Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Race

Successful methods of motivation and the behavior that it inspires are as varied as the personalities we all possess. But there are some lessons that seem to have a universal inspirational affect.

Of all the stories I've read, and I've real a lot, "The Race" by D.H. Groberg, has made an indelible impact. It teaches us one of life's greatest lessons.

They all lined up so full of hope,
each thought to win the race,
Or tie for first, or if not that,
at least take second place.

And fathers watched from off the side,
each cheering for his son;
And each boy hoped to show his dad
that he would be the one.

The whistle blew, and off they went,
young hearts and hopes afire,
To win, to be the hero there
was each young boy's desire.

And one boy in particular
whose dad was in the crowd,
Was running in the lead and thought,
my dad will be so proud.

But as they sped down the field
across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win,
lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself,
his hands flew out in brace,
and mid the laughter of the crowd,
he fell flat on his face.

So down he fell and with him hope,
he couldn't win, not now;
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished
to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up,
and showed his anxious face;
Which to the boy so clearly said;
get up and win the race.

He quickly rose, no damage done,
behind a bit, that's all;
And ran with all his might and mind
to make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself,
to catch up, to win.
His mind went faster than his legs,
he slipped and fell again.

He wished then he had quit before,
with only one disgrace;
I'm hopeless as a runner now,
I shouldn't try to race.

But in the laughing crowd he searched,
and found his father's face,
That steady look that said again,
get up and win the race.

So up he jumped to try again,
ten yards behind the last;
If I'm going to gain those yards
I've gotta move real fast.

Exerting everything he had,
he regained eight or ten;
But trying so hard to catch the lead
he slipped and fell again.

Defeat; he lay there silently,
a tear dropped from his eye;
There's no sense in running anymore
three strikes I'm out, why try.

The will to rise had disappeared
all hope had fled away;
So far behind, so error prone
I'll never go all the way.

I've lost - so what's the use he thought,
I'll live with my disgrace;
But then he thought about his dad
who soon he'd have to face.

Get up - an echo sounded low,
get up and take your place;
you were not meant for failure here,
get up and win the race.

With borrowed will, get up, it said,
you haven't lost at all;
For winning is no more than this,
to rise each time you fall.

So up he rose to run once more,
and new commit;
He resolved that win or lose the race,
at least he wouldn't quit.

Three times he'd fallen, stumbling,
three times he rose again;
Now he gave it all he had,
and ran as though to win.

They cheered the winning runner
as he crossed the finish line first place;
Head high and proud and happy,
no failing, no falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster
crossed the line last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer,
for finishing the race.

And even though he came in last
with head bowed low unproud,
You would have thought he won the race
to listen to the crowd.

And to his dad, he sadly said,
I didn't do so well;
To me you won, his father said,
for you rose each time you fell.

And now when things seem dark
and hard and different to face,
the memory of that little boy
helps me in my race.

For all of life is like that race
with ups and downs and all,
And all you have to do to win,
Is rise each time you fall.

So, each time you trip and fall,
"Get Up and Win That Race"

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

About Motivation And A Bit Of Inspiration

Since the beginning of my blog a few years back, it has been my motivation to share and help others reach their own individual goals, through examples of what can be accomplished if you just manage to stay focused, all the while reaching my own and learning through the process.

I have pushed myself, physically and mentally, far beyond any limits I thought I had, I have worked through it all in ways I never thought I was capable of. And no, I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. The process has required a lot of digging down and pushing myself way beyond a perceived comfort zone.

What is motivation? The process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. In other words, how we do what we do.

From personal experience, I have defined fifteen ways to stay motivated. I'd like to share that with you...

1. Set a Goal. You have to know what you want, you have to know where you're going. Without this information, you cannot plot your course. As Lewis Carroll said: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there."

2. Make sure your goal is a SMART goal. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Specific). Much has been written about this, for a reason. This is a must. your goal must be as Specific as possible. "I will run a Half Marathon in December 2016". You have to be able to measure, not only your final accomplishment, but your progress along the way. Break down the goal in small bites you can wrap your arms around. "I will run a 5k by September 2016. I will run a 10k by October 2016. I will run a 15k by November 2016". Is this goal of yours something you can see yourself "really" Achieving? or this is this more of the "it sure would be nice if I could do this" type of thing? And along those lines, is what you're asking yourself to do, Realistic? Do you have the time required to train for such a goal? Can you run the miles needed to train your body to reach this goal? Would it be better for you to change the Time to a more realistic future time? I use the example of running a half marathon but this can be adapted to any and all goals. Always state your goal in a "I will" format.

