Archive for the ‘It’s All Important Stuff’ Category

IMG00201-20101214-1036I last saw Ruth in a nursing home in Bullhead City, AZ days before Christmas in 2010.  Little of her famous sparkle was left.  Her fight had nearly left her.  She was miserable, scared and wanted the hell out of that crappy nursing home and my sister and I didn’t blame her a bit.  Courageously, my sister Jeanie managed to figure out care for her and brought her home days after my visit.

This last trip was particularly tough as I was fairly sure it would be the last time I saw her – and it was.  She had to have help with absolutely everything.

Hundreds of times I had seen her sit in a chair, cross her legs and enjoy a cup of coffee.  She wanted out of bed and we called an attendant to help.  The attendant helps her into the chair – coaching her through what she needed her to do.  Ruth was wearing these wonderful furry booties and her signature thin white socks rolled down just a bit.  This photo makes me tear up every single time.

We had a nice visit.  She drank a few sips of coffee.  In between, she scratched her head and looked out the window.  Perhaps she was remembering a snippet of a funny story with her sisters or my dad.  The little people, elephants and scary faces seemed to leave her alone for a bit – perhaps they were scared of me?  She quickly tired and we called the attendant back to help her back into bed.  The lady leans over and says, “Ruth, wrap your arms around me,” and Ruth complies.  “I am going to stand you up.”  A feeble OK is given.  Up she goes.  “OK Ruth, now turn around.”  No response.  “Ruth turn around.”  Still no response.  “Ruth, I need you turn around!”  Ruth finally retorts, “I can’t – you’re standin’ on my foot!”

My sister and I laughed until we cried.

 

Related Stories:

Fragility and Comedy – Ruth Rocks

A Son Says Goodbye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

umstead-park-sals-branch-trail-runningThe majority of ultra-marathon racers who quit a 100 mile event do so around mile 95.  Yes, the last 5 miles.  Who would do this when there are only 5 miles to go?

We are talking about highly trained, dedicated athletes with a single-minded focus on their goal and yet, many quit with their goal so near.  They have worked and worked and come so far…yet.

Ninety-five miles is a VERY long way to run.  This takes the individual well past any training run.  They have long ago ran out of physical and mental energy.  The finish line is not in sight.   Can I possibly endure one more hill?  Do I want it badly enough?  My body and mind are bruised.  This has been much harder than I ever imagined.  Is my goal still in my minds eye?  All that is left is emotional energy.  Is it enough?

The last 5 miles is ALWAYS the hardest.  Keep a firm mental grip on your goal and relax all else.  Let there be no wasted energy from negative thoughts.  Wring every last bit of your energy.  The finish line is just about in sight.

 

 

safetypintutstep1While pinning on my event number for the Fletcher Flyer Century a couple of weeks ago, I swelled with pride, then suddenly felt very old, when realizing how many times I had done this in my lifetime.

My very fuzzy math says that I have competed and/or participated in about 200 bike race days, 120 cycling events, 40 triathlons, 20 running races and Lord knows what else.  For each of those events I was given 4 safety pins to affix the requisite race number.  This adds up to approximately 1,520 safety pins.

Each event brought a different adrenalin rush.  Before the 1980 Octoginta I was out of my mind with anxiety as it was my very first cycling event and I had barely ridden more than 40 miles at any one time prior.  Most regular bike centuries or metric centuries barely bring a heart rate spike worse than pumping up the tires.  On the start line for one of the Tour De Moore road races, my heart rate spiked at 148 before the official “Chips” finally set us off, then my heart rate actually went down until the first big climb.  Ironman Florida had my heart in my throat for weeks in advance, but on race day I was ridiculously calm.  Running is really not my thing, so I am usually just ready to get it over with.

However, now that I have started 2Vectors, my new technology consulting business, I begin every single morning with the feeling that today is event day.  This is what the lifetime of training and preparation are all about.  It comes in slightly different flavors as each of my events have, but the quiet smile inside, extra alertness and battle readiness are the same.  Whether Nigel and I succeed in this partnership or fail is entirely up to us.  We have logged the miles, paid our dues, have a great support team and are very focused on the outcome we have visualized.  For me, every day is event day!

