February ’15 1. Miss a box jump at CrossFit. Grind my shin with full bodyweight. 2. I think it’s almost to the bone. Fist sized swelling. “Just walk it off.” 3. Hydrogen peroxide vs. stitches. I choose peroxide. Four days later 4. Pain and redness…more pain. Visit doctor. 5. “OH MY GOD! VHAT DID YOU [...]
When I was 22 I got introduced to a guy in his 50′s named Bob. Big Italian guy with a commanding presence and booming voice of a southern baptist preacher. He was also a terrific salesman and all around person. He mentored me for years. Bob had this crazy and radical transformation from an early [...]
There’s something both totally lousy and amazingly self-inspiring about starting over. Yesterday someone asked me “When’s your next marathon?” Which was depressing as hell funny to me, because I haven’t run one in 18 months. I don’t even see myself as a runner anymore, and certainly not a marathoner. Heck, I don’t even qualify as a [...]
Dear Levi, Today it feels like yesterday. Yesterday, when I landed in San Francisco to frantic voicemails that I had to return home immediately. Yesterday, when I rushed into the UC hospital labor/delivery room where our high risk OB doc sat us down and so gently and lovingly explained that you were going to be [...]
This is my annual birthday post for Levi (though a few days late). If you’re interested, the prior birthday posts are here: Happy 9th Birthday Buddy, Happy 8th Birthday Buddy, Happy 7th Birthday Buddy, Happy 6th Birthday Buddy, Happy 5th Birthday Buddy, and Happy 4th Birthday Buddy. Hi Buddy, This one is late by about ten days, for reasons you already [...]
The longer I wait at this point, the more I’ll forget. So I wanted to write down a hit list of all the things I learned throughout my process of training for an Ironman triathlon. This includes a list of things I learned in preparation for, and during, the event. It is ALL jumbled together. [...]
When I was 22 I got introduced to a guy in his 50′s named Bob. Big Italian guy with a commanding presence and booming voice of a southern baptist preacher. He was also a terrific salesman and all around person. He mentored me for years.
Bob had this crazy and radical transformation from an early and deep darkness in a mafia life through a relationship with Christ where he RADICALLY changed. Too long a set of differences to list. If you’re cynical about the “radical transformation” stuff I get it, I really do. But, let me carry on…
One thing he deeply held onto was his “Life Verse” from Joel 2:25, from the Old Testament. One of the last times I met with Bob he shouted to me (which was really his way of talking) in a loving but impassioned voice with expressive Italian arms waving “RICHARD, you should have a Life Verse! It’ll give you direction and something to meditate on. What’s it going to be RICHARD? Think about it, and get back to me! THIS IS IMPORTANT, DO NOT DILLY DALLY!”
But I never did it. Too much time went by, and I let life get in the way.
One day I got a call that he’d suddenly passed. At his funeral I thought about my Life Verse, but shortly after forgot about it until two months ago, and after thinking I’d narrowed it down to three verses.
This week in Denver I was with my parents at dinner. They’re both amazing. My mom is so caring, considerate, patient, and kind; my dad is so smart, wise and disciplined.
We walked into this trendy Italian restaurant with music blaring overhead and my mom said to me “Your dad is not going to like this music one bit…” (thank God, literally, she didn’t know what song was playing!).
The gracious hostess overheard and changed the music, but even still when we all sat down my dad says something hilarious about “You Hipsters and your music.” (I resisted an explanation that Hipsters were dudes who wore skinny jeans rolled up with outlandish beards whereas I identified more with Hippies who have long hair and the prolific usage of the word ‘dude’).
Late into the evening my dad quoted this verse out of the Bible, which hit me squarely since it was the same verse I’d been thinking about as my Life Verse the past few months.
Over 30-years I’d heard my dad quote lots of verses, but never this one. (sidebar: Bob’s having a conniption in heaven shouting at me “RICHARD, C’MON JUST MAKE A DECISION HERE!”).
After quoting it, my dad says “I think that’s Jeremiah 33…” and I quickly interject “29:11…It’s Jeremiah 29:11.”
At which point I knew it was my life verse.
One, because I’d been thinking about this and hearing him say it was confirmation. Two, because my dad is one of the most prolific students of scripture and never have I ever (and I mean EVER) corrected a reference with him in decades of discussions.
Plus, well, I love this verse for all its meaning and it speaks to me.
So, Bob, 15-years later, here it is. My Life Verse. Unfortunately I dilly dallied and got distracted along the way, but I finally got it done.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11:
There’s something both totally lousy and amazingly self-inspiring about starting over.
Yesterday someone asked me “When’s your next marathon?”
depressing as hell funny to me, because I haven’t run one in 18 months. I don’t even see myself as a runner anymore, and certainly not a marathoner.
Heck, I don’t even qualify as a jogger. I’m a moderately-expressive-speed-walker, perhaps (okay, maybe not so much hyperbole…but it’s not fast).
Some know that over the past five years I went from fairly-perpetual-fat-kid-post-college-who-tried-100x-to-get-in-shape to that of…a fat kid FINALLY getting in shape and pretty leaned out over three years ago.
Then, I got fat and out of shape AGAIN.
Yes, AGAIN. I swore I’d never let that happen.
That’s the “present tense” part that people don’t as often see. Instead people still see the fitter dude from years ago…even though I’m not. I think we most often see and evaluate ourselves, and also others, not as we are today, but as who we were several years ago. For better or worse. Probably worse. And in many ways more than simply the physical.
Shortly after my last marathon 18-months ago (at which point I was in pretty terrific shape and had outlandish goals to try to qualify for Boston in ’16) I was doing box jumps and massively sliced open my shin. It didn’t properly get treated
I refused to go to the ER and get stitches and instead sprayed some Windex on it, no not really regarding the Windex… By the time I got to the doctor, oral antibiotics wouldn’t touch it and it progressed rapidly into a nasty drug resistant (MRSA) staph infection that resulted in three hospitalizations + nearly a month of IV antibiotics every six hours…and a slow recovery.
At one point it was getting serious and scary enough I thought it was inevitable I would lose my leg. But, to be fair, every time I have a headache WebMD also convinces me I have brain cancer. But this was a pretty precarious situation for a while.
After I recovered I took out my frustration with food, to the point that six months ago I was within several pounds of my “fat kid journey” STARTING WEIGHT from four years ago. At this point, I’m saying to myself, WTF? (Why The Face? Literally, why is my face getting so chubby?).
That was REALLY depressing (self-inflicted). So I did the responsible thing to try to solve it…I ate lots of ice cream and Oreos. Shazam, I love Oreos. And Donuts. I love those too. Ben and Jerry’s should make a Donut Ice Cream.
But I digress…
Finally, after getting back on the nutritional wagon back in January I’m getting pretty close to my target weight (I’m only about 15 lbs away, which I should be able to get to in 90-days).
But, shazam am I out of shape from a cardio/endurance perspective. Since my infection I’ve run maybe a total of six times.
And in about six months I’m running the Marine Corp Marathon, so tonight was my first very short training run as part of my 20-week calendar. It was shorter than anything I would’ve even bothered to run two years ago. To add to the frustration, my pace tonight was SLOWER than most of my marathon paces (uh yeah, average mile pace for the whole marathon).
And all that means is…I’m starting over.
Which, on one hand, can feel really lousy. Like, how did I end up here again?
But tonight on my run (ehhh, jog) I had another realization.
It was a radically different one.
Which is that this can also be self-inspiration for me. During my run I remembered that my biggest gains (not physically, but emotionally) happened when I went through the struggle of trying to get in good shape in the first place.
It was the battle (you perpetually skinny-and-fit-kids won’t understand this! ) of fighting the urge not to work out, or to grab the ice cream, or all the little things that are the difference between being fit or fat.
And the humility that you gain from understanding just how weak and broken you are…
So tonight I had this simple epiphany. And it’s randomness that I’m sharing it, though in small part it’s with some belief that other people must struggle with the same things.
The win for me is that if I can just break free of my frustration for why I’m here, and simply commit to go my “there”, and in the process learn a whole new set of lessons along the way, then I’m going to be okay…
Plus, along the way I’m getting another healthy dose of humility (pretty damn good thing for me), so the next time I get in great shape I’ll realize I’m just “Gods grace and one box jump away” from being sidelined.
Today it feels like yesterday.
Yesterday, when I landed in San Francisco to frantic voicemails that I had to return home immediately.
Yesterday, when I rushed into the UC hospital labor/delivery room where our high risk OB doc sat us down and so gently and lovingly explained that you were going to be born that day and there was nothing left he could do.
And that you would be alive.
But that you wouldn’t live.
That the odds of you living were so impossibly low they weren’t even going to have a neonatal intensive care unit on hand.
It feels like Yesterday, where I called the head of the NICU unit at his home and begged, with sobbing and pleading, that he would send us a NICU team in the remote chance a miracle could happen. That the 22 week estimate of gestation were off by a week, and that 23 weeks could provide us a chance and MY GOD I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES AND HE SHOULD TOO AND I DO NOT GIVE AN EFF WHAT THE STATISTICS SAY, and that maybe the infection wasn’t actually septic. Maybe they were wrong.
Or that BY GOD and PLEASE GOD AND I AM BEGGING YOU HERE AND DOC YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO HELP ME SAVE HIM DO NOT ABANDON ME that there is some chance for a miracle. To which he finally said “Okay, there’s an impossibly small chance–I’ll be there with my best team, but if I tell you it’s over, then it’s over. Can you agree to that?”
Yesterday, when we were in the delivery room with 10 nurses and doctors in the room–one team for delivery, and another post-delivery neonatal, with equipment and an isolette wheeled in and electronics that I’d never before seen and were certainly not part of a normal delivery room. I was on my knees on the side of the bed with your mom, holding her hand. She was so strong, brave, and focused.
But I couldn’t quit crying, and begging and pleading and sobbing, and I whispered repeated prayers in a silent room where only a doctor was talking with your mom giving instruction, and at one point I was crying so hard I felt a nurse put her hand on my back to try to comfort me, and I was begging and pleading and calling out for God to rescue you and to intervene, PLEASE GOD WHY WON’T YOU INTERVENE AND WHY IS THIS HAPPENING…
Felt like Yesterday, watching the obstetrics team within seconds of delivering you immediately hand you off to what must’ve been a half dozen on the NICU team. Watching, as tears rolled down our cheeks hearing the doctor read off low Apgar scars–with more tears as more scores were read, and silence in the room of 12 people, half of whom were watching the scene unfold with the other half furiously assessing whether any lifesaving heroic measure could change the outcome, but GOD THE SILENCE and the somber quietness and WHY THE HELL IS THIS HAPPENING AND WHERE ARE YOU GOD and I am begging here for ANYTHING AND ANYONE, with rhythmic beats of electronics and a pulse ox monitor and eery silence with just one NICU doctors quiet and steady voice and a team of a dozen others, all of whom are afraid to look at me, and then after ten minutes there is a nurse starting to wrap you up in a swaddle and I felt like screaming NO DO NOT HAND HIM TO US SAVE HIM I NEED YOU SAVE HIM, YOU HAVE TO SAVE HIM…
Yesterday, it feels like we were just holding you and feeling your heartbeat while you laid on us for two hours, just you, me and mom…the chaos of over a dozen people in the room eviscerated, and it was just the three of us, in complete silence. No more monitors, no more beeping, no more whirring, just us and silence and GOD I DO NOT WANT THIS MOMENT TO END PLEASE YOU CAN INTERVENE THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO INTERVENE AND SAVE US I CAN’T BEAR THIS LOSS, and watching you lay on your mothers chest with her smelling your little newborn head and tiny patches of hair and rub your tiny arms and hands and feet. You smelled just like a newborn and you had all the features of a normal kid but wow you were so tiny so so tiny but so close, we were so close and WHY THE FUCK IS THIS HAPPENING SOMEONE HELP ME SOMEONE STOP THIS…
Yesterday, when two hours later at 2:10am where your heart stopped beating. And I was devastated…I walked downstairs as a mess to get outside, and found a guy sitting outside the hospital where I took a cigarette from him and with tears still pouring down my cheeks I inhaled deeply with devastation.
It feels like Yesterday, when we had a final few hours with you and passed you back to the nurse for the last time we would see you, and I can feel you right now swaddled and me holding you and my passing you back to mom one last time and WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING…MY GOD I AM STILL BEGGING YOU TO REACH DOWN AND SAVE HIM and hand you to your mom for one last visit, and then to the nurse to never see you again.
Yeah, it still feels like it was Yesterday. 12 years later. And I am still so raw. Broken. Angry. Sad. Hopeless. Somehow I’m also at peace. Content. Understanding. Trusting.
And I can’t explain it. I want to change it, I want you back and I want you back and…
Yet I still wouldn’t change it.
At moments it didn’t feel like God was there. But I know He was, and it happened as designed. I really believe that. Then, and now. Even though there are still times when it feels otherwise.
A few months after we lost you I was speaking with a guy who also lost a child shortly after birth. As we were talking at a certain point his voice trailed off, and as he was looking in the distance he said quietly “I lost my kid over ten years ago and people say it gets easier…but it never does.”
Today feels more like yesterday than yesterday ever did.
Happy Birthday buddy. I miss you so much. You have no idea. We all do.
This is my annual birthday post for Levi (though a few days late). If you’re interested, the prior birthday posts are here: Happy 9th Birthday Buddy, Happy 8th Birthday Buddy, Happy 7th Birthday Buddy, Happy 6th Birthday Buddy, Happy 5th Birthday Buddy, and Happy 4th Birthday Buddy.
This one is late by about ten days, for reasons you already know. Sorry.
We celebrated with a quick dinner out on March 26th. Said a prayer for you. Thought about you. A lot. Talked about what you’d be like if you were here, and what we might be like. Better. The answer is better.
Another year goes by, and this one felt like two years. Maybe three. Over the last 12-months I felt like I lost a lot of your sisters, Royce & Zoe. Something flipped. Partly it was me, and some distance I probably created. A lot of it was work and some of the ridiculousness required in running a start-up. Some of it was selfishness. And, finally, the remainder of it was likely them and the reality of life, and getting older as girls had something to do with it. It’s just not the same when I used to be able to walk around with both of them latched onto my arms.
Especially because of this bridge from Tweens to Teens, you are, by far, my littlest dude now. And if you were here I’d have only another year or two left before the same thing would happen to you. This year would’ve been a really nice year to have you around.
Though, any year would’ve been nice to have you around. Or any day…any moment.
Three months ago I spoke at an event on a topic related to “Lessons Learned in Running Start-Ups”, it was totally unrelated to any personal stuff–or specifically you. But after the event some guy comes up to me and says to me in this great Spanish accent with perfect English, “My friend, you know, I have this feeling that you have this story, and you’re supposed to tell it…and I do not know what it is, but I can just tell. I am supposed to be here, to tell you to tell your story. Maybe you know what this is about, I do not, but you shouldn’t wait. You should not wait to tell this story.” And that was it. He walked away.
