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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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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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21 Jan 17

Randy and Quinn run the BAA 5k in 2013

I sat in the theater between Jose and Tracy with Autumn at my feet. Jose had guided me for Boston 2016 as well as the California National Marathon Championship in 2014. I held Tracy’s hand often and felt many emotional stirrings as the movie and my own recollections intertwined powerfully for a little more than two hours. As the photo above illustrates, I was on that now infamous finish line one day before those bombs would so terribly change the lives of many people. I was crossing after a crowded run of 5 K with pride at Quinn’s incredible work and the friendship of Jennifer Liang who had run ahead of us for most of the race. One day later I was at home while Jennifer and her husband Robert were sitting in the stands watching the finishers and it was far too long before a text message assured me they were safely away. So many emotions welled up through the following days. How do we face such awful and needless violence? How do we respond? For me it brought about the conviction I would learn how to run a marathon and find a way to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon by the next year. While Quinn’s cancer would ultimately and appropriately delay those plans by a year, that moment transformed me into a marathon runner. That moment transformed my life in other ways along with the lives of a community and in many ways a nation.

The movie reinforced for me how much the world came together in support of Boston. We built a rally call of “Boston Strong” and yet it was support from everywhere which touched my heart many times then and still now. It takes the hardest lessons at times to bring people together in such powerful ways. Unfortunately we can also too easily lose those lessons and leave them behind as divisiveness seems all too natural. The lesson I took away then and keep with

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.

me fresh today is simply this. When people do not learn how to communicate in healthy ways, when people do not learn how to resolve differences in healthy ways; the risk of horrific results is higher. I will try to choose to learn communication even when it is of the difficult variety. I will try to find healthier resolutions and I will set my goals in positive community actions and interactions.

This year I will be running my third consecutive Boston Marathon. I have much to share about the approach and excitement ahead. Today, however, I will take the message from the movie Patriot Day with me. On April 17 I will honor the spirit of community so strong after April 15, 2013. I will find strength in the real heroes who put themselves at risk to save lives and make our lives more safe. I will be thankful for my chance to run and for so many with whom I am united in stride.

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14 Jan 17

By Randy Pierce

Gate City Marathon course in Nashua, NH

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

My friendships, like my running and my blindness, are a journey of small steps with ever increasing promise when I learn to take those steps with a little guidance. Admittedly the running career involves rather a lot of guidance and fortunately for me there’s been an abundance of kind opportunity.

Recently I sat down with Jennifer Jordan, Race Director for the Gate City Marathon, and Tom Cassetty, President of the Gate City Striders. Each of them has guided me for a run in the past. They each have become personal friends of mine and they were sharing some exciting and well timed news.

I had already decided to run the Gate City Marathon on Sunday morning May 21. I had already assembled a team of friends from the 2020 Vision Quest crew to run the relay for themselves while each guided me during their roughly five-mile loop. I had already determined the relay options created such a fun and festive celebration atmosphere in downtown Nashua that I hoped we’d encourage our community of friends to create other teams or just come join us for the block party atmosphere. This is all still true and I absolutely urge all of you to create any combination of teams for the relay, half or full marathon or simply come down and help us celebrate an epic event and experience. If I can help encourage that, please let me know because I’d love to support this event by having you join us in some capacity!

Gate City Marathon Runners

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

Randy: Jumping first to the big news, why have you decided to open a VI (Visually Impaired) Division?

Jennifer: Our race and our club has a mission of inclusion. We want runners of all abilities to feel included and participate. Randy Pierce is a very important club member and friend so what better way to celebrate that friendship than to add this division to our race!

Note from Randy: One of the things I appreciate about my club is the approach that every member is a valuable and important club member as evidenced by this response.

Randy: This is the third year of the Gate City Marathon. What was the inspiration for its origin?

