Tag: Motivation



4 Oct 15

By Randy and Tracy Pierce

Our African Expedition to Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater was an absolutely amazing experience. While it is not reasonable to chronicle it entirely in a single blog, Tracy and I thought we’d share a couple of insider questions to each other to help you understand just a little of the experience.

Randy and Tracy share a kiss on the Serengeti.

Randy and Tracy share a kiss on the Serengeti.

Randy: While the elephant looming behind our kiss is eye-catching, there’s another elephant in the room in that we did not summit together. Would you be willing to share a bit about that?

Tracy: Oh, dive right into the tough questions! So I did not reach the summit, which was a very tough choice for me. I  spent much of the trip plagued by headaches and shortness of breath. These symptoms caused me to progress far slower than the rest group so I requested a head start on summit night. About three hours into the hike (2am) the rest of the group caught up and easily passed us. By 4am (5 hours in) I was feeling extremely dizzy and was starting to stumble, after about 45 minutes of this I began to question whether I should continue. My teammate Maureen and guide Goodlove encouraged me to keep trying. I pushed on, hoping that sunrise would reinvigorate me. Sunrise came (amazing, gorgeous) but I had no rejuvenation. Finally at 7 am, after 8 hours of climbing I decided that if I kept pushing I would not be able to make it back down. I felt that I made a smart decision that was right for me and was proud that I persevered for hours and came within 10 minutes of Stella Point  (5685 meters). In hindsight I wrestle with feelings of being left out of the experience that the rest of the team shared, yet, I also learned that I reached high enough in my climb to have technically reached Stella Point and I am mighty proud to have climbed so high.

Tracy: Day two was some of the toughest footing we experienced can you share some thoughts on how you felt at the end of the day?

Randy: Day one had particularly easy footing with water bars being the main challenge so in contrast day 2 was a little bit of a wake-up call. It still wasn’t any different than most of the trails in the White Mountains upon which we train. As we were climbing over 10,000 feet there was a constant barrage of incredible views and that gave us pause for photographs and side explorations commonly. As we neared the end of the uphill climb which was handled in the entirety by a strong and motivated Jose, we hit a few interesting side scrambles with a drop off. This required us to be slow to manage the risks of the falls which might have otherwise been a problem. Ultimately it was not the most tricky footing for me on the trip but in comparison to day 1 it was a slow down reality check on our pace even before altitude really reduced our speed.

Jose and Randy Day Two

Randy: Do you have a particularly powerful moment from the Kilimanjaro hike which you might also like to share?

Tracy: I think there were two experiences that I’d share. The first was on day two which is arguably the hardest 2.8 mile route I have ever hiked. I was hiking ahead of you and Jose which provided frequent occasions where I would be worried about how the two of you would navigate extremely tough footing. I occasionally stopped long enough for the two of your to catch up so I would know that you were well. The combination of fear and pride at what the two of you accomplished together will be with me until I die. Such powerful emotions do not fade easily.

The second powerful moment was on the Barranco wall. We camped at the base of the 800′  Barranco wall on day three where it loomed imposing and scary. I woke feeling more than a touch apprehensive. Once we started on the wall I realized that the rock scrambling that we experienced in the Whites really set me up to tackle the wall strongly, although I was still scared of the notorious Kissing wall. We navigated a particularly tough spot and I mentioned out loud that if that one was so tough how hard would the Kissing wall be? That was when my guide told me that we had just done the Kissing wall. I felt so triumphant to have handily tackled something that I’d been so worried about.

Tracy: As we know, summit day was extremely hard. You had some unexpected difficulties while trying to make the lower camp, will you share that story?

Randy: Absolutely I’ll share what all those on the hike already understand all too well. Summit day was incredibly difficult in many ways. We’d had little, or in many cases no, sleep; we had too little nutrition as feelings of nausea hamper the ability to eat. We hiked in the dark which restricted my guides abilities and as the oxygen thinned it was harder on all of us to find ways to keep working. Seven hours of hiking brought us to the summit with nobody feeling well or strong. Still things were good enough to savor the sunrise and the summit before we began the long descent. Down is almost always harder on me though the skree of the upper levels wasn’t too bad. Few guides had much strength to guide long and Jose and Rob had spent much of their efforts in getting me to the summit. Greg Neault really stepped in at a critical time. Unfortunately the last half mile before Barafu (high camp) was truly the most difficult for my feet and we worked incredibly hard to get through it. With my headache pounding at impressive levels, food reserves non-existant it would have been great to get a refreshing break at Barafu. Unfortunately plans called for us to rest briefly, get lunch and then hike six difficult trail miles back to a more reasonable elevation at Mweka camp. I was unable to sleep or eat and while Greg put in two of the miles guiding, we switched to Jose with me feeling more and more nauseated, light headed and struggling to give the focus I need to walk even a moderate trail. Two full days of no sleep along with the mental and physical exertion caught up with me and I lost consciousness for a moment, collapsing behind Jose.