This happens to me every three or four months. And has for years. I’ve written about it before, including to you. Someone comes up to me, oftentimes someone I don’t know, and they tell me that I’m supposed to write this book, but they don’t know about what. When this happens, I feel like I can see and hear God. So, I keep working on your book. Not for anyone else, as I can’t even imagine anyone else reading it (save for perhaps a few of my sisters and parents). But I have this feeling I’m supposed to write it for you and me. And, likely, that’s it.
Anyways, I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten–I haven’t, I’m still plugging away and updated a few chapters in the last month. I just need more time. Give me a little more time, little dude.
There’s a gift you’ve given me that I enjoy throughout every year, if it weren’t for you I’d never enjoy it like I do, and in some way it’s as if it’s the moments where I get to experience you vicariously.
When I go running, one of the things I dislike most is to interrupt it with a walk. Usually, I see it as a failure in my run.
However, there’s one time I almost always do it without hesitation–and I enjoy every minute.
It’s when I see a dad playing catch with his son, often off in the distance when I’m running by a park–or around a track. Usually it’s a baseball or football they’re throwing. Sometimes they’re playing hoops. And when I see this from a distance, my running pace turns to a jog, and then a slow walk…and I slow further my steps until I’m still. Turn off my Pandora. Pull the earphones out. Then, I crouch down, hands on my knees, take a deep breath in of the smell of eucalyptus with the dry California air blowing over my sweat. And through the stillness of the air I listen to the two of them in the distance, the dad playing with his son. Sometimes they’re talking smack to each other, in a playful way. Other times the dad is encouraging his son, or giving coaching. And when I observe the son, he’s usually working hard to please his dad. And he’s enjoying his time, I can tell. I can feel the vibe, and it’s really really cool. I’m envious. And happy.
I sit there for sixty seconds, and I just watch. Nobody else is around, nothing is distracting me, I just lose myself in the moment of watching some guy and his son play ball from a distance.
And, as soon as I came upon it I’m off again. It’s like a sixty second time lapse. I’m always grateful for the experience. Sometimes a little saddened. But usually happy, and gives me a moment of contentment amidst missing you. Wish we could play catch, right now, for five minutes. I’d take five minutes. And wouldn’t even ask for more.
Happy Birthday Buddy. Ten years later…I love you, no matter what.
Still miss you all the time.
The longer I wait at this point, the more I’ll forget. So I wanted to write down a hit list of all the things I learned throughout my process of training for an Ironman triathlon. This includes a list of things I learned in preparation for, and during, the event. It is ALL jumbled together. Good luck sorting it out.
1). My knowledge is limited. If you haven’t done an Ironman, I still might not have more knowledge than you. So go get your own info and test this stuff out. I am NOT an expert. I am an average dude who two years ago was 50 lbs overweight and had never even run a marathon. I completed Ironman Coeur d’Alene with VERY limited time to work out, and a VERY full time gig. I you’re debating whether you can do it, you probably can. The fat kid in me is cheering you on. I hope a few things in here I learned along the way help you out.
2. I have no idea from where I am puling this info at this point, b/c I read so much and asked questions of many along the way–and received great advice. So I am quite sure little of the below is original thought, it is stuff I either learned through personal experience, or more likely what I learned from others.
Here’s my list. In no particular order:
1. If you’re debating doing a triathlon, sign up and do it. Do not wait for some magical moment. Pick one reasonably far out, but not too far out. And just get going. Most shit doesn’t get done because people don’t ever really commit. The other reason shit doesn’t get done is that people commit and then fail to execute. So, it’s really this simple. 1. Commit. 2. Execute. Sorry, I really wish I could complicate it some more. But I can’t.
2. If you can get a coach, get one. (I didn’t). If not, be prepared to read, research, and do some trial and error. Learn what works with your body. Yes, my eyes rolled too when I hear people say that. But it’s true.
3. There are some great triathlon books, one I skimmed was something something triathlon something Bible. By someone. Or something like that. Just check out Amazon reviews and googling for great books. I did a ton of very rapid fire reading across the Inter-web, grabbed the stuff that made sense and passed on the rest.
4. Ditch some advice that doesn’t sit right along the way. If I’d listened to all the “experts”, I wouldn’t have made it through my training (got really sick w/ flu and couldn’t work out for three weeks about 12 weeks prior to IM, and several experts said if you miss more than a week of training altogether you should bail). Obviously, I didn’t listen to that portion of advice.
5. But generally heed advice of experts. I got way more good advice than bad. And ask a lot of IM’ers questions. Not just experts, even people that only did a few Ironman events–because sometimes their learnings and advice was markedly different, and in some ways equally as helpful, as the “experts.”
6. Nutrition is super killer key on race day. Begin prepping for this using your long training day and mimic what you’ll eat on race day–from when you wake up until the end of the day. Start this months prior to your Ironman.
7. My typical “long training” Saturday food consisted of: egg-banana-yam-baked-stuff (more below) around 5am…Getting your early calories in on IM day is CRITICAL, b/c when you’re out you’re largely out. Body can only process about 300 calories (incoming) an hour on the bike, and about 100 kCals (incoming) on the run. And that day you’re going to burn about 15-20k calories. So you’d better have a lot stored up. But don’t also overeat, esp prior to the swim. That can suck.
8. My Ironman breakfast thingy is this recipe: one can coconut milk, 12 eggs, 3 bananas, 1-2 (already baked) garnet yams, honey to taste + some splenda, and 1/2 cup to 1 cup coconut flakes all blended together and then baked into a loaf, meh 375-ish for 60-mins ish? It’s a great loading dose of protein, carbs, and fats. Super high calorie. NOTE, I didn’t eat ALL of this on training day. I’d make a loaf of it for the week and eat slices in the morning. I love this recipe. I might not have all the measurements right above, I pretty much just eyeball things and adjust to taste/consistency. You can opt out of the yams and it’s still great, but I like garnet yams.
9. Carbo-Pro + Cytomax were beverage staples of mine on the long bike ride (supplements to my water bottles). Other items: Honey Stinger waffles (not Paleo), dried fruit, almond butter and jelly sandwich on gluten-free bread (one before and midpoint on ride), bananas, and bonk breakers are the single best source of kCals I found for the bike.
10. Get a bento box for your bike. I didn’t even know what this WAS or that they even EXISTED up until 12 days before my Ironman. I learned it from a local expert (who REALLY IS an expert and amazing Ironman competitor).
11. Get fitted for your bike. It should be less than $100. Do this before you do all your training, or a lot of it. Do it even if you’re a month out. But don’t wait until you’re a month out.
12. Learn fundamentals and form for all three sports, particularly swimming. Join a Masters Swim program, but much better than that is to take a Total Immersion course. I would NEVER have finished the 2.4 mile swim without Total Immersion. Game changer for me. Two beat kick. If you don’t know what this is, it will CHANGE YOUR SWIM dramatically. And for the better. Google it.
12.5. (yes, I just did a 12.5) Join an Ironman Facebook group. Ideally, there is a group of people in a closed forum on Facebook for the event you’re participating in. I made some virtual friends that have turned into enduring ones, and learned a TON of great stuff along the way. And it was encouraging.
13. Check out Chi Running, 26.2 is a long time on your legs–esp after being in the water and bike for 8-12 hours (for us slow ones). It’s the training that wears your body out–so focus on form, and it’ll serve you on the day of the big event too.
14. The hardest part really isn’t finishing the Ironman, it’s finishing the consistent training required to get you to a level of fitness to do an Ironman. Yeah, the Ironman is a long day. And I am NOT at all undermining how hard it is to finish, there are probably a lot of Ironman finishers who would be pissed to think I’m suggesting otherwise. But, the Ironman is just one day. And it’s backed up, largely, by your training. Yes, IM day is a hard day. And amazing. And cathartic. But months of training are really what carry you. Though there’s a fair amount of mental mojo required on IM day too.
15. Create a checklist for Ironman day, and start working on it and putting stuff together a solid month out. You do NOT want to show up to your destination and have to figure stuff out or buy more things. I found checklists online. Look at a few of them then create your own or use one that looks solid. On that checklist, you should add one thing that will not be on any other checklists: do not get Gorilla Glue on your front brakes the night before Ironman (yeah, that happened).
16. If your IM swim is in cold water, you REALLY SHOULD do some cold water swimming beforehand. Your CNS, when cold water hits your forehead, will start to go into a state of shock. It’s very difficult to pull yourself out of this, your heart rate rises and you naturally start hyperventilating…this happened to me the 1st time I swam in the SF Bay (my first open water swim ever, four weeks prior to the IM). The temperature, open murky water, waves, along with a vigorous swim just creates a tough environment. I assumed this would happen to me, because I’d read about it. But I also believed that I would be able to talk myself through it. Which proved difficult to do. The only way I got adjusted was to get my body used to cold water swimming through frequency, and eventually my body got used to it. Plus, training in 52-55 degree murky SF saltwater was WAY tougher than a 62 degree lake swim (though the swim was in rough waters that day, wasn’t prepped for that).
17. Paleo. I’m a huge fan of Paleo. When I’m on the Paleo wagon, I feel as strong as a….Caveman (see what I did there?). But you’ll have to supplement, you need SOME carbs. I added white rice and white potatoes to my diet, and garnet yams–I eat those with almond butter all the time. And Taro bubble tea…because, well, Taro is a root, and somehow this is in someway tied to Paleo. And I love it. There, I said it. I love bubble tea.
Also–get your body fat down. Not too low, you need enough storage of kCals. But anything in excess is a serious penalty for your time, joints, etc. I was at about 9% body fat, maybe 9.5% on Ironman day, which was fine. In retrospect I wish I’d worked harder to drive down to about 7-8%, but I got as close as I could.
18. Do a triathlon or two before your Ironman. For me, the Ironman was my first ever triathlon. This is not the best idea, but apparently I am full of “not the best idea” ideas, and this was the way I wanted to do it.
19. Schedule everything. And I mean everything. And I got off schedule, of course. But having a schedule ensured I was more on than off. And kept me focused. When I got off schedule I simply revised my schedule. And I did nothing social for most of my training. I worked. A lot. I worked out. Some. I slept. Some.
20. Quit drinking. Yes, really. You don’t have to. But I felt like I ran a lot cleaner free of alcohol, and a big part of my training focus was maximization of efficiency. Drinking is overrated anyways.
21. When doing swim training, watch some Mandy McDougal videos on YouTube. Especially the one on breathing. You actually WANT to keep some air in your lungs, it’s what keeps you buoyant.
22. Wear two caps if you’re swimming in cold water. Ideally a neoprene one underneath your other cap.
23. Don’t add anything new 2-3 weeks prior to your IM. NOTHING. No new shoes, cap, wetsuit, bike, socks. Nada.
24. Get your bricks in, one a week. I don’t think you need to do more.
25. You can’t win on the swim. But you can lose on it. Make sure you get enough yardage in so that you can finish the swim comfortably.
26. BUT, after you’ve trained enough on the swim to know you can finish comfortably, spend as much time as you can on your bike. That bike is one long ass ride. Speaking of asses, yours will be in some serious pain at the end of the ride.
People asked me “so what’s it like to be starting a MARATHON after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112 miles?” You know what the honest answer is? Ummmm, flipping AWESOME. Yeah. Awesome. To be able to run–even if you have to run a marathon–after being on a bike generating this condition called “raw butt” for 6-10 hours is simply unbeatable. After 112 on the bike, you will be THAT PSYCHED to be starting your run.
Not because you love running. But because at that point, you hate biking. Hate.
27. Supplement long rides with spin classes. I went to spin once or twice a week. And I did one long ride on weekends. That was the extent of my biking prep for most part. Could never get out of work in time to do a decent road ride during week. And I never did enough biking. This was my weakness.
28. Be prepared to wake early. I did a lot of my workouts from 5:00-7:00am. Did I mention you’ll have no personal life during your training time?
29. Pack a fresh change of clothes in your Bike to Run transition bag. Remember, I told you this list was going to be a combination of training tips AND in-race tips, and it’s totally mashed together? Sorry.
30. Use salt tabs on the bike ride, the ones without caffeine. Caffeine has a useful life of only about 4-6 hours. For energy and recovery I used a product I love called LifeShotz (note, I am one of their Advisors…also note, I do not care whether you use it or not).
31. Drop the glow sticks at the finish if you’re finishing at night on IM day, it’ll mess up your picture.
32. Start slow on race day. It is easy to burn through your glycogen fast and early. It’s a super long day, save it.
33. However, if you get to be a decent swimmer, do not start too slow. I thought it would be better for me to try to pace with the 1:15-1:30 group for the swim. Huge mistake. Because I am a bad swimmer? No. Because you will be situated with 1,000 other bad swimmers. Plus yourself. I could’ve swam a 1:10 pace, I should’ve swam with the 1:00-1:15 crowd. The 1:15-1:30 swimming crowd is like a bar fight at an irish pub.
34. Hydrate enough. But don’t over hydrate. But hydrate enough.
35. Yeah, it’s okay to pee in your wetsuit. When it is cold out, it also feels good. #truth
36. They also say it’s okay to pee on your bike. In my mind, this is only okay if you are attempting to do a sub-12 Ironman. #thatisalsomytruth There is something wrong about someone who is biking very slowly on the Ironman, to simply take a leak on said bike to save 30-seconds from stopping.
37. You can pee on the run in your shorts. But same applies above. Though, I will say that for my first marathon ever I missed a sub 4 by 33 seconds due to a last min bathroom stop. I still wish I’d peed in my shorts. But I can’t quite get the hang of this, plus I’m too vain.
38. Don’t overtrain. Seriously, two weeks out start tapering. And if you overtrain to point of injury then you’re in trouble. So train. Hard. Don’t overtrain. #seriouslydonotovertrain
39. CrossFit. I did this 2-3x/week as part of my training. I’m a fan. Not everybody is, but it’s changed my life. If you do CrossFit, though, do lighter weights and higher reps. And stop CrossFitting 1-2 weeks prior to your event, or if you go within days of the event use REALLY light weights and do not push yourself to the max.
40. Bodyglide for the wetsuit where you will chafe. If you forget body glide, you will pay the price around your neck that week.
41. Take a dramamine before your long swims, do it race day too.
42. Know how to change your bike tire. And make sure you carry at least two spares on race day, and one in your half way bag.
43. You need a day of rest. Pick a day and take it. Mine was a “floating” rest day during week. Not the best thing to do, but I needed to do it that way out of necessity. Better to pick a Monday and rest that day after a hard training weekend, or only do light active recovery stuff.
44. Get enough sleep. Nutrition and sleep are really vital throughout this entire process. You are taxing your body to high levels, you need to get reasonable sleep.