Jennifer: This started as a replacement for the long-standing AppleFest Half Marathon, formerly the club’s signature event. This race was losing popularity and registrations so the club decided it needed a new signature event. A group of members, led by the club president, Tom Cassetty, discussed some options.  Tom wanted a marathon course in a clover-leaf formation that would cross over Main St in Nashua as its center-point, allowing for the relay option in addition to the marathon distance.

Randy: My own experience downtown for your first event and the reports I’ve heard from others suggest you really captured that goal well. The downtown central location showcases Nashua’s downtown in a festive and fun block party atmosphere which I appreciated as a spectator and look forward to as a runner. My wife Tracy and her relay team certainly appreciated the central gathering point for excitement. Many people celebrate it as the best relay marathon because of the central loops from downtown Nashua.  What do you think are the best features of your event?

Jennifer: We agree that one of the best features is the loop or clover-leaf formation.  This allows a marathon runner to be re-charged after every 5-ish miles, making it a great spectator marathon.  Additionally, it allows for runners who may not be ready for the 26.2 distance to also participate by putting a team of friends together. It’s also a celebration of downtown Nashua! In addition to these items, we have a unique high quality swag bag full of goodies from our sponsors, a great tech race shirt, custom finisher medals and a great after-party! We are also very excited to report that our half marathon has been selected as an event in the NH Grand Prix series and will be a certified half marathon distance. Of note, our Marathon is a USATF certified Boston Marathon Qualifier as well.

Randy: While I’ve a little bit of a bias as a proud member of your run club, I thought you might share with our community a little bit about who are these “Gate City Striders” who are putting on this event?

Jennifer: Who are the Gate City Striders?

We are the largest and longest established, non-profit running club in NH, with over 700 members that includes individuals and families. With a strong focus on running, competitively and recreationally, we also focus heavily on community outreach. We provide a free summer youth fitness program: Fitness University; and several events to benefit local charity organizations: NovemberFest race benefits the Nashua Children’s Home, Harvard Pilgrim 5k benefits the Nashua PAL XC program, we partner with and provide financial help to the Nashua YMCA, High Hopes of NH, Nashua Police Athletic League and many others.

 Randy: How did you come to be the Race Director?

Jennifer: In short, I volunteered. A group of us was working on the concept for the race/event and I (with some trepidation) decided I really wanted to do it. I thought my professional experience as a Program Manager would really help me manage this large project. I think I have developed the skills to be able to lead a team and we had and have an exceptional team of folks on the committee. Like most things, a task such as this cannot be done well without a strong, knowledgeable team!

Randy: I might add caring and passionate team to that description and you certainly have all those qualifications. I was already enthusiastic about the race before we sat down to talk and now I’m even more thrilled and hopeful to help bring even more people to join us. The event is on May 21st at 7:00 am. How can people sign up or get information?

Jennifer:

Here are links to our website:  

 Randy: I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground, though not quite a marathon. Is there anything  else you would like to share with our community.

Jennifer: It should be noted that the Gate City Striders and the committee and volunteers who manage and support the Gate City Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay are made up 100% of volunteers. An event this size requires hundreds of volunteers to make is a fun and safe event for all. Each year we are challenged to provide enough volunteer support. This year will be not different so we can always use more volunteers! But it cannot go without saying how much we appreciate the volunteers we do get and how much we appreciate how supportive the City of Nashua, the residents and businesses and houses of worship have been over these years. We hope to continue to build on those relationships!

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7 Jan 17

By Jody Sandler

Jody Sandler

Jody Sandler

Happy New Year to the staff, friends and supporters of 2020 Vision Quest! I have been asked by Randy to be a “guest blogger” in order to introduce my organization to you, and to give Randy a vacation from blogging!

We are BluePath Service Dogs, a new non-profit that trains service dogs for families with children with autism. The demand for our services is enormous, as 1 out of every 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. We raise and train our extraordinary dogs to ultimately match them with a child and his or her family.

Danny Zarro with Shade

Danny Zarro with Shade

Autism service dogs provide a number of services to a family. First and foremost, our dogs are trained to keep a child on the spectrum safe. Children on the spectrum often show “bolting” behaviors, where they suddenly run away from family, placing them in potentially life threatening situations. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism under the age of 10.

