The Journey

The journey is more important than the destination.

Several years ago a friend of mine asked me if I would do the Fairlee Triathlon in Vermont. After training for three months, feeling like I was going to drown in the swim, feeling nauseus on the run, I crossed the finished line and was hooked.This led to my triathlon journey.

Please consider supporting my latest effort to raise money for Bretton Woods Adaptive through the Janus Charity Challenge at Ironman Lake Placid this July. Check out the Links I Like section of the blog or explore the BWA Fundraiser links.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Value of Competition

Most reading the title of this post will probably first assume it is about competition against others. That's natural, and it's what I normally do when thinking about competition. But I got a different perspective this past weekend while attending my son's track meet.

It was the first real track meet I had been to. His bi-weekly practices were at times more like organized chaos and there was never the kind of formality like a real meet with starting guns, timers, announcers, etc.

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical of spending the entire day at the track when my Son's 3 events would take him a total about about 90 seconds. However, any opportunity to spend time with my family is a good one so I went looking forward mostly to that part of the day. However, I came away from the day with a lot more.

I got drawn into watching kids from 9 - 13 years old compete in all kinds of running events from the 50 meter dash to the 1600 meter run. Why? I absolutely loved watching these kids, including my son, digging deep within themselves and putting out incredible efforts. You could see in their faces the determination and focus going into their efforts and some were clearly turning themselves inside out to finish their race as fast as they possibly could. It didn't seem to matter if the kid was first or sixth, the same level of effort went into the competition. What a great life lesson!

And that is why I will do everything in my power as a parent to make sure my son has opportunities to compete. Yes, the competition with the kid in the next lane or against the other team provides good lessons and perspectives for kids to learn early. But, the bigger lesson in my opinion is kids learning how to compete with themselves. In other words, making that internal connection what it feels like to push beyond what you originally thought possible. What better physiological lesson to learn early and often as a kid?

These lessons don't need to be learned in traditional competitive sports. That competition happens in all kinds of activities. The dancer who won't give up until he or she nails the move they've been practicing. The musician that repeats a piece over and over again until it sounds just right. They are all competing with themselves, trying to turn out their best performance, just like the kids on the track.

My son didn't qualify for the State finals this weekend, but he beat his previous times in the 100 and 200 meter sprint. The lesson I know he learned from that effort about how to compete with himself is the best result I could hope for as a Dad.

Congrats Buddy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

T minus 30 days

I'm not sure how this happened without me noticing but there are only 30 days until Ironman Lake Placid!!

The last few weeks of training have been really good. They included some long ridees including a 110 miles through the NH Lakes Region, White Mountains and a climb over the Kancamagus Highway. The training block peaked with the Patriot Half Ironman last weekend in which I beat last years time but about 20 minutes. All this was followed by a light recovery week this week before the last push through a couple of monster weeks.

I'm going to try and write consistently over that period, but we'll see how well I do at balancing the schedule.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Making the outdoors accessible

If you've been following along for any length of time you'll know that as part of my Ironman Journey this year I'm raising money for Bretton Woods Adaptive, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities experience recreational opportunities. I've been collecting stories about this incredible organization and will be publishing them on this blog over the next several weeks leading up to the race.

Below is an article from Tom Eastman titled: Making the outdoors accessible to all Bretton Woods Adaptive Program blazes new trails for people with disabilities. Please read this great story and consider making a donation. It's a long read, but a worthwhile story.

BRETTON WOODS-On a fine fall day, six volunteers from the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program helped a 29-year-old consultant achieve his dream of hiking to an Appalachian Mountain Club hut.

It wasn't easy traveling the rocky, root-strewn 2.7 miles from the parking lot to the AMC's Zealand Falls Hut last Saturday, Oct. 6. But thanks to new advances in gear for the disabled, and a lot of sweat equity, it wasn't impossible, either.

Chris Hart, director of Urban and Transit Projects for the Institute for Human Centered Design at Adaptive Environments in Boston, Mass., has cerebral palsy. His condition impacts his body, but not his spirit.

