Tag: Randy



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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16 Apr 15

By Randy Pierce

As always, I welcome all forms of support including donations to 2020 Vision Quest Donate

Often my blogs receive careful consideration on both my intent and content. They receive polish from friend and volunteer Beth Foote before you ever get to read them. I’m frequently candid and yet a distance between my thoughts and emotions filters much of what becomes the words and phrasing I choose.

Randy and Guide Thor crossing the Finish line of Cox Providence on 5/4/2014 to qualify for Boston as detailed in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Randy and Guide Thor crossing the Finish line of Cox Providence on 5/4/2014 to qualify for Boston as detailed in “Qualifying for Quinn.”

Endurance events often strip away our filters and expose us to ourselves. Those along for the journey and the powerful legacy of Boston elevates this beyond measure. So I hope to give you my candid thoughts at several points now and in comments below as we lead into and through my first Boston Marathon experience. I hope you’ll all feel welcome to share any thoughts, questions or observations along the way of this semi-permanent record of our journey.

Thor and I qualified together in a well chronicled experience that absolutely bared much of my inner turmoil through the challenge. I was still so tangled in the absence of Quinn and my drive to honor him. I knew I was not properly prepared and was ready to accept the painful consequences of forcing through the experience to lay the foundation of training and growth ahead. When the shoreline winds began to buffet us at mile 19 or so, I wasn’t sure I could do this. Beyond my blindness the balance challenges were rocking my world in all the wrong ways. Thor’s many marathons, problem solving, calm and encouraging words were likely the difference that day. I was strong in my determination but definitely met my match against the marathon.

I must have questioned my choices nearly a hundred times in the second half of the run and names of people who encouraged me or made a positive impact on my life were how I dealt with those miles and in some points just in each step. Each decision to run when my body had demanded a walk. To lift a leg quivering with muscle spasms and telling me I wanted to quit. People who haven’t been in these experiences with me often perceive an indomitable strength–I’ve been told that many times. Not so by any means, as Thor, Jose, Greg, Meredith, Justin, Tracy and many others know all too well. Determined and willful for certain but one who wrestles with that will as often as most of us I suspect.

Randy and Jose with determination and focus as they close in on the finish which would earn them the B1 National Championship in Sacramento, California on 12/7/2014

Randy and Jose with determination and focus as they close in on the finish which would earn them the B1 National Championship in Sacramento, California on 12/7/2014.

Quinn was my inspiration to returning to running and the reason for this Boston Marathon goal as I detail in our #Miles4Quinn program. It began with our hiking and in the conditioning and training he soon had me running. Most don’t know that Sarah Toney’s support for her sister got her into running and her infectious determination helped push Quinn and me further. Bob Hayes brought us into the road race world and I’ll forever appreciate his contributions to my running and hiking adventures. Jennifer Liang took over for Bob and all along the way my wife Tracy’s encouragement, knowledge, and support helped expand the inclination and opportunity. When my outreach for guides began, many answered the call and began this year of dedicated training. Christine Houde as one of the earliest human guides and half of the husband and wife team who will be my official guides in Boston. She joined me for a snowy first run which set the tone for this winter.

Few, however, answered the call as well as my well cherished friend and “Coach” Greg Hallerman. He believes running has given so much to his life that anyone who wants to run ought to get a little help to achieve. He has overachieved in logging more miles with me than anyone else despite some heroic diligence by Matt Shapiro. Ultimately Greg has taught me as much about life and friendship as he has about running and yet that running has brought me through failures like my Did Not Finish (DNF) at mile 23.5 of the Bay State Marathon (Sorry Meredith!). It brought me through the triumph of a B1 National Championship at the California International marathon (Congratulations to us Jose!) and it brings me to this epic goal of the 2015 Boston Marathon where he will be a part of our team.

Randy and his Boston Guide team of friend/coach Greg Hallerman and Guide team of Christine and Peter Houde from their last training long run together.

Randy and his Boston Guide team of friend/coach Greg Hallerman and Guide team of Christine and Peter Houde from their last training long run together.