BluePath dogs keep children safe via a specially designed vest, which is tethered to a belt around the child’s waist. Should the child attempt to bolt, the dog will lie down and anchor the child in place. BluePath dogs also provide companionship to a child that has difficulty communicating with other children and can even stimulate social interaction with other children and adults.

Many families with a child on the spectrum curtail trips, vacations, and activities outside the home for fear of their kids’ safety. This affects the whole family, particularly siblings, who miss out on the many things families often do together, like going to a movie, attending sports events or going to restaurants. BluePath service dogs allow families to safely “reconnect,” to go out confidently in their community and enjoy the things that most families take for granted. A BluePath service dog can impact the lives of all of the family members, not just the child with autism.

Although we are newly formed, we have a wealth of experience. Some of us were formerly long-term employees of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. I was the Director of Veterinary Services there for 26 years, and was instrumental in the formation of their “Heeling Autism” service dog program, which was recently closed. This was the motivation to form BluePath, as many children were left without this important service.

Our vision is to become the leader in providing autism service dogs. We are excited to begin helping parents rediscover life’s potential for their children AND themselves. We have great admiration for all that Randy and his team has accomplished with 2020 Vision Quest and we are honored to have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you here.

On behalf of the BluePath team, we extend our wishes for a happy, healthy and successful New Year to the 2020 Vision Quest family!

Jody Sandler DVM
President and CEO
BluePath Service Dogs
www.bluepathservicedogs.org

BluePath Service Dogs

 

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23 Dec 16

Randy, Tracy and Autumn sport christmas hats and a beard in front of the Golden Gate BridgeAs we look back at our past year we are filled with thanks for our amazing community. We want to wish you the best of this holiday season, may you enjoy time with loved ones and cherished friends.

Thank you and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Tracy, Randy and Autumn

 

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10 Dec 16

By Randy Pierce

Hiking Mt. Isolation in 2013Mt. Isolation via Rocky Branch was looming as a daunting challenge for our team as we closed in on the completion of our non-winter 48 summit goal. As its name implies, it has some significant separation from many other trails
and routes more commonly hiked in the White Mountains and our team was a little short of the ideal numbers for the added risk my blindness brings to remote hiking. I had interacted with Mike Cherim  a few times on the internet and was glad for his willingness to join our team. We had a considerable amount of experience already on the trip and we were generally well prepared so he joined to meet, learn a little about the guiding process we use for my total blindness, and to share the enjoyment of hiking.

On the early ascent my Dog Guide Quinn did the work and those new to our team got to appreciate the subtle ways we worked the trails together. As we reached the general flats across the valley with the mud, water crossings and narrowed trails, I switched to a human guide for speed and efficiency under those situations. An experienced friend took that role (thanks, Sherpa John!) and Mike watched occasionally asking a few questions about the process. Mostly though, we were a comfortable group of friends sharing the wilderness. Mike’s excellent eye for photography proved to be an excellent eye for sharing some of the descriptions I might otherwise have missed. The easy-going comfort with which we all fell into conversations as well as times of quiet appreciation highlighted an awareness for allowing our group dynamics to develop naturally to allow us all to appreciate the hike in ways we wanted and needed.

Guiding can be mentally taxing, and as John was a little tired Mike offered to give it a bit of work. He was a natural and showed quickly that he translates his personal comfort and grace on the trails to his ease in guiding my steps through it as well. By the time we rose out of the valley to the ridge line and up to the remote summit, we were all friends sharing the marvels of the wilderness and learning to understand each other and the treasures of experience and knowledge each had brought along with them.

This is not a story about that hike. However, that journey can be found here.

