Tag: community



4 Sep 17

By Randy Pierce

Dog having its teeth brushedWhat is this Wags to Whiskers World Record All About?

Save the Date!

Wags to Whiskers Festival
Saturday, September 30
11 am – 3pm

Budweiser Brewery
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054

We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!Dog having its teeth brushed

We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.

RSVP now! or get more information on the festival.

Dog having its teeth brushed“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.

First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum  line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.

When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.

Dog having its teeth brushedSo please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!

Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

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27 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Greg Neault, Jenn Uhlmann, and Baby Stella

Greg Neault, Jenn Uhlmann, and Baby Stella

“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.”
–Tibetan Proverb 

I understand more than most the value of some help up the mountain, whether it’s my four-legged guides or the many excellent friends who have chosen to undertake this role in order that we would reach our summits together. Since Autumn cannot reasonably join us due to the elevation range, the team will once again be essential as my primary means for navigating the many trails and adventures along the way. It is, however, far more about the powerful bonding we experience together in these shared experiences that influences the selection of our team.

Much as I did with our Kilimanjaro team, I wanted to introduce you all to the 14-person team who is making the journey to Peru for a series of epic adventures together. We hoped the entire Killy team would be reunited, but part of the reason for treasuring each experience is you can never truly go back. Time changes us all and life often inhibits our ability to reunite. We’ll miss Cathy, Frank, and Maureen from that trip but there are some new friends joining us this time around!

Ryan Prentiss

Ryan Prentiss

Greg Neault is back and headlines the list in part because he has taken the lead in coordinating with United Mice, our guides, to ensure the Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain hike would be the epic experiences we are seeking together.

All of our team owes Greg considerable gratitude for the work he did in planning the foundation–though still it is the kind adventurous spirit which lies at the heart of our friendship for which I’m most enthused to once again adventure around the world with him.

Jennifer Uhlman didn’t make the top 10 last time as she was a late addition to the Killy team. My, has life changed as she and Greg took that point to heart and added their own addition to this world in their daughter Stella!

Talented and adventurous from the start, the friendships have continued to grow even if she refuses to carry me up mountains as she does so well for Stella.

Ryan Prentiss joins us as a closer friend of Greg’s who I first met during a Tough Mudder together at Mt. Snow, VT. Definitely part of the youth movement, he’s presently the only member of the team to not have guided me, though we’ll have opportunity aplenty ahead. One of the treasures of Machu Picchu will likely be getting to better know this member of the team.

Rob Webber

Rob Webber

Rob Webber stands in contrast to Ryan, as I’ve known him since Ryan was 2 years old! It was Rob who got me to the key point on the summit journey of Kilimanjaro and our friendship is long and storied but, as this trip continues to prove, so very far from stagnant!

Jose Acevedo follows Rob in being part of a seemingly endless amount of life adventures and experiences. A person would be fortunate to find one such friend in their life. Like so many of my friends, they both challenge me to be better in all ways while encouraging and appreciating the journey so far and none moreso than Jose and Rob.

Jose and Kristen Acevedo

Jose and Kristen Acevedo

Kristen Acevedo is our roller derby addition and a force of nature, except perhaps at darts! If it takes a trip to Peru to get more time with this lady, then that’s reason enough to travel. Beyond the first week of epic adventure, she helped motivate the bonus week of relaxation in the sacred valley for which I will be eternally grateful! For putting up with her husband and my penchant for crazy adventures I’ll have to just raise her pedestal a little higher.

Michelle Brier is another gift of friendship brought to me by the Mighty Quinn and Autumn. On the long slog off of Kilimanjaro, she was instrumental in helping me with my health challenges but it is the kindness, compassion, and insight which I value above those medical skills. Too far away in NY, it’s another surprise we have to travel across the equator to appreciate quality time together again!

Cat Orza was already the incredibly fit and capable hiker in our midst and now has become the ludicrously fit veteran of many adventures and experiences of her own. She too was originally a connection made by Guiding Eyes and now our friendship held only distant by geography is eager to surpass geography and strategize our next Flat Bread conquest together.

Michelle Brier

Michelle Brier

Robbie Walton is not so stealthily amongst my best friends. I have been appreciative and a little surprised as a series of increasing adventures have become part of our recent repertoire. She guided me for her first ever 5k run and followed by guiding me on the last leg of a relay for her which was my last Boston Marathon qualifier. Stepping up to our recent hikes in preparation for Peru has certainly elevated the achievement in our ongoing quest for Peak Potential.