45. GU w/ amino’s for the run…I carry five with me for a marathon, one before it starts then one every 45-mins thereafter. And I alternate water and Gatorade at each of the stops.
46. On the bike, use higher gears and maintain a high cadence–about 90 RPM. Lower gears burn your leg muscles faster.
47. You will likely feel really bad during the Ironman. Expect this. And keep going. Or pull over to regroup. Just don’t stop permanently.
48. Did I mention yet that nutrition on race day is super critical? I wrote out my meal plan for training days and IM days MONTHS before the event.
49. Incorporate a protein drink into your daily workout life…I generally used whey at least once a day after tough workouts (SFH and GNC brands), but I also used a LifeShotz product called LS Vibe for recovery and overnight muscle repair.
50. During your Ironman, thank people. And say hi. I must’ve talked to 50 people during the event, and said hi to 500. Especially the volunteers. It motivated me, but also keep in mind these volunteers are just that–so extend some authentic appreciation. They’re giving up their entire day (plus days prep beforehand) so you can have your day. Thank them. I was really inspired by all the people there.
51. Carry ibuprofen. At mile 15 on the run, you will wish it were T3. Or even morphine. But, ibuprofen will do if you find yourself in a jam.
52. Remember, swimming is largely technique. Learn technique first, then you can limit your swim sessions. And focus on the bike.
53. Bank time on the bike (intentionally repeating myself). Get an indoor trainer to use if needed. The swim you can nail with good technique and limited hours in the pool. Biking time and performance and training also translates and carries over to the run. Running doesn’t help nearly as much with the bike. So if in doubt, train the bike.
54. Do a few Century rides prior to your IM. Note, I didn’t. The most I did in advance were a few 80-90 milers. If I had the time, and could do it again, I’d do about five 120 mile rides prior to the event. But if you can’t log that kind of time, no sweat. You’ll be fine. At least one Century would benefit you. There’s a big difference between miles 90 and 112.
55. Don’t get sick in training (again, sleep). DEFINITELY do whatever you can to avoid getting sick the week of your Ironman. I drank copious amount of elderberry syrup the week before the Couer d’Alene Ironman. And I stayed away from anyone that looked anything short of super healthy.
56. You’re going to hate it.
57. You’re going to love it.
58. Once you finish, you won’t be the same.
Enjoy the journey.
Here’s the 1st iteration of my race report.
It’s part advice for first-timers, part experience sharing, and part closure. A few caveats:
1. This will be riddled with some profanity, which I try to keep to a minimum. But for this posting I’m not going to dilute it–I’m going to share it like it happened, or as I/others said it, or as I thought it.
2. I’ll write a separate race report that’s more about the technical aspects of beginner training, what worked what didn’t, nutrition, scheduling, resources, etc. The one below is more along the softer side of my experience, versus the metrics, scheduling, structure, etc.
3. This isn’t a “hey aren’t I great” post, and man do I REALLY hope it doesn’t come off that way. There’s a lot I’m not good at, and a lot of mistakes I’ve made–both in the last 4-6 months with my Ironman training–and also in life. In fact, I feel like as time goes on I realize how fallible I am. Which is very. Thank God for grace. Literally.
If you check out ONE thing in this post, check out this video below. It’s THE VERY LAST finisher RIGHT BEFORE midnight–the cutoff at 17:00 hours. The chills I got from watching THIS GUY finish were way more than my own finish. Can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched this–way more than I watched my own video clip.
So. Flipping. Insane.
Many know two years ago in June I was fat and out of shape. 100 times I tried to lose weight. And 101 times I failed (see what I did there?). Finally, I decided to get my ass in shape. What did it for me? A few things, but one in particular was seeing a ton of before/after photos of people who lost weight. I finally thought “Okay, if THEY can do this…” Long story short, two years ago in June I started running with the plan to do my first marathon that year. I started at just two miles at a time. Months later I started eating a strict Paleo regimen along with CrossFit 3x/week. Below is a picture of me as a fat kid, not too long ago.
In December of that year I ran my first marathon (Sacramento CIM Marathon), nearly 50lbs lighter and missed a sub four by 33 seconds. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, because it served as the start for shedding the fat kid in me. For years I thought I would never be able to run a marathon or lose weight. I had finally completed both. Skinny people, and lifelong runners, probably look at this, shrug and say “meh, big deal.” I get that. But for me, it was.
That night, after my first marathon, I came home and wondered “is it EVEN POSSIBLE that I could do an Ironman?”
Months later, I signed up for two half Ironman triathlons (I’ve never told anyone this until a week ago). I skipped them both. Partly due to work conflicts. But it was mostly that I never started training–I couldn’t do the swim. I mean, you could throw me in a pool or a lake and I’d be fine, and you would think I could swim–but not with any distance. Undoubtedly I would’ve failed on a 1.2 mile swim (half Ironman). And I was really pissed at myself for failing at this.
And then one day I had moment.
What it really means is you should get your product launched because good enough sooner is better than perfect later. So I finally had that moment personally, and I said to myself, well, you know…So a year ago in June of 2013, I signed up for the Coeur d’Alene Ironman–my first ever triathlon. As I mentioned, I’ll do a separate post on training, but here are a few top level things I’d suggest if you’re considering an Ironman (or any triathlon):
1. Get a tight training plan and stick with it. From a book, online, or a coach. I didn’t have a coach–most of what I learned was from rapid fire searches and scanning articles, collecting the stuff that I liked and dumping other stuff, and talking to others–one of whom gave me a good training plan. I’m an 80% solution guy, and find that just jumping in and figuring out stuff as you go is a better course. Then, after you make some progress, tweak and dial stuff in.
2. Join Masters Swim and take a Total Immersion Course (unless that’s already your strength, but for most it’s not). 120-days ago I couldn’t swim more than 50 yards without taking a break. For some context, a 2.4 mile Ironman swim is 4,224 yards. You can see how four months out I was really stressed. Swimming is largely technique, and the best advice I received was to nail that first. I found great freedom in attending Masters Swim classes and introducing myself to each coach with a consistent “Hey, I suck at swimming and need to be able to swim 2.4 miles in four months. I’ll do anything you tell me to, and don’t go easy on me.”
One of my first, and more memorable swim lessons, the coach started yelling at me mid-class saying “Raz! What is the problem? Why are you fighting the water? Do the fish fight the water? Raz! Are you angry with the water? Raz! Do you need to make peace with the water?”
Welcome to California.
I also took a Total Immersion course with Mandy McDougal. Total Immersion was, without question, the best thing that happened to me. She’s great, and I can’t stress enough the benefit you’ll derive from a two-day Total Immersion course. Mandy also has some great YouTube videos on swimming technique, check them out here.
3. Schedule everything. It requires a lot of training. And a ton of discipline. In the six months prior to my Ironman, I think I went out twice with friends, and family time was pretty limited. And by saying “going out” it wasn’t exactly riveting–equating to two dinners from 7-9:30pm on a Friday night and I was in bed by 10:30pm. Most, but of course not all, of my life for the last six months fell in a few buckets: a) I worked (a lot); b) I worked out; c) I did meal prep; d) I slept
4. Supplement your swim/bike/run with CrossFit. I had to focus on most bang/buck, and in a future post I’ll explain more about my schedule and what worked (or didn’t). I read one person’s CDA race report six months ago and she suggested that you must train ~25 hours a week. Ummmmm, total bullshit. And frankly that’s impossible for many (most?) people who have these little nagging things called… jobs.
When I read stuff like that I just ignore it (though she had some really great insights in her race report too). Because 25 training hours is more like 40 actual hours (prep, cool down, stretching, icing, driving, etc). When someone hears a statement like that it implicitly tells him or her that training for an Ironman is impossible for someone with normal circumstances. Or even difficult circumstances. Just. Not. True.
I’m the CEO of a start-up company, and not one week did I ever work fewer than 60-hours. Likely it averaged much closer to 80-hour weeks–and some weeks were more, and all while training for an Ironman. I also got very, very sick with the flu for weeks–the worst sickness I have had in my life–and it killed my training schedule where I didn’t work out for three weeks, and this happened about three months in advance of the Ironman event. I read online one coach who said if you miss 2-3 weeks of training within your four month Ironman window you should bail. Meh, that’s lame. Life happens, deal with it, work around it and make it happen.
But you do have to be really disciplined and selective with your training, and I did a LOT of my workouts very early in the morning, or a couple days a week in the late evening.
CrossFit helped tremendously, but next time (purely a HYPOTHETICAL ”next time”) I would only do CrossFit 2x/week and trade that extra session for two hours on the bike. And I’d only swim 3x/week, now that I have the fundamentals down and instead would spend extra time–ding ding ding–yes, on the bike (and doing some interval work for running, which I did for my marathons but not this). I would, however, go really light on CrossFit 2-3 weeks pre-Ironman–I torqued a nerve in my back with ten days to go by lifting too heavy. All ended up being well but could’ve been a disaster.
5. Nutrition is killer key. You really have to dial in your nutrition, and it took me months to figure out what was worked. In a nutshell, here’s what I did: fairly strict Paleo, with the addition of gluten-free bread, rice, potatoes, and tons of water. I’ll drink anything other than bottled water (which contains tons of toxic chemicals and destroys the environment), but I used to regularly fill up bottles with FloWater at work (disclosure: I’m the CEO and an Investor of FloWater and I am massively biased to the amazing, hydrating, refreshing performance of coconut-filtered, oxygenated, and remineralized FloWater ) and bring it home for hydration in the evening and weekends.
I also consumed high quality protein supplements immediately post workout and for recovery, I used SFH grass fed whey immediately after workouts, and LS Vibe for afternoon/evening recovery (disclosure: I’m on the Advisory Board for LifeShotz). I also consumed copious amount of fish oil which is like WD-40 for my joints, also from SFH, and consumed LifeShotz–and took some massive loading (3-4/day) doses of this for three days prior to the Ironman, LifeShotz it’s like rocket fuel for my body (another disclosure: I don’t personally like the taste of either the fish oil OR LifeShotz, but they’re two staples of mine–they just are that good). I also regularly loaded up on Black Elderberry syrup which is a strong immune booster, and I think the brand from Gaia is most potent–plus it tastes great. Finally, I took a MegaFood vitamin twice daily.
So, onto the trip…
I left Wednesday after work with the kids to drive to CDA (Erica had to work and flew in Thursday night), and we arrived that Thursday AM after a loooong all nighter driving through with a total of 60-minutes of sleep between 5-6am (not best thing to do Ironman week). During that 16-hour drive I became a pretty big fan of Oprah Chai, I lost count after a while. But I really am convinced Oprah saw the surge in donations to her charity last week–because I’m pretty sure that was me…That was me, right…Oprah?
Road trips with kids are the best way to get to really know them–this one was no exception. I listened to more Taylor Swift than I care to admit, but they also tolerated my music (and calls). When I asked the kids if they liked my musical tastes (Hardwell, Kaskade, Deadmou5, Blackmill) Zoe replied “Dad, I really don’t even think it’s music. I like music that has pleasant sounds and actual words.” I seem to remember my parents saying this to me when I was growing up, too. On the way Royce asked me 101 hypothetical questions, which I loved–she’s so darned curious.
Zoe woke up at 2am worried about me driving through the night, and stayed up until 4am talking with me to keep me awake. She retold me what I find is a hilarious story, and added some details that she previously omitted. A week ago Zoe came into our bedroom and says “Dad, I gotta tell you something…Yesterday I was hanging with my friends and one of these dude lifeguards was saying ‘hey, isn’t your dad the guy who is running all around the neighborhood wearing a spandex onesie???’” Then she pauses and looks and me and says with a dead serious face “Dad, you gotta stop doing that…”
Bwahahaha, I can only imagine the mortification for a 10-year old kid hearing that about her dad! Also, for the record, it’s not a one-piece–it’s two
So tonight on the drive she says to me “Dad, there’s more to that story…” I pause, and glance over and say “Okay, really? Go on…” So she continues “Yeah, well this guy continued asking What other outfits does your dad have?’” (hahaha, like this is some kind of weird clothing fetish–they’re called Tri suits boys and girls…). Zoe continued “I went on to tell him you have this one piece outfit with some straps that goes over your neck.” LOL, well those are biking shorts for the record, and I promised Zoe I’ll start running in the other section of the neighborhood. She went back to sleep shortly after getting that off her mind.
We arrived Thursday morning into CDA and the kids hung out and did various activities while I worked, with the exception of check-in during lunch. Energy walking in was both pensive and electric. It wasn’t like marathon check in. It was calm. Of course, it was also days before the event. I got my bag, and asked people 100 questions like “Okay, what happens in transition–’cause all I know is what I’ve seen on YouTube.” I was nervous. And excited.
That evening I did my first swim in the lake, water temp was about 62 degrees–it felt awesome, and the water is relatively clear and clean, so much better than SF Bay’s salty murky 54 degrees. There was this energizing feeling being with other triathletes who were also warming up and trying to get a few last minute workouts in. After the swim, I went and ran a quick five miles and was done for the evening.
Evening rolled around, and we had a great dinner with friends but I was exhausted–a trip to the airport to pick up Erica didn’t get me into bed until 1am and I was up at 6:15am the next day. Crappy sleep continued.
Friday I took a vacation day–the first one in 18+-months, and attended an Advisory Board meeting for a company I’ve really grown to love that’s coincidentally headquartered in CDA. Around lunchtime our meeting broke, and it was time to swim 800 yards in the lake followed by an hour on the bike. Felt good. That was the day, the first day, where I had some solitude to myself that evening and I thought to myself “You know what? You’re going to do this. And you’re not leaving the course until it’s done.” Until then I’d been having doubts. But I knew it’d come together mentally a day or two before the event–that’s just how I’m wired.
That evening I knew I HAD to get a good night of sleep in. My Sunday morning wake-up was at 3am and at best I’d only get five hours. And combined Wednesday and Thursday night I had a total of ~6 hours–so I was intent to be in bed by 10pm and was going to sleep until 8am to catch up.
This is where the shit got crazy.
The next day was gear check, it’s where you put all your gear in every transition bag together and you turn in your bike–so they set everything up for Sunday morning. So I’m hustling trying to get everything ready, last check to make sure I’ve got the right running shoes in the T2 bag, tape, change of socks, nutrition and hydration, salt tabs, LifeShotz, Cytomax, etc.
Zoe noticed on my bike earlier that day that the padding on my tri-bar forearm rests were coming off, likely due to the 1,000 mile drive with lots of wind and a fair amount of rain. So I picked up Gorilla Glue that afternoon, and at 10pm I realized I hadn’t fixed it yet.
No problemo. I. Am. An. Expert. Gluer. (also super fluent in Spanish–can you tell, no?)
“Apply liberally” I thought to myself. “You don’t want these bad boys coming off during your race” I said repeatedly. “When it comes to glue and duct tape, you can never really use enough” I thought quietly. So I applied the glue to my pads and leaned the bike up against the garage and said goodnight to her.
