Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's Even Sadder in Adulthood

Over a year ago I stated that I would not rant about the aspects of our society that I deem to be horrible and tragic and focus this minute particle of the world wide web on health and fitness and the beauty of stand up paddling. However, this whole story about the bullying going on within the Miami Dolphins locker room has put me in a mood. Being that this story is related to sports and overall health and wellness, I figured I would exorcise some of what has been bothering me since the news first broke.

I was bullied. For almost two years in 6th and 7th grade I lived in fear of a classmate who thought nothing of punching me in the arm or chest without any provocation. I was nowhere near being considered a "big kid." I always lined up near the front of the line when our class was told to arrange ourselves from shortest to tallest. Also, I was a quiet Christian kid who enjoyed going to church and Sunday school (on most mornings) and I was pretty obedient. My momma raised me well and she took particular care to teach me to treat others kindly. I know, I know things changed when I turned 16 but before that I was an angel...Needless to say, I was easy prey for anyone with a mean streak. What made things worse was the fact that not only was I fairly well behaved and polite but I was the new kid in Mrs. Hatfield's 6th grade class. Being the new guy is awful...

Fall at a new school wasn't so bad. I got along well with everyone in the class, even the bully for most of the time. I joined the soccer team late and soon enough some of my athletic prowess was noticed by the coaches and I took over a starting position. I think this is when some of the bullying started. To sum things up, it continued into basketball season when I purposely asked to be on the "B" team as the competition for starting point guard for the "A" team was between myself and the bully. When I presented my request to make the "B" team Coach Hatfield understood the reason why and did not press the matter but he told me there would come a time when I would have to stand up for myself and it wasn't right for me to not try to reach my full potential. I wasn't ready to stand up for myself. He must have seen the panic flood my face and body because he granted my request. I played on the "B" team that season and watched the "A" team point guard flounder on the court. Despite his lack of ball-handling skills he could throw a punch to my arm that would send pain throughout my whole upper body.

On bathroom breaks it would not be unusual for me to be pushed in a corner and punched by the bully and maybe another one of his friends. There I would cower and take a beating until either more people would come in the bathroom or one of the pugilists would need to pee. This went on for some time, but I was too scared to tell anyone about it.

Also, I didn't fight back because I was scared of the pain that might ensue. Being punched in the arm hurt; in 6th and 7th grade I couldn't imagine how much a punch to the face would hurt. I didn't want to put myself in the position to experience such. (Oh how I wish I had kept that way of thinking in my 20s!)

The bullying stuck with me throughout the middle school years and summer breaks were my only reprieve. The bullying would have continued in 8th grade but my parents finally convinced me to stand up for myself. The climax to my fear happened at dinner on my 13th birthday. My parents took me to Baltimore for the weekend to explore my birth city and have a special birthday. However, I was so scared of showing up to school on Monday that I broke down in tears at dinner at the Rusty Scupper and told my parents all that had been going on for the past 2 years. I think the waitress gave me free ice cream and a lot of napkins that night! My poor parents! They were upset that I had been beaten on for an extended period of time without their knowledge, that I was turning out to be much more of a pansy than they expected, and that they knew this was a situation that I needed to take care of myself. They backed me up and they told me God would be there for me as well. I believed them and I was soon to experience evidence that there indeed was a God that was watching down over His children. I have to give a lot of credit to my parents for staying out of it and giving me the opportunity to take care of the situation myself.

To sum things up, Monday came around and I stood up for myself. No punches were thrown and I was never bullied again.

Which brings me to the story of Jonathan Martin's experiences as a member of the Miami Dolphins. I know what I experienced as a small kid getting bullied so I cannot imagine someone who is tough enough to play in the NFL can be a victim of bullying. If I was a big and strong kid I would have broken some necks if somebody tried to bully me or maybe not. I might have still cried at dinner....but the point is: this is some horrible stuff to come out of Miami. It blows my mind that bullying could happen among adults, much less huge adults, and have such a tremendous affect on someone's adult life. The effect that bullying had on my adolescent years was awful; this has got to be worse.

Imagine the gentleness in this man's heart to be so sensitive to what others think of him that he has to leave such a high paying job, out of fear, to seek solace at home with his parents. This story makes me so angry and upset because I know that being the victim of bullying as a middle schooler is a horrible thing that being the victim of bullying as an adult must be overwhelming. Obviously it is overwhelming. Who turns a blind eye to this type of behavior among grown men? It is so disgusting and there is no other way to put it.

Of course nobody but those involved know the whole story and us outsiders are just speculating. I am speculating but as a victim of bullying; I determine it to be my right. We all need to keep an eye out for bullying in our communities and in the lives of our loved ones. You are not being a "rat" notifying the proper authorities when it comes to bullying. Any time it can be stopped it should be stopped, immediately if not sooner.

Bullying is a shameful part of our society that goes on everyday in every community. This morning I read that bullies are often the victim of bullies, which makes sense but I never knew before. Obviously there are a chain of events that take place and spread beyond just the dynamic of the bully and the victim. Often I see ads for programs that are trying to stop bullying. This is such a great thing to see. Personally, I wish they had these hotlines to call about 30 or so years ago!! :)

I am so glad we don't have these kind of issues in the stand up paddling world despite those mean prone surfers call us sweepers!!

If you know someone who is being bullied here some outlets that offer help:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ke Nalu Paddles and Picking the Right Accoutrements

How do you choose the right paddle that fits your style of paddling?

Over the last couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to try several brands of paddles. Most are effective enough and will take care of all your needs, some are completely worthless and should be taken off the market, (one super-popular brand is downright un-usable) but there can only be one that is the best. In this paddler’s humble opinion, Ke Nalu paddles hold the crown. They are very competitively priced, super light, easy on the joints and muscles, and the Oregon based company provides enough components with varying degrees of flex, size, and weight to ensure that each and every consumer finds the perfect combination to end up the paddle that suits their style best. When it comes to choosing a paddle from Ke Nalu there are at least 3 different options for each part that makes up a complete paddle so I thought I would write about my experiences with all the components and offer up some feedback as to what might be the best fit for you! AND…read on to find a way to get a good deal on a new paddle!!

Everyone always wonders about blade size. As a guy I hate saying this but: size matters. I think choosing the right blade size depends a lot on technique. When determining blade size I don't go by square inches; I go by paddle width. The first paddle I bought was in my second month of racing and it was the 8.5" wide Maliko. It worked well for me and it felt great paired with a 90 Flex shaft and an Ergo T handle. As I was trying to work on my stroke technique, I did have some shoulder issues that started from using another brand and using a paddle that was way too tall in overall length did not help matters any. My stroke was all about arm strength which is not the best way to avoid pain.  Shoulder pain continued throughout the middle of my first race season and as I closed in on facing a 26.5 mile race I was too broke to buy abnother paddle. I cut 8.5” blade down to 8.15" for the  SEA Paddle NYC race in 2012 and found it effective for the 26.5 miles.  Also, my shoulder pain went away 1 week before the SEA Paddle race! Using the 8.15" blade for races after SEA Paddle that were much shorter did not feel so good for me; I felt like I was pushing water but not moving forward fast enough. However, I was still learning the proper stroke technique and looking back now it was quite apparent that I had no idea what I was doing. I was throwing my blade in the water in whatever way felt good and moved me forward. Any paddle that didn't hurt my shoulders was a good paddle. Ke Nalu worked but as I started to improve my stroke I felt I needed to make a change.  

Here, it is important to note that after changing brands to Ke Nalu my shoulder pain went away. I was able to train through pain for a big race and, eventually, feel the pain go away as I started using a brand that was constructed with shoulder pain in mind!

At the end of last year, I was all about using the strength of my arms to make me go so I wanted to try a larger blade. I bought the 9" wide Molokai blade and loved the way it felt when I planted the blade in the water.  I really felt like I was doing something good planting that beast in the water and I felt my speed improve. The first race I did with a bigger blade (even though it was not a Ke Nalu because I left a paddle at the Orange Bowl in Miami) was the Cold Stroke Classic and I was very pleased with the result. But…I was still trying to push ahead by bullying my way through the stroke. The bigger blade, when used for anything 6 miles or less, worked because I was totally relying on arm strength instead of putting my core, lats, delts, and hips into the rotation. As I have been working on drills and trying to better my technique AND quicken my cadence the bigger blade no longer feels right, epsecially for starts. I am all about the 8.5” Maliko these days. It feels just right whether I am working on mad-dash sprints for starts or getting in a good rhythm for longer distances. Currently the 8.5” Maliko is my weapon of choice.

The first shaft I bought was a Flex 90 and I should have stopped right there. Having started SUP with shoulder pain I did buy a xTuf shaft to get a more flexible shaft but I found the xTuf shaft to be way too flexible, especially with the 9” Molokai blade. The response time between catch and stroke was too delayed. It felt like as I was turning my body the blade was staying behind me then shooting forward as the shaft flexed and spent too much time building up momentum before allowing me to try and push the board past where I planted the blade in the water, if that makes any sense. The feeling might be likened to: if I was throwing a pitch I would wind up and my elbow would go forward but when I would want to release the ball my hand holding the ball would not have caught up to the elbow for the release. There seemed to be too much of a delayed reaction time. This shaft has been untouched in my garage for quite some time and for many months I wondered why Ke Nalu even made this shaft. Then it hit me concerningwho the xTuf shaft is best for – the xTuf shaft is perfect for the elderly paddler with range of motion issues and/or the person rehabbing after an injury to their upper body. The xTuf shaft  with an 8.5” or 8” blade would be ideal for the recreational paddler who is out there to have fun and/or someone who wants to get out on the water but must take great care of their arms and/or shoulders. The xTuf shaft is perfect for moseying, if you just want to mosey and take in the scenery, along the surface of any body of water! The forgiveness in this flexible shaft would make even the most arthritic athlete a very happy paddler!