Hart is an adaptive skier and busy consultant who travels frequently around the country, helping to design systems that make it easier for the mobility challenged to negotiate their way around urban buildings and transit systems. "With the aging of the Baby Boomers...there is going to be a greater demand to help design things that will allow people to remain independent longer," said Hart, who noted that last Saturday's first-ever hike by the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program to an AMC hut fulfilled a long-held dream.

"My grandfather began hiking all of New England's tallest 100 peaks when he was 75. He finished them when he was 83," said Hart. It takes some effort to understand him, given his condition, but like the hike, with a little patience, his message is loud and clear. "I could not ever hike with him. But now, today, I am hiking. It lets me go to where my grandfather went - for the first time!" he said, with a grin that said it all.

There were two rough sections along the 2.7-mile hike from the parking lot off Zealand Fall Road to the hut. Of the two, the worst was just below the hut, and it took the volunteers a good 45 minutes to port Hart in a Terra Trek Wheelchair, an all-terrain wheelchair. The wheelchair is modified to carry two poles in front that turns it into a rickshaw type vehicle.

For the section from the trailhead to two-tenths of a mile below the hut, Hart had been carried in a Trail Rider, a one-wheeled Rickshaw-like device designed and manufactured by an intern at Northeast Passage, a non-profit organization based in Durham at the University of New Hampshire dedicated to solving accessibility challenges for people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

The hike from the trailhead to the hut took three hours Saturday, while the hike out Sunday took two and a half hours.

The weather changed from the morning's sunshine, and rain began to fall as they got to the hut Saturday afternoon. After a quick visit to Zealand Falls next to the hut, where the fall foliage was at its full glory, all changed out of their wet clothes into dry gear and then enjoyed a hearty meal prepared by the AMC hut crew of roast turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce before bunking down for the night by lights out at 9:30 p.m.

Sandy Olney, director of the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program, said one benefit of doing the hike in fall was no bugs. "I needed folks to be available so it had to be a weekend, and I hoped Columbus Day Weekend would give me the number I needed to get people up on the trail. We had six wheelchair team members and three 'Sherpas,' who carried supplies and gear up to the hut prior to our making the trek with Chris," said Olney.

In addition to Hart, Annie O'Neill also made the trek. She is a 26-year-old who has autism and who is an avid downhill skier and hiker. A resident of Wilder, Vt., she works two days a week in food service at Landmark College, Putney, Vt., and volunteers in the kitchen at Lebanon SeniorCenter, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and David's House.

Volunteers participating on the trek as wheelchair team members were Lennie Fillius of Bethlehem; Jim Hogan, a construction worker from Franconia; Tom Norcott of Franconia, Emily Voytek, a college senior majoring in geology at Tufts University in Boston; Gary Biadasz of Bethlehem, and Olney.

The Sherpas were Charlotte Fleetwood of Cambridge, Mass.; Keith Wortzman of Boston; Roy Loiselle of Cranston, R.I., and Herb and Ellen Kingsbury of Kittery Point, Maine, as well as Fillius' wife, Mary, who came up on Sunday to help transport gear from the hut back to the trailhead. Also recruited at the hut Saturday night to help with the portage out Sunday was a French Canadian guest name Stefan, along with members of the AMC hut crew, who helped carry gear down.

"It proved that wilderness and back-country hut experience is accessible to people who use wheelchairs. The inconvenience of having to use a wheelchair should not keep someone from hiking with their friends," said Olney this week,

The AMC caught a lot of flak when it rebuilt its Galehead Hut to make it handicapped accessible, including its restrooms. But, proponents argued at the time, one never knows what technological breakthroughs will occur over the next century, thus bringing the outdoor experience accessible to all.

"The bathrooms at both Zealand and Galehead are handicapped accessible. If there is a will there is a way in terms of bringing people to the huts. I like to say that if we put the programming out there, people will come forward and take advantage of it and enjoy it. It's one of those, 'If you build it they will come,' kind of things, " said Olney.