Couldn’t sleep. Was 10x checking my bag, logistics, thinking through transitions, what I might be missing and whatnot. At midnight I go to check on my bike. Open the garage door, and guess what? Gorilla Glue FOAMS like crazy. It erupted like a little volcano and dripped ALL OVER my front brakes. Yes, JUST the brakes. Not one drop on the floor. Panicked, I furiously tried to scrape it off with a screwdriver but it had cured–damage was done. Then I’m furiously rummaging through my guests garage after midnight trying to find a solvent–any solvent, someone just get me a solvent–and I find WD-40, and spray it like a crazy man, but nada. I found some gas stabilizer.Didn’t help. At this point I’m pretty much grappling for anything that has a label that says “this is poison and can kill you if ingested.” I’m scraping with my nails, screwdriver, furiously scraping, swearing, scraping some more–but the glue is in every crevice of my brake. I google and google and google solutions, then found some naturalist wrote that a combination of sea salt and olive oil would do the trick. Nothing. I didn’t go to bed until 1:30am totally in a panic and woke up at 6:30. umulative sleep over three nights now totaled about 11-hours and I was really worried I was screwed with my bike brakes–let alone my lack of sleep.
Below are the pics of my Gorilla-glued bike, my 1st attempt at a brake biopsy, and then getting her all repaired up Saturday at Vertical (thanks again guys!).
Saturday, I checked into a bike store and Vertical Sports fixed me up by noon (LOVE those guys). I was at bike check by 12:30, at the Ironman athlete briefing at 2pm then hanging with my great friend from college, Jon Lewis, by 4pm.
I got home to the house we were staying in that evening around 6pm. Everyone was gone, and I had solitude until past 8pm where I just prepped, contemplated, and listened to my music. Had dinner with friends and family that night from 8:30-9:30, popped a few Melatonin from Source Naturals and was out by 10pm.
Sunday, I awoke at 2:20am and read in bed until my alarm went off at 3am, then started the process of getting ready. Left the house at 4am and arrived into Ironman camp at 4:30am. Checked the bike, filled it up with nutrition and liquids then checked on my transition bags–added a few last minute items, and then hung out under a pine tree with more than a breeze whipping about (winds were up to 25 MPH that day) and looked out over the VERY choppy lake–still worrying about the swim. If I could just finish the swim I felt I could at least finish the Ironman. But I wasn’t sure I could finish the swim, or how I would do with thousands of people swimming with me in cold choppy water. My first open water swim was just three weeks before, and it didn’t go well (interpretation: hyperventilation; I just couldn’t deal with the cold water and panicked).
At 6am I threw on the wetsuit and made my way to the beach along with everyone else. Did a warm up swim to get used to the water, and then waited 40 long minutes until our heat departed. A mistake I made, not knowing how I would do in the swim, was going in the 1:15-1:30 heat, which was bad primarily b/c I slotted myself at the back of it and what I learned is that all the other bad swimmers were with me! And it just made it, for me, too difficult to pass anyone. In retrospect I should’ve jumped in the 1:00-1:15 pack.
This was the 2nd year (I believe) of the tiered start, vs. a mass start where everyone swarms the water at once. I’m sure it’s much improved, but I’d still describe the swim as “chaos” and “scary as shit” when you finally realize that there are flapping bodies, arms, and legs kicking everywhere. Truly, though, I don’t think it would’ve been that bad had the waters not been so rough–I swallowed a lot of water with headwinds from 10-25MPH on the way out (two loops). 100 yards in I said to myself exactly the following: “There is no fucking way I can do this for 2.4 miles, I’m going to drown.”
But I also knew in advance I was going to have this feeling, everyone warned me about it. So I was fully expecting it, and planned on grabbing the first buoy for 20-seconds to reset and basically said to myself what I’d said 50 times before the race when I knew this was going to happen: “Okay, calm yourself down. You’ve done plenty of swimming the last few months, just make it to each 100 yard marker and take breaks if you have to.” Another guy grabbed onto this 1st buoy as well, and I shouted over to him “Hey, you doing okay?” And he replied, “No, I’m really not…not so good.” Ummm, I paused…I wasn’t prepared to give any advice. I expected everyone to say “Yeah I’m great–this is AWESOME!” I thought quickly about any suggestions, so I yelled out “Look man, you’re going to be fine–just take a few deep breaths, make it to the next marker and take a break” and then I pushed off. I think I said that as much for me as I did him, we were in the same boat.
From there on, I only stopped at the 2-mile mark and only that because I had to pee (yes, you just go in your wetsuit and I couldn’t do it while swimming). At 1:33 I came out of the swim and was into transition, on the way from the beach I found my friend Jon cheering from the sidelines and we happened to spot each other. Seeing Jon was such an awesome boost of encouragement. Plus, the volunteers and crowd were simply INSANE. My appreciation for the town, and people/community, of Coeur d’Alene grew throughout the event. The people were amazing. Huge gratitude to all of them.
What I learned about the swim is that it’s way easier than I expected (of course, the wetsuit helps), and it’s mostly a mind game–especially if you’re a lousy swimmer or not accustomed to open water swims–especially on days with rough waves and lots of wind. The most mind-bothersome thing about the swim is the realization that when you get out there if you get in trouble–then you’re in trouble. Meaning, while there are buoys every 100 yards and people on Kayaks, if you really get in trouble and start to panic you’d better be able to pull yourself out–because it’s unlikely anyone else is going to do so for you. On the run, or bike, if you keel over and collapse you’re probably going to make it. On the swim, not so much.
At T1, I have never been more excited to get on a bike. The swim was done, and I was so relieved. My transition time was a pretty long 15-minutes, again I’d never done a tri before–or transition for that matter–so it took me a few minutes longer just to figure everything out. But I poured nutrition down my throat, threw my tri-suit and shoes on, took a bathroom break, grabbed my bike and was on my way.
My bike training had been limited, and largely consisted of two spin classes a week and one long ride on the weekend–a function of limited time, and I really didn’t do enough long rides. The longest I’d ever done up to this point was about 90-miles, and midway through that one I found a Starbucks and fell asleep for 30-minutes. What an amazing athlete I am, huh? In retrospect, I should’ve skipped Saturday morning swims for a much longer ride, and I would’ve been well served to do a half dozen 100+ milers along with some interval and hill work at least once during the week. Next time. (again, hypothetically).
Headwinds on the course were brutal, partly because they were on the two stretches with some seriously long, long hills. My average speed was about 15MPH, pretty slow and it took me about 7:40 to finish the bike session.
Finally, the run…
people ask “what’s it like to have to be STARTING your marathon in the afternoon after all of that?” And really the answer is that I was so ready to be done with the bike that I was totally PSYCHED to be running. It wasn’t until mile 15 that I started to really crash, and that’s also where I killed my run time. In fact, this was where I had my best epiphany.
I remember someone telling me that during their IM they got to the point where they just started telling their body what to do. My pace up to mile 14 was about a 10-minute mile (and I started out running 8′s unknowingly–way too fast for me). At 14 I was just in screaming pain. My tendonitis was flaring, and every muscle in my leg was on fire. I did a lot of walk/running from miles 14-22.
Then, three things happened:
1. A guy was walking with me, and we’d talked before ten miles back. He looked me dead in the eye and yelled out to me in the booming voice of a football coach “Raz, you are kicking some fucking ass for your first Ironman!!! Go get it in gear and get your ass over the fucking finish line while it’s still light out!!!” I wasn’t kicking ass for my first Ironman, but I didn’t know that at the time.
But sometimes you need someone just to push you. And apparently, at times, it can help when they drop an F-bomb in the process.
2. Right then, another guy ran by as I walked, and he tapped me on the shoulder. “Let’s go” he said “I’m running five minutes and walking three minutes–let’s get going.” I started running, then told him thanks for the boost and that I was going to run the rest in.
Sometimes you need someone to give you a tap on the shoulder and pull you along.
3. Then, I remembered an article I’d read the night before on top performing athletes, and how much of endurance work is a mind game (side note: it’s also about fueling, when you’re out of gas then you’re done–so you have to be smart about nutrition on an Ironman, and that part I did right). One of the guys in the article said he talked to himself, and essentially told his body what to do. I thought it sounded silly the night before. But I was in so much pain, I decided to give it a shot. So I kept telling myself “Body, you’re going to run these last four in 8:00/mile–and I don’t care how shitty you feel, this is happening.”
I didn’t have a GPS on me so I couldn’t track my speed, but later in looking at the splits it looked like I kept a 7:57 pace those last four miles. There’s a point when you’re out of gas and you’re just out–but there’s also a point where you’re just in pain, and you have to keep going and you can do more than you thought. Miles 14-22 I let my body win (plus the finish line is a long ways away). Miles 22-26, I made my mind win.
It was a really great reminder about how much the mind controls, or can, the body. And how weak the body is. I remember I used to go running with my dad when I was young, and you used to tell me that for the first few miles “your body lies to you–it’s lying to you and says it doesn’t want to go, and don’t believe it, get past the first few miles.”
At mile 13 I saw my friend Jon again, and also Erica and the girls–another super fun boost, and first time I’d seen my family. At mile 26 we were in the city of Coeur d’Alene and the crowd lined the streets. One more pass by Jon, then 20 yards later Erica, Royce, and Zoe. I could see the tunnel, and hear Mike Reilly belting out names as they crossed the finish line “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
For a year I’ve been thinking about crossing that finish line.
The energy of the thousands of people was really something else–and at 150 yards out I saw the tunnel…50 yards in and I’m fiving people as I’m closing in and feeling so excited–and happy–to get to this magical experience. All the while, incidentally, I’m having a blast. I really did through the entire race, there is no event I’ve ever done where I genuinely smiled more, and had more fun.
So as I’m coming to the finish line I’m waiting for this magical moment of catharsis.
I crossed the finish line…
…and nothing happened.
I can’t explain it. For sure I was thrilled, and it felt great. But it was almost the opposite of my first marathon–where I was really emotional and had a moment of “I can’t believe I did this!”
If I had to put into words what I felt it would probably be as simple as this:
“You know, you can let go of your inner fat kid now. You’re not that guy anymore.”
A few things I really learned or benefitted from during this process:
1. I pretty much quit drinking altogether. I didn’t miss it–at all. (Mom, I know you are doing cartwheels right now! )
I did resume drinking beer the night of the event (cartwheels have stopped).
And the following week.
But now I’m back on the wagon. Pretty much no more drinking (cartwheels resume).
2. I learned more about the discipline of three functional sports;
3. I dialed in my sleep, and while I never felt like I got enough–and I still had to pull some really late nights, and a few pretty much all nighters for work during training, but I made a conscious effort to sleep–up until the week of the race, ironically enough;
4. I became more disciplined; I had little free time so I scheduled almost everything–and I mean almost EVERYTHING. From exactly when I would wake up, to when and what I would eat, to the timing of my nighttime protein, to my swim/bike/run/crossfit sessions. Of course I got off schedule, but having it scheduled helped ensure I was more on than off;
5. I learned I am way more capable of things than I previously realized; two years ago I was quite fat and couldn’t run more than a few miles at a time. Four months ago I couldn’t swim more than 50-yards in a stretch without resting. So much of our life is dictated not by our talents or G0d-given attributes, but our drive, tenacity, and confidence.
5. Finally, I was inspired.
Inspired by a few people who told me that I couldn’t do it, and even more people that told me I could do it.
Inspired by people who shared with me how to do it, or offered me a boost of confidence and encouragement along the way.
Inspired by the energy of the event itself, the attendees, and all the amazing volunteers (I must’ve said “thank you” 300 times during my bike ride and run, but a thousand more thanks to all the volunteers–you guys were AMAZING!).
Finally, I was inspired by watching 3,000 other people–each with their own story and struggle–go out and do something pretty unusual on any given Sunday.
A thousand thanks to everyone who helped encourage and support me along the way. Whatever “win” in this there was for me, I genuinely hope you take a piece of it as your own.
Grateful. Eternally grateful.
June of 2012 was a super magical month for me, it was when I finally decided to get my fat self in shape. I’d always wanted to run a marathon, and for years it evaded me due to lots of things that turned out just to be mostly excuses. But I was set on giving it another go; that month a friend sent me a marathon training plan, and I took my nearly 250 pounds of Lithuanian
awesome and started running. Initially, just a few V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W miles at a time, gradually working my way up. Months later I got involved in CrossFit and started eating strict Paleo. That December I finished the Sacramento International Marathon (and missed a sub 4-hour by 33 seconds, ahhh that last bathroom stop!).
That night I remember thinking to myself “could it even be possible to complete an Ironman someday?” Two years later I’m making my first–and last–Ironman attempt at the Coeur d’Alene Ironman on June 29th.
My goal is really simple: to finish in 17-hours.
A close friend asked me “So what’s the deal–why are you doing this?” The answer is pretty simple: because I have to prove something to myself.
Some of it I can’t fully explain, but part of it has to do with having been out of shape for so many years and proving to myself that I can stay in shape, and part of it has to do with setting a goal that for years I never dreamed doable and accomplishing it.
Two weeks out and here’s how I feel:
1. Nervous about the swim. Four months ago I really just started my swimming, and in retrospect that was way too late–I just procrastinated on this one because I was so bad. Really bad. I hadn’t swam laps since I was probably 10 years old. The best advice I got from others was to join a Master’s Swim class and also do a Total Immersion program, both of which I’ve done along with regular swimming and some open water swims. I’m still terrible. Like, imagine Charles Barkley and how he says “Turrible” That’s how bad I am. However, I have gotten better and have done some decent mileage and think I’m ready to finish this portion–and I’m eager for my feet to hit the sand after completing the 1st leg of the event and get to the bike. Because I’m nervous about that, too. Oh, and the run.
2. Partly wishing I’d done at least one other triathlon prior to this. Just to get a sense of what I’m doing, how hard the accumulative effort is, how to transition, fueling throughout the race, etc. But I’m partly psyched this is my first one as well. Also, I’ve watched a few YouTube videos. That’s pretty much like having done a few tri’s, right?
3. Feeling undertrained–yet ready. I read one persons blog post after her Ironman race report saying “if you can’t dedicate 20-25 hours a week to training, then you shouldn’t be doing this.” Ummmm, I run a start-up company and work pretty brutal hours–so that’s not happening. But I talked to others who worked Ironman training into their calendar with a very disciplined training and intensive workouts. That’s what I’ve tried to do, and I made a commitment going into this not to cut into work priorities–so I’ve either missed workouts or simply taken the time from sleep or personal time to get training done. And for most of my life, the busier I have been (within reason) the better I’ve performed. It forces me to be hyper-disciplined and eliminate distractions. All that being said, I have worked out a lot–this isn’t something I’m just trying on a whim and hoping for the best, but I definitely had limitations on my time.