This summer I bought a 100 Flex, which is Ke Nalu's stiffest shaft, hoping to translate stiffness into speed and found it quite agreeable…most of the time. (I also switched to a classic "T" handle.) This was the paddle I used most of this past summer and it served me quite well in the 12-6 division of the Midwest SUP Series and the series of races in the Mid Atlantic region. Again, as I was working on my technique and still doing a lot of arm paddling the 100 Flex worked. However, by the end of the race season I found the 100 Flex to be too stiff, especially with a 9” blade on the end of it. Last week I changed blades and put the 8.5” blade on the 100 Flex and still found the shaft too stiff, especially for a long-distance paddle. I also found the stiffness to do more harm than good practing sprints and buoy turns, but this was with a bigger blade. All is not lost for the 100 Flex though! I think a 100 Flex with an 8” Wiki blade would be the ideal weapon of choice for a lighter paddler (under 180) who has a fast cadence. I want to buy an 8” Wiki to put on my 100 Flex to have for shorter races 5 miles or less where I can attempt to maintain a fast cadence for as long as possible!!

What you find with Ke Nalu is that you always have a component to make another component work. This can be for the new paddler, the established recreational paddler, or the competitive racer. Throughout the evolution of your stroke you will have options to find the best fit. Right now the Flex 90 is the best shaft for my stroke.

You cannot go wrong with the 90 Flex shaft. This is the shaft that is built for everyone. This shaft feels good with any size blade, although I must say that sometimes using anything smaller than 8.5” can feel like urinating into the wind. I like sprinting with the 90 Flex; I like going 12+ miles with the 90 Flex and I like doing a combination of both distance and sprints with the 90 Flex. If you want 1 paddle and 1 paddle only I vote for the 90 Flex, the 8.5” Maliko blade, and the Classic T handle.

I am rather surprised how my handle choice has evolved as my stroke has.  I was all about the Ergo T to start and I like it but when I first started paddling I loved using a tight grip. The tight grip with my fingers spread over any kind of T handle did not do well for – paddling without pain. I bought an Ergo handle and found myself being able to hold on tight for longer lengths of time befor experiencing any pain. Of course you are not supposed to hold on tight, but I was new and I went with what is comfortable. These days I paddle with a more relaxed grip (which keeps the forearms from cramping on long distance adventures) and I like having more surface area on which to rest my top hand. Also, I like pushing down with my top hand and using the Classic T feels really dang good and is my #1 choice to top off any paddle I am putting to use on any kind of paddling venture.  The Ergo T is not as wide a “T” and isn’t really that different than the Classic T so either makes for a great topper. The Ergo is a smoother shape that makes your paddle feel like a scepter, which is always a good thing to boost the self confidence! They all work well in terms of comfort but in the sweaty months the handles can be a little slippery. After trying all types of tape and even non-skid paint, I found surf wax solves this problem best.

As my stroke has improved (or maybe changed is a better word) so has my preference in paddle size, shaft flexibility, and handle comfort. What is great about Ke Nalu is the fact that there system is suited to providing options for the ever-evolving paddler. The hot-glue system makes changing out a component a breeze and I have yet to have anything malfunction in a race! I like being able to make changes without the hassle of dealing with epoxy. I ding my boards enough to have my fill of mixing epoxy. For paddle research I light up the propane torch (which is not the best way to do this mind you) and make changes within seconds! I ALWAYS like to let my paddles sit overnight when changing out components. I like the glue to settle in and get used to the new surroundings and so far it has worked. 

Any shoulder pain I have experienced this summer (when going back and forth between the 100 Flex and the 90 Flex) has not lasted past the next morning. Last summer when I used several brands of paddles I had shoulder pain until I became a consistent user of Ke Nalu products. I am also sure that using a much shorter paddle that is only 7.5” to 8.5” added to my overall height helps, but the point is that Ke Nalu has taken careful steps to provide shafts that take into account the pressure stand up padlding puts on the body. Their products work well for the body and I am sure if you ask anyone else who uses Ke Nalu products that they will agree with this. 

And back to the filthy urinating into the wind comment…this applies to me as someone who wants to feel the power loading into my stroke from the catch, planting the paddle in the water, through the stroke until I pull the paddle out of the water. The fact that I DON’T feel that power load with a small blade is GOOD for the recreational paddler who wants to do nothing but enjoy being out on the water. I did not mean that a small blade is a bad thing!! A small balde is great for not feeling the work you are putting in when enjoying time on the water!!

My ideal paddle for now is the 8.5" Maliko blade on a 90 Flex topped off with a classic "T" handle. That being said I think the 9" Molokai blade is great to use as a training paddle for resistance so when you grab the 8.5” Maliko you will be ready to fly! The 8” blade is great for ease of stroke.

So much to choose from! It’s all so good for you! Here is my ideal quiver I am striving to complete:
Top Choice: 8.5” Maliko on 90 Flex with classic “T” handle (total length 79”)
Top Back Up: 9” Molokai on 90 Flex with classic “T” handle (total length 78.5”) 
The Caddyshack Billy Baroo to Keep Around for Sprints: 8” Wiki on 100 Flex with Ergo “T” handle (total length 79”)

I buy my Ke Nalu gear from Ben Butterwei at Stand Up Paddle Annapolis who is the closest and best Ke Nalu dealer around. If you want to try a paddle before you buy one please feel free to conatct myself on the Eastern Shore or Ben if you live over on the west side of the bridge. If you just want to order one email Ben at supannapolis@gmail.com and mention that you are a reader of An Eccentric’s Take to get 15% off the total price of a new paddle along with free shipping!!  This deal goes from Halloween to the Surf to Sound race at Wrightsville Beach on November 16. You can’t beat that deal! Get yourself a new paddle for one of the last races of 2013! 

You will not be sorry for investing in the right components to suit your style of paddling. Ke Nalu takes into account that not every paddler is the same so they try and provide a wide range of components to fit almost any need. Ke Nalu’s customer service is top knotch and they will not hesitate to fix any problem with any of their products. They have also brought on options to make your paddle adjustable and my cousin Neil swears by the adjustable option. Plus, they have super cool t-shirts that look sexy on men and women!!

To read more about their gear check out: Ke Nalu

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Coolest Thing So Far This Summer

I brought back a lot of good from the races in Traverse City this past weekend. There were a couple nice awards, some new motivations, lots of laughs, a wonderful compliment, but as I look back on it all nothing compares to being made aware of the gentleman who won the special award for being the oldest competitor at the TC Waterman Challenge. He was 85 years old.

Yes...85 YEARS OLD...and still a competitor. That is frigging fantastic.

This morning the chapter I am working on in my textbook for the Certified Personal Trainer exam talks about Exercise and Older Adults. I paid a lot of attention to what was written because I was able to take the information that I learned and process it in a way that hits very close to home. I compare what is recommended for aging adults according to the ISSA and look back on what went on in the lives of a few family members then compare all that to the 85 year old gentlemen who sat back in his chair like a far younger fellow after an 11 mile surf ski race.

My grandmother stopped moving pretty early on in life...and she owned a dog. We all thought the dog would force her to move a little bit but instead she opened the door and let the dog out into the yard to take care of business. If the dog got out she called somebody to go get it for her. She should have chased it. Fast forward many years later and she trips over her cat and breaks her hip. The doctors said that there was very little material that would hold the necessary screws required for a proper fix. I remember hearing that trying to screw into her hip bone was like trying to screw into wet rotten wood. Nothing would hold; her bone had deteriorated to something along the lines of cork. Then this morning I read Wolf's Law that states the following: "the robustness of a bone is in direct proportion to the physical forces applied to that bone." My grandmother evidences this statement. Hardly any force was applied to her hip bone in her aging years and the result was disastrous.

As I read through this particular text I often wonder about the validity of some of the material. Some of it contrasts the beliefs I held when I trained according to Dr. Phil Maffetone's philosophies last summer. Some of the TRX exercises in my Force workout this morning were in an order that I didn't particularly agree with. This summer seems to be all about experimentation as to what will help me to continue to improve my paddling. As I try to finalize the game plan for the "here and now" I also want to take into consideration the "then." I have my own family members to work off of as examples but then get to observe others in the world around me. The do's and don'ts become pretty clear as we focus in on what is best for our health.

I wish I had gone up and introduced myself to the 85 year old gentleman who appeared in great health and full of energy and just picked his brain for a few minutes to get some of his own personal tips on how he did things to get to where he was last Saturday. I marvel at him and look back sadly on how the sedentary lifestyle of those close to me cost them dearly in their later years. There were many times I told my grandmother that she should go for a walk when I should have said come on let's you and I go for a walk!

Keeping our loved ones active should be a priority in our own lives. This belief was re-enforced for me this weekend and during this morning's study session. That 85 year old gentleman was sitting at a table with a group of people who obviously thought highly of him and supported him in his paddling and they deserve accolades as well.

Seeing theories from the fitness world proven as true is good stuff. I like to have that evidence to back up my statements that I will use on potential clients. Over the next few months and even years I will probably become a huge thorn in my mom's side but she has been the one yelling at me to get a job for a while now. She may regret it once I become a CPT!