Once again a strength of the entire experience was the incredible dedication and capability of the Climb Killi guides and porters. Our main guide, Emmanuel, and one of the assistants, Vader, walked beside me with our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders for steady support. The trail became a washed out stream bed which is amongst the worst for my making time. We plodded on slowly and with little progress towards my recovery until we neared 12,000 feet. Finally the nausea lifted enough for me to hold down a couple of Jenn’s sports drinks and keep me conscious through to the final camp. I collapsed into the tent and slept through until morning with again no dinner. While this concerned the guides, Tracy and the team understood I could eat a hearty breakfast but sleep was my essential need. This allowed full rejuvenation and a strong hike out on our final day which was blessedly back on trail which is more easily managed. I’m certainly not proud of how rough it was for me but I’m thankful for how much the team supported the efforts necessary to let me struggle through ultimately enough. A very special thanks to Michelle for the constant medical care along the way and to you, Tracy, for having our tent so well ready for my essential collapse.

Randy: My next question involves our team.  As I was so commonly connected to a primary guide and each of us formed our own interactions, I wonder what you took away from the development of our team?

Tracy: That is an great question. I knew every member of the team to varying degrees prior to our trip, with the exception of Maureen. A wonderful development was that Maureen was by far my biggest, most pleasant surprise.  We found that we hike at similar paces and have similar hiking styles and really got along famously. As to the rest of the team, I loved how quickly the entire team settled into a fun camaraderie coupled with kindness and helpfulness. It is true that sharing epic adventures with a group of people creates a bond that is both amazing and unrivaled. I will cherish this group of people for their sense of fun, adventure and their willingness to help their fellow teammates!

Tracy: One of my favorite, most celebratory moments was the singing that we were greeted with at the Mweka gate on our completion of the trip. Can you share a time that was most celebratory to you?

Randy: You know I’m never shy so I’ll share two very different experiences which took place on the same day, I believe. On Wednesday night we camped at the Barranco Camp with the massive and intimidating 800 foot wall directly ahead of us. This was a hands to the trail slightly technical scramble for much of the morning. Our entire team has enough familiarity with scrambles in the white Mountains that we treated the entire journey like the East Osceola chimney. We were quick and capable such that at the top of the wall we stopped to celebrate together. It was a great bonding moment of achievement and pride for how well everyone had worked. I relished that feeling then and still.

Later that evening we were in the mess tent sharing a dinner when Greg asked Rob to read his guest blog that had been released back home. It was powerful and moving on so many fronts and led to more team emotional sharing which brought us together on an even deeper level. We had plenty of trials ahead but the team was cemented into a strong and caring enough core to undertake that challenge together.

Randy: The Serengeti was so vastly different from what I expected and definitely an incredible experience. What surprised you most about the Safari adventure?

Tracy: The Serengeti was amazing and the one thing that surprised me the most was just how close most of the animals were. Whether it was hyenas or lions sleeping right off the road, or elephants passing behind our Landrover almost close enough to touch.

While this is just the barest insight into the experiences of only two of our eleven team members, it hopefully provides you with a little flavor as well as the incentive to reach out to any and all of our team for the rest of the many stories. Life has the potential to be an amazing series of adventures whether by hearing or living the stories. As in many things, however, they are always the sweeter when shared together. Thank you Tracy for sharing life’s adventures with me!

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26 Sep 15

By Randy Pierce

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.
-  Tom Hiddleston

Team all together in Aurusha before the hike

The team hangs out all together in Aurusha before their epic climb! An important, supportive community.

