NOT ALL of the wackiness associated with tomorrow will be at Gobbler's Knob up in Punxsutawney, Pa., where, raised by a pudgy guy in a top hat, Phil the drowsy groundhog will indicate his vibe about when spring will arrive.
In Ellicott City tomorrow, you can experience - for a good cause, of course - a decades-younger, less flashy, far more parochial Feb. 2 event.
Just take a check and look for Troy Weaver, the energetic executive director, on a bike in the Howard County YMCA's lobby in gym clothes of some kind.
We're talking about the fifth YMCA Great Groundhog Day Ride. It's a ride in which Weaver, promoted a few months back to head the local Y, pedals his heart out for 12 hours and gets nowhere.
Which doesn't mean he doesn't achieve anything.
The event is a fund-raiser for the Howard County YMCA on Montgomery Road, and Weaver, who began doing this when he was fitness director, puts his body on the line in the name of generating scholarships for kids to attend Y programs.
By day's end, which means talking with just about everyone who enters the Y tomorrow, he is hoping to raise more than $2,000. That's enough money to pay the weekly way for at least one child to attend the Y's day camps this summer. Donations also can be mailed to the Y, in care of the Great Groundhog Day Ride, 4334 Montgomery Road, Ellicott City 21043.
Weaver, a triathlete who also teaches indoor cycling, will ride a stationary bike in the lobby from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., along with some volunteers who try to keep pace. Last year, Weaver said, he went through 15 riding partners.
He also went through a dozen bottles of liquids, ranging from water to sports drinks to iced tea, not to mention six high-energy bars, three bananas, two sandwiches and "lots of cookies."
He figures he will total something over 200 miles, using a pace for much of the time of 11 mph to 15 mph, which he describes as "not blazing but trucking along - and yes, there are times when nobody's looking that I'll slow down."
And when the day ends, we asked, how do you feel?
"Pretty whipped," Weaver replied.
Making a splash
Sue Mangan, a resident of Columbia's Kings Contrivance village who has coached swimming for six years at the Columbia Swim Center, began to realize she was onto something last year.
In the middle of the day, she said she realized that a lot of women with young children were coming to the center in Wilde Lake Village Green to swim, and they liked having even an informal regimen to follow, instead of just doing laps.
And that has evolved into a masters swimming program with 25 regular swimmers, all but two women. That's enough to book lanes for an hour's training three days a week, Mangan said, as well as to register with the U.S. Masters Swimming, the national governing body for organized older swimmers.
And this month, she's hoping more people show enough interest to open lanes on other days of the week, as well.
"We're still in our infancy, but it's a service to the community that we feel can grow some more," she said. Some of her charges, feeling peppier because of the training systems Mangan has them do, are beginning to talk about competing, as well.
The group is part of the Columbia Aquatics Association, which operates the youth team, the Clippers. And Mangan's group is resurrecting masters swimming at the Columbia Park and Recreation Association facility. The center once had a masters program, Mangan said, but it functioned either early in the morning or in the evening and faded away several years ago for lack of interest, leaving the Howard County Y's masters the county's only outlet for older swimmers.
Male or female, if you'd like to know more about Mangan's daytime program, call the Columbia facility at 410-730-7000.
Along the sidelines
Walking: The Columbia Volksmarch Club, a walking group, is in sort of an off-season right now but is promoting with other clubs a new statewide challenge, "Rediscover Maryland." You can get rewards for completing a walk in each of Maryland's 23 counties and in Baltimore between now and the end of 2006. Information: www.mdvolks.org or www.geocities.com/walkcolumbia.
This is a great way to exercise noncompetitively, explore the state and make acquaintances.
Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.