#WeRunTogether is the hashtag for the Boston Marathon for many and yet I think it is never more true than for a blind runner. I’m actually part of Team with a Vision who coordinate blind athletes from around the world. They are a tremendous group in many ways such that I hope you’ll learn all of their amazing stories along the way this year. Most of all, though, I’m part of my team of Greg, Christine, and Pete. I always have the gift of sharing the team sport of running. I have someone to lift me up when I struggle mentally or physically. I have someone to whom my support can sometimes fill my own spirit with such strength as I think an individual might never fully realize on a race course. It’s this sharing of experience which is the essence of team and the acronym I well appreciate: T.E.A.M.; Together everyone Achieves More. The preparation for Boston is mostly behind and so much experience awaits. Every day I’m reading a tip I’ve probably heard many times. Every spare moment I’m visualizing my journey through the 9 towns/cities along the route. Yet there are still more days until the experience and so much more beyond that all I can say is I feel ready, excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, motivated, honored and perhaps most of all grateful. It isn’t every day we get to be part of something epic but at this time I feel very connected to a community and an experience unique in the world. I cannot wait to see how it helps me learn, grow and celebrate for myself and for my most amazing Mighty Quinn. Let’s go Boston!

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4 Apr 15

By Randy Pierce

“Team Randy: Greg, Jose, Loren, Sky and Randy atop the Beached Whale challenge celebrating: You get out what you put in!

Team Randy: Greg, Jose, Loren, Sky and Randy atop the Beached Whale challenge celebrating.

Oberto Beef Jerky reached out to me through my friend Court Crandall with an invitation to take part in my second Tough Mudder on Saturday, March 28 in Los Angeles, California. “You get out what you put in” is a theme of theirs and I often feel my life exemplifies the rewards in this message.

With the help of my tremendous team, we gave all of our heart, strength, will, and tenacity, but the constant rewards of the day made it all such a small price to pay! Thank you to my team: Greg, Jose, Loren and Sky; to Court, Tough Mudder and to Oberto for a completely epic experience!

TM-LA 2015-Saturday-Team Randy (1)-LR

Triumphant team photo!

While our shirt suggests “I see no obstacles,” I actually do see plenty of obstacles despite my being totally blind. Obstacles are opportunities and the right mindset is so powerful in helping us choose the right response and thereby reap the rewards. In my vision they are simply the means to help us achieve incredible heights of teamwork and success.

Do I sometimes crash into the literal and metaphorical obstacles or falter at it initially? Of course, I think we all do. The bigger question is what do you do next, can you problem solve? Persevere? With a community of support, which we can build in our lives and which is incredibly evident at Tough Mudder events, even the most challenging obstacles can be overcome.

For example, in the midst of our OCR (Obstacle Course Race) we hit the “King of the Swingers.” Climb a 20-25 foot platform, leap out 8 or so feet to catch a suspended T-bar trapeze which you swing to its extent, release, and launch into the air to hopefully ring a bell suspended in mid-air – all before plunging into the water below. Now doing this all without any sight seemed rather daunting and some might have suggested impossible. I had my doubts as well and as a team we had been planning a strategy which we modified as the nature of the full challenge was revealed. The results are in the video below and highlight not only the process but the incredible support which Mudders so passionately share with each other throughout the course:

Watch the video of Randy’s incredible “leap of faith” and more!

Here’s additional footage of the leap from a different angle

Randy and his teammates get electric shocks as part of the course!

Randy and his teammates get electric shocks as part of the course!

The 10.5-mile course was loaded with an assortment of obstacles from the steep terrain of the death marches to the many feature obstacles like “Everest” and “King of the Swingers.” We switched my Guides often and shared the work throughout to be stronger as a team than any of us would be as individuals.

Whether it’s hoisting each other to the top, pulling each other along, or encouraging each other when times were tough, we used determination and teamwork to manage each obstacle. When I failed a key grab on the “Funky Monkey” and plunged into the water with the first “failure” on an obstacle, I could not put my head down for long because my team gave perspective and encouragement for us to move to the next challenge. When my height allowed me to boost each member to the top of our next challenge and then leap and be pulled along, we celebrated together without being “mired in the mud” of the prior fall.