Located in Zealand Notch, the former scene of indiscriminate logging and devastating fires in the 19th century, Zealand Falls Hut occupies a choice four-season spot with outstanding views at the eastern edge of the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

Completed in 1932 along with Galehead as part of legendary hut master Joe Dodge's plan to make all of the huts a day's hike apart, it operates year-round.

The Bretton Woods Adaptive Program until this year was a ski program.

"But what was once the steering committee became a board of directors when they applied for nonprofit status with the IRS in the fall of 2006," said Olney. She said the board presented a proposal to go to a four-season program, and to hire Olney as full-time director. The new owners of Bretton Woods - CNL Income Properties - embraced the program. The Bretton Woods Adaptive Program is one of the primary beneficiaries of Olympic ski great and Bretton Woods director of skiing Bode Miller's annual Bodefest.

The program has expanded to include not only skiing, but hiking, road cycling, downhill mountain biking, paddling, water skiing and fishing.

The goal, said Olney, is to "enhance the lives of our participants by creating opportunities for them to enjoy outdoor activities."

Having people experience environments that they were previously excluded from, and to experience the freedom of speed in motion, "is exhilarating for me as well as the participant," said Olney, formerly of Nantucket, but a resident of Mount Washington Valley for the past five years.

Among her greatest success stories was this past winter, when Olney and crew helped a woman with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis fulfill her dream to go skiing.

"Erin Brady Worsham, an artist from Nashville, Tenn., who has ALS, first encountered Bode Miller while watching the Winter Olympics on TV. She was intrigued, so she Googled Bode, and found a link to the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program. Erin, who lives with her husband in and 12-year-old son, had never skied before, but she was excited by the element of speed that it could give," related Olney.

She corresponded with the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program's president of the board of directors, Cris Criswell, who suggested she come up and try adaptive skiing at Bretton Woods this past March.

"She only has the use of her muscles from just her forehead. She cannot swallow or breathe on her own. She has been on a feeding tube and respirator for 11 years. She paints, writes an speaks with an electronic sensor taped between her eyebrows. She calls that her 'cosmic connection,' " said Olney.

The resort provided her family with food and lodging for the visit. It was a cooperative effort between Bretton Woods and the adaptive program at Loon, which loaned two master tetherers, George Hollingsworth and Dave Blenkhorn.

"We had to rig the bi-ski to accommodate her. She needed head support so we ended up transferring her head rest from her own wheelchair to the bi-ski, a device which is a sit-ski with two articulating skis," said Olney.

The team connected her respirator to a portable battery, took her up the Zephyr chair, and at the top, disconnected the portable battery so that the respirator was powered by its internal battery.

"We skied down Crawford's Blaze, and about halfway down we started to get a low-battery warning. The battery failed sooner than anticipated due to the cold weather. So, we high-tailed it to the bottom! We got to the bottom, got her plugged back in and caught it all in time before it completely failed. We did have a backup in case the respirator failed on the slopes - we had an Ambubag, which has a pump which allows you to manually pump air into her respirator, but thankfully we did not have to use it," said Olney.

Erin Brady Worsham wrote the following account via e-mail: "The people of the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program took my vision in 'Go Fast' and made it a reality. I can never truly thank them for that. So, why did a girl from Nashville, Tenn., who's almost completely paralyzed from ALS and breathes with a ventilator, and who had never skied before in her life, feel the need to make a pilgrimage to the White Mountains to go skiing? Cris, who is also a minister, put it best in an excerpt from his invocation at the annual Hartford Ski Spectacular in Breckinridge, Colo., which is the country's largest winter sports festival for people with disabilities. 'So whether by birth, by disease, by accident or by war, whether you ski or whether you ride, one board or two, two legs or one, sit-down, stand-up, with or without sight, it is our magic carpet ride - we all glide over frozen, sparkling crystals for the same reason, to be transported into another world, a place where the crippled dance, the lame walk and the blind see, where we may all, each and everyone, no one left behind, all together, mount up with wings like eagles and join the dance which has no end.' Amen to that!"

