22 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

“Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans” – John Lennon

Guard House at Machu Picchu.

Guard House at Machu Picchu. On to new adventures!

Recently our focus has been upon the Boston Marathon and while this blog is written in response to it, the concepts are far broader for me. I finished the race in 5 hours and 3 minutes which was longer than I anticipated. It would be so easy to be frustrated and I admit to having endured a little more of that emotion than I would have preferred along the route. Most of the reason for any disappointment is due to expectations which simply didn’t account for all the events which took place to result in our race day experience.

So very often in our many journeys we hope to inflict our plans and our will upon the world and the influence we create can indeed be significant. Yet, when a host of additional factors are introduced, we should be prepared to adapt and adjust our approach as well as our expectations. This simple choice can ensure our ability to celebrate and savor appropriately all aspects of a situation despite any challenges or misdirection involved. Often, if we simply may change our mindset, we become open to the gifts and rewards present in those changes.

I did not anticipate or expect my life would include a journey to blindness. Initially I balked and resisted the journey with a range of approaches from denial, evasion, and even depression. Now, when I reflect upon my life’s journey, I certainly acknowledge that I would welcome my sight but still delight in the blindness for the lessons and gifts it has brought into my life have helped bring me to people and places I likely would not have experienced without the gifts my loss of sight brought to my life. Hard as that may be for some to believe, it took my personal acceptance and adaptation to realize that along with the detriments and real challenges came a wealth of benefits as well.

So when I reflect in my Marathon journey, there are many things about the day going differently which could have and did bring about frustration. I wish I’d have adjusted my mindset more quickly to appreciate some of the gifts. I’ll share just two of them here as evidence to my feeling.

Rebecca and Randy running in the Boston Marathon

Rebecca and Randy running strong! Photo courtesy of MA Association for the Blind.

A strategic error on my part caused the work of my first guide Rebecca to be tremendously more challenging for most of the first 13 miles and thus even made the final 5 of her 18 guiding miles more challenging. At the transition point we intended to just switch guides and go but we took a full stop for a moment to share and appreciate the work we’d just accomplished together. It was amongst the hardest 18 miles of guiding anyone had ever had to undertake and my pride of her and appreciation for her as a guide and as a friend was simply overflowing. That emotion sustains still and likely will for all time as a gift she gave me and as an achievement we earned together.

The second is similar in potency but vastly different in need. The circumstances of the race with collisions and falls had taken a toll on me. I have significant balance issues which once placed me in a wheelchair and which, when put under too much duress of the wrong type, can impact me tremendously.

Randy and Tom running along the Marathon route.

Randy and Tom working hard. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jordan.

This was the state in which Tom roughly took over his guiding and as my vertigo began to ramp up beyond control, it was not possible for me to run in the normal rigid tether approach that we use. Tom was still recovering from being unwell, meaning barely over his own pneumonia! And what I needed was his sturdy shoulder for support as well as his run guidance. This was like no run we’d ever shared together. He was a rock and adapted, encouraged, supported and helped guide me, not just to the finish but to the celebration the accomplishment deserved despite my desire to be frustrated and disappointed and yes overly apologetic! My gift this day was to celebrate the race in a totally different way and better still to celebrate my finish with finer friends than even when we had begun the journey!

Thank you Rebecca and Tom! So perhaps when you are next facing change, frustration or disappointment you’ll remember John Lennon’s quote and more quickly find your way to see the gifts a better vision provides us all if we only learn to look.

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15 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Pete have a strong start to the Boston Marathon.

Randy and Pete in the Boston Marathon 2015.

Runners exalt the marathon as a public test of private will, when months or years of solitary training, early mornings, lost weekends, rain and pain mature into triumph or surrender. That’s one reason the race-day crowds matter, the friends who come to cheer and stomp and flap their signs and push the runners on.

- Nancy Gibbs

Boston Marathon 2017

Randy’s Bib Number: 25048
Wave 4
Corral 2
Approximate Start Time: 11:15 a.m.
Approximate Finish: 3:15 p.m.

 

See the course map here.