Exercise works! It will help those close to us stick around a little while longer and it will improve the quality of the time spent together! I know it can happen because I saw that table full of fellows, including an 85 year old competitor, sitting around having a good old time and that was the coolest thing I have seen so far this summer!

Better start getting ready, Mom!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Here we go again...but you MUST buy this watch!

Unless you are a useless lazy slob who has no desire to better themselves you must buy the Vestal Brig watch. Run out of your home or office right now screaming, with your hands raised in the air and buy this watch. Or go to Amazon and buy it there where it is a little cheaper than full retail and keeps you from looking like a crazy person...

Now I know a great review was already done by the Mullet family over on the Distressed Mullet website and I am only repeating what they said but the value of this watch to your training program is undeniable. The Mullet review made me buy the watch 5 minutes later. I hope you will buy this watch five minutes after reading this. In fact, here is the link to do so now to keep you from reading the same old thing again and shaking your head at my grammatical errors: BUY ME NOW

There are far less watches available on Amazon than there were a month or so ago so you better hurry up! And the prices are a little higher but the watch is well worth the purchase. Here's why:

This morning I did not feel like training again. My body and my pride still hurt from doing dipsy-doos off my board in the race on Sunday. I am bruised like a peach and rug burned like a you-know-what from having to claw my way back onto my board a hundred million times. Also, I knew I needed to run to get some of that vacation weight off (thanks a lot Mom for keeping peach ice cream around...) and I had about as much desire to run today as I did to finish Sunday's race. Despite my lacking motivation, I put on some shorts and a compression top and decided to hit the beach anyway. I also grabbed my Vestal Brig.

On my walk to the beach I realized I had the TRAIN feature readily available for use. I set the SUFFER period for 15 minutes and the RECOVERY period for 1 minute and 30 seconds with the plan being to reverse them and warm up then do some quick sprints between the long aerobic work. At the bottom of the beach entranceway I clicked the start button and heard my first beep. There is just something about that beep that helped me put my first foot forward. Fifteen minutes later I heard another beep and picked up the pace. As I ran at just under an all-out sprint I began to wonder if I had set the watch properly then came the second beep letting me know it was cool to slow down again. Then BAM...all of the sudden I felt good. I felt ready to do more than I had planned on! As I ran and started to feel the busted-ass feelings from the other day slip off my shoulders I realized 15 minutes was too long to wait to sprint so I was able to re-set the SUFFER and RECOVERY times, while maintaining an aerobic pace, in the TRAIN mode to 5 minutes and 1 minute. BAM...I was back to full-on-training focus. Five minutes of aerobic work then 1 minute of a good sprint. It felt so dang good! People on the beach were looking at me like - "what is this guy doing?" So what. I was Forrest Gump running and feeling good to be doing so. I felt so good I started to change directions when I heard the beep and added a little lagniappe to the program. What a way to shake off the ick!

 I must have Pavlovian traits because I obeyed the beeps and let them direct me toward a mind, body, and soul cleansing. My head needed to focus elsewhere besides what is now in the past, my body needed a little hard work for the waistline, and my soul needed a whole lot of new oxygen brought into the system. Today, I honestly don't know how just a plain old jog could have accomplished what I absolutely needed. I desperately needed that little push to get me going toward a better place and the Vestal Brig provided that for me. I had not done sprints since high school lacrosse practice!

This watch is the best piece of gear I have bought this year and because it has done so much for me I really wanted to share this testimony to others who are over 40 and sometimes need that extra push to go beyond the norm when it comes to training. Do yourself a favor and don't go out to dinner one night this weekend and get yourself a good watch that is handsome and useful. There are several color schemes to choose from if the model you want is sold out. You won't be sorry buying this!

And thanks again to the Distressed Mullet family for letting me know about this watch so I could reap some much needed benefits in my own training program. Check out TONS of other cool stuff on the DM website:


Shake off the ick and get a Brig!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Art of Falling

All summer long I have been telling myself..."you need to practice falling off your board, getting back on, and paddling to try and maintain momentum."

I heard about Danny Ching at the Orange Bowl back in January who when he fell looked like he hit a springboard underwater as he hopped back on his board so fast it didn't look like he missed a stroke. Mother Nature can be your best friend on the water or she can completely humble you. To compete at an Elite level you have to be ready to paddle in all conditions. I was feeling a little too confident on the MHL yesterday...

I have been in a few races that crushed my spirit due to the number of times I fell in (Surf to Sound 2012 and Miami Orange Bowl 2013) and knew that with a narrower board this would become an even bigger issue. Who wants to practice falling in and crawling back on their board? I certainly don't but I certainly should have leading up to the Skyline SUP Series event in Chicago yesterday. I had gone three races in some chop and not fallen off the MHL so I thought I was ready and wasn't worried about the fact that I had not practiced what I told myself I needed to practice...OOPS!

During my warm-ups I was having a blast out in the conditions!! There was a steady 2 foot chop and the occasional 3 foot boat wakes coming through and although I was falling in I was feeling good! The water was so refreshing that I would even say I felt great! This was a race in downtown Chicago to take place in front of family and friends and the course was super cool, close to North Avenue Beach with plenty of buoy turns so people could actually watch the action. With buoy turns there usually is plenty of action. The Rec race was super fun to watch and was the hardest Rec race I have seen anybody ever paddle in! Big congrats to those folks!

The Elite Race started off okay. I fell at the start but managed to stay with the lead guys for a short while...then came the falls...lots of them. At first I didn't care because there were 6 grueling laps so there was plenty of time to make up for mistakes. I wasn't huffing and out of breath like usual after a start; I was in a pretty good place...then came the falls...lots of them.

I fell a ridiculous amount of times! I'm saying close to 50 falls and I fell in every which way and in every direction. I even did a one-handed handspring off the nose of my board! After one fall my sunglasses were off to the side, my paddle was off to the other side and my board was way out in front of me. You cannot make up time while you are trying to gather accoutrements off the surface of the water all around you! By the end of the race my PFD was hanging off my butt and my sunglasses were bent completely out of shape. My will was being crushed with a steel-toed boot.

It stopped being a race for me on lap 3; it became a practice session then a battle of the mind. For the first time ever I thought about quitting a SUP race. I look back on yesterday and I really don't think I would have been upset with myself for a DNF. On lap 4 I could not get back on my board to stand up after almost 5 attempts in a row. It was a battle not only physically but mentally. I would have quit but Rob Patton offered words of encouragement early on and watching him persevere helped me persevere. Crossing the finish line was humiliating and I can only blame myself. One friend asked if it was the board. I wish! Yesterday was 100% operator error!!

I was angry after the race. Today, I'm still angry. I'm angry at myself for racing poorly. If you want to achieve good results you have to be able to stand on your board in ANY and ALL conditions. I like traveling around to races all over the east coast and I would like to be able to keep up with the Florida folks and the California folks. I'm not upset about getting lapped yesterday or being far off the podium; I'm upset about not being able to perform to the standards I have been working so hard to try and achieve. Those guys that made the podium deserve it because they were awesome out there in really really REALLY tough conditions. I have nothing but respect and admiration for Ross, Kevin Joseph, and Matt Lennert who kicked ass in the 12-6 division and took the spots on the podium!! Westy had a great race and won 1st overall and I was with Westy in Miami for the Orange Bowl and let me just say...he looks like a brand new paddler and kicked that course's butt! Dimitry raced the rec course then hopped on a 14 and did the Elite course and placed 2nd! Awesome job! Rob Patton took off on the last lap and grabbed the 3rd spot on the podium to round out the winners. They all deserve high accolades for doing well yesterday, as does Windward Board Shop in Chicago for putting on a great event and setting up a really cool course!

Today I would go out on the lake and practice falling off and hopping back on but my body is so sore I can't even drive to the store to get a six pack of beer to help drown my sorrows! Today is about accepting a poor performance and learning how to properly respond to it! I am going to do some mental work first then I am going to get out on the lake and fall in love with my beautiful narrow MHL all over again! At least I hope I do!

Remember that review I wrote on the Starboard 12-6 Touring board??? That board won the 12-6 class yesterday and came in 2nd overall! I told you it was a good board...should have kept the one I had :)!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Got Ka-rushed This Morning

In last week's race I was not feeling it. It being that excitement and adrenaline rushing through the body right before a race and during the race. Last week was all about survival and getting through a long course full of more boat wakes and confused seas than I had been in since...the weekend before. Anyway, I was not feeling in top form and my buoy turns on the narrow 12-6 have sent me swimming many more times than I would like to admit so I re-evaluated my training program.

No more than 1 cross training program involving weights a week during the heavy race season. This summer I had been trying to sneak in 2 while trying to keep weight off and I think my body told me: "FU, jerk. I need better nourishment if you are going to put me through this." Westy, from Chicago Paddle Company and YOLO Board told me that his trainer demanded he eat more if he was going to train the way he does for the race season. The body needs at least the amount of calories you are losing if you want to get enough energy to compete at a top level, which makes sense when you think about it. To compete at a top level one has to up his or her training load as much as the body will allow and still be able to maintain strength, speed, and endurance when called upon depending on the situation. This weekend my body told me that I wasn't doing it right. So I said bring on the potatoes and Coronas!