I’m writing this before departing to Tanzania for my attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. When we publish this, the success or failure of that summit goal will be known. To me though, the success began with the belief that it was a worthy experience and the confidence to choose to try for it. Hundreds of people with whom I speak often relay to me their lack of belief in their own abilities to attempt a variety of things, sometimes within the realm of common activities for the majority of people. What is it which allows doubt or fear to paralyze people in their pursuits? Why even are people so easily consumed by their own lack of confidence?

One of the simplest approaches to easing this challenge is to surround ourselves with people who encourage and support our ideas. Our basic community has such a powerful impact upon us and we forget that we ultimately choose the people with whom we share our lives. I have a marvelous accompaniment of supportive friends and for me it constantly makes a difference. I, in turn, encourage myself to always be that supportive influence in their lives as well. If we are commonly given doubt from the outside, it’s simply no wonder it might ease into us and impact our own thoughts and feeling for ourselves.

Secondly, I believe we so easily focus upon the negatives in our world. Yes, I too have many doubts and some fears which could easily paralyze me if I gave them the chance. I choose to focus on the means of resolution to challenges, of the rewards and benefits possible rather than those doubts and fears. It isn’t that I do not realistically evaluate them and identify the crucial points–it’s that I dwell on solutions more than problems and rewards instead of failures. Whether this approach is of help to anyone else, I cannot be certain, but I do know that in my pursuit of my own peak potential and my well wish for all of your similar abilities to reach new heights, I think the most perilous peak of all is the choice not to climb!

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8 Aug 15

By Randy Pierce

Why would a blind man climb a mountain? Recent sharing of my plans to join a group of friends in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro has caused some to raise that question once again. Several years ago I gave what I felt was a fairly powerful answer and I think now is a worthy time to share this once again. In addition to my perspectives of the time which remain true today, I simply believe there is so much benefit in being in the moment of experiences which are of value to you and doing your absolute utmost to find ways to fully appreciate every aspect of those many moments. It’s how I’ve lived much of my life and I still marvel at just how much reward I’ve received for taking this approach.

*****

“A Sense of the Summit”

By Randy Pierce

Originally posted on July 23, 2010

“Randy, as a blind person, what exactly is the thrill you get from the hiking to the summit of a mountain?”

I understand the dubious nature of that question even when posed by my well-intentioned friends. It is difficult for most sighted folks to fully comprehend my world without sight. I certainly did not and could not grasp the thought when I had vision. In my imagination, my idea of being blind was neither worse nor better than it actually is, just inaccurate.

Randy and Quinn at a waterfallIt isn’t that my other senses are any better than before I went blind. It’s that I pay better attention to my other senses now. In doing so, I have learned a little more of the language of scent, sound, touch, and taste. The enhancement that this new ‘language’ brings to all my experiences is astounding. Vision can be splendid and awe-inspiring, especially when considering the scenic views of nature found in the White Mountains. Vision can also be a distraction, hiding away some other hidden sensory gem of an experience.

In a poem entitled Thanatopsis, William Cullen Bryant wrote, “To him who in the love of nature holds / Communion with her visible forms, she speaks / A various language” I’m still getting better at appreciating the ”various language” of nature, but try to imagine some of this with me. The babbling brook is easy to hear and visualize, as is the rushing roar of a waterfall. Those experiences are powerful, single-sense perceptions. Standing on a trail and pausing for a rest, you feel the wind caressing your skin as it cools the moisture on your brow. The air carries upon it the scent of pine and the sound of branches rustling in the same breeze – not just the sound of the wind moving one branch or one tree but an entire forest in a symphony of subtle sound. With practice, you can even tell much about the type of forest within which all of this exists. In appreciation, a deep breath pleases the palette with crisp and fresh air – rife with flavor lost to a mind distracted by the stimulus of sight. If that sounds incredible, it is. Each trip, I encounter a few more of these moments, and yet each mountain, each moment, is different and speaks to the “surround sense” world which I am privileged explore.

Many experiences confirm the reward that entices me to the trails. I gain vast and rich experience through the eyes of my fellow hikers and through our mutual accomplishments. I crave the accomplishment of the summit and the bonds of community. I desire the mental reflection atop a summit with nothing above me and the world sprawled below. But most of all, I yearn for the chance to learn the deep and rich language of synesthesia for all my senses, within a wilderness that has so very much to say – if only I can learn to listen with all of the senses still available to me. In the ascent, the descent, the summit, and all along the journey, it is this full sense of the world that is my reward. What a “various language” indeed!

See the original post here.