IOSDT_246 - Version 4Margaret Struble convinced me to begin the “Tri for Me” Triathlon team in 2006.  This quickly grew and the business model morphed as I added Inside-Out Sports and DELTA Triathlon as our primary sponsors in 2009.  I called this new team IOSDT.  We grew tremendously each year and in 2011 we had 320 members and 18 sponsors.  Along the way, we had many contributors.

The team size and proposition expanded to the place where I could not personally oversee all activities (selecting team kits, managing the orders, managing finances, finding sponsors, organizing training and social events, throwing parties, keeping track of contests, handling communications, running the website and so on)  When I first tried to step out, I did not feel that those offering assistance were handling the various aspects of the team as I would and didn’t really give up control.  I was looking for a few key people who would operate their portion of the team with nearly as much passion and skill as I had.

By 2012 I had found a handful of talented and passionate individuals for the Board of Directors and they really began functioning well, so I relinquished control and eventually stepped down as President.  They each worked a fraction of the time that I did, so it worked in their lives.  I also closed down DELTA Triathlon – retaining it’s years of content on a blog.  The triathlon team proudly continues as IOSTC.  We managed the pivot to the next phase.

IOSDT had been such a tremendously time and passion consuming aspect of my life that I didn’t even realize that this came with an expense elsewhere.  Thankfully, my beautiful wife Elaine has helped me restore the balance.

However, I learned a great deal from this endeavor.  This is my top ten list of major learnings:

  1. Skill without passion and vice versa bring less than ideal results – We had several folks who volunteered to help who had tremendous marketing, legal or organizational skills.  Yet, they did not operate at the same level of passion as I did.  Conversely, we also had many offer help, who were passionate about the team and the sport, who simply did not have the skills to help.
  2. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd – People will flock to what they believe to be popular.  People want to be part of something that is accepted and gives them security in their choices.
  3. Users/customers expect technology ahead of your capability – Consumers expect efficient and simple ways to be part of your community. This is ALWAYS about 30% greater than your budget/capability, unless you give this tremendous focus and partner effectively.
  4. Fear can be crippling – “If you chose not to decide you still have made a choice”  The fear of losing what you have will lead you to tremendously poor decisions.  You ALWAYS have to be looking ahead – at what is coming next – at what people will expect next year.
  5. Not everyone is gonna like you – As the decision-maker for the team I had to make hundreds of decisions.  There is simply no way to please everyone.  You cannot select the color that is universally appealing.  Your style will not universally apply and, as a result, not everyone is gonna like you.
  6. Structured plans work – Triathletes live highly structured lives.  Most days include at least two workouts.  This structure, each week building upon the next, leads to success against stated goals.
  7. Ask EVERYONE for advice and listen to it – I learned to seek feedback from everyone.  Almost everyone is willing to give it; however, a few will tell you the truth.  Over time you will learn which is which.  Hearing what you don’t want to hear is difficult, but useful.
  8. Hey, it’s your team – Marty Gaal, of One Step Beyond Coaching, gave me some profound advice during a team bike ride.  I was bitching about the constant conflict of advice and “counsel” that I had received.  He said, “Hey, it’s your team, do what you want.”  That was ridiculously freeing advice Marty.  Thanks.  It was my team.  From that point on, I did what I wanted.
  9. Think big, start small and scale fast – I always had a grand vision for the team.  Truthfully, it grew past my wildest dreams.  I started with the minimum and, as quickly as I could, adapted to the situation and focused where my time could make the biggest difference to growth.
  10. People can be predictable if you steer them where you want them to go – Two parties in a row we bought equal amounts of white and red wine.  One party we had much extra white left over and ran out of red and the second we ran out of white and had much red left over.  For the third, I hired a bartender to ensure that the first 20 drinks were distributed in equal proportion of white and red.  At the end of party we had exactly one bottle of red and white remaining.  People tend to follow those ahead of them.
  11. OK, this is a bonus.  Nothing sells better than being “Cool” – People are ridiculously fickle and will switch, with little warning, to what they perceive as the “cool” choice.  Whatever you sell or offer, it had better be cool or your days are numbered.

