Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Me atop a cliff at around 7500 feet on the Bear Canyon Trail on the side of 11,200 foot Lone Peak in the Wasatch Mountain Range. The suburbs of Salt Lake City are in the background below.

Utah cross country youth coach Michael Durman and his 12 year old son Cameron, together on our way to the snow line on the Bear Canyon Trail.

This is a true "Runners on Trails" entry following my 4 day trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend my niece's high school graduation. I arrived to my sister Judy's house in Utah Thursday night, joining my other sister Kim, my parents, and Judy's in-laws. It was the first time in 30 years (since childhood) that the 5 of us had slept under the same roof. We had a great time visiting with each other, playing cards, going for walks, and eating. We all attended my neice, Jamie's, graduation on Saturday morning.

The view from my sister's front yard of 11,200' Lone Peak. Some day I shall conquer!

In and around all the family activities I would sneak outside for an adventure, either with my brother-in-law, Jim, or by myself. Judy and Jim live next to a several hundred acre walking/hiking/equestrian trail system called the Dimple Dell which is located on a mid-west shelf of the Wasatch Mountain Range. On those trails with killer 100 foot gains and falls I did 8 and 5 mile runs. The trail surface is packed dirt/sand and loose mulch, by far, the best surface I have ever run upon. I did back to back running days (which I never do) and felt great. While running in the neighborhood park, one cannot help notice there are these intimidating, mesmerizing mountains looming to the near east, about a mile away. Eleven thousand foot Lone Peak is the highest peak within 20 miles and soon became my obsession, "Jim, I want to hike THERE!" I'd point. "We'll go Sunday, but it is impossible to go all the way because there is too much snow. We'll go as far as we can." Cool beans!!

Camron running at 7,500 feet on the Bear Canyon Trail, Utah.

I slept lightly on Saturday night in anticipation of the big hike up the side of Lone Peak. In the morning we were joined by Jim's buddy from work, Michael Durman, and his son, Camron. Michael is a cross country coach for Cam's team, along with Mark Oftedal, who is a several time finisher of the Wasatch 100 (he was 2nd in 1995 with 23:07 hours). Camron is twelve and one of the coolest young men I have ever met; his interests span greatly from lacrosse (this is his first year and he's scored in every game, so far) to ultra running. He has a 5K time of 20:43. Cam seemed able to go on forever on the trails. He ran the 6 miles down the mountain on our way home. His father and I traded places keeping up with him. We talked all day about lacrosse, running, and adventuring. When I told Cam about my dream of entering as a two-man team for the Gore-tex Transalpine 8-Day Stage Race, he said he wanted to be my partner. Believe me, if it was race legal, I'd take him. He had no fear. I look forward to visiting him on future trips to Utah to see his progress in the sport of running and his growth as a young man.

We had a lot of talk about the rattlesnakes. Though we never saw one, we had several heart stopping scares when Cam would put on the brakes and run behind me saying, "There's a snake; I know it is!" All were false alarms as they turned out to be either chipmunks or lizards. The trails were easy to traverse and were much less technical than the White Mountain trials. One was able to look around at the scenery without having to keep a constant eye on where your next step was going to land.

Me with my brother-in-law Jim Greene and his son Gary on the B0nneville Shoreline Trail.

I have always said that running/hiking with friends makes the time disappear, and so it was Sunday. Our group consisted of Jim, Gary (Jim's 35 year old son), Michael and Cam Durman, and me. Jim and Gary hung together and were a bit slower than Mike, Cam, and me. Though slower, Jim has endurance to no end, and if he wouldn't get in trouble from my sister, he'd still be hiking the trail with his wooden walking stick. Three hours disappeared in what seemed like no time. At that point we decided to turn back. We had made it to about 8,200 feet, according to someone's altimeter. We hit patchy snow with some patches several feet deep. The trail was becoming difficult to follow, so we decided to turn around. I had my overweight packback brimming with snacks and drink, which all scoffed at in the beginning. Let me tell you that I had no food left by the time we got back to the trail head. We lucked out with the weather and didn't need any of the extra clothes I brought.

Mike and Cam Durman starting the descent at 8,000 feet.

Salt Lake City lies in the ancient lake bed of the now vanished Lake Bonneville. The ancient lake went from Yellowstone National Park to Las Vegas. The only remnants of the lake are the Great Salt Lake and a few other small lakes. The Bonneville Shoreline trail runs along a shelf of the Wasatch Mountains. Until someone explained it to me, I was quite puzzled at the name "shoreline" for this trail. I now know it is in reference to the ancient Lake Bonneville.

What I found unique about our hike were the constantly changing ecosystems and flora types we traveled through on our ascent. Unlike the East, as we got higher in elevation the taller the trees got. We'd go through sections of one foot high vegitation and wildflowers, only to go back into the trees 300 feet further up. What we don't have in the East (yet) are desert-like conditions, which Utah has at times. This type of weather, I believe, is linked to the strange flora patterns on the mountain sides. Living on the flat land of the Eastern Shore, it would seem so wild to look at mountains in the distance, and even wilder to have them a few miles away.

