Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Help me swim for food

On Dec 14th I will be joining a bunch of people who think that swimming in 50 degree water is fun.

Wait... I do that every week.

But this will be the annual "Will Swim For Food" event in Santa Cruz that raises money for food banks.

I will be raising money for the "No Strings Attached Breakfast" program that offers a free meal every Saturday to anyone that shows up at the Senior Center in Half Moon Bay.

Here's a link to an article about the program:

I know the holidays are coming up,
but if you can donate $5-10 it will add up quickly
(and it's amazing how far $5 can go in the hands of this program)

Here's a link to the site:

Select:  "Pledge a swimmer"
Find and select me: "John Caughlin"
Click "Donate"
Fill out the form and you're done.
Yep, it's that easy.

If you've read this far - thanks.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Catch Up: Part 1 - SERC Alcatraz Invitational

It's been a busy few weeks, but I had some fun too.

After getting home from Portland I headed up to San Francisco for a long weekend.
I was honored to be selected as the guest of the South End Rowing Club for their Alcatraz Invitational.
I wasn't sure what this meant, but was not about to miss out on back-to-back Alcatraz swims.

Saturday was the Test Swim (they use swimmers as rubber duckies to determine where/when you should start off the masses and where they should aim to reach the finish) and I was with my wing men Gabor and Randy.  We were told to take it easy and we did.  Water was right around 60 (warm by HMB standards) with no wind and we even had some sunshine.

After the swim we had a great breakfast across the street at the Blue Mermaid.

I spent the rest of the day walking along the shoreline with my mom and was able to see the remnants of the Americas Cup festivities - I can't believe how big those boats are.

The evening brought us back to the Club for beers and BBQ.

Sunday morning I realized how big this event is.
The swim draws +500 swimmers every year many from outside of CA.
I wished everyone a great swim then the crowd humored me and sang Happy Birthday to my mom.
Picture credits to my mom

On this day I decided I'd swim with someone who was extra nervous or someone who had the right spirit.
Annabelle was definitely the later.

We met at the BBQ and she was so excited to share stories about her daily swims that week with SERC members that it took hours to find out that she is a doctor from Amsterdam.
Definitely has her priorities in order.

I can't remember having a bad swim* and this one was no different.
Every few minutes Annabelle would stop and point out the landmarks TO ME.
"There's the Golden Gate.  The Bay Bridge.  The Balclutha.  The Jeremiah O'Brian..."   
I loved it.

I am so grateful to all of the SERC members, but especially Ann, Gary, Suzanne, Stevie Ray, Wayne B (the bad one), and Kathy.

* I still separate the Maui Channel swim and my arm being taken.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Catch Up: Part 3 - CAF

On Fri (Oct 18th) I attended Surf City Cyclery's benefit for the Challenged Athletes Foundation at their Costa Mesa shop.  I had not heard about the event, but Shawn (the bike guru that created my new bike) works at the Surf City HB shop and invited me to join him and Bernadette. 

Let's see:
Friends - Check
Bikes- Check
Beer- Check
Great cause - Check

It was nice to meet Jason Wallen and see his new racing chair, Dawn (triathlete and big time CAF supporter) and many others.
I also had enough beer from Cismontane Brewery that I was willing to share some of my story with the group (Bernadette promised that I didn't embarrass myself).

Finished the night by closing down the corner Mexican food restaurant.

The most important thing...
I found out that I had the date for the CAF Triathlon wrong - It was in two days and not on the 27th!

So I woke up early on Sunday, picked up Mike and made the trek to La Jolla.
I know I say it all the time, but I LOVE going to this event.

Becoming an amputee SUCKS!!! 
But having this community as peers is awesome and I hope I can earn my place in their ranks.

I have thought about signing up for the event, but the reality is that I don't see myself as a competitor.
I entered (and still enter) "events" vs "races".
I like like challenge much more than the competition and most of all...

If I entered the tri I'd miss the Kids Sprint and Run and that's not going to happen.
Words, pictures and video can not do this event justice.
Witnessing it let's you see humanity at it's best (paralympians and little kids with some miles on their blades helping those that are a bit wobbly on new prosthetics.   Young kids running and smiling like all kids should.

Here are some clips of Breezy - CAFs 2013 Young Athlete

Breezy s story

Breezy at CAF's Heroes, Heart & Hope gala

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Catch Up: Part 2 - Hawaii

After my long weekend in SF it was time to pack up and drive down to Orange County.
The 6 hrs on I-5 is rarely fun, but driving it when you're coming down with a cold sucks.
Flying to Oahu was even worse.
(I apologize to all my fellow passengers that I may or may not have infected).

