26 Jul 14

By Randy Pierce

I had gone totally blind and a sudden new challenge–damage to my cerebellum from possible mitochondrial disease–had forced me into a wheelchair for a year already, when my beloved Dog Guide, Ostend, unexpectedly collapsed and died from an undetected cancerous tumor on his heart. It would have been oh so easy to accept that present reality and mire myself in the muck of misery. In many ways, it was tempting. I’m fairly certain if I had done so, I would still be in that wheelchair or worse. So many of the rewarding experiences I have in my life, so much of the good I believe I accomplish often, might have been forever lost.

Tracy Pierce looking fierce in her triathalon goals and always inspiring her husband Randy!

Tracy Pierce looking fierce in her triathalon goals and always inspiring her husband Randy!

Instead, I chose to believe that more might be possible and began exploring how I might make it so. I called every and any doctor willing to discuss my worsening condition who were the best experts in the various challenges I was facing, and I wrote or visited with many. I found experimental procedures and vetted them with friends to build a priority approach. I pleaded with friends for ride schedules to make it all work. There’s a long list of attempts which fortunately led to some incredible successes as well as the setbacks. Success is not a guarantee, but without trying, failure was effectively assured. That’s true well beyond my personal experience there. It’s true for any of us willing to conceive of a goal and reach for it.

Now I’m striving to achieve  so many goals physically and beyond. I want to set myself up for success in all the ways possible and I’m willing to explore any and all reasonable avenues. A great friend and running coach is certainly helping the marathon goals, a great board and staff is helping 2020 Vision Quest, and my own willingness to explore other avenues has helped set me ahead in seeking other goals. Each of us can and, I think, should always consider what we can do to start making those positive steps of healthy choices in our diet, exercise, social interactions, work, and virtually every avenue of our life. We own the choices that will continue to impact our lives and it’s oh so easy to slip into status quo. Be open and curious, and I think the possibilities ahead for you are nearly limitless.

 All that said, I recently began trying ASEA at the encouragement of a friend. It particularly captured their attention due to the mitochondrial implications which are believed to be at root of my physical challenge and which is a target support of ASEA. I suggest any of you curious take a moment to visit the website, watch one or several of the videos, and feel free to ask me any questions about what is involved.

I’m not an expert but I did read enough to feel comfortable in the choice and I have absolutely noticed improvements in my physical recovery and overall health since this began. Each week I track a simple questionnaire, and despite often intense work such as the Double Century and my marathon training, I’m simply feeling better and better. That’s my personal experience that I can share and you can choose whether there’s a potential benefit for you worth the exploration.

Bonus Announcement:

On July 28 I expect to receive 50 Advance copies of “Pet Tales” – A collection of short stories in which Quinn’s story is prominently featured. We will be making them available as much as possible through any of our live appearances. Eventually you will have the means to order your own directly but we are happy to share and celebrate this release even earlier for those with whom we can meet in person. The success of this release will have considerable influence in our approach to a full book of our own. We are excited and think you will be as well when you get to read this wonderful story!


19 Jul 14

By Randy Pierce

Interesting that I’m writing about procrastination as I submit this blog post rather late to my ever cheerful content manager who might not edit out that apologetic flattery!

Have you ever had so much to do that the maelstrom of responsibility creates a paralysis of sorts preventing any progress? I find this particularly true for my creative outlets such as blog writing. This is the infamous writer’s block for which therapy is often simply sitting and making yourself write. Effectively that’s what I’m going to say in the entirety of this post, so cliff note readers please enjoy the free time I am now providing!

I like to consider myself generally strong at building task lists and diving into them immediately. I love to finish projects ahead of schedule and have the bonus time after the completion without the stress or worry of a deadline still hanging over my head.

Thus, it’s when there is sufficient work that I don’t reasonably see the free time at the end that I have my most challenging battles with procrastination. However, I remind myself of the humor of letting procrastination begin with the very concept of procrastination–and I simply put a time schedule and project onto the list and begin work.