Randy and his teammates cheer in elation.

Randy and his teammates succeed. Elation!

Rather than relate the multitude of moments overcoming challenge, I’d rather leave you with the key point of the experience. We all had so many moments to shine individually and as a team. We all emerged tired, bruised, and sore but with an elation and a connection which will bolster our lives. We can’t team up for Tough Mudders every day, but we can build our community and choose how much of ourselves we are willing to commit into any experience–knowing confidently that the rewards of that commitment and effort will be magnified by what we put into it!

Give your all, and whenever possible give it with the support of a team you deserve and which deserves you. The rewards will likely be how your life is defined. See obstacles or opportunity, stumbling blocks or stepping stones, but believe you can achieve and you’ll have a vision more powerful than sight!

Voices from the Team

Loren O’Neil:

I had only met Randy, Jose and Sky  the Friday evening before the race and immediately became fast friends and developed a bond that will last a lifetime.  Being a blind guide for the first time for Randy through the 11 miles of rough terrain, hills and obstacle course was not only a challenge but a life inspiring event for me.  As we each took turns guiding Randy and helping each other through the grueling 11 mile dusty course in 95 degree heat our team bond grew and more and more runners cheered us on. I couldn’t count how many cheers and comments from people we heard of how Randy was amazing and how seeing him completing the Tough Mudder was inspiring them.

For anyone who thinks doing the race blind is not a big deal, I challenge you to blindfold yourself for 1 hour and walk throughout your home. Afterward, think how much trust and courage Randy had with his team leading him with a cane or his hand on our shoulder through 11 miles of rough terrain, hills, mud and all the obstacles (which included going over walls, the funky monkey bars, electric shock and jumping off a 25 foot platform to grab a trapeze to swing across a pond and ring a bell).  As our team shirts said, we never saw these as obstacles but challenges to conquer.

“YOU CAN DO ANYTHING”!!

Jose Acevedo:

The way this team came together to support each other was in and of itself incredible to be a part of, but also entirely indicative of the Tough Mudder community at large. Feeling the support of thousands as we worked our way through the course was amazingly inspirational.

Sky Prendergast:

This is my friend and teammate Randy. In 36 hours we bonded in the ways I wish to bond with most people. He’s completely without vision but only because he is the one that needed to be to show all of us that…”to not see obstacles sets you free”. We completed the 10.5, dusty, bloody, fatigued miles in 95 degree heat together and along the way I gained his trust as his guide. I led him via his cane or hand on my shoulder. My favorite part was verbally painting what we were seeing in the moments. At moments, I almost forgot he wasn’t able to see, as his capabilities and grace matched our own.  At the King of the Swingers obstacle watching him reach and feel the T-bar with his cane, leap into oblivion, grab it, and ring that damn bell, I was humbled and suffered a minor heart explosion, with pride of course!! I want to thank my team for inviting me to be a part of this beautiful series of moments and a feeling I’ll recall every time I face my own adversity. Till the next time… TEAM RANDY!!!!

Greg Neault:

It wasn’t in morning, as we shivered in the pre-dawn breeze at the dimly lit Glen Helen raceway answering questions in front of a camera. It wasn’t at the start of the race when the Mudder Hype Man asked him to stand to be recognized as an example of the best that Tough Mudder stands for. It wasn’t any one of the several Randy chants that broke out throughout the day. It wasn’t that surreal moment when he tipped the bell on the King of Swingers and the crowd erupted in a cacophony of elation. It wasn’t the lengthy group hug that followed the agony of Electroshock Therapy and the relief of completion. It was at dinner that night, that it happened.  As a group of exhausted, weary, dirty, bloody, bruised Tough Mudders lingered around a dinner table long after the food was gone, the bill had been paid and the drinks had stop flowing, Randy stated a feeling that I think we were all having, but no one was expressing.  “I don’t want to leave here, because I know once I do, this is all over.” That was the moment that I realized that this day was different, and I knew he was right. We’d go back to the hotel, shower and crash, dead to the world until the early morning wake up to head back to reality. Loren first, off to the airport for an extra early flight. Next we leave Sky, who has only to drive back to Santa Monica, sleeping peacefully at the hotel. Randy, Jose and myself drive to the airport. We leave Jose on the shuttle bus, on another airline back to Dallas. Randy and I fly back to New Hampshire where I leave him in Nashua to tell Tracy of our West Coast adventures. Then me, alone in the car to reflect on the weekend heading back to the seacoast. The adventure was dying right there at the dinner table and nobody wanted to let it slip away. But it wasn’t 12 hours until I got the call to arms via text. “What are we doing next?”  The adventure LIVES!!!

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28 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

I’ve recently been awarded several meaningful honors which inspired me to share the celebration ceremonies. It also gave me pause to reflect upon the significance of receiving honorifics.

First my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, selected me for  the 2014 Excellence for Outstanding Service Award. The Awards Ceremony and Dinner will be held:

Friday, April 24, 2015, 5:30 p.m.
Huddleston Hall Ballroom
105 Main Street
Durham, NH

I understand tickets for the event may still be obtained. There are an incredible number of outstanding alumni and to receive this award is a credit to the work of the 2020 Vision Quest team and the success of our efforts at making a very positive impact in our world. I’m exceedingly proud and honored that UNH would also choose to acknowledge these achievements.

New Hampshire Magazine placed us in their list of significant leaders in New Hampshire with their “It List.” A photo of Quinn and me making the classic approach to the summit of Monroe was a prominent image as they suggested we belonged in this august company. The truth is the team of Quinn and me started it, but it is the work of a team and community which has enabled us to accomplish so much here in NH and well beyond.

On May 16 I will receive the 2015 District 45 Toastmaster International Communication and Leadership Award. This is yet another tremendous honor spanning several states and Canadian provinces. It suggests the success of our 2020 Vision Quest efforts to lead by example and that our presentations have drawn significant positive recognition. From an international organization emphasizing communication and leadership, this reinforces our determination to provide this core part of our mission as diversely as possible.

I’m definitely increasing in my drive to ensure our presentations are available to students, corporations, and communities. If you have heard us and want to suggest us to any of these groups, I encourage you to share our homepage and the presentations option included there. I think it’s clear the results are overwhelmingly appreciated and I only hope we have the opportunity to share the messages with more people still. Thank you for myself and for the team of 2020 vision Quest who continue to make all this possible.

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20 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

Hopkinton Welcome Sign“Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
– George Sheeh

Monday, April 20, 2015:
119th Annual Boston Marathon
Randy Pierce, Bib: 25485

For me, Boston’s legend is due to a pair of powerful points worthy of the iconic label. Firstly, it brings together an unrivaled community of support well beyond the throngs gathering along the entirety of the 26.2 mile route. Secondly, it draws and encourages the most inspirational meanings well beyond the running accomplishments as the motivation for so many of the runners. Spend a little time exploring any Boston Marathon and you will likely come away overwhelmed by the compassion and determination of the human spirit.

Randy and Quinn run the BAA 5k in 2013My own Boston Marathon journey began in awe of the incredible positive community aspects highlighted for me in 2013 as well as the spirit of an incredible canine, my Mighty Quinn. If you’ve never read Qualifying for Quinn, I strongly encourage you to visit my motivation and the story of how I came to qualify for Boston.

There are two ways to run the Boston Marathon:

1) Fairly rigorous time qualification
2) Run for a sanctioned charity as a fundraiser

I am fortunate in having a more lenient time requirement due to my blindness, and yet I’m running with and for a cause incredibly dear to my heart. I’m running to honor the legacy of the Mighty Quinn. He touched the lives of so many in his incredible life and our #Miles4Quinn welcomes any and all support. If you are unable to enjoy some healthy miles in his honor, perhaps you’ll consider supporting my effort with a donation to the charity to which I’ve dedicated so much of my efforts:

Click here to donate to 2020 Vision Quest in honor of Quinn and Randy’s Boston Marathon efforts!  