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27 Jun 15

By Randy Pierce

I am thrilled to have been invited to provide a TEDx Talk and certainly believe the result is a video well worth watching. I deliver several of the more poignant messages I believe are simply valuable to any of us in our lives. I share a few of the more fun anecdotal demonstrations of those messages and the comfort with which I can present to any audience. The conference theme emphasized “community” while my presentation put its focus primarily upon “Reaching our Peak Potential.”

“…it rocked the entire audience of 130 people. There were farmers, lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists from young to old… Everyone felt that Randy was talking to them. It was a profound experience.”
– Celeste Barr, Beaver Brook Association

I hope all of you reading this are already aware that we provide corporate presentations and keynote addresses. I also hope you will consider sharing this with every appropriate business and organization who might benefit from having us visit. We believe that the success of our charity directly depends on our ability to earn an honorarium to 2020 Vision Quest by providing such presentations. We are confident it’s a great value and significant benefit to those who attend our presentations as well as ensuring the work we do with students will continue. It must all begin with the choice you make to refer us or invite us to such presentation opportunities.

Once you experience our TEDx Talk above and realize how many more messages we will deliver powerfully to each presentation, I hope you won’t delay in helping us with this outreach. It’s simply an idea worth sharing, which is the motto of TED. Given that, I’ll leave you with the mission statement for TED and simply share how very proud and fortunate I feel for being a part of the TEDx community. Thank you to TEDx Amoskeag Millyard and to many others who have believed in the benefit of my presentations. I hope you too will be part of that team.

The TED Talk  Mission: Spread ideas

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.

 

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20 Jun 15

By Randy Pierce

“When is the last time you did something for the first time?” – shared at Mt. Snow Tough Mudder and every tough Mudder

TEAMwork at the tough mudderThere is something invigorating and life changing for many of us when attempting something new or facing a particularly poignant challenge. I believe this is amplified when you undertake it as a team due to the power of giving and receiving support along that course. This is the essence of the gifts available during a Tough Mudder. Recently I undertook my third Tough Mudder, all within the last year and all filled with different aspects of the same rewarding result.

I am by no means suggesting that a Tough Mudder is the snake oil cure for all which may ail you. I am, however, confident it is one avenue amongst many for you to challenge yourself to undertake something new, something difficult for you perhaps and most importantly to be part of a team in which you may in equal measure give and receive support towards the goal. I’ve blogged about the Power of Purpose previously and now I cannot well enough express how much I value the rewards of “Team” and how pleased I was to have a school share with me the acronym: Together Everyone Achieves More.

In order to illustrate this in our recent June 7 Tough Mudder at Mt. Snow Vermont, I think it best to refer you to the words of one of my teammates in her blog about the entire experience. Her photos, words and obvious emotional impact highlight the above point as powerfully as any of my own words. Thank you Cathy Merrifield and to our entire team!

Read and be inspired by Cathy’s blog!

 

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25 Apr 15

By Randy Pierce

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

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

The 2015 Boston Marathon was a week ago and a lifetime ago by the feel of it for me at this point. While I’m still basking in an exuberant glow from the race itself as well as the thousands of congratulations, I wasn’t certain our community would want to hear more. There is, however, a potent enough message for me that I thought it worth sharing here.

But before I share it, I want to yet again commend the incredible work by my Guides who make it possible for me to undertake such an epic experience. Peter and Christine Houde split the course as my official Guides with Greg Hallerman assisting throughout as has been discussed in my pre-race posts. I did not give fair estimate to the enormous work of managing so many fellow racers on a difficult course and with fairly challenging weather conditions throughout. My friends and Guides were simply stellar and we were, I think, an incredible team.

As most know, one other Guide was my motivation for this race. I ran Boston to honor the Mighty Quinn for his years of loving loyalty in guiding me to walking, hiking, running and each day of our too short lives together.

With the training behind me and my intent clear, I lined up in Hopkinton for the start of the race. The rain picked up and a chill wind made me eager for the heat of the run to come. We started moving with me tight behind Pete and my legs eager to find a stride. For the first 2-3 miles that stride was in check tight behind Pete as we simply were in a wall of people moving fairly swiftly down the hills into Ashland. Greg’s voice projected to help us ease a space to move through and ensure other runners understood a little space was safer for us.

Randy and Christine powering through the second half of the Marathon.