My final tactic is to motivate myself with a short allotment of break time for immediately after the completion of any particular project or section. I then have something to which I can use as a tempting reward for just a bit more work. It’s a shorter time as there’s so much more to do, but I find that giving myself this time increases my energy for the next task as well as the final stages of the current. While it tends to work best on things with lower creativity as mentioned, this very blog demonstrates that it still allows us a more personal look into my approaches and real struggles as well.

Thanks for this more playful weekly blog post and I’ll hopefully have a little more dramatic a post next round!


28 Jun 14

Hampton Beach Sunrise

It began as we  celebrated my Mom’s 85th Birthday and discussed some  untypical things she might like to experience. When she mentioned a trip to the ocean Tracy was quick to suggest that June 22, 2014 would be a fine morning to experience a sunrise at Hampton Beach here in New Hampshire. Mom hadn’t seen the beach in 14 years while Autumn perhaps had never experienced it. No matter that this would be the earliest sunrise of the year, we packed into the car and drove east before 4 am.

Even the car ride was powerful as Mom and Tracy took turns describing the dark outline of trees and horizon even as the sky began to lighten and cast an other worldly feeling to the ride. These simple sunrise moments happen every day yet all too often we are sleeping through them or necessarily tending a morning’s pace which doesn’t allow us to bring the beauty into focus.

Reaching the beach we were treated to the artistry of the prior day’s annual Sand Castle competition. I’m told it’s difficult to believe these creations are entirely sand as they are so finely detailed, using variations of color and texture to create their elaborate patterns. Certainly some were more captivating than others but they all created an additional wonder into a morning dedicated to the magic of experience.

A Whimsical woman's head made from sand

Soon it was time to appreciate the full rising of the sun and 50 degrees and breezy made that appreciation a little more chilly than ideal. Still the sky’s vibrant colors continually morphed as the light horizon clouds captures the sun well before it reached our horizon. Vivid pinks, oranges and reds were strewn across the sky brighter and brighter in anticipation of the moment the sun’s first direct rays would reach us. Buildings on a promontory point decorated the view across the small bay and then suddenly everything was bright and seemingly in an instant the full sun was in the sky and climbing it’s way upwards.The sudden nature of that transition stuck with me this morning. Change is so often sudden.

All of this might be enough for a typical blog post but one more experience was in the works. With Autumn in harness we strolled properly past the “No Dogs Allowed” sign and made our way to the sand and the surf. For me there’s such a powerful blend of senses. The cool breeze on my face, the salty sea smell in my nose, the shifting sand beneath my feet and the beautifully soothing sound of the tide’s endless progress back and forth upon the land. As gulls gave their occasional cry Autumn was captivated and took a few suggestions to change her angle away from the birds and towards Tracy, Mom and the water. Suddenly her entire being was captivated by the mystery she was facing. She wanted to walk steadily towards the water and as each subsequent wave surged further forward she would hastily retreat. It was a dance I shared with her as she strolled forward and then leaped backwards again and again. Giving her the freedom to explore and appreciating her wonder as well as the sound of my Mom’s laughter ringing out in response.

The moment was magical and I thought again upon the notion: “Pursuit of Happiness” which somewhere along the way had been taught to me perhaps a bit wiser: “Pursuit *as* Happiness.” It’s the journey and not the destination. It wasn’t the beach, the castles, the sunrise or the ocean which made this day so spectacularly poignant in my mind. It was each of them in their measure as the experience was met and appreciated. It was in the reactions of my family from the youngest, Autumn, through Tracy and to my Mom. Each had aspects which resonated for them and often were shared to bring me into their experience. It was always, however, the individual moments in a string of our own chosen moments. I guess that’s it for me, life is a string of our own chosen moments whenever we are willing and able to just make those choices.


21 Jun 14

By Brent Bell

Randy and Brent ride tandem.

Randy and Brent ride tandem.

Randy and I are planning on riding a double century (over 200 miles) Friday, June 27th, 2014.

