Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Endure Your Way To Success

I am often asked why I spend so much time training. Perhaps you are one of those that look at my various updates and wonder, wonder why. It is almost impossible for me to explain, but as the saying goes: "if you can't explain it, you don't understand it". I will try to explain.

Honestly, the reasons are many. But this is a vague response and not really an answer. So, I'd like to discuss at this time, why I do it. Why I get up at 4:00 am to exercise. Why I put my body and mind through the rigorous routine (although there's nothing routine about it) that is a marathon or Ironman training.

I do this simply put, because in this I find success. Such that in other arenas I may not be so apt to achieve.  While I may not gain the sort of victory as defined by others' idea of what it should look like, in my mind I find my own kind of triumph.

I started running some ten years ago and shortly thereafter I became a triathlete which brought me to the world of long distance, endurance events. I have completed 14 full marathons, an unimaginable number of half marathons, two 140.6 distance triathlons (one of which had a bonus 4 miles to boot), eight 70.3 distance triathlons and umpteen shorter distance events combined. Therefore I can say with certainty that swimming, cycling and running, does in fact yield a certain level of personal achievement.

Some folks may think or have been lead to believe that this is not reachable to them. They are wrong. Through the sport(s) I have met folks from all walks of life; doctors, lawyers, CEOs, CFOs, Bankers, Managers, Entrepreneurs, Parents, Preachers and Teachers, etc. The level of prosperity that these sports bring is not limited to profession or vocation. Its available for each and everyone, as long as they're willing to go work for it. It will not be handed to you, it will require effort, commitment, perseverance, grit and lots of determination.

This life style gives you purpose and meaning, some sort of happiness and contentment that goes far beyond financial and professional boundaries.

And more importantly, as endurance athletes, we bring this kind of success to our personal and professional life. Let me share with you some ways in which this can happen:

For the purpose of this post, I define an "Endurance Athlete" as a runner, cyclist, swimmer, duathlete or triathlete.

1). Endurance Athletes UNDERSTAND the importance of GOAL SETTING.  Nothing significant is ever achieved without first setting a goal. We set goals all the time. Our workouts are goal oriented; swim this far at this pace, ride this long at this speed, run this distance in this time, etc. Races are based on time goals.

2). Endurance Athletes MEASURE progress. We are obsessed with gadgets. Why? Because they measure stuff, mostly our performance and our progress.

3). Endurance Athletes VALUE time. Ever wonder why we show up to a race on time? Because we can't miss the gun. Some longer distance events have cut-off times. Can you imagine missing the cut-off because you showed up late? Yeah, me neither. I have been trying to turn several business associates of mine into runners, if for nothing else, but for this.

One second can shatter your dreams. One second. Imagine if you will, crossing the finish line at an Ironman distance and the clock reading 17:00:01

4). Endurance Athletes are highly DISCIPLINED. Training for a long distance event requires discipline. Some longer events require months upon months of consistency, sacrifice and effort. All of these hinge upon one characteristic; self-discipline.

5). Endurance Athletes know how to OVERCOME obstacles. Through the years, we have learned, sometimes the hard way, that we will have obstacles we must overcome; injuries and illness, fatigue ~ mental and physical, etc. Through the course of races, we will be faced with many obstacles, we must be and more often than not, are ready to overcome these in order to reach our goal.

6). Endurance Athletes are PATIENT. We value the process. We understand that in order to make things happen we must be patient. Training is a progression of hundreds of events all put together to take us to the finish line. There are no, nor can there be, any shortcuts. Patience is non-negotiable.

7). Endurance Athletes, for the most part, know that competing with others is NOT the most important thing. Competition is healthy and fun. But we must keep it in perspective. Competition cannot be the most important thing. We mostly compete with ourselves. We try to beat our "best" time. We understand that unhealthy competition can lead to jealousy and this can be disastrous for this will eventually divert our efforts and make us do what we otherwise know we shouldn't do. But please don't get me wrong, once the starting gun goes off, it's game time.

8). Endurance Athletes BUILD networks. Look around an endurance athlete and you will find a network of friends. We swim, ride and run together. For miles and hours at a time. Through this interaction, we build relationships, relationships necessary to achieve success.

