Archives - October, 2014



27 Oct 14

By Randy Pierce

“I find it hugely inspiring to meet and run alongside other people who are on their vision loss journey. Together, we can help educate and change public perception of what people who are visually impaired are capable of.”

– Richard Hunter

While it’s a little anti-climactic to come off my Bay State Marathon “failure” at mile 23+ (when my missing bag of nutrition, which had fallen out at mile one, finally caught up with me), this only serves to highlight some of the additional challenges faced as a blind athlete. I’m all the more proud and dedicated to the next six weeks to prepare for another marathon on the opposite coast, and this time it will be with a host of incredible blind and visually impaired athletes joining together at the California International Marathon on December 7.

The USABA National Marathon Championships, sponsored by VSP Vision Care, runs in conjunction with the California International Marathon on December 7, 2014.  Since the CIM adopted the Visually Impaired Division in 2007, participation of visually impaired and blind runners has steadily grown from 2 to more than 30 participants. Runners travel from across the United States and from other nations. Participants include blinded veterans, paralympic athletes, world champions, and many novice runners just beginning their athletic careers. Each athlete has a compelling and unique story of their own, and together are able to inspire, educate, and change the public’s perception of vision loss.

I invite you to explore the list of athletes and their incredible stories hosted on the United States Association of Blind Athletes site.

I’m often described as competitive and certainly believe there’s much truth to those words. I hope my drive and perseverance are tempered with the ability to appreciate many aspects of any experience. My goal for Bay State had been a sub-4-hour marathon and I was still solidly on track when the incident took place. My goal for C.I.M. is different despite the many athletes sharing similar challenges to my own.

Due in part to the proximity of my last marathon and to the desire to share this epic marathon experience with my good friend, Jose Acevedo, my goal is for we novice marathoners to stay comfortably within ourselves and finish with a better time than both of our first marathons. He set his goal and long training process specifically to be my Guide for this race and I’m honored, touched, and enthused to share the experience with him. Any marathon will challenge a person to dig deeply within themselves and as we run this as a team, it will provide times when we both have to encourage and support the other.

Success has to be earned for every possible goal in such races and I intend to grow my foundation of ability and preparation continually, perhaps someday ready to challenge more competitively at such an event. For now I hope to celebrate our success, our friendship, the event, and a host of incredible athletes sighted and less so who will make this experience part of what life is about!

Randy and Jose on Mount Carrigain. Photo courtesy of Jose Acevedo.

Randy and Jose on Mount Carrigain. Photo courtesy of Jose Acevedo.

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18 Oct 14

By Randy Pierce

“It is sometimes a mistake to climb; it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt. If you do not climb, you will not fall. This is true. But is it that bad to fail, that hard to fall?”
-Neil Gaiman

I am both excited and nervous for the opportunity to provide a TEDX talk on November 15 in Manchester, NH.

Split picture featuring Randy hanging from the monkey bars at the Tough Mudder next to a picture of Randy giving a presentation.

Randy seeks to achieve physical and mental heights, and now he takes on another challenge–a TEDx talk! 

I have presented hundreds of times at this point and strongly believe in the many messages which are comfortable and natural parts of my presentations. TED talks are the Superbowl of presentations and could provide a tremendous benefit to the largest audience yet as well as for our 2020 Vision Quest Charity. So while I know full well I could fall flat, I also know very well how high I might climb with this opportunity.

So perhaps you may help us in many ways by suggesting or sharing your favorite TED talks, by sharing the news of the event, and, presuming I do not fall entirely flat on my face!, share our TEDX video as far and wide as possible once it is available online.

What is a TED talk?
While their history began in 1984, they have really flourished tremendously in the last decade or so. Curator Chris Anderson holds to the TED mission, sustaining the inspired format, the breadth of content, and the commitment to seek out the most interesting people on Earth and let them communicate their passion with a worldwide audience.

