Monday, December 7, 2009

Swimming in the Snow

The 2009 TCY Master's Swim Team photo taken Saturday, December 5, 2009.

There hasn’t been much running on these legs for the past week, yet, my legs have been getting much use in the pool. Perhaps we should change the name of my blog; but to what? Any suggestions?

Saturday was an awesome day at the Talbot YMCA. Mid-afternoon found me “cooling” down in the “warm” pool, hanging with friends, and watching the beautiful snowy scene out the window. The Talbot County YMCA (TCY) Masters Swim Team hosted our semi-annual Swim Competition and Chili Cook-off. We had a record 26 swimmers register from our own team and nearly 100 swimmers from all over the state. With 4 scheduled practices each week and the fact that we all live adult lives, it is rare that we ever get more than twelve of us together at any one time.

I had one of those “moments” before the meet began where I experienced pure happiness. It was when we had our team warm-up in the pool before the guests arrived. There was some music playing on the stereo which added to the mood and someone (I believe it was Lisa) said aloud what I was feeling; something to the effect that, “how cool it is to have everyone together for this afternoon. That it is wonderful to have a day where we come together as a group to push our limits and show our stuff after all the hard work, early mornings, long workouts, chlorinated hair, water filled goggles, pool water lung-rinses, and missed flip-turns”. As an adult there are few sports like swimming where you see the full range of 18 to 80+ year olds; where we all compete, no matter the age, level of competence, or physical restriction. I could loudly hear my team cheering for me as I swam the 200 breaststroke event. Though I know I can do better in the future, that swim was fun, especially with the voices of support ringing through my swimcap into my ears. Saturday with my team was one of those magical days I’ll remember as being special.

Oh, yeah, the swimming: the results can be seen here. I swam in 3 individual events and 2 relay events. I bested my competition 200 breaststroke time by nearly 10 seconds ( my aim is to best it by 10 more before spring). And, I swam my second fastest 50 yard freestyle, ever! The more I go to the meets and watch other swimmers, the more I know what I want and how I want to swim. I see where I want to go. With the continued help of the Galan Family and my TCY team I know I will improve.

The shoulder: I’m back to pre-surgery condition, maybe a little better overall. My palsy still persists in my left shoulder, but doesn’t affect my swimming strokes. However, if I don’t bring my hands together strongly during a dive off the blocks and will sometimes wrap my left arm around my chest because I’m not strong enough in that outer rotation to resist the rush of water as I enter. Other than that, things are good.

My goal is to be able to swim more than a mile in open water at an energy efficient pace of 30 minutes per mile or under, without be stressed. My kick is the key. And, to get a stronger kick in need to strengthen my core. I am attacking my core these days. Wish me luck. Propeller legs rule. Love and appreciate life ~ Michael

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monumental Run

Lori, Joel, Shaun, Dominic, Woodfrog, Katherine, and Mike V. posing after 11 miles of running on Sunday, November 22nd with Abraham Lincoln keeping an eye on us in the background.

Rise Up Runners in DC

An adventure that has been on the table for a few months came to fruition today. The Rise Up Runners took an early morning sojourn to Washington DC for a run around the national monuments. Katherine, Lori, Joel, Mike V, Shaun, Dominic, Joel, and I ran 13ish miles in and around the memorials and Georgetown. We parked at the Capitol, then hit Washington, Jefferson, FDR, Georgetown (my niece Ashby), Lincoln, Vietnam, WWII, Washington for a second time, and then back to the Julius.
The Jefferson Memorial with friends

The weather was cloudless skies, a light Northerly breeze, and temperatures in the 40’s. One of the highlights of the day for me was being in the Jefferson Memorial with my friends, and no one said a word. There was something special about being at peace with your friends, and no one had to say a thing. The early morning sunlight was shining sideways between the columns onto Jefferson, himself, making a golden glow aura to the open room. Only the seven (eight if you count Thomas J.) of us were present…silent…appreciative…friends.

The next most awesome part of the day was Lori pulling out a box of unfathomly-good chocolate coconut squares she created earlier. They were awesome!! Other highlights included an early morning hug from my niece, Ashby, in Georgetown and having her meet my friends. She was more than a good sport to get out of bed (it was 9am on a Sunday, and she is a college student) and greet us.

The pool has a grab on me again and sees my presence three times a week, now. I swam at the Washington College meet on the 15th of November, bringing home enough points for us (TCYS) to beat our new nemesis, the Chesapeake Region Aquatic Blues (the CRABs), by two points. My left shoulder is still very weak. Swimming helps keep good movement and range of motion in that arm while the nerve is repairing itself. I have shown some improvement in the Superspinatus muscle but none in the Infraspinatus, yet.

This week will see the Run for Hospice race on Friday after Thanksgiving. On December 5th we are hosting a masters swim meet at the Talbot County YMCA. In the meantime don’t forget to swim, run, ride, love, and appreciate all that you can.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Skyline Drive

This black bear was in the tree at Thornton Gap. He walked out that thin limb with all four paws. When he decided to climb down the tree it took less than 5 seconds.

Carita and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary by taking an overnight in the Shenandoah Mountains and a drive up the famous Skyline Drive. We got out of Julius and did two nice hikes. The first was at Bearfence Mountain where we hiked part of the AT. On the way to the summit we had to climb over a rock scramble which was much harder than anything in the White Mountains. After lunch at Big Meadows Lodge we hiked down a mile to Dark Hollow Falls. The trail was easy to follow, but had a constant grade; the kind that really gets your heart pumping on the way up. I took liberty from Carita and ran the return trip.

In the Shenandoah's the leaves have turned colors and 70% of them have fallen to the ground for the winter. However, those that remained on the trees were beautifully golden. It was another world and we enjoyed our time, how ever short, that we spent there.

Seeing the bear was icing on the cake for our trip. By 5pm on our last day we had only travelled 40 of the 65 miles of our projected Skyline Drive trip. We decided to cut it short and cut off at Thornton Gap. We must have been drawn to this bear, because it was in a tree on the off-ramp to Thornton Gap that we saw the bear in the tree. What a treat!

We have a video of the bear, but the digital world is not allowing me to upload it hear. I'll try again soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Bountiful Corn!! A harvester transferring corn to a truck in a field on Sharp Road.

Driving over the Bay Bridge yesterday morning in route to my 6-week post surgical check up, I was struck by the beauty of the building day; light wind, crisp sunshine, fall colors, and warm 65 degree temeratures. It confirmed for me that packing running clothes in the backpack earlier that morning, was not just an exercise in futility. The plan was to return to the Eastern Shore after my Baltimore appointment and hit the roads and trails on the island at Wye.

Wood Frog running the road at Wye Island Tuesday afternoon.

It was 2:07 when I closed Julius’s door at the picnic area to start the seven mile “out and back” run to Ferry Point Trail. Decked in a sleeveless EMS shirt and tanked up on water, I quickly fell into pace and took in the surroundings. Immediately, the sounds of Wye filled the rhythm of my mind; honking of geese, twittering of birds, rustling of corn stalks by deer, sporadic crunching of leaves by squirrels, and the drone of a nearby combine-harvester filling the bin with corn. But, along with that came the sense that I was alone; alone in a place where I am usually in the company of running buddies. Michael Valliant and I have enjoyed a couple of hundred miles of running together at Wye Island over the years. It was with him that we laid out pre-marathon “long” runs and discovered the rejuvenation powers of a few hours running on the island can bring. We have enjoyed good runs with our other buddies, as well, all of whom have enjoyed Wye Island’s fields of grain and forests of maturity.

Right after my appointment I thought about texting the RUR group; inviting them to join me for a run at Wye. Surely, one of them might be able to play hooky? But, something made me think otherwise. Perhaps it was the thought that I might ruin the rest of their day, making them wish they could meet me, when they couldn’t. Or, maybe I didn’t call anyone because deep down I needed to have a solo rejuvenation time on my own two feet.

My right knee draws my attention while I run. I have pending a surgical procedure to adjust a torn meniscus. I can feel it with every strike I take, some with less intensity than others. But, I’ve run about a thousand miles on the knee like it is. However, the injury got worse after the Trail Dawgs Race in April, and now it is hard to have a run where I don’t notice it (a few times I’ve had to stop in the middle of a run because of the pain).

