The Very Next Thing…

Stepping Stones

In my mid 20’s I was in Manhattan working for my first VC-backed start-up and we were going through a quagmire after the crash in March ’00, which was really gnarly for equity backed start-ups. Our CEO initiated a series of strategy sessions among the Exec’s debating a little topic called, ehhhhh, basically how do we survive? 

After hours of heated discussion and what we felt was resolution with an immediately actionable plan that could springboard us, a few Exec’s were unrelenting with whether to take any immediate action because of these nebulous potential long-term implications (really, they were just stuck).

After an already too-long diversion, our CEO barked out “Hey guys, there is no f**k**g long term without a short-term.”

This is why I am so obsessed with micro goals. Sometimes it’s easy to get so mired into long-term mental gymnastics that it’s paralyzing in the short-term (that said, sometimes the solution is upending or adjusting the long-term strategy–but that’s not this post).

Sometimes the process feels like hell. But as Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, just keep going.” That’s what a micro-goal does: focuses on the very next thing that needs to be done to achieve the overarching strategy

I’ll use my own personal goal failure of writing a book as an example. I’ve got my vision for it, considered the cover, title ideas, acknowledgments; how it might get published, and blah, blah, blah.

The last time I touched it was 10-months ago, and I’ve been working on it for five years. At this point further book pontificating about it makes me want to throw up.

Literally, I want to throw up right now. That’s how much I hate missing goals and feeling stuck.

There are lots of reasons excuses why I’ve not written it: workload, travel schedule, don’t feel like writing, hate my writing when I do finally write, not inspired to write, need to check Facebook because maybe someone else will have posted some quippy quote that will inspire me to write…

But what do I REALLY need to do? 

Write 200 words tonight.

That’s it.

My micro goal.

For 180-days. And then I’ll have my book done. Which is exactly what I’m going to do next.

~Raz

P.S. Our start-up I referenced at the beginning figured out both the long and short-term and ended up a happy story (albeit brutal process), largely and mostly in part to the CEO that ran it who was both amazing and unrelenting.

Thankful and Grateful

thankful and gratefulLast week I was back in Silicon Valley and on Tuesday at 10pm my daughter Zoe convinced me to stop at McDonalds.

As I’m sitting there with a Dr. Pepper, fries, and a cheeseburger I said somewhat playfully, and somewhat seriously, “Hey Zoe, why are we eating this crap?” (her response: “Dad, these fries are bomb…what do you mean why are we eating this???”).

I look up and notice a middle aged man a few tables away. He was dressed nicely in what was clearly an inexpensive grey suit with white shirt and blue tie, like one of those thin ones that used to be in style in the 80’s that you’d pick up in a secondhand store. Across the table was his wife and young daughter, who oh so adorably and cheerfully chatted it up with an older guy sitting by himself a few tables away. It looked like he’d just gotten off work and was taking his family out to dinner.

Then, within seconds, I see him put his hands together and he starts praying over the meal. I nudged Zoe gently and I could see her look at me like “Oh no, here comes another ‘life lesson’ from Dad!”

But it hit me heavy…

In my five years of living in Silicon Valley, and this is no exaggeration, not ONCE have I seen anyone give thanks over their meal. Yet here was this guy, at a McDonalds of all places, giving thanks and gratitude for whatever meal was before him..literally seconds after I was essentially cursing mine.

So many times, and for so many years, I have only expressed gratitude when it was the food I wanted, prepared the way I wanted, and when I wanted it…But last week, such a simple epiphany from a random man, made me realize I’ve been doing it wrong.

In that moment I decided that, whatever food is before me, I’ll be thankful and grateful.

~Raz

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The Ironman First Timers List

Ironman pic for blog

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.

My caveats:

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.

~Raz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ironman Race Report–My First and Last (Part One)

Royce and Zoe doing the Ironman-Lift-Your-Bike-Over-Your-Head-Thing
Royce and Zoe at check-in, they’re not stressed at all–they got this! 🙂

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.

Moving on…

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.

Fat Kid
My 240-250lb days, two years ago. Sigh. Heavy (literally) sigh.