Living with Elaine requires a few concessions.  Number one on the list is that I will be participating in Team In Training.  Elaine lost her sister, Donna, to blood cancer several years ago.  Raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has been her passion since, and she is damn good at it, netting over $65,000 for the cause.

On June 3rd, Elaine’s team rode America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride.  AMBBR is a very tough and mountainous century around Lake Tahoe.  This sounded like a lot of fun, so I signed up, raised my money and helped out with the team training rides where I could.

For the most part, our group from Raleigh rode together, recollecting after the first major climb at mile 20. This took us up and around the stunning Emerald Bay.

At North Lake Tahoe the 72 milers turn East and the full century riders head toward Truckee and Donner Pass (the birthplace of the Shit Cube and a future blog article) on North 89.  This is a boring, hard, windy, out and back on a four-lane highway.  The drivers are cranky about the cyclists and the evidence of the budget crisis in California is clear as the road is absolutely horrible. Coach Marc and I tried almost everything we could think of to organize the team so that we could safely take turns pulling in the wind and finally found the right groove about halfway back.  The cyclists in the team were amazing.  I am just so proud of how well they rode.

Marc coached this, and many other events for LLS, because his sister is in remission from blood cancer and his cousin had been suffering from Multiple Myeloma since February, 2006.

At the end of the Truckee section we were all mentally spent and frustrated about the crappy road.  Each of us swore we would never ride it again.  The remaining ride took us the rest of the way around the lake and included the ascent over Spooner Pass.  The elevation at the top is 7,200 feet and a couple of us were feeling the effects of the altitude.  Thankfully, for me, it passed quickly as we descended the other side toward South Tahoe and home.  Overall I had a great day. Elaine rode impressively and I am so proud of her.  The rest of the team really showed their hard work of the previous weeks.

At the finish we all celebrated our success and swapped stories.  Nearly everyone complained about the road to Truckee, but no one was louder than me. Blah, blah, blah – stupid road – never doing it again – can’t believe they sent us out there – so unsafe –  blah, blah, blah.

A couple of days later coach Marc sent out a very nice note of congratulations to the team.  He also explained that, literally while we were riding the road to Truckee, complaining and whining, his cousin Sue lost her battle to blood cancer.

I feel so badly for Marc and his family that this happened.  I know how Donna’s death affected Elaine’s family years ago.  But, I have to say that I am embarrassed for complaining about the road to Truckee.  It was nothin’.

 

The return to a Fearless life is totally paying off!

My career is totally refreshed with the most exciting and best years ahead of me.  I may even be able to retire some day.  Despite a few frustrations I am digging teaching new Team in Training riders to become real cyclists (please make a donation to Todd’s fundraising page), I love riding my bike again, and life with Elaine is fabulous, beyond what I have previously dared imagine.

Tonight I have looked back over my blog history and realized that I don’t write nearly as frequently when I am happy.  This may explain the sporadic entries in the past several months.  Thank you baby!

Every great song writer was a tortured soul.  Somehow, selling millions of records is a great way to ease that pain.  Inevitably productivity ends and the songs turn softer and sappy.  Writing about being happy is hard.

 

How profound – you see what is right in front of your face.  If what you want is off to the side – barely in your vision – and, what you have locked in front of your view is fear and anxiety, guess what, you have little hope of achieving your goals.

Getting rid of distractions and negative thought is not so easy.  I have recently been working with James Murphy, an Executive Coach from Evolution For Success to develop a life plan.  I needed improved life balance & career motivation.  To be fair, I really just needed to focus on what I wanted.  James helped me plow through distraction after distraction, while bringing into focus what I really wanted from career, relationships, fitness and so on.

So many good things have come from this effort.  Not the least of which is the vast improvement toward one of my life goals, which is to behave fearlessly.  That doesn’t mean stupidly.  It means without the distraction of fear.  In my work life and in my relationships, the difference is amazing.

As a result, I am kicking ass again and significantly enjoying what I do.  The plan is still baking a bit, but we are definitely on the right track here.  One of my goals is to behave fearlessly and that is right in front of my face every single day.