But, with recovering from shoulder surgery, the thought of having the knee done seems overwhelming. I have decided to delay knee surgery until my shoulder recovery has gotten to a point where it is no longer intensely taxing on my body. Dr. Murthi assured me that I was recovering extremely well, ahead of schedule in some areas, and that the atrophy and weakness of my left shoulder is going to take a long time to recover. I was encouraged by what he said. In the week leading up to my appointment with him, I have been experiencing pain in my arm that has held me back from doing some of my strengthening exercises. This has been very discouraging. Running does not hurt my shoulder, at all. Patience.

The Rise Up Runners who supported (Joel???) the Michele Laughman 5K in the rain on Sunday. From right: Lori, Laura, Wood Frog, Shaun, Mike B, Mike V, Brennan, Dominic, and Kathy.

On the brighter side, I was able to run the Michele Laughman 5K on Sunday with my friends. Even though I was at least three minutes off from my PR, I felt strong. Even my knee seemed to behave. So, during yesterday’s run at Wye, as long as I kept my mind active in thought, my knee didn’t bother me.

On the return route from Ferry Point the sun was strong on my back. I slid my shirt off my shoulders and let the sun warm them. With positive thought and visualization I willed the sun’s warmth to heal my ailment. It was a good mile of running like that in the sun. With focus on my left scapular muscles I could feel my blood respond to the sun’s energy and warm that area. It is blood flow that heals. The mind can actually direct blood flow, but it takes practice. I, hopefully, inched my shoulder to a fuller recovery.

Wye Island is a place where:
· green Osage fruits lie on the ground
· cool briny water from the river at Ferry Point feels refreshing on my face
· pick-up trucks with teenage boys arrive for an afternoon dove hunt (at first I thought they were looking for a place to drink beer)
· birdwatchers seize their prey
· the roads never get any shorter
· a person has full opportunity to clear one’s head
Pay no mind to the orange "CHECK ENGINE" light. Julius's 220,000 odometer reading.
On a lighter note: Our good reliable friend turned another milestone in his life yesterday. Julius has provided my family and friends with 220,000 miles of transportation up and down the East Coast and beyond. The only place where my family has spent more time is in our living room and beds. Julius is a reliable friend; we salute you.

This coming weekend brings a confusing array of offerings. I will do my second bout of coaching a Saturday swim practice for the Masters. Then, what to do? St. Michaels High School is having a 5K run. The rescheduled Tour de Trappe is being held offering 10, 40, or 100 mile options. Hmm…what to do? AND, rain is in the forecast. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, swim, run, ride, appreciate, and love ~

Friday, October 2, 2009

Four Week Update

It has been four weeks since my shoulder surgery. At times I feel I’m 90% back to where I was before surgery; other times less. I’ve eased back into work these last few weeks, as I have with running, cycling, and swimming. Physical Therapy has been a good part of my recovery thanks to the good people at AquaCare in Easton. Brian, Jeff, Laura, Kim, and others have moved, twirled, stretched, pushed, yanked, and zapped me in all the right directions. It is a fascinating field.

There may be a 5K or two on the horizon this month, but there is also an appointment with a knee specialist on the twelfth. Surgery on my meniscus tear may be inevitable; more on that later.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Surgery Accomplished

Day one after shoulder far so good.

Yesterday’s surgery went extremely well and I am nearly pain free today; that’s the short of it. Here’s the rest:

We were scheduled to arrive at Kernan by 9:30 to do a physical examination, an EKG, and some blood work before my 12:30 surgery time. Carita and I left the house at 7:15. When we got to Skipton, Route 50 was closed in both directions due to an accident near the Wye Mills Route 662. We detoured past Fike’s Orchard with only a 15 minute delay in the overall plan.

When we had just turned onto Route 2 Ritchie Hwy, my phone rang. It was Angelica (mission control) from Kernan. She said the patient scheduled before me drank coffee this morning and they had to give him my time slot; could I come in early for my operation. I told her we’d be there in half an hour, but was she aware that I still needed my pre-op exams? She said fine, she’d handle it.

We rolled into Kernan at 9:08, Carita gave me my last pre-op remedy, and we marched into the hospital like brave soldiers. Theodosia checked us in, asking Carita more questions than me because our health insurance is in her name. We never waited more than 30 seconds for anything all day long. I was immediately admitted by Nurse Gabriel from Trinidad. She passed me off to sweet Lois who prepped me and gave me my first IV. Unfortunately, the first IV didn’t take and another nurse, whose husband had recently fished out of Tilghman Island, got me connected and fired up with the IV.
Then Brian Duggan, the chief resident, whom I met last week came to give me my physical. He looked hurried, and he was. My exam consisted of a stethoscope on my back in two places, two breaths, stethoscope on my chest, one breath; he asked me if I smoked or drank (I told him i have 2 beers on Wednesday nights), and that was IT! I asked, "no EKG? No blood work?" and he threw a hand at me and said, "awe, you're healthy enough". So, i'm really glad i didn't go throw all the convulsions of trying to get my pre-testing done here in Easton beforehand.

Next came my anesthesiologist, Dr. Banks who was a young woman that knew all about what my anesthesiologist/friend, Ona, had told me to ask about. Ona is on my swim team, along with another anesthesiologist, John Mulfur. I asked Dr. Banks if she was the best, and she said she was. She gave me a light dose id of sediative that felt like a couple of drinks. I remember saying, “there’s one vodka tonic…” then a few moments later I slurred, “There’sssssh two vodka tonicssssshsss”. I remember a few moments after that, then the next thing I knew, nurse Gena was waking me up after my surgery.
Me showing the Iceman blanket. The tubes hook up to hoses and tank of ice water for cooling the shoulder. It's very COOL!

Dr. Murthi came in to tell me my rotator cuff looked fine and that i did not need any repair there. He did the decompression and some clean up of some arthiritus on my AC joint. I was a little groggy, so I don't remember much more. He was rushing off to do another surgery and told me he'd see me on Tuesday. Carita was soon sent in to me, they got me dressed, gave her some instructions, and sent us on our way. My left arm felt like a piece of rubber. I had absolutely no feeling in it at all. They had given me a nerve block. My left hand felt hot to touch, but the only sensation I had in the arm itself was that it was cold.

At home we settled in with the Iceman cool water circulation system for my shoulder. It is like an in-floor-heating/cooling unit for the shoulder (see photo above). The girls arrived home from their first hockey game (victorious) and my parents gave us a visit as well. Green fish curry (yumm) was my first meal followed by fresh apple pie that the girls made from the apples in our yard. Life is good.

I am home, up, and about this morning; been to Farmer’s Market St. Michaels, and now am going to the museum for the boat auction. We'll see what report I can bring after Tuesday's visit with the doctor. ~

Thanks to all the well wishes and prayers. They worked….

It is now Sunday at noon-thirty. Before and after surgery Carita had prepared homeopathic remedies for me to take: Arnica for pain, Hypericum for nerve pain and healing, and Calengula for general healing. I have been taking these since Thursday. I only took 4 prescribed pain pills since the operation, the last being taken 31 hours ago. There is something to homeopathy, and though i dont' have a complete understanding of it, i am a believer. I don't expect to take any more narcotics during my recovery. I am taking an anti-imflamatory twice a day, however. The doctors and nurses said i would need the pain pills for ten days; i took them for 12 hours.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Surgery on September 4th

Life doesn't always agree with the plans we make for ourselves, like in this photo of our capsize in the Chester River in July. Our foresheet tender, Carl (in blue), Boardman Bucky, and I are making the best of the circumstances given to us that day. Here, we have removed the sails, masts, boards, spreets, and debris from the capsized log canoe, Island Lark. We are about ready to start bailing. Photo by Tim Schreitmueller

Yesterday marked five months since I injured my left shoulder while swimming which resulted in Suprascapular Nerve Palsy. For five months I have not had the ability to rotate my left arm out from my center while keeping the elbow at my side. More than that, the weakness in the arm makes it hard to do simple things like comb my hair or raise a cup to drink. There is no strength in outward rotations. To most, the compromise is not noticeable. Upon closer look there are two "dents" on my left shoulder blade marking where severe athrophy has occurred to the infra and suprastinatus muscles. Despite this condition certain movements involved in activities like swimming, throwing the front board on Lark, and skippering Seabiscuit, can be accomplished without much notice of disfunction.
Treatment for this rare condition is to first wait and see if the nerve comes back on its own. We've waited....for five months. Next is to have a look surgically. If a muscle is not signaled within a year, it is unlikely that it will ever return to function. I am scheduled for surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center/Orthopedics at Kernan in Baltimore on this Friday, the day after tomorrow. I’ve only known of the surgery date for a little over 48 hours. The plan is to go into my left shoulder orthoscopically, have a look, decompress the Suprascapular nerve, and possibly repair a rotator cuff tear and remove some arthritis. The recovery time increases with each additional challenge the surgeon encounters in my shoulder. Let’s hope that only the decompression is needed. If successful, I should immediately notice improvement of function. Over an additional period of time, the muscle strength should come back, as well,...I pray.