The “century” or 100-mile bike ride, is the cycling equivalent of the marathon. It’s a ride many serious cyclists have on their bicycling bucket list. When you go beyond the marathon in running, you find a small group of ultra endurance runs of 50 or even 100 miles. In the cycling world when you go beyond the century, you have the Randonneurs: cyclists who will ride distances from 100k up to 1200k in a specific time limit.

Randy and I are working our way into this long distance cycling culture by trying out a few of the New England Randonneur events (100k & 200k), but for our 300k we are going to complete a ride special in my life. We are riding from Nashua to Lebanon on early Friday morning on the 27th (2am start) and hoping to return to Randy’s home around 7pm. The time limit for a Randonneur 300k is 20 hours.

This ride is special to me because in the 1970s I completed a Lebanon to Litchfield (Nashua border town) to Lebanon ride. I thought of this ride as a way to see a good friend who spent her weekends in Litchfield, but the ride became a “Brent against the world” event. No one thought I could ride such a distance.

Randy and Brent with the Randonneurs.

Randy and Brent with the Randonneurs.

The ride had a tremendous positive effect on realizing my potential. As I entered high school a shy and nervous boy, I often drew upon my knowledge of how I succeeded on the ride as a boost in my confidence. I credit the ride with all my success in geometry my freshman year, as I learned to be tenacious from a long bicycle ride.  The ride helped to propel me forward when times were tough.

Now that I am turning 50, I have been thinking about repeating this ride, wanting to visit the person who suffered his way home from Litchfield 37 years ago. I am happy to have my dear friend Randy to help me.

Why share this  with 2020 Vision Quest? The core message of 2020 is about human potential. Potential is realized by moving through challenges. Randy shares a positive and inspirational message, but I know he wants everyone to experience the human potential inside of each of us. As my mom so wisely challenged me, can you find the inspiration to walk across the reality between where you find yourself today and where you dream of being tomorrow (just to clarify, we will be biking through the reality).

Randy and I spoke a lot about biking on a tandem as we have spent time together over the years. We have been dreaming of longer and longer bike rides, and this is a test to help us see our potential.

On June 27th, think of us. We will be laughing, smiling, suffering, enduring, and living a full life.  I hope we learn about human potential, which could be a lesson in failure, patience, or success. All I am sure about is we will not want to sit on a bike seat for a long time. Wish us well and consider following along as we share updates through the 2020 vision Quest Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets during our epic quest.

Our route on June 27.

Our route on June 27.


14 Jun 14

By Randy Pierce and Erin DesMarais

Randy with Quinn at Peak Potential 2013

Randy and the Mighty Quinn at Peak Potential 2013.

Randy here. I’d like to announce our Fifth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction!

Save the Date: November 22, 2014

Or better still, purchase your ticket or table now.

This event has developed into an incredible experience and our signature event. It is our single largest fundraiser which enables us to undertake the incredible work we do as an organization. I believe we’ve made several decisions to improve the event and now we need all of you to continue your incredible support which has made Peak Potential and 2020 Vision Quest so successful.

Rather than me telling you all of the ways this event may be even better, let me introduce you to Erin DesMarais, a good friend and the new volunteer coordinator determined to continue and even advance the great work started by Rachel Morris, creator of Peak Potential. Erin no doubt will want to share some of the big news for our event!

We had a sold-out crowd last year!

We had a sold-out crowd last year!

Hi everyone! This is Erin, and I am honored that Randy and the 2020 Vision Quest team allowed me to take on the task of driving the planning efforts for Peak Potential this year. I have known Randy for almost a decade, and I have always been inspired by his positive attitude and refusal to let something as insignificant as lack of sight get in his way. To me, Peak Potential is a celebration of the pioneering spirit that Randy encourages in every single person he meets. I hope you will consider joining us this November to be part of this celebration.

Beautiful art at Peak Potential 2013 silent auction

Beautiful art at Peak Potential 2013 silent auction.