This week I did a >5mile run on Sunday morning and a full body workout with TRX in the afternoon and ate PLENTY of food throughout the day. Monday was a double dose of paddling. Doing the trash pick up in the morning involved about 100 step ups getting on and off the board to grab trash off the lake bottom so I needed a stretchy fun paddle in the afternoon to try and work the kinks out. That second workout of the day, if you choose to do it, doesn't need to be anything more than getting your feet on the board and working on feeling even more comfortable on your SUP than you already are. I went narrow on my custom MHL and I am having to work a lot harder than I expected or really wanted to this summer, which brings me to today's workout post.

Buoy turns are crushing my spirit this summer. They have always been one of my favorite aspects of racing since I first got into SUP but now, on a narrow 12-6, they are dunking me. Last week during a training session I went out to do 20 buoy turns and fell on at least 16 of them. The Lake Max Challenge was a lot of buoy turns and I was hesitant and lacked confidence at almost every one over the course of 4 laps. Today I decided to work on buoy turns, but not just buoy turns I wanted to work on buoy turns with my whole body feeling like jelly as if I was in a race. In order to feel like jelly what is the best element to add to a training session??? BEAR CRAWLS and SANDY HILL RUNS!

I decided to incorporate bear crawls after remembering a phone conversation Westy and I had about training over the winter. He called to tell me he enjoyed reading my blog and suggested I get into doing bear crawls because of the effect they have on the whole body. Of course I waited until now to start doing them because they are so HARD! I should have been doing them all year long and maybe I wouldn't be feeling so lackluster, at times, now!

My goal was to alternate between paddle w/ right buoy turn followed by 20 yard bear crawls then paddle w/ left buoy turn followed by sandy hill run totaling 10 bear crawls and 10 sandy hill runs and 20 buoy turns. I did 4-4-8 and took a 20 crunch rest between 3 and 4. At 3 I couldn't even remember whether I was to do a left or right buoy turn! I tried to do 5 but felt I had already worked my body close to failure as it was so I went for a half mile run after then a cool down swim and more ab work. I got crushed but there is plenty of time to recover before this Saturday's East of Maui race in downtown Annapolis. The best thing I took away from the workout was staying focused on stroke technique during the paddles. I was very aware of the mechanics I was executing while in motion, even if it was very slow at times!

The workout, I think, has started to give me the confidence I need to improve the weakest aspect of my paddling. I feel pretty good right now after a quart of Gatorade. I did not feel good about an hour ago but that is the point isn't it? I went way past my comfort zone in attempts to improve as a paddler. My same old routine was not getting me where I had hoped to be by July 4th! Because I am not where I had hoped to be I also think it is time to get back to what I know works...heart rate training. I need to build up my aerobic base. Too much anaerobic effort feels like it is starting to take a toll. Good thing I am going to Maryland to try and dig that thing out of a closet and my mom's.

Bear crawls off set with long slow paddles. Let's see what they do! Oh, and buoy turn suicides as well!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I absolutely love the Starboard 12-6 x 30 touring board!

This board is Tony the Tiger grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat for those days when you just don't feel like standing on a narrow race board and working all the time to maintain balance. Today was trash pick up day so I needed to stay upright and keep my eyes on the lake floor in order to pick up any trash I could find in the shallows. Obviously I didn't want to use my MHL because I didn't want to keep spilling all the trash back into the lake I had just picked up so I brought out the Starboard Touring model for the morning expedition. It was a wise choice.

Obviously from the picture you can see that the board is ready to carry a good amount of gear. I haven't even put in a bungee system on the stern because anything I need to carry can be stored on the bow. For any type of distance paddle I would use this board because it has the capacity to carry any amount of gear you would need for a day expedition or even an overnight journey. (On the way home from the trash pick up I had a full trash bag and a pool side umbrella stowed on the bow and plenty of room to move around the board and switch sides paddling.)

The board is very stable. I went out on Lake Michigan just before a storm rolled in so there was a tiny bit of chop forming on the surface of the water. I was able to concentrate on my garbage collecting, looking straight down into the water, without having to worry about tipping over, even with small ankle high rollers trying to form in the shallows. The bottom has some concave to it so there are a few catch points to aid in stability. Overall the board did amazingly well in keeping me afloat, even in the shallow water.

I was quite surprised at how shallow a depth I could navigate through, and I am on the heavy side of this boards capacity. At 276 liters this board can float a very heavy person. I bet this board can float a 185 pounder and a lab-sized dog no problem. I squeaked through mere inches of water by putting my weight more toward the bow and paddling with very little of my paddle blade in the water. I would say I went through ankle deep water with very little adjustment.

This board retails for just UNDER $1300. You cannot beat that price for a board you can do everything on. I bought one of these for Even Keel SUP FIT's demo fleet because I strongly feel that this is the best type of board for Lake Michigan. I am also a fan of this board for the Eastern Shore of Maryland. You can spend the day exploring, ride downwinders, take a yoga or fitness class and even race competitively on this board. The displacement bow moves quite nicely through the water and picks up a nice bit of speed. It tracks well even with the stock fin. I bet you get better tracking with a Larry Allison or FCS fin of your preference. I can see this board doing well on an Oxford to Cambridge expedition or being able to handle exploring both coastlines on Assateague Island. For Lake Michigan you are covered paddling in any type of conditions.  

I have paddled the Wood versions and the AST White and I favor the AST White because not only is it more pocketbook friendly; it is much lighter than the Wood. The Wood version is a bit better looking but the advantages of the lighter weight and lighter price tag for the AST White far outweigh the looks of the Wood. I did have to add a pad for the deck of the AST White because doing any kind of distance without one hurt the bottom of my feet.

This is the go-to board in my demo fleet and I highly recommend one to anyone looking to buy a new board or add a board to their quiver. This board could be a one-board quiver no problem. The Starboard Touring board is ready for anything. I am able to offer these Starboard Touring boards for sale. Contact me for details.

You can try this board for free on any Monday you would like to pitch in and help with Even Keel SUP FIT's trash pick up on Lake Michigan. Next Monday Even Keel SUP FIT will be in Oxford, Maryland looking to help maintain one of the beautiful coastlines on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The board will be on the east coast available for a demo if anyone is interested.

By the way, a milk crate makes for a great portable trash can!  Set one up on your on board today and help keep our waterways healthy!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spicy Cross Training Workout

What does jumping rope have to do with SUP? Hell if I know but jumping rope can't be bad for you...

Last week I had no desire to go running on yet another day that the lake was closed due to contamination. I still have not ridden a bike since Leon's Triathlon nor do I want to. Feeling the need to do cardio I was wandering around the house thinking of things to do when I saw my jump rope hidden behind some coats on the coat rack. BINGO, I thought. I don't have to go far, do too much and I will still get a good workout.

Wow, I underestimated the power of the jump rope...I did the following workout on Tuesday and my calves were the source of excruciating pain for three days. During the race on Lake Max I felt them tightening up, which made me realize how important calf strength is for balance. Want to know more about the need for calf strength check this article out:


The workout is based on some old training sessions I did under former welterweight champ Lonnie Smith as I was contemplating entering the Daily News Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament in New York City way back in 1993...whole other fun story there!

I tweaked the "in between rounds" exercises to try and hit the muscles that might make me paddle faster!

This workout is to be done in constant motion with no stops at all!

Round One: 3 minutes jump rope alternating between single toe taps and double toe taps
Rest Period: 1 minute of Dumbbell Shoulder presses (use weights that you can press with speed for one minute)

Round Two: 3 minutes jump rope
Rest Period: 1 minute of medicine ball push ups (place each hand flat on a medicine ball and prop your toes up on a solid surface so your feet are higher than your chin)

Round Three: 3 minutes jump rope doing as much high speed single toe taps as your body can take
Rest Period: 1 minute of tricep presses (hold a single dumbbell behind the head with both hands and press)

Round Four: 3 minutes jump rope, last minute at high speed
Rest Period: 1 minute Dumbbell all-arounders (dumbbells on the ground: grab and deadlift then clean and press then lower dumbbells to shoulder level and squat then overhead press and lower back to ground for one rep - wrists should point behind you for deadlifts then stay pointing straight out in front of you for all parts after the deadlift until the dumbbells are placed gently on the ground)

Round Five: 3 minute jump rope at as nice and consistent a pace that you can do
Rest Period: 1 minute Dumbbell curls alternating arms

Get some electrolytes after this one!

I did this workout last week and got crushed then did it yesterday and was able to add another round of jump rope (after drinking electrolytes upon completion of Rest Period 5) and added balance work on medicine balls doing woodchoppers with a 15lb kettleball. So after the 5 rounds I switched to:

Round Six: 3 minute jump rope
Rest Period: 1 stand on medicine balls and alternate sides doing wood choppers with kettleball (I stood on 6lb medicine balls and tried to lift 15lb kettleball from left ankle (using right hand) to over right shoulder 5 times in a row with out stepping off then would alternate sides from right ankle (using left hand) to over left shoulder - most times I would get only 2 before having to step off!)

------------------3 minute rest for more water---------------------

Round Seven: 3 minute medicine ball woodchoppers with kettleball
Rest Period: 1 minute jump rope

Round Eight: 3 minute medicine ball woodchoppers with kettleball
Rest Period: 1 minute jump rope

Nap Time after this workout!!

I hope you dig this one! I feel it really helps with strength and endurance and have felt and noticed some benefits in a very short amount of time. My goal is to get in 10 complete rounds of good work before August!

What's one of your training goals?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Compare and Adjust Accordingly or Become Like Stale Gross White Bread

How are your results from this year's races compared to last year or last month or last week?

