Tag: Motivation



14 Jan 18

By Randy Piece

Image of book cover: "Forward, Upward, Onward"“The problem I had, and I suspect a lot of people have, is that you sometimes give yourself the illusion of moving forward without actually moving forward.”
– Matt Landry

As many of you know I’ve been working on my own book project for longer than I’d like to admit. It is going acceptably well at this point after a series of unreasonable delays which have disappointed me and frustrated me at various times. A friend of mine shared with me words from Stephen King suggesting that if you truly want to write, nothing will stop you.

I met Matt Landry indirectly as a result of our mutual appreciation of hiking. We crossed paths a few times including a marvelous afternoon last summer. I’ve been a fan of his on social media as his kindness and wisdom shone very brightly. Thus I was determined to read his newest book and share with all of you.

What a delight I found in the journey he shares with us! It’s far more than a journey through the 48 although I did some reminiscing of my own hikes while reading. It’s a journey of goal setting and moving our life forward, upward and onward.

I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of his book and remember if you use 2020 Vision Quest for Amazon Smiles you help us along the way. In the meanwhile, here are five simple questions and much better answers from the author, Matt Landry.

1) This isn’t your first book and the choice to become a writer has come later in your life. What inspired you to publish initially and what was the motivation behind writing this book?

To make a long story short, my main goal in life is to make the lives of others easier. About 3 or 4 years ago I decided to go back to college to work towards my Human Services degree. In doing so, I took an English composition course, and with the encouragement of the professor, I decided to write a book. She saw a value in the way I wrote that I couldn’t see in myself. Writing a book was an excellent vehicle for serving my purpose of changing the world for the better.

The motivation behind the initial book “Learning to Be Human Again,” my first, was that it was drawn upon from a series of journals I had written about ten years ago while going through a major depression. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to in order increase my self-worth and limit my regret was to learn to simply be myself. The true “me” that was created to shine in only the way I knew best how to do before the World told me who I thought I should be. I thought others may have benefited from a book like that.

For the current book “Forward, Upward, Onward,” the motivation came more from just wanting to achieve a major goal and to see what I was made of, and again, maybe helping someone else do the same in the process. I had a lot of fun writing this one, and hopefully, it shows. It was good to re-live a lot of these hikes again while I was organizing and writing the book.

2) I used this quote as the lead into the blog and I wanted to ask if you would elaborate since I rarely get to ask the source of a motivational quote to enlighten us directly. While you do this wonderfully in your book, perhaps you can give us the abridged insight for the blog: “The problem I had, and I suspect a lot of people have, is that you sometimes give yourself the illusion of moving forward without actually moving forward.”

Matt Landry on a hike on Mt. Willey.

Matt Landry on a hike on Mt. Willey.

That quote has to do with a mindset and lifestyle that I lived with for most of my life, and I feel I’m not alone in that concept. The example I used in the book was that if you buy a book about how to speak Italian, it still doesn’t allow you to speak Italian unless you open it up and read it and practice the information inside. The same goes for music lessons. How many of us have bought a guitar, then let it sit without picking it up, then wonder why we can’t play it? Another great example that ties in well with this New Year is a gym membership. How many of us pay a monthly fee, and don’t go, but having a membership makes us somehow feel like we do? Or that paying monthly will somehow alone make us magically physically fit?

Having the mindset of the completion of a goal in your head is crucial. You need to believe and imagine you are running the marathon, passing the course, making the money, or climbing the mountain before you even step out the door. The problem I had was the walking out the door part. I had imagined the goal of hiking the 48-four-thousand-footers having been completed so much and so vividly, I was almost convinced that I had. The problem was that I actually needed to climb them in order to say I had.

It’s no different than losing weight, quitting drinking, starting a new career, or, well, writing a book. There comes a point when you need to stop talking and you need to do the work. I had that epiphany during my 48 peaks goal, and it made all the difference in the long run. Stop waiting for tomorrow, stop talking about it, and stop dreaming. Do the work.

3) You share many appreciative points of kindness in your book, including some sent in my direction–thank you for that. I’m curious what was one of your favorite responses you’ve received from those of us who are so appreciative at your choice to share so much of yourself and your insights with us in your books? Is there a favorite comment, letter or expression of appreciation you’ve received which you can in some part share along with why it has such meaning for you?