There are several forms of the TED talk and TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community. Being nominated is a tremendous honor and being selected is both an opportunity and a responsibility. The theme of this TEDX event is “Connection,” which I believes resonates very well with the basics of our typical presentation theme: “Reaching Our Peak Potential” I have been and will remain hard at work tending the connections to our theme and building the roughly 12-minute journey for the audience. As part of that journey, I’m listening to many other presenters to feel their style and delivery as well as gaining the benefit their content delivers.

I entreat any and all to take some time and watch a TEDX or TED presentation. Perhaps share your favorite with all of us here that we may all benefit from the experience and to help build momentum as we work towards our opportunity on November 15. I then hope many of you will watch the live broadcast and as appropriate to your experience, share it with as many people and places as possible. In the meanwhile I’ll be turning to you for some encouragement on presentations you found worth sharing. Whether I reach new heights or not is yet to be seen, but I always believe in making the climb!

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11 Oct 14

By Randy Pierce

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.”

– John Hanc, running writer

They say fewer than 1% of all runners will ever run a marathon. I wonder how many fewer will ever run one totally blind? I know of a few and ran my own back on May 4, 2014 though admittedly with very poor preparation as retold in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Randy and Thor crossing the finish line at the Cox Providence Marathon, May 2014

Randy and Thor crossing the finish line at the Cox Providence Marathon, May 2014

“If you feel bad at 10 miles, you’re in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you’re normal. If you don’t feel bad at 26 miles, you’re abnormal.”

– Rob de Castella, winner 1983 World Marathon Championships

At 8 a.m. on October 19, I will begin to run the Bay State marathon in Lowell, MA. This time with considerable attention to proper training and preparation thanks in large part to the knowledge, wisdom, experience, coaching, guiding, and friendship of Greg Hallerman. As hard as it was to run the last marathon, it was much more difficult to consistently attend to the many details necessary for successful training, particularly as a blind runner.

The vast majority of my run training needed to be outside and for that I needed enough people willing to sacrifice their time and effort to meet and run with me despite my transportation limitations. I was incredibly fortunate in so many runners undertaking this over the course of the past months. Thank you to: Greg H., Thor, Matt, Mary, Ron D., Andre, Kris, Christine, Robin, Laura, Greg N., Rob W., Meredith, Pete, Ron A., Nick, Scott, Chris, Austin, Rob C. and even Autumn for a little rail trail work.

This doesn’t include the hours of support on many fronts by my incredible wife Tracy who is in the midst of her own extensive training. Both Nashua’s Gate City Striders and the Greater Lowell Road Runners are running clubs who also lent support to the cause along with dozens of friends sharing information and helping ensure I could have enough guide opportunities.

I ran four days each week and as my training progress pace and distance became more tuned to my training and more difficult for finding guides. A guide needs to be strong enough to manage all the same work I’m trying to undertake while keeping enough mental concentration for us to be safe and of course there are often learning curves which bump and bruise the body along the way. I ran in snow, rain, heat, cold, darkness (hey, the guides do need to see!), hills, rural roads, traffic laden streets, rural areas, parks, rail trails, and virtually anything and everything possible. I occasionally defaulted to the “dreadmill” but very rarely due to the kindness and generosity of so many excellent people. I did interval work, hard pace runs, and race pace runs as speed and conditioning grew steadily. I practiced on the course I’ll run and I pushed myself to meet every challenge my coach and mentor suggested. Better still I pursued every opportunity he suggested to me as well.

Randy finishes the Hollis Fast 5k.

Randy finishes the Hollis Fast 5k.

I wore out a pair of running shoes and have three more pairs rotating for better longevity. I practiced with many types of equipment from fuel belts and camel backs through body glides and nutritional sources. Testing them on short runs first and again on long runs. I supplemented run training with a healthier weight goal, better dietary considerations overall, losing nearly 20 pounds. I strengthened my core with “Iso Abs” and even hot yoga classes!

A lot of time and effort went into this on my part and my life was changed significantly as a result of the commitment required–commitment I firmly believe will pay dividends in the Bay State marathon and beyond.

“The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.”

