Preventable Failure: The Cycle of Self Recrimination

Over the last we’ll say 30 some odd hours, I’ve been cycling through various stages of self-recrimination.  At first I was angry that some volunteer could have made a determination that I didn’t have correct push up form or raise my arms over my head doing burpees. Then when I saw not only was I not counted for having done the correct number of burpees at one station, but at each one I attempted, I was upset with myself. Then I spent some time with the rule book and found that even shorting myself 10 burpees wouldn’t have disqualified me, just added some time to my score. Less than 20 does.  And on the second to last obstacle I failed to do even that.

And the recriminations cycle again.

Worst? This is a stupid race. A race.  It means nothing in the greater scheme of things.  I did it. I have the GPX file to prove it. I have a finishers medal and t-shirt and anyone whose ever volunteered at a Spartan races knows how closely those things are guarded. But, I just don’t have an official time.  5 burpees. 100 yards from the finish line.  It’s all I have been able to think about.

I went out for a run with my running group tonight and the topic of conversation? “How was it?” Ugh. So don’t want to talk about it. I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous – that I’m that hung up about it, or that I have something to be hung up on.  It’s a spiral and I can’t seem to find a way off of it. Even my run tonight sucked which gave me plenty of time to perseverate. I’m mentally ill. I have to be. That’s the only explanation.  Either that, or I’ve just placed too high an importance to these things.

The important thing is getting out there and getting it done. I failed. I goofed, didn’t do what I should have and as a result, I failed. It’s really that simple. People fail all the time – often in far more catastrophic ways: they kill a pedestrian after driving while impaired; they come a point shy of passing their bar exam; they make split second decisions that play out in the worst consequences.  There are a lot of worse things than spending 4.5 hours on a mountain, testing your limits, and coming up short.  No one died, thousands of dollars weren’t lost, no one’s life is worst for me having failed. Its one of those things that happens. Google “race DNF” and find stories of just crushing proportion.  I found THIS article on actually DNF-ing a Spartan. I didn’t DNF, and that cat actually did the burpees, but I guess in reading other people’s stories of failure it helps me to process my own.

Related image
This is from a remarkable blog entry on just this very topic from a slightly different view. She’s talking about dancing competitions, I’m talking about a Spartan Beast, but the lesson is the same: control your inner dialog, your definitions of success.  

No one wants to fail. No one expects to fail. My inner dialogue during the race was all about knowing I was going to finish. Never once did I think I would screw it up. But I did. I’ve screwed up plenty of things of greater importance in my life and screwed up things I’ve worked harder on and things that were far less gratifying to undertake. There are far worse things in life.

And there we are, on the other side of the cycle. At one point I wrote about the implications of negative internal dialog – your beliefs become destiny.   I need to remember these lessons. There’s two ways you can travel on a spiral: you can either slide downward or you can take the long way and crawl back up.  Sliding down is easy, its hard work going up. Just as hard as the combined 10,000′ of elevation 2 Spartan Beasts over the weekend were.

Obiter dictum: Semper Fi

I just updated my 2018 Race/Goal Tracker page.  My monthly running total for March, despite having three more days than February, came up 10 miles shorter than last month: 140.75 vs. 150.8.

NB: I usually only record tenths, unless I’m recording a quarter mile. So I’ll only record a 0.1, 0.2, 0.25, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.75, 0.8, or 0.9.

So, as I’m trying to increase my mileage, it’s important to me to be sure I’m on track; I use the approach that if  you manage the week, then you’re managing the month; if you’re managing the month, then you’re managing the quarter; if you’re managing the quarter, you’re managing the year.

Anyway, I finished March with 393.55 miles run on the year, which puts me at…get this… 26.2% of my goal for 2018 (it’s actually 26.237% but that’s neither a compelling story nor is it wholly accurate due to the rounding discussed above, so we’re going with 26.2%).

Oddly enough, on March 29 I was informed that I had been selected in the Marine Corps. Marathon lottery to be invited to participate in the 43rd MCM, an invitation I chose to accept. I had registered for the lottery on the last day it was open as a lark – I mean, seemed interesting enough and I had poked at it with a stick previously enough to know what package tours and the like cost. So I clearly hadn’t ruled it out, but I honestly didn’t think I’d get in.