With all due respect, the kind words said to me by friends about the books or my insights mean the world to me, but it’s the strangers, the people who I have never met, that mean a little more to me. Although the encouragement of people I know is an important part of my getting these books done, it’s the connection of making a difference to those who I don’t know that goes a long way in motivating me.

Back to the question you asked, I have no specific notes of importance that outweigh another, but I’ve been blessed to get enough of them to help me realize that I’m on the right path right now in what I’m doing. Encouragement of any kind is always a great fuel, isn’t it?

4) While we are on superlatives, you cover many high points and low points of your journey in the book so I’ll leave those there. I’m curious if you have a high point to share in the writing process for either of your books?

In writing, I go with an almost fits and starts method. I will say that a high point in any writing project, especially a longer one, is the final edit. In my case, being a new writer, I also found another surprising high point was getting your book back from the editor and reading through it, to see how they were able to make it flow better. A good editor can make your words truly come to life. That was a surprising aspect of this writing journey I’ve been on. I thank goodness I didn’t release anything that someone wasn’t able to take a good hard look at first before I put it out there. You get so encapsulated in what you’re writing sometimes that you lose the forest for the trees about the story or concept of the book that you’re trying to convey. It’s nice to have that second set of eyes to set you straight or to let you know that you’re in the right direction!

Hiring an editor alone was one of the smartest things I may have done in writing a book. I learned more about my writing in general than any classroom could have taught me. I originally thought I was hiring an editor, what I didn’t know is that I was really hiring a teacher!

5) Any thoughts on what we might expect next in your writing world?

I currently have three projects in the works. My next will be a “Landscape Photography for Beginners” due out early February. In late April I have “Learning to Be Happy Again,” which is a series of 25 tips, habits, and tricks to live a happier life every day. And finally, I have a book based on my travels and lessons learned in the southwestern United States years ago due out at the end of the summer of 2018.

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25 Nov 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running at the California International Marathon in 2014.

“Running is 90% Mental and 10% physical” – runner’s adage

“Running is 90% Mental and 10% physical” – runner’s adage

Certainly there is much more than 10% physical involved in the running of a marathon, but the point is to convey how much mental toughness is likely to be involved in both the preparatory training and actual marathon.

On the physical side there is work to avoid injury and to have a training plan that allows for best chance to prepare while avoiding injury. Unfortunately, this plan doesn’t account for the random accident which happened to me in my own home on Friday, November 10. A blind misstep resulted in a mild dislocation of my ankle and fall down a flight of stairs and put my December 3 Marathon into some question. I was fortunate to have emerged with as little injury as happened. Good medical attention working in partnership with the goal of attempting to compete in the National Marathon Championship has had me resting the ankle as much as possible and will highlight the mental toughness necessary to manage the reduction of training in the final three weeks as well as the lingering aspects of the injury during the actual race. It increases my appreciation for undertaking the race with Jose Acevedo, a good friend and an experienced guide who has done this journey with me before. The doctors are on board and suggest only I’ll likely need to give extra healing and rest time after the California International Marathon is complete.

Why push it for this race? Even my doctors agree that our opportunity to compete in this epic an event is limited enough we should choose to make some extra sacrifices in the attempt. This is a race which the United States Association of Blind Athletes uses as the National Marathon Championship. It is not only an excellent opportunity to compete at a higher level for me but a chance to interact with some incredibly inspirational people who also happen to share some parts of a similar journey with me in sight loss. I want to emphasize a part of that statement again as I feel it’s so valuable to credit these athletes appropriately. They are inspirational people and athletes first and foremost. They also happen to be blind/visually impaired. I encourage you to visit the website introducing the athletes and their accomplishments:

Click here to meet the USABA 2017 National Marathon Championship Field

Randy and Jose on Kilimanjaro

Were Jose and Randy scheming even on Kilimanjaro to get Greg to jump over the proverbial edge into becoming a marathon runner?

I have another excellent reason to be out in California running from Folsom Prison to Sacramento center!

My good friend Greg Neault will be running his very first marathon. I’ve been fortunate enough to share his training progress as well as be a part of his running world in some fashion as we launched on our adventures from hiking here in NH to becoming world travelers, Tough Mudder Legionnaires to team members on the 2020 Vision Quest mission. I strongly believe in finding the experiences in life which resonate for you and doing what it takes to make the wish a plan and then reality. I also believe in supporting your team in their approach to these things and I am eager to share and celebrate the experience with a good friend.