I say it is the journey more than the destination, and this time is no different. Monday, April 17, 2017 is the 120th Boston Marathon and my third consecutive opportunity to savor the experience of the historic course. I have been dedicated to all aspects of my training and preparation leading into the marathon.

I invite all of you to join our Table Sprint Challenge, our a goal of selling 26 tables to Peak Potential prior to my finishing the 26 miles of the race. Read more about it here and buy your tickets here

Rebecca, Tom and I will now give our best effort on the course and the results will be shared here and on our 2020 Vision Quest Facebook page for those wanting to keep track of our progress. It will include the results of the Table Sprint Challenge which has already been tremendously successful as mile by mile I’m reminded  of my good fortune in such an incredible community.

Please feel free to share any Marathon-related information in the comments. As Nancy Gibbs said so well in the quote above, on the final day when the work is put on public display it is each bit of support which helps carry our spirit past the most difficult moments. #BostonStrong

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8 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy invites you to help us reach out goal!

Randy invites you to help us reach out goal!

If you are already fully versed on the Peak Potential Table Sprint Challenge and just want to join the team – Get Started Here!

Running the Boston Marathon is both a challenge and an experience I savor personally. The most meaningful and valuable work in my life is what I pursue through the strides of the 2020 Vision Quest charity. This year I’m combining these experiences somewhat by inviting you to be part of them both.

As Boston is the signature marathon in the world, our Peak Potential Dinner and Auction is the signature event whereby our charity is able to continue the successful work each year.

While the event itself is on November 18, 2017, we begin our ticket sales on April 10 with a goal of selling 26 tables prior to my traversing the 26 miles to the finish of the race. This would effectively ensure a sell-out of our event and as you might guess will be motivating me mile by mile.

I honestly thought the goal was as difficult as all the training in New England winter, and yet the early responses from many friends suggest we may indeed have a chance to reach this incredible goal. To help encourage our success we are offering a table of 8 at our lowest discounted rate of $500 from the start of ticket sales until I cross the finish line. We’ll accept your commitment, registration, and promise of a check or online payments as well as welcome any motivational message or image you may wish to send along with your table reservation.

You see, we’ll be announcing mile by mile one table reservation at a time on our website blog and social media to appreciate and celebrate our community and to help motivate me as I’m working my way along the historic 26.2 mile route from Hopkinton to Boston.

So just to review: you’ll be signing up to enjoy a tremendous evening on November 18 at the Courtyard by Marriott in Nashua, NH. You will be helping to support the worthy mission of 2020 Vision Quest and our highly acclaimed educational programs to schools throughout New England. Finally you’ll be motivating me and inspiring me as I’m striving to run the 120th Boston Marathon on April 17, Patriots Day of course!

So once again: Let’s Get Started Here!

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1 Apr 17

By Randy Pierce

Rebecca and Tom guiding Randy for a runToday, I’m proud to officially announce the team of which I’m a part in this journey to my third Boston Marathon Finish. The tricky part is there are so many teams coming together to make this all possible, so I’ll start with my guides.

As a totally blind runner my Marathon more than most involves teamwork. Foremost on that team are the guides who will accompany me on the day of the Marathon. Two friends who have become running guides as well over the last year were my choice for whom I wanted to share the miles from Hopkinton to Boston. Happily for me they both felt similarly about the challenge and choice to guide me for those historic miles.

Rebecca Dorr will join me in Wave 4 Corral 2 at roughly 11:15 a.m. for the start of the journey. Roughly half way through she’ll hand off the responsibility to Tom Cassetty, who gets the pleasure of the infamous Newton hills and the reward of the famous finish.

Along the way we’ll have the company of another runner, Jennifer Hagstrom, who qualified on her own but will run with us to lend support and savor the experience with us. A remarkable aspect of the choice of these guides is the sacrifice they choose to put extra focus on the terrain and necessary interactions to guide me, in addition to their own running needs and appreciation of the epic event around us. I would not be able to run as I do without such kind and capable friends who have well earned far more than my trust.

Thank you to all those who ever guide me and particularly those through the difficult winter training for Boston (Rick, Matt, Agnes, Carolina, Mark, Rob, Anthony, Rodney, Tom, Rebecca).

Thank you, Bank of New Hampshire!