I didn’t plan to be 26.2% of my goal, didn’t set out a plan to run a marathon – I’ve famously avoided running marathons, actually, opting for either halfs or 50ks and thereby fully bypassing the 26.2 mark totally.  The reason for that is typical me: a former supervisor has asked me if I was planning to run any marathons and I responded “I will never do 26.2…” so in the interest of maintaining my integrity, I’ve just skipped over it.  I mean 31.1 is by definition NOT 26.2 and don’t think the irony of  my “no 26.2 mile races” commitment being undone by a race honoring “Semper Fidelis” is lost on me.

Somehow it all came together at the end of the third month of the year. The fates have apparently dictated that I do this. I have remained true to my vow I would not run a marathon, but once the fates start lining up what am I supposed to do?

More interesting is the idea that on the 44th week of the year last year, I hit my goal of 1000 miles. That week was the week of October 29 and November 4. The MCM this year is October 28, so perhaps there’s a possibility that I could hit my 1500 mile goal at that point.  As I write this, I’m currently 95 miles off the pace that would have that happen, but I have almost 8 months to get onto that pace.

Sometimes goals, and challenges have to be fluid and flexible, and sometimes you just have to go with the flow – to be ready to accept a challenge when one is offered.

Marathon training starts now.

Being a Parent

Being a parent means being consistent
Because you’re teaching your children the world has rules

Being a parent means expressing anger
Without expressing rage

Being a parent means admitting mistakes when you make them
You will not always make the right call and the world is better with people who understand they can be wrong

Being a parent means doing the right thing,
Because it’s the right thing, not because it’s the easy thing

Being a parent means acting in someone else’s best interest
Instead of your own

Being a parent means always telling the truth
Even if it is an age appropriate truth

Being a parent means never violating your child’s trust
Your child’s world cannot be safe if he doesn’t trust you

Being a parent means being firm and fair
Even when you don’t want to be

Being a parent means participating in your child’s interests
You’re showing her you’re interested in her

Being a parent means talking
About things you’d almost certainly rather not talk about

Being a parent means saying, “I love you”
And not expecting to hear it back

Being a parent means creating a safe and loving home
Where your child could not feel more safe, or more loved

Afterward: I wrote this better than 10 years ago and have recently uncovered it.  Ten years have passed and when I read this I think, “wow, that’s heavy…” and then I worry I haven’t lived up to my own definition, despite my best intention to do so.  I hope I’ve done enough to allow my children the charity and good faith that I tried to do whats right for them.

Learn to play in the tall grass.

Image result for “If you want to play with the big boys, you’ve got to learn to play in the tall grass.” tom brady
“If you want to play with the big boys, you’ve got to learn how to play in the tall grass.”

The evening of February 3, 2002 was a magical time, truly one of disbelief.  That was the evening the New England Patriots became Super Bowl Champions for the first time, led by 24-year old Tom Brady. This is a guy who truly lived the embodiment of what I preach to myself all the time: do the things you need to do to put yourself in position when that big break happens.

He was the 199th draft pick in the 2000 draft: he was never the #1 guy, but he worked incredibly hard and kept working hard.  He even had a back up plan in case football didn’t work out for him.  He was a 4th string QB for the Patriots that 2000 season.  Think about it: the team which almost never carries three QBs carried four. They liked him.  They liked his drive, his intelligence, but also knew he wasn’t quite ready to carry the load.  He earned his shot and he kept earning it.

By that fateful game in 2001 that ended Drew Bledsoe’s run as starter in New England, Brady had worked his way up to second on the depth chart. Work ethic, and determination at play.   All the reps with the practice squad, all the time studying film.  Everything he did positioned him to be there when fate called.

My wife and I went to game 10 on the season, the St. Louis Rams at the New England Patriots, and I remember saying to her that this would be the Pats’ Super Bowl – the Rams looked unbeatable, world class.  Indeed, the Pats lost that game by a touchdown, but on the way home we agreed that they looked really good and had a decent chance to win.  They wouldn’t lose again that season.