The Peak Potential team has already begun to collect auction items that are the central feature of this event. Last year we had spirited live and silent auctions at the event, which we plan to continue as it generated some fantastic activity. We look forward to posting all the amazing items donated by local individuals and businesses on Facebook for you all to preview before the event. As always, if you or a connection of yours might be interested in donating to our auction, we would love to hear from you! Email Sarah at sarah@2020visionquest.org.

Tribute picture of Quinn

Our tribute picture of Quinn was one of our most popular auction items in 2013.

We hope to sell out dinner tickets once again this year, as well as bring in new partner sponsors, and host a fantastic party for you all. After listening to your feedback in the post-event surveys, we’ve decided to forego the live music this year in favor of providing more opportunities and more space for social interaction. We also look forward to generating even more funding for our charities: the NH Association for the Blind and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. These organizations do so much for the vision-impaired community in the northeast, and without them Randy’s life may have been very different. In honor of Randy, the 2020 Vision Quest team, and everyone who has supported Peak Potential through the years, I am going to put my all towards making this year’s event a success.

Welcome, Awesome Autumn!

Welcome, Awesome Autumn!

As Randy mentioned, tickets are now on sale here. This brand new event website has all the event details and will showcase our partner sponsors and auction items as we get closer to November 22nd. Tables of 8 are just $500 until September 1 – get some friends together and make a night of it!

Bonus: this will be the Peak Potential debut of Autumn, Randy’s newest guide and my close, personal friend! OK, we’ve only spent one afternoon together, so “close, personal friend” might be an exaggeration, but I think she’s awesome.

I hope you will join us! You are welcome to contact me at erin@2020visionquest.org with any questions or comments.



7 Jun 14

By Randy Pierce

Goalball players

The Swedish goalball team at the 2004 Athens Paralympic games. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I was approached earlier this year by a group of blind athletes from Southern Maine who participate in a sport called “Goalball,” a sport designed specifically for blind athletes. I’d met several members of the Southern Maine Goalball Association (SMGA) at the New England Visually Impaired Ski Festival (NEVI). They told me how saddened they were at the loss of Quinn and what a positive inspiration he had been to them through his dedication and perseverance. He showed them a little belief and much hard work can bring any peak within reach. They inquired if I’d be comfortable with their holding a Goalball event in his honor and of course I was far more than accepting; I was inspired, moved, and appreciative.

The Mighty Quinn Memorial Goalball Challenge
Tuesday, June 10th 5 PM to 7 PM
South Portland Community Center Gymnasium
21 Nelson Road
South Portland, ME (Free parking in lot at front of facility)

The Maine Mystix vs. the Maine Squids

Admission: Free though donations for the SMGA welcomed and encouraged

“This game is in memory of the mighty Quinn who reminds us that we can climb any peak we want if we keep trying.”– Randy Blanchard, SGMA 

Organizing a blind team has many challenges and frustrations, yet this group is learning to persevere and develop skills necessary to ensure their ability to continue to pursue their goal (literally!) Here is an opportunity to watch a fun competition and honor the Mighty Quinn and his lessons, while perhaps demonstrating support such people and organizations deserve.

I’m hopeful to attend and see some of you there as Autumn and I root on the players! I’m most hopeful everyone involved continue to celebrate the positive message and impact of one remarkable dog. Quinn was himself a fierce competitor and I know how very fitting a tribute this will be!


31 May 14

By Randy Pierce

A very common question in my world is, “When is Autumn going to hike?” The answer is far clearer after a tremendous experience with the mighty Mt. Agamenticus! We have been steadily developing our teamwork and understanding of each other in the conventional Dog Guide work. I’m well aware of some of the challenging parts of work for her as well as the strengths; conversely, I haven’t been entirely convinced of her awareness of my limitations and challenges. That all changed on Tuesday, May 20.

Randy and Autumn hike up a rocky trail.

Randy and Autumn start out on the rocky trail.