Yours truly with fresh snow in the background.

There were so many trails to choose from, I'm glad I wasn't the one in charge Sunday. There is greatness in Utah. The accomplishments of the athletes who tackle the mountains out there are tremendous. Utah resident, Karl Meltzer, has won the Wasatch 100 Trail Race 6 times and came in second 2 times. I got the feeling there were individuals all around who had taken the opportunity to explore the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City. I was, also, amazed that the trails were not packed. 1.8 million people were milling about below us and we only passed one hiker in the higher elevations. This solo hiker we came upon took a look at me and immediately asked if I'd ever run the Wasatch 100. He had just finished climbing all the 14,000 foot peaks in the US with his wife. I was flattered by his question, to say the least, and it has started me thinking about a 100 miler. That is a dangerous thing. The Wasatch is a grueling 100 mile race with a 36 hour time limit. Less challenging 100 milers have a 24 hour time limit. I would love to try something like that, but I don't know my body, or mind, well enough, yet, to give it a go. We'll see what the future brings.

In the meantime, there is little over a week left before my Eagleman Half Ironman. I am so excited that I wish I had a mountain to burn some energy on. I feel I have prepared well in the three diciplines of swim, bike, and run. Yet, I don't feel I have been able to give 100 percent to my training. Of course, if I did, my wife and children would probably not be speaking to me. I hope to have a finish time under 6 hours, and if it goes really well, 5 1/2 hours. Regardlessly, I plan to have a great time and take it all in as a learning experience. Actually, that's a lie; I'm tired of learning, I just want to have fun.

I am very grateful for all the opportunities I've had in the last few years to push, measure, and test my limits. But, more important have been the friends that I've made. Even though I am exploring the world of Triathlons, it is with Michael Valliant's running passion and friendship that started me on this journey. Now, with Rise Up Runners, there is a whole "Google" of friendships waiting to be tapped. This is an exciting time of my life....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marathon Maynard

Robert Lednum with boatbuilder Maynard Lowery looking on as Maynard's latest boat is prepared for the first sail with new owners and me.

Maynard looks-on in the background as I instruct the new owners on how to raise the sail of "Pyewacket", a 16 foot catboat designed by Fenwick Williams and built by Maynard.

There are goals in life. Some are short-term; others are far off into the unknown. Goals are important to have. I start off this entry decribing one of my mentors, boat builder Maynard Lowery of Tilghman Island. Maynard is 88 and just completed and launched his "last boat", a 16' Catboat. "Pyewacket" is the 4th "last boat" built during his ninth decade of life. Each of these projects is a goal, providing motivation and focus, enjoyment and life. It is impressive enough for Maynard to have 70 or 100 boats to his credit over his boatbuilding career, but to be continuously productive into his 80's is a fanastic accomplishment.

I hope I can have the longevity of someone like Maynard. Equipped with a pipe and endless stories, Maynard is always ready to share. One knows a story is about to be told when the pipe-work begins: a few taps upside down; the pen-knive comes out and gently scrapes the interior of the bowl; tobacco is scouped out of the pouch, packed and then the lighting sequence begins. Friday's story was born of my own chisel-cutting-finger episode when I had to call my wife Wednesday to come take care of my bleeding hand, because I get too whoosey to deal with it myself.

Maynard's story was one of him climbing a ladder onto a metal roof top, to be high enough to lift a mast out of a boat. As he was standing there ole Bill come along and said, "hey Maynard, what are ye doin?" About that time the ladder started to slide along the roof edge making a clatter sound. It happened so quickly, that the top of the ladder hit ole Bill in the head and knocked him out cold. Maynard, stuck helplessly on the roof top, yelled for help until someone from the next door marina came over. It was Sam, who he didn't know very well. "Come over here, Sam, and help this man," Maynard called. Sam came over and saw the man's partially submerged head covered in blood. Instead of helping, he turned around and ran back to his boat, never to return to help. Another person eventually came to the rescue, Ole Bill got saved with only a few hour visit to the hospital, and Maynard got off the roof. Days later Sam was asked why he wouldn't help the wounded man, and he simply said, "I don't like blood."

I aspire to live my life in the manner which Maynard tells a story or builds a boat: well paced, thoughful, and steady. It is hard to imagine me to slow to Maynard's pace, and maybe I never will. This spring has been the biggest whirlwind of my life. Training for a triathlon is not conducive to accomplishing much else in life. Everything has been affected by my training, yet I feel I am in a learning process about my priorities, my passions, and my life. I may be running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but I am keenly aware of areas in my life that need attention. We'll see how all this plays out after June 8th, the Eagleman.

Trying to squeeze training into work and family has resulted in some creative planning days. Take Wednesday: I took bike in truck with my girls and the carpool boys to Easton, delivered all kids, parked truck at YMCA, rode bike to Oxford; put bike in client's boat, sailed/motored boat and bike to Tilghman, rode bike from Tilghman to home/Wittman, worked, cut hand, got back on bike and rode to YMCA in time for 6pm swim practice. The biking used less fuel and less man hours to accomplish getting all that done without having cars and drivers all over the county. It was a big successful day, except for cutting my hand.
Planning and gear are all part of the work involved in training for adventures.