Why, some 16-years later, on the eve of Tom’s 8th Super Bowl appearance, am I writing about THIS game?

It serves to highlight what I hope to be. I hope to best position myself to take advantage of that big break should it come.  I hope to be positioned through doing the work I need to do to be ready.  One doesn’t just wake up and run a marathon, or even ten miles as I learned this morning after having taken too much time between long runs. It’s a reminder to keep doing what I need to be doing, to set my goals, do the work toward those goals, and if I’m comfortable that I’ve done the work, the results will speak for themselves: I’ll either be up to the challenge or I won’t, but there will be no excuses for failure.

The one vignette that sticks out to me as highlighting emotional intelligence, the complete confidence that comes with being prepared, and the recognition that all the prep work has been done and no more worry or work can improve the outcome – indeed may serve as detriment to accomplishing goals – is this one: before  biggest game of his life, Super Bowl XXXVI, this 24 year old (let that sink in for a moment) took a nap in the locker room. Not because he was overtired, but because he was relaxed.

I ran a half marathon in October. I went to bed early, but within a few hours I found I couldn’t sleep. I was so amped up. Eventually I found I was tired but afraid to go back to sleep for fear of oversleeping. So I drove to the city, parked and tried to sleep in the front seat of my car.  Like that was a thing that was going to happen.

I didn’t eat well, I didn’t sleep well. I was a hot mess and the results show it.  This for a half marathon that I didn’t even pay an entry fee for.  Brady, on the night he would define his career with millions of people world wide watching, with millions of dollars in future earnings on the line and a legacy to be had, he fell asleep because he was just THAT prepared.  There is some debate as to whether it was 20-30 minutes or if it was a couple hours, but it doesn’t matter. He was so relaxed in his preparation, on the biggest stage he could nap.

I had a 45-minute presentation I had to give to leaders in my organization this week. I was nervous, I was prepared but nervous. There was no way I was going to take a nap, though. I have to imagine in those moments leading up to the start of Super Bowl XXXVI, TB12 just felt confidence, conscious competence.  When you do the pre-work, you’ve spent the time studying, you’ve worked as hard as you can work, you know nothing else you can do will make your performance better. Could I have made my performance better? Absolutely. I can think of a hundred things I could have done beforehand that would have yielded incrementally better results.  I didn’t take the time to do them, and as a result I was amped up and nervous.

“By the time you spike that ball, you’ve got 40 seconds and you’re thinking ‘this is for the World Championship.’” That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.  Its about doing your job day in and day out at a high level without thinking about what could happen at some other point. It’s about making incrementally better decisions, better outcomes, and with those outcomes putting yourself in position to achieve your ultimate goal. Seven seconds left on the clock as he spiked the ball on the 30 yard line to set up the Vinatieri field goal was the point at which he said, “this is for the World Championship.” Not with a minute-thirty left. Not in the locker room. After his work was complete. With the spike, and a confident out reach of his hand, the ball lands softly and his work is done.

Every day isn’t the World Championship, not every job has a world championship hinging on the outcome of the smaller tasks during the year, but excellence, preparedness, execution those are the hallmarks of putting yourself in position to best achieve when called on.

I’m trying to remember that. Study, prepare, anticipate, prepare, know the goal, prepare, work, prepare… EXECUTE.

That’s why it’s important to not only find something you like to do, but to find something you’re passionate about doing. Put the time in, work it. Done consistently, you will be in position to do the most with that next opportunity, whenever, and wherever it comes.

This Is Not A Love Song

On the heels of what I would consider to be one of my worst days of my working life, I came across – quite by accident – exactly the thing I needed at exactly the time I needed it.

Yesterday had been led up to for over a week: some mumbles, some stirring, then a confirmation.  The ominous news came in dribs and drabs, and slowly put a couple of months of activity into sharp relief.  The policy change here, the meeting there, the strange disparate directions somewhere else. All of those things started to add up.