I have been riding bikes a L O N G time.  When I first bought these tire levers, Ronald Reagan had just been elected President, MTV was about to be launched, Post It Notes were brand new and IBM released the first PC with MS-DOS from Microsoft.  I was riding a black Colnago Mexico with a Campy Nuovo Record Group.  (Yes, I still have it)  My flat kit was really just a patch kit (in a metal box that included sand paper and a tube of glue) and a Silca frame pump.  Oh, and these levers.  (The same as Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, of course)

If these levers had a passport it would contain stamps from France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Costa Rica and Canada.  They have also been to at least 25 states in the U.S.  They have ridden with Giro d’Italia, Olympic, World, National, Pan American and State champions – as well as, Tour de France stage winners.

About seven years ago I rode the Skull Valley route which winds up in the mountain town of Wilhoit, Arizona.  This includes about 6K of climbing and is impossibly hard at times; however, the decent is smooth and ridiculously fast into Prescott.  I let it loose and hit 53 MPH on the way down.  Turn after turn I was hoping to not hit a rock or have a flat.  Literally at the bottom of the climb is a right turn onto the road into Prescott.  Rolling up to the stop sign I flatted my front tire.  Thank goodness it didn’t happen 45 seconds before.  So, I stopped at the 7-Eleven, popped off the front wheel, replaced the old tube and aired it up with an CO2 canister.  Once finished, I went inside to buy a Coke.  The lady behind the counter said, “apparently you have done that before – I watched you and it only took you 75 seconds to fix your tire!”  It is nice to have fans.  I said, “yeah, I have done that a few times.”  There aren’t no silly, flimsy, plastic tire levers that can do the job that quickly.

For many years I kept the levers, a spare tube, CO2 and a saddle wrench in a sock which was all stored conveniently in an old water bottle with the top cut off.  In turn, this conglomeration was stored in a water bottle cage on my bike.  In 2007, when training for Ironman Florida, Coach Daren Marceau and I were still about 45 miles from home on a 110 mile training ride when I thought I noticed something brush my leg.  I never saw anything and ignored it.  Upon arriving at home, I noticed that my flat kit (OK, the sock full of stuff which included these tire levers) had bounced out the topless water bottle.  It must have been what I had felt 2 1/2 hours earlier.

After the six hour ride, I was barely lucid enough to get my bike on my car, but the thought of losing these levers, which had been such a big part of my cycling life required me to rally.  Daren and I retraced our route home and we sort of guessed at where the thing must have fallen out.  Always the optimist, Daren said that he was headed out for a motorcycle ride the next day and would go down the road and see if he could find the kit.  Although I very much appreciated the gesture, I didn’t think that there was any way I would ever see it again.

About 3PM the next day, a widely grinning Coach Marceau rang my doorbell and handed me the flat kit containing my antique levers.  I just couldn’t believe it.  He had actually found it in a ditch, pretty darn close to where we had guessed it must have been.  Coach D, I will forever be grateful for your helping me become an Ironman, but man I will never forget your returning these cycling artifacts.  I hope to pass them down to one of my kids who will be forced to keep them forever, with no idea just how important that they are to me.  These old tools have brought me new life many many times.

My brother Richard took up farming in Maple Hill, Kansas in the mid 70’s.  He bought land, but to make ends meet rented a very old (circa 1885) farm house from Francis.

Francis, well into his 80’s at the time, and his wife Verna lived a long life in this old farm house and reluctantly moved out to a newer, more practical, home when Francis could no longer chop the endless supply of wood to stoke the “octopus” furnace.  Verna and Francis raised a large family here.  Along the way, their daughter Louise was hit by a train as the tracks cross Vera Road, less than half a mile from their front door.  Louise was only eleven years old at the time of her death.  Clearly never over this, they stored her toys and clothes in the attic and never touched them again – even as they moved out decades later.

The old house was eternally dusty from farm trucks stirring up the gravel road as they raced toward town. It seemed to wheeze and cough from time to time and exhibit numerous other signs of being worn out from a long life.  As soon as Richard and his family moved in they noticed all manner of odd goings-on. Benevolent, yet odd.