I arrived bristling with eager anticipation at the trailhead for Mt. Agamenticus with Laura Mountain and Autumn. We would be returning to hike with students from nearby Marshwood Middle School in the afternoon and it was time to understand what worked and what didn’t work for us as a team. Placing the harness on Autumn immediately begins the transformation to a higher focus; she’s still an energetic and occasionally distracted young pup with excellent confidence. As we started upon the Ring Trail we stepped up to our first rocky step challenge and she strode a bit more boldly than I might prefer. While I could manage it, I decided to stop her and rework her. I thought it would be worthwhile to emphasize her need to pay attention fully to the tricky aspects of my finding my step.

Autumn and Randy hike down the trail.

Autumn and Randy pick up the pace.

Her confidence extended to my ability to stride as well apparently. Stepping back and asking her go forward led to an excellent “approach, slow, and pause” for the footing while I tapped out my awareness of it with my foot. We resumed and I noticed a shift in her stride in the harness. Moments later she angled and paused beautifully for more challenging steps and also kept the confidence to work through it with me after my acknowledgement of her alert. This repeated many times as the challenges became more significant.

My smile grew and Laura and I began to talk about the intensity of her watching the trail, my steps and the best angle of approach. She made choice after choice that simply demonstrated she understood the challenge for me in getting my feet around a tricky trail. She was independent enough to ignore the route Laura sometimes took, and each time for the right seeming reasons. My smile burst forth and yet showcased only  the barest hint of the jubilation I felt inside. Autumn understood my needs on a trail, and far faster than I might have ever anticipated or even hoped. Cautiously adjusting her body to clear me of each obstacle, slowing and holding her balance to manage the angled descents, she was ever aware of when we could stride confidently and when we must step cautiously. It was as if she had reached an epiphany with my need for her and not just a system of rules we were trying to follow. It was simply beautiful!

Success for Randy and Autumn!

Success for Randy and Autumn!

Laura and I began to celebrate the experience together and she captured many photos and videos of the invigorating process. Laura’s sight and description helped ensure I fully understood the great work from Autumn. My confidence blossomed and Autumn’s enjoyment and confidence never wavered. We hiked up and down the mountain with and without students that day. Better still, Autumn has taken this confidence and new awareness to the rest of our work together. I certainly believe the many lessons learned over miles and years with Quinn helped me to understand my role better as well. I have high confidence that as we increase the hiking opportunities slowly yet steadily, Autumn will continue to learn and respond with the eager enthusiasm which was the hallmark of our first hike. It’s ironic to me that for all the presentations I provide with an emphasis on “Believing in Possibility,” I had somehow allowed a bit more doubt than is usual or appropriate. It’s a wonderful reminder to me that Autumn has many lessons to share with me in the miles and years ahead!


24 May 14

By Randy Pierce

I cannot give blood as the nature of my medical condition prevents the Red Cross from using it. However, I can and will join my fellow Hudson Lions and the Red Cross by giving my full support to their upcoming blood drive:

Red CrossThursday, May 29
1:00 – 6:00 pm

White Birch
222 Central St.
Hudson, NH 03051

I am working the full event and would very much appreciate as many of you as possible joining us. The White Birch provides some great food in appreciation for those who are choosing to literally save lives through the donation. Autumn is giving free licks to many of you as well. Won’t you help where I cannot and make this important decision?

It’s a fairly young event and as such process times will be fairly quick. With the online registration options, you can minimize any delays.

Click here to make an online appointment
Or call them directly at: 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

There are so many powerful reasons to give blood and yet the sad reality is although an estimated 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, less than 10% actually do make this choice. Will you? There are so many facts available to show the importance and I urge you to explore the Red Cross website.

More than 41,000 units of blood are needed every day in the US. Meeting this need is only is possible through donations from people like you. I’m once again proud of my club for helping to make this possible, proud of the White Birch for supporting the cause, and extremely grateful to all of the Red Cross efforts to ensure so many of us have had our lives or the lives of loved ones saved because of their efforts. As I said I cannot give blood but I’ll dedicate my time and encourage you to help where I cannot. Give blood at this event if possible or a blood drive near to you. Become a regular donor and know the difference you make in our world! I’ll be at this event to thank each and every one of you personally!