The 2020 Vision Quest Team is often behind me providing support and encouragement. This year the Peak Potential team has joined forces with our Table Sprint Challenge which will officially start on Monday, April 10. We’ve made a partnership once again with the Bank of NH and I’m proud to wear their shirt for the Marathon this year. Their continued dedication to community and our mission within the community demonstrates to me the care which underlies their approach to all of their work. They are once again the Event Sponsor for our signature event on November 18.

Rebecca and Tom guiding Randy for a run, Marathon training in the early morning, view from the back I’m also excited to announce  we have just finished an incredible motivational poster for students and school as part of our dedication to building better foundations through education together!

I’m banking on success well beyond the Boston Marathon thanks to the partnership with Bank of NH. We hope many of you will be part of our team and join in on the Table Sprint Challenge starting next Monday, right here on our 2020 Vision Quest blog.

One final partner at the core of the Boston Marathon for me and for many like me is “Team with a Vision.” The Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired founded Team with a Vision to bring together Blind/VI athletes from all over the world. They form a team of runners, guides, and support which help demonstrate ability awareness while using inclusiveness and collaboration to achieve incredible results for many communities. The Boston Marathon’s dedication to inclusiveness helps support many charitable efforts through  bib access for donations.

As a qualified runner, I’m fortunate Team with a Vision chooses to continue including me and several others in their overall mission so that we help to share their great work as part of their team as well. We’ll begin our day surrounded by Team with a Vision in Hopkinton and end the day sharing their vision still of a world which celebrates the accomplishments of every person on that course, not for any disability they may possess, but rather for all the ability they demonstrate through hard work, problem solving, and perseverance–but most of all, for learning to come together and work as a team because people learning to work together ultimately leads to the best victories of all!

T.E.A.M. – Together Everyone Achieves More

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25 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

Christopher and Randy posing proudly in their Mission Possible T-shirts after recording an episode of Christopher's popular podcast showOne of the many joys of the path I attempt to follow involves the incredible people and stories I find along the way. In this case Christopher and his Mom Christine found our 2020 Vision Quest charity back in 2012. We were hiking  Mt. Uncanoonuc with some students from Trinity High School as part of their community service efforts.

Like me, Christopher is completely blind. I was gifted with his determination to experience the trail as we hiked together on that day so many years ago. At the summit, he shared with all of us his incredible singing talents. Along the trail, as is so often the case, we shared the start of a friendship.

Six years later and he’s still an an incredible inspiration. I was appreciative of his request to join him on his “Mission Possible Podcast.”

You can find my sessions with him here and here.

I hope you’ll visit his archives not just to hear the shows we shared but to hear all of the fun pieces he’s put together. At just 15 years old, Christopher faces many challenges and we are like minded in many ways for putting the focus on what we can do: possibility not impossibility.

Christopher working at his microphoneListening to him manage the recording studio with the technological ease and confidence of an adult professional was remarkable. My only reminder he was doing it totally blind was listening to the high speed chatter of Jaws in the headsets as he managed it all seamlessly throughout the recording.

His shows are 10 minutes in length and he had to manage the overall timing, develop his questions and work my often lengthy answers into the time frame of his show. He worked the edit process into our time shared while pausing as necessary to reset our efforts. We had our separate conversation off the microphones as well as on the recording while he managed the technology, his guest, and the over-arching plan. I was impressed and enjoyed myself in part for the process and in part to see how far I feel this remarkable young man has come on his journey. I encourage everyone, myself included, to reach for and achieve our peak potential. I don’t have to encourage Christopher as he already has that spirit in himself, in his family and in his community.

Seeing all this already ensured my day with Christopher was a success for me and I can only hope he found some value in our time as well.

Randy and Christopher recordingI know Christopher is renowned for performing the National Anthem for many major venues including the Boston Red Sox. I know he’s produced a couple of music CDs and that his faith is very important to him as part of his mission. I was not surprised when talking with him to learn that he’s starting to frame his future in ways that combines his talents and his beliefs with an eye/ear towards the radio world. My own future plans changed so many times from 15 years onward and still changes today.