Brent Walton is the only man to ask me to marry him… to his now-wife Robbie. He’s also the friend who moved into my home to help me when I was put in the wheelchair and struggling to manage everyday tasks. Quiet until the perfect witticism bursts forth to surprise the group, he’s already earned his hiker’s guide patch and ready to take it to the international level.

Loren O’Neil was first introduced to me at the Tough Mudder in LA when she was part of our five-person team for the Oberto Hero of Summer project. Endlessly cheerful and tenacious, I love the spirit of taking on every challenge which she embodies and I’m so appreciative of our steadily growing friendship.

Cat Orza

Cat Orza

George Claborn is the musical insertion in our group and despite not being the amusingly, or rather misunderstood, advertised 6’2″ guide candidate, he is intelligent, kind and fun. I followed him to John Hopkins University after just one meeting, serendipity, and celebrated his birthday with a relay team Marathon but this will no doubt be our largest celebration since Don Felder!

Tracy Pierce is my lovely bride and I saved my best for last. All of my current adventures happen because she matches my desire to experience the world fully. In his writings, Thoreau suggested that we “live deeply and suck out the marrow of life.” Tracy as a partner encourages and, even better, joins me in a myriad of adventures. The reality is that my lack of sight adds complications which she helps me navigate to make for the easiest experience for all of us. In loving the concept of “team” anyway, it is hardly a surprise I particularly love the teamwork of my partner in life!

I join the team as our 14th member, of course. Unlike Kilimanjaro, this expedition isn’t so intensely focused upon the single summit experience. We will summit Rainbow Mountain but there are a host of experiences along this journey, which make it far more about the entirety of the journey. Those are words I believe, though they can be lost in something epic like Kilimanjaro. For me it is always about the people on the adventure and I reflect upon the words with which I closed out my Kilimanjaro team post as once again very appropriate. I’ll apply them here with only modest adjustment:

Loren O'Neil

Loren O’Neil

While we all undoubtedly have our own reasons for undertaking the journey, we have a common purpose which unites us: we are all determined to do our utmost to ensure that all of us have every chance to reach the summit successfully. A common purpose will bring us together and undoubtedly a few challenges along the way may require we communicate and adjust approaches to best benefit the expedition.

Overall though, we are all very committed to making the most of the experience. Every expectation is that the shared aspects of how each of us grows into the team and from the expedition will be part of our success. My hundreds of hikes have taught me to appreciate how much any individual can enrich the experience and how much the experience will bring any group together. While we will share our stories in words, images, and video, only we 14will fully experience this expedition together and understand completely how it transforms all of us. I do wish I could have many others along with us but I’m reminded of William Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, and so in the same sentence I would not wish for one person more–for we few, we precious few, are enough.

George Claborn

George Claborn

Robbie and Brent Walton

Robbie and Brent Walton

Randy and Tracy Pierce

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19 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

One day after this famous photo, the Boston bombing highlighted the painful realities of where unresolved differences can lead.

One day after this famous photo, the Boston bombing highlighted the painful realities of where unresolved differences can lead.

These are difficult words to write and I have some considerable concerns for the possibility of undesired and unintended responses. I manage risks with the adventures we take as well as with my stewardship of the 2020 Vision Quest charity. We encourage people to reach for and achieve their peak potential personally, professionally, and philanthropically and we attempt to lead by example. I am generally proud of the people with whom I surround myself and certainly the team of volunteers with whom I work to make 2020 Vision Quest a successful and positive organization.

I have confronted many instances of disagreement on all levels of my life and experienced many forms of success and failure in approaching these differences. I am rarely short on opinions, and in discussions with my friends candidly and comfortably explore all the volatile topics of dissent with a notion I always want to expand my understanding, maintain my compassion and seek resolutions to the core of issues for the longer term ideally with a healthy approach to any short term crisis.

I believe our country is indeed facing some significant crisis. The aspect of that I hope to address is our approach to disputes. How we resolve our differences seems incredibly broken. All too often we take the most extreme of views, demand a choosing of sides, and narrow our focus to the present urgency and are thus blinded to the reasons which led to those differences. Some of those reasons would likely provide an understanding of where true energy should be placed if we hope to bring about real resolutions. We are so caught up in the “what” we forget to really look for the “why” of things.

I understand the few lines here are a paltry attempt to invoke change. Real change requires people embracing some of the simple ideals involved in better communication. It involves a choice to want real resolution and not simply to be victors in this most dangerous game of spiraling hostility and disagreement.