4. Lusting after some epic bike gear. Like an Aero helmet, and a full carbon tri bike. However, here’s the reality: when you have stuff like that, it’s better to be good at riding. There are few things more humbling than doing one of your practice rides in your full tri gear on your decent-enough road bike and there you are pedaling away at a good clip–and then a guy 20-years older than passes by wearing parachute pants and birkentstocks whilst riding a beach cruiser and whistling “Sunshine on my Shoulders” by John Denver. Yes, there’s some hyperbole in there–but I’ve had a few things happen like that not too far off.
5. Grateful. Regardless the outcome, I’m deeply grateful. I am thankful to a God who has given me the physical ability to get in shape and enjoy the privilege of working out–it really is a gift, and I wish I hadn’t squandered it for so long. I am thankful to my family who has tolerated not seeing me much during this training period (in addition to start-up life), and also a lot of friends who I owe an overdue catch-up. Finally, I’m thankful for the many people who have provided advice and encouragement along the way. If (when) I finish, I hope those people realize that they had a significant hand in helping me with this accomplishment, and for that I am genuinely grateful.
Finally, if you’re interested there will be a live race report the day of the event starting at 7am PT on the Ironman website that you can watch by clicking here:
Bottom of page there’s a “Live Race Report” that will be active on Sunday, June 29th with a link you follow and enter in my IM number which is 1973, coincidentally also the year of my birth. Yes, I’m 40. And yes, perhaps that also had something to do with this.
In the past couple of years I’ve finally started to get in better shape. On a body fat basis, I went from ~30% to ~10%, and of course the changes eclipsed the scale and extended to CrossFit workouts, running, and have included more recently some biking and swimming.
And for this entire time, it’s been easy NOT to see the ceiling. Because I was in such bad shape at my starting point two years ago, it just felt like making gains would be easily attainable for an indefinite period of time. I mean, I KNEW in my mind that my physical potential at 22 was still beyond what it would be at 42 (though, my goal is still to be in better shape at 42 than I was at peak at 22, though if I can that won’t say much for how well I tapped out my physical potential when I was younger).
When you’re SO FAR away from your ceiling it’s both kind of discouraging (“I’m THIS out of shape?!?!?!?”) and also really motivating (“If I can keep making gains like this I can become Superman!!!”).
But this week I saw and felt the ceiling after a few workouts this weekend (which happened to be some of my best workouts of the year over the past two days).
And I hated seeing the ceiling.
Particularly frustrating because I am still so far away from being in really good shape, but this afternoon after I was driving home from my swim/run (pictures of the most epic day ever to workout in the Bay are below from today’s excursion) I realized that I was staring the ceiling right in my face–and it happened way earlier than expected, and I still feel like I’m so far away from where I wanted to be at this point. It’s the ceiling that said things like “You’ll never be able to do >insert your dream of choice here<.”
So I’m going to change it.
I haven’t figured it out yet, and I know I can’t cheat human physiology–but there must be a pretty good way of bending it.
What I’ve learned in the last few years is that so much of fitness and wellness is pretty specific to the individual. So I don’t listen to any one particular scribe, however, I’ve not tried to recreate too much either. I’ve taken a few solid perspectives without trying to recreate the wheel, applied it relentlessly, and it got me to a certain point at the end of year one.
Then, for year two, I made modifications, did more reading, metric’d more stuff with my body, and made adjustments. But mostly oriented around a few common theories from a few particular individuals in the fitness space–and I did this with limited reading, research, and study; I just worked on applying, applying, and applying.
Now I have to break it.
(though not until August)
For someone that doesn’t know a whole heck of a lot about fitness, nutrition, CrossFit, human anatomy and physiology, it’s probably a bit risky for me to be willing to walk away the very stuff that’s gotten me to where I am, which isn’t amazing but it’s a huge improvement. But if I want to really make bigger gains, then I think it’s riskier for me to stay where I am and just keep trudging along–though trudging is precisely what got me to where I am today, and I knew that would be the case which is why I subscribed to it: a few simple philosophies and relentless execution.
But continual trudging is why, in the business world, so many CEO’s (and Exec’s and employees for that matter) fail to be successful in different business cycles. Meaning, even some of the most successful CEO’s can only run through one or two parts of the business cycles (pre-start up, or 0-10M or 50-100M or 500M+, etc). Sometimes I think that’s a limitation of breadth of skills (and there’s something totally legit to be said for very deep skills in one of those particular cycles), but I think that also in many cases the stuff that gets you to where you are is the very stuff that keeps you from where you want to go next, and it’s really hard to break free of that thinking.
My strategy is to comb through as much stuff as I possibly can, measure as much as is reasonable, trial/error with how I feel and perform, and try to really figure this out at the next level, and to do this with as little time applied possible. I’ve got a pretty busy life outside fitness, but this is an important part of my life and I have some serious progress I’d like to make over the next few years.
The best part? It’s on me and nobody else to do it.
I really suck at swimming, though I didn’t fully realize it until I started trying to swim laps about 4-5 months ago. At the urging of some fitness friends, who knew I had a specific goal in mind, I decided to sign up for a Master’s Swim class about ten weeks ago. Master’s Swim is a group of people who regularly train together with a coach. In the last few years, I can think of no other thing that I have been absolutely worse at for which I’ve tried to improve, and I’ve actually loved the experience of this. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. If you’re lousy at something and you really care most about improving, you might as well get that out in the open…
During the last ten weeks I’ve had four different coaches. The way I’ve introduced myself to them was nearly identical: “Hey, my name is Raz. This is my goal of XYZ. I absolutely suck at swimming, I’m fully aware of it. I need your help, so whatever you tell me to do, I’ll do. And I don’t want you to go easy on me or hold anything back.” I found this to be so freeing, I could bypass everything and get right to the baseline. The result was that I generally receive a disproportionate share of coaching, a) because I needed it, and b) because I practically begged for it from the get go.
2. You might have drunk people (okay, fine–person, singular) in your swim class…
I hardly think this is normative, but it’s so bizarre to me I can hardly not mention it. And it’s not really a learning, more of an amusing anecdote. I usually swim very early in the morning before work, but about once a week I’ll go to the class that starts in the evening. Last week, two minutes into jumping in the pool, I basically smelled a beer hall. I look over and a guy a lane over, whom I’ll call Oktoberfest, had consumed more than a beer or two. It was confirmed midway through the class when Oktoberfest yelled out “Hey guys, don’t worry about me over here–just burning off some alcohol!”
Incidentally, he pretty much kicked my ass during the entire class. Drinking and swimming is a bad idea, obviously. But it’ll go down as one of my more memorable classes.
3. Uncoachable people with a bitter edge are an absolute drag to the group and set their own rate limiter…
A woman jumped into our class one week and she was a prior swimmer who had taken time off and for some reason lost her swimming mojo. I don’t even really know what that means, and also didn’t understand whatever dynamics she was dealing with (I was dealing with my own hot mess), but net net what happened is that she destroyed the dynamics of the class in about seven minutes. She said she wanted coaching, she became irritated with instruction, she kevetched and moaned about how frustrated she was, and towards the end of the class each time she spoke it was nails on a chalkboard. And the coach quit giving her instruction. She left before the session even ended in a huff. People like that are vibe killers. And they often top out very prematurely, regardless their natural talent.
4. There’s this thing called the two-beat kick…
And I’m not even going to try to explain it, but when you learn it then it’s magic. By “magic” I don’t mean I’m even a marginal swimmer at this point. But it’ll change how you swim, your breathing, the stroke rate, comfort. The net net on this is that fundamentals matter. Hugely. The first six weeks I felt like I kept going backwards, but what I was doing was unlearning how I’d always swam, and was trying to apply proper technique and fundamentals. Which is more important when there’s more friction. Water is 1,000 times more resistant than air. I’ve never taken a running lesson, and perhaps I should. But I knew the fundamentals in swimming play a more important role (for me) than running. Friction is one of the underlying reasons. For me I think there’s a lot of life application here. You can’t get better at everything. So when isolating and prioritizing, often it helps to take those items you want to improve in that also carry the greatest amount of friction. It’s not the only variable to evaluate, but it’s a big one.
5. You will run into A-holes, but DO NOT let that throw you off…
There are hidden “cliques” (there are other words I could use) everywhere. In the last two years as I have gotten in better shape, I have noticed a strange phenomenon where in gyms (not CrossFit, but in my “regular” unnamed gym) people are much friendlier to me then when I was the fat kid trying to get in shape. Even outside of the gym, when I go on long runs to Woodside I’ll probably have 10-15 bikers or serious runners go by and give me the thumbs up as I’m running. That never happened when I was fat. For the most part, only fat people acknowledged me. So here’s I’m in somewhat the reverse in this Master’s Swim program. At one point a few weeks ago a woman yelled at me during training, because she felt I made some type of “illegal takeover maneuver” as she was gabbing at the wall during a set.
Long story short, she pretty much needlessly unloaded on me in front of a lot of people. It was unjustified since I had a basis to pass, but honestly I didn’t even care. Emotionally, as that happened, it torqued me for a moment. I can see in a different place in my life if I weren’t so committed to this goal I would’ve been tempted to say “forget this” and throw in the towel–literally. But, I refused to let it bother me for more than two seconds, because any energy spent towards that just diluted my efforts, and I wasn’t about to let her screw up my plan.
It was a powerful reminder to me: don’t let people who can’t control their actions and emotions deter you from your goal, and there will be A-holes along the way that do this. It’s also a reminder to those who are on the “inside” of the swimming club, runners group, marathon, gym, or whatever to be more than aware of the people around you who are trying to get better. Especially the beginners.
It’s why I always try to say hi to the fat person running by. Because I’m also that same person. And I respect their determination.
6. ”Be the ball, Danny. Be the ball.”
My second class the coach yelled out to me in the middle of a 50 and said “Raz! What’s going on? Are you comfortable in the water? Do you like the water? Raz! Are you fighting the water? Do the fish fight the water? Raz! Do you need to make peace with the water?!?!?!” I was looking around thinking to myself “Ahhhh, yeah man, I dig the water. I’m good with it. What are we talking about? Where am I? Why did I sign up for this? And why did I move to California?”
It sounded hippy dippy, but I said from the get go I was going to listen to all the instruction and really absorb it. Even if I didn’t get it. Well, surprise surprise, there IS something to being one with the water. I started floating in the water and really consciously thinking about swimming with the water, rather than, well, slapping it. And fighting it.
Be the ball, Danny. Be the ball.
This is my annual birthday post for Levi; if you’re interested, the prior birthday posts are here: Happy 8th Birthday Buddy, Happy 7th Birthday Buddy, Happy 6th Birthday Buddy, Happy 5th Birthday Buddy, and Happy 4th Birthday Buddy.
As I’m writing to you every year I never have anything planned to say. I used to give a lot of talks to audiences and often had a mental archive of anecdotes or stories lined up that I’d pull from, either coordinated in advance or ready to use spontaneously. With something like your annual birthday, I always think to myself “This year I’ll totally have something lined up to share with Levi for his birthday!”
But it never happens, and today is no exception.
I’m never ready for this day, and when it finally arrives I always want something magical to happen. I’m not sure what, but it never quite plays out like I envision or hope. The only real message that I really want to get to you is that I love you. And we miss you. There’s probably a lot in my life that I hope you don’t see, but this is one of those moments where I hope you get to look down and read my annual birthday letter to you. So, here’s a quick update, followed by a story.
Mom did homeschooling for Royce and Zoe all the way up to this year, then we decided to put the kids into school–for a variety of reasons–and they both seem to be doing well. I’m super appreciative of her hard work over many years to teach RoZo. She thinks about you all the time, and I remember just how heartbroken she was–we both were–ten years ago today.
Royce is doing great, she made the middle school soccer team as a 6th grader which was a really big deal! Few kids made it at all, and even fewer 6th graders. She’s such a sweet kid, and is the one who always prays before every meal (even when I sometimes skip it), always organized and on time, never misses a homework assignment (her grades are awesome!) and always less then thrilled when things don’t go according to plan–she likes structure and predictability, and might–MIGHT–have a slight tendency to worry at times. Which would make her the big sister that would always be watching out for your every move, and would keep you from ever getting in trouble. She’s beautiful, so responsible and trustworthy, and so incredibly passionate–you would be so proud to have her as a big sister.
Zoe is doing fantastic and is equally beautiful. She’s going to a different school than Royce and has made so much progress–we’re really thrilled. She loves creative stuff, entrepreneurial passions, and cooking shows as her go-to activities. She could watch cooking shows on a Saturday for hours on end without pause–and sometimes does. And is the only ten year old kid I’ve ever met who would look at me after tasting a dish I made and would say “Dad, I think this needs a little bit of caper juice, a dash of garlic salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon” only to be followed minutes later while preparing some vegetables with an off the cuff statement and say to me “You know Dad, Jimmy Fallon is definitely one of my favorite comedians–next to Ellen Degeneris.”
Zoe’s pretty hysterical, and would be the bigger sister saying “Go for it!” while Royce would be saying “Levi, I really don’t think this is a good idea…” You’d have one sister with expertise on how to get you into trouble, and the other with expertise on how to keep you–or get you–out of it.
A few months ago all of us went away for a weekend to try to get a retreat from the chaos of work and everyday life. One night whilst sitting outside around a fire pit we were talking about a particular issue which escalated and ended in an argument amongst the four of us, though mostly it was just me, Royce, and mom. The argument got pretty intense, and while I don’t think it was altogether different than some arguments and issues that most families deal with, it was one of the more intense and frustrating moments we’ve had in the last year.
Zoe was walking around the outdoor fire pit, and along the edge of the pool, somewhat aimlessly. I didn’t even think she was listening. She was kicking the soccer ball on her knee, dropping it, running off to get it, seemingly completely disengaged and disinterested during this 20-minutes. Finally, when no progress was being made, and the intensity of the argument kept escalating, she decided to jump in.
Zoe turned around to all of us and opened her arms and interjected with a quiet, and gentle voice saying “Okay everyone? Please stop. For a minute. Just stop. Can I say something?”
Surprised, we all turned to her and didn’t say a word. We were all kind of shocked she interjected. Zoe’s fiercely independent, wildly creative, witty as all get out–but rarely interjects and generally doesn’t editorialize. So as we all looked at her she decided to deal with me first and walked over, placed her little hands on top of my big hands, and looked in my eyes and continued.
“Dad, I know you’re stressed out. I know it, and I can feel it.” As she’s talking involuntary tears start streaming down her face, but she didn’t let her emotions phase her for a second and she barely paused for half a second.
So she kept going. “Dad, sometimes when you get home from work and you’re stressed out and you still have tons more work to do, don’t put the stress on other people. And Dad, I know why you do this…Because I do it too. I go to school, and then I have a bad day. I come home, and I’m upset and tense and I get frustrated with people. Or I want to blame someone, or I point the finger and I get angry at people. And then it creates tension. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with you. Or me. Everybody does it. It’s part of being a human. We all do it.”