In the short term, I am most concerned with how life will be post surgery: will I have improved movement and control? Will I be in pain? How long until I will be able to return to the activities that I love? How will this impact my family? My life?

I am not going the route of over-thinking what “might” happen. I’ve made the decision. Dr. Murthi has a great reputation as one of the best in his field. It will surely be different to be restricted as to what I can do in the days, maybe weeks, following this surgery.

I sailed/raced tonight. I biked yesterday with Jon Rice. I ran on trails with friends on Sunday (got poison ivy). I swam yesterday, too. When will I be able to return to these activities? The door will open up to different choices in the near future. Bring it on. In the meantime, everyone, continue to love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate life. I plan on doing a lot of appreciating in the upcoming weeks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Phinn on the Trails

Phinn and the girls sharing some smiles

My family and some friends were fortunate enough to hit the White Mountains again this year for a few days of hiking and relaxing. Most exciting was our opportunity to introduce Phinn, our Black Labrador Retriever, to the trails. The Whites have a fair policy for dogs: at all times you must keep them under control with the use of a leash or verbal commands. Phinn does a great job with his commands given to him. After our first hour on the trail with nine of us, he was able to be let off the leash as he stayed on an easy “heel” just aft of my left side. We hiked six miles the first day in rain and sunshine.
The White Mountain crew before our hike toward Zealand Falls Hut

We stayed at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s flagship lodge, the Highland Center, in Carter Notch. I highly recommend to everyone, regardless of age, to stay there for a night to experience life at an ecologically designed facility in a beautiful mountain setting. It is an awesome place for kids of all ages. There are trailheads right out the door for hikes of all intensities. The Appalachian Trail (AT) goes right through the yard.
Phinn on Mt. Willard

On the second day, Phinn and I took off before breakfast and climbed to the nearby Mt. Willard summit. At the top are a series of large smooth boulders where Phinn and I did some yoga and stretching. The view was beautiful as we watched the sun creep up the sides of mountains. Mt. Willard boasts the greatest views for the least climbing effort in the Whites.

On the way down, with only a light backpack, we were able to run. Half way down we came across an elderly couple hiking up the trail. Phinn broke his “heel” and greeted the lady by stealing her walking stick. She had no choice but to let him have it. He promptly brought me the stick and dropped it at my feet. The couple was amused, thank goodness.
Top: Phinn enjoying the cold Maine waters. Above: Phinn on the Monhegan mailboat, Laura B.

Later, on our vacation in Maine, Phinn joined us on our jaunt to Monhegan Island aboard the early morning Mail Boat out of Port Clyde. He swam in the North Atlantic that day, climbed rocks, and ran the many trails (17 miles worth on the island), with the five teenagers in our group.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Summer Sailing Bye

Island Lark preparing for raising sails on the Miles River, Saturday, July 25, 2009. Photo by Nick Roper

It’s been over a month since the last post here on Runners On Trails, and a lot has happened since: Seabiscuit hit the water, 4 log canoe regattas have been sailed, 360 miles have been ridden, swimming has had a break, and running three days a week has become the norm. The people involved in these activities are my friends; both new and old.

It seems all the “Bieb” and I talked about during this past year was the return to the fun we had last summer in riding our bikes to the St. Michaels Pool on summer mornings for a swim. We did this a few times early on in June. We were met by the same folks there that also awaited our return; the lady-swim-walkers, the teenage lifeguard girls, and the other lap swimmers. Bieb decided to take a break from training to recover from the huge effort he put in to running Eagleman in mid June. After talking to another doctor about my shoulder, I decided to give it some rest, too, and put a hold on swimming for a while. I see the shoulder doctor tomorrow morning, and I hope to return to swimming soon. I miss it.

I was determined to get the star-boat, Seabiscuit, to the club by the Fourth of July. It had not seen the water in 21 months. We actually sailed Seabiscuit on the 3rd to the annual raspberry picking site. My daughters, Cole, and I sailed in 15 knots of air on a glorious afternoon and returned with over a gallon of ripe red raspberries. We ate them with cake while watching the St. Michaels fireworks. How good is that?
Seabiscuit in her first lead of the season with Taylor by the mast. Photo by Andrew Parish

I’ve since raced Seabiscuit in two Wednesday night races, taking a 5th and a 2nd. In our first race, Taylor Penwell and I nailed the first lap of two, leading the fleet easily. However, my rusty sailing-principle memory tripped me up and we lost the lead and got swallowed by the fleet. The second race with crew Bill Cox moved us in a better position by starting out mediocre and improving our position through out the course. Too bad we didn’t have another leg.
Corey, Lark's mainsheet tender and daughter of the skipper having a ceremonial drink of champagne from the 1925 Govenor's Cup. Photo by Nick Roper

But the real sailing excitement has come with the log canoes. Like a well oiled machine, the Lark crew assembled the rig and hit the first weekend with a bang, winning the first race by a mile. We’ve now sailed 12 races at three different venues tallying 5 firsts, 6 seconds, and a capsize. Our capsize in the Chester River was violent in heavy air. The recovery was tough, too, in the rough conditions. It took several bailing attempts to get her back. We also “turtled” Lark for the first time in 24 years. Other racers who saw us said Larks’ centerboard looked like a giant shark fin (7 feet tall) sticking up in the air. We’ve won some important races including from this past weekend: The Sidney Covington Trophy, the Oliver Duke Memorial Trophy, and the Governor’s Cup.
Victor's son, Terry, one of our best boardmen on Lark, tips the Governor's Cup so Wood Frog can have a sip. Photo by Bowie Rose

It is hard not to recognize the fortunate situation we have on Lark with the crew. The bulk of our crew has been together for 15 years. The core of the crew has been together for 30. The newest crew members have grown up with the Lark, for they are our children. We sailed with six Lark offspring this past weekend. The regular crew helps to keep Lark competitive.
Victor in all his spendor, about to hug a crew member from Oliver's Gift. Pink "Brougham" in the background complete with palm tree. Photo by Nick Roper

Lark’s success reaches beyond who sails during the races. Our chase-boat crew is awesome. Victor, Tad and Ebby’s brother, uses his boat as Lark’s tender, towing us to and from the races and picking up the pieces (literally) when we crash and burn like we did on the Chester. Victor is, well,…interesting. He’s one hell of a nice guy, but a little difficult to label (see photo). Brougham, Victor’s boat, has evolved over the years. First there was a couch on the roof, then a living room, phone, exercise machine, palm tree, and the latest is a pink paint job. The chase-boat crew, especially, Judi, help in many ways from insuring we know the correct course to feeding us with brownies.
Island Lark skipper, Tad duPont, behind some of the prizes won over the weekend. Photo by Bowie Rose

This past month I have had privilege to bike with some new friends. Roy and I had an awesome 40 mile ride on the Fourth of July, hitting some new terrain for both of us in and around the Leeds Creek area. Roy is an awesome guy, a quick triathlete, and has a beautiful family. Later the same day we took his son, Sam, on Seabiscuit for a fast sail up the Miles River. The ego lap in St. Michaels harbor was cool too, especially, the tack in front of the Crab Claw. Roy gets to ride in Central Park during the week, and recently busted some ribs in a wreck there when a lady stepped into his path. Heal well, Roy!