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.

In the start-up tech world there is a well known expression: Fuck it. Ship it.IMG_3427

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…

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Okay, seriously..most fun kids ever. Amazing.

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.

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Wednesday night’s one-hour hotel. Better digs than a hostel in Asia, though…Plus I was 30-feet from a McDonalds! 😉

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.

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RoZo making a cheering sign

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.

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This is where you drop off your form saying no matter what happens to me, I will not sue you Ironman association. And it’s also check-in, which was so fun (yes, really). Loved.

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.

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Summer, Raz, and Richard Brooke–CEO/Owner of LifeShotz

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.

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Epic evening, on the drive to where we were staying I pulled off the side of the road and watched this gorgeous cloud formation pull through and set up over a valley. Magical.

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.

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Is it Gorilla Glue? You’re screwed…

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!).

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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.

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Jon Lewis, one of my best friends from college. A thousand thanks, Jon, for supporting me at this event.

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.

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I was only slightly paranoid about missing my wake up alarm…

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.

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Everyone thinks I’m on my iPhone making a call immediately after the swim, but it could also be that I’m removing my ear plugs. But the iPhone is more likely…

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.

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Last 30 miles on the bike! Home stretch.

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.”

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Erica, Raz, Zoe, and Royce

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.

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Entering the tunnel, 50 yards out…

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.

~Raz

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My First (and Last) Ironman Attempt

Ironman Raz

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:

www.ironman.com

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. 🙂

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Are the Gains All Gone?

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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. 

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Happy 9th Birthday Buddy


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This is my annual birthday post for Levi; if you’re interested, the prior birthday posts are here:  Happy 8th Birthday BuddyHappy 7th Birthday BuddyHappy 6th Birthday BuddyHappy 5th Birthday Buddy, and Happy 4th Birthday Buddy.

Dear Levi,

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.

So here’s my one and only story for you this year: IMG_0999

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.”

Levi feetOf 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.

Love,

~Dad

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Five Fitness Hacks to Lose 50 Pounds

Weight Loss

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!

Go Broncos.

Go Seahawks.

(clearly, I’m agnostic on the outcome of this game–but at least I know who is playing)

~Raz

 

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The Fitness Resolutions…

2014-resolutions

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.

~Raz

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The Cabbie and The Maid

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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.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all time. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless significant for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

Part Two: A S*&$@Y Way to Lose $1,000 (the follow-up)

e-mail symbol

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.

Thank God…

~Raz

On Nov 9, 2013, at 1:11 AM, Rich Razgaitis <richraz@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi XYZ,

Thanks for your email response, I appreciate it.
But, also, I meant it. I am relieving you of it. There’s no more debt to pay off.
I hope you’re doing well.
Best,
Raz
On Nov 7, 2013, at 4:16 PM, XYZ 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.

Cheers,

XYZ

On Nov 7, 2013, at 6:19 AM, Rich Razgaitis <richraz@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi XYZ,

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,

Raz

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your physician. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all time. What is the most significant info you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless important for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

The Magic of the Guy in Seat 9A

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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.

IMG_0081

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. IMG_0085

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.

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No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doc. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all when. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless great for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

Reeling…and Inspired

The Butler

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.

~Raz

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all day. What is the most significant data you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless important for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

What a Little Hope Can Do

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Yesterday I was working at a Starbucks. At one point I stepped outside to make a few phone calls. Since it was the day after Independence Day, the whole shopping area was pretty quiet. A few hours earlier I’d seen a girl and her mom walking around with a sign asking for money, seemingly without much success. Were they really destitute? I don’t know for sure. But based on what happened yesterday, I became pretty convinced.

I was outside leaning against a corner in between calls and had a close view of what’s basically the back alley of the shopping area. Nearby, I saw a guy leaning against his car. Then the little girl–I’d guess about ten years old who was wearing relatively tattered clothes–and her mom approached the guy by his car.

The girl and her mom looked so…Dejected. Exhausted. Hopeless. Step by step they apprehensively walked in his direction.