“So Dad, I want you to be happy. I want you to come home happy. I want you to leave home happy. And I know it’s hard, because you work so hard. I worry that you are always working, and I am afraid someday all the work will beat you down. But then, I know you usually love it and do a good job. So they give you more responsibilities. You get bigger jobs and you run more companies. But then it keeps getting harder and harder, and more stressful.”
“Now you’re working so long and gone so much. And I know it’s going to get better. I know you have done lots of start-ups, and that they always get better and things work out. And when it gets better I know you’ll make more money, you’ll have more people to help out, you won’t have to work so much, and things will be easier. But Dad, even though I know it’s going to get better…I really just worry if it’s going to get better fast enough.”
At this point tears are pouring down her face, not just one or two, but a constant stream. She kept going, without flinching or pausing to even recognize her emotions, and with a steady voice while looking in my eyes continued. ”Dad, I believe everything starts in the home. If we can make everything good in the home, then everything else will be great. Work will be great. Your workouts and running will be great. Our time off will be great. Dad, I really mean it. I believe everything starts in the home.”
Then she paused for the first time, and took a breath and raised her expressive eyebrows and said emphatically “And Dad, I KNOW they say that on all the cooking shows. But I really believe it’s true.”
Of all my moments with our kids, this one will be among the most memorable. Partly because there was a level of gravitas to the conversation that exceeded anything which I’d ever experienced with her. And partly because it was such an obvious testament to what kids can teach you.
Which pretty much is a metaphor for how I feel about you. I don’t fully recognize, and in exactly what ways, but I know you’ve had this amazing impact on all of us in manners that I can’t fully express or even begin to understand.
Am I bummed you’re not here? Yeah, beyond words. If I could, I’d change it in a heartbeat. But also in my heart, I’d know that wouldn’t be the right thing. I’m certain and trusting that the right thing happened. And that as part of this, I’m still learning something throughout it.
Even if I don’t understand it. Even if I don’t like it.
Levi, my friend…I love you. We all do. No matter what.
Happy 9th Birthday.
Right now I’m sitting in an Upper West Side Manhattan apartment, in this little nook by a double window typing away on my Macbook Air. Every few minutes my eyes break free of the screen towards scattered glances in the alley of brick lined apartments and rusty old fire escapes cascading the sides of pre-war buildings, while Kaskade is playing through Pandora, a black coffee in my hands and the goal to be running in Central Park in 60-minutes after I finish posting about something I’ve thought about for quite a while.
This week in NYC I was prompted to write after spending some time with a few former people with whom I’ve worked (epic, insanely talented and amazing people who I loved working with and were catalysts to building great teams). It was a hard hitting reminder to me about something I’ve wanted to write about for years, which is my relatively simple premise around the effect chemistry can have on building great teams.
It’s a pretty simple distillation of my hiring philosophy, after a lot of experience in both big and small companies–including a few raw start-ups and two re-starts– in a lot of different geographies, a fair amount of study on the subject, and more than a few mistakes along the way, I’ve essentially boiled my hiring and team-building decision-making into two very simple evaluations: Competency and Chemistry
A lot can be learned from insightful readings from a few of the best of the best related to leadership development, executive hiring, and creating high performing teams. Welch is legendary, especially with more established entities; Bezos is all around brilliant and pulls in a big-growth-company-meets-scrappy-upstart philosophy for the digital world that’s insanely customer-driven; Collins is a super solid researcher that’s studied the best of the best and carries killer insights based on aggregated data and interviews. And there’s a bunch of bits and pieces I’ve picked up from start-ups, including personal experiences, other Exec’s, and investors.
But even after all of this, I’ve pretty much broken it down into these two key characteristics. The reality is also that people can only process so much information and evaluate decisions on so many criteria. It’s why running a company trying to monitor and asses 12+ metrics is simply ineffective and dilutive; instead it’s better to zone in on 3-5 key metrics. Nail those. And, if you can bring it down to one or two then all the better (and do the same for each division or department). The same premise applies for hiring.
The competency part of hiring and building great teams is pretty self explanatory, so I’m not even going to carry a description here, other than to say for me this is a bit of broad definition that includes character, tenacity, skills, efficiency, intelligence. It’s effectively summarized in a question like “Is this person in the top 10-20 percentile in what they do and how they do it?” That’s competency.
The chemistry part, well that’s where the mojo is. Harder to define and more crystallized by asking the question of “Does he/she add magic to the team?” It’s something you can just feel. Team sports are an easier illustration; I can remember years playing football in college with guys who were good, but not great. However, had insane team chemistry. Those years yielded better results than when it was reversed. I can think back on business experiences and see this as well–and when we’ve had the intersection between insanely competent teams with great chemistry, the results AND the experience was unreal. I once had a football coach repeatedly tell us “Men, you don’t have to like each other…but you do need to love each other.” I think there’s a lot of insight there; and too many business environments exist where people neither like nor love their teams–despite being competent. And then they wonder why they don’t perform as well as they can, why there’s churn, why coming to work isn’t fun, engaging, or rewarding. There’s no mystery around it.
Chemistry isn’t this soft skill or some diluted esoteric parameter. Chemistry is intertwined with the answer to questions like: Do I respect her? Will he make the team work harder through influence? Do I trust there isn’t game playing and ulterior motive? Does he care about people and have an unrelenting passion for winning, including especially the team–or is he in the win for himself? Even at the cost of others? Is the very act of work fun, engaging, and rewarding with her?
A lot of companies try to do all these team-building things to engage or create chemistry. You know what? If you think in order to create chemistry you need to go do offsite team building, drink beer after work, do a trust fall, or–God forbid–hire a consultant to address this, you’re flat out screwed. You don’t have it, and you probably won’t get it.
My favorite business memories weren’t forced outings, retreats, and canned prescriptive stuff (yeah, I’ve also tried it before myself). Instead, my best memories were doing epic things in business and enjoying an insanely great team. In other words, it was actually often the most challenging and difficult work itself, and doing that with great people, that I liked the best. That comes from working with people who have great chemistry together.
In any business, accelerators are a part of the competitive advantage. Getting to market faster, higher close ratios, faster cycles, better deliverables, quicker communication with better transference of information and less noise. Conversely, the “chemistry” dynamic doesn’t mean everyone is homogeneous and shares similar views. That’s actually the magic of chemistry. It magnifies distinctions. It brings them out, faster, and because there’s trust you can cycle faster, learn more, and cover more ground. That’s directly attributable to chemistry.
The very thing that makes up the manifestation of hard metrics and actual results comes down to how good the teams are, and how well they work together, and how much they trust each other. It drives the function of how frequently people communicate, the ability to use short-hand and move faster, the number of hours the teams wants to spend working, along with the intensity or projects and execution of programs. It’s that simple.
Part of great chemistry is not wanting to let other people down–not because you’re afraid of pissing them off or some retribution, but because you’re a team and you want to win. You want to see them win. And you’ll go to the end of the earth to contribute your part, because that’s what happens when people depend on each other, trust each other, and have great chemistry. They come through. They deliver results. Not out of some form of obligation or even just the paycheck, but out of desire. There’s a huge difference. Working from the basis of the former creates liabilities. Working from the basis of the latter builds assets.
It’s clear great teams have an exponentiating effect on performance; and a big part of that is chemistry within the team. Chemistry is the juice that makes competency come to life, otherwise all these insanely epic skills that people carry are too often hidden from fully developing when the chemistry is missing.
My experience is that those individuals and teams with just the great competency are difficult to find. Finding individuals and teams with great competency that add a massive multiplier with the chemistry dynamic? That’s really rare.
And it’s also where the magic is.
It’s the Super Bowl Sunday. Woooohoooo! So as a result nobody is going to read this, but it’s a-okay! I have to post when I have time, and right now I have thirty minutes before my scheduled run (more on the schedule thing later). *Also, I have no idea if these hacks will help you lose 50 pounds. I just needed a catchy headline. Also, there are six hacks listed, not five. But I wanted to have the first two words start with an ‘F’. #worstheadlineever
But, seriously, this is some of the stuff that helped me get in better shape over the past two years. And, well, I did lose about 50 pounds too. Though I’m still not brave enough to post before/after pictures yet.
Maybe someone will find this helpful after the nachos, Thin Mints (it’s Girl Scout cookie season!) and beer (not in that order, please! Thin Mints first, always the Thin Mints first people).
Over the last few years, I have become pretty fanatical about creating and living in a fitness regimen. It’s how I get my stuff to work for me; I’ve also fallen off the wagon more than a few times as well, so I’ve learned what helps keep me tracking and on-plan. Here are a few things that have helped me move closer towards my fitness goals, and perhaps there’s something in here that might help you as well.
1. Set quarterly goals, and tie it to metrics that you can use to evaluate your progress: I use body fat testing quarterly to monitor my progress to a targeted percentage, and then usually throw in some particular running event. I calendar it at least 90-days out for the BF testing. For my runs, I usually plan these out for the next year–so I’ve everything lined up for all of 2014.
Doubt it? My next body fat test is scheduled for Sunday, February 23d at 11:30am. I booked it two months ago, and I do this every 90-days. It’s the only way I can really track my progress. Though I use a pinch test and visual on vascularity (which I have little of, unfortunately, but enough to know how I’m doing) to track my progress week to week. I step on a scale daily, but more out of habit and care far less about the weight and much more about the percent of body fat.
2. Schedule your
shit stuff: in my experience, you have to do this. Otherwise it will almost ALWAYS get bumped. And for optimal adherence, it’s likely you have to do it in the morning. Two years ago I started by working out 3x/week, and that wasn’t easy–time, discipline, and fitness wise. Now, I probably workout 6-8x/week, and I schedule it pretty rigorously. Honor your fitness schedule, it’s not too much to give yourself. A one hour workout is 4% of your day. It will make you more effective, and generally speaking for every hour you workout you get two hours of your life back. I read that on google somewhere, so it must be true. And it just sounds about right.
Yes, there will always be something that seems to conflict with your workout–including your mood. Tough, gotta move past it (this is what I tell myself all the time). Every Sunday I sit down and plan my professional and personal week; on the fitness side, the CrossFit workouts are easy to schedule–every M/W/F early in the AM. But then I often schedule my running/biking/swimming in during the other four days, depending on whether I’m traveling or what my schedule is like. And if my schedule changes mid-week, then I revise to ensure I get the fitness stuff in.
I used to just try to let my fitness happen when time allowed. That didn’t work so well. So now I schedule it. Someone is invariably saying to themselves, “Man, I don’t have time…I just don’t have time.” I said that for years. Yeah, you do have time. Some weeks I easily cover 80+ hours a week (this is not every week, but never is there a 40-hour week either), and I could still use the time excuse to justify missing workouts. You have to make the time, and you have to give up something else to get the time. This is why I don’t watch TV. I didn’t even know the San Francisco 49′ers were in the playoffs until 48-hours before their last game. How is that possible? If I care about something I’m going to make it happen. If I don’t care about something, then I’m not even going to give it ten minutes of distraction. Staying up on football each week is a distraction from the things I care about getting done, professionally and personally.
Ultimately, controlling the schedule is the primary reason why I force myself to do the majority of my workouts in the AM–it’s easier to control your schedule before the day gets in full swing. Incidentally, I am not a morning person. I’d far rather crank my life out until 2 or 3am–I actually think I get into the zone between midnight and 3am. But, alas, I am not a screenwriter and so I have to adjust.
Here is what I have found about being an early riser: it often sucks waking up at 4:30-5:30am daily (but I usually sleep in until about 6:30am or 7am on the weekends). Especially if you just went to bed a few hours earlier.
However, it sucks far more to be fat and out of shape. So I finally chose the former. Plus, your body adjusts. After doing this for nearly a year I hardly need an alarm.
3. Meal Prep: meal prep is the Ford Model T equivalent to fitness. Trying to cook or prepare each meal when it’s time to do so is sooooo inefficient. So if you have the time to do this, great. And, I LOVE cooking. So while I’m totally stoked and find it mildly therapeutic to be in the kitchen cooking whilst listening to Johnny Cash, that time is taken from somewhere else. So I leave cooking to when I have time to enjoy it, and want something other than a pre-prepped meal.
Enter the Model T of preparing food efficiently. You have to automate it. Every Sunday I spend about 90-minutes in the kitchen, and I do all my meal prep for the week. I have 4-5 things that I cook each week, they’re total staples. I’ll crank it all out, put it away in individual containers, and that’s most of my food for the week. In the next week or two I’ll do a post on my 4-5 staple meals and my go-to fast meals or nutrition hacks that work for me. But this isn’t rocket science either. I found most of my meals from reading what other people do for their meal prep, and just picked what works best for me.
Meal prep isn’t only more efficient, but by having something healthy prepared and ready to go will help when you’re just spent and need kCals, and it’s easy to grab for something you shouldn’t which a prepared meal will help avoid. Plus, I try to keep anything unhealthy out of the kitchen–too tempting otherwise.
4. Alcohol: kill it. Why? It’s just inefficient and full of empty calories. Plus alcohol makes me sleepy. And quite hilarious. However, given that I’m already one of the funniest people I know, it’s better that I keep the competition even so the rest of you stand a fighting chance.
Plus my body just runs cleaner when I’m off alcohol (right now, somewhere in Florida there is a woman named Carol who is doing backflips reading this #4 item…Yes mom, I knew you would be happy about this!). I took a month hiatus altogether from drinking recently and felt great. I love beer as much as the next truck driver (this is totally an inside family joke, but I can’t resist), and I’ve decided to pretty much stay off alcohol for the foreseeable future and leave it only for rare occurrences.
By the way, if someone told me to do this a year ago I would’ve never considered it. So all this stuff didn’t happen to me at once, like most things it takes time to dial in what works for you vs. others, and how far in you want to go.
5. HIIT training (or find your workout thing): Check it out, High Intensity Impact Training. Google it, basically short workout bursts. But the key is to find some form of serious physical activity that works for you. What I love might not be your thing, but the thing each of us have to do is figure out what our thing is.
So whether it’s running, CrossFitting, weight lifting, power walking, yoga, whatever, you’ve gotta find your thing. But one element that has really helped me is finding something with a class or group that has a schedule and offers me some accountability.
It’s one of the (many) great things about CrossFit and why I love it so much. While I want to go to my classes, I also feel somewhat obligated. Though that’s not the same mindset I have with my other workouts, especially running.
You know how some people like to get ready to go out for the night and they want the bathroom and bedroom to themselves, it’s like their “me” time? They don’t want any intrusions or fighting over the sink?
That’s like me with running.
If we run together, I must really really like you. Or feel highly obligated.