I think once again Christopher and I have a similar mindset which will allow him to pursue his goals and dreams with a passion and a purpose determined to say to the world my “Mission is Possible” and you are welcome to be a part of it because sharing belief is at the heart of bringing people together for a better world.

Once again I encourage you to visit his show and listen to us or his many other shows to appreciate what’s ahead for us in this young man.

Listen to the Mission Possible Archives

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18 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

An early picture of Autumn, Randy's Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

An early picture of Autumn, Randy’s Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

Autumn’s joyous exuberance was evident as she bounded into me on our first meeting on March 16, 2014. Her affectionate, loving approach won my heart immediately but she had some legendary paws to fill in the working world.

I was determined to keep an open mind and remove expectations to let our working relationship develop based upon the skills and qualities each of us brought to the team under the supervision of Guiding Eyes Trainer Chrissie Vetrano. I had some success in this approach as I had transitioned from Ostend to Quinn and understood the benefits of being open minded to the strengths and challenges which each of us bring to any partnership.

I was not without a little baggage of my own I needed to address for the journey. It wasn’t entirely seamless out in the working world and that’s why we have trainers and the guide school support system to help us manage the many possible challenges and ensure we have the skills and tools to work through the difficult days in a steadily improving fashion. Autumn wanted to please me and I wanted my special little girl to succeed with me as well.

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn on a mountainside, one big happy family!

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn on a mountainside, one big happy family!

Three years later I’m amazed at how far we’ve come. I’ve learned to understand her body language to tell when her exuberance is driving her more than her thinking and she’s learned to realize when I’m allowing myself to be a little distracted and need a little correction to her warnings for me. Yes, we both still make some mistakes on our journey but we’ve built an understanding of when we are smooth together, when we are challenged and how to address it so we can do the necessary work even amidst challenge.

Better still, the challenging days are the rarity and the smooth days are so very common. I step out of my home with confidence each day and harness her expecting and receiving the freedom and independence which is such a part of a dog guide team. She gives me hours back each day in the efficiency with which we can do our tasks. Using my cane I find walking to the bus stop is 15 minutes normally, 30 minutes on trash day and “just stay home” on trash and recycle day.

Autumn looking bashful

“Stop, dad, you’re embarrassing me!”

Working with Autumn it is a five minute relaxed and mentally free stroll. She strides eagerly ahead of me and slightly to my left watching for the obstacles and trying to determine which destination is next for us. I try to keep her guessing a little and reflect that it is not just the hours she gives me back each day but the quality of the hours improved by spending my time with her.

So as I celebrate my third year with my wonderful Black and Tan Labrador Retriever, I realize we are in the sweet spot. Our bond is complete and deep, our skills have come to a great understanding, and our eagerness to adventure together is buoyed by our mutual (ahem) youthful approach to the world. I love her work, I love the impact of her work on my life, I love her impact upon my life and so it is not surprisingly how completely and proudly I love my Autumn. Thank you for three wonderful years and I look forward hopefully and eagerly to many more ahead!

Autumn lies on top of Randy, pinning him to the floor.

Autumn’s love and exuberance bowls us over!

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11 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

The quintessential 2020 Vision Quest image with Quinn guiding Randy up the steep, snowy, craggy summit of Mt. Monroe. Quinn’s golden muzzle basks majestically against the blue sky background illuminated by the sunshine while he patiently pauses for Randy, one hand on the harness, one hand on the snow as he struggles up the final slope to the summit!

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Monroe.

“Success comes to those who have an entire mountain of gold that they continually mine, not those who find one nugget and try to live on it for fifty years.”
– John C. Maxwell

The White Mountains of NH are aptly named in winter, but for me they are the gold which has inspired me beyond my expectations when I founded 2020 Vision Quest with the help of some incredible friends.

Throughout this winter of 2016-2017, I especially chose to relive some of the many marvels which comprised the epic single season winter summit of the 48 peaks rising over 4,000 feet. It was only five years ago this was accomplished and yet it seems a lifetime as it was one of many dramatic turning points in my life and worthy of this deeper examination.