The little girl approached the guy with great hesitation, and finally mustered up the courage to ask for money.  The guy shook his head no and moved them along with a little wave of his hand. The little girl looked devastated. And so tired.

Then, he did a double take, almost as if he knew he couldn’t send them along without some help. With a gentler and more compassionate tone than I would have expected, he called her back and said “Little girl, what do you need the money for?”

“Para comer, por favor. Para comer” she said meekly.

He reached in, and I could see him scrounging through his wallet–I assumed to find a smaller bill–and to my surprise I watched him hand her a $20. It was gracious for him to give it, but from the looks of his high end denim and European car, I’m sure the $20 meant little to him compared to that family (which, from my subjective observation, I think, is part of his realization later).

As she sees the gift is $20, the little girl burst into a scream of delight as he handed her the bill. She grabbed his hand and thanked him profusely in broken english. She ran, hugged her mom, who smiled brilliantly and had tears welling up in her eyes, and as they were walking away the little girl turned around and yelled out “Gracias Señor, gracias Señor!” Then, she proceeded to–literally–skip off holding her mom’s hand with a smile the size of Texas. As they faded in the distance, I could hear her talking excitedly with her mom. It was as if she got a new lease on life.

Two minutes and $20 later, her entire outlook on life at that moment had changed.

I looked back to the guy who was still leaning against his car, and saw him moved with uncontrollable tears of compassion pouring down his cheeks.

And yesterday I was reminded, probably just like that guy, what a little help–and a little hope–can do.

~Raz

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your physician. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all date. What is the most significant info you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good heartiness, its doubtless great for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

My Most Epic Bike Ride Ever

Biking
Purely a re-enactment, on my Plan C bike after the evening festivities

Sometimes I write stories with an intentional point. Other times I just write. Today falls into the latter category.

41 out of my last 50 days were spent traveling. When I got home two days ago, I PROMISED the kiddos I’d watch the fireworks with them last night. And I’ve missed a lot of events in my years of being a dad. So I wasn’t going to miss this one.

Last night we arrive at a neighborhood cookout at 6pm, where we were to view the fireworks later that evening. At 8pm I drove home to jump on a conference call with China (yes, I had a call with whole country). It was supposed to end at 8:45pm, plenty of time for me to get back for the 9:30pm fireworks display. Of course, the call went long and at 9:10 I’m hustling out the door to make it as promised.

As I got closer my destination, all the roads to my final venue are blocked off and street parking was non-existant. I circled around to head back towards our house, and by the time I found roadside parking I was about a mile away from my destination. So I headed back home for plan B.

And here begins the story of my most epic bike ride ever.

Since it was then past 9:15, my best option was to run inside and jump on my road bike–dress shoes and all. But it had two time-flattened tires so after a minute of energetic use of the air pump I was back to 115 PSI and at 9:20 ran out the door, threw my bike on the ground and hit the road. My last thought to myself as I ran out the door was “Should I grab a helmet?” But I didn’t, rationalizing that I’ve never laid down a road bike or a motorcycle, it’ was only a mile away, nobody was on the road, oh and up to six weeks ago I’d been training for a half-Ironman so clearly I was an expert biker (insert sarcasm).

What could go wrong?

About a quarter of a mile away from my house I was cycling around 20MPH and suddenly heard a pop–I get a flat–then suddenly caught the rim on the asphalt, fork the handlebars, and flew over the bike headfirst. As I was in the air, I actually think I laughed. Yes, right in the face of danger. And then, after I landed and rolled around a few times, my laughter changed to moderately expressive commentary. I moved my arms and legs to make sure it all still worked, felt my head to see if it was still in one piece, then picked up my bike with mangled handlebars and a seriously bent front rim and started running back to the house. I then noticed my right arm burning with thick liquid dripping down it. Yahoo! A battlescar! I reach for my iPhone to use the light to see how bad it was

No iPhone. I run back to the spot of my accident,and found it in the middle of the road. Shattered. Grabbed the iPhone in my left hand, with the bike still in my right, and at that point I’m pretty much in a dead on sprint back to the house because it was then 9:25. I had five minutes left to make it!