6. Cheat Meals: I try eat clean for nearly every meal (again, I fall off the wagon too), and some of you know that I’m a huge fan of the Paleo diet (meal plan, way of eating, lifestyle, however it’s supposed to be referred to). But I also let myself have two to three cheat meals a week. Some people think this is a lousy strategy and philosophically horrible, and that your eating style should be satisfying and healthful so that you shouldn’t have to eat a cheat meal. I have heard this from more than a few.
To which I offer this reply: please shut your pie hole while I finish my cupcake.
When I have a cheat meal I don’t all out binge until I’m nearly throwing up (okay, so that happened ONCE), but I’ll eat pizza…or possibly consume Dr. Pepper…or have a cupcake. Or cupcakes. Plural. Look, I get the perspective that one should have satisfying food that doesn’t necessitate a binge. Fundamentally, I agree. But on occasion, if one really digs it, then one should also have pizza and fried food, too. And the last time I tried incorporating those into my regular eating regimen I got really fat.
So I’m a fan of the cheat meal. Huge fan. On occasion, just not regularly. Total deprivation with food you crave isn’t good. But regular discipline with moments of deviating is fine, in my opinion. Of course, for others a momentary lapse causes the wheels to come off. You just have to figure out where you are in the spectrum.
There it is, some of the basics of what has helped me lose weight and get more fit over the past few years. There’s a few other things that have helped me along the way, particularly on the nutrition piece so I’m going to post some of those over the next few days–or week.
Happy Super Bowl Sunday!
(clearly, I’m agnostic on the outcome of this game–but at least I know who is playing)
So I don’t have New Years Resolutions. But for sure I will cheer on those who do.
My personal philosophy is that if you want to do something you’ll start it now, whether that’s August 27th or Jan 13th. But, I totally get the allure of turning the page and a clean slate. Cheers to that.
So in the spirit of resolutions, many of which are getting fit/losing weight/completing XYZ event, I thought I’d do a quick post on a few things that are good reminders for me this year–if not helpful for anyone else. As you are probably well aware, I know little about fitness and nutrition–so most of the stuff that I’m outlining are based on either simple solutions that have worked to keep me on track, or insights I’ve found to be helpful that I’ve learned from experts. You know, experts are anyone that has published anything that can be found on google and subsequently third-party referenced.
Lastly–the best thing to do is follow a few blogs and newsletters from people that are real experts. I think Mark Sisson is among the best, most rational, and grounded fitness/nutrition resources out there. Here’s a link to his website called The Daily Apple. And here’s a good, albeit lengthy, video segment on some of Mark Sisson’s basic philosophies. The only part where I eye rolled was the whole Malibu thing. Plus, he’s anti-marathons. I don’t like that either. But I’m also an 80% solution guy, and I like his approach, demeanor, and subscribe to the majority of what he says. Plus, what he thinks about marathons is probably true.
1. Do something to build muscle mass–which has a compounding effect on weight loss. I think CrossFit is awesome for overall fitness AND building muscle, but it might not be for you. And if not, it’s worth researching HIIT training (high intensity impact, usually short interval) along with some strength training.
2. Eat breakfast. Specifically, eggs. If I’m not drinking bulletproof coffee, I eat 3-4 scrambled eggs each morning. The benefits are numerous, and warnings about cholesterol be damned.
3. Stash a half dozen packets of Justin’s almond butter in your bag (or, in my case, man purse), car, suitcase, office–and you always have an easy snack or small meal when coupled with a banana, which are almost always accessible. Paleo-ists will say careful with eating too much banana. To that I say: “leave me alone while I eat my banana.” I have almond butter with banana nearly every afternoon as my snack.
4. Sweet potatoes are a great dose of daily (good) carbs. Especially if you’re doing some endurance stuff. Bake them on a Sunday, throw into some Pyrex, and for the week you have an easy vegetable for dinner each week. I eat one daily. BTW, when I say I do something “daily” here, it’s not without fail periodically.
5. Try some Intermittent Fasting. IF can increase HGH, especially if fasted post-workout periodically, and helps get your body into a ketogenic state–though reducing carb intake is what really gets you ketogenic. I’m a fan of using keto for weight loss (though not Atkins-style).
6. Make your food a week in advance. On Sunday’s, I try (but only am successful periodically) to prepare and store a weeks worth of dinners. So when I get home, it’s easy, already portioned, and reduces the risk that in a tired fit of hunger I’ll reach for something not-so-good that causes me to fall off the wagon.
7. 80/20 or 85/15 rule. Majority of meals should be really healthy of course, and I subscribe pretty fanatically to Paleo (though there are days–and even weeks–when I totally fall off). But I allow myself at least two cheat meals a week, three max, where I pretty much eat whatever I want.
Unless I am in Florida. Near a Dunkin Donuts. Then, all bets are off.
There we go–advice for me, if not helpful for anyone else.
By the way, for all my encouragement of marathon running to those who have the desire, I read a really solid article here about why NOT to run a marathon–especially if one hasn’t adequately trained: what happens to your body when you haven’t adequately trained for a marathon. The takeaway for me and anyone who wants to run one: train, train, train. So you can enjoy it. And also reduce any risk or damage that could occur. If you’ve wanted to, you should still go and do it. The emotional, psychological, and soulful benefits still far outweigh any of the negative physical ones. And, yes, that is my “expert” opinion.
In the last few weeks I’ve noticed my Facebook feed filling up with some individuals telling others that their jobs are shitty. Basically.
Of course, it’s never stated that blatantly. But that’s the gist, and the rhetoric most recently was positioned against “blue collar” or “working class” jobs–though some “white collar” jobs weren’t out of bounds either. So here’s how it manifests: someone in some direct selling company has some amazing business opportunity but it’s just not quite good enough to stand on it’s own, so he (or she) tries to use a generally unimaginative but fairly reliable marketing gimmick that creates dissonance, and does so by applying it to someones current vocation to make their opportunity sound better. Ready to sign up? Let’s go! And while that approach may make me want to buy a juicer (or better yet, a Nutribullet–does everybody know how much I LOVE my Nutribullet?), when I see it used against someones vocation it makes me want to throw up. Yeah, really.
A few days after I noticed some of these Facebook posts, I read (and actually reposted) an article about the behaviors of “rich” people, and while I found it highly interesting and extremely useful for personal development, after some more research I also found a callousness to the original editorial written from the extractions and assumptions of this data. It doesn’t make me like or value the data any less. It just makes me like the authors a little bit less.
A part of that message was, essentially, that getting rich is a reward for hard work. That’s just not true. We all know a lot of people who work really hard that are not rich. Some of them work harder than you and me. I also know a surprising number of rich people who don’t (and didn’t) work THAT hard to become rich, though of course they are also in the minority. Without question, hard work and putting food on your table are directly related. Productive activities generally lead to productive results–there’s no debate with the obvious. But the variables get a little more complicated as you go into higher categories of income.
One of the reasons why I found the “rich people behavior” data fascinating and helpful was because I love personal development and learning from other people. Where the thinking becomes dangerous, however, is the point at which we look at our own aspirations and automatically assume the path we choose or seek for ourselves is also that which everybody else should be doing–that if they follow the same formula it leads to a solution called “being rich.” That’s too far in the other extreme.
After a few days of processing, I realized most concretely why it bothered me:
1. It’s disrespectful, and if not arrogant than a bit oblivious. When someone thinks one person who does a certain job is better than another, it’s no different nor any less patronizing than passing judgment on the car you drive or the clothes you wear. Unless, of course, you’re wearing clothes like I used to wear when I lived in New Jersey–then, by all means, do everybody a favor and patronize away. This is the danger of associating “good” jobs from “bad” jobs, or “rich” people with “poor” people.
There are some people whose God-given talents are totally interweaved with whatever job they’re doing however “working-class” that or they may be.
In other words, that very well might be someone’s destiny that you’re shitting on.
My 1st generation Lithuanian grandfather pressed coats at Hart Shaffner Marx for many decades–I believe he worked there well into his 80′s. I’ll bet he was pretty good at it, he took it very seriously. My also-1st-generation Lithuanian grandmother used to clean houses and offices. I’ve always been proud of them and their work. Both were smart and clever, but also wee poorly educated–I don’t believe they made it beyond the 5th grade (then my dad took it to the other extreme w/ two masters and a PhD in rocket science).
Are there certain people brought into our lives, or whose lives we’re brought into, to help move them along onto a different path? Yes, for sure. Never would I discourage someone from developing themselves or moving to another “level.” I’ve probably been on one extreme of chasing the next thing, wanting to do more, and being a bit restless and dissatisfied with whatever current state I’m in. And as a person who has had a lot of people work for and with me over the years, I get the attraction of moving people forward. Partly, because it’s a key success factor if you’re running a company or division. And partly, because the greatest gift of leadership is seeing someone–or an entire team–succeed. So I totally get the aspiration to see other people keep improving and progressing, but it requires discernment so that you don’t trounce over the work they’ve done to get to where they are.
This “your job sucks” also carries an edge–it suggests that we’re the sole author of our definition of a successful job, title or status (whatever “that” is: CEO, doctor,
lawyer (kidding ), investment banker, millionaire or insert-your-own-typical-categorization-here.) This also isn’t true. On a confident (read: cocky) day I can look at my own life and self justify any success I have had. But on most days, I fully recognize that I’ve been given many breaks along the way. I could rattle off 50 in two minutes and we’d just be getting started.
2. It’s the ultimate turn-off. When the message gets shrouded in the dissonance created about ones vocation and livelihood, well it’s this simple: the message gets lost. And that’s a bummer. When trying to convey to someone another business opportunity, or perhaps instilling some behaviors that can help him or her become better, at times the noise keeps the message from being heard.
Of course, there’s a flip side to this, which is that people can live a lifetime of poverty, bondage and/or resignation wanting something more–but never actively seeking it out and doing the hard (like, really hard) behaviors and activities that will help achieve the progress they desire. So, don’t do this either.
3. Finally, there are people who have fought and clawed their way to those jobs. They deserve respect, because it’s respectable. You think otherwise? Go take $200 and spend it on ten cab rides in New York City and ask the back story of what they’ve done, where they came from, how they grew up, who they take care of–just listen to their story. I’ve done this at least 30 times. Eight out of ten conversations you’ll leave inspired. And quite a bit humbled.
And for those that know me, this isn’t coming from some sore spot personally–I’m not in a “working class” job, but you can be sure as heck that I respect those that are.
It’s what makes America, America.
And I’m thankful for it.
A week ago was the one-year anniversary of my first ever marathon, and my fifth completed in the past year. The Sacramento marathon will always be a bit of a turning point for me, I felt like if I could run it last year–then run a few more during the year–and then run Sac again one year later, then I’d have hit some significant milestone. Though, now that it’s done, I’m not sure I feel that way. You’d think your 5th marathon would be your easiest, but last Sunday’s race was really tough for me–and nearly an hour slower than I’d run the Chicago marathon just six weeks before. Super humbling, though I had a few physical issues going on that contributed to making this one a bit more difficult. But, here goes.
Following are a few things I learned about myself over the past five marathons, more general tips than practical ones I’ve written about before, or other running stories about how I never thought I could do it, then I said screw it I’m doing it, and a few in between and one more here:
1. I hate the cold. I’m now a California weather wimp, and I now know I can get very Wangry. Do know the definition of angry ? Perfect. Now, know the term “hangry”? That’s anger induced by hunger. Therefore, “wangry”, is anger induced by cold weather. After this last weeks run (was 20′s during most of it) I never want to run long distances in cold weather again.
2. If you want to run a marathon…Just put some steps forward and make it happen. Pick a race (like, literally this week–pick a race for sometime late Spring or early Summer). Sign up. Develop a training plan. Start running. Just. Get. Going.
3. Training is part of the gift. It’s also a pain because it’s so time consuming. If you don’t train, and this is pretty straightforward, you will be in a lot of pain during your marathon. Like you might find yourself in a port-a-pottie at mile 23 crying from the pain. Hypothetically. And you run the risk of not finishing. Plus, while you learn a lot about yourself from the run itself, you also learn a lot throughout training.
4. Pick a marathon song. A soulful one. I have a song for every marathon. And it’s not a “power song” like in a Nike-sense where you need something to amp you up. It’s more significant than that. It’s, well, soulful…and I can’t really explain it further. Every marathon of mine has a different one, which is usually scattered several times throughout my marathon playlist. Of course it gets plenty of use during my training runs as well. And whilst blogging. This past race’s song was “Pieces” by Andrew Belle. It’s pretty amazing.
5. Stretch your ass off. Especially if you’re over 30. If you don’t stretch pre and post running,you’re a ticking time bomb. Especially if you have accumulated injuries from previous sports or, maybe, you’re just getting old(er). An Ortho once told me those with greatest risk of ligament and tendon tears are guys in mid 30′s who forego stretching and still do the weekend warrior thing and then…Stretching stinks. I hate it. But you have to do it.
6. Only listen to half of what your doctors tell you. Years back a doc told me I shouldn’t run. So I quit. Then I started running anyways. I’ve kept doc advice about running to pretty much zero ever since. But seven days before this past marathon I had to ask my doc about a little medical thing going on (fixed now, and I do not mean that literally) and I asked her whether I could run the marathon to which she basically said “Ummmm, no. This is probably a bad idea.” Days later I decided to ignore her advice, because I realized she translated my question as “do you think this is a good idea?” rather than “could something really really bad happen?” Don’t let other people talk you out of something you really want. If I had, I wouldn’t have started running, nor completed last weeks race.
7. Keep your head up. The most epic line I heard from a spectator this past race will forever be burned in my memory. As I’m at mile 24 there were still stretches with very few spectators. At this point I’d taken my headphones off and I’m just trying to run one step at a time while looking right in front of me.
Suddenly, I hear a lady standing around the 2 o’clock position on the sidelines yell out to me in a booming voice “GET YOUR HEAD UP HONEY! AIN’T NO DOLLAR BILLS DOWN THERE! NOW GET YOUR HEAD UP AND LOOK TO THE FINISH LINE!” I kept my head up the final 2.2. miles.
8. And keep your eyes open.
Because you’ll be inspired. And this is what I love most about marathon running.
Watching my friend Joyce finish Chicago–her first marathon–was inspiring to me. So was the guy I saw at the same marathon running WITH brain cancer, who was having serious brain surgery the following day. That story is here,. And then there was the guy with muscular dystrophy, in the same race, who 17 hours later crossed the finish line. Or, simply, during this last Sacramento marathon, when I saw this guy cross the finish line completing his first marathon–and when his eyes met his girlfriend they were both crying. That stuff’s inspiring to me.
I LOVE watching people finish things they thought might be out of their reach. It’s a milestone towards their destiny. And it’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve received from running five marathons this past year, though completing them have also given me a bit of confidence moving forward.
But, despite all the fun I had, I’m not doing five again next year. Most people suggest two is the optimal number, so that’s what I’m sticking with.