So while Thanksgiving may be behind us now, I’m thankful for the incredible friendships in my life all year long and eager to test all of our physical and mental toughness on the grand stage provided by the 2017 California International Marathon! Good luck Greg and Jose and thank you for being part of this incredible journey!

2020 Vision Quest shirt front! Text reads: "Twenty Twenty Vision Quest: May the Course Be With You

2020 Vision Quest California International Marathon shirt: front

2020 Vision Quest California International Marathon shirt back; Text reads: Text reads: Episode VIII California International Marathon. The 2020 Team heads out to Sacramento on a new adventure. This time Randy, Jose, and Greg will set out the conquer the fastest course in the west. Greg will make his marathon debue as Randy and Jose look to regain their former glory as B1 division champions. Do or do not, there is no try. - Yoda

2020 Vision Quest California International Marathon shirt: back.

 

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29 Oct 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy presents in front of a room of children who are seated and paying attention.“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

– Likely anonymous though often mistakenly attributed to William Yeats

Why am I so passionate about the 2020 Vision Quest educational presentations to students in schools throughout New England?  In my own life, the transition to blindness was a catalyst which I believe did much to enhance my ultimate drive and accomplishments as well as personal happiness. I often share my belief that the lack of adversity is more likely to bring about stagnation for any of us — and conversely, challenges bring about the best opportunity for growth and achievement.

One significant epiphany was realizing that it did not have to be something negative or detrimental that brought about the spark of growth as powerfully as I experienced. While I acknowledge the potent value of experience, I found my presentation style interwoven with the depth of my experiences could result in captivating, motivating, and life-changing results for the students with whom I interacted. As more and more reports from teachers, parents, and administrators suggested the positive impact was significant, I became inspired to better understand and enhance this approach.

I think most of us strive for positive meaning in our lives and I find this in many different ways. Students of all ages represent the  future of this world and a possible positive legacy to which I feel a tremendous allure. I delight in hearing each moment when someone expands their belief in their own future of possibility. I take tremendous hope when I feel I’ve enhanced acceptance for the message of working together and understanding the value of kindness in all of our interactions. I am buoyed by the many sharings from others that my efforts have lifted their spirits, enhanced their perspective on adversity, or inspired them to work towards a better life for themselves and a better world for us all. Best of all, most of these things are common responses which serve to reinforce my dedication to a core mission of 2020 Vision Quest.

Why do I share all of this with you today? It isn’t intended as any boast of my abilities. I’m aware of my many shortcomings even as I appreciate the aspects of this work which are so commonly well received. I share it because it has been the efforts of many in the past and present which have enabled this work to take place and it will take the continued efforts of many to ensure we continue to undertake this great work. I am certain I will put forth my best efforts because I so well believe in what I’m doing and the results which I hear back from students, teachers, administrators and parents. My fire has been lit and I hope enough inspiration has reached our community to continue the great support we’ve received. Much as the often misattributed quote above suggests, the root of it may be in the classics and I hope for all of us to experience a little kindling but especially our young minds just setting out on the journey of their lives!

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

- Plutarch

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15 Oct 17

By Greg Neault

Tracy with arms up on the summit of a mountain.I was running when I wrote this, so sue me if it goes too fast.

A lot of people have asked me why I decided to run a marathon. After today’s 16-mile training run, I’ve been wondering that myself. One of the leading hypotheses is that I must have been inspired to take on this bench mark of physical feats by the exploits of one Randy Pierce.

It’s easy to see why that theory would gain so much traction in my social circles. Randy and I spend a lot of time adventuring together, he is a perennial marathon runner (heck, he’s even running the very marathon I’m registered for), and if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone refer to Randy as “inspirational,” I wouldn’t be able to claim my position on staff at 2020 Vision Quest as volunteer work.

Tracy at the Sky Lodge in Peru.Although there is certainly a strong case to be made for Randy being my marathon inspiration, it’s not accurate. Don’t get me wrong, he’s certainly inspired a lot of people to do a lot of positive things (myself included), this just isn’t one of them. I’ve come to accept the fact that Randy is a force of nature that will not be stopped. He’s like my personal Chuck Norris. Our adventures don’t challenge Randy; Randy challenges our adventures. If this was your guess, though, take heart–you weren’t too far off the mark.

What some people in our 2020 Vision Quest audience may not know is that Tracy Pierce is also a marathon veteran. I have tapped into a deep well of inspiration in following the exploits of the fairer Pierce. Tracy is ever present in our adventures and exploits and as such I’ve had the privilege of bearing witness to her trials, tribulations, and triumphs.