Whether you log #Miles4Quinn or donate to 2020 Vision Quest, you could always support us along the route and be part of an incredible experience. The more people who learn about us, the better we can reach our goals and the stronger I will be for Marathon Monday.

Do you want to experience the race course virtually with a little history and fun worked into the mix? The Boston Athletic Association has prepared an excellent video tour!

I’ve joined “Team with a Vision” which brings together an incredible community of blind athletes from all over the world. While I fund raise primarily for 2020 Vision Quest, I embrace their mission and offer my fundraising page for them as an alternative for those who so choose:

Donate to Randy’s “Team with a Vision” page

Randy and his friend and coach, GregOn Monday, April 20 at 6:00  a.m., I’ll climb onto the Gate City Striders bus with Greg Hallerman, my good friend, running coach, and most frequent run guide, as well as 10-time Boston Marathon participant. Since my qualifying for Boston, his friendship and tutelage have brought me to win the B1 (Total blindness) National Marathon Championship as well as build a foundation of knowledge and appreciation for running. He’ll be with me throughout the race, choosing to give of his own race approach to share the experience together and help make the experience all the more fantastic.

Once at the Marathon start I’ll connect with the husband and wife team of Pete and Christine Houde. They will be my guides. While I only have one active guide at any time on the course, we are still finalizing the strategy for how we will approach this race. Christine was my first run guide after Quinn’s death and we trained during a snowstorm on our first run. (Rather strong foreshadowing of the season ahead.)

Randy and Christine running in the snowBoth fellow Lions, we met through mutual friends and quickly came to appreciate the friendship. Last year Christine ran her first Boston Marathon for a charity cause and at her fundraiser we announced the plan to run together for Boston. The mental work involved in guiding for a Marathon is tremendous and as our training time has been limited by a difficult winter and their long-distance commute, we opted to add Pete to the team and share the teamwork of guides. Both completed the Chicago Marathon earlier this year and each will have a vital role in my Boston Marathon experience. Any blind runner will tell you that the sacrifice of a guide is tremendous. They must run strong enough at my pace to give me all the necessary information to keep both of us safe on a crowded course.

Pete, Christine, Randy, and TracyIf I’m being true to the full measure of that team, I have to include my wonderful wife Tracy. Whether helping to drive me to training rendezvous points, joining me at a treadmill, or the many other aspects of support, she has helped enable this goal to become reality. She has given of herself in so many ways that I will always be foremost grateful to her in this entire process. After all, it’s that feeling of community which I said was part of setting Boston apart.

So now you’ve met my primary team of Greg, Pete, Christine, and Tracy!

At roughly 11:15, we’ll join Wave 4, Corral 2 in the surge down the hill in Hopkinton, Mass. As I run, I’ll carry recollections of every encouraging word and the people providing them. I’ll have to dig deep for inspiration and motivation many times, but my team of friends and community of support has already exceeded what I ever would have imagined when this all began. Boston’s historic course will have more than enough challenge to ensure I need all of that and a great deal of personal determination as well.

When I cross the finish line, hands held triumphantly high with my guides, I’ll likely have tears of joy, exhaustion, jubilation, and just a bit more. I’ll know that my year of tribute to Quinn will be a very hard earned and very rewarding message of dedication. I’ll be part of something truly epic and proud to have connected with such an intense community experience. I’ll be grateful to so many–some from here, some I have yet to even meet. It will only be one experience on a list of many past, present and future. Like the year of work leading up to it, it will forever be a part of who I am. Experiences change our lives and this one is tremendously so.

So this year on Patriots Day, maybe you’ll come visit the course and cheer on me, my guides, or the thousands of incredible stories passing along the course. Maybe you’ll make a donation to support 2020 Vision Quest, maybe you’ll log some #Miles4Quinn, share our story or just follow on line… or perhaps create your own unique adventure. As a sign I had read to me by my guide Meredith on the Bay State Marathon course suggests: “It isn’t everyday you get to do something epic!” Be a part of this experience with us or make your own but put a little epic in your life and be happier for it.