Debated between taking Erica’s bike (plan C) or throwing on running shoes (plan D), I opt for the former. As I leave I noticed her bike, too, had time-flattened tires. About 9:29pm I’m out the door with a minute to go. Since it was pitch dark and eerily quiet, I had assumed nobody was around–until I heard our neighbor yell across the street “Hey partner, looks like you really wanna see those fireworks!” He must’ve been pretty amused. Perhaps even frightened.

At 9:32 I made it back to our venue looking like a hot mess. But I arrived within the first few bursts of red, white, and blue explosions in the sky, in time to grab the kiddos, grab a seat on the asphalt (intentionally this time), and proceeded to watch an awesome show with RoZo. Once they knew everything was okay, the girls got a kick out of the story at the end of the night–though they kept asking me “Dad, are you SURE you’re okay?” 🙂 Though waking up this morning quite sore all over my body, and several Benjamin’s poorer, it was worth the excitement.

And that, my friends, is the story of my most Epic bike ride ever.

~Raz

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all time. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless great for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

Authenticity…From a Friend

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Here’s another one that I didn’t intent to post, but it was simply on my heart tonight. So here it is, full of imperfections, my vlog on “Authenticity…From a Friend.”

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your physician. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all time. What is the most significant information you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good health, its doubtless significant for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.

My Final Drive in Dune…

Toyota Land Cruiser, Dune, en route from NJ to Cincy
Our departure from NJ to Cincy, one of our many moves with Dune...Heidi to the right in the foreground, our beloved St Bernard who tolerated many adventures

On Wednesday night I went for one last drive. Forever.

I’m a little obsessive about cars–and they don’t have to be expensive. I just am particular about, and have a love for, automobiles in general.

Just like a Cowboy from the 1800’s would have felt about his horse, that’s how I feel about four wheels and an engine. But the love ain’t just for any car. There’s a certain enthusiasm I have for some more than others, even a personification of sorts–beyond just the fact that I name my cars.

My second favorite car got totaled in North Dakota at 2am in the middle of nowhere, it was a 560 SEL (his name was Copenhagen) and, wow, how I loved that car. But it was that carnal kind of lustful love, not that enduring stuff.

So I was comforted by the fact that we still had our Toyota Land Cruiser (a fairly gender neutral name; Dune, but I think it was a “she”, right Erica?). Now, this Land Cruiser, she even eclipsed my love for the 560 SEL. It was that deep heart-felt like love in an almost emotional sense (you’ll see)–as much as one can love an SUV. In part, this was because she was such an exceptional car in every single way that I could possibly articulate, but even more so because of the spectacular memories embedded in the nearly 10-years we owned her.

Dune, along with the kids, on a great camping trip
RoZo camping with Dune in the background, our first trip ever camping

Tonight, I went for one last drive in her. Some reckless guy driving a three ton Dodge Ram did just that into the rear end of Dune at quite a speed; ultimately, all I cared about is that Erica and the girls were safe. They were, and for that I am so exceptionally grateful and relieved. And, once again, thankful to Dune for doing her duty to protect my family. One final time.

Now that it’s been weeks, though, the adjusters have come and gone, I’ve haggled with the insurance companies, and it’s time for the wrecker to come tomorrow. Nobody understood on paper the value Dune meant to me, and it was almost with outrage when the adjuster provided a final settlement number. It was then, that I realized, just how much I’d come to love Dune.

A week before the salvage yard was to come, each day I left the driveway she was the last thing I looked at when I drove off, and the first thing I saw when I came home–my familiar and reliable friend, I knew, would soon be gone.

So the night before the wreckers came I went, by myself, to say my final goodbye .And, as silly as this sounds, it was hard. Really hard. Like, almost-tears-in-the-eyes and punch-in-the-stomach kind of hard.

Dune was more faithful and reliable than some friends I’ve had, and for nearly ten years and almost 150,000 miles steadfastly carried us everywhere experiencing nearly every abuse that a family could throw her way.