The trip to Oahu was a mixed bag:
The weather was great.
The mediation was successful.
I was able to have breakfast with Grant (the guy who saved my life on his jetski) and one of his sons.
But I was sick the entire time and rarely left the hotel room.

A big thank you to my mom and dad for coming out to Hawaii for this.

Right now I don't have a lot to say about resolving my legal case.
I am relieved that there are no more lawyers in my life, but money does not:
- give me back my hand
- give me back my arm
- stop the pain in my arm and remaining hand
- erase the images of what happened to me or what I've been through.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I have a working bike arm

I'm back from Portland where I had the folks at Advanced Arm Dynamics build me the socket for Will Craigs bike arm.  The arm works great.  I got in two rides while I was up there - one with Kerstin (the OT) around part of Lake Oswego and one solo ride along the river.  They wanted to finish the arm (make the socket out of carbon fiber and paint it to match my bike), but I wanted more time in the saddle (and socket) before we made the jump from working model to final product.

Last week I went out on two rides and everything worked great.
My left hand did get sore so I might get stuck with sub-1hr rides, but at least I'm out again.

Here's a short video (1 take with no editing so dont expect much) of me putting on the arm.

To see the inventor using the arm check the 3/3/13 post - "Trailblazer"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One fast Irishman

It's work to swim 400 yds in sub-4:56 (with hands and feet), but Darragh made this 400m look sooo good.
(Paralympic champion swimming the 400m free in the S6 classification last year)

Part of me wants to believe that this is proof that there's no excuse for mediocrity,
but the reality is that he is just plain amazing.

More from Darragh

Friday, August 23, 2013

My new ride

My buddy Shawn spec'd and built up an amazing bike for me at his shop (Surf City Cyclery in Huntington Beach).

 For the non-techies out there:
- the bike is carbon fiber (super light)

- has a single break lever that works for both front/rear breaks (they are independently adjusted)
- grip shifting (no need to take my hand off the handle bar)
- has hydraulic disc breaks (great stopping power even with my 3 finger grip strength)
- a rear cassette (rear gears) that gives me maximum range for hills/flats without using a double/triple front chain ring that would complicate shifting for me. 
...and it looks sweet.

Off to Portland soon to have my bike arm prosthetic made soon.

Thanks Shawn.
And thanks to all that donated to me. 
Getting back on the bike has been expensive, but with your help it is happening.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Board Short Mile 2013

The Board Short Mile is back!

When the guys organizing the event wrote me last year saying that they were looking for a reason to host an event (I've never had a tough time finding a reason to get in the ocean) I was happy to point them to CAF (

The swim was great (my 1st ocean swim sans fins) - warm, flat water with lots of sunshine and lots of smiling faces (The SoCal crew are soooo spoiled).

I'm glad to see this swim back for its second year.
Here's the link:

Start: Saturday, September 14, 2013
Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA
The Hermosa Beach Pier | Hermosa Beach , CA
Registration Closing Date Friday, September 13, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Still have my piggies

My franken-thumb started acting up a few weeks ago so had to make a trip to see the doc.
His comment?
"Know what would make this better?  A toe!"

Yep, he still wants to re-locate my toe.

I'm still not ready for
  • a week in a hospital bed, 
  • month(s?) in a wheelchair and 
  • months without a hand.
It might happen, but I can happily report that I went under the knife today and came back with a slightly stubbier franken-thumb and all 10 toes. (and he does not think the bone infection is back).

Next couple of weeks will be out of the water and restricted hand use.
Luckily I have my mom up again to help out.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Default setting

I don't usually pass around links to speeches or videos, but I think this would be similar to what I would say to h.s. and college graduates if I was a better writer & speaker and it's a way of thinking that I've worked on since before my injuries.
David Foster Wallace 2005 commencement address

If you don't need the visuals, here's the full speech

 I'd love to read or hear your comments on this (Even if you think he's an idiot)

I was not familiar with the speech or the speaker, but I think at that moment he "got it".
The strange thing is that he reportedly suffered from depression for most of his life and hanged himself at 46 yrs old - only 3 yrs after giving this speech.

I'm grateful that my default setting is much different than his, but I constantly work to stay aware.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Test Swim

"It's not what you know,
It's who you know"

Couldn't be more true for me on Friday.
In this case (and many others), my "who" was Joel.
Joel knows a LOT of people and also happens to be close friends with the legendary Bob Roper.
And when you're friends with Bob, you get to do some very cool things - including "test swims".

For those of you that don't participate in ocean swims - "test swims" involve throwing out a small group of swimmers into the water the day before an event to confirm the jump time and course.

On Friday, our "test swim" was an Alcatraz to the South End Rowing Club (SERC) showers...
And it was amazing.

Thank you so much Joel and Bob.
And thanks to all those that shared the water with me (Nancy, Randy, Gabor, Jim, Lezlee, Denise, the Arizona swimmers, Kathy and Susan from the SERC and the crew of the Hyperfish).