The Bretton Woods program has 60 volunteers in winter, and for this past summer, the program's first, the program had 25 volunteers. Olney said the rewards of volunteering are many.

"You get the glow. When everyone came down off the mountain Sunday and we went and grabbed some sandwiches together, everyone was so positive and sharing what they had achieved, and appreciating it so much, it was great to be around that positive energy," said Olney.

For more information about the Bretton Woods Adaptive Program, call 278-3398; e-mail; or write Mount Washington Resort, Route 302 Bretton Woods 03575; on the web at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What was I thinking?!

My (far from done) list of training thoughts.

A friend of mine from work, Brett, recently asked me what I think about during all my training time. It was a hard question to answer, not because I haven't considered that question even before he asked it, but because the range of things that go through my mind on a 6 hour bike ride, 3 hour run or 5 hour race is so broad.

My thoughts have a very stream of consciousness feel to them so I as I try to give you a sense of what I'm thinking, so I'm guessing it will come across that way. Well Brett, here's an attempt to capture what I think about while training and racing, even though it's a very small portion of all the thoughts that scroll across my mind.
  • Why did I sign up for Ironman again?
  • Am I going fast enough?
  • Am I going slow enough?
  • Is my heart rate too high?
  • Is my heart rate too slow?
  • I wonder what Amy and Connor are doing?
  • Am I being a bad husband and father by spending all this time training?
  • How could I be a better husband and father.
  • How am I going to fit the next training into my schedule?
  • What a beautiful sunrise.
  • How cool is it that I saw a deer/moose/falcon/rabbit/snake/frog while out on my ride/run.
  • Should I go this way or that way?
  • I must be one of the luckiest people alive to be able to do this right now.
  • What the hell am I doing out here in the rain/dark/heat/cold/snow?
  • I bet that not many other triathletes are out here in the rain/dark/heat/cold/snow? I'll have a leg up on them when race season comes.
  • Oh crap, I forgot to pay that bill.
  • How am I going to pay that bill?
  • When is this f'in hill going to end?
  • Why did I sign up for Ironman again?
  • It would really suck if I crashed going down this hill at 40 MPH.
  • When am I going to have time to shave my legs before this weekend's long ride?
  • I need to pick up the pace if I want to hit my goal time.
  • I'm feeling really great, I should pick up the pace a bit.
  • I'm feeling like s*!t, I better slow it down a bit.
  • I could do a 7 minute per mile pace to if I weighed 150.
  • I can't afford to get a bike tune up, get new race wheels, get new tires - which one can I do?
  • How am I going to fit 23 hours of training in next week, go to Connor's track meet, go to Connor's track practice, do my share around the house, see my wife for more than 15 minutes?
  • If I don't finish this workout until 7:15, what should I have for breakfast so that I can still get to work on time?
  • What should I bring to work for food so that I get enough carbs and calories before tonight's workout?
  • Why did I sign up for Ironman again?
  • All I need is within me now
  • Why did that idiot have to toss their cigarette out of the window?
  • Why did that idiot have to pass me so close and almost run me off the road?
  • What should I write about for my next blog post at work?
  • I can't wait to go camping with Connor after the Ironman.
  • I wish I wasn't training and took the family camping instead.
  • What does Connor think of me spending all this time training? Does he see that I set a goal and taking steps to reach it or does he just know I'm not at home?
  • Perfect circles (when I'm on the bike to help me focus on a good pedal stroke)
  • What does Amy think of me spending all of this time training? Does she see that I set a goal and taking steps to reach it or does she just know I'm not at home?
  • Why did I decide to do the Ironman, again?
  • I think it would be cool to do a cross-country ride on my bike.
  • I wonder if I could do a 100 mile run.
  • Why did I sign up for Ironman again?
  • If I can just make it to that mailbox I'll let myself walk for a minute.
  • Don't think about having to do 10 miles, just keep running to the next telephone pole.
  • Wow, I'm feeling pretty good for having been out here this long.
  • This is not going to be a good workout. Get ready to suffer for a while.
  • What is that pain in my knee/ankle/shoulder/chest/foot/calf/hamstring?
  • I think I want to try bike racing.
  • Lean forward, good arm swing (when I'm running to help focus on good form)
  • I love this song!
  • I hope that I can finish Ironman and not pass out.
  • I hope that I can stay up until midnight on race day to watch the last of the racers finish.
  • I hope that I'm not one of the racers that takes until midnight to finish.
  • Is Twitter really going to last?
  • Maybe I should have stuck it out in real estate.
  • I'm so glad that I got out of real estate when I did.
  • If someone with Lou Gehrig's disease can have the courage to ski down a mountain, then I shouldn't complain about finishing this workout/race.
  • What can I do to raise more money for Bretton Woods Adaptive.
  • Even though people know I'm training for a race, do they really know what it takes to be able to finish this race?
  • I wish there wasn't so much litter.
  • Why did I sign up for Ironman again?
  • Should I have a shot of gel now or wait another 15 minutes?
  • Man I have to pee, where on the route is private enough that I can jump into the woods?
  • What junk food am I going to have once Ironman is over?
  • Will I be able to get my weight down to my goal before race day?
  • Should I sign up for Ironman again next year?
  • Where am I going to go for my 100 mile ride this weekend?
  • How can anyone watch NASCAR? And why would you pay money to go watch it live?
  • What am I going to do with the 15 - 20 hours I'll have back after Ironman is over?
  • Man, this Kings of Leon song is mesmerizing!
  • I wonder if I'll start to cry again as I approach the finish line in Lake Placid.
  • Should I really tell my co-workers on Monday when they ask what I did this weekend that I ran 15 miles and rode 110 miles? Does that come across as bragging?
  • Maybe I should take up a musical instrument, I've always wanted to learn to play the piano.
  • How many calories do I need to take in?
  • How am I going to take in enough calories after this workout? Can I really eat 4,000 more before the end of the day?
  • Why did I sign up for Ironman again?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Tune Up Race - Patriot Half Ironman

