Monday, November 17, 2008

The Trail is WET

Some of the Team TCY Masters posing during our Salisbury Meet on November 15th. From yellow towel: Coach Emily, Rebecca, Ona, Kristina, and Bill. I'm lurking on the far left. Photo was taken by Deena.

2008 has brought me many adventurous “firsts”: my first triathlon, my first cycling competition, my first open water swim, my first Ironman event, and our crew’s first time winning High Point on the Lark. While four of our newest Rise Up Runners were taking to their first Tuckahoe 10-mile loop this weekend on the trials, I was losing my virginity in a Salisbury pool. Yes, I competed in my first swim meet with the TCY Masters against, among many, the dirty Dogfish of Salisbury.

A common thread all these adventures have had for me is that they all involve connection with some wonderful people. Saturday in Salisbury was no exception. During our team practices there is little time to get to know the other swimmers, especially with the demanding workouts given by coaches Glenn and Emily. Saturday, not only, provided the perfect opportunity to get to know my teammates, but it also provided opportunity for our team to come together and support one another. As I was swimming my first event (which, by the way, was the very first heat, first event of the meet), both ends of lane 5 were filled with MY teammates (left goggle tearing up) yelling support for me. They also were there to tell me to stop swimming in that 200 yard breaststroke event; I had lost my length-count and started to swim an additional length after I had finished. Yeah, I know, I am very wet behind the gills.

I soon learned what it meant to cheer on a teammate. I loved being there. The event was well run and all the people were friendly. I felt a real cohesiveness to our team; of course, we were flanked in our team jackets. However, we may have been annoying during the Annual Meeting for the Maryland Masters. The meeting was held half way through the meet in order to have a captive audience. (By the way, if you ever want to hold a “short” meeting, make sure everyone at the meeting is wet and wearing next to nothing). The only business to attend was the election of the officers. Our very own Mark was up for election as Registrar. Every time his name was mentioned our team would start to cheer, like,… well,.. idiots. It was great. I think Mark may have been embarrassed.

These swimming-types don’t waste any time in starting an event. You need to know where to be and at what time to be on the blocks. They say, “Swimmers, step up, take your mark, go!” There is no 10 minute starting sequence like you have with sailing. Coach Emily made sure all of us were warmed up for each of our events and ready to take to the blocks on time.

Here are the events I swam:

200 yard Breaststroke 3:08
100 yard IM 1:24:40
50 yard Free 30.95
200 yard Relay Free 30.51
The relay was fun and different; a chance to really work as a team. Frank set the pace with his 50 free, followed by me, Bill, then Mark. We finished in under 2 minutes. Unfortunately, we were unchallenged by another men's relay team. The women's relay teams agreed to swim with us, and I believe, helped keep the pressure on us.

I felt strong and prepared for each of my events. The confidence I had came from the good coaching I/we’ve been getting from Glenn and Emily. It has made a tremendous difference for me. Though I cannot be compared to any of the top swimmers, I do aspire to be one. I am very happy with the progress I’ve achieved in the past year. The support of the team is a gift; so is the organizational effort many have put into making meets and teams happen.

I will spare everyone the gritty details of my thoughts during each of my events, like, “how am I going to swim this Individual Medley (IM) with my right goggle full of water?” or “How am I going to swim this 50 Freestyle with my left goggle full of water? Or “I have no idea how many lengths I have swum, much less which end of the pool this is?” or “I really wish I had swum another two feet before I did that flip-turn” or “did the lane-judge just see me make a one-handed touch on that breaststroke turn?” So, instead I will share some of the mayhem occurring in the back of the car on the way home.

But first, we must consider the car ride “to” the meet. My co-pilot and “navigator” was Patti, backed up by Bill and Lynda’s husband. Kristina, Deena, and Ona were organizing our next social event while Lynda and her husband were enjoying not having to drive, for once! As we were circling the Salisbury Zoo (we weren’t lost, we knew exactly where we were, duh!) Ona got on the phone to call Mark, our team captain, who was waiting anxiously for our timely arrival, “Yes, Mark, we’ve fixed the flat, and the zoo is beautiful in this late afternoon light, and we’ll be there eventually…”. Patti was saying, “Mike, I told you to turn at the Hardees, not the Burger King”. Another sighed, “Shouldn’t we have turned right back there?” If I wasn’t nervous enough about swimming, I was even more nervous that this Julius (my car’s name) load of teammates was in danger of never making it to the meet at all.

Cool heads prevailed and Julius got us to the Salisbury YMCA in time to wait for the warm-up session to begin. After the meet and the buffet dinner (great spread, by the way; those Dogfish can cook) someone found Jena’s wallet on the table where she’d been sitting. Jena had long ago left with her two boys (who were perfect young men during the meet). The wallet made its way to Julius where a discussion was in progress among the eight of us as to what to do. Meanwhile, I was trying to unravel our trail out of Salisbury in rain, “Isn’t that a sign for Route 50? Shouldn’t we have turned back there?” For all I know, they were passing the wallet around the two backseats like a hot potato.