9). Endurance Athletes know how to BUDGET. We know how to budget our time, our races and our finances. With so many options, we learn to make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck.

10). Endurance Athletes understand the power of LEVERAGE. We truly understand and learn to use the power of teamwork. Very few people can claim that the cross the finish line by themselves. Its almost impossible.

11). Endurance Athletes view failure DIFFERENTLY. We understand that failure is temporary and that in order to succeed, sometimes come up short, and we treat it as such. Of all the races I have done, getting close to 100 of them, I failed to finish once. Although I was devastated at the time, I learned plenty from this experience, lessons that would have gone to the wayside had this not happened to me.

In my professional life, I coach businesses in the art of leadership. I teach skills that relate to most, if not all of the above mentioned characteristics. I teach clients how to apply these to the workplace. Recently I was discussing with one of my clients his interviewing and hiring process and retention strategies, specifically for management positions.

I encouraged him (and this is what prompted me to write this post) to add to the qualification requirements of future candidates that of an "athlete", specifically if possible, an endurance athlete.

Can you imagine having someone in your team that already possesses all the above qualities? Yeah, how amazing would that be?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Age Has Its Advantages

"Competition or No Competition
I'm still busting my butt everyday"

I have never been very competitive. Against others. But that may be changing. I am learning that crossing that finish line in record time has a sweet taste. I have always been competitive against myself. The person I was yesterday with the person I aim to be today, and the person I aspire to be tomorrow.

I have not been known for being a fast runner. Oh heck, I have not been known to be a fast anything. Middle of the pack on my best days, dead last (a few times) on my worst.

But with age come certain advantages. One of them, and the most obvious is that of "experience". Experience of lessons learned. Experience of knowing that if something didn't work, you'd best figure out something different; if you want different, do different.

I have a bucket-full of experience. I have taken a beating at times, and as well as many others I have been knocked down a time or two. But due to resilience or maybe ignorance, I shake if off and try it again, a different way.

For the last three months I have taken a different approach. I have decided to go solo in my training. I will fly without a coach, for the first time in over 8 years, I will not have someone by my side.

Why am I doing this? Not sure, to be totally honest. Will it pay off. Not sure, to be equally honest. It's just something that I have to figure out on my own. Perhaps, halfway through this journey, I will cry uncle and call him back, but this I will have to learn on my own.

I have been feeling awfully good lately. I've had some pretty incredible runs. Some training sessions have been out of this world. More than I had ever expected. When I fell to injury last year, I thought my world came crashing down. Well, it didn't.

On Sunday, March 20, 2016 I set out to run a 10k. Not a big deal (for me) for I have run this distance many a time. Not a big deal, at least not on the surface. But deep down inside I knew what I had to do.

I wanted to test my injury and how much progress I had made. I took the risk of taking a step back. I was willing to do that. I decided upon arriving at the venue, that I would go all out. I would push harder than I had ever pushed. I would see what I had, come hell or high-water, I had to find out.

And I did. I ran that distance faster than I ever had before. I beat my previous best (a PR) by 1:46! My pace per mile was a blistering 8:03. Blistering for me!

And the best news of all... no side effects from the injury. No pain. Still as of this writing, there's no pain.

There's another benefit in our world, that of getting old(er), that of entering into new "age group". The field is somewhat reduced. I say this with tongue in cheek. I guess there comes a time when common sense kicks in and most folks decide that this running thing is no longer for them. As for now, I am not one fo those folks.

For the second time in less than a year, I earned a State Championship as a Senior Grand Master. Last year, it was on the Half Marathon distance, Sunday it was on the 10K distance.

And what are my plans for the foreseeable future? Keep Moving Forward. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time, one more mile, one more lap, one more workout, one more road, one more race. One. More. Time.

"I may walk slowly
But I never walk backward"
 ~ Abraham Lincoln

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Friday, March 18, 2016

The Fire In The Belly

"Only do what's in your heart, 
but do it with ALL your heart"

When I toe the starting line of a race, any race, be it a 5K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, Olympic Distance Triathlon or the Ironman Triathlon (or any race in between) I can't expect to race with "heart" and finish strong, unless I have trained with "heart", unless I have trained my "heart". A very important part of this training includes a constant reminder, and a periodic gut check, as to the real reasons why I do what I do.