Winter guiding with Randy's groupThis is a story in which I want to talk about guiding. Mike guided me much of the way out of that trip, somehow amazingly taking me through the muddiest of trails while keeping his boots shiny and clean. Better still I was safe and smiling, albeit a little weary. Mike is in tremendous shape which is part of why he is able to be so effective in both guiding and his work with Search and Rescue. His mental toughness to keep high focus through a long day many find grueling was truly impressive, particularly for someone undertaking this for their first time.

It was no fluke either as he would join me and guide more for our Carter Dome trek and once again highlight the knowledge, skills, fun, and friendliness with which he shares his passions for the trails and wilderness experiences. I’ve had many human guides on my mountain treks and a couple tremendous dog guides. I make no secret that my life bond with my dogs has much to do with my preference for our work together even as I understand there are times when the right choice is to use a human guide for a stretch of trail or occasionally longer when speed or types of risk suggest it. The more time I spend with guides the better our effectiveness and rapport develop and the more effective a team we become.

Redline GuidingIn two epic trips with Mike Cherim, it was clear to me how talented and capable we were as a team and he is as a guide in general for me as a totally blind hiker. As such I am not surprised by and absolutely support his  choice to make his passion a career choice with many options to enhance the experience of those who choose from the many fun packages–weddings anyone?!

In fact, I applaud your choice if you decide to use his services with Redline Guiding but more importantly I suspect and the review agrees that you will applaud his services should you make such a choice. In this appreciative blog for his services and all my present and past guides, I have only one simple bias which is that I experienced and appreciated the time we shared on the path and so too, I suspect, will you.

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20 Nov 16

By Randy Pierce

“Volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless but because they are priceless” – anonymous

Peak Potential team

Thanks to the Peak Potential team!

As I look back through the years of my posts in gratitude to so many different people, it is clear I have never given enough emphasis to a particularly  important collection of friends. There are many volunteers who fully comprise the 2020 Vision Quest team and some of them make the limelight while others are more hidden but all are essential in helping us achieve so much together.

Obviously the Peak Potential team has recently shone with the success of our seventh annual event and the incredible amounts of work by so many on the team.

I want to particularly call out my sister-in-law Monique Pierce who chose to step in as coordinator for me while last year’s illness made it clear I could not reasonably continue. She coordinated the team and put in so much of her own work to deliver such a fantastic event and I’m proud to announce she’ll continue that role next year!

Every week our general staff has a myriad of roles from the blog post management, website, social media, school coordination and development work. These kind and generous friends work together and separately to help ensure that the best ongoing work of our mission is able to be maintained. This has involved thousands of hours since the start of this project and all I can offer is my personal thanks as well as sharing the occasional story of how our work has made a difference in the world around us.

Our Board of Directors has similarly come together to help support the vision, leadership, and direction of the project. They challenge me, support my efforts, and often leap into staff roles and financially supportive roles as well. We all meet once per month for team teleconferences but the work behind the scenes continues.

Finally there are many volunteers who step up from the community to provide a ride to a presentation or to support a particular task which makes our organization more successful. Sometimes it’s connecting us to a school or business, sometimes it’s filling out forms for new donation sources and sometimes it’s simply a call to encourage me on a difficult day. I’m most definitely fortunate to have such a vast resource of people who choose to give of their time, talents and friendship — most especially in support of our 2020 Vision Quest Mission.

Especially for the week of Thanksgiving I hope to ensure you all know how much I appreciate your choice and kindness. Thank you!

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8 Oct 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Rob running in a race.On October 16 Rob Webber will run his very first marathon… while also choosing to guide me for that Bay State Marathon. While perhaps a surprising choice to some, it is not for me as Rob has spent many moments over the last 31 years providing me with many styles of valuable guidance. Our friendship began at the University of New Hampshire in the spring of 1985 and his friendship has been one of the greatest strengths in my life.

I could doubtless embarrass him with many tales of why his calm, steadfast, intelligent, caring, practical, and wise approach to the world has been so essential to my managing many challenges in my life. I could regale us all with humorous anecdotes of our mischievous and mirthful adventures and for those who share a fireside pint we may indeed do that a time or two ahead. I also happen to know there are plenty of recent photographic and video demonstrations of the amazing world adventures we’ve shared, and yet those who know Rob already are aware of these things and fortunately I’m fairly certain I’ve already made Rob well aware of how much I treasure our friendship. Why, then, this post?