Boston strong!

Boston Marathon 2015 logo

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14 Mar 15

Autumn looks adorable at pumpkin time.

Autumn looks adorable at pumpkin time.

By Randy Pierce

“In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?”

From “Seasons of Love” – soundtrack to Rent

How indeed do I measure the year we’ve had and the gift of Autumn in my life? As the song lyric above suggests: “How about Love?” Autumn is absolutely about joy and love to her very Black and Tan core. For us the love came quickly and yet the depth to which it has grown as our partnership continues is truly the wonder of Autumn, our animal companions in general, and particularly the Guiding Eyes program. Each day of working with her she alters the freedom, independence, comfort and safety of my ability to travel and to interact with the world. She also shares her boundless joy and enthusiasm with a blend of playfulness and affection which is the essence of my beautiful girl.

Autumn grins on a sunny dock after a successful presentation.

Autumn grins on a sunny dock after a successful presentation.

Some may recall the 10-day training journal which we kept on the blog last year. It’s still an excellent resource for how the bond and training blend together to make a Guide team:

Autumn’s 10-day training journal

We’ve been together on school visits, city routes, park walks, mountain hikes, cars, buses, trains and planes. We’ve travelled all over the state and across the country together already. She’s been in the newspapers and on TV. She literally crossed the finish of my first marathon with me (on leash with Tracy as I ran with Guide Thor). On all of our journeys together, every step beside me I experienced the freedom and independence which I find is unrivaled in the world since my eyes ceased to guide me. We’ve come to understand each other very well and the maturing of our work, still growing and learning every day, has become very effective.

Yes, we each still make a few mistakes along the way. As in all of life we both are committed to the patience and understanding and desire to improve as a team which ensures our success will continue.

Autumn showers Randy with affection.

Such a loving girl.

She has embraced her “momma” Tracy with all the fun and love to fill a home. She has welcomed our full social circle and is building all of her own special friendships and relationships with people. Most of all, though, this lovely girl has joined in partnership with me to be my Dog Guide with her own unique style which fortunately for me begins by filling my life with joy and love.

I cannot measure all the moments or methods by which she improves my life. I could fill many an evening telling tales of our adventures and achievements. On this, our one-year anniversary of being matched I think it best just to share my thankfulness to guiding Eyes and to Autumn for the marvelous gifts of this year. Happy Anniversary, Autumn, and thank you for the full measure of love you bring to my life!

“No Home is complete without the pitter patter of dog feet.” – anonymous

Autumn lies on the ground eyeing a resting butterfly.

Happy anniversary, Autumn!

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7 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

Attendees having fun at the Peak Potential gala in 2014.

Attendees having fun at the Peak Potential gala in 2014.

Five successful years of hosting our Annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction has provided tremendous financial benefit to our very worthy charitable work. We have given more than $124,000 directly to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. We have presented to more than 36,000 students in schools throughout New England and beyond and we have been repeatedly lauded for making a positive impact in the lives of so many more people.

We do this with an all-volunteer staff who are committed to seeing the work continue. Many of these incredible staff members have worked double duty in the regular work of the charity as well as for the Peak Potential event each November. For this event to continue to be successful, we need to find a few more enthusiastic and motivated people to join the effort. Peak Potential planning begins soon, so please consider joining our team! Contact me at Randy@2020visionquest.org if you are interested.

What is needed? There are several opportunities.

Our auction items are one of our biggest draws.

Our auction items are one of our biggest draws.

Event Coordinator: This detail-oriented person would coordinate the event logistics–working with the venue before the event, managing timelines, managing the flow onsite, etc. Erin Desmarais took over for Rachel Morris last year and brought many great new approaches to us. She wishes to return as an active part of the team but with a new job cannot commit to coordinating the event this year. If we don’t get someone to fulfill this role, it might be possible for me to add this to my own somewhat overloaded schedule, but only with even stronger support in the position listed next.

