubes, and no needles, and no worry. Just an endless supply of love, and the promise that one day we'll get to see him and we'll be able to give him a hug and say thank you for sharing your life with us, even if it was just for one brief, amazing moment.

I miss you, brother, and my prayers are with you and your family.

Monday, May 10, 2010

One Minute Writer

Found this site that encourages us to take One Minute Writing and make it a daily habit. I have just started writing again, wading oh-so cautiously in and absorbing possibilites. Today's assignment at the site was "Little Things" and this was my contribution:

"I wasn't ready for it. I thought I was, but then she rushed out, all pink and beautiful and screaming and covered in the stuff that kept her alive, sloughing it off to reveal that I was now responsible for that role...and she was so perfect, and so tiny."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting Going Again...

"It'll be just like starting over...starting over..."
---John Lennon


I am FINALLY getting moving again. I was released from physical therapy after two-and-a-half months to the tears of the staff there...tears of joy, I am certain. Nonetheless, I am on my way. There is still pain in the heel, but the therapists felt the healing (heeling?) was going to be more a function of time than PT at this point. As long as I keep the ankle and the heel stretched out and mobile it should continue to improve, if only very slowly.

Yesterday I took a longer bike ride, one that I glossed the Tour de Libraries. Mrs. Fish had overdue videos at one library and I had books to pick up at another, so I hopped on The Cannondale and set out. Several thoughts occurred to me about how different things were as a result of the long layoff. First, and most obviously, I am out of shape (unless round is a shape). It's not surprising. I have a lot of strength built up as a result of the PT, but for longer, sustained, aerobic activity, it's going to be a while to build the stamina.

Second, things feel different from a sensory perspective. This time of year brings a lot of critters out and a great many of these end up as road Frisbees. The unique stench of animal decay was heavy through a couple of the more open spaces, notably around the woods and fields. I was also surprised at how quickly the temperature dropped. As the sun was going down, the Mercury dropped dramatically and I found I was nearing cold. Not that disconcerting cold, but just uncomfortable enough to make me pedal that much harder. I realized that being in the car removes me from these effects, and it's been a long time since I have had to concern myself with them. Next time, an extra layer is in order.

Third, I was surprised at how uncomfortable I felt on the bike. Not so much speaking to physical discomfort, but mentally. I was acutely aware of every vehicle around me, the smells, the speed, how close they were to me (which, ultimately, was not that close at all -- people are pretty respectful of cyclists in this area). I was also a little twitchy in the corners, which was weird, and I found myself not looking ahead far enough on more than one occasion, which added to my unease when I realized it. I am certain the comfort will return with time, but it was just an odd experience.

The highlight had to be on the way home, when this chap on a motorcycle passed me. He stopped at a red light ahead of me. It's one I sit at more than my share, so I am used to the timing pattern. I timed it so the light turned green and the rider got out ahead of me, then I mashed the pedals and passed him on the downhill, hitting about 40 miles per hour. It's not every day you get to pass a motorcycle. Dude was not amused, methinks.

Anyway, it's going to be a long slow recovery process, to be sure. I am comfortable on the bike and not too sore afterwards. Little Fish has offered to run with me as i return to this, so I have that to look forward to as well. One step at a time, one slow, laborious, plodding step...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Thankful...


For those of you following the story of my buddy Collin, he and his family have GREAT news. He had a fever high enough to prompt his parents to take him to the hospital. Because he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), this is a serious development.

Well, the doctors got his temperature stabilized and he just came home from the hospital yesterday! Furthermore, this Friday marks Collin's second birthday. Happy birthday, little guy. And many, many more to come.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

On the Road Again...

I have been on the road a lot the last couple of days. I've put 300+ miles on the car in the last two days. Yeesh.

That being said, one of the cooler things happened on my ride home today. I was driving home in the Infiniti (still loving it, by the way) and kind of not paying attention and feeling a bit tired. You know the way the road kind of lulls you a bit when you've been driving a lot? So anyway, I look up and there's a big section of aluminum drain pipe right in the middle of the highway.