I believe it is always appropriate to ensure the people we value in our lives are aware of how much they mean to us. I rarely have enough to give back to the many people like Rob who make so many choices to help me and this is just one moment to do such a thing. So absolutely thank you, Rob, for the friendship most of all, the moments of support at times when life was overwhelming, the moments of laughter when life needed celebrating, and in a simpler but well appreciated fashion, for the many miles ahead on the course of the Bay State Marathon.

Rob on the summit of Kilimanjaro.There are so many people who have guided me in races and each may have their own reasons for the choice. I’ve had so many guides it would fill the pages to list them and someday that’s exactly what I should do. For now, it is just an appreciation for those who take the time to step out of their own running goals, put focus on the notion they can add more challenges to their experience, and allow another person the opportunity to take part as we might not otherwise manage. Yes, I do believe there are rewards to the guide and yet that choice is still a remarkable decision which creates a tremendous opportunity and experience. I’ve run a few marathons now and spending hours of hours running with probably close to 50 different guides. In each situation, I would not have had the chance if they did not make that choice.

So to Rob and all my other guides as well as all those who guide other blind/visually impaired runners, I wish I had much more than a “thank you” to clearly offer you. The closest I may come to expressing that appreciation at present is in sharing how I feel when I am running. Whether in training or a race, whether exhausted or invigorated, whether hot or frozen, snow-encrusted, rain-drenched or sun-baked; each time I’m on a run, I recall the gift it is to feel my legs move, my lungs respond, and the freedom which is being gifted me. I’ve never yet failed to give a moment of reflection to my first run guide Quinn. Those who guide me honor his legacy and for me that is the highest honor I can bestow upon any guide. Whether the full meaning of that is something you understand, I assure it is of deep value and meaning to me.

So again, thank you to Quinn, Rob and all of my guides.

Randy and Rob at a Pats game.

 

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23 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy behind white canes, representing barsDespite all I’ve learned and achieved, there are still days I allow myself to be a prisoner of my blindness. Coming from the state of NH with the motto ”Live Free or Die” brought the imagery to the right playfully to mind even as the feeling of being restricted in many aspects of life is very real for most of us at one time or another. It is easy to see how I might let blindness trap me because it does make some things more challenging and it provides a ready-made excuse which many are more than willing to embrace or, at times, even attempt to force upon me.

I’ve long understood and espoused the idea that problem solving is a key to escape such chains. Frequently, I share how positive the experiences of prior problem-solvers can be for this–in my case, the knowledge and training of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind for my sight-related challenges.

What about the more perilous prison of drifting unaware into prisons crafted by ourselves or others? This could be as distracting as the excuses we embrace or the unhelpful habits which creep upon us. How many of us chain ourselves to Facebook, computers, or cell phones? There’s a fine line between having a tool we use to enrich our life and having a tool which uses us to trap us unwittingly.

The key here is learning to take opportunities to open our eyes and minds into a more broad awareness of our lives. It’s taking the time for mindful introspection on a regular basis and realizing where we might not be satisfied with choices which have become habit. It’s making the choice to stop the behaviors which trap us. It isn’t easy and sometimes it’s easier to supplant it with something healthier until a new and better habit is formed in place of the prior.

Ultimately, the key is that regular exploration of awareness to keep taking control of our lives and making the adjustments which let us out of our prisons.

Despite all these thoughts I still find myself behind the bars of my canes, at least metaphorically, on occasion. Expecting perfection is probably setting rather unrealistic expectations. I’ll strive for it and be as gently forgiving when I slip even as I start looking for my keys to make it better right away. I think as part of that reflection I’ll keep the first half of my state motto as the primary goal and wish that for all of you as well: “Live Free!”

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