Tim is an artist and was visiting locally for the recent Plein Air Competition. I borrowed a bike from Dominic for Tim to use (thanks, Dom!!). Last Friday afternoon we went for a ride to Tilghman. This was an introductory road-bike ride for Tim. He is recovering from knee surgery after a lacrosse injury last year. This guy is so pumped to be a triathlete. He’s already an athlete; lacrosse and mountain biking. He’ll make the transition into triathlete easily. Tim took first place in 3 categories at this year’s Plein Air, and sold all of his paintings for the week. Congratulations, Tim!! I look forward to our next ride.
Tim Bell's "End of the Day" painting from 2008. Photo from McBride Gallery

Though I am still contemplating knee surgery this September, I am managing 3 runs a week, two of which are with Katherine. She is training for the Rehoboth Beach Marathon in November, and I guess, I am too since two of my runs each week are with her. It is amazing to see Katherine’s speed increase. In our most recent run on Tuesday (see RUR blog) we ran with Mike, Shaun, and Andrew until we met up with Joel in San Domingo Creek. During Katherine’s fast intervals, I had a hard time keeping up with her. She was once a 5 minute miler. Hmm…

Rise Up Runners Andrew, Michael, Kat, Shaun, and Wood Frog on the St. Michaels San Domingo Wharf this past Tuesday morning. Photo by self timed MjK

There is so much to look forward to: New Hampshire and the White Mountains, The Samoset 10K in Bristol, Maine, lots of biking, an occasional Wednesday night race on Seabiscuit, and 3 more weekends of log canoeing with my buddies on the Lark. I am deeply appreciative of the many people in my life that make all these adventures meaningful and fun.

Friday I turn 45 and will be spending the weekend on the vintage racing yacht, Windalier, with my daughter Eleanora, our good friend Cole, our new friends the Bench’s (their boat), and Windalier’s crew as we race Friday night and into Saturday seventy miles down the Bay to St. Mary’s City in the Governor’s Cup Race. It has been 10 years since I last raced this race aboard my brother-in-law’s boat, Restless. I am happy to have this opportunity to share this adventure with Eleanora. St. Mary’s holds many great memories for me with the Restless and Nicole crews over the years. It’s historical significance, geography, and festive atmosphere strikes at every heart that sails ashore.

Sail, swim, ride, run, and appreciate ~

Monday, June 22, 2009

Assateague Assault

Wild horses gather on the beach at Assateague Island National Seashore.Photo Credit: Courtesy of the National Park Service

Yesterday’s triathlon on Assateague Island was the last on my agenda for the spring, and has brought me pause to reflect on this spring as a challenging, yet, rewarding string of weeks. Speckled with injury, personal bests, disappointment, and some hardware, this racing season has been fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Speaking of fun, how about running from the beach at full tilt with a hundred contemporaries into the surf? Us “old” guys (40+) had the third wave start at Assateague’s second annual triathlon. The course was set from the south with turning marks ½ mile (ha!) apart, set 200 yards off the beach. There were 2 intermediate marks that could be taken on either side of the course. The current or riptide was variable and confused; seas were calm, and wind cranking at 15 from the shore, which put the swimmers in the lee, a favorable state. As our start time approached clouds covered the morning sunshine; it was 7:30.

The day started for me at 3:10 when both my alarms went off within seconds of each other. I was in the truck loaded with gear and a fresh bowl of oatmeal and orange juice by 3:40. Corey Duncan and I met at the YMCA at 4:05 and were on the road by 4:10. Corey has an intense truck; diesel, extended cab, with a five-bike rack on the hitch. We gaggled like a couple of old hens during the whole ride to Assateague. It was great to get to know Corey better and to find out the common threads we have in Talbot County life. It was even better to have a buddy to prepare for the race; we picked up our packets, got body marked (my lady must have had a new marker because my numbers have yet to fade), set up transition, went for a warm-up 6 mile ride, and walked the beach to the starting line together. Corey was in the first wave. I was 10 minutes later in the 3rd wave. Once Corey’s U40 wave started I never saw him again until we were on the bikes and he was coming out of a neighborhood when I was going in.

I had a sweet start, positioning myself in the center, next to Stuart Horsey, and in front of the 75 guys in my wave. When the horn went off I bolted for the water, leaped over the first breaker and dove into the sea and started my thing. After a couple of strokes I took a peak and no one was on either side of my peripheral; was I in first place? On the second look I saw the buoy over to my far left; I was heading to Africa while the pack was swimming to the first buoy. I must have gotten disoriented in the seas. I took a hard left and found myself in the first dozen guys to round the mark.

Just like in sailing, I went off by myself and stayed left as we swam north to the finish. I kept a good line and even swam inside the last intermediate buoy. We had green caps. The women ahead of us had pink caps, and Corey’s wave had light-blue caps. I could see all colors on my right side, and that made me feel good about my swim. I over took another woman at the turn for the finish. We took a hard left and swam toward shore. The first breaker rolled over us and we felt the “suck” of the sea as it stopped our forward progress. After more strokes I noticed a few folks had stood up and were in chest high water. That’s when the second roller hit us. I, luckily, remembered that this was fun, and as the curling wave hit me, I did my body surfing-thing and rode the wave 200 feet into shore; it was perfect. I must have passed 8 swimmers with that maneuver.

Transition was quick and I hit the bike with a vengeance. I’ve learned that in a sprint distance triathlon I can go as hard on the bike as I possibly can and still have legs to run. I averaged 22.4 mph on a 14 mile ride that had a 10-15 mph headwind for the first half of the ride. Coming off the Verrazano Bridge on the return to Assateague I hit 32 mph with a tail wind. My ride was the 25th fastest of the 307 bikers. I passed many bikers and got passed by no one.

I felt out of breath going into the run; transition always takes it out of me. I settled into a good pace; a fast pace, I thought, and soon was passed by the only man to pass me all day. He and I had been battling on the bike; I won on the bike, he won in the run. He clearly was a runner, out pacing me with ease. I passed a few in my age group near the end as I was able to pick up the pace. The run course took us throught he camp grounds and around several ponies that were on the path. One pony got startled by a kid on a bike and reared up on its hind legs right in front of me. I had to jump off the path to avoid ending my day badly. Near the finish I overtook another in my age group and was able to keep him at baye through the finish.

After finishing I soon met up with Corey, who finished minutes ahead of me, and with Lee Babcock, the guy who passed me. Lee won the 40-44 year old age group. However, even though I am still 44 but will turn 45 this year, I was placed in the 45-49 age group bracket. I would have gotten 3rd in Lee’s group, but ended up 6th in mine. What a bummer. I always seem to be in a very competitive age group. To make matters worse, Lee was sure he had won his age group, and equally sure that I had won mine. So, my hopes were really high as we walked over to the score board. Those hopes were dashed and I came away not feeling good about the race. It has taken me to this morning to see clearly how well I did do.

After analyzing the results I’ve come to the conclusion that both the swim and run courses were longer than measured. And, my wave and the wave behind us may have encountered more fowl currents than the first two waves. The fastest swim time for the entire race was 14:32, which for a half mile swim is SLOW (should be down close to 11 minutes). Only 5 people broke 15 minutes in the swim. My swim time was 18:19; not a good half mile time, but a good one for the course yesterday. I was 12th in my wave. There were people in the wave behind me that I know should have beaten me, and they didn’t. There were swimmers in my wave that I thought should have had the best swim times and they didn’t. This gives me the theory that fowl current intensified for the later starting waves (there were only 4 waves). That’s ocean swimming. It was a fun swim. And, Bieb, I never once thought about sharks!

Yesterday’s fastest run time was 19:25, a 6:05 pace, which is SLOW! I, usually, run a sub 7 minute pace at these distances, not a 7:27 pace, which is much slower than the pace I was pulling yesterday. Supposedly the course was 3.2 miles, but, given these results I would say it was much longer. From looking at the first runner’s physique and stride (we passed each other when I was starting the run; he was finishing), I would say that guy could easily have been pushing a sub 5:45 pace. So, after studying these results closer I feel much better about yesterday’s performance.