Dune digging thru the snow
Dune digging thru the snow on a winter blast a year back

But what grabbed at my heart were the memories. When we left New Jersey to move to the Midwest, it was Dune that took us there, with little Royce not even weighing yet four pounds sitting in the back on her first ever road trip–we’d just gotten her home from the hospital weeks earlier (after she had been there months having been born extremely prematurely), and I remember being so worried about going on a 10-hour trip while she was still so tiny and premature. And Royce loved every mile in that journey with Dune, looking out the expansive windows across the countryside as we took her first long drive.

And Dune was also the car that I used to take Royce to the hospital right after her 3rd birthday when she could barely breathe due to a lung infection and other respiratory issues. I can still remember looking at her gasping for breath as I kept glancing in the rear view mirror ever while putting my foot on the gas speeding down route 50 in Cincinnati wondering what else to do, or if I should call an ambulance instead. And her seeing the anxiety in my eyes, I can still hear so well Royce barely panting out to me in a whisper “You okay, Dad? You okay? Are you okay, Dad?” which only caused me to have to fight back the tears even more.

Dune was my buddy who brought me and Erica to the hospital when her water broke (Erica’s, not Dune 🙂 ) and she delivered Zoe via a c-section. And in the same SUV, two days later, we brought little Zoe safely home.

Erica, Royce, and Zoe...Enjoying Dune watching the Fireworks
Erica and RoZo enjoying one of their first firework displays from the back of Dune's tailgate

Dune was there for us when we transported Heidi in the back seat, our beloved St. Bernard for five years who lived with us through the beginnings of marriage and even the devastating attacks on 9/11 when we lived in Manhattan just three blocks south of the World Trade Center, when we had to give her away to another family after she lunged after–and nearly bit–another child. It was hard to give a pet away but something we had to do, and I remember watching Erica cry as we drove off in Dune–just the three of us.

And Dune was the vehicle that faithfully took us on a myriad of fun family adventures all across the United States, her interior having been adorned with boiled peanuts from Florida, peach pie from Georgia, boiled lobsters from Maine, buffalo jerky and rocky mountain fudge from Colorado, and probably what has amounted to gallons (over the years) of spilled coffee–particularly from our most recent years living near Seattle.

My most memorable moment being the drive back from Lamar Valley late one evening in Yellowstone National Park where we camped last summer with Dune and our trailer. It was a very late night drive home to our campsite, yet little Zoe, who was five at the time, was wide awake while Royce was practically asleep in a coma. And Zoe littered me with questions that I would have expected from a teenager, talking about what she wanted to do with her life, asking me questions about God and life on earth and family matters, telling me some of her most sincere thoughts that were wrapped in such an inexplicable maturity.

It was among the most memorable hour-long drives of my life, with the black and expansive Wyoming sky lit up with a spray of stardust, the smell of the warm western winds blowing through the sunroof, Erica at my side wearing a cowboy hat, and Royce sleeping sweetly while Zoe peppered me with both intriguing questions and heartfelt commentary all along the way back riding in the sound protection of Dune. I will never forget those moments.

Dune on the way to Wyoming
On our way to Wyoming in Dune, the best family trip we've ever had

As I took my final turn in Dune last Wednesday night, one final memory engulfed me. Perhaps this, in addition to all the others, is why saying goodbye is so hard for me.

I remembered the time Erica drove herself to the hospital in Dune while pregnant with Levi at almost 23 weeks, and I can still feel the experience so vividly, so raw with emotions, coming home in Dune without Levi a few days later. And for every year thereafter, I have always looked at the third seat in the second row of Dune and have felt that it was missing our third child. As Royce or Zoe were either fighting or cackling with laughter, or even sleeping sweetly, I would visualize little Levi being in between the both of them to break it up, start it up, or sleep it up. And because I couldn’t have him, at least I cherished the memories, which to some degree were built around Dune and the other memories of my family and all our adventures together. Over so many years of moves and transitions, Dune was one of my faithful companions along the way. So it’s hard to say goodbye.

A flood of these memories, some filled with humor and others flat out desperation, rumbled through my mind during 20 final minutes with Dune as we limped along one last trek. She was a faithful friend for so many years, that gave me an experience that I can’t explain, quite simply because the memories can’t be replaced.