Randy and Christine powering through the second half of the Marathon.

It was a constant effort to keep our pace a little slower as the energy was incredible. Thousands of spectators stood along the route despite the far less than ideal conditions, and continued to encourage all the runners. Finally in Ashland I was able to emerge and run beside Pete with Greg weaving back and forth to support us in pacing and spacing. With my arms marked with “Quinn” and my shirt in his honor as well, many shouts for Quinn buoyed my spirits along the way. Each time I heard a “Randy” it told me it was someone who knew me rather than reading my shirt… and there were oh so many of those times all along the route because of the incredible friends I have in my life. The mental burden on my Guides and Pete as primary was intense and before the 12-mile mark we reached the transition point for Christine to join the race and Pete to depart as the rules dictate. I was sad for his loss but strong in my focus–we never even paused for the transition as they switched in mid run with practiced ease.

Christine was strong and eager as we shot through Wellesley and into the infamous Newton Hills. Even effort suggests a slight slowing of pace for the uphills and slight increase on the downhills and our overall pace stayed strong as four successive up and downs brought us close to the crest of Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. Many runners suggest a marathon begins at mile 20. It’s where the hardest effort begins, but in Boston that starts with Heartbreak Hill and often drives the point home.

Randy, Greg, and Christine conquer Heartbreak Hill.

Randy, Greg, and Christine conquer Heartbreak Hill.

We had a pack of friends together and I was buoyed by the group effort. I knew that if I reached the summit of Heartbreak Hill still strong that my marathon had just 5 mostly downhill miles remaining. Still, I knew those would be the miles that break many runners. As I crested the hill, my purpose was surging within me and I gave two significant efforts. I tossed my head back and shouted to the skies “You did not break my heart!” because the hill had not broken my will nor my heart. Quinn’s death had wounded my heart but his gift of love and loyalty had made it strong enough to survive. My own gift of love and loyalty had helped me heal and my purpose was a demonstation for me and somehow to him that this was so.

With 21 miles of the Marathon having stripped away so much of the decoration which surrounds our essential being, I was finding in myself the raw and real passion of my purpose to honor him. I threw my head back once more and shouted “I love you, Quinn Boy!” with all of the fervor and strength I had. The potency of that shout was cathartic and I was energized in a way I’d have never thought possible deep into such an epic race.

Randy, Greg, and Christine after a successful finish!

Randy, Greg, and Christine after a successful finish!

I knew then without doubt I would finish the race as strong as I’d run already. There was no thought of quitting or slowing, but instead a calm steady confident determination that I would stride out the rest and he would be with me as he was in the moment of shout. I didn’t waver the rest of the route; there were hard miles left for certain but I realized then with crystal clarity that the power of a purpose can ignite a fervent drive.

My Marathon has so many moments worthy of sharing but the message for me was this: Find a purpose in your life, find a purpose to drive your small and your grand goals. If that purpose is truly your inspired choice, you very well may find as I did that it can take you to incredible heights. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 50 minutes, and 37 seconds. I crossed with so much support from so many places but I crossed strong enough to run further and faster if needed. I had more to give, not just in that moment, but in the many moments ahead because I know how to infuse purpose into my goals.

Quinn, my beloved boy, will not be the only purpose in my future endeavours. He’ll always be a beloved part of my life and may at many points be an inspiration. The purpose in each goal will vary, but I always know that finding the right reason, the right motivation for me and for that next moment is how I can fuel myself to be strong, to be Boston Strong on this year’s race… to be Quinn Strong as my boy was so many times… as any of us can be… with purpose.

Quinn on Mt. Flume. We love you, boy!

We love you, Quinn Boy!

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13 Dec 14

By Jennifer Streck

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been a part of 2020 Vision Quest since its inception when Randy asked me over for lunch to pick my brain about an idea. From day one, I loved the concept and goals and hold immense admiration for Randy’s courage and drive.

The most awesome part of what he does, in my not-so-humble opinion, is his school outreach. I have been there when Randy has spoken to the elementary classes that my own children were in and left each time inspired and feeling better about the world we live in.

Randy is sitting with the team of 6th – 8th graders on Team Eyrie. Autumn is at his feet.

Randy, Autumn and the 2014 Elm Street Eyrie FLL Team.