And then the cinderblock came crashing through the roof. All questions, any ambiguity washed away.  For me, I’m fine. A little rattled, but fine. Rattled in very much the same way I can imagine I’d respond if a cinderblock actually did come crashing through my roof.  Anticipated as a possibility, but honestly not considered as a probability.  And certainly not handled in the way I’d want to be associated with it. In this case, my situation is unaffected. My work life will remain pretty much in tact – perhaps with some additional responsibilities or roles, but sometimes it’s about the way things happen and not what happens that affect you most.

So, my day yesterday ended and my day today began with all kinds of questions and doubts and wonderments regarding what, if any, next steps should be taken.

I often go for a walk in the morning, a little before starting work for the day.  It helps get the blood pumping, the brain active. On these walks I’ll listen to a podcast or two to catch up with the news of the day or to explore an idea or two.  Podcasts are phenomenal things.  When I was traveling a lot, I’d listen to audiobooks – 4 hour stints in the car turned into listening to half a book.  Now that I don’t travel as much, podcasts wind up being a better bet for me: easily digestible chunks of information or ideas dissected in 15, 30, sometimes 45 or 60 minute chunks.

On Tuesdays the NPR Politics Podcast lands in my feed, so I listen to that on my walk for some coffee. That usually runs out on my way back, so I’ll listen to the Up First podcast, which is basically the morning top of the hour news broadcast.  This often leaves me with a little additional time before I’m back at home base with nothing to listen to.  It just so happened that today I happened upon a podcast from December 20, 2016. I’m not entirely sure how, but it looked just interesting enough that I decided to give it a listen.

It was on the “All Songs Considered” podcast and entitled “The Martin Atkins Minute.” Growing up, I was a bit of a pseudo-punk.  Not a hardcore Sex Pistols guy like some of my friends who wore leather jackets and spiked hair, but I enjoyed it and at the mention of the band “Public Image Ltd.” Caught my attention.

This was the story of how Martin Atkins went from being with a successful band, to digging ditches, ultimately to be planting trees on the property of Bon Jovi’s drummer. The culmination of consequences of bad choices, to wind up in one of the more strange and humiliating situations one can imagine, and being reminded of it.  None of this was part of my experience the past week or so – until the last few words. He says something to the effect that he wanted to share his story in case You [the listener] were having a Sh!**y day too.  Things will get better.

That spoke to me.  A message sent some 13 months ago was finally received at the time I needed to hear it.  Things will get better.  For my affected colleague, for me, for my team, and my company. I don’t know how it will, just that it will.  Every day isn’t the past day, or even the past few days.

Here’s the podcast: https://www.npr.org/player/embed/506298934/506298965

Beliefs Become Destiny

This was my end of a recent conversation about health, conditioning, and whether to run a particular race:

“I mean I’ve barely run for three weeks and I’ve lost so much conditioning I’m afraid all I can do is the half marathon.”

I’m quite aware that may sound hollow to a good deal of people, I get that.  The race we were discussing is a 50k – 31.1-Miles – considerably longer than a half marathon and one for which one really needs to train.  I’m no where near that level of fitness right now.

My friend did not let me off the hook so easily. I was looking for affirmation, “yes, of course. You’re not your best you for reasons outside of your control. It’s okay. Build up to it.” That’s not what I got.  I was looking for excuses; I got a reality check.

“‘barely,’ ‘lost,’ ‘afraid’ are all I see in what you just said…  Come on man, if it’s a half marathon kick the crap out of it, if its a 50K finish, if it’s a 5K set a course record.”

“I mean I’ve barely run for three weeks and I’ve lost so much conditioning I’m afraid all I can do is the half marathon.”

A lot of negativity in one 23-word sentence.

Then, the kicker, because ever since undergrad I’ve been interested in how language affects us, how we use it to convey meta-messages, how it can be used like Jiu Jitsu to disarm verbal attacks:  “Language can be as bad for your health as drinking beer, and having a heart attack while in the garage on Facebook.” Ouch.  I was letting fear control my thoughts; and in turn I was letting that negative thinking control my words. My actions.  I was letting myself off the hook with excuses; setting the bar low so I could attain a marginal victory.  I was failing to control my inner dialogue and failing to let my positive thoughts control my language.