Corey had a good race, as well, despite his hamstring issue, finishing in the upper 18% of the competitors. He was also 5th in his age group, earning him some press in the results (see MALE AGE GROUP: 35 – 39).

We stretched and ate, did a little socializing, then hit the road back to Easton. I met up with my family and we had a Father’s Day brunch at a local restaurant. Then I did what any father would want to do on Father’s Day…take a nap.

Log Canoe Racing starts next weekend, and Lark expects to be out to defend her title from last year. Love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate ~

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Success at Eagleman

Dan, Mike, Charlie, and I enjoying a post Eagleman meal. The day started off cloudy and cool and ended with breezy bright sunshine.

This year it is not difficult to pinpoint the success that Eagleman brought, not just to me, but to three of my friends who got the chance to participate this year because of varying degrees of my influence. The first is Dan, who signed on to Eagleman Half Ironman when registration opened last July. I remember convincing him that he could easily finish within the time limits, and how awesome it is to have this event in our own backyard. The second is Charlie, whom I asked to do the swim portion of EM as part of our Team Talbot Dudes. And, third, but not last, is Valliant, who made our TTD complete by manning the running leg. As the four of us were sitting in the shade after EM eating buffet recovery fuel, each of these "first time Eagleman dudes" was talking about next year’s Eagleman; how awesome is that?

Dan has a stunning write-up of his experience that I hope to link here for you to read. One of the lessons learned from doing these types of races is that one must be willing and comfortable with adjusting his goals; sometimes that means on the fly. Dan shows us how well it can be done. He nailed the swim (his most challenging leg) and bike, but encountered a similar situation as I did in the run last year…tough going. Still, Dan finished with style in a little more than six hours. He’s already set his time goal for next year and is ready to write the check for Eagleman 2010.
Charlie and others in his wave preparing to hit the water. The first turning mark (of 4) looms in the background as does the Hambrooks Boathouse.

Charlie just graduated from high school and has enjoyed training for this event. He said, disappointedly, that he didn’t have any swimming goals now that EM was over. Eagleman holds a lot of weight for folks like us. It’s the biggest event in our area, bringing top notch professional and amateur athletes to a venue that is watched by the world. Now, at age 18 Charlie already has an Ironman event under his belt. Though he is on the summer swim team, the excitement that is Eagleman will loom large in his mind (mine too) for a long time, making anything less seem unimportant, initially. But, Charlie is a fine young man and he will give his best toward all endeavors he has in the future. At his age I wasn’t good enough at any of these disciplines to consider entering an event like EM. Charlie nailed the swim at 36:40 despite having major difficulties with his goggles fogging and not being able to see. His enthusiasm during the past month has been welcome by me; it has helped me know that I made the right decision to go relay.

Jena (closest woman), who is a fellow TCS teammate, and Charlie (without a cap) eye up the 1.2 mile Eagleman swim course.

My goal was to have nothing in the bank when I returned to transition after 56 miles. Goal accomplished! There was no way I could have continued with a run after my ride; at least not without a half hour break. I sprinted on the bike for 35 miles, averaging over 22mph and hitting 25-27’s several times. That was cool, and I’m glad for doing that well for so long; it’s all part of learning limits, learning the bike, and pushing my body, mind, and spirit. But, then my legs died. They no longer had that extra punch to be able to lift my butt off the seat and push in a sprint. Nor did they have the power to pull back and lift on the second stroke. Add to that a wicked head wind, and I felt my average speed drop considerably. I suffered through the next 15 miles, but gained a second wind for the remaining six miles and finished strong. Ultimate goal was to try for 2:30. Lower goal was 2:45. My time was 2:42:44; I’ll take it. My time was second best in our division and fourth best in all the relays.

TEAM TALBOT DUDES, complete with finishing medals, pose for event day photo. We did not know the results at time of the photo.

I approached the relay transition area from an unexpected direction (yes, I got lost) after the bike ride. Valliant was standing there among the throngs of triathletes looking distantly in the proper direction. I was half running, half lying on the bike heading toward his right side. He could hear me calling his name, “VALLIANT!!” but he couldn’t see me. It was almost comical. As I staggered into him, we switched the timing chip, and at the last moment he remembered the bib. Off he went on his half marathon run. It was a hot windy run. I remember a time when breaking 2 hours in a half-marathon run was a big deal. Mike did a stellar job in Sunday’s conditions and finished with a time of 1:54:39, well under the predicted two hours. Mike instituted a policy years ago when we started running that we hydrate every 15 minutes. It’s a policy that I adhere to consistently. While he was restocking at the last aid station, he got passed by our competition for second place. Team Talbot Dudes won third place in the all male division relay teams and came away with three eagle heads; one for each of us. We missed 2nd place by 27 seconds. Where could we have shortened our time by 27 seconds? That could have been my water bottle malfunction at mile 20. Or, my running off the road at mile 51. Or, the damn slow triathletes in and out of transition; the people were walking…HELLO, PEOPLE, WE’RE IN A RACE HERE!! So much fun all this. I can’t wait until next year.

Ellie and Varszhan having a moment while waiting for me to exit transition on the bike. I did see them when I left, despite all the traffic.

Both my daughters and our friends volunteered for the event. Ellie and Liv helped stuff packets on Wednesday night, then returned early on race morning with our friends Varszhn, Becky, and Patrick. The five of them manned the Sandy Hill Elementary School aid station for the run. I think they had a wonderful experience.
Sandy Hill Elementary cup pile.

Eagleman has become nearly a weeklong event for me. Starting with packet-stuffing on Wednesday night, packet pick-up and expo Friday night, bike racking Saturday night, Sunday’s race, and the volunteer dinner Thursday night, it is over a week. Saturday, however, turned into an epic event for me:

I’ve decided that I’m a show-off. Last year when I went down for bike-racking on Saturday afternoon of Eagleman weekend, I was mesmerized by the few participants who were swimming the entire course...a day before the race! A half mile off shore, while a thousand people watched, you saw an occasional elbow lift into the air, then you'd catch the color of a swim cap glisten in the sunshine as the late afternoon sun was setting. It was beautiful, it was free, it was awesome and daring.

You could say that it was a premeditated swim, but I really did not know I was going to swim the whole course; and certainly not by myself. After helping Dan rack his bike in the transition area, I stripped down to my swim suit. Dan and his wife Cindy walked with me over to the beach at the beginning of the swim course. I bade them farewell and entered the water. There were four turning marks for the five leg course of the 1.2 mile swim. Each leg had intermediate buoys to help guide the swimmer along. There were a few athletes in the water swimming the first leg; most had wetsuits on. I went "pure" with my red suit (easy to spot if I got into trouble) and red swim cap from last year's Eagleman. The water was warm upon entry, but, I immediately got stung by sea nettles on my left arm and front of body. I was used to getting stung from the early morning swim in Oxford the day before. So, I said, the hell with it and kept going. When I got to the first turning mark I was alone and never saw another swimmer for the rest of the swim. It was my duty, therefore, to provide that stimulation for the on-shore onlookers. It was my elbow glistening in the sunshine as it raised high in a gentle rhythm far out from shore. It was me "alone" disturbing the shimmering water in the late afternoon low light. And, hopefully, it was me, the lone swimmer on the course, who may have inspired another (like others did for me) to step out of one's self and do something beautiful and daring.

I appreciate the many hours of instruction in form-technique the Galans have taught me over the last few months. I, literally, remembered every item at some point during that swim, and would immediately incorporate each into action for a time. There is beauty in open water swimming (OWS); there are no interruptions, no walls to break rhythm. That swim will go down as my favorite swim of all time. I felt confident in my form (though I know there is still a long way to go). It was warm, I was comfortable being alone, I felt strong and healthy, again, and I had all the time in the world for that swim. I felt it gave my body a great warm-up for Sunday’s bike race.