We did know that this big guy was passing through.
  Thanks go to Jeff  for driving me to/from HMB, for keeping us straight, safe, and for the pictures.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Oh yes I did

Today I tried a new recipe: "3 Finger brownies"
You'd think cracking the eggs would be difficult...and it is.
But not as hard as stirring the mixture and transferring it to the pan.
And then I nearly dropped the 350F pan.
They are not the best brownies I've ever had, but I'm proud of them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And I thought I was getting the hang of this

Then I got sick.
Insert picture of a runny nosed 3 fingered person trying to get cold medicine out of blister packs here.
My self opening scissors and letter opener have been getting a workout.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Yesterday I drove up to SF and met ("One Arm") Willie Stewart for the first time.
I reached out to him because I want to ride again.
I can ride my cruiser around town, but I want to do all day rides again.
And I want to keep dreaming about my 3rd cross country trip on 2 wheels.

For those who don't do adventure races, ultramarathons, triathlons, or the Leadville100...
Willie does not "participate" in sports, he competes and blows by anyone that does not love to win as much as he does (He placed 184th out of 1714 in  last years Escape from Alcatraz... and did it as a 51 yr old!)
Willie has proven, and continues to prove, that it's possible to do the amazing with a single hand.

In the 1 hr I was there - He managed to go for a run, do some interviews, shake hands with several fans, demo some pushups, tell me his patented rugby blocking move, and demonstrate the features of his bike arm...

He has a sticker on the back that reads

“If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space.” ― Stephen Hunt

A great way to spend the morning.

I have no interest in trying to compete with him, but I'm sure we will  be sharing a swim or ride together and that is something I am looking forward to.

For the bike geeks out there -
Here's more on the arm
and a video of the inventor, Will Craig, on a crazy mountain bike ride

Looking forward to posting pics of mine later this year(?).

And yes, Willie won his division today.

Riding in the back

Last week Chris drove over the hill to take me on my first road bike experience in 1 1/2 years.
 Normally the stoker seat is reserved for cute girls, but Chris had to deal with a 6' 2" guy (that was wearing socks with his keen riding sandals).

The ride was short (under an hour), but it's always nice to get out on a bike and Nancy & Jeff were good company until they decided they needed to do a bit more work than Chris and I were ready for.

Photo credit goes to Jeff  (Who was riding no handed against traffic on Hwy 1!)

The future of UE prosthetics(?)

I know I would not want to be the first to try this (and probably not even the 100th), but I am interested.

Monday, February 18, 2013

New gadget

The GM up at the Club (College of San Mateo) introduced me to this amazing inventor that makes some very creative and affordable gym aids. 

Don is currently building me a Baker Rig. 

Check it out:

Baker Rig -- to allow above elbow amputees to exercise their upper body

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Is it getting easier?"

For those of you that only know how I'm doing via this blog -.
Don't worry.
Despite the lack of posts, I have not been sitting in my house with the blinds shut and the lights out.
Ok, maybe the lights are out, but that's because I've been out too.

The new treatment plant that I am working on is keeping me pretty busy... and tired (I had a 2 hr drive home last night).  The good news is that we are getting close to the testing phase of the project which is always fun.

I  have been getting in the ocean on the weekend, but only 1-2 days at the pool/gym.

The most common question I've been getting recently is "Is it getting easier?".
I know that everyone (including me) wants to believe that I have adapted to a 3-fingered life and everything is great, but that is not my reality.

Everything is a challenge from putting my PB&J in a bag in the morning to pulling the covers up when I get into bed, but I am getting used to it and I am grateful to be able to live on my own.

Stay tuned...
I should have some fun stuff to post at the end of the weekend.

UPDATE:  Too much traffic this weekend so had to postpone my adventure with Chris.  Luckily, I still managed to squeeze in 2 ocean swims.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The morning before Mavericks

So tomorrow is the Maverick Invitational which meant the crew HAD to get in the water today.
(It sounds crazier than it was and nothing like this )

This was the first time I've tried to swim in the ocean on a non-pancake day, but the jetty blocked the scariest stuff during the entry/exit and the sets were far enough apart that it was rather tame. The only snag came when I walked out of one of my fins (Thanks Kique for saving my fin and swim).

Waist deep and still smiling.  What a beautiful morning.

And this was Kique BEFORE he saved my fin!

I wish my little lumix had captured this better, but you can see the action towards Kelly and our turn around buoy. 

Definitely want to thank Joel, Randy, Gabor, Lezlee, Dan, KeKei and the shore patrol (Nicole, Nancy) for making this happen.  I can't think of anyone else I'd want to spend 30-40 min in 52 degree water with.