Planning to do all that was a huge task, especially packing bags, clothes, swim gear, and equipment for all the different activities. It was fun, though. When Maynard plans to build a boat, he first makes a list of materials and collects those materials before the first piece of wood is cut. Good planning and preparation makes a good boat. Good planning, training/preparation makes a good race. There are endless parallels to how Maynard works to how an athlete performs. In my eyes, Maynard has broken the 2 hour marathon mark. I can't wait to see his list of materials for his next "last boat".

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My First Tri in Bi-valve

Fellow triathlete Jim Crowley and his family with me after the
inaugural running of the Nanticoke River Triathlon.
Now, I'm really nervous about my upcoming Half-Ironman in June. Today I swam, rode, and ran my first triathlon. It was a Sprint distance of 1/2 mile swim, 15 mile bike, and 5K run. It was the perfect distance. Because of that realization I'm nervous about doing the much longer 70.3 miles in the Eagleman Triathlon in a month.
I can't imagine a triathlon going any better than today, unless I were to win. It was perfect 75 degree sunny breezy day for the duration of the first annual Nanticoke River Swim and Triathlon. The venue at the Cedar Hill Marina in Bivalve, Maryland was perfect for the field of about 250 participants. The small size of the race made it even more special for me.

There were several people I knew including: Jena, Bill, and John from my YMCA Master's swimming team, running friend Jim Crowley, and triathletes Susan and Murray from Wittman/Baltimore. My longtime sailer- friend-turned-cyclist Roger Pickall showed to lend support and pick up my pieces should I need him to. Roger left his house in Easton at 3:33am this morning and rode his bike 59 miles to Bivalve via the wonderful back roads of the Eastern Shore, past pickle factories, dead opposums, lush marshes, timber stands, and over old narrow bridges. His support was very welcome as he was there to cheer me on at every transition.

Friend Roger Pickall, swim teammate Jena McLaughlin, and I with the swim course in the background. I like the "No Swimming" sign all the athletes passed on our way to the water before the start of the triathlon.
My sailing experience played an important role in my swim success. Since I arrived 2 and a half hours prior to the start, I had time to walk to the end of the jetty and get a feel for things. I quickly saw a swift current running from the right. That told me I wanted to be situated to the right in my "wave" so that when I got to the current it would sweep me left as I came to the turn around the buoy. It worked like a charm. I am not a fast swimmer, so today's relative speed I give to good positioning on the first leg, AND remembering all the things coaches Glenn Mills and Brian Loveland have been telling me about my stroke. It was very rough for the buoy rounding. My chest was actually slapping down in the short steep chop as I appoached the buoy. Exciting to say the least. Nearly all the things I feared in a mass start happened to me, but it didn't bother me. I was kicked, slapped, and run-in-to. At one point I had a guy on my back, not just one of his arms, but his entire body. Luckily, I was able to pull away from him. There was no visibility in the water, and search-spotting was needed about every 5th stroke. Fun, fun.

The swim course: out to the far orange ball and return.

The race went better than I expected. Of a field of 164 finishers (male and female) I was 25th overall, 6th of 22 in my 40 to 44 age group, and the 17th male out of the water, which is what I am most proud. My swimming has been my concentration over the winter, and today, I feel it showed. Here are my times and overall placement in the event:

25th Overall

Swim 13:57 32nd overall Transition 1 time was 1:57

Bike 45:31 37th overall Transition 2 time was 1:00

Run 21:35 21st overall

Jim Crowley ran a 42 minute 10K yesterday coming into today's triathlon. So, though I beat him by over a minute, had he been "fresh" I think he would have easily taken me today. Today's event is the first event I've ever finished before Jim. His wife, Kim, was a key volunteer at the race and was giving out the medals at the finish line. Many thanks to her.

Friend Alan Girard volunteered also and had the exciting position of managing the bike mounting and dismounting zone. Thanks Alan. I want to send a huge thank you to the race organizers and volunteers today for making my first "tri" experience a fantastic one.

I truly enjoyed today's race. I found myself smiling while on the bike, riding through the country over old wooden bridges and (minimumally) talking to fellow competitors. I even smiled while passing a house where teenagers were hanging out the second floor windows trying to motivate me to run faster by yelling, "are you a man or are you a [insert what you want]?" Afterward Kim Crowley placed my first triathlon medal around my neck at the finish line, the race crew fed us grilled burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and fruit.

Here's a shot after the race with me holding my bike in front of my transition area. As you can see, no one gets much room in transition.

Roger and I loaded bikes and gear into my pickup truck, Chesapeake, and retraced his bike-path home to Easton. My family was waiting for me when I got home. We had a celebritory dinner for us all (I'm not the only one who had a great weekend). I'm now a triathlete, but there's much more to come. Stay tuned.