On Father’s Day I will slip out of Wittman at 4am and head to Assateague for the Assault Sprint Triathlon. It is an ocean swim from the beach; I’m so excited! Happy Summer and Father’s Day everyone ~ love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate every moment.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Return

Some crazy lunatic finishing the Chestertown Tea Party Classic 10 Miler in under 1:20. Photo by

In the June issue of Outside Magazine is an article in the Bodywork section that talks about the connection between pain and depression in athletes. “Psychologists use a tool called a Profile of Mood States to monitor injured athletes. This is a graph evaluating tension, depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, and confusion.” This theory may explain much of what has been going on with me these past two months since the tendonitis in my shoulder deemed me an injured athlete. As many of you know our moods are sensitive animals. An injury which restricts our activities makes us “bears” to live with.

I haven’t been right lately, in my head. But, let’s just say it hasn’t taken much to make me feel down in the dumps; I’ve been very sensitive (more than usual for those who know me). I know it has been connected with my injury, but, boy, it has been tough. There have been a number of individuals who have been helping me get back on track: an orthopedic doctor, a homeopath, a neuro-muscular therapist, an acupuncturist, many physical therapists, and a father/daughter swim coach team. To their credit I am on the mend in all areas of my life, and there are successes to prove it.

How has this manifested; how about a 10 mile PR, a triathlon victory, and an upper 10% finish in a large sprint triathlon. I am pumped. Saturday, was the 7th annual Pocomoke Triathlon, a sprint race with distances consisting of 0.5 mile swim, 14.3 mile bike, and a 3.5 mile run. The weather was perfect: no wind, 79 degrees, and clear sunshine. I rocked the triathlon, or so I thought. I did end up 23rd overall and 5th in my age group out of 300 total competitors. I did a total reversal of my strengths. Though I ran sub 6.5 minute miles in the run, the run was my weakest portion of the triathlon. I was thrilled to have my bike be my strongest event, averaging over 22 mph. The half mile pond swim took me less than ten and half minutes and I was the 30th fastest of the 300 swimmers; that really made me feel good; and my shoulder.

A long time triathlete and childhood friend, David Judd, won our age group. David has amazing speed in all events. He has me looking to where I could reduce my performance on Saturday by seven minutes to be more competitive with him. I told him that I never thought I’d ever be doing triathlons, much less try to compete against him. But, there I was running the last portion when I saw the leaders doubling back on the run. Somewhere in 6th or 7th place was a “kid” I recognized from childhood running in the same wild, loping strides, with head down, that I remember so well from tackle football in Jon Fox’s backyard; it was David Judd. It was great to catch up with David and we talked about future competitions and possible adventures together.

The Rise Up Runner crew had a great showing at the Chestertown Tea Party 10 Miler, where many racked up prizes for the RUR team. Dominic, Brennan, and Katherine walked away with trophies. After my third attempt I finally broke the 1:20 mark with a 1:19.52. Valliant, Joel, Shaun, and Mike B racked up PR’s or close to it. It was an awesome morning that continued through the afternoon as Kat, Rob, and I spent the better part of the afternoon mingling in the crowds at the tea party.

On the next day “the Bieb” and I ventured to Horn Point for a practice sprint triathlon. It was there that Dan showed me what it is like to race on bikes. He buzzed by me in my 2nd mile and I gave chase the rest of the course on him. He showed me that I could sustain a higher speed than I though maintainable. I attribute that ride to my success in Pocomoke. Dan didn’t do the run portion of the Horn Point triathlon, which gave me only a few targets to pass during the bike and run. I went on to cross the finish line first, though no one was keeping time. Dan is ready to rock Eagleman on his new bike. He has done the homework, put in the hours, and is ready to pounce onto the Ironman circuit. Go Bieb!

I’m looking forward to the Assateague Assault Tri on Father’s Day; an ocean swim, wow! Meanwhile, Eagleman is in 10 days and I have to be ready for my cycle portion of our Team Talbot Dudes relay team ( more on the relay team later)

My injured shoulder has brought many good things and good people to my life. There is a silver lining to every cloud. Kicking in the pool for the Galan’s has given me endurance to excel in my biking and running. And, now that I am swimming again, a whole new world of possibilities is shaping up. Love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate what life throws at you ~ M

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Triple Crown and a Century

The Rise Up Runners crew for the Trail Dawgs Triple Crown Races in Delaware, April 25, 2009

Great things have been happening for me in my “active-life” despite my shoulder injury. Last Saturday I won first place in the Trail Dawgs Triple Crown in my age division. And, yesterday, I completed my first century ride on the bike. Today was the Nanticoke River Triathlon, which I was supposed to be in. Unfortunately, I still am unable to swim. Fortunately, I joined with Joel and “coached” him to his first Tri-experience at Nanticoke. It was a fun day.

First, here’s an update on my shoulder. I am getting some mobility and strength back in my left arm. I’m doing physical therapy. I hope to be able to start swimming again on the first of June. The big question is, “will I be able to swim

Last Saturday started off rocky. I burnt my oatmeal at 4am, then had to leave the unburnt portion in my car as I abandoned Julius on the side of St. Michaels Road. Because a serious accident shut down St. Michaels Road for 3 hours, I had to hike out of the Bloomfield area and get picked up at Doncaster by my
RUR gang.

Once to the race in Delaware Joel, Michael, and Shaun ran the half marathon, while Lori and I attempted the Triple Crown which consists of the half, a 10K, and a 5K. Shaun ran his longest distance ever; and in good time. Joel, Michael, Shaun, and I were all in the upper quarter of the 200-plus finishers. Lori won her age group for the triple. Both Liz and Robin arrived later and completed the 10K.
Me struggling to the finish of the second leg (10K) of the Triple Crown. Whew, I was tired!

Though I had a 35 minute rest after the half, I still managed to miss the start of the 10K because I was sitting behind the car relaxing. There was not another 10K runner is sight when I started. I had to feel my way into the woods where I came across a few runners, then the game was on. I caught up to Robin first, then Lori, then Liz. It was a tough run because I went at the half too fast; I was beat already. Near the end of our run we passed the 5K runners coming from the other direction, who had been wrongly started 15 minutes early. Lori and I were supposed to be in THAT 5k start. Ugg. Despite all that Lori and I placed; hooray!

Running the trails in White Clay State Park is so much fun. There is a major creek crossing at knee height, as well as, hills, wooded single track, unmaintained wooded single track, pasture trails, and more hills. All five of us got some degree of poison ivy on our left legs (potent little branch). I wonder if all 200 half marathon runners got PI?
Part of the century course of the Six Pillars Ride had us traversing the Transquaking River Bridge near Bespitch, Maryland. This bridge was only wide enough for one narrow automobile. The heads of the nails in the wooden planking were sitting up an inch. Photo from James T McArdle's photo stream.

Character Counts of Talbot County ran their inaugural
Six Pillars Ride in Dorchester County yesterday. Under mostly cloudy and drizzly skies riders biked a 10, 30, 56, or 100 mile course. The century course took riders through Blackwater, Bespitch, and Elliots Island. It was an awesome course with very little traffic. The 50-mile-mark dog attack was scary for me. I actually had to come to a complete stop and was caught with my right foot clipped in as fell to the right. Luckily a mailbox broke my fall as a huge boxer-like dog and his 3 cohorts kept me hostage until the owner waddled out to the road to get the situation under hand. I said, “Is it safe?” and he said, “Huh?” I said, “Is it safe to go, now?” “I guess so?” This ride was a great confidence builder for the Vermont 200 ride Landy and I are doing in June.

Many of my friends participated today in the 3 mile swim and triathlon in Bivalve. You may remember my write-up last year of this race, as it was
my very first triathlon. Though cloudy and cool, this year’s experience was wonderful for all, except maybe Dan who did not like getting beat up in the swimming frenzy. I think he felt violated. Ha-ha. Dan totally rocked this tri with a time under 1:20. Joel did his first Tri with great speed, too, even though he had the world’s longest transition, lol. Joel’s favorite part of the event was when he passed thirty people on the run (you make us runners very proud, ddp). I was happy to be there taking pictures, helping with the event, and supporting my friends. This second running of the Nanticoke River Swim and Triathlon was highly successful.

That’s pretty much the nuts and bolts of what’s been happening in my “active” world lately. I will continue to heal my shoulder in the hopes to be back in the water swimming soon. In the meantime I hope everyone loves, swims, rides, runs, and appreciates all that is good in life ~ Michael

Monday, April 20, 2009

Joelful Morning

Adkins Arboretum vistor center; the sight of the Arbor Day 5K start and finish line.

