In September 2014, Mike will once again throw a leg over the LIOTR Speedvagen in a 14 day ride from Portland to Los Angeles, while Andrew will be shifting focus to a new herculean challenge: swimming across Lake George in two days. Here's the big news, in his own words.
On January 2nd of this year, I had to sit in an exam room and listen to two doctors tell me that due to a knee injury that had progressed beyond repair, I would never again run, ride competitively, or compete in a triathlon. Considering the role these activities have played in my life, I was devastated. These things were so entrenched in what I did every day, I wasn't even sure who I was without them.
But they never told me I couldn't swim. So I started swimming. Slowly and for short distances at first, but gaining strength and speed with each workout. Then one day, about halfway through a four mile workout, it occurred to me that maybe I had found a new way to fight back in the battle against cancer. I started thinking about long swims I could potentially do to raise funds and awareness. None of the big channel swims (English Channel, Catalina, the swim around Manhattan Island) seemed possible due to the amount of support needed and the huge cost that went along with that. However, the lake I grew up on, Lake George in upstate the New York, is 32 miles long, or 11 miles longer than the English Channel. I still have friends in the area who have boats on the lake, and I figured I could surely get one of the to offer up their boat as the support vehicle for a swim attempt.
As the idea started to take shape in my head, I began thinking about the challenges of training, and the logistical challenges of the swim itself. First I had to break it into terms I could understand; a riding equivalent. Based on the paces I was holding in the pool, around 2 1/4 miles an hour, and assuming I could hold about 2 mph for the duration of the swim, I would be swimming for about 17 hours. Assuming I hold about a 17.5 mph average on the bike (which is right around where Mike and I were last year), this would equal out to about a 300 mile ride. That would be a pretty tough stretch for a single day. Then the practical side of the logistics. Lake George is a very crowded lake in terms of boat traffic, but it drops off significantly right after Labor Day. This is also about when the lake is at it's warmest. Unfortunately there are only a little over 12 hours of daylight this time of year. That would mean swimming the whole thing in one day would require five hours of swimming in the dark, so I decided to break the swim into two days. On the first day I will swim 22 miles, or 1 mile more than the English Channel, leaving 10 miles for the second day.
With a plan in place I began training. I lucked upon a great training group in town and they got behind my cause 100%. A shoulder injury set in early on due to poor stroke mechanics and a couple of local coaches volunteered to step in and help me figure it out and fix it. I lost a month of training, but quickly got caught back up. I spent most of the winter staring at pool tiles and counting laps. I hit the gym to strengthen my shoulders and upper body and eventually put on ten pounds (while dropping the bit of fat that I had picked up while figuring out what to do without being able to ride). I ate bacon for fuel. LOTS of bacon. When the monotony of 500 laps in the pool got to me, I reminded myself of the cancer survivors, and patients for whom I was swimming. Their inspiration drove me on. As the summer arrived, I first moved to outdoor pools, and now to open water training. In the open water I have found what I so missed in running and riding; the inspiration of being outside training in the beauty of the mountains. Catching glimpses of the sun rising over the waves with each breath, or the sunrise painting the Rockies pink, has restored what I found so special about training in running shoes or on the bike.
My goal is now very close, and I am feeling up to the challenge. The training is getting faster, the swims longer. My confidence has returned. Once again, the strength of the inspiration of cancer survivors has prevailed over adversity. I feel very lucky to get this chance, but also very lucky to have met so many amazing cancer survivors over the years whose stories have helped me develop the perspective it takes to feel fortunate to continue my athletic career, rather than unfortunate to have lost my ability to run and ride. The challenges I am facing are nothing compared to what all of them have been through, but they taught me that when one door closes, you just have to kick another one right the hell open.
Mike and I have talked about what our next adventures will be. With me now going in a different direction, we’ve decided that he will continue the management of Leave It On The Road, and I will head off on my new adventure. It doesn’t have a name yet, but we will be announcing it soon, and hopefully it will inspire just as LIOTR has. I don’t know yet where this new adventure will end, but I know where it will begin, on a lake in upstate New York in September.