Event Outreach: Sponsorships and quality auction donations are the key to the fiscal success of the event. We have a strong community of attendees and excellent event evening support. Realistically, we need three people who can support an active outreach to corporations, businesses. and appropriate individuals to sustain and hopefully expand our sponsors and auction. I know there are special individuals out there who could excel at this outreach–and it truly is essential to have this support in order to continue this event.

We want YOU on our Peak Potential staff! Will you help?

We want YOU on our Peak Potential staff! Will you help?

There are certainly other opportunities and I’m eager to talk with anyone who is hopeful to join or support our charity work. So if the above entices you because you believe in our cause, want the possible resume enhancements, or simply want to be part of a fun team, drop me an email. If you have other ideas for how to help, then similarly reach out to me. I appreciate how many have helped us accomplish so much already and look forward to the people with whom we might reach higher still. We would love to continue the Peak Potential Event, the biggest fundraiser for the 2020Vision Quest charity, and I hope to have your help!

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21 Feb 15

By Randy Pierce

The recent tragic death of a young hiker in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains highlights the importance of risk management. In my presentations, I frequently attempt to address the notions of Risk vs. Reward as well as ways to evaluate and manipulate both risk and reward in our world. As a blind adventurer, these are important skills for me to develop. I often emphasize my desire to be a problem solver rather than a risk taker, despite my understanding that risk is rarely removed from even our most common activities–rather, we can try to minimize it to enhance the safety and enjoyment.

Randy presents to students at UNH.

Randy presents to students at UNH.

The concept of “Social Risk Management” is an all too rarely considered but highly powerful part of our every day interactions. Speaking at the University of New Hampshire course for Professor Brent Bell, I had the chance to explore this notion in a bit more depth. In most of our social interactions with strangers and even friends, there is an element of risk to our approach. Might we say the wrong thing and feel foolish, ignorant, or any of the many negative emotions which could arise from others’ response to our outreach? While there’s value to considering our approach to avoid unintended detriment, there is also value in finding the comfort to be ourselves and express ourselves. Understanding the many diverse social expectations takes time and exploration, especially early in relationships when those feelings of risk and caution are higher.

This caution is also a natural response for people who encounter something outside of their notions of typical. My blindness often falls into this “atypical” categorization, and as such silence is all too often people’s response as they worry how their words might offend me or even whether my blindness takes away too much of our commonality for easy communication. It’s amazing how quickly conversation eases this. Ultimately, we realize we are all people and that as humans we have vastly more in common than we have different. I find that the easiest approach is for me to reach out first because communication is an excellent way to help lower the feelings of risk and to develop comfort.

Our "potent" New England winter.

Our “potent” New England winter.

In this particularly potent winter, it’s a little amusing to realize that “ice breakers” are often what we need. My Dog Guide Autumn often serves as such an excellent ice breaker and conversation starter. “What a beautiful dog!” people will say. “What breed is she?” For others it may be as simple as an inquiry on the weather. It’s not that we are all infatuated with weather–it’s simply a low investment and low risk outreach. A gruff response can be interpreted as a person’s weariness of shoveling rather than feelings against us personally. Similarly a cheery response is the welcome sign which allows us to know we can stride forward with less risk to more meaningful conversations.

We undertake these social risks, of course, because for the “reward” part in the Risk vs. Reward equation. Growing or enhancing our community can expand so much of our potential that it is a very worthy reward and also a topic worthy of another more in-depth blog in the future. Of course, in simply writing this blog I’ve taken some social risks and your response to it will be a sign of the very reward I’m suggesting!

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14 Feb 15

By Randy Pierce

“People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbors.”
– George Eliot

Ice and snow at the Pierce house after a recent storm.

Ice and snow at the Pierce house after a recent storm.

One of the most snow-laden winters on record is presently burying our little corner of the country. When there is this much snow, it becomes more challenging to clear driveways with banks over your heads. