Archives For July 2014

A few words of thanks

July 27, 2014 — 10 Comments

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

On July 22, 2013, I bought a new pair of running shoes and started this journey. Since then I’ve swum 545 miles, ran 693 and biked for 4,542 miles more. Along the way I’ve jogged through downtown Bucharest and along the shore of the Black Sea; biked with Lucy in Sofia; swum in the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson, Chester and Potomac Rivers; had one serious bike crash and taught the bartender at the Times Square Applebees how to make a perfect Martini. The 2014 Lake Placid Iron Man has just started and I will soon be swimming in Mirror Lake with number 367 painted on my arms. If all goes well sometime before midnight tonight I will add another 140.6 miles to these totals and then stop keeping track.

I have approached today’s race with mixed emotions. On some days I would wake brimming with confidence. On others full of self-doubt wondering what I had gotten myself into when I signed up for this. But no matter how I felt when each day began by its end I always fell asleep reflecting on how fortunate I was to have the support of my family and friends as I worked to achieve this goal. And for that I offer these few words of thanks.

First and foremost I thank Kathy who has supported and encouraged me throughout this journey as I transformed from someone who didn’t really exercise much into a dedicated athlete spending most of his spare time either swimming, running or biking. She has been with me from the start when I bought a new bike so that I could start riding it to work and never complained when I followed that purchase with a road bike, a folding bike and most recently a high-end carbon fiber racing bike.

I appreciate very much the swim coaching I have received over the years, starting with Bruce Rinker, followed by Katie, Bethany, Natalie, Zach, Joe and Lindsey. More than the coaching though, I am deeply grateful for the lane mates who have put up with me over the last four years, especially Will, Andrew, Bob, Suzanna, Krista, Brittany, Sarah, Corrine and Lauren. You have made swimming fun for me and I will never forget the times we spent together on our road trips to Bivalve, New York and Point Lookout. Thanks also to Dean, Jim, Ryan, Michele, Kelly, Miguel, Laura and Phil, experienced Iron Man finishers who have offered encouragement and great suggestions along the way. Elysia and Molly are among the dozens of other Marylanders who are here to race and volunteer. I wish them a safe and successful journey across the lake, over the mountains, through the forests and beside the rivers today.

I would not be the bicyclist I am today were it not for Bob, Dave, PJ, Mike and Charlie. You have taught me the joy of long distance cycling with friends and for that I am truly grateful.

The hardest part of the training for me has been the running and I will not set any records on the marathon portion of today’s race. Of all the disciplines however, my running has improved the most and for this I remember fondly and thank Dave, Parnell and John; Valerie; Josh and Glenn; and Kyle, Eric, Jim, Dave, Beth and Monica.

I owe special debts of gratitude to Tim who taught me to believe in myself as a swimmer and to Claudia who encouraged me to start this blog, swam with me in the very cold and rough Atlantic and during an emotional Purple Swim and trained with me for my first triathlon. I will cherish our friendships always.

And finally I am most grateful to Abby who helped me fall back in love with swimming which, after all, is what started this in the first place.

When I was in Lake Placid over Memorial Day weekend, a triathlon club from New York was also in town training. From time to time I would be passed by a member of that club who would call out to me “You can do it!” I would give a slight nod or a wave but didn’t really understand what was going on until later when I saw two members from the club pass each other by. The first yelled out the familiar “You can do it!” to which the second responded “I love you baby!”

Thank you again for the friendship, love and support that have brought me to the point where I really believe I can do this today. And with that let me close simply by saying to each of you, very sincerely, “I love you baby.”

photo 1 photo 2-1

David Kelley handed this birthday card to my wife on her twelfth birthday. He had recently returned home from a long stay at the hospital and upon arriving penned the following letter to Kathy and their mother full of hope that he was getting better:

. . . Now you all know that for the past few weeks I have been in the hospital with a very bad germ. Recently I came home to take care of myself. And since I have to take care of myself what we need is cooperation.

Now Kathy, your job will be to help Mom as much as possible. Such as keeping your room clean, cleaning up the bathroom occasionally and helping Mom with the dishes at night. I say this because it takes a lot less time to do the dishes if two does it than one. You probably think that’s a lot for you and maybe it is but if you don’t help Mom she will get all tired and worn out. Then she won’t do the therapy right and I won’t get the frogs up which means I will get an infection. Also she might forget an important dose of medicine and then there won’t be anything to fight back against the germs inside me and I’ll get sick and have to go in the hospital and Granny will have to come for another month and you’ll go back to living the way you have for the past month. Now which would you rather do? Help Mom a little each day or have Gran come down for another month while I’m in the hospital. I think you’ll agree you’ll be much better off with helping Mom.

Now Mom, your job is to keep me well. Make sure I get my medicine on time and therapy and masks done when they’re supposed to be done.

And last of all my job is to keep rested and not over do it and before you know it I’ll be good as new and I can start helping. . .

There was no happy ending to this story because the medicines and therapy available then were not very effective. Kathy helped her mom throughout her brother’s illness and hadn’t really needed any encouragement to do so from David. She did it because she loved him and that devotion and affection helped mold her into the caring and faith-filled person she is today.

As of this morning I will have presented my wife with thirty-one birthday cards, none as special as the one she received in 1972 from a brother who loved her dearly.

photo 3

photo 2-2

I recently came across this essay my father wrote for an English class during World War II among the pictures and letters I have to remember him by.

Young Boys Solve Meat Shortage

Last Tuesday evening at dusk the Ridgedale and Valley Road “ginsters” solved the meat shortage by having fricasseed garter snake a la “57” sauce. The novel adventure took place in the ravine called “Second Creek.”

This outing was led by “Willy” Burns head of the “ginsters.” Burns presided as chief broiler and was assisted by the notorious Frank Buck of the crowd, Jimmy Staker. The snake was fricasseed to a savory brown. Vitamins A, B, C, D, and Z were all extracted but plenty of minerals remained. The reptile was served with plenty of relish, the main course being pickles. There was plenty for all, the snake being a garter. 

The meeting closed by all members participating in an enthusiastic snake dance about the dying embers. . .

My father died eighteen years ago. And while I don’t think I’ll ever try fricasseed garter snake, today I will smile a little imagining how much fun he must have had, that Tuesday evening long ago, snake dancing with his friends around the dying embers of a campfire.

photo 1-1

The-Spirit-of-the-Park

This picture appears at page 346 of Thomas Morris Longstreth’s The Adirondacks, published in 1917. In that book, Longstreth describes the Adirondack Park as follows:

We have our little air holes in the cities, which we call parks, and we have some sections of the West roped off by law which the East is welcome to roam over if it can pay the carfare to them. But it has remained for New York State to set aside more than a tithe of its total area where men and women can seek sanctuary from cities and heat and the everlasting press of things. And New York State has done more. She has not only offered her mountains and lakes and woods to the tired student from Ithaca, the tired philosopher from the Hub, the tired businessman from everywhere, but she has made trails through the mountains, has stocked the streams and lakes, and is doing her best to preserve the forest. The citizens of the State pay for this, and anybody can enjoy their gift for a thank-you.

Perhaps inspired by these words, brothers Robert and George Marshall along with their friend and guide, Herbert Clark, climbed Whiteface Mountain on August 1, 1918. Nearly seven years later, on June 10, 1925, the three finished climbing the 46 high peaks of the Adirondacks and became the first three members of “The Adirondack Forty-Sixers.”

Since then 8,283 hikers have joined Herbert Clark and the Marshall brothers to become an “ADK 46-R.” If all goes well, later this month I will start my own journey to add my name to that list. I will start the first hike sometime after 12:01 AM on July 28, 2014, but will save Whiteface Mountain until last and climb it on the 100th anniversary of the hike that started it all.

So, if you have a few days to spare over the next four years, pick a peak that interests you and come hike with me a while.

photo