Most recently, I escorted Randy to Elm Street Middle School where the Elm Street Eyrie were prepping for their inaugural First LEGO® League (FLL) competition. (Full disclosure: my daughter Bella is part of this team and asked to have Randy come in and speak to the group and help them with their project. As Randy saw Bella take her first steps before I, her mother, did, he owes me for life and is at my beck and call for all appearances.)

Now a little about FLL – it’s not just about the LEGO® robots. As part of these competitions, the teams must also present a project around the theme of the year and work within the core values of FLL – teamwork, cooperation, discovery, mentorship and fun. This time around they needed to address how to assist in learning. It’s a pretty broad category and the kids decided that they wanted to figure out how to help someone who is visually impaired. Randy was a tremendous resource to the kids as he told them the facts of his background and shared with them all of the different ways he learns about the world around him from directions, his environment, the weather, communication tools, computers and everything else.

The team shows him some of the obstacle courses on the FLL table. Randy is using his hands to feel the obstacles as the kids describe what each does and how they program the robot to do the tasks.

Team Eyrie demonstrates the FLL Obstacle Course table to Randy.

The kids were attentive and absorbed a lot. They even got to show Randy the obstacle course table that they used to program the LEGO® robot. As they spoke with Randy, I noticed a change in how they communicated. At first they all spoke at once and their enthusiasm was overwhelming. But then they settled and learned how to communicate in a way that was detailed, thoughtful, and expressive. In the age of “LOL,” “OMG,” and “BRB” this is not as easy as you would think. Just like the robots, these kids were programming their brains and were themselves learning.

As I sat there listening, two themes resonated.

First: Communication is key. Whether it’s explaining where a door is or expressing your point of view – the world stops without key human communication. And I am not talking about Facebook posts, Tweets, texting, or even this blog. Honest-to-goodness human interaction with your voice – words and tone – opens doors to so much for so many.

Second: Don’t be afraid. Be brave. Take chances. It’s harder than it sounds, but if we all try to do #1 to our best ability, there is no fear. Such simple concepts that we all, young and old alike, should keep closer in our playbooks of life. Oh what we could be and what we could give to the world if every day we woke up and took on each day with an open mind, brave heart and emotive spirit. Am I making more of it than it is? Sure. Maybe. I am known to dig a little deeper than necessary at times. But I also know that at the end of the session one of those young men came up to Randy and thanked him because before Randy spoke with them and told them his tale he was afraid around the blind. Now he knew he did not have to be and just needed to communicate in a new way.

The team shows him some of the obstacle courses on the FLL table. Randy is using his hands to feel the obstacles as the kids describe what each does and how they program the robot to do the tasks.

Team Eyrie demonstrates the FLL Obstacle Course table to Randy.

You’re likely asking yourself, “So how did the kids do? Did they win?” The kids went to their first competition on November 22nd. They did a tremendous job all around. Their project focused on the creation of a new app for the visually impaired to lend assistance crossing roads and intersections.

The app relies on the phone’s GPS (which Randy relies on) and BlueTooth technology that would communicate with the stoplights at intersections. When connected a signal would be omitted letting the pedestrian know it was safe to cross and at which street he/she is crossing. They even wrote a letter to the mayor of Nashua explaining their proposal and making themselves available for more questions and further research. (I would never have thought of an app, but that’s why I am raising digital natives – to change the world.)

And in addition, their robot came in 4th out of 16 teams in the Robot Obstacle Course Tournament! (I almost started the wave in the stands – it was so exciting!).

In the end, Team Elm Street Eyrie did not place overall and are not moving onto the States competition but this team pulled together in short order and delivered something that they should be very proud of. They worked as a team, communicated their goals, contributed their best and took some chances. That’s a check in the “win” column no matter what.

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8 Nov 14

By Randy Pierce

Moosilauke - Flags on 48

Randy and friends fly an American flag atop Mt. Moosilauke in honor of those who died in service, both civil and military.

My vision of Veterans Day is from my youth with fog encroaching on a chill morning over a memorial in my hometown of Colebrook, NH. The haunting echo of the bugle is barely finished when the 21-gun salute rips through the echo and startles my somber reflection. My parents and community had instilled in me a sacred duty to honor the service gifted by all our veterans to our country. Veterans Day was one of the special holidays.