I was thinking that I could do the Half Marathon and get by. He was challenging me to set a personal best.  He made it okay to run the 5k variation, if I was going to set a course record. He made it okay to simply finish the ultra-marathon. Jiu Jitsu. He took the control the fear had over me, and used it against itself.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Internal dialogue is a powerful thing.  It controls your definition of success and it determines whether you’ll allow yourself to achieve it.  It is the difference between continuing when you don’t want to and regretting you didn’t continue. It’s the difference between embracing your limits and setting artificial ones.

My motto for 2017 was “goals without fear,” and yet I started 2018 allowing fear to control my thoughts.  Am I in condition for a long race? Probably not, but that’s not what I said. I said I was letting fear control how I was thinking about it, and not, as I believed, making an honest assessment of my current fitness.

The race is 20 days away – longer than I was laid up. If I want it, I can get myself back to my previous condition, whether or not that’s ‘race ready.’ The idea isn’t that I should or shouldn’t run the race, it’s that I should not let fear, loss, and barely control my thoughts.

It’s about the courage to see just where my inner power may be. Its the courage to see that light as power and not fear; to speak from a place of strength, not weakness.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

If you let fear control your thoughts, you allow fear to control your words. If you let fear control your words, it ultimately controls your destiny.  Charting your course is hard enough as it is, why make it more difficult by allowing that inner darkness control your destiny?

 

A 50k Punch in the Mouth

Image result for 50k decalOn April 22, I hit a milestone I never anticipated, nor expected, to hit.  I ran a 50k.  That’s 31+ miles.

A year ago, I was focused on running a number of races.  By this point last year – April 23, 2016 – I had run 14 races.  14 5ks (actually 13 5ks and 1 3-miler).  Today I ran a 50k trail race.  Put another way, in one day, I had eclipsed 10 of those 5k races from last year.

Interestingly enough, this was race 18 on the year.  I’ve run 9 5ks, and a bunch of others: 5-Milers, 10-Milers, 15k.  Fully half of what I’d run to that point was far more than I could have imagined a year ago.  On May 1 last year, I ran my first race of more than 5k.  A 10k.  Or one of 5 loops I did for the 50.  To think I’d upped my capacity from 5 to 50k.  Unfathomable.

Now, make no mistake, on that last 10k I did far more walking than running.  I had no business being out there.  I finished the marathon distance in 5 hours 20 minutes.  I finished the 50k in just under 7 hours.  But I made a few promises to myself this year.

First, I’m punching 2017 in the mouth.  Taking no prisoners

Second, I’m committed to trying 5 things I don’t know that I can finish this year.  This was the second.  The first was a January DNF.  The next one is also a 50k, but a far more technical and difficult one.  I’m not sure just yet what the other two will be, but I’m working on it.

Last, I was told to make my race for my dad.  I got back up one more time than I quit on this day, and I did so because I was out there for my dad.  It’s really hard to quit on your father.

This isn’t to brag on myself, please believe me that I have a great deal to be humble about.  Rather, it’s about taking stock.  Stopping along the path, looking around and taking stock of where you’ve been, but also how much farther there is to go.  So as I write at the 40% point of the year, I’ve completed about 43% of my running goal for the year.  I’ve done something I never thought I would, and I’ve tried 2 things I wasn’t sure I could actually finish.  It’s about growth.

I’ve grown.  And I’m punching 2017 in the mouth.

1000 Miles: I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself

HEY! I WANNA GET BETTER.” Last January 1, I decided I needed to do something different – if nothing changes, nothing changes – and so on January 2, 2016 I proceeded to walk 18 miles or so.  It doesn’t seem like a lot in retrospect, but at the time it was the longest such trip I had done in as long as I can remember.

This January 2, I find myself in a different place.  Before this past year, I could count the number of races I had actually run on one hand.  By days’ end December 31, I had completed 66 races; the majority of which were 5k, but as the year progressed they increased in their distance: 10k, Ragnar relay, Spartan trifecta, marathon relay, half-marathon.