My New CAR! OH. MY. OH NOES!! I realize I am going to hit it and it is far too late to react, but react is what I do. I swing the car to the right, toward the safety lane, and BAM! I am in the safety lane. I have swung around the section of pipe like I was on a rail. One second I was in the lane, the next I was in the safe zone, as if there was no transition whatsoever. I was sure I was going to hit it, but that was because I was going on the reaction time of the old Honda.

The car continues to impress me. Apparently, stoners are also impressed, as evidenced by the Jeff-Spicoli-Type-Guy that leaned out of the detention bus when I was picking up my daughter from school. "Duuuuude. That car is sooooooo cool, dude."

So I have that going for me, which is nice....

Monday, April 05, 2010

Manly-Man Weekend....


It was a quality manly-man weekend, the kind that puts hair on your chest, thkind that would make The Art of Manliness guys proud. I started landscaping the backyard, which is a sprawling giant of a hill. I am in the process of putting in railroad tie steps so we can journey down to stream that runs through our property. It's my hope we can have streamside meals with riparian entertainments this summer. It surprises me how incredibly heavy the railroad ties are. Still, I chainsawed them into usable chunks and set about carving the first setting into the hillside with a pick and shovel. Needless to say, the assorted plants, trees and other detritus that have built up over the course of years has made that task quite challenging. In between the roots and leaves, I uncovered old Ball Mason jar pieces, unspent shotgun shells (plural), a snake and even a gigantic frog (thing scared the carp out of me because I thought it was a hopping alligator at first).

Still, the foundation of gravel was laid, the rock dust smoothed over top of that then tamped down to set it, and the first step was laid out. I was ready to finalize setting it with rebar today when I found the blade I bought to cut the rebar does not fit my mitre saw. I realized this by the St. Vitus Dance it went into when I activated the saw. I'm not the world's greatest tool guy, but that did NOT look right to me, so I stopped, examined it, and found out what it was wrong. And, it was a good thing I did that before losing a limb or an eye. Who knew this project would be so fraught with peril.

In between all of this, as a rest and reward to myself, I put Li'l Fish's bike together and we went cruising around the neighborhood and beyond. On Sunday, we took a spin over to the local Giant, but it was closed for Easter so we ended up going to the only convenience store in America with no Slushy/Slurpee/Squishy machine. Iced tea was the order of the day, and it was awfully good, even though it was only half as cold as a Slushy/Slurpee/Squishy.

Somewhere along the line, I also managed to vacuum out the basement, tune up the lawnmower (new plug, new blade, spring cleaning), sweep out the garage and, today, mow the lawn and hit the weed whacking. Now I have to go grunt some more and manscape my chest....or maybe not.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Want!

Today I rode my bike for just the second time this year. Tomorrow, I am going to run for the first time since last fall. I'm a little nervous, but mostly just looking forward to being in motion again.

Big Week

Yesterday, I got on my bicycle for the first time since probably Fall. I say probably because it has been so long, I honestly can't remember the last time I rode. The Physical Therapist greenlighted me to get back on board my bike a week and a half ago and I finally made the time. I would love to tell you about the roads, the traffic, the wind in my hair, the crispness of the day, but it was raining pretty much all day, so I rode on Sunday night...on the trainer. Clearly, this is not the kind of ride I had in mind, but the fact that I was in the saddle, pedaling, was a really good sign. I even had a little leg soreness when I woke up, but nothing debilitating.

The cool thing is that I am going to run/jog/walk some intervals tomorrow. I have missed being in motion for so long, I am beyond happy. The hardest part for me has been listening to the doctors/therapists and taking things slllloooooowwwwllllly. Hopefully I am wise enough (God knows I am old enough) to listen to that advice. Still, it has its frustrations, to be sure.