Do you see faster times than last year? What were the conditions like?

Is your training bringing about what you hoped for? If not, what is the problem?

This season has been awfully frantic for me so I have not felt very confident in my training. The weather took FOREVER to break out of an icy spring and allow summer to take hold, therefore warming up the lake enough to lose the full wetsuit. As stated before I was not the toughest guy able to suck it up enough to paddle in the chilly weather. I opted for much more cross training than maybe I should have. I wondered how this would affect my paddling.

When I did finally get my new board off the Fed Ex truck and finally had access to the lake I decided not to train with a GPS. I was scared; too scared to find out that I spent too much money going narrower and realizing that staying on a 12-6 might not have been the best idea I've ever had in life. (I'll re-address that whole issue later!) My mom has always said to me, "just get out there and paddle." That is exactly what I decided to do.

Last Saturday was a 7 mile race at Lake Max. The MHL felt pretty good under my feet even with a lot of jet ski and wakeboard boat chop sending confused seas over the outer half of the race course. I did fall once and that was at the calmest part of the race course near the shore doing a sloppy buoy turn. Pretty much a chopper move it was but the rest of the race felt fine...not great, just fine. The late starting time really messed up my routine so I had no idea how well I performed if I performed well at all. Here, performance has nothing to do with the podium; it has everything to do with how I did on the MHL compared to how I did on the DEAN. The DEAN was a fun board to paddle. The shape was so stable that 100% stroke power felt amazing every time. I could adjust my body to put every muscle proper stroke technique demanded into action and barely wobble. On the MHL I have to think about every nuance involved in twisting, rotating, setting the blade, pulling the hips to the paddle shaft, transferring weight from side to side, stepping back bending the knees, maintaining a triangle while trying to turn the board, and a bunch of other stuff. On the DEAN it was GO GO GO, on the MHL it is more of a detailed process that requires me to be more engaged in what I am doing at every moment and more focused as well. This weekend I decided to compare some notes to evaluate how my training has progressed, if at all.

Lake Max was 7 miles; the Cold Stroke Classic was 7 miles. During recovery day on Sunday I compared the conditions of both races over and over in my head checking the RESULTS page online every 5 seconds to see what my time was. When I looked at my watch after Lake Max I figured the times were close and I was okay with that because the conditions at Lake Max were much choppier than the Cold Stroke Classic. When the Lake Max times were finally posted I was a happy man.
Cold Stroke Classic: 1:23:25 - Lake Max Challenge 1:19:04 (Both were advertised as 7 mile races but I am sure there are some factors and variables that keep the races from being exactly similar but there is probably enough to work with for some sort of accurate assessment.) {Lake Max was much choppier compared to the flat glass, even with various currents at times, of the Cold Stroke so I am not worried about any distance discrepancy. Also, same paddle for both, different boards though and one extra layer for Cold Stroke.}

What makes me very happy is the fact that I have stepped up my workouts in the last two weeks. I am paddling more but I am also adding several other routines to get stronger and leaner. There have been some great TRX workouts I have mixed with uphill sprints, medicine ball circuits, and a great jump rope circuit that is absolutely kicking my butt. Varying my routine seems to be paying off. Just paddling is NOT going to help me improve. Of course I need to paddle; I need to paddle a whole lot but to greatly improve I need to do more than just paddle. I don't want the 14s to disappear so far into the horizon. I don't want to be so far down on the results list at the big races when competing against the boys from sunnier climates that people never see my name because they get tired of turning the pages over. I have adjusted in order to improve. Now I just have to maintain the right balance so there is no over training and my body has time to recover and rebuild.

Twitter has been very handy in checking out what some other paddlers are doing. Slater Trout is very kind to tweet tidbits from his cross training sessions. The manchild gets after it pretty good doing hikes, beach sprints, stair runs, and Paddle Fit sessions and the dividends seem to be paying off according to some results I've seen.

Check yourself and compare notes from various races and see what you can maybe do to improve endurance and strength. At Lake Max I set my watch to interval times to try and see if I could keep a frenetic pace throughout and I failed. I could not keep up with the plan so I went to Plan B which was: "just paddle." It worked because my training is helping me improve I just need to stay consistent and adjust so I can, hopefully, continue to improve.

I will start posting some cross training workouts and results from races that follow for evaluation. Feel free to join in!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Usually I am not keen to review gear but after yesterday's experience I felt the need to warn fellow paddlers about the danger lurking in the curb appeal of the Camelbak Molokai Hydration system.

I was lured in by the amount of storage the ads boasted. I have longed to be able to carry a USCG approved PFD, the proper amount of hydration, and a snack or two all on one part of my body. I have been looking at pictures from races to see what the pros do and there are times when the pros do not carry a PFD much less hydration as well. I am not a pro and do not live my life by the ocean so I feel much more comfortable having the necessary safety items close to my person. However, I carry a lot more weight that many of the pros so I am always trying to find ways to make myself feel lighter on the board.

While it really isn't that bad to have a PFD around the waist and some hydration over the shoulders (Danny Ching did it that way at the 2013 Carolina Cup following the rules like a true champion) I have been trying to consolidate. After reading some reviews about the Camelbak systems created for paddlers, the Tahoe, the Molokai, and the Baja, I jumped at the chance to buy one. After much deliberation I chose the Molokai for more water capacity as I tend to need more hydration in the hot summer months when races are frequent. The Tahoe, that goes around the waist, seemed like the way to go but it only holds 50 ounces of water and I like to do the occasional long paddle and went with the 70 ounce capacity Molokai. Mistake.

I had been using the Dakine Waterman which was great but the PFD capacity of the Molokai looked like THE solution to my consolidation wishes. Five strokes into my paddle I realized I might have made the wrong choice. Six miles into my paddle I was trying my best not to curse Camelbak for making such an uncomfortable product that falls completely short of its intentions.

The lightest USCG approved PFD I have found fits well in the area made to store such but to put the PFD, 70 ounces of water, a cell phone in a waterproof case, and some Cliff shot blocks all on the shoulders is too much. I tried to adjust all the straps to find a comfortable area so everything would ride comfortably and eventually did; however, the hose then no longer reached the clip to hold it in place therefore making hydration, while underway, and complete nightmare. I had not even started paddling yet and was ready to call it a day! What a horrible design flaw!

Ten feet from the shore and I still had 7.5 miles to go in order to complete my workout...this was not looking pretty. I decided to take the PFD out of the Molokai and put it around my waist and was able to continue on. My frustrations did not end.

As one can tell from the picture above, the Camelbak Molokai is much bigger than the Dakine Waterman. Obviously, the more surface area the product has the more surface area of the body it will cover. This does not bode well for paddling, especially if you are executing proper stroke technique. If you do nothing but arm paddle and keep the rest of your body rigid then this might be the system for you. If you twist slightly and open your chest during the reach then bury the paddle and rotate your hips to bring them to the shaft of your paddle then this system will eventually feel like it is falling off of you. Adjustments are fairly easy to make but who wants to do that during a race or during any paddle when you get a good rhythm going? I have NEVER had to adjust the Dakine system during a sprint race or a 26.5 mile seemingly-near-death-experience.

The pockets on the Molokai stretched to the limit to hold my Iphone 4 in its Amphibian case from X-1 and twice when I leaned over too far it fell out. The pockets did hold one package of Cliff shot blocks just fine and would do fine with gels and other small items but for longer paddles leave the turkey sandwich at home or mash it up into bite size morsels. The overall capacity for anything falls way short of making all this extra material worthwhile to have on the body during an activity like stand up paddling.

So I come back from 7.5 miles with this brand new expensive item wondering what in the heck I am going to do with it because I want no part of it..."Hey, honey, do you need a hydration pack for some the rec series races you plan on doing this summer?"

Gracie tried it on and at first she did not feel the love for the product either but then when I showed her how to adjust the straps to make the system fit her body tighter, snugger, and better a smile lit across her face. After a few short pulls and twists and tugs she looked up with an even bigger smile. "It's like the wonder bra of hydration packs!"

It just so happens that my wife also happens to be a chronic arm paddler so I know that if the system feels good on her she still needs to work on her technique!

At least now the Molokai no longer seems like a waste of money...but I certainly wouldn't recommend it to any paddling friends, especially serious paddlers who execute good technique. I am still curious about the Tahoe...to have everything around the waist sure seems appealing. (Maybe I'll sell the Molokai to Gracie for 70 bucks so I can try the Tahoe!)

See you on the water (if the water is not too gross)!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Inspiration All Around Me

SUP Race season is on!

Actually, it probably started back at the Carolina Cup but things have been very iffy on my end since the middle of March when I was trying to patch up my old DEAN 12-6. It did not sink during the Carolina Cup but it did manage to break open along a seam the very next day. Since, the board has been Dremeled open and left to dry out in my mother's garage in Maryland. I think I may take ALL the glass off and try to re-glass it myself...just for fun. But back to my original point which is: inspiration is everywhere this race season!!!! People are doing amazing things out on the water and it's not even the Fourth of July!!

It seems that I cannot go to an event or read about an event without taking away some positive vibes to put to use in my own training. Being a part of the SUP community is just so fulfilling. My own accomplishments fulfill me and the accomplishments of others inspire me! Have you ever noticed that it is extremely difficult to find an asshole at a SUP event. I haven't met any (so far) and have only heard about one well-documented case at an east coast race... Now let's move on to the good chicken soup-for-the-soul stuff that gets me amped up to get out on the water and do my best...every time I'm privileged enough to be out there.