This has served me well in every aspect of my life; family, business, personal fitness, etc.

And this is a simple thing to do if you really think about it. You can't fool your heart for your heart knows your true intentions. Toughest part is being honest with yourself.

So, ask yourself this very important question: "WHY do I do what you do?"

And what is this "heart" thing I'm talking about?

It's the Passion; the fire in the belly. It's doing what you do and never feel bored, stagnant or stuck. Doing what you do and constantly feeling excited and inspired.

To keep your fire burning or to rekindle your fire, revisit your goals, your dreams. Constantly, in order to keep them in sight. Write down your vision so you can plainly see the direction you are traveling. Write it down and keep it in plain sight. Review it, update it, improve on it and move towards it. Constantly move towards it.

I have a specific race related goal. I have it written down. I look at it every day. There has been obstacles, but I have worked through them. I realize that there may be more to come, but by keeping my goal in sight (literally in sight) I remain focused and by remaining focused, my belly aches, for you see, my belly is on fire.

I get excited each and every time I get to spend time chasing my dream, my goal. This process has allowed me to live my life with purpose, now pursuing this calling has become as natural to me as, well... breathing.

Is the fire in your belly burning?

Living your life with heart fuels your passion,
 allowing your mission to stay sharp and in focus.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Keep Moving Forward

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity" 

It hasn't been easy. As a matter of fact, it's been anything but. Over the past few years, nine and change to be exact, I have felt somewhat invincible. But as it turns out, I am anything but.

For the first time in a long time, I found myself in unfamiliar territory having to deal with issues in a way I was, again, unfamiliar with.

Let me turn the clock back a bit to help make sense out of this.

I lived my life having to constantly deal with issues I had no answers for. More often than not, back in the day, I would just ignore said issues; let them work out by themselves, and then sulk over unfavorable consequences of such an approach. This seemed to be my modus operandi, I had lived in total complacency, believing that this was my destiny, the way things were supposed to be.

Fast forward to early 2007.

Unbeknownst to me at the moment, events of those days and times took me down a new path. One which I have traveled willingly and enthusiastically since then.

I have previously documented my entrance and participation into the endurance sports arena. I have become a marathoner and a 2X Ironman Triathlon finisher.

Up until late last summer, I had enjoyed my training and racing relatively injury free, other than normal and minor aches and pains that come with the territory, specifically the territory of added years and long training hours and miles, I had never been sidelined for any length of time. This is where the feeling invincible reference comes into play.

Every goal I had set for myself during this time, I met. Many of them scary as heck (who in their right mind swims 2.4 miles in a river?), most seemed unreachable and they were not easy to reach by any means. They required commitment, dedication and perseverance. The loftier the goal, the harder they were, as they should have been.

There's only one more race (still) left in my "must do" list for the time being. So following suit, I began perusing this goal. I set my sights on that finish line and planed for the journey ahead.

The days, weeks, months and miles passed as planned. Until the unthinkable, the one element I never planned for, because after all, I never had to. This one Saturday things didn't feel right, by Sunday I couldn't walk, by Wednesday I was laying on the MRI table and by Friday I had a diagnosis.

My plans were suddenly put on hold, things would not work out, as they had in the past, this time. I went ahead with my scheduled races, all three of them, but failing to accomplish my ultimate goal. This was tough; a hard pill to swallow.

Being the very transparent person that I am, it was also hard for me to keep this to myself. Except for those few friends that inquired, the subject was not discussed. For the most part, I did not want to make excuses for my short comings, I chose to address the issue in private and move on.

After a short thirty day hyatus from running, which allowed the injury to (almost) heal, I have resumed training. I will take a new approach this time. With the help of a very wise wife and daughters, as well as some very caring friends, I have come to realize that I may be an Ironman, but of Iron I'm not made.

I'm not sure where this particular leg of the journey will take me or how long it'll take me to get there. I do know however, that at least for the time being, I must Keep Moving Forward.

"Grandfather says this: In life
there is sadness as well as joy
losing as well as winning,
falling as well as standing,
hungers as well as plenty,
bad as well as good. I do not
say this to make you dispair, but
to teach you that life is a journey
sometimes walked in light and sometimes
walked in shadow.

Grandfather says this: Keep Going!"

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