I share my thoughts in the hope it may resonate for some and my commitment to be open to truly listen as much or more than I share. I commit to seek the “why” behind every “what” that frustrates me. I will remember that kindness and compassion are my compass even as the conviction and strength of my sense of right vs wrong ensures strength of word and action to my approach. I understand there may likely be some who will not accept this intent and I will still strive to give them the chance, even as I will not tolerate their debilitating tactics within my ability to influence. I’d rather understand, educate, and resolve situations–and if I cannot, I will release people from my regular interaction.

I do want to challenge beyond a limited echo chamber of similar beliefs and I think this is reasonable. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step and so I’ll practice these approaches in ever expanding circles and encourage all of you to do the same. Ultimately if we do not learn to resolve our differences in healthy ways, then that leaves us only with the escalating tensions of not resolving or the equally awful unhealthy resolution. I know my choice of those three and I’ll work towards healthy resolutions every time and understand the emphasis will be on “work.”

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22 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Eighth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction

The power of perspective is probably quite clear in that I’m thinking it’s less than four months until our 8th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction Gala while many of you may think how far away that seems. We have already sold more tickets than our venue could have held for our first six years, which is fantastic! But now we have a bigger venue, and I’m still striving to sell out as we achieved for nearly every year and missed by only one table last year.

I understand many delay into the summer to make their final plans and I hope to have a reservation for everyone. But I rest easier when the goal is achieved and I can proudly share the sell-out status with our sponsors and team!

Will you help me out with a ticket purchase to a great event and a cause I feel we demonstrate is worthy every day?

Speaking of sponsors, we already have Bank of NH in the Platinum Event Sponsorship and Larp Portal as our first Gold Sponsor, with invitations out to others to become a part of the foundation of our event and our work. The success of our event is most notably in our community and our sponsors help us elevate that to an even higher level. If you or someone you know might consider a sponsorship for our signature event, I’d personally welcome the opportunity to make it work for all of us. Our team creates an incredibly professional event which uses programs, video signage, and heartfelt appreciation to highlight our partnerships with sponsors. We also use our website and social media all year long to express the benefits shared by teamwork with such great partnerships.

A highlight of the evening includes an incredible array of silent auction items as well as a small selection of specialty live auction items. We already have nearly 40 items committed to us, including a few entirely new experiences for our guests. I’m inspired and encouraged by the progress. While we are still asking those who donate items personally or through generous connections to reach out to us, we are going to announce these items on our 2020 Vision Quest Facebook and Twitter accounts each week from now until the event. If you do not already follow us, perhaps you may choose to do so to see some of the great items including one of my favorite new items being announced this first week!

So while I am enticing you to join us by getting your ticket to the event, becoming a sponsor or perhaps making a donation, the real message is that we have a fantastic event which is well on its way to another success. We have been working hard since December to bring about improvements to what reviews already confirm is the ideal venue. If you are traveling from far away, take advantage of our hotel guest rate and stay the night and fully experience all the evening has to offer.

I love our mission and I’m so appreciative and proud of the many volunteers who make all aspects of our event and our charity work possible, yet what constantly amazes me and motivates me is the outpouring of support from a diverse and expansive community of people who find enough value in our effort to continually encourage us to  keep going. I’ve climbed a few mountains, literal and figurative, and I know the work is not done–but with your help, I believe we’ll continue to reach for and achieve our “Peak Potential.”

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1 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

“But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”
– Joshua Chamberlain

I am a student of history and found particularly powerful the tales which highlighted the nature of those brought together 154 years ago on the fields of Gettysburg. It is not the awful brutality of battle and war which captures my interest, but the notion of causes which are so intense, the dream of learning better methods of resolving differences and the many testaments of the human spirit which can emerge in times of tremendous challenge.

Joshua Chamberlain shared many thoughts I admire greatly and with a rich language that sings to me still. Many will have diverse opinions on what was contested on the battlefield; a likely reality is many agendas were being realized throughout the war.

I believe firmly in the right of all people to be free and equal, judged foremost by the merit of their choices and actions. I similarly believe this battle did much good to advance that notion ultimately, although to this day it is a work in progress we strive to better achieve. Still in celebration of those people who chose to make a stand often with the ultimate personal sacrifice on the line, I will be traveling to Gettysburg with Tracy, Autumn, Gene, and Coach to delve deeply into the history while walking the pathways of such vital historic significance.