10 May 14

By Randy Pierce

Mount Kilimanjaro is the is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is the highest stand alone mountain in the world. It is the tallest mountain in Africa and achieving its summit will be our quest. We are seeking the Peak Potential of Mt. Kilimanjaro! Three members of the 2020 Vision Quest team have chosen to join The “2015 Wild Heart – No Limits Kilimanjaro Expedition” in September of 2015.

Rob and Randy hike Mt. Jefferson. Photo courtesy of Greg Neault.

Rob and Randy hike Mt. Jefferson. Photo courtesy of Greg Neault.

There will be many future discussions as we are joining a team with a mission similar to our own, but this is a time for announcements and  celebrations as we establish the foundation work for success. When Michael and Serenity Coyne approached me with the opportunity, I was tremendously honored and knew there were many questions to answer and problems to consider before commitment. All of those have been addressed with enough comfort for us to give an enthusiastic yes to this opportunity!

I wanted two capable companions familiar with the challenges presented by my hiking with absolutely no vision–in long-time friends Rob Webber and Jose Acevedo I have that and so much more. In the future profiles of our many companions from the expedition, we hope to showcase a very inspirational team each with inspirational stories to help power the journey. We look forward to sharing our planning, training and support over the next 16 months leading into our adventure!

Jose Avecedo and Randy on a peak. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

Jose Acevedo and Randy on a peak. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

I want to be very clear that this incredible expedition, as with all of the adventures we’ve undertaken in the past, receives absolutely none of the charity funds we raise for 2020 Vision Quest. We fund our own adventures and share them with the 2020 Vision Quest community for our enjoyment and in part as a testament to the Ability Awareness we suggest as we all reach for our Peak Potential, literal and figurative.

We believe our efforts should in all ways enhance the mission of 2020 Vision Quest and that our worthy message should indeed resonate around the world!


10 May 14


Quinn joyously approaches the finish guiding a weary Randy in Boston’s BAA 5k in 2013.

We strongly encourage everyone to read a powerful and very different perspective of this event as written by Thor, Randy’s Guide for the Marathon!


As my Dog Guide, the Mighty Quinn, led me across the finish line of the BAA 5K in April of 2013, I was inspired to make the Boston Marathon 2014 one of my next goals. The positive and powerful community response to the tragic events of that Boston marathon enhanced my desire significantly. Yet when Bone Cancer was discovered in Guiding Eyes Quinn’s body there was no question in my heart or mind that I would set aside my running goals and the hours of training to achieve them to lovingly tend my beautiful boy who had brought me to such incredible heights. Along with reaching the summit of all 48 of the 4000 foot mountain peaks in NH, Quinn also guided my way back to running. Tragically, Quinn ran out of time on January 20, 2014. As a result, I decided to dedicate the following year’s running to him: #Miles4Quinn. Effectively from the BAA 5K on April 19 until the Boston Marathon in 2015 every step run will be in his honor. Boston, the Superbowl of Road Races, is most important for me to run in his honor.

Determined to qualify as soon as possible, I set my totally blind ‘sights’ upon the Cox-Providence Marathon on 5/4/2014. Yet when the schedule shifted in mid-March and my new Dog Guide, Autumn, began her training with me I realized a significant setback was likely for my run training. Exclusive time spent in training with Autumn would be followed by critical, time demanding bonding and work with her to the general exclusion of long runs.

Winter weather and the loss of my primary running Guide/partner, Quinn, resulted with me running near exclusively on a treadmill. With so many possible human guides gearing up for and then recovering from the April Boston Marathon, my options were reduced further still. Specifically longer runs outside were severely lacking and there was cause to question whether I could or should run my first Marathon under these conditions.

I knew how important it was for me to give Quinn my very best of efforts. I knew also that my life challenges and accomplishments had built up significant determination and perseverance particularly for endurance events. I knew one very valuable bit of additional information which would work to my favor, Thor Kirleis, had volunteered to bring his considerable Marathon experience to work as my Human Guide. Though we had met just once for a 10 mile training run the week before the marathon, we both felt confident in our ability to communicate and work well together. Qualifying for Boston was our primary goal and he knew more than I did how very challenging that would likely prove given the factors working against us. He somehow also knew we both thrived on giving our utmost towards facing challenges with every bit of gritty determination possible.