3. This goal has to be YOUR OWN goal, and you have to have a clear and concise (brief but comprehensive) reason as to "why" you're doing this. While in the process of working towards your goal, you will need to remember your "why". This will help you push through those tough times when you need a little extra motivation. If you chose a goal because it's something that someone else has either convinced you to do, or something someone else expects you to do, it will not work.

4. Hang Around Friends with Similar Goals. Most people love encouragement. You will find this in large quantities if you hang around a circle of friends that share a similar vision and goals as you do. You will encourage each other, you will push each other through tough times and you will totally enjoy the journey together. Find a pal. Or two. Be warned, however... Your goals and that of your pals may change as you go along. You may find that your mission is now different than that of those around you. Don't be afraid to find new pals. I'm not telling you to dump the old ones, just telling you to adapt.

5. Follow Blogs that Relate to your Goals. The blogsphere is full of folks willing to share their experiences. If you need advise as to the process, there's plenty. If you need help with motivation, there's lots out there. Whatever you're looking for, there's someone out there writing about it. Better yet, start your own blog as my friend Alison did, "runningmama2016". A couple of others I would recommend are written by good friends as well... Scott's "Running, Rants and Randomness" and Alan's "Alan's Training Blog". You cannot help but get inspired and motivated by any or all of these three.

6. Follow a Plan. But be very flexible. An airplane leaving from New York en-route to Los Angeles does have a course heading that it follows, but on the average, said airplane will actually be off course 95% of its flight. The success of the flight hinges on the ability of the pilot and the airplane's computers to get back on course each and every time its deviates.

7. Keep Journals and Track Progress. What gets measured gets improved. If you don't keep track of how you're doing, you will not know how you're doing. Pretty simple but point is so missed by many. I love to write. What I post on my blog is less than 20% of what I write. I not only journal my training and racing progress (public), but I journal my mental progress as well (private). This has also been tremendously helpful in my professional life. I journal lots.

8. Take Compliments and used them for Inspiration. And learn to be complimentary as well. When someone, anyone, notices your progress and takes the time to mention it, be thankful. I have found one of my biggest motivators is to be very complimentary. But your compliments must be sincere. Don't compliment just to compliment and in hopes to get a compliment back. These are meaningless and soon they will lose all value. Compliments from the heart are priceless.

9. Accept that 90% of your success depends on your mindset. "If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, then you can achieve it." No one succeeds by accident. You first have to believe; believe in yourself, believe in your mission, believe in your "why".

10. Feed your mind with Inspiration and Motivation Daily. Every motivational guru tells you this: "You are, or you will become, what goes into your mind." It doesn't take much. Again, change your habits. What do you listen to while in the car? I for one, listen to books on Audible. No, not all the time, but most of the time. I also have Sirius XM and refuse to listen to "talk radio" or "News Channels" or any station that has any kind of "commentary". 100% music, and as my grandson likes to say: "Papa has music from last century in his car" or "how come your music doesn't have any words?"

11. Remove all (or as much as possible) negativity from your world. Impossible! you say. This WILL require a lot of work and perseverance, but it IS possible. Identify those issues that seem to steer you down the wrong path. This includes negative people; they will suck the living daylight out of you.  I have very little tolerance for negativity. I have no use for it. I will give someone a very short leash. Very, very short. The pity train does not come through here. Brutal and Harsh? Maybe. But Oh so very effective.

13. Never Compare Your Goals to that of Others.Everyone is traveling a different journey. Sure, some of you may have similar goals as your peer, but everyone's path to success is different. One of the great motivation killers is to compare your progress to that of others. You have no idea where they are, where they've been or where they're going. Stay on point with your progress, encourage others to work on theirs and be inspired but not deflated by what others do, or don't do. My goals are not any bigger, any loftier or any more impressive than yours. My goals are mine for where I am. Yours are yours for where you are.

13. Tell Yourself every single day that "you got this". Once again and at the risk of being redundant and repetitive... You will not get what you want if you don't honestly believe you can. If in doubt, repeat after me: "I got this."