Saturday was like another world. It was a gorgeous windless day with temperatures in the seventies. It started out by meeting up with Joel in Easton. We rode our bikes out to the little town of Queen Anne. The morning could not have been more beautiful. That end of the Talbot County is like another world; farm land, train tracks, wide open fields, narrow creeks/streams, and small rolling hills.

Joel was having a blast on the down hills. There is a really cool way to get to Queen Anne and Hillsboro (which is on the way to Tuckahoe) via back country roads; beautiful roads and scenery. We discussed a future plan of riding out to Tuckahoe on the bikes, swimming in the Lake, running the trails, and returning to Easton on bikes. As we were checking out the village of hundred plus year old houses, Joel said that it would be cool to get a group of us together and buy some houses there; have our own little commune of runners and triathletes. Unfortunately, he didn’t have more time than to ride to Queen Anne and back. We said our good byes to each other with a shaky hand slap on QA’s Main Street.

I ventured on to Adkins Arboretum to participate in their Arbor Day 5K. I was amazed by the number of cars in the parking lots when I rode up on my bike. There were 70+ runners ready to go. With the bike leaning on a tree, I quickly changed into a dry running shirt (Valliant appreciates my wardrobe changes between races), threw my $20 at the lady at the desk and got in line to run the race with bib number 185.

There was a correction to last year’s course to make this year’s an official 5k distance. I was nervous about the competition. Not so, because of Noah Wood, who wins most every race he enters, but for all the other runner-looking-types that I did not know. When the gun went off the crowd lurched forward. A boy took off so hard that I knew for sure I’d see him again soon, and I did. He lasted about 40 seconds before he started walking. He did win his age group. I didn’t start in the front, but by the time we were in the field only Noah was ahead of me.

The course was dry and well marked. I kept looking over my shoulder to see who was coming up behind, but there wasn’t anyone gaining on me. I pushed on anyhow, because at last year’s race I got passed in the 3rd mile. We did a double loop back on the course to get the mileage in. I passed a group of ladies I knew from Easton on my second time on the loop. The finish was a welcome sight and I was pleased to hear the timer yell 19:21 when I finished. I was stoked! I went on to be 2nd overall behind Noah and first in my age group.

The folks there at Adkins did a superior job of making the race wonderful in everyway. They really did it well. The post race buffet was fully stocked with bagels, fruit, drinks, cookies, and cupcakes. Winner’s medals were awarded three deep in many age brackets. And, the volunteers were helpful and cheery on the course. Combine great race organization with the beauty of Adkins, and it’s hard to imagine a better venue so close to home.

I truly believe the moderate bike ride to the race warmed up my legs to run, because they felt great. I also feel the bike oxygenated my blood to a level that aided my effort. I’ve experienced that phenomenon while swimming intervals. It was a pretty awesome feeling to be wearing a winner’s medal while hopping on my bike and speeding away back to Easton. Many folks from the race beeped at me when they passed me on the road. Did I say how awesome the weather was? Soon after I left Adkins, in a field were two Bald Eagles standing with two turkey buzzards about 75 feet from the road. The eagles were easily twice the size of the buzzards. Beautiful.

The rest of the day was just as awesome: We drove to DC and watched my niece Ashby and her Georgetown Lacrosse team whoop up on U of Cincinnati. Olivia, Ashby, and I later biked down to the Lincoln Memorial, had milkshakes, and enjoyed Georgetown. Great day. Did I mention how awesome the weather was?

This week we’re looking forward to some lacrosse games for my daughters, a Latin competition for Liv, and the Trail Dawgs Triple Crown Races for my RUR blokes and me. Love, swim, ride, run, and appreciate life ~ WF

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Perspective Through Injury

The Talbot County YMCA Master's Swim Team the "Manta Rays" posing with the Maryland Chidster Swim Series 1st Place Award.

I now have a coaching staff for my swimming. The problem is, though, I can’t swim. Eleven days ago I hurt my shoulder while swimming. Initially, it didn’t seem like a huge deal, but with further stress on my left shoulder later that day while moving stepping stones in my yard, things got worse. So, now, I’ve been to the doctor, had an MRI, been on medication, and have been treating it consistently homeopathically. I don’t want to go into how badly it hurts, but I do want to express what I’ve learned during this down time.

Over the past 3+ years nothing has stopped me from doing some sort of training; running, swimming, or biking. If one or two of them were not an option, there was always the third to do; it’s always been there. With this injury I’ve had to cut out all training in order to get the shoulder to start healing. It’s been tough.

I’m attacking this injury from the angle that it is a blessing. The first blessing is my renewed spirit of compassion. I’ve been so sensitive to what others have said to me with regard to my situation, it’s made me realize how important to have compassion towards others who are injured or are sick. It is so important.

The second blessing is my renewed sense of appreciation for life, abilities, and joys. It is all so fragile, yet, we treat it with such disregard at times. I’d like to keep this new perspective for a long time.

Thirdly, as you all know I have thoroughly enjoyed my swimming and have expanded into Meet competitions with the Master’s Swim team. Through the many times I’ve been at the YMCA for a swim workout, I came to know about the Galan family, a family of swimmers and coaches. Father Galan now coaches his son who is a freshman in college. Daughter Galan, Julia, is in graduate school and coaches individual master swimmers at the Y on the weekends. She, also, attends the swim meets for her swimmers on race days. I came to meet Julia at the Annapolis meet this winter, where she coached me through some of my events. Word got back to me that she wanted to start coaching me on a regular basis. I resisted because I recognized her style being different from what I had experienced through the Masters program. Being on the cusp of the Triathlon season, I feared changing my stroke would not be good at this time. How wrong I was.

This series of events is leading me into being a better trained and prepared athlete. The Galan’s assure me that with their techniques for swimming, I will swim faster with less effort and less strain on my naturally weaker parts of my anatomy…my shoulders. It is just a shame that I had to get injured to come to these realizations.

You see, I have been pulling myself through the water with my upper body. I have not been kicking; not utilizing my powerful legs and core. The Galan’s program builds the “engine”, or propulsion system, which is the core and legs through kicking. Through a rhythm of kicking, rotation, and pulling, I will become an efficient swimmer and not be prone to hurting myself. Though I am not “swimming”, I have in water workouts to do that focus on kicking and core strength.

Our last meet in Pasadena, Maryland was a fabulous meet where I did my personal best in every event. Of course two events were new to me. I was most excited to swim a 35 second 50 meter butterfly. This time last year I had never done the fly. Now I’m on my way to becoming strong in it.

A few posts ago I listed all the events on my agenda for this spring. With my shoulder injured, I have to reassess the list and be realistic. I will have to wait until next year to attend most of them. I hope to be able to do Eagleman, but I’m not sure. We are 2 weeks away from the Trail Dawgs Triple Crown Races. I hope to be able to attend and race. We’ll see. Happy Easter to all! Love, Swim, Bike, Run, and Appreciate Life! ~

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Running Free in the Sun

With Africa's Western Sahara behind it, the sun rises on the Atlantic bringing with it a perfect snorkeling and running day in Hopetown.

Last week simply confirmed for me that I am a warm weather runner. Not that I don’t enjoy running in the cold; there is something very enjoyable about an easy winter’s run on a still, crisp, 25-degree day. However, there is nothing like running out the door into a sunny 80-degree breeze with nothing but a pair of tri-shorts on my ass. Yes, that’s what I got to do all last week while visiting the Bahamas with my family and friends.

I enjoyed multiple runs on the 7-mile long island known as Elbow Cay (pronounce as “key”). It is here that my family has visited for the past 6 years for a week in March. The weather can be somewhat fickle this time of year bringing anything from sun and warmth to gale force winds, rain, and cool temps in the 60’s. We got a taste of everything, but for the most part we had sun and moderate breezes.

My runs took me the length of the island. Our rented house was somewhere in the middle where I’d leave “aid station” supplies for me to hit after the first part of my runs. The terrain on the first 3 miles was mostly on dirt road which drifted by quaint oceanfront Bahamian homes, docks, and lush flowery vegetation. The later 10 miles were mostly on asphalt, except for mile 5 which is on the sand beach at the southern tip of Elbow Cay. I’d run with my iPod at times, and always with a water bottle. One of the luxuries of being away with no agenda was I had time to really stretch my legs and body before and after each run. This, I believe, helped me not to feel any soreness AT ALL in my body after 5 straight days of running 50 miles total.