Is it still special? Certainly some make efforts to appreciate the choices and all too often sacrifices of our veterans. It does seem less emphasized to me today though, and I wonder if it’s the advent of so many “special” days, from “Unwrapped Twizzler Day” (yes, I hope I only made that up) to a culture that seemingly has lost some intensity of focus on any particular holiday or other day of note. Perhaps the ugliness of war and the reality of instant news coverage of any and every atrocity or failing has desensitized us and increased apathy?

For me, all of this is entirely my subjective observation. I sadly believe it as firmly as I believe there are many very worthy causes deserving of our limited attention and it is our personal responsibility to cut through the dilution of emotion and give focus to as many as we can reasonably manage.

Blindness is a cause to which I dedicate much time and energy. Cancer has impacted my life in so many painful ways it must get my full focus and all too often fury. These are reasonable and worthy points and I’m proud of the means by which I support them both. For all the people who do and have served our country, from my father to the many friends and family across all branches of service, I am humbled and appreciative. For some it may have been just a job or means to an education, and for some a career, but for all an agreement to serve. The reality of such service in hostile and abhorrent circumstances I likely may never fully fathom.

I’ll be grateful all year for the very significant freedom their choices provide. On Veterans Day this year and every year, I hope I will join many in recalling the people who are the veterans so worthy of our dedication on their day. Thank you veterans and to all those who join in honoring them with me.

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11 Oct 14

By Randy Pierce

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

– John Hanc, running writer

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

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

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

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

– Rob de Castella, winner 1983 World Marathon Championships

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

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

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

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

Randy finishes the Hollis Fast 5k.

Randy finishes the Hollis Fast 5k.

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

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

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

–Hal Higdon, running writer and coach

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

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

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

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

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

C – Conceive
B – Believe
A – Achieve

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

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6 Sep 14

By Randy Pierce

“People will forget what you say and what you do long before they will forget how you made them feel”
– Maya Angelou

Randy and Autumn present at Interlakes High School.

Randy and Autumn present at Interlakes High School.

Our first school presentation of the new academic year was a pair of presentations at Interlakes High School. We began at 7:30 am with a presentation to the entire freshman class of 85 students as they explored concepts of goal setting, cooperation, community, and perseverance. Their attention was highly focused and intense with eager responses to questions and challenges provided to them.

After a brief break with some inspired sharing, the 300 students representing sophomores through seniors arrived for another hour-long presentation which used the challenges of goal setting and adversity management as a means for reaching each of their own individual peak potential. Once again rapt attention, thunderous applause and moving testimonials highlighted the experience–yet the underlying motivation was probably far more hidden to most.

These seniors had been given a presentation in the fall of 2011 and this was a repeat of the revised programs available on our For Educators. They had overwhelmingly reported how much the messages had resonated for them and how grateful they were to reconnect with the message and methods as they begin their final year of high school. It was a powerful reminder to me just how worthy an impact we may have on students’ lives.

Randy and Autumn with an Interlakes teacher.

Randy and Autumn with an Interlakes teacher.

As students file out of the auditorium after a presentation, it is not uncommon for a thank you, handshake, or testimonial to be shared. Sometimes those points are what motivate me to work harder, encourage the 2020 team to understand the value of our work, and to expand our outreach to bring more students to our message. It is uplifting to hear the emotionally laden appreciation from students and often some staff surprises.

Such was the case when a teacher shared with the entire student body that a hiking story I had told about whether we focus on our feet upon a trail or the entire experience around us led to some changes and insight for her own life. This had so much impact that she embraced a few personal challenges from that day forward on the trails and in her life.

One such challenge culminated in a challenge she made to her fellow teachers. She refused to accept her technological limitations as she sought how to bring the perfect means to unite all teachers in sharing daily a positive experience which would uplift all of them each day. She found a mobile app to accomplish this and launched the school-wide program the day before our arrival to a resounding success in the young school year. Meanwhile all the students were challenged to set goals for September which would be reviewed as they learned skills around “positive adversity” and aiso reviewing the rewards our talks present for understanding challenges in a different way.

When you know you are changing lives and people share this with your project, it becomes the most powerful motivation. The 2020 Vision Quest team does many wonderful acts of community service. All have equal value and measure to those who receive them. The people who are touched by our message and in turn choose to touch our lives give us the inspiration, motivation, and dedication to continue our work. Thank you Interlakes and many future schools for inspiring our efforts to continue!

Autumn takes a well-deserved rest after a job well-done.

Autumn takes a well-deserved rest after a job well-done.

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