I met Nathan Bankson last year at a few races back east as he and his handsome Speedboard 14 were always close by at the start of races. We often exchanged nods and smiles and "good lucks" before the horn went off. He had just purchased the board and had not been able to spend as much time on the board as he would have liked due to a busy work schedule. Speedboards, from what I hear, are not for the balance-challeneged paddler. They are hard to paddle and even harder to paddle well. Despite being on a very demanding board, Nathan always had respectable finishes but usually finished just off the podium, but that was last year. This year is very different. This year Nathan is hitting the podium and Speedboard has taken notice. Go check out Speedboard's website click here and you will see a nice little picture that you can click on to read the Team Speedboard Athlete Profile of Nathan Bankson.

Obviously Nathan worked very hard during the long Virginia offseason when the weather makes it easy to find any excuse to avoid being near the water. He put his time in and his hard work has rewarded him. I have thought of Nathan often over the last few days as I have tried to adjust to a board that is very challenging for me to ride. I just keep thinking that time on the board will help me improve as it did for Nathan. I am quite happy with the fact that I bought a board that will force me to work very hard in order to raise my level of paddling. Hard work pays off! I would love to be a featured rider on somebody's website besides my own!!

At the first event of the 2013 Midwest Sup Championship in Benton Harbor this past Saturday I watched a newcomer to the 14 fleet put on quite a showing to win the race. Last year Tony Paul raced in the 12-6 class and seemed to have quite a battle going with Ross Herr who eventually won the 12-6 class in the 2012 Midwest SUP Championship. Back in January I met Tony at the Orange Bowl Paddle Championships and saw he was on a 14. Can't say I was disappointed to see him in a different class than myself because I had always heard about what a great paddler he was so I wondered why he made the switch! A lot of people are heading to the already crowded 14 class and I am trying to hang on in the 12-6 as long as I can. At any event in any part of the country you have to be at the top of your game to reach the podium in the 14 class. Having a hell of a battle last year at 12-6 I figured Tony would be in a bigger battle against all the top guys the Midwest has on 14s. Well...

At the 3rd Annual Sweetwater SUP Challenge put on by Third Coast Surf Shop Tony reached the top of the podium in the 14 class, and was the overall winner, and he did so in quite an impressive fashion. That man was fast; I mean dang fast! Wow, was all I could think while watching him get further and further away from me as the race went on. He made the jump from 12-6 to 14 look effortless, which by no means, means it is an easy transition to make. Tony's win on Saturday evidences a lot of hard work and dedication to the sport. I don't know Tony well (yet) but I am going to pick his brain for some training tips for sure! His win was truly inspiring because he beat some incredibly fast paddlers! What I witnessed him do last Saturday is just another shining example of what might result from putting in some serious time preparing, paying heavy dues on the water, and showing a lot of respect to the sport. bravo, sir!

Last year I met Westy when he was in Chicago nursing an injury that I know had to be frustrating for a guy who had earned a reputation for being an avid waterman. He was not able to paddle in the way that got him to be an Elite team rider for one of the biggest companies in SUP - YOLO Board. Well, this 2013 race season is a bit different for Westy as I have watched him cross the finish line ahead of me at the events we have competed in together. We went out on a training session together and month or so ago and I saw no hint of a leftover injury as I worked my tail off to try and keep up with him. He paddled well and his stroke looks very technically sound. My stroke makes me look like a bit of a spazz. His board has very few scuffs on it. My board is less than a week old and already looks like it has been through a complete race season! Paddling with Westy makes me want to paddle better. I want my stroke to improve so it will be admired by the paddlers behind me.

Paddling with Westy...(I can see a Youtube series in the making with that title)...is also beneficial because he is a great person to be with on the water because he always offers encouragement. You pass him he says good job, you fall behind he tells you to come on and catch up to him. There is always encouragement from Westy to push yourself to do better, as long as you can stay within earshot! I'm a jerk so if you are ahead of me I am thinking: fall, fall fall, but with Westy there is always positivity and a huge desire to share the stoke.

Westy also has a reputation for being one of the best teachers in the business. I have seen him with people just getting started in the SUP vibe and his energy and patience seem to have no limit. By watching him I see what I need to work on if I expect anyone to want to work with me on the water for longer than 10 minutes!! Over the last year we have become pretty good friends and I appreciate the time he gives me to help improve as a paddler.

Race season is just getting started yet there is so much to feed off of! I can't get over how much awesomeness I have seen already! As the sport continues to grow I can't imagine what else will be available for me, and for anyone else looking for positive encouragement, to feed off of and input into their own system. I hope we all continue to grow and improve as our sport does. I thank Nathan, Tony, and Westy for their inspiration and I thank all the other people I paddle with as well because I have gotten so much more from countless other paddlers. Some I have mentioned in previous posts and some I have not but just know that I am probably watching you because there will always be opportunities for all of us to learn from each other.

Thanks for reading and see you on the water!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My 3 Stage Process to Well Being

If you want to improve your overall health and wellness you HAVE TO make changes. The severity of these changes depends upon your current condition. To evaluate your current condition you have to take an honest look at yourself both physically and mentally. The physical evaluation may seem obvious but many people have come to accept their current physical state and in doing so they have put themselves at risk. Other than possible health-related risks, the most dangerous risk is complacency. Being complacent leads to a mental deterioration because the mind is tricked into thinking: I'm fine living the way I am and in reality such may not be the case. If the mind becomes rigid in its acceptance of unhealthy living, no matter how slight it may be, the soul, where your conscience resides, will have a hard time keeping you balanced. This I write not with some online degree in a Walgreen's frame on my wall; I write to you because I have been there, done that, struggled, and worked my tail off to make changes and live by them. What I can tell about my past experiences in trying to be healthy and well organized in my time management in order to do so is that it is dang hard! I can also tell you that when the mind has a stronger influence on the way you live more so than the soul health and wellness is an uphill battle.

For most of my life I have never used a scale to determine how I felt about myself; I used my belt line. In fall 2011 I realized that I needed to buy all new pants. Size 34 just did not fit me anymore. All my play'a clothes looked like tightly wrapped bandages unable to contain their contents. And here is what is scary...I was okay with that. I figured oh well, I am 42 now and that is just the way life is supposed to go. Oops, that kind of complacency was dumb. At 42, I just didn't feel like working that hard and making any more sacrifices in order to stay well. To make a long story short, a story I have often told over and over, stand up paddling helped change all that. Adding a new element to my lifestyle helped me return to a better way of thinking. I took on a mindset that changed my way of living and right now I am really happy with the results.

As I look back on where I was in June of 2012 to where I am now in the waning days of May 2013 I have come up with a philosophy that sums up the process. Achieving positive change should take place in three stages: sacrifice, moderation, and reward. How long one must endure each of the three stages depends upon how hard they are willing to work.

-What you have been doing isn't working so you need to get rid of what is holding you back from being well.
-Often this mainly has to do with eating habits but it can also mean sacrificing comfort.
Sacrifice means just what you think it does. Giving up things that one thinks might be valuable to them but really aren't. I strongly feel that this is NOT the time to take one day and eat whatever you want as a lot of nutrition experts might suggest. Now is the time to be disciplined and NOT return to the way things were AT ALL. It's just too easy to backslide when living the wrong way isn't far enough in the past. As your body gets healthier the mind will only get stronger. Use this period as a time of growth. Walk across the coals for a while and come out stronger on the other side.
-Getting off the warm comfortable couch to go make your body move around in various positions and at various speeds, especially during inclement times IS a sacrifice. Time is precious to many of us and when we forego a little bit of peaceful down time in order to make ourselves healthier and more fit it should be defined as a sacrifice. Giving up one thing in order to take on another, especially if the other makes you better, will definitely make you stronger.
-Enduring through the Sacrifice Stage on your own is extremely difficult. Often one needs support from either a loved one, a trainer, a hobby, or a group in order to get through the rough times. The Sacrifice Stage is not a lot of fun but very necessary to get the body re-tuned. The harder you work during this phase faster you can move on to the next.
-Staying strong and staying active will get you through this self-imposed boot camp and into the Moderation Stage as not only a healthier person but stronger person and moderation requires strength...

-This stage is when you notice positive changes but understand, without hesitation, that there is still a long road ahead with lots of work to be done.
-Once you notice and feel the positive results from all the hard work required by the Sacrifice Stage you should be strong enough to start incorporating more fun things into your weekly routine without making them habitual or regressing into a complete backslide and having to start all over. You should notice positive results when you are: going well beyond the norm in your exercise routine and making better decisions about nutrition. Also, exercise becomes a HABIT NOT A BURDEN. This could mean more time and more mileage on the treadmill, more reps with stronger weights, you actually want to go workout rather than having to make yourself go workout, more interest in active pastimes than reality TV, and you don't look back when you pass the frozen pizzas at the grocery store. Best of all, your current wardrobe is fitting just a bit looser.
-When I reached this stage last year I allowed myself one slice of pizza a week and an occasional Reese's Cup. I never bought more than a slice of pizza and one Reese's package because I still knew that I could revert back to my old harmful ways if tempted enough. When I did indulge in some fun I knew that I still had to make up for it in my workouts the next day. You are not out of the woods but the woods are getting thinner and you can start to see some daylight breaking through the canopy.
-During the Moderation Stage you don't have to deprive yourself ALL of the time, but you can't let up either. It is still important to somehow and in some way make up for the moderate payoff's you give yourself while working toward greater achievements.
-It is just as easy to fail during the Moderation Stage as it is to fail during the Sacrifice Stage. This happened to me last fall. The celebration of my engagement was a little too extended and a little too often and I wound up reverting to some old habits. Cold weather started setting in and it got ugly. I had to start the sacrifice stage all over again and that sure is never fun! By not adhering to moderation I lost a lot of the positive momentum I had gained during all those months I had worked so hard. A few days after the wedding it was back to sardines and raw vegetables until my positive progression became a habit.