Dune, one last look...
A final goodbye to Dune, you well served our family with amazing memories

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Happy Thanksgiving, from the Raz Family

Happy Thanksgiving
Dear Friends and Family,

Here’s our annual family Thanksgiving video, I hope each of you are having a fantastic day.

Happy Thanksgiving, from the Raz Family!

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A Great Weekend

tooth-pulling1

Starting next week (or possibly earlier) I’m going to be posting a few great links on the Direct Selling industry, as well as some info on our Company. Today, I’m just sharing some personal highlights from my past weekend.

Erica went out of town for four days, so starting a week ago Thursday evening I was on kid-duty. We started and ended the weekend with Pizza. And, as I think about it, we also ate quite a bit of it in between. Lots of pizza. And even some beer. Well, I was the only one that had beer. Not a lot. I don’t think the kids did. Possibly without me knowing, but don’t think so.

Moving on…

Some highlights included:

The Univera Xperience on Friday night, where the kids came and heard me speak (more fun for me than them). I introduced them at the event and even asked a few questions of Royce, who later informed me “Dad, I liked it a lot when everyone was clapping for me…But I didn’t like it when you started asking me questions and I had to talk.” Ahhh, yes. This is a familiar feeling.

Next day consisted of a soccer game, Royce played great. Hustled hard, that’s what I love. Then off to a car show of sorts that we stumbled upon.

We saw this amazing modified car, that I am thinking we should embrace it at Univera for the next highest rank beyond Blue Diamond (Ambassador?). The kids were, well, freaked out by it. They just didn’t understand why someone would do that to their car. I was no help at providing any suggested answers–but it did remind me of my days when I lived a few short months in Kentucky. Seriously, it did.

A really wild car

Saturday afternoon included a five mile bike ride, where 90% of it was a blast for the kids and the last 10% consisted of tears because they were tired (hey, they were the ones that said “let’s keep going”!). Then dress up of the doggie, who I’m not sure enjoyed it quite as much as Zoe did.

ruby-dressing-up1

The highlight was the tooth pulling, just great. Zoe’s now missing all four and I love it. So cute. And if you have the patience or interest in watching the video below, I documented the actual pulling for Erica since she couldn’t be there–and usually it’s the other way around. Not sure if this little clip will entertain anyone else other than me and my family, but Erica this is for you.

We slept in the trailer that night, falling asleep to the Muppet Movie…Not, like, next to it. Watching it. And waking up a bit cold and sore. Kids kept falling off one of the beds at night (because we were situated on a fairly nice little tilt) and they were on these slippery sleeping bags that caused them to keep sliding right off the bed. I felt a bit bad for them yet I do remember waking up a few times and laughing. Of course, the fifth time I had to pick them up the floor it was starting to get annoying. Note to self: next time it actually will be worth it to level the trailer.

Then, Sunday morning, before the trek to church as I was getting ready I heard a huge thud on the window. I looked out and saw a raft of feathers floating in the air. Yep, a little guy had flown right into our bedroom window and knocked himself out cold. So I showed the kids, and they stayed at his little bedside for 20 minutes but nothing was going on though he was still conscious and half standing–barely–and in a stupora just half-standing there for quite a while. I was surprised he was even alive. So they gave him a little prayer, and then about five minutes later he was on his way. That was a nice little win in the morning.

A Zonked Out Bird

Afternoon we went on a tear cleaning up the place, and as you could see from the video there was much to be done. But, we got a lot of it done. But it probably consumed too much intensity from Dad. Note to self: kids operate at a very different speed than you.

And it finally ended with them watching this movie I got when I was in India in January, a kids movie that was totally done Bollywood style in Hindi with English subtitles. When I bought it I didn’t even conceive that the kids would ask me to read EACH of the subtitles throughout the movie, but after five minutes they quit asking and watched the entire thing, mesmerized, while using Ruby as a pillow.

And at the end of it all I realized how much I had really enjoyed the simple things of life that make it so memorable–and enjoyable. It was, a great weekend. 🙂

Dog Pillow

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Keep on Keepin’ On–From Jerry.