I’ll stand on Little Round Top and consider the many charges faced by so few. I’ll walk Pickett’s Charge and wonder how the human spirit could have done so with the thunder of cannons and the nearly certain death. I will know that my life is different because of those people who took a stand for ideas which though costly were also worthy. Mostly I will think myself fortunate to live in this country where I too may lend myself to ideas and causes in which I believe fervently and yet do so without significant risk of my life.

I will celebrate the birth of our country for all those ideals which are often challenged and challenging but always rewarding for the ultimate freedom to pursue with a plan the means to make it a better country and better world. I am glad that our fireworks are for celebration more than the aspects of battle they simulate. I will remember the cost though… and be grateful.

Fireworks

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4 Jun 17

By Beth Foote

Randy and Alex, our team captain, in the Walk for Sight

Randy and Alex, our team captain, in the Walk for Sight

It was a cool, partly cloudy morning on Saturday, June 3 when the 2020 Vision Quest team gathered together in Concord, NH with 400+ other walkers for the 14th Annual Walk for Sight. This was my first experience participating at this yearly event hosted by Future in Sight (formerly New Hampshire Association for the Blind), one of the two organizations that 2020 Vision Quest supports with its fundraising and awareness efforts.

People all around me were reconnecting with old friends and greeting new ones. The crowd was a sea of blue “Walk for Sight” tee-shirts and the air buzzed with anticipation. I did some reconnecting myself with some folks I’d met before and was introduced to new people, including our team captain, Alex, who was so inspired a few years ago when Randy spoke at her elementary school that she and her parents have participated in the walk ever since. This year, Alex served as the team’s captain and did a bang-up job!

As it hit 11 a.m., we heard from David Morgan, President and CEO of Future in Sight. He announced that there were more walkers this year than in any of the previous years. He spoke about the organization’s name change and how it reflected its broadening scope of service — beyond just New Hampshire to other states in New England, and to people with a wide range of visual impairment. Future in Sight has served twice as many clients in need in the last year — 2,200 — than it did in its previous year. However, he said, there are still more than 28,000 people with visual impairment in New Hampshire alone. Future in Sight’s mission is to reach ever further to serve as much of this community as they can.

The 2020 Vision Quest team at Walk for Sight 2017!

Alex & Autumn’s 2020 Vision Quest team at the Walk for Sight 2017!

Randy Pierce also spoke, building off David’s words; he encouraged everyone in the crowd to not just support this mission today, but throughout the year. He urged folks to share their experiences with others, especially on social media, and spread the word to those who can support in order to extend the reach of Future in Sight to better help those in need.

After these inspirational words, we were off! It took about an hour to do the 3k circuit through the city. The celebratory feeling in the air was catching. Volunteer staff were stationed at many intersections to ensure safe crossing of the walkers. I heard Randy make sure to thank as many volunteers as he could and I started following his example, trying to do my best to spread around the good feeling and cheer as a part of this community.

A new component to the event this year was called “Walk in My Shoes.” This activity allowed adult walkers to experience what it’s like to move through the city as a visually impaired pedestrian by using blindfolds and simulation glasses, with the help of trained sighted guides. It was fascinating to see walkers go through this experience and listen to them described their changed perceptions, such as disorientation and heightened awareness of sounds around them.

It was an amazing and humbling experience, being a part of this diverse and welcoming community all walking through the streets of Concord. I’m happy to share my experience with you and I urge you to spread the word of Future in Sight’s mission far and wide!

Connect with Future in Sight:

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28 May 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy presents to Leadership Lakes Region. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ziemba McLean and Johanna Newbold of Catalyst Chiropractic.

Randy presents to Leadership Lakes Region. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ziemba McLean and Johanna Newbold of Catalyst Chiropractic.

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”
–Eleanor Roosevelt

I thought much upon the nature of leadership in preparation for my commencement keynote for the graduates of the Leadership Lakes Region class of 2017. This was my third time presenting and the fourth time they had invited me as health issues had prevented my accepting last year. I’ve done plenty of leading and following and I believe it is a vital skill to recognize which role is needed, as is having the ability to adapt your skills to suit your role at either. Ultimately we are first and foremost responsible for ourselves and if we cannot ready ourselves properly, we will likely struggle in any role we attempt.

My presentations, I’m told, enhance the personal approach to motivation with some quality tools and considerations for working with teams. I customize points of emphasis such as leadership or communication through the base presentation and ultimately I feel it is the empowerment of the individual which lies at the heart of my approach. This is why Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote resonated so well for me that I called it out above:  “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” I attempt to inspire others with emotional content for certain, while also providing thinking points to retain and recall for their future use in evaluating their own approaches.