When Quinn guided me onto the trail at Mt. Tecumseh on December 22, 2011, I had already learned many skills and techniques for hiking totally blind on our rather rugged trails. I had only a taste of what winter brings to the trails and mountains but I had a supportive collection of friends and a determination to give my best to learning, planning, and persevering through all reasonable challenges.

The large team of hikers supporting Randy on his final hike of that epic single winter quest. The stark and beautiful Lafayette ridge is in the background as the group poses on the summit of East Cannon, just one quarter mile from the final summit!

Randy and the team on Cannon

When I stepped off the trail after our March 10, 2012 summit of Cannon Mountain, I was bursting with pride for the team of friends, for the magnificent and Mighty Quinn and for the the treasures found along the trails and at the summits of these majestic mountains. I was a different person and while still completely without any sight, I had expanded my vision to see even more possibility ahead for myself, this Charity and the friends with whom I had connected so well.

Sharing stories around camps and campfires I doubt I would ever run short of worthy moments just from this winter and certainly I’ve shared some along the journey of this year. It is the expanded horizon of possibility which is the gold from which I draw strength then, now and doubtless onward into my future challenges. Whether pushing over the finish line of a National Marathon Championship, stepping through the Uguru gate at the rooftop of Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, or even the Tough Mudder Leap of Faith out to the trapeze and on to ring the bell, these mountains helped clear my vision and connect me to a foundation of trust in my team and myself.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Garfield in the snow with a Patriots Santa hat.

Randy and Quinn on Mt. Garfield.

Before this winter I was, I like to think, a man who found comfort in the transition from a sighted world to one of total blindness. I found ways to appreciate my world, challenge myself and live meaningfully. I did not fully appreciate how much kind attention the accomplishment would receive and some of that is no doubt due to the incredible film created by Dina Sylvester, Four More Feet. Despite celebrating each five-year hiking anniversary this winter culminating in the quest completion, I do not and hope never to rest on the nugget of gold in that accomplishment.

I certainly do recall the challenges, the problem solving, the laughter, struggles and, oh yes, some moments of pain, but mostly the jubilant feeling of accomplishment. Those remind me some methodology but moreso inspire the passion to experience them all again, not in memory but in new accomplishments.

Mountains are synonymous with challenge and it is the lack of challenge which leads to the stagnation I hope to always avoid. The White Mountains of NH are my “forever mountains” and will motivate me to many more things. The Single Winter success of March 10 2012 finalized those feelings within me but it was the miles and miles of the journey in which my transformation forged the passion which will power me in the days ahead.

Randy and Quinn on the Summit of Mt. Garfield in the snow.

Taking shelter at the snowy summit of Mt. Garfield.

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4 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

As Chairman of the Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, I have been actively and passionately dedicated to ensuring their best ability to effectively meet the ever growing needs of the sight-challenged. I help to direct the vision of the organization in positive ways and one of those paths brought President and CEO David Morgan to his position just over one year ago. He has helped inspire and guide the branding change which  I personally believe is vital to the organization’s success and, more importantly, the success of thousands of people who have been artificially limited to some extent by a naming convention.

I’ll allow David’s excellent announcement to stand below as a guest blog as well as on the redesigned website for Future In Sight which I encourage you to visit. I do want to address the word blind candidly and comfortably in advance. The organization will continue to provide excellent support, education, and advocacy for the blind and  visually impaired as before. There is no apprehension in use of the word “blind.” We have learned that the wrong timing of that word’s introduction to someone who is experiencing sight loss often inhibits their acceptance of needed services and even can impact a caring medical eye professional from choosing to refer to an organization with that name due to the strong emotional results commonly experienced.

We want to ensure we can welcome these thousands of people to receiving their needed services, education, and support while also providing the same high quality blindness services and advocacy proven over 100 years of valued Charity Service here in Concord NH. That said, I leave you with David’s excellent words below.

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR: WELCOME TO FUTURE IN SIGHT

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

WRITTEN BY DAVID MORGAN

After 105 years of working to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people in our state, today is a new day.

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind will now be known as Future In Sight. We are so proud to announce our name change, and we believe that Future In Sight more accurately represents our clientele since 93 percent of our clients are visually impaired – not blind – and our geographic scope extends to states bordering New Hampshire. Our name aims to capture the optimism and hopefulness of new technologies, therapies, and programs that are always on the horizon to enhance the quality of life for our clients.