A few months ago I wrote a post about how I lost a grand. And didn’t follow my intuition.
You can read about that one here.
Shortly after writing the post a friend of mine encouraged me to reach out to him and let him know I’d forgiven the debt. It was the right thing to do, after all, I’d just written about what I KNEW I was supposed to do all along. A few months went by, and finally I wrote the overdue email.
Early in the morning I sent the email off relieving him of his burden, never expecting to hear back a response or acknowledgment. And to my total surprise, later that afternoon, I received an apology email with the promise to pay me back.
I’ve carried the chain of messages (omitting names and anything remotely descriptive) because I feel it’s given me two different learnings:
The first is that when your intuition says to do one thing and you do something else, well often we’re given another chance to get it right. I didn’t get it right the first time…but I think I did the second time when I sent the email relieving the debt. Note: this isn’t anything noble or generous that I did, it’s what I was supposed to do–so please don’t interpret me as posting this as anything remotely self promoting–to the contrary, it took me a while to figure out what I was supposed to do all along.
The second is that even if you’ve screwed up (and man, I know I have…) you often get a chance to get that right too. And my trainer did, he offered to pay me back in full. While I’m not accepting it–you can’t pay back a debt that was relieved–he did his part to make things right. And that’s enough.
Tonight I’m looking at this situation which bothered me for a while and finally feel a sense of accomplishment in such an unexpected way. Not just for me, but for him as well. It wasn’t easy to respond to my message, acknowledge it, apologize, and own it. But to his full credit, that’s exactly what he did.
Sometimes you do get a few shots to get things right.
On Nov 9, 2013, at 1:11 AM, Rich Razgaitis <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Hey Raz I thank you for the email. I am well and truly apologize for my behavior. I considered you guys to be really good friends. Although you have forgiven my debt I would like to pay you back starting at the beginning of the year. I was in a bad place and felt like I was drowning so I made some bad decisions. I’m back in the Bay and would love to maybe hook up with you and talk.
On Nov 7, 2013, at 6:19 AM, Rich Razgaitis <email@example.com> wrote:
I am not sure what’s going on in your life, but I wanted to drop you a quick line and give you an update.
The short version is that I am forgiving your debt that you owe to me of the nearly $1,000 outstanding.
I do want to mention that I felt how you handled this by ignoring me and not following through was disrespectful, especially when I believed in you and went out on a limb to help you out. This also hurts yourself and your reputation. There are a lot of courses of action that I could have taken on this, including having my personal attorney file claims against you, which would have landed you in court and tied you up in legal trouble/expenses.
However, I have decided to take a different tact and forgive your debt instead. I believe you are a good person, who could do really well, but have gotten into a difficult situation and simply made a really bad decision about how you handled this with me.
Hopefully life is turning around for you, and that you are making inroads with your business.
Best of luck to you,
Have you ever had a travel debacle, like an all out traveling clusterfiasco? Yeah, of course you have. And while it’s logical that your experience of debacles coincides with your frequency of travel, it also spikes in relation to the importance of getting to your destination. Of course, right?
So in typical Planes, Trains, and Automobiles fashion (if you haven’t ever seen the movie it’s still such a great one to watch–especially around Thanksgiving), my latest one involved more than my fair share of adventure.
But there’s kind of a twist at the end.
On Thursday and even Friday morning of this past week I’d been receiving email confirmations for my Friday afternoon flight, which I thought departed at 3:30pm Friday from SFO. Thursday night was a long one for me (the whole week was long), and I didn’t get to bed until 4am Friday completing work stuff …I awoke at 7am Friday, cranking out more work knowing I had ample time to get packed. At 10am I got an emergency call from my business partner–who was on the same flight–and he realized that OUR flights weren’t at 3:30 but 12:30…and out of another airport. Much further away. Apparently, XYZ travel company was sending me the wrong confirmation emails intended for a 3rd guy in our group who was on a different flight. So in 30 minutes I packed for a ten day trip–including all my running gear for a Chicago event this coming Sunday–and grabbed a quick shower in between pouring down a few cups of coffee.
Then, EVERYTHING misfired. AND it clicked. Simultaneously. I can’t go into each detail, this blog post would be ten pages. But seemingly everything that could go wrong did, yet we also made–sometimes by seconds–each critical bus pickup, security checkpoint, and boarding needed to get to our final destination. Until Houston. For “complicated” reasons, we missed our connection and XYZ airlines said the next available Nashville flight would get us in by Saturday late afternoon. Which wouldn’t work. Would’ve been a disaster, as we had to be there for a meeting and set up for the launch of our new product by 9am.
“Get us within a six hour drive to Nashville and we’ll figure out the rest” I told the agent. Energetically. I can’t remember all the times an all night drive from some mid-point along a final destination to get to a meeting or event on time–but it’s easily in the double digits.
We decided to reroute to Memphis, and the agent worked out a way to get us seats on a flight that arrived at 10:20pm Friday night. XYZ travel company showed on it’s website rental cars for one way that were <$400 for a trip to Nashville, but kept failing when I tried to confirm the order while in Houston. No biggie, I thought, I’m just going to figure it out when we land. But upon arrival I call the travel booking company and they can’t book the rental cars either–keeps failing at checkout.
Net net, they end up finding one they can book for >$800. USD–not pesos. No way am I paying $800 for a rental car–I’d end up hitchhiking before doing that. After some vigorous conversation, and hours of calling rental car companies and doing walk up price checks, I resigned myself that it was going to be impossible to get out of Memphis. By a rental car. But I knew we’d get there.
Because…there’s always Greyhound. $25 per person one way (if you get the web fare). So we went to the bus station at 1am, with the plan to sleep there and jump a 5am bus and make it to our meeting in time by 9am. Somehow, though, upon arriving we snagged the last two seats on a 1:30am bus to Nashville despite not being able to actually buy tickets, and not the most friendly people helping us.
I am not sure if you have traveled by bus. But, let me just say, you have never REALLY traveled by bus until you’ve done the Memphis to Nashville 1:30am journey.
We arrive Nashville around 5am, get to the hotel with enough time to sleep for 90-minutes, run back to the airport to pick up our luggage which finally arrived and made it to our 9am meeting and set up for our big product unveiling.
Seemingly fifty ridiculous things happened during this “adventure” and often I wonder why, and try to find meaning in it. Perhaps even if no meaning exists.
Sometimes…Oftentimes…Maybe usually…I think this stuff happens to test us:
How bad do we want it? And are we willing to just make stuff happen and figure it out? How creative will we get, and how hard will we push through to get from the 80% mark to 100% Or, do we resign ourselves…and just throw in the towel saying “well, we tried.”
To some, “we tried” would be resigned to taking the Saturday afternoon flight originally offered because “nothing” else worked.
To me, “we tried” is being ten miles outside of Nashville at 9am Saturday morning after hitchhiking all night and not quite making it whilst running in dress shoes and my suede messenger bag (okay, fine it’s a murse) in tow behind me still doing a last ditch effort to make it to our meeting by 9am.
Othertimes…Oftentimes…and maybe even usually…I think there’s another lesson:
And maybe this is me finding the meaning in it.
But one particularly interesting thing happened as a result of our traveling adventure. I met a guy on our flight to Memphis and we clicked. There’s something I love about meeting new people in new places, most of whom I’ll never see again.
The guy was about 15 years older than me, with two grown daughters that were less than two years apart. Just like Royce and Zoe.
So I asked him advice about raising two girls from the perspective of a dad.
“Just try to do two things as best you can” he said to me. “Alright”, I replied, “just tell me what they are.”
He replied, “First, go to every event you can. Every single one. Look, based on your job and travel I know you work a lot and you can’t make everything. But when you’re in town, you’ve just got to try to make it happen. You can’t do those again. Can’t get them back.”
Ugh. Okay, epic fail on numero uno. But, it was a good reminder. There are still many events left, and when I’m in town I try to do the best I can but…Anyways…
“Second” he continued “Is to tell them you love them. All the time. I told my kids every day, growing up all throughout the day, how much I loved them.” I immediately responded and said “Okay, great I’ve got that one covered.”
As he’s saying that, I’m thinking I really do have that one covered. I tell them that all the time. And, I even add my “I love you…NO MATTER WHAT” so they–hopefully–know that it’s totally unconditional.
But then he looked over at me and he said “No, hang on. I’m not sure you fully understand.”
So he gently grabbed my arm as he continued talking and proceeds to look directly into my eyes.
(side note: yeah, I get this might sound weird…but this is one dad talking to another dad about each others daughters and how precious they are).
“You look into their eyes…and you tell them as you’re looking into their soul how much you love them” he explained as he’s looking right into my eyes. “You look at them, and you don’t break eye contact. And you say, ‘Royce, Zoe, I love you so much–more than you know’ and you let it sit there. You do not break eye contact with them. You have to look deep into their eyes so they can feel it with their heart.”
And when he did that, when he was looking at me and telling me those words, it hit me hard. So hard. Like really hard.
Hard enough that I’m right now sitting at a car sitting outside of McDonalds in Nashville, totally sleep deprived in between a litany of emails and projects, jumping the free wifi to write about it.
Hard enough that I’ll never tell Royce or Zoe that I love them without looking them in the eyes directly, at least when I’m in person.
And hard enough that I actually think the reason for my travel debacle was to meet the guy in seat 9a.
It’s 2:30am and I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Paso Robles, California drinking an Honest Tea while listening to “The Devil’s Tears” by Angus and Julia Stone. The front desk staff are watching ESPN highlights and even with my earphones I can hear them talking about some great kickoff return that’s been replayed incessantly. Guests are slumbering in from the evening festivities.
And I’m still reeling from the effects of watching the movie “The Butler.”
Generally it’s received favorable reviews (side note: Forrest Whitaker was brilliant). But it’s got a fair share of critique–like anything that’s published or otherwise–from the acting itself to the fictionalization of the loosely-based true story, to the accuracy of the portrayals of each Presidents perspective (particularly that of Reagan).
But I can only give The Butler a resounding review, and especially for one specific reason. It caused me to reflect, deeply and at various times during and after the movie quite emotionally, on both the tragic history of our nation that so violently and abhorrently divided on race (yes, there still remains too much a chasm but clearly not what it was), and also the heroic contributions of those that brought about the civil rights movement in the 60′s and beyond.
Likely, I would be a terrible movie reviewer. Because even if there were any basis for fault or critique, with a movie like The Butler it’s an amazing means to an end. And upon that I can overlook dozens of faults. There’s little about The Butler that I can criticize or even objectively review, because it serves such an important purpose of reflection. And hopefully something more profound and enduring than that.
On the rare occasion that I watch a movie I want to be so enveloped in what’s on the screen that I forget about life for two hours. And, even better, is if it’s so powerful that it engages me think about life differently after it’s over.
And The Butler does both.
In high school I remember our neighborhood grocery having a sale on ice cream sandwiches. $1 per box. Deal of the century. So I bought something like ten boxes. I remember eating two of those boxes in one day (meh, that’s 24 ice cream sandwiches). What made me think of that was when I ate one box (and only one, people) of ice cream sandwiches in a single day last week (I was famished and skipped two meals). To be really transparent, I think I did it in an evening–not even a full day. And, I kinda recall that I might have had a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies that evening as well. And I say might because if I stated it definitively I’m afraid you’d start judging me.
Yes, I can be compulsive. But it can work to my favor as well, like when I am eating really clean. Which has been most of the past year but not without some binges. Ironically, in the last year I’ve received many articles from friends about the downside of following a Paleo-style eating plan, or the cautions of being too strict with diet, or losing too much weight. When I wasn’t eating well, guess how many articles I received about the downsides of eating poorly, or being fat? Zero. If I’m going to an extreme, I’d rather be on this side than the other one.
I’m still chasing my final bodyfat goal and hope to hit it by mid-October. My final target is to have less than 8% body fat, which I revised from my previous goals of 15% and then 12%. Right now I’m probably still a few points away and hovering around 10%, and the last few percentage points have been tough to shed but it’s because I’m having food breakdowns. So I’m revisiting the things that I know worked for me over the last year that have helped me drop over 40lbs of fat and need to keep dialed in so I can hit my goal.
Here are a few tips on how to kill the binge so you can kill it with your fitness goals:
1. Have three cheat meals a week. And figure out what days these will be in advance, OR pick two in advance and then use a third wildcard during the week. For the rest of the week pick your eating regimen/philosophy. I am pretty strict Paleo, but if it’s my cheat meal I’ll practically snort wheat (okay fine so I’ll have two pieces of toast, but snorting wheat sounds so much more ruckus) and guzzle dairy–both of which aren’t Paleo–so I use Paleo as a means to an end, not because my body can’t tolerate gluten and dairy or because I think either are inherently bad.
2. Do not have a “partial” cheat meal. Meaning, don’t “kinda graze” and then not count it as your cheat meal, because then it turns into five, seven, then ten meals…Before you know it, you’re getting fat. And just because it’s a cheat meal doesn’t mean you should binge. I (generally) don’t. But I will have a cheeseburger, extra crispy fries with aioli, and a milkshake–or maybe a Dr. Pepper. I really want to eat that right now. At Shake Shake. And I haven’t even been to Shake Shack yet, I have been resisting for years–but the stories are glorious.
3. Bring your own food. Yeah, it’s a little ridiculous to go to a dinner party at someones house and bring your own eats, but I’ll do it. Or, I’ll eat a healthy meal right before and then not eat (people love inviting me over –or out–for dinner ).
4. Meal prep. Prep your meals for the following week over the weekend. Super critical for me, and when I don’t do this my chances of falling off the wagon go up 2-3x.
Breakfast is easy–each morning I drink two cups of coffee with one to two tablespoons of Kerrygold butter, one tablespoon of MCT oil and sometimes a little vanilla (ground beans or flavoring) all blended together. If I CrossFit or lift in the morning then immediately post-workout I’ll consume BCAA’s for muscle recovery, followed by this coffee concoction.
Lunch and Dinners: The more you prep your lunches and dinners the less likely it is you’ll skip a meal or delay grabbing food. Which I think is the killer to healthy eating. Or at least it’s the road to binging. When I am famished I binge eat. 24 ice cream sandwiches in a day? I could do that all week long, especially if I skip a meal.
For my afternoon snack between 3-4pm, almost religiously I will have a small organic banana (~70 calories) and a packet of almond butter (210 calories, so total of 280 cals).
Evening is where things totally unravel for me. So what’s critical is that I don’t skip lunch, and definitely not my banana and almond butter snack. If I come home from a long day, with still more work to do, and I’m hungry AND I don’t have food prepared? I’m totally hosed. Which is why the weekend investment of prepping for meals is so invaluable during the week.
There it is. Nothing too magical. As I’ve looked at my last few weeks these are the areas where I’m breaking down–it’s pretty simple, really.
If you have any tips on what’s worked for you I’d love to hear about them too.