For all of this, how is my own leadership? Initially, leadership roles were the default result of simply having the personality to take charge in situations where there seemed to be a need. That eventually led me to make deliberate choices such as the founding of 2020 Vision Quest or accepting the role of Chair at Future in Sight. The latter requires a much more strategic and involved planning and there’s an element to it which is harder. I’ve certainly met my share of setbacks in all forms.

For me, the most comfortable leadership is simply in doing the things that motivate me and enticing those for whom there is similar interest to join along. An aspect of this is “lead by example” and another aspect is simple coordination and organization. This is because I love to encourage people to challenge themselves and believe in themselves. I love to encourage people to support their communities and become part of teams which empower us to build a better world in various ways. I prefer not to ever suggest artificial obligation as motivation for people because that detracts from the ultimate experience. I’d rather simply find ways to enhance the experiences to make it worthy of their interest and thus appropriate for the inclusion of more friends.

Greg dumps a bucket of water over Randy's head at the end of the race.

Greg and Randy celebrating! Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ziemba McLean and Johanna Newbold of Catalyst Chiropractic.

As such, I want to share a few invitations with you all. As a little incentive remember that the top fund raiser for our Walk for Sight Team on June 3 will have the opportunity to douse me with an ice bucket just like the image to the right!

  • June 3: Join our 3K Walk for Sight Team as we really could use more team members! (Consider a donation to one of the team members otherwise? May I suggest Alex if not me!)
  • June 17: Peak Potential Table Price Increase – Buy a table before the final price increase. While the event is November 18 this is the final chance to confirm your table of 8 for the $600 price before it increases to $700.
  • June 22: Presentation to the Gate City Striders at Martha’s Exchange – Are you a Strider or interested in joining the club? There will be a slightly running slanted presentation that evening.
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21 May 17

By Randy Pierce

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
–Hellen Keller

My original goal was simply to share time together at the Gate City Relay and Marathon during which friends running the relay would also help guide me for the Marathon in my home town.

Things began to get interesting when the Gate City Striders, who host the event, chose to add a VI (Visually Impaired) Division on their journey towards ever more inclusion in this great community experience. It became more complicated still when challenges during my Boston Marathon allowed me to finish but not get my Boston qualifier for next year’s Marathon (which I truly hope to run every year if possible). This is only more complicated if we decided to elevate the original goal and take on those additional possibilities.

While I love striving for goals, I love far more the friends and opportunities to savor experiences with them. I shared all of this with them and was only surprised by the fervor of the response from each member who wanted to make this a team goal and strive together for it! This meant people had to challenge themselves and choose some sacrifices, which they did, and the result… all the magic that friends coming together provides, including an incredible catharsis of emotions throughout the day. I loved support from so many friends all over the course and from our extended relay teams and my incredible wife, who made much of this happen in particularly special fashion once again. This blog just gives a little extra sharing of the experience with my guides.

Erin and Randy start off the Gate City Relay and Marathon.

Erin and Randy start off the Gate City Relay and Marathon.

Erin was up first in the chilly 7:00 sleepiness. There was enough race excitement to wake us and set us on the course for success. She had never guided me in an actual race, yet had to manage the crowds at their thickets and did so without complaint. I already knew she was great at staying within her running needs and my role was to not overtax her in need to talk beyond the guide needs, nor to ask more of her than the pace she had for me to warm up the race. My real goal was to get warmed up and ensure she knew how much I appreciated the work and pushing she’d done to be ready, but for me that pushing was never more clear than the final stretch when I could hear how hard she was working and yet she wasn’t backing off her pace. I could tell she had nothing to give and no words left to speak but I could also tell she nailed it, which was confirmed when I later saw her first Facebook post proudly sharing what we both knew she’d achieved.

Erin shared the following with me regarding her experience:

“Going into it, I didn’t even consider not finishing as an option. I’d only ever run 5.5 miles once before, and it was with music and without guiding. But while guiding Randy, I honestly didn’t notice the lack of music. He greeted fellow runners, cheered on everyone, and kept my mind off the work of running. It was far from easy, but I loved the experience and I am really proud of the effort and results.”

Greg

Greg dumps a bucket of water over Randy's head at the end of the race.

Greg and Randy celebrating!

