Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Old Book and Its Cover Thing

On most Saturdays I get a nice long walk before our 10:00 AM long course workout. I go an hour or so with some hills involved. This past weekend I didn’t have time to go to Phoenix Lake so I began by climbing the 139 steps in downtown Larkspur. What a glorious morning it turned out to be. I met Zvi and heard a bit of his story first hand. He was coming down and I was going up and he said, “Good morning young man!” He declared he was 86. I walked a little more on the streets at the top of the stairs ending up down below, and then started up again. When I saw him coming down from yet another round of climbing I asked him if he was still 86. He then told me,” I am going to brag to you.” And he did, telling me the story below (he didn’t mention the parade part).

Zvi Danenberg – The Lord of the Steps

July 7, 2010

Ki exercise, By Dov Michaeli

Every year on the fourth of July, my wife and fellow blogger, Pat Salber and I follow a routine that is, by now, one of our hallowed traditions. At 12 noon sharp, we walk down the hill from our house to the main street of our small Marin County town, Larkspur, California, to watch what must be at once the funkiest and most heart-warming parade in America.

The Larkspur mayor rides in a 1950’s white convertible, our representative in the California Assembly (what’s his name?) sits on the back seat of another fancy-dancy car, waving affably to a crowd as uncertain of who he is as we are. Next come vehicles bearing various local heroes (volunteer of the year, presidents of local chapters of national organizations, and local politicians holding offices we don’t remember voting for). Each of these local luminaries makes great contributions to our quality of life and we are happy to applaud them as they revel in their 15 minutes of fame.

There are also lots of vintage military vehicles (tanks, trucks, jeeps, etc.) courtesy of a local Military Vehicle museum. The liveliest parts of the parade take place when flat-bed trucks carrying high school bands and local wanna-be rockers stop and share their music. For some reason, not clear to me, there are also two bagpipe bands (loud applause ) -in kilts – enchanting the crowd with traditional Scottish music. A gay band with baton twirler, moms marching with their kids, the SPCA and a health care group advocating a single payer health care system, and, well you get the picture: a uniquely Northern California celebration.

This year, one parading vehicle caught my eye. It was a blue-grey convertible carrying an “older” guy sitting on the top of the back seat, hat tilted at a tantalizing angle, smiling and waving to everyone. What compelled me to lift my eyes from reading the news on my Kindle was the enthusiastic applause (as opposed to the politely tepid hand-clapping the local pillars of the community received) , the shout-outs from the people around us , and the throngs of folks running up to him to try shake his hand. A sign on the side of the car proclaimed “Zvi Dannenberg is 85. He has climbed 2 million stairs since 2009″. Clearly, we were in the presence of a local celebrity.

Once we got back home, I started to investigate “just who is Zvi Danenberg?” Here is what I learned. Zvi Danenberg is an 85 year old local (Marin County) legend. Since January 2009, he has climbed more than 2 million stairs, usually bounding two stairs at a time. Now, these are not just any run of the mill office building stairs, rather they are concrete stairs built into a steep Larkspur hillside to provide a “short cut” from the main street to the hillside homes. Everyone in Larkspur knows Zvi. He is a local work-out hero. A fellow stair-climber from the UK, in true British fashion, anointed him “The Lord of the Steps.” Even the City Council took time off from their weighty issues of sewers and planning commission variances to issue a proclamation in his honor.

So, I asked myself, just what compels Zvi to do what he does? I could not contain my curiosity, so I looked him up in the local phone book and gave him a call. I was expecting an amusing story; instead I was rewarded with an inspiration. Here is what he told me:

He started suffering from a nagging low back pain in his late 50’s. His doctor recommended he take up walking. Dutifully, he walked every street and trail in the area before becoming terribly bored with the whole thing. One day, when some young women jogged by, he decided to join them. He told me that he was utterly winded after 100 yards, but he was also totally sold on the sport.

Gradually Zvi increased his running distance to 8 miles, which he ran every morning, seven days a week. When “my boy Clinton”, as he put it, was elected in 1992, he celebrated by running an additional eight miles that afternoon. He continued to “celebrate” for next 15 years: 8 miles in the morning and 8 in most afternoons.

In April of 2007, one of his knees gave out and, on his doctor’s advice; he had knee replacement surgery and ended his running career. However, nothing can keep a good man down for too long. Soon after his surgery, Zvi took up stair climbing and the rest as they say is (local) history. BTW, did I mention that he also does 100 pushups and 100 sit ups every morning?