On more than one occasion I have used the word “tenacious” to describe Tracy in pursuit of goals. When she sets her mind to a task, she will push through all physical, mental, and emotional challenges presented to reach the finish line (literally and figuratively).

Tracy with her arms up on a summit.Tracy very regularly signs on for activities that she knows are going to be an immense challenge for her that will likely be much less of an issue (possibly none at all) for many others in the group. That takes guts. I’ve often wondered if I have that kind of fortitude. I have much more than the required courage to scale a cliff to sleep in a glass bubble high above the Sacred Valley. But would I have the courage to accept an invitation from folks with greater skills or endurance than I to take part in an activity that I feel I may struggle to accomplish? I can’t say.

Tracy goes into these events with full knowledge that she won’t be the first to complete this race or challenge, she’s not going to win a national division championship, and she’s not going to be called heroic or inspirational by passersby. When some are being congratulated on their perseverance for taking on this challenge blind or dedicating their efforts to guiding a blind person through such dramatic circumstance, Tracy is hiking her hike or running her run, with no promise of accolades or pats on the back, no ribbons or Boston Marathon qualifying glory. She doesn’t do it because other people have done it–she does it because she wants to and it pleases her to do so.

When I watch Tracy take on big things, struggle harder than others, push though that hardship and make it happen, it inspires me to push myself into the unfamiliar, to reach out beyond my comfort zone and try something that does not promise to end in my favor, the completion of which will be rewarding.

I hope to bring some of her tenacity with me to the California International Marathon. If I can employ that trademark iron will, I’ll be on the path to success in Sacramento.

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7 Oct 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

Jose and Randy epitomize determination as they stride towards the finish line at the 2014 California International Marathon.

 ”The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.”
—Bill Bowerman, track and field coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc.

The real measure of a heart is not in the athletic accomplishments it may power, but rather the lives impacted by its capacity for caring. As a blind runner, I am simply dependent upon guides to enable so much of the possibility in my experiences. I am truly and wonderfully blessed with an incredible number of most excellent character friends. Jose Acevedo has a heart with strength to rival any in compassion for our world and our friendship, and it is with tremendous pride I am sharing we’ll be undertaking yet another pair of adventures together.

In 2014 he guided me to a first place finish in the B1 National Marathon Championship and was overheard to share that it was his last marathon. He amended that statement in moments with a caveat that allowed for the possibility of running the Boston Marathon with me someday. We made that wish a plan in 2016 but unfortunately that was a year laden with neurological challenges for me. We did complete the Boston Marathon together in 2016 with a story worthy of sharing as often as possible: Jose & Randy’s 2016 Boston Marathon Saga.

Now we will combine them with back-to-back marathons reuniting us at the scene of both events for an epic reunion. December 3, 2017 will bring the California International Marathon and another chance to compete in the United States Association of Blind Athletes National Marathon Championship. Sacramento California holds great memories for us and we’ve both travelled a long way since then, including the rooftop of Africa on Kilimanjaro and more recently in the Peruvian Andes of South America. More aptly we’ve both learned a tremendous amount about long distance running and hope to improve on our experience.

Randy and Jose run the Boston Marathon in 2016, despite many health challenges.

Randy and Jose run the Boston Marathon in 2016, despite many health challenges.

We’ll strive to run well, finish strong, ring the Boston Qualifier bell, savor a celebratory beverage, particularly cheer for our good friend Greg Neault’s first marathon out there with us, and then immediately return the focus to training for the second part of our mission.

April 16, 2018 is Marathon Monday, Patriots Day, and for us the rematch to fully savor and deliver the performance our many thousands of miles in training have suggested we are likely to deserve. Bringing our marathon from California to Boston is a symbolic coast to coast as we aren’t running across the country (yet!). It will still be ambitious work to train steadily for two high-performance goals at the marathon distance and moreso as we are geographically separated with his home in Texas and mine in New Hampshire.

Since we are on symbolic messaging though, I love the unity suggested in the guided running foundation. For us it is a team sport and we do learn to work together despite our many differences. Connecting our marathons across country is a unifying notion I continue to hope becomes more than symbolic for our country moving forward. Divisiveness and finding difference is an easy task and easier still to choose aggressive stances even though the results are unproductive at best and destructive more commonly. We all can have so much in common when we put our focus on the unifying approaches and use those as a foundation to find the means to work around and with the differences. It is what Jose and I do during our runs when I assure you we will hit stressful times for each of us from the course, from our weariness and soreness; we keep our thoughts towards our common goal and the many reasons and ways to work together and I have absolutely no doubt that we will be stronger together for our approach and successful in both races. Of course I have the advantage of knowing that Jose brings a tremendous heart to the team as an athlete and as a person of quality. Thank you for being my guide and my friend; let’s put our training and teamwork to the test!