-You've reached it when you are accomplishing goals on a regular basis, and even going beyond what you thought possible, and making good healthy decisions feels natural.
-A reward isn't just a Snickers bar or a day of eating whatever the hell you want; a reward is a new pair of boardshorts because everything else you own is falling off you! Eating isn't really a reward anymore because your body needs just about everything you can grab because you are working so physically and mentally hard in other areas of your life.
-I knew I had hit this stage when I could go visit my wife at work in her family's bar and drink ginger ale without worrying about it. Oh yeah, previously if ever I walked into her bar or any bar I was ordering a cold beer no matter what time of day it was. Not an issue anymore. It feels good to have the strength to do this now when it was definitely an issue not too long ago in Spring 2012.
-A Reese's Cup isn't a reward any longer because you don't have the craving for them anymore. Your body is so attuned to receiving what is right that a bowl of Greek yogurt and honey feels like a major reward. To be honest I don't know if I have ever reached this stage before in my life until recently. Everything feels so different. All the decisions I had to battle over in the Sacrifice Stage are no longer sacrifices; avoiding the bad is now the norm. It's crazy what a little hard work will do for you!

So this is what I came up with. People have asked me what happened in my life over the last year and I often have trouble explaining it in detail. Sure I can say "I started stand up paddling" but there was a lot more to it. SUP just enabled me to stick it out through all of the difficulties in the different stages, including multiple Sacrifice Stages over the last year. My soul is in charge of my body NOT my mind. Hopefully, now I have a premise should others wish to make changes in their own lives and seek my help to aid with the process. I'll make no bones about it, at the start the road seems long and hard and it damn sure is, but...by sticking with it you'll reach new places that open up a world of new opportunities and harmonious feelings. And when you get there it feels pretty good too!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Laziness leads to Itchiness

I was growing bored of cracking open eggs, peeling back the lids of sardine containers, and cutting up avocados. While attempting to ready myself for a race season in the 12-6 class I decided to make a focused effort to drop back down to the fighting weight of my mid 30s...or at least get as close as possible to said the weight of days past. This required A LOT of sacrifice on my part and a larger budget for food products because it is ridiculous how much more expensive it is to eat healthier, especially when you try to do it the lazy way and purchase pre-prepared, non-processed, healthy items. Those trays of pre-cut raw vegetables are such a rip off compared to buying a few heads of broccoli, cauliflower, and a couple cucumbers and making raw snacks on your own! To fill in the blanks of a self prescribed heavy raw and omega-3 based program I found quite an appetite for Clif Builder's Protein Bars. The vanilla-almond flavored ones are too die for! The chocolate-mint flavored ones taste like ice cream. Not only did these particular protein bars taste good but they filled me up, kept me energized, and seemed to help my body recover from intense workouts. This Clif Builder's bars also fed and satisfied my ever-present desire for sweets. I was hooked.

Soon enough I found myself eating a protein bar for breakfast and either dinner or my late-night snack. By no means was I starving myself. Throughout this program I never fought to stave off hunger pangs. I seemed to be doing everything the right way. I was down to 193 by the Carolina Cup. I wasn't feeling any ill effects so I decided to carry on with this program and try to lose a little more weight for the Midwest SUP Championship series.

Another factor that played into dieting is the fact that I ordered a new 12-6 from MHL Custom in Puerto Rico for the 2013 race season. The first thing owner, shaper, and designer Nick Leason said to me was "you should be on a 14." Of course he's right but the first race board I ever bought was a 12-6 and I like 12-6s a lot. They are easier to manage when you are constantly looking for storage in tight places and the class is much less crowded than the 14s. I tried one of the MHL 14s that was much narrower than anything I had ridden before and loved it! Paddling that board had to be as close to a magic carpet ride as one can get and I tried several brands of boards over the course of the weekend in Wrightsville Beach. Nick agreed to take that 14 design and shrink it down to a 12-6, which translated into: my days of eating ice cream remain further down the road. This board is going to be the 2nd or 3rd narrowest board I have ever paddled, depending on what the final width will be (which I am too afraid to ask what it is). I just need it to get here and get my feet on it and start training so it can be the fastest board I have ever paddled! Guaranteed, it will be the most beautiful board I have ever paddled!

After the Carolina Cup it was back to Chicago and right into an invitation from my ol' buddy Matt Lennert to sign up for a triathlon that will take place on June 2. It will be one of the largest triathlons to have a SUP leg instead of a swim leg. I eagerly said yes without fully grasping the fact that after the SUP leg there will be a 24 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run. Training for this has been exhausting. There are so many more things I would rather do than ever get on a bicycle, watching TV rates as the number one thing I would rather do! After a training session, I have no desire whatsoever to wash vegetables, then cut them, then dig around for various containers in which to store them. Grabbing a protein bar has been much easier.

During this time I have also been doing a lot of waiting. Waiting for my new board to arrive, waiting for a small-business loan to go through to be able to start a business, waiting for the bank to get my debit card right because they screwed it up the first time, therefore waiting to be able to pay for my orders, therefore waiting for my orders to go through so I can start getting gear, waiting for my logo, waiting for the gear to arrive so I can put pictures of other things besides me on my website, waiting to officially launch my website, waiting for Lake Michigan to warm up to a tolerable level, waiting to hear about possible sponsorships which would be a dream come true, waiting for movers to help my wife and I move out of Chicago to Ogden Dunes, Indiana, waiting to figure out what our permanent living situation will be in a few months...and so on.

I don't do well with waiting...the last thing I want to do after all that described in the previous paragraph is make food and wait while I eat before cleaning up after myself. Yes, that sounds dumb and I know it is but I bet you do dumb stuff too! A protein bar solved many of these waiting problems by giving me immediate satisfaction. I told myself I was to eat no more than two of those per day. Well, in the last two weeks I was sometimes eating three of those a day. Immediate satisfaction for my appetite felt therapeutic during the stressful waiting period. In my head I knew all the protien couldn't be a good thing. Have you ever read the ingredients on one of those packages? That stuff ain't natural!

During the last two weeks I developed a major hot spot on my right arm just above the elbow around my tricep. The itch would pop up and last for quite a while. Over the course of, according to my GPS, 13.5 miles of racing at the Carolina Cup I got a good farmer's sunburn on my arms. I thought the itch might be sun related. However, there were no outward signs of skin trauma. What was going on was under the skin. I tried to combat the symptoms with Cortaid and Lubriderm. Nothing worked for long periods of time. Saturday night I had a flare up in the middle of the night that popped me out of my bed as if I was being stung by a small fleet of Itchy Wasps (there was no pain just crazy itchies). I was able to get back to sleep but the first thing I did when I woke up the next morning was put on my white coat and hit the internet to research Web MD type sites.

I found a few possibilities of what I might have and started to do some tests. The first thing I did was run scalding hot water over my arm to see if I had a histamine problem. Running scalding hot water over chigger bites and poison ivy is a euphoric-like experience that uses up all the histamine in the body and leaves one itch free for 8-10 hours. (It is the single most amazing remedy I have found on the world wide web!)  Running hot water over my arm only further irritated the itch and caused the first bit of epidermal layer agitation. Not histamine related I deduced...

The other possibility I read about was a protein imbalance. I thought back to Saturday and realized Saturday was a 3 protein bar day...hmmmmmm...there might be something to this protein imbalance thing that isn't so good for me. Luckily, on Sunday I was to meet Matt up in Evanston for some paddling in the morning then go to North Avenue Beach and meet my buddy Clem for an afternoon session. I decided that I would NOT eat any protein during this day of intense activity and try to use up all of whatever might be in my body to see if that helped. Also, I tried to eat as little as possible so my body would use up ALL of the fuel needed for energy. By the end of the day I was used up and STARVING.

Next, I prescribed myself an overdose of carbs. The best part was wondering where I was going to get my medicine McDonalds or Bacci's over sized pizza slices. I chose Bacci and feasted to the brink of gluttony. The slice wasn't even that good but my body needed the carbs. Here I sit writing this on Tuesday morning and I can report that I have only had one minor little itch that was eased away with a light brush of a fingernail. On Monday I ate only foods that I prepared myself, no shortcuts. Too much synthetic material going into my body did not sit well. One bar a day is fine. I like those Clif Builder's, especially for the way they take away my craving for sweets. I just can't let them take away my sense of what is true nourishment for the body and what isn't. Back to the grocery store today! It is hard to argue that there was a protein imbalance causing me to suffer through some very annoying symptoms.

This dieting has been a good thing for me because I am on the path to getting back to a normal weight. It is not like I am trying to drop to an absurd weight class like some MMA fighters do; this is me getting back to the old me (which is damn hard being over 40)! For the most part I have handled things properly and not made bad decisions during the sacrifice period of attempting to get in tip-top shape. Life sure got in the way at times and I lost my common sense when it comes to following the simple rules of eating, like the five ingredient rule or eat only foods that contain ingredients you know how to pronounce. At no time has anything ever been bad save for the itchy breakouts on my right arm. It just goes to prove that listening to your body with a keen ear can keep you headed down the best path for your overall well-being. Sure, some of those side routes with the signs reading SHORTCUT look good at the entrance but that way can be much more dangerous. Staying true and focused on the correct path may seem like more work at times but it is only through the bad that we can truly comprehend the value of the good. In lay men's terms...make your own meals and eat a well balanced diet and you will do great!