As I was listening to Zvi’s story, I asked myself, “Is that all”? (As if it wasn’t enough). But, no, I learned as we continued to talk, there is so much more. He is also a classical music aficionado; he owns a collection of 18,000 CDs and vinyl records of every conceivable classical work. And he is attends over 40 classical music concerts every year.

In the recent studies about the genetic study of extreme longevity, we made the point that even with the ideal genetic makeup; the wrong lifestyle can do you in before your longevity genes kick in. Genes are not destiny. Lifestyle makes significant contributions to your ability to live a long and healthy life. What better proof is there than Zvi Danenberg, the Lord of the Steps?

I love it when I meet people that push what most of us think are the limits of human accomplishment. They are role models for the rest of us. I salute you – and thank you – Zvi Danenberg. You are an inspiration for the rest of us.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Keep The Love-Light On

John Caughlin

C/o The Dorsey's

1210 Green Orchard Place

Encinitas, CA 92024

Every now and then we MUST look to a greater power for strength.

Today that power is John Caughlin.

On Saturday September 3rd John participated in the Annual Maui Channel Swim. Instead of being a part of the numerous relays he decided this year he would give it a go solo. He made all the usual sacrifices to get himself ready. And was he ready! Many of his friends and fellow swimmers were going with him – spiritually. Some of you who read this blog are already open water compatriots of John’s – even though you perhaps have never met him. Some of you have swum the English Channel. Some of you have swum in the Sea of Cortez, or the Gulf of the Farallons.

Suffice it to say that all long distance open water swimmers share many bonds.

John was about 200 yards from shore and the finish when he made a defensive move to protect himself from a power boat, raising his arms to protect his head. As a result of the collision John suffered life changing injuries to both arms. His right arm was amputated above his elbow and he lost the thumb and forefinger on his left hand.

The lingering image from that tragedy is seen in his picture…what a smile of inspiration! Make certain that smile is indelibly etched in your memory forever. Next time you think you are having a tough day remember John’s smile. That’s all you need to keep moving forward. It is actually that simple.

John and his sister Jennifer (at his side in the picture) arrived in Southern California on Saturday the 17th of September. John is spending some time with his family at the address above.

His words…”I had my swim and then I had an accident. I will come back sooner than later and finish the swim.” Awesome attitude doesn’t really capture the power of John Caughlin.

Before email, text and twitter there was snail mail. It still works today. Maybe send John a note, card, flowers, something…let him know you are with him…we are certain you will make a difference in his life just as he has in yours.

Be grateful when you go in the water this week…

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Good Ideas from Two Different Venues

Last weekend we went to the Sausalito Art and Music Festival. There was an enormous amount of creativity on display and it was obvious talking with many of the artists that no matter their medium they all were engaged in some personal pursuit, using their art to express themselves.

Richard Starks who does Hand Crafted Metal Sculptures has this to say:

WISDOM is knowing what to do.

SKILL is knowing how to do it well.

VIRTUE is doing it well.

We will remember that the next time we walk onto the pool deck!

This weekend we attended the 42nd Annual World Swimming Coaches Clinic sponsored by the American Swimming Coaches Association. Coaches from all over the world attended sharing ideas and information about this fabulous sport. One of the recurring themes was that this sport of ours is a vehicle for teaching life lessons…that we all seek the “Aha” moment both in the pool and in life.

John Casadia is an ASCA Level 5 (the highest level) coach and former teacher from Vineland School District in New Jersey. He had this to say:

“If you always do what you always did you will always get what you already got.”

We will remember this when we plan our next workout and then walk on the deck to deliver it to our athletes.

Have an awesome week!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Looking for the Elusive 1%

Ken was talking to the team (Ken DeMont, Head Coach, North Bay Aquatics) last week about our successes of the last season. It was a great way to begin the fall training block…how we can build off of our recent swims, that sort of thing. Then he led a particularly effect discussion. He asked the team “What if we swam just 1% faster, what would that have done for us?”

He used specific examples of many of our swimmers and some of their fastest swims, ending each example with the specific result of a 1% improvement. Numerous kids would have made finals at Sectionals or Jr. Nationals or gotten their Jr. National or Sr. National cuts or even Olympic Trial’s cuts.

It was a real eye opener for the team…and a stroke of coaching genius by Ken. We only trained 3 days last week, giving everyone the 4 day weekend. Next week will be a 4 day training week and then we get rolling into the normal flow of things.

Each day this week we have posed the 1% question to them, almost in passing sometimes. It is the kind of thing that the ones who have a passion will latch onto for sure. It is also very possible that it will reach some of the others who are deciding (maybe even subconsciously) whether to jump in with both feet and explore the possibilities.

Try this exercise with your team or for yourself…then let us know how it goes. Have a great week at the pool!