YA Gunstock kidrunning Article

Providing education, rehabilitation, and support services is about helping individuals build core skills in school or in their home, and helping them engage their world socially. We accomplish this through a multitude of programs that include recreation, peer support, and technology. We help individuals live and thrive with sight loss! Our new brand must be unique and memorable and reflect this new hope we bring to thousands who need our help, and we believe Future In Sight does just that.

Since 1912, we have continuously improved our offerings to the community so this is just one more step in that direction. Last year alone, we began working with infants and toddlers for the first time since we were founded; we doubled our education staff; and we started offering recreational activities to help clients lead their best lives.

There are more than 30,000 people with visual impairments in the state of New Hampshire, so we know we can be reaching many more clients who need, and would thrive with, our services in rural corners, inside our cities, and along the borders. Our name needs to be more inclusive and reflect the full range of services we provide to babies, children, adults, and seniors around our state and beyond. Our name also needs to resonate with a range of our partners and referral networks, which includes schools, eye doctors, primary care physicians, donors, the Veterans Administration, the state of New Hampshire, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

So, after many months of hard work and collaboration with Proportion Design, members of our staff, our Board, and our community, exhaustive research into our history, our mission, and our hopes and aspirations for the future, we developed this new name and a logo that better reflect the amazing organization we are becoming. We look forward to this fresh chapter as Future In Sight and continue to help clients live fulfilling, independent lives!

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26 Feb 17

Alex posing with Randy and Autumn at schoolOn June 3rd our team is coming together for the Walk for Sight and after a few years of being distracted by marathons and more we are striving to make this year truly special. Speaking of special, Alex is a remarkable young woman who joined our team two years ago and has been inspirational to me in her approach to life and support of our efforts. With her family’s consent I’ve invited her to be our Captain this year and she’s been making suggestions on how to make our team come together in fun ways for the experience and I’m counting on our great community to help me support her in this effort. So let’s take a quick peak into what I mean!

There is no need to wait you can, (and should?!) join our team right now.

For only $20 ($5 for children) you can join our team for the short 3k walk through downtown Concord and back to the McGreal Sight Center for a barbeque but there is so much more reason to join with us:

The funds we raise help us and the NH Association for the Blind continue both of our great missions!

We are building fun 2020 team prizes for our top online fund raisers  all along the way to inspire you to start helping us raise money early! (You can even suggest some of these from a presentation by Randy, to a post walk ice bucket delivery upon Randy! And many things in between!)

Our top overall fund raiser will receive two complimentary tickets at Randy and Tracy’s Table for the Peak Potential Dinner on November 18!

We value team and hope to get our team going and growing starting today.

Now if you can’t walk you could sign up to be part of the team and join us to support our walkers on the day. You could choose to sponsor a particular walker by going to the team page and picking a deserving walker such as our Captin Alex! You could even choose to share our blog announcement and help us to grow the community n that way because we are proud of our mission and think it’s worth the time to help us share the work we do and this easy way for people to be part of the team which makes the work of 2020 Vision Quest possible!

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19 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

With snowstorms hammering New England in the last week, our readers may have been a little distracted and missed last week’s important message. We wanted to re-share it this week with a plea to help us spread the news far and wide.

Randy and Autumn amidst the heavy snow banks pose with the traditional "we want your help" pointing gesture.

“We want YOU to help us with our goal!”

I am attempting to give you all a little notice as I ask you to consider helping me reach for a daunting goal.

On Monday, April 10, I’ll release a blog with some exciting news about the  event sponsor for our signature event, Peak Potential Dinner & Auction held every November. In celebration of that announcement and my week of preparation leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 17 (Patriots Day of course!), we will be kicking off the ticket sales for our November 18 event on that day as well.

It is the earliest we’ve begun sales for our event and the timing is key to my stretch goal. While we sell tickets individually, in pairs, and by tables of 8, the most common purchase and best value is the table sale.

What is my goal? To sell 1 table for each mile of the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon which I’ll be running during that week… Read more.

 

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