On January 1, I started the year with a 5-Mile race.  Today, I ran a half-marathon distance.  I wanna get better.  My goal last year was number of races; my goal this year is distance.  1000.  I finished the race yesterday at position 100 of 254.  I can do better.  I finished 71/132 of Men.  Should definitely do better.  I finished 22/28 in my age group.  I HAVE to do better.  I’ve been working at this over 66 races and 328 miles over the past year.   If I had finished 254/254, or 132/132. or 28/28 and I felt like that was all I was capable of, I think I could be okay with that.  But its not.  I KNOW it’s not.

Last February 13, I ran my very first race of the year.  As I was leaving my then ten-year old son left me with these parting words: “I hope you do great, and that this is your worst race of the year.”  I did.  And it was.  It took me over 29-minutes to finish that 5k, but it was the best I could do at that point.  For the rest of the year, I didn’t come close to that time for a 5k street race.

I ran that 13.1 miles today.  My knees started giving me the business at mile 10 and for the next 2 miles my pace slowed to almost 11-minute miles.  I bargained one more mile with myself and pushed through a more reasonable pace, but the damage was done to my time and my proverbial heart.  I got the half-marathon, but the rest was not to be had today.

This is where it would be easy to stop.  Get discouraged.  Give up the goal.  But alas, enter the support system.

It’s not about the mileage. It’s about your inner-dialogue.  You’re done with the 5K stuff. You are on a whole level and you don’t know it. You went for 18 because there is a part of you that knows it’s possible. Trust it and again do it for someone for which failure is not an option; Dedicate your next run to your father.

I know what my plan is.  I know what I have to do to get to my plan.  I know what I have to do to punch that plan in the face and go beyond.  I cannot allow myself the option of failure.  Today was as much a failure of the will as it was of the body, and I know that.  I was given good advice and direction from one of my biggest supporters: think about your dad,

Near the end of the year, I wished that I had chronicled my races.  How they went.  Commit those feelings to writing.  I’m going to do better this year.

Here is how I plan to get better:

  1. 1000 Miles (20 Miles/week):
    As of 1/2/17 – Week 1:18.1/1000
  2. #Kill22 Challenge: Add a push up a day to the challenge.
    1. Day 2: Check
  3. 2 Rounds (4 months) of Beachbody “Insanity”
  4. Spartan Trifecta
    1. Scheduled
    2. Additional Sprint Scheduled (x2 Trifecta?)
  5. 2 Half Marathons – one of which will be less than 2 hours
  6. I will attempt at least 5 things that I’m not convinced I can complete
    1. To succeed, you cannot fear failure.
    2. Fear is a liar, desperate to convince you that you cannot succeed.

I KNOW I can accomplish most of the goals on this list, which is why #6 is so important.  It is the least quantifiable – I either run 2 halfs, one in less than -hours or I don’t – but what does “I’m not convinced” mean?  It means that it will be something I haven’t done, but it also means that I have to be honest with myself.  It can’t be an ex-post-facto excuse for failing something at which I thought I should succeed.  As such, I’ll do my level best to be honest and accountable.

January 1 – 5 Miles; 5 Miles Total

January 2 – 13.1 Miles; 18.1 Miles Total.

2017 is getting punched in the mouth.

2016 The Year In The Rearview

Be sure to be thankful for the past year.

cohassettri-com
Lemmy From Billboard.com

One of my all time music idols passed away last December 28 – Lemmy Kilmister passed away from an aggressive form of cancer days after having been diagnosed.  2016 was not  to be an auspicious year on that front: David Bowie, Maurice White, Prince, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake.  Just a tough year for the classics…and some of the names of my childhood.

The most bizarre Presidential election cycle of my lifetime came to a close in November…in the most unlikely ways.  I’m still letting the phrase “President-elect Trump” sink in.  He may well be President before I can swallow that phrase.

The mother of one of my oldest and dearest friends succumbed to the cancer that she had willed at bay.