Football and Perseverance

I’m in a blogging rut. Big time. It’s been like two postings in about three weeks. Writing this is an important part of my life, for reasons I don’t fully understand. Successful writing requires consistency. And, right now, my consistency sucks (learned that word reading a Harvard Biz School publication).

It’s not that I don’t have things I’d like to write about.

Topics abound, including…The great experience of Royce making my day by selecting a certain jersey number…A wonderful lesson in leadership that I learned from a cab driver…Another testimonial to tenacity and hard work from a guy who just opened a restaurant…Some observations about motive and parenting–as well as first impressions–I personally experienced while volunteering for the Children’s Museum recently…Even a personal letdown about a goal I had for October (running) that got derailed due to an injury.

So the problem isn’t lack of topics. Yeah, time is an issue. But I choose to make the time for things that are important to me. So, all of us always feel like time as an issue–but if you REALLY want to do something, you’ll find the time to make it happen. Everyone is tight on time.

It’s this motivation issue that I am certain is the key to so many peoples successes and others “failures” (who am I to call someone’s life or shortcoming a failure, apart from my own?). It’s not even that it’s THAT difficult (most things in life aren’t), it’s just that it’s hard to keep going sometimes. It’s easier to diagnose this problem on a smaller scale, like blogging, than something much more substantial.

Yet, I think the drivers and attributes are largely the same for success large and small. For the most part, how someone does everything is how they do anything.

It’s easy to do something when you’re motivated. But even when you have the drive, invariably there comes a period of apathy. Even AFTER you have selected something you’re passionate about.

That period is the magic maker for all of us.

The problem for most of us, is that there are sufficient times we’re not motivated to keep on keepin’ on. It’s why I’m so impressed with people who accomplish successful levels of leadership or difficult activities, such as leadership positions in Direct Selling Companies, or Exec’s in certain companies, marathon or triathlon runners, people who have lost a lot of weight, and on and on. It’s not so much the accomplishment that’s so impressive, it’s the hours and hours and hours of preparation, training, commitment, discipline, and getting after it–especially when you don’t feel like it–that I find so impressive. It’s unusual that people can achieve these things without finding some motivation, sometimes within but often through others. And as I write, one name keeps coming to mind about a man who had such an impact on me years ago.

Jerry Helvey.

He worked at Anderson Unviersity when I played football there. I’m not even sure what he did officially. He seemed to do a little bit of everything–coaching, equipment, field maintenance, teaching.

Unofficially, however, I remember exactly what he did: He kept us going.

Encouraged us. Pushed and carried us. Moved us forward. Sometimes using humor, sometimes sincerity, and sometimes toughness. But he always did the same thing. He kept us moving on towards the goal. Take the next step, take the next step, take the next step.

I wish there were a little secret to success that made it all easy; certainly, there are so many things that involve personal development that can make you a better person, more effective, more efficient. And no question there are better ways to get things done, or some things that are innately impossible that hard work won’t simply solve. But with most goals and objectives you’ll never go against “the law of the farm”, which basically resonates with the reality that hard work and moving forward is the magic maker to the harvest.

I’m sitting here in Seattle working on the laptop at Stumptown and all around me I see people facing choices, and it’s those choices and activities that will help determine their destiny. Particularly during the down periods.

And as I write here, 2,000 miles from my alma mater, and 15-years later, I can still hear his booming voice as he would run through our team while we warmed up during football season, his bellowing voice would call out as if he were saying it to just me “Keep on keepin’ on men. Keep on keepin’ on.”

And, I think I’ll do just that.

No doubts, take Lasix only as prescribed by your doctor. Levitra is one of the best-known medications of all when. What is the most significant info you must study about levitra vs cialis? Most doctors say the effectiveness of Levitra is well documented. Absolutely, a sexual problem refers to a problem during any phase of the sexual response cycle that prevents the individual from experiencing satisfaction from the sexual life. Whilst sex is not vital for good soundness, its doubtless great for anyone. Why it happen? What kinds of professionals treat sexual diseases in men? A common class of antidepressants, which include Zoloft can kill the mood in bedroom.