 

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5 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

The arrival of August heralded the start of my training for the California International Marathon (CIM) for December 3. This is  where the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) hosts the National Marathon Championship I was very proud to win in 2014 (B1 Division). As I ramped up my own training, it gave me pause to consider the overall fitness and endurance I’ve been fortunate to maintain through my various other health challenges. I believe my general health and approach to preserving this health has been a benefit to my mental and emotional well-being along the way.

When I was providing a phone interview for Outside Magazine for a potential upcoming article, I read a little of the recent work on their Facebook page and found some support to my suggestion in a recent article written by Brad Stulberg titled “The 5 Most Basic Rules of Health and Fitness.”

The study cites research and knowledge from a physician at the Mayo clinic and I strongly encourage reading the full article. Two salient points I wanted to emphasize involve:

  1. The notion of doing something active every day
  2. Being engaged in something you find meaningful

Both of these are significant factors in living longer and healthier. Whatever fitness we have is the base from which we should appropriately engage in these two approaches whenever reasonable. I have not always been training for marathons or climbing mountains but I’ve usually been choosing to find something active and almost always engaged in something meaningful for me. In various ways, these are rooted into messages I share in my presentations as well. Life, like a marathon, is an endurance sport and with the right training plan we can cruise along and enjoy the experience better than if we face it without training or a plan. In both cases the real value and meaning is in enjoying the training and the entirety of the race, not just the moment of the finish line–no matter how epic it may seem.

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29 Jul 17

A steep, rocky, uphill trail

When you’re blind, a lot of things can feel like a steep uphill climb.

By Randy Pierce

“Patience? How long will that take?!?” – Tracy Pierce

I firmly believe going blind was much harder than being blind. While losing sight had many challenges of varying intensity, being blind for some time has lessened the burden considerably. Still, there is one persistent challenge with a solution I attempt constantly and yet so often struggle to manage: almost everything I attempt simply takes more time to manage without sight. This can lead to frustrations and failure unless I plan for the potential extra time and learn to practice patience in everything I attempt.

Planning more time is a benefit although we all still have the same number of hours in each day. So as I prioritize the things I hope to accomplish, there are more difficult choices of things to exclude simply because I know I should allow additional time.

This time manifests immediately in the finding of items I need. This is mitigated by better organization, although that organization requires some initial setup time. Identification of items whether by tactile or technology is typically more time consuming. Travel usually requires a little more planning and preparation, whether to ensure Autumn is also prepared or that any coordination involved has been managed with possible delays included. Often this involves putting myself at the scheduling of others which means building in margins. Bus schedules have an earliest possible arrival and I need to be there by that time even though they may not arrive until the latest window. Several times it is well past that later window before I can determine reasonably they must have driven past me without stopping. Hopefully I’ve left myself enough time for back-up plans!

I admit these time drains are frustrating, moreso when I’m caught waiting outside in particularly unpleasant weather. The reality is that these concerns are part of the world in which I exist and to be frustrated by them too much would be to allow constant negativity into my world. This is why the notion of practicing patience is so valuable.

Part of that is learning to understand what is truly urgent and what is only important at varying levels to me. The more urgent, the more time margins I allow and patience I plan into events. The lower the importance, the more I can tighten those windows and accept the consequences if things go awry. These truths hold whether you are blind or fully sighted–it’s just that blindness affords me many opportunities to test my patience, as not only will most things take me longer, but also I’ll likely have to gently educate people around me for how and why things may take longer. Sometimes we can agree upon shortcuts to alleviate the process and sometimes there are good reasons why those shortcuts are not acceptable. In the latter case, it is often the explanation of why which may require the most patience and consume the most time. It is also the best reason for patience, however.

The best moments for education and team building occur when done from a platform of patient knowledge sharing. Reminding myself of that notion is a significant part of the motivation to success in finding my patience. I just hope you may forgive me if you encounter me in a time of failure and perhaps give me a gentle reminder to get back on the path!

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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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25 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

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

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

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

You can find my sessions with him here and here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to the Mission Possible Archives

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