As we close the year, I’m anticipating the flood of “So long 2016…” and “may 2017 suck less than 2016” posts all over social media.  With all of this, by and large, 2016 has been an amazing year for me. I learned some things about the power of goals and endurance.  I learned some things about humility and being willing to step out of my comfort zone and try something different.

anno_mmxvi_-_year_2016
2016, a year of goals

On January 2, I set out amongst the snow and slush, making my way on an 18-mile round trip walk to a nearby dam. It took me a little more than 4-hours to make the trip.  Tired and exhausted, it was awesome. It also helped set the stage for more than a few workouts this year – up and down the stairs, along the trails came to be known as the “Pain Cave” in my strange little circle of compatriots.

I began with a goal of 50 Obstacle Course races by age 50 – something I may still strive toward, as that’s my real passion and interest – but my short list of a handful of races, eventually became a goal of 46 races for my 46 years.  I honestly had no idea how low I had set my target and why would I?

On February 13, I ran the first race of the year; a 5k in 17-degree weather.  A couple of weeks later, I jumped into a pool of ice water to raise money for a kids’ camp.

It wasn’t until May that I dared try anything longer than a 5k – although the day before I ran 2 5k races – and it was kind of important that I do that because somewhere along the line I had joined a Ragnar Relay team and I had never run more than a 5k at one time.  I guessed at a 10k pace time for Ragnar, and tried to match it a couple of weeks before hand.  I did well enough – not great, but well enough – that I agreed to take on a longer set of legs for the relay, and I’m glad I did.

328 racing miles on the year.  I did so much more than I ever could have imagined.  Ragnar.  Ragnar Trail. Killington Spartan Beast.  A half-marathon.  11-races in July.  An overnight marathon relay so far into the New Hampshire darkness I saw the International Space Station traverse the sky.  I met some really cool folks.  I made stronger connections with old friends.  I ran 4 races with my daughter.  I either lost 20 pounds and gained 5 or lost 15 – I prefer to think of it as having lost 15.

Completed the #22Kill Challenge, did “The Murph,” a round of T25 and of “Insanity.” Lots of stuff going on for a pudgy, middle aged guy.

Interestingly enough, that icewater fundraiser I mentioned earlier, set the stage for another key aspect of the year for me: we gave more to charity this year than we ever have, and over a wide breadth of causes.  We had international guests for 2-months this summer; what an amazing experience. We welcomed yet another dog into our home – but this time we swear, no more.

So, 2016 didn’t see us get suddenly wealthy or even progressively so.  BUT it sees us through together, healthy.  Our bills are paid.  My daughter has completed her college studies a semester early and will be going to Europe for a couple of months in celebration.

Before complaining about how crummy 2016 was to you, maybe take some time and think about all the ways 2016 was pretty good to you.  365.25 days can’t all be bad.  I can’t wait to see what 2017 has waiting; I’m ready to go.  Happy New Year my friends.

Some Stats:

9 Pairs of sneakers

  1. Reebok (3)
  2. New Balance (3)
  3. North Face (1)
  4. Asics (1)
  5. Saucony (1)

66 Races (9 Obstacle Courses)
64:33:24 Hours:Minutes:Seconds Racing
Raced in 5 States (MA, NH, CT, RI, VT); Ran in  9 (NY, NJ, NC, FL)

 

The Good You Wish To See

It began with a Facebook post and a text message.

A woman had taken to filling backpacks with daily essentials and would leave them in her car.  When she happened upon someone in need panhandling or sleeping on the street, she would give them a backpack.  There may be a blanket, perhaps some lip balm, whatever.  Just something to let the other person know that someone was thinking of them and wanted to help.

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Rich O’Connell of the O’Connell Valor Fund, Keith Howard Executive Director of Liberty House, and the Mo’s.

My daughter thought this was a good idea, and wondered about ways to do this in bulk.  She took the time to build a shopping list: doing research to find where she could get certain items she could distribute and for how much for how many.  After compiling her list and deciding she had a workable idea, the text came.  She wanted to demonstrate good citizenship to her younger brother and to make a difference in the world.

How to do this? The list she had put together, a relatively bargain priced list at that, still priced the project at about $25 per backpack (including the pack) or about $600.  Then the issue of distribution: how to distribute the packs?  After all, it’s not the safest thing in the world to approach random people on the street and offer things.