14. Work Hard Everyday. Do at least ONE thing that will get you closer to your goal. Wake up tomorrow and ask yourself: "What can I do today to get me ONE step closer to my goal?". A young man was asked to move a mountain from one location to another. Not overwhelmed by the size of the task he started moving rocks. Each day he moved just one. Slowly he began to see progress. The original mountain was becoming smaller, the new mountain was becoming bigger. Before he knew it, his task was complete. So, what can you do today to get you closer to your goal?

15. Never, Never, Never, EVER Give Up. Most of our goals are not reached because we quit. Often we quit right before we reach our goal. You never know how close you are.

Please realize that nothing you do, no steps you take, no plans or goals you aspire to achieve, will ever have a chance unless you first accept full responsibility for yourself and for everything that happens to you. There's no magic pill, no knight in shining armor. No one will come to your rescue. Only those that work hard will be rewarded. There are issues and challenges in everyone's life, and here's some more brutal honesty: There are excuses and there are results. Which one are you working on?

So, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and on track? Do you have any simple tricks that perhaps you'd like to share? Please leave them in the comments below.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Longest Mile

I came into Saturday's race with very high expectations, yet I was expecting nothing. I had five goals in place, but I know this is a very tough course, so these goals were set just to have goals, because as you know, you have to have goals.

I am a creature of habits, I have routines and I deviate little from them. Especially on race days.

Woke up at 4:01 am. This is also a habit. Spent some quiet, alone time while getting dressed, just to start processing the upcoming half marathon.

Along with my wife Monica, who was also running this race, we were off at 4:41am. It would be about a two hour drive. We arrived at 6:48.

The Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, TN in my estimate, is one of the toughest half marathons around, it boasts, again in my opinion, the longest mile of any race in our neck of the woods. This would be my fourth year. Apparently I have very short pain memory. Last year my time was 2:01:26. My first goal this year would be to beat this time.

I have not kept count of how many half marathons I've ran. Too many to remember. A sub-2 hour finish time has been achieved only a handful of times; twice, maybe three times. My second goal was to run sub-2. On this course, it would be a stretch.

I'm in the 60-64 age group. This race draws its lion's share of fast old guys. Last year I came in 9th out of 20. Middle of the pack, average for me. Goal number three was to improve in this.

I would go in holding a personal best, a PR if you will, of 1:57:51. Goal number four would be the biggest one of all. A new PR.

Each of the last three years, regardless of how much "hill" training I had done, I found myself walking up some of "whiskey hill". Goal five would be the toughest, I thought. To make it all the way without walking. This one worried me the most.

The day was a bit chilly but sunny. Perfect running weather. A field of 1293 (finishers) stepped up to the line and at gun time, the temperature had just reached 50ºF. There was no wind. There were no clouds.

I staged myself at the back side of the 9:00/mile group. Not sure why, but that's where I landed. As it turned out, it was perfect, well... almost. The first couple of miles I found myself weaving through the crowd. My pace was faster than I wanted it to be, but since I warmed up before the race, I knew I would be okay. Once we approached mile 3, this is where the field began to thin out. This is where the road begins to rise, en-route to mile 4 and the infamous "Whiskey Hill".

At the top of the hill I remember thinking how grateful and blessed I am for having a strong heart, or rather how I was glad it didn't fail me half way up. It didn't take long for my heart rate to get back to a normal (because 180 is not normal) and for me to re-find my happy pace.

The rest of the race was smooth. I kept a very constant pace, something I have been working on very diligently lately. It paid off big time.

Goal No. 1 ~ Finish Time: 1:54:24 is 7:02 faster than last year. Check.
Goal No. 2 ~ Finish sub-2 hrs. Check.
Goal No. 3 ~ 6th out of 29 in Age Group. Two place improvement in a field 30% larger. Check.
Goal No. 4 ~ Finish time equals new PR. Check
Goal No. 5 ~ Conquered "Whiskey Hill" (no walking). Check.

Next on my schedule is the ADPi triathlon. It is a short distance, sprint triathlon. It will be my first tri in over 18 months. The expectation builds. After that I have a date with Ragnar Tennessee and the the Hillbilly Half Marathon (formerly The Franklin Half). There are a couple of other races on my radar, but nothing has been cemented yet. Well, except of course The Marine Corps Marathon.

Biggest challenge facing me going forward is to remain true to my training. I cannot allow progress to be hindered by wide eyes and unnecessary pushing.

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