The Hopetown gang paying a visit on nearby Man O War Cay.

Times with our friends and my family were so much fun. We snorkeled the first two full days we were there. I have sunburn on the lower backs of my legs, just below where my wetsuit stopped. My girls call me a geek with my sock-like sunburn. We each took a night to cook dinner, with the kids making dinner on our third night. It was awesome and here’s the photo to prove it:
The meal of shrimp kabobs prepared by our 13 and 16 year-old chiefs. It was a specail meal for us all.

The reefs are in great condition now with lots of new coral growth and many fish. Hurricanes from 7 years ago did a great deal of damage to the reefs that protect and make-up this region. It has taken this many years to see the replenishment of growth. Shell collecting is one of our favorite pastimes; it’s like treasure hunting.

It was good to spend time with everyone and still have time to stretch, do my T’ai Chi practices, and run. I even discovered songs on my iPod that I didn’t even know I liked.
This is my favorite new "form" taught to me by Dell, my T'ai Chi Teacher. The movement is called "Cloud Hands" and it gives an awesome feeling of energy and strength. On fair-weather mornings I would go to the Church patio which fronts on the ocean and do my practice with the rising sun warming my body.

On our first night in Hopetown we ate at the local waterfront pub, Captain Jacks. There was a guy there with a karaoke set-up. For some reason I was inspired to sing my first time karaoke in front of my family, friends, and total strangers. The four kids got up and gave it a go, as well. I sang four very diverse songs by the likes of All American Rejects, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, and Rob Thomas. I can’t say I was good, but I had fun, and perhaps I am glad I couldn’t hear myself.
The children singing karaoke to "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Loving Spoonful. What fun!

In swimming news, our Talbot County YMCA Swimmers, the Mantarays have won our state championship. So, as we venture to another meet this Saturday, we will have honors bestowed upon us by the powers at be. I hope to swim my first individual Butterfly event, as well as a 200 freestyle and another 100 yard Breaststroke. Then we have April to look forward to.

Love, swim, ride, and run ~ M

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March Madness

Hanging out my window and looking over Wittman Park on the afternoon of March 2nd; madness!

March has been crazy as a March Hare. Between the snow storm of the first and second and the heat wave over the next weekend, it’s been great. It’s a wonderful thing to have activities to enjoy no matter the weather. It’s even more wonderful to have folks who share the same desires.
Joel, me, Mike, and Lori hanging out in Idlewild Park. Shaun and Sampson are taking the photo.

I drove Julius to Easton during the snow storm Monday morning to run with friends Lori, Michael, Shaun, Joel, and Joel’s dog Sampson. It was uncomfortably cold but made better by the company. Five days later I was hopping on the bike before dawn on Saturday morning to trek to swim practice. Watching the sun rise over Miles River was beautiful. When I came out of the Y after practice the warmth hit me, 70 degrees. On the way home I experienced two flat tires; a conspiracy; I'll explain:

After practice I hopped on the bike, grabbed a bagel at the B. Bakery, then headed home. By the time I got to Carrol’s Market I had my first flat on the back wheel. By the grace of God, the second flat didn’t set in until Pot Pie Road, though I could hear the debris stuck in the tire hitting the frame for the prior 3 miles. I learned a few weeks ago that if there is debris in the tire to leave it and try to get as far as you can. Last time I heard something in the tire, I stopped, found the staple stuck in the tire, and pulled it out. Then the tire deflated, duh, I pulled the plug.

I know this is a long story, but there is reasoning behind it. Upon inspection of the first flat while sitting in the warm sunshine at a picnic table at Carrol’s Market, I found the source of the flat. It was a metal sliver stuck in the tire. This sliver, upon closer examination, could only come from one source, an over pumped longboard. It seems there is a major defect in the ball bearings of the wheels on these boards. When the boards are over pumped slivers of metal peel off the bearings and are ejected from the bearing guides like BBOS and left on the shoulders of our “bike” ways in the county. It is a shame.

Then upon inspection of the second flat, I found a carbon fiber sliver. Yes, again the source came from these reckless “long boarders” who are taking over our natural vistas, shoulders, by-ways, pools, and blog sites. It seems, that when one of these, so called athletes, “carves a noogy”, they scrape a portion of the carbon fiber strength from their precious boards. Carbon fiber splinters are worse than wood splinters because of their unprecedented strength. The fiber in my new tire would have sunk a Coast Guard rigid inflatable. Shocking, I’d say!

So, what are we to do? I simply cannot put into words my disappointment. I’m afraid to go on the roads and train. I’m going crazy with worry. Dan and I only have 97 days left to train for Eagleman. What will happen?

My initial thought would be to do a post to the RUR website, but LOW AND BEHOLD, it seems the blog site has been taken over with the longboard crap. I was disgusted. Thank goodness I can voice my displeasure here, at least.

So, beware on the roads, my friends, you have been warned. The longboarders don’t seem to have an ounce of decency when it comes to littering our byways with splinters, slivers, shards, and chads. Who knows how this will affect our running shoes (I’d double sock it, if I were you). Tuckahoe seems to be the only safe place to bike and run in the tri-county area; at least for now, until the LB’s go Hummer on us.

If you are confused, I don’t blame you. There is a contingent of our running group that is also Long Distance Pumping (LDP) on long board skate boards. We like to give them hell.

Phinn loving the snow!

My buddy Phinn and I have been on several runs now, and the future looks bright for our young lab. He will enjoy many miles of unleashed glee when running with me; as long as he behaves.

Friday we’re heading to the Bahamas where “training-wise” in intend to up my weekly running mileage by 400 percent. I also hope to get several open-water swims in the ocean. See you in the spring…love, swim, ride, and run…Michael

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Agenda

Jim Crowley and I after completing the 2008 Eagleman. It was a HOT day!

Training has been fun so far this year. It’s a good thing, because there seems to be quite an agenda for my friends, family, and me. Last Sunday it broke the 60 degree mark for the first time in what seems like many months. Even though I swam in a meet the night before, the weather had me out on a run, a bike, and a swim before the sunset. Riding my bike with shorts and a short sleeve shirt seemed like liberation. Bring on the warm weather.

What am I training for? I realized last year that I train to be with people; to have bonding experiences, and to live life to the fullest. The later includes enjoying competition. Here is the list of competitions on my agenda for this spring/early summer and the folks I hope to share them with:

March 7` Talbot Kids Run 5K
My family and RUR’s

March 28 Chidester Swim Series #6 Meet at Big Vanilla
TCY Manta Ray Masters

April 18 Adkins Arboretum Arbor Day 5K
My family and RUR’s

April 25 Trail Triple Crown 13.2M, 10K, 5K

April 24 – 26 Colonies Zone SCY Championships at GMU
TCY Manta Ray Masters

May 3 Nanticoke River Swim and Triathlon
RUR’s and TCY Manta Ray Masters

May 23 Chestertown Classic Run 10 miler and 5K
My family and RUR’s

May 30 Pocomoke Triathlon
RUR’s and TCY Manta Ray Masters

June 15 Eagleman Ironman 70.3
TCY Manta Ray Masters

June 19 – 21 Vermont 100/200 Challenge

June 21 Assateague Assault Triathlon
RUR’s and TCY Manta Ray Masters

July 11 17th Maryland Swim 4 Life
RUR’s and TCY Manta Ray Masters

The invitation is there for all to join me in these events. Sailing season kicks in for me on June 27th with the first log canoe regatta. I also hope to get my star boat to the club so I can occasionally participate in a few Wednesday Night Races.

Seabiscuit on a Wednesday night with crew Jeff Pevey.

What is really cool is that one of my sisters, Judy, told me that her goal is to run her first 5K this spring. She will be joining me at the Chestertown Tea Party Classic run along with my neice, daughter, and mother. I look forward to spending many hours of camaraderie with many of you in the next few months. Love, swim, bike, run, and sail ~ Michael