This is where some things clicked together.  The O’Connell Valor Fund – one of the subjects of the Morrisseyweb 28 Days of Inspiration – has a ready made network of entities seeking just this kind of support for needy and homeless veterans.  By leveraging the OVF network, we would have a prescreened means by which we could distribute the packs, meaning no potentially unsafe encounters, and a disadvantaged group to support: the Veterans community.

According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (or HUD)  estimates 39,471 veterans are homeless on any given night and the Veterans Administration estimates veterans comprise about 11% of the homeless population.  Their top priority for homeless vets?  Secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.

16431588_1481156662-2162Concurrent with the coordination work with the OVF, we began a fundraising campaign to raise money to help offset the cost of building these backpacks: it was clear that the price tag was going to be a little more than we could pull off in short order.  Before the fundraiser was 8 hours old, we had raised enough to know that we could pull this off and began ordering the packs and buying supplies.

On November 30 the idea was hatched.  On December 1 the connection to the OVF had been set in motion to identify the appropriate place(s) to deliver the packs and the fundraising page had gone up, by December 6 most of the supplies had been purchased and the packs had arrived and on the evening of December 9, we set about packing the 24 packs with goods. And on December 10, we arrived at the Liberty House door to deliver them.

We had raised far more than our initial goal, and that allowed us some flexibility with the contents.  To our original list, we added higher quality blankets (this was the big plus!), wash cloths, candy, tooth brush holders, handwritten notes and made 4-female bags with feminine hygiene products: Women comprise 11% of the homeless veteran population, although oftentimes their particular needs go overlooked.

Chic 2 Chic Consignments of Foxborough, MA donated brand new hats, gloves and scarves to each backpack.

The average value of each pack grew from an estimated $25 each, to easily more than $50 with our additional supplies and Chic 2 Chic’s generous donations.

The OVF referred our donation to a small Veterans organization called Liberty House, of Manchester NH. They do terrific work with the homeless Veteran population of Manchester, but more than that they work with the community at large.  What’s more is that they do this in the context of drug and alcohol free housing – just what the Coalition of Homeless Veterans says is the top concern.  They have refused federal funding – and the requisite regulations – because doing so would compromise their mission and purpose: they would have been required to allow drug and alcohol use if a resident came in using.

In the time we were there, several homeless folks came to their door – knowing that if it can be avoided, no one gets turned away.  This was exactly the partner we were looking for – we didn’t want to turn anyone away.  And these packs were exactly what was needed: they can’t give everyone a place to stay, but they can try to help everyone.  There wasn’t anything in our packs that they program didn’t already have – we had perhaps nicer and new supplies, maybe, but the program had toothbrushes, and toothpaste, and spare clothes. What they didn’t have was the packs, already made, that they could offer to others in need.

In addition, we were able to write a $300 check to the O’Connell Valor Fund to help financially support other Veterans in need – not everyone in need is homeless, and not everyone needs a backpack of supplies.

We took some time with Keith Howard, the Executive Director of Liberty House when we dropped off the packs.  He was genuinely touched that these two kids had conceived and built the program themselves.  “How did you come up with this idea,” he asked.  “I saw a post on Facebook” came the answer.  Keith was not satisfied, “How many others saw that post and while they thought it was interesting did nothing?”  In that moment of having her modesty rebuffed, it became clear just how important this project was.  They did something where others did not, and in so doing they affected the change they wanted to see in the world, AND encouraged others to do so as well.

It warms my heart, this holiday season, to know my kids have been raised to be good, caring people.  It warms my heart that so many people thought enough of their idea to help fund it – it never would have become as awesome as quickly without the support from our community.  It warms my heart that people I’ve known better than 30 years thought enough of the idea to join the effort to see it to fruition.  And more than anything it warms my heart that there are 24 people who are likely to be in much better shape than they may have been otherwise.  In short, the world is just a little better because of my kids.

MORE INFORMATION:

For Information on the O’Connell Valor Fund: https://twitter.com/ocvalor
For Information on Liberty House: http://libertyhousenh.org/
Visit Chic-2-Chic on the web at http://www.chic2chic.com/