Greg had the second loop and he was my first pace jump–and it was quite a jump, as he was full of enthusiasm and adrenaline. His training had shown a slight penchant for starting a little hot and I think he didn’t disappoint though nobody captured our splits to know for sure. We ran strong and well, passing many runners, but at a price. Greg, who has been battling sickness for a week or so, hit a wall. But though it slowed us a little, he wouldn’t let it stop him. The determination and perseverance was impressive as highlighted when he warned me he might get sick with a mile left to run. He did manage to pass me to the next guide before his prediction came true but to run himself that hard and through that struggle was both hard and touching. His own quote from the day’s experience:

“So often people tell me that the things I do with 2020 Vision Quest are “once in a lifetime” type experiences. Since I joined this family I’ve been averaging one or two “once in a lifetime” activities a year. Either people need to start increasing their lifetime standards or we are just plain killing it. I’ll let you decide.”

Jenn

Jenn and Randy on the next leg of the race.

Jenn and Randy on the next leg of the race.

Jenn was the third loop and had a repeat of Erin’s loop so I had some knowledge for her. This was her first return to running after the birth of her and Greg’s incredibly charming daughter Stella who joined us (team shirt!) as support staff for the day. Jenn had not only been sick but had been hospitalized the prior week but was mostly recovered. That showed as she crushed her expected pace and did her most solid guide work in our limited time. I can’t ever forget that her first experience was being handed the guide stick mid-race two years back, mind you, but this time it was with a plan and I could not be more proud and appreciative of how that plan, like our path to friendship, turned into something solid and successful! Her own words on the day’s experience.

“I went into this race with some concern that my pace would need to be much slower than I’m used to in order to guide Randy through the course. Thankfully guiding always makes me run stronger since my focus is off myself and my running. Even though I was only running a fifth of the distance Randy was, he, like always, provided much appreciated encouragement and support. This was certainly not the fastest race I’ve run, but I was proud to come close to the goal I set for myself. The best part of the race was being part of a team that was there cheering everyone on, no matter how fast or slow.”

Rob

Loop 4 was my biggest fear going into this race. Frankly it’s the 18-mile point where I struggle most in a Marathon and this time it would include running a significant section on trails in the beautiful Mine Falls Park. It was the longest loop at 5.6 miles and Rob Webber was charged with keeping me at or under a 9:00 minute pace if at all possible. Rob is my longest term friend in this crew (note I did not say oldest!) He’s a strong runner, experienced and excellent guide and we had run the loop in the past to practice. A couple surprise friends (thanks Greg and Heather) joined us for a stretch run but it was Rob who kept me on target, encouraged, motivated and on pace. I arrived at the centrally rally point with perfect guiding except for one humorous point as he chose to share in his recollection of the day after I asked what had collided with my chest like a forearm shiver:

“Whoa, what was that?! Well, that was a really tight spot and there was a guy with his arm across the entire opening, trying to high five everyone. I tried to wave him off and thought I got him but based on your response…”

Yeah Rob… he got me!

Robbie

Robbie guide Randy to the finish!

Robbie guide Randy to the finish!

Robbie had the final loop and I was coming in sore and tired with 4.3 miles remaining and shifting down a little from the previous pace pushing loop. I had hoped to help give her support as this was only her second official race ever, yet as we began I realized I had some adjusting and recovery to manage. I told her I needed her to be strong for me and whether she knows it or not I experienced the shift in her approach as she took care of me until I could get my legs back for the finish. Best of all she did it with the understanding and kind encouragement that is the hallmark of our friendship. It’s why I was especially proud when she shared her note on the experience with me:

“My favorite moment from today, besides the stories and fun after the race, was the finish line.  I could see it coming and knew that I had to bring you in strong. You’d given me the opportunity to rest and I just wanted to push all the more in order to finish, looking and feeling the best we could. As your fans started chanting, “Randy, Randy, Randy,” you joined in loud and proud with “Robbie, Robbie” and I could feel the adrenaline surge through me like a lightening bolt. Our team is the best part of the race we did today. Each of us was supportive and proud of the others’ accomplishments. You were amazing and each member that stood together was an inspiration for the next. May we always feel that strength and love supporting us throughout our lives.  Thanks to you and the team for an amazing day!”

We crossed the finish line together, we celebrated together, we supported our other relay team’s finish and our final Marathoner together (great work, Sarah Toney) before the final dinner. We were tired, proud, and full of smiles. It wasn’t reaching our goals successfully, though that certainly helped; it wasn’t even the choice to reach for those goals; it was the choice to be the people who support each other, believe in each other, encourage each other, and in the process make life something brighter and better. This was one shining day on the streets of Nashua’s showcase running event but it’s a way of life which will help us appreciate each other and this world so much more!

The team from the Gate City Relay and Marathon.

Team shot!

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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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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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