With no vision my feet must quickly react to every angle, bump or twist in the pavement . My human Guide may steer us around many obstacles when possible or warn me to help the mental preparation as my foot strikes the pavement but each of those turns causes a body adjustment to the turn through the rigid tether we use to link us while we run. Each turn is a mental concentration to evaluate and adjust while working many very different muscles than the treadmill requires. Even the necessary interaction of weaving and communicating with other runners requires adjustments to running which also takes a toll beyond much of the basic training I’d managed in advance of this race. So as we began with our field of runners I placed my trust in Thor’s ability to sustain the high focus, awareness, communication and running condition necessary for our success. He did not disappoint.

The first few miles passed at a comfortable pace with the excitement of the experience sustaining many playful conversations. My breathing was relaxed, the muscle movements felt smooth and fluid while my mental concentration sustained at a naturally high level. Early surprise greetings from various friends on and off the course helped bolster promising spirits highlighted by my wife Tracy and the wagging wonder of my Dog Guide Autumn!

As we passed the 10 mile mark, matching our prior run together, Thor had steadily been coaching me and indirectly many around us on some simple long run techniques. This included things such as using short stride for best handling running up hills.  Our guiding terminology had reached peak efficiency and small challenges of interacting with the course had become well enough understood that we were easing my fairly natural, blind tendency to  over emphasize each turn, experience post turn wobble and most importantly give attention to all of the ground obstacles. Thor’s mind seems to always be analyzing and problem solving, a trait I aspire towards as well. I quickly noted that he began to enhance subtle use of the “rigid tether’ (simply a short version of the white cane used by many blind people) such that he could more smoothly guide me through turns, into slow downs or lane shifts. In this the work became easier. The overall work was starting to show upon me in other ways however.

My blindness is believed to be caused by a Mitochondrial Disease. My optic nerves are dead. Along with this  loss is a damage to my Cerebellum, the balance center of the brain, and my peripheral nervous system, the sensation in my hands and feet specifically. Having adapted to this for several years the immediate challenge is often not in my conscious thought. As physical weariness increases, food and water reserves decrease and winds begin to increase; all of these difficulties seem to rise to the forefront of my awareness. I took the time to reflect upon the reality I was confined to a wheelchair less than ten years prior to this race. My gels for nutrition weren’t settling well in my stomach, a sign my heart rate was probably a little too high for proper digestion.

Thor recognized my introspections, the impact of all these factors on my breathing and stride. He encouraged me to consider many of the aspects of support we had discussed in advance. The incredible community of encouragement who had wished us well. I also began to mentally and emotionally lean upon the supportive comments of our fellow runners, attempting to return the support as best possible. I was quite struck by the courtesies extended constantly along our route. The comfortable miles behind us, I felt the increase of effort needed as we passed the 15 mile marker. Passing that point I was beyond my longest outdoor run. As Thor had predicted my body was already tapping reserves normally built with more depth through training. Muscles were sore, breathing was a bit more shallow and mental fatigue was growing at a time when willpower and determination were going to be my primary means to push forward. At this point the wind intensified as we ran along the ocean. It caught us front and left side. It slowed and buffeted me into many staggered strides. I was already reaching deep for mental reserves to push through and Thor had wisely begun to encourage me to ease our pace, and even walk some of the up hill portions. I recalled Thor telling me that if we could make mile 20 we would find the way to get the last 6.2 miles. I set my target on mile 18 where I expected to hear Tracy and Autumn for the final time. We pulled over there for a Tracy hug and Autumn lick. I was deeply emotional but their support supplied me with more resolve. I needed 2 more miles for Thor’s suggestion to become true.