My first race of the year was this weekend, the Patriot "Half Ironman". I put that in quotes because the bike is two miles longer than a typical 1/2 Ironman distance, and, the swim was shorter than the 1.2 miles it was supposed to be. Either that or I should be swimming in the 2012 Olympics. I normally swim at about a 1:30 pace for 100 yards and my pace was just over a minute at the Patriot...the course was definitely short.

Overall I was happy with my race. The swim gave me an artificial boost of confidence when I clocked a time of 22 minutes instead of the 32 minutes it took me last year. Even thought my time was artificially short, I know I was having a strong swim when I passed some of the racers from the wave that started 10 minutes ahead of me.

My bike computer died at mile one of the 59 mile ride so I just rode on "feel" and by heart rate. I ended up going a full 1 MPH faster this year and never felt like I was really out of my comfort zone.

The run was also good overall. My goal was to finish the 1/2 marathon in under 2 hours which I did by about 1 minute. This was after feeling pretty crappy for the first couple of miles. However, my trainings have been paying off. I recently had a long run in which over a 15 mile run my coach had me go at about 85% for the last 30 minutes. When I first read it I thought she was crazy, but I did it, and suffered. But it paid off as my last 3 miles was my fastest of the day!

Now for the results
. Overall I came in 20th out of 40 for my age group, 92nd out of 318 overall. My highlight of the race for times was my 35th fastest swim out of 318. It's the one triathlon leg where my larger than average frame isn't a disadvantage.

Now comes a relatively easy week before a "monster" week of training that includes a 120 mile ride in the mountains.

P.S. - I've been woefully neglecting this blog as I try to balance training, work, family, etc. But as we come into crunch time I hope to update all of my readers (which really just includes my parents and my wife) with more frequent posts.