Summer is starting to feel like it has finally arrived here in the Midwest. I cannot wait to race this season on the new board being in as good a shape as I was in my younger years. Maybe next season I will stay in the 12-6 class but after that I think going to skip right on over the 14 class and get on an MHL Custom unlimited so I can hit my mid 40s and start enjoying gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream once again, all while trying to maintain an even keel mind you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Post Carolina Cup Recap

Phew...I'm glad it's over but I really didn't want it to end. I wanted the race to end but I didn't want the experience to end. Being at one of the biggest, if not the biggest SUP race on the east coast, for the first time was a wonderful getaway. I got to demo a lot of great boards, learned A LOT from the Danny Ching technique clinic, met some business contacts, and learned a lot about what not to do when trying to earn a little coin from this ever-blossoming industry. I have very little to complain about and really when it comes down to it there is only one complaint - the change of the course in the Graveyard race. Why? I still wonder why at night when I go to sleep thinking paddling thoughts. Oh well. The course was beautiful and fun but, in my humble opinion, we went the wrong way. Nevertheless, I am glad I made the trip.

The board I had been sanding and patching for the months leading up to the Cup did not sink, nor did it spring a leak until the very next day. Mission accomplished. After working so hard to get that board ready I felt I owed it to myself to get a new board...a custom board. It's ordered and should be here by June.

Another thing that has been keeping me busy is trying to get organized and start a business. That ball is rolling and I now officially have a name and a tax id #. Even Keel SUP FIT will be hitting the shores of Lake Michigan as soon as the weather warms up the water temperature...and as soon as all my gear arrives. I am nervous as hell and excited. I have always wanted to start my own business and now I have almost everything lined up to make that happen. The only thing that will keep me from paying the bills is me. It will be a Sole Proprietorship which means that I will be the only one responsible for the successes and failures. The buck starts and stops with me and that is the way I like it. Of course, I can blame my wife if I really need to make myself feel better, but hopefully I won't have to do that too often.

In the last few months I have learned so dang much and I want to take the time to pass on the knowledge to friends and associates but there is still much work to be done before I can sit at the computer and say that I am working. At the moment the burden feels kind of heavy but getting help and advice from a lot of friends is lessening the load. Ben from SUP Annapolis, Dawn from OC Sup Fitness, Ron and Sandy from Walk on Water in Ocean City, Matt from Starboard, Kathy from Stand Up DC, my mom, my wife, and many others have been very helpful and encouraging and I appreciate your time. Nathan, on the incredibly fast Speedboard 14, gave me a nice bit of encouragement to start writing my blog again. Of course there is always my cousin Neil to thank and to blame for getting me into this SUP mess in the first place. Without him I could just be enjoying life cooking meals and cleaning the house but noooooooooo...I have to paddle as much as possible and now I have to take all the benefits I have received from SUP and encourage others to reap the same. Thanks a lot, Neil! I might be coming to you for a loan soon!

More to come as things unravel...or maybe I should say unfold. I have to go try and open a bank account that won't take all {if any :)} profits with their monthly fees!!

I'll keep everybody updated as things progress. I will say one thing...TRX...go start doing it NOW!! What a great workout!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Adjust - Find the Balance, Repeat Steps 1 & 2 Again and Again and Again

Usually winter-time training goes pretty well for me. My wife sends me off to Maryland to stay at my family's place. I get to paddle and see my family and she gets to do...nevermind, I don't want to know what she gets to do while I am away!!

These past few months of training for the Carolina Cup have not gone as well as planned. There has been a lot of upheaval and so many curveballs have been thrown in my direction that my eyes almost well up with tears every time I think about clicking on that button that registered me for the Graveyard Elite race instead of the Money Island Open race. The Graveyard race takes you out in the ocean and the last time I raced in the ocean off Wrightsville Beach I got pummeled. I expected to spend a lot of time in Ocean City trying to get acclimated to wavy seas but didn't make it there once...

As I have examined all that has gone wrong I have divided up things that are my fault, my wife's fault, my mother's fault, and the fault of TOoMC (Things Out of My Control).
Me: 473
My Wife: 0
My Mother: 0
TOoMC: maybe 1 but really 0

I have had to adjust to many of my own mistakes and try to find some balance in life to continue progression and to keep things on an even keel. Here are highlights of a few tests and trials:

As soon as I got back I rushed out to paddle and went into the wind using a 9" blade because I was panicked that I was behind my mileage schedule. End result - dangerously shore shoulders. Anybody reading this who is a paddler is shaking their heads thinking what an idiot...I know I know.

My offseason time in the weight room might have been too much. Being that it was winter I spent a lot of time lifting weights and running and standing on medicine balls. I introduced a few more exercises into my weight routine that focused on getting my shoulders stronger. The transfer from land to water did not feel very good. During my last re-entry into paddling after a long hiatus, from November to January, I did not feel as uncomfortable getting the paddling muscles into a smooth flowing motion. This time around it was quite different and quite uncomfortable. I knew I should have dropped a day of weights and gone into the hot yoga room!!

This trip I took Eli Mongrel with me. Eli is such a sweetheart but he is a HANDFUL! My wife and I decided that winter in Oxford would be good for trying to work on the separation anxiety with the mongrel because the building where I would be staying would be empty of occupants and my mother's house has no full-time neighbors on either side. Well, there were plenty of cars in the parking lot on weekends and my mom was in Florida on vacation so she wasn't around to help out with the process. I don't mind a dog barking his head off as long as he isn't bothering someone else and/or flailing against his crate. Coming back from a paddle and finding Eli with a bloody snout or completely busted out of his crate did not make the process easy.

When my mother finally returned from her trip she was exhausted and on the verge of getting sick so I didn't want to leave Eli with her for too long. Eli Mongrel is not a comforting companion for the very tired individual, especially an individual you love and who has bent over backwards all of their life for you! My paddles were either kept too short or I went too fast because I was worried about the mongrel bothering all of Oxford's winter-time population, which was more than I expected this year. Also, the water was just too cold to keep flowing over Eli's private parts when I took him paddling with me!! Damn recessed deck!

My board was full of water. This one hurt. My 12-6 DEAN got dinged on the nose while in winter storage, not by me, and out of curiosity I tipped the tail end up to see if any water was inside of it. WOW, was I surprised!! There were microscopic hairline fractures along the seam at the tail where carbon fiber joined what looks like balsa wood. I cut those out and tipped the nose up then watched the water really flow out of it. I left it at an angle and traveled back to Chicago to pick up more gear, hoping I would be able to patch it when I returned.

Unfortunately, there was still some dampness around one of the holes so I needed some sun to dry the surface around the ding. Sun has been hard to come by this year! As I began to panic I began to smear Marine Tech on the holes and dinged the bow again moving the board around to find sunlight so I smeared more Marine Tech on the board. All the dings were fixed and sanded except for one. I tried to rush things and just created more work for myself. I knew, at the very beginning, I should have cut the tail off and let the board drain and the foam dry completely. Such is happening right now so the board should be ready to repair when I get back from my 2nd unexpected trip back to Chicago.

Looks like we have to move again. (Our building was sold and the new landlords are awful and do not deserve one penny of our rent!) Gracie's mom has permitted us and the two hairy mongrels to return to her house in Ogden Dunes so my employment plans for the summer are up in the air again. I am back in Chicago trying to see if I can work something out, but my wife has graciously allowed me to return to Maryland for the summer if opportunities await there. And it is still so dang cold here in Chicago that the thought of going out on Lake Michigan doesn't really excite me, but I have to in order to get some more miles under my belt. Eli went swimming this past Saturday and his body felt like a block of ice when he got out. It was so extreme that I got a little nervous that the cold would affect him physically. However, he did not even shiver and his tail wagged for more. (We left the beach after feeling his body.) The dog is a lot tougher than we all thought...unless he is out of sight of his momma!

Where has global warming been this year? Last winter spoiled me. I haven't be able to man up and get out on the water on these cold dreary days. Although I wish it wasn't, this one is still my fault because I have the gear to be out there and still be safe.

I think I have complained enough today...

The best part about venting my whines is realizing that I still cannot wait for the Carolina Cup weekend to arrive!! I am doing a paddle clinic with Danny Ching, as are a lot of my paddling buddies, racing out in the open ocean, which is always a great learning experience, getting my Level 3 certification in Paddle Fit, which might help me earn a shekel or two, and getting the opportunity to see old friends and family and possibly make some new ones. How can getting ready for any part of this upcoming weekend be a bad thing? There is only one answer to this question:


Having to adjust to the circumstances life throws at you, if you react properly, increases growth. When you don't react properly you dig some deeper holes, but...if you, again, adjust, there is great potential for growth. I am working on that great potential now!

I am still growing and learning how to become a better Christian, husband, son, dog owner, paddler, business man, friend, and family member. During these recent trials I have discovered a lot of areas where I still need work. This is good, sometimes hard to accept but good nonetheless. I hope that on the other side of April 27th I will have worked hard enough so my growth is noticeable to others and I can have a positive effect on those around me.

All the while I will be open for advice from others to make this positivity happen!!

Come on spring!!