–Hal Higdon, running writer and coach

We used a modified version of Hal Higdon’s marathon training program. October 19, I’ll run my first marathon with proper preparation but I’ll follow it with a trip to Sacramento, California on December 7 to run the California International Marathon. I’ll continue to enhance my training over the long New England winter to be ready for the crown jewel of my marathon goals, the 2015 Boston Marathon.

It will be my fourth marathon within a year and the work will become the foundation for many future running goals. I doubt many years will ever see as many marathons for me again but I do hope to continue with running as a significant part of my world. I’m competitive and driven in many ways and yet the key for me is to experience the rich depth of opportunities within our world. I hope to continually relish the experiences personally and perhaps to some extent demonstrate for all of us that the goals which are important to us are worth the grit and perseverance necessary to reach.

Randy and Quinn at the Boston Athletic Association 5k, April 2014.

Randy and Quinn at the Boston Athletic Association 5k, April 2014.

The most meaningful of all my experiences have always required the most determination and effort to achieve. There are rarely shortcuts around the hard work required but the essential steps are easy as ABC or perhaps by my backward ABC for any accomplishment important enough to any of us:

C – Conceive
B – Believe
A – Achieve

My initial goal was to run the Boston marathon in honor of the Mighty Quinn. There’s so much more to that story and some has already been expressed. Quinn helped me to walk, taught me to run, and showed me the way to reach some incredible heights. Bay State is just one step of many on the path of my pursuit of dreams and goals. Still it’s a powerful one and whether you are part of logging miles for the Mighty Quinn or simply a fellow believer in possibility, I hope you’ll spare a thought for my wonderful boy and for me as I put my trust in the tether and follow Ron and Meredith through the course and to a celebration of Ability Awareness for myself and for many others involved in making this reality.

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4 Oct 14

By Randy Pierce

I have a bias, I admit, but I was surprised that Quinn didn’t at least merit honorable mention in the ACE Awards for Canine Excellence. Though without question there are some great and worthy stories both atop the awards and on the nomination room floor. After all, which of us doesn’t believe our dog or pet is the greatest? I think in part we feel that way because they spend their lives treating us as if WE are the greatest and it is so very difficult to not feel similarly towards them.

Take a “gander” and see why Gander took the top honors at this year’s Service Dog Category for the AKC Award for Canine Excellence.

Or maybe you want to learn why Gander’s Facebook page has nearly a quarter of a million followers!

“Let me be the person my dog thinks I am” – Anonymous

The truth is that Gander, Boomer, Bruno, Xander, and many other listed pups certainly deserve their accolades and credit to the AKC for honoring them. I know Modi, Ostend, Quinn, and Autumn all deserve the highest accolades I could ever give each of them, guiltless for my well deserved bias. I also know some remarkable pups by story or meeting such as Brutus, Salty, Conan, Maggie, Lady, Kiri, and a near endless list of others who have touched the lives of their humans and beyond.

Many teach us some essential skills in managing our own lives as we tend to over-complicate what they masterfully keep simple. In honor of all the dogs who have lifted my spirits, taught me lessons, and/or done similarly in the lives of all of you, I encourage you all to share on our blog a line or two about a cherished pet and why they earned your appreciative accolade for their excellence. I’ll start it off and end this blog with my own:

Puppy: Yes, Puppy Dog was on the scene when I arrived. She tolerated all of my youth and most importantly to love a dog

Tippy: She was my first “my dog” as a kid and she showed me the magic of life with her puppy litters and the many playful moments of them and her. She trusted me with her pups and I marvel at that love and trust now.

Modi: My first adult dog who patiently guided me to learn how to be a deserving partner to his love, loyalty, and devotion.

Ostend: My first Dog Guide and the last sight I ever saw in this world. My graceful charmer who lifted me through my darkest hours.

Quinn: He gave me so very much. He taught me to walk again, to run, and to reach heights I’d never imagined. Unrivaled devotion, determination, and perseverance are not nearly enough to do justice to his legend.

Autumn: Boundless, joyful affection and an earnest eager start that is so full of promise…

How about it? Any of you care to share a line or two in honor of our furry companions?

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