Once again, Ona got on her phone. Somehow (I’m not sure of the facts here) we got hold of someone in our homeland with a SSPP School directory (where Jena’s boys attend), got her home phone, called her husband, some “splainin’ occurred, we got Jena’s cell phone number, and the call of relief was made just in time before Jena was about to slash the upholstery in her car in search of her wallet. She was parked outside the JC Penny at the Salisbury Mall. Just as I was about to turn onto the Route 50 on-ramp word came to the cockpit to change course for the Mall. Julius lurched across 3 lanes of traffic, nearly sending Lynda’s oversized luggage (it had wheels) through the side of Julius as we made our way to the rescue. Jena and her young boys were waiting at Pennys’ front door when the “team” rolled up in Julius. I think 16 hands came out the windows as a very thankful Jena graciously received her wallet.

Though there was talk about hitting some nasty bar in Cambridge (Bill seemed to know all about it) we made our way back to Talbot County in a relatively sober, yet giddy, mood; too much chlorine.

Congratulations to team TCY on a successful, well attended meet. Mark has us way ahead of any team at the meet on a per swimmer average basis. Thanks to Kristina’s bantering of the Dogfish, we may have come out on top. But, more importantly, thank you for making me feel like “one of the team”. Love swim ride and run…

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November Is Here

Mike Bickford, Wood Frog, and James at the conclusion of the St. Michaels 5K which benefits the St. Michaels Sports Boosters. Photo by Noah Wood @ 2008

As much as I have been trying to simplfy life, time still flies by too quickly. It is November already and I have catch-up to do for October. On the 25th I ran the St. Michaels 5K in wet conditions. The course takes us through the back streets of historic town, and is guided by local high school athletes, for whom the race benefits. James (aka Woody) met me at the St. Michaels Perk for fruit and cider before we drove together to the race. In the pre-race crowd we met up with Noah Wood, who was completing his ambitious goal at this 5K of running in every county of Maryland within a six month period. We've seen Noah at other races in Talbot and truly appreciate his enthusiasm for our sport. He has great speed and won this year's St. Michaels 5K in just over 18 minutes, including the time he made a wrong turn on the course. He often wins his age group in races and was the Oxford Day 10K winner last year. There is a feature article on Noah in Thursday's "Eastern Shore Today" section of the Star Democrat.
Early in the race Mike Bickford and I started pacing each other. Though we'd never met before, I asked him to help me try to break 20 minutes for the 5K. That was his goal, as well, and he proceeded to pace us through town. It was difficult to stay with Mike, but he definitely helped me maintain a faster pace. At the 2nd to last turn of the race, about 1/2 mile from the finish, Mike picked up to a pace faster than I could maintain, and I let him slip away from me. He finished first in our age-group at 20:05 with me 2nd at 20:28. That is my best 5K time. Later we figured out that Mike ran with the Rise Up Runners once on the Trans Tred Avon Challenge this past spring.

With Noah, Mike, and me finished, we applauded as James came across the finish line fourth overall and first in his age-group. There were many stories at this 5K: Noah's was announced to the crowd at the start and we all congratulated him. An 80ish year old woman ran the course. And, a friend of mine, who easily weighed close to 300 pounds a few years ago, completed the course in under 30 minutes. Nancy Toby, our local triathlete guru, ran a great race at a respectable pace. My only disappointment was that there were not more Rise Up Runners at this benefit. There is next year.

On Sunday I met up with Landy, Dan, and Cory Duncan and joined them on part of their 60 mile bike ride through the Bay Hundred. I cut out after 30 miles to meet Joel, Kat, and James for a run. I appreciate them waiting 15 minutes for me to show. We had a great run back Railroad Avenue and the Mt. Misery area. The highlight was a comment made by Kat concerning our group's name, Rise Up Runners. Some how she always thought it came from this group's sense of outrage, not what time we started running. What followed was various outbursts and contortions. I guess you had to be there with a runner's high in gear.

Tuesday saw James join Kat and me at the track for a 5:30 start. With the time change and enough cloud cover the track was lit so we could see our footing. We all did six 800's at sprint pace with a 400 or 600 between each 800 at long distance race pace. Woody and I maintained 3:18's through 800 number five. On the sixth one Woody kicked it in and ran a 2:57. Kat and I egged him on to do a seventh, with us pacing him in the straight-a-ways. Woody ran his seventh 800 at 2:52. We celebrated his accomplishment and declared that the Bay Hundred Rise Up Runners were awesome!
Seven Rise Up Runners will venture to the Rehobeth Beach Marathon on the 22nd. Valliant, Dominic, and Lori will each run the whole marathon. Kat and Woody pair up to be the RUR Coed Relay Team, and Joel and I will pair up to be the All Male RUR Relay Team. There should be plenty of material for the blogs after that trip.

On the 15th I will participate in my first Master's Swim Meet in Salisbury. I will likely enter the 200 Breaststroke, 50 Free, and 50 Fly as my events. I am really excited and nervous about the competition.

I am overjoyed with Obama's success as our next president. To me the world just got a big shot of HOPE. Yes, we can!...
Phin asleep while I am composing this posting. He is 11 weeks old.

Phinn, aka Spaz, is coming into his own. His personality is developing well. He has boundless energy (when awake) and now follows me happily everywhere. I no longer need to coax him on our walks out the the 2nd telephone pole. He loves his family, food, sleep, and his platypus.
Love, swim, bike, and run...