I gave all my will towards running as long as I could. It seemed to me those times grew increasingly shorter as I requested to walk a stretch or had Thor suggest it from my physical reactions to the effort. Always I’d ask to run as quickly as I felt it and when that 20th mile was crossed I promised him I’d run every time he asked me to do such. I knew at this point I would cross the finish line. I was fairly certain it was going to be painful and amongst the most difficult challenges I’d undertaken. it seemed we might had enough time to achieve our Boston Qualifying time as well. That seeming, however, was based on my normal ability to run 6.2 miles and now I was in a hybrid run-walk cycle. It was hard for me to accept the need to walk for a little recharge but my body was making it clear to me. All the while Thor encouraged, distracted, coached and most importantly guided me along our route. Thor was ever attentive, patiently sharing my frequent requests for distance and timing updates as they were part of the motivation and drive I was using to test the limits of my body. When my thigh muscles began to spasm and seize we poured more Gatorade into me and when my hydration pack was empty he shared his with me while we kept running…or walking…or if necessary I suspect crawling. It never quite reached that point and the final miles grew closer with familiar terrain as we returned to the route we’d run more than 20 miles earlier that morning. The supportive crowds on corners grew larger and louder. Thor used them as distraction for me. My ankles were probably the most painful from the many readjustments to the terrain but all of the aches and pains are managed by our mind. The thing about any endurance experience is we get a really deep look inside ourselves. In this instance I have no doubt I was baring all of the thoughts, hopes, beliefs, weaknesses  and strengths to Thor as well. He took them all in stride after stride as he glided beside and slightly ahead of me. My brain was a little sluggish and my reactions followed suit as he called out the timing of high steps, turns and the eternal New England Potholes! Focus on his voice…Run…listen…walk…focus…run…ignore the pain…walk…listen, drink, breathe and repeat all of those in as organized a fashion as my mind allowed amidst the chaos of emotion, exhaustion, pain and love for Quinn. He was never far from my mind but the last stretch Thor too reminded me why I was doing this.

I hope to never feel time diminish the love and devotion I felt both for and from Quinn. My life is so vastly different from what it might have been in large part because of the bond we built. Our life can be so full of powerful bonds. Bonds with family, friends, community. Bonds with our pets, our fellow participants on any journey. Bonds with those we teach and guide at times and certainly with those who guide and teach us. My bond with Thor was built on an incredible foundation over those 26.2 miles we were completing. My Bond with Quinn was forged over most of his entire, though all too brief, 9 years of life. Each buoyed my spirit and strengthened my resolve to push myself through the challenges of the goal I had set. I crossed the finish line with Tracy and Autumn running beside us as Thor and I triumphantly thrust our arms into the air. The euphoria of the accomplishment made me stronger than most of the final grueling 6 miles which I barely recalled. I was filled with pride for the human spirit which could move Thor to have made this choice and embraced our teamwork to such tests of will. I felt Quinn with me so strongly, guiding my spirit with the love and care he had used to guide me physically in life. It doesn’t matter to me whether it was a spiritual presence or the intensity of my returned love for him which drove me to such a powerful feeling. Love, in all of it’s wonderful forms, is enough spiritual presence for me to understand, appreciate and embrace for the gift of strength it bestows upon me.

Randy and Thor finishing The Cox Providence Marathon 5/4/14

Randy and Thor finishing The Cox Providence Marathon on 5/4/14

The Marathon complete, the Qualifier obtained and my confidence in my determination tested; I am resolved to ensure all of the proper training necessary to continue on my path towards the goal. This year will have many races, many training runs and will culminate with my running the Boston Marathon in Quinn’s honor in April of 2015. I hope to ensure it is a testament to the training and progress possible. I hope it is a celebration of all the steps of the  many journeys shared. I’m sure it will be an entirely different experience through and through. For now and always I have the knowledge that May 4, 2014 was an excellent day to undertake a worthy challenge, rise to meet the challenge and be thankful for every aspect necessary to do such. This day, this race that means most particularly to the Guides. Thor, my friend, I hope you understand the most deep meaning of this compliment. I ran in honor of Quinn and felt the kindred nature of my two Guides who crossed the finish with me.



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