The first week, painters came to slap a new coat of whitewash on the outside.  They tilted out the screens to paint the window frames.  My sister-in-law Claudette was somewhat miffed that they had left these unlatched on the inside when they left for the day.  An hour later, after a quick trip to the market, she arrived home alone.  She noticed they had been latched.  No one fessed up to the credit or the blame.

As the months passed the creaky noises began to develop a bit of a pattern.  Most nights, from the upstairs bedrooms, you could hear what sounded like a rocking chair making a slow comforting rhythm from the main floor.  Claudette enjoyed the thought of a “special guest” and would attempt small talk when she came down to the kitchen late at night.

Many summer nights, exhausted from bailing hay all day, I would lie awake, in Louise’s old room, with the entrance to the attic and her 50 year-old belongings feet away, trying to convince myself that nothing strange was happening.  Countless “odd noises” and “misplacements” ensued.  Each  became more difficult to explain.  Contributing to my concern, the bunk bed I slept in was so rickety that the rhythm of my breathing would literally elicit a creeking noise with each exhale.  Yet, I resisted the notion of anything supernatural, and elucidation came in many forms – usually blaming the age of the old house and it’s new epoch with the Spain’s.  the open attic cover, most mornings, could be explained by the bellows effect of the huffing and puffing old house.

One fall evening, around sunset, my nephew Ron (more like a slightly younger brother) and I drove home past the Maple Hill Cemetery, with it’s glowing tombstones.  Then we took the left down Vera Road and over the tracks where Louise lost her life, and swung into the driveway and parked around back to run inside and grab a jacket with plans to head out for a High School basketball game.

As we walked into the kitchen together, we heard the door to the 1940’s bathroom, under the stairs to the right, slam shut with impetus.  We walked through the kitchen and into the dining room to see who was in such a rush.  There seemed to be no one home.

Retracing our steps back through the kitchen, we heard a young someone run up the stairs – clomp, clomp, clomp with a matching “Jackie, Jackie, Jackie” joining each step.  Eyes locked, Ron and I simultaneously asked each other, “is Jackie home?”  (Jackie is the name of Ron’s younger sister and my niece)

We followed up the stairs and looked carefully through the first bedroom, not speaking a word.  No one was there.  Peering into the master bedroom together, we saw that the curtains were blowing away from the window as if a Kansas tornado had arrived.  As we searched the room, we noticed that the windows were closed.  A quicker glance into our bedroom revealed that the attic hatchway was open again.

That was it.  Without a word we both bailed, flying down the stairs and out the back door, we couldn’t get in the car and the hell out of there fast enough.  It was miles down the road before we could speak and each detailed the same story.

Never again did we arrive home to an empty house, without offering Louise ample time to clear out of the way.

Soon after Richard built a modest new house and moved his family out of the old farm house.  The next resident lasted just a few months before being forced to move to a psychiatric hospital.  Once again empty, the house was burned to the ground.  I would forever drive 4 or 5 miles out of my way to avoid that section of Vera Road.

The World Would Be A Better Place, If…

  • What tastes good was also good for you
  • We could all have “that one moment” when it all goes perfectly
  • The politicians figured out that the vast majority of us live in the middle, not the fringe
  • You could always drink just enough and still feel great in the morning
  • Teachers and administrators were paid well and in return they treated every kid as a young human, worth the investment
  • You found something you’re good at and used it to make a real difference
  • You knew when not to ask that question
  • Your “friends” would stop saying stupid shit
  • Dating was less painful
  • We could be happy for each other
  • Pain killers worked
  • Do-overs were possible
  • Awkwardness wasn’t
  • We could Be Here Now
  • We lived for the moment
  • We made money doing what we love
  • Green was easier
  • The work week was two days and the weekends were five
  • We understood that I am me and you are you
  • You could accept that Not Everyone’s Gonna Like Ya
  • History is just that: New Man New River
  • You could turn off your mind and accept what you have done and focus on what you will do
  • You could travel and still sleep at home
  • The most amazing person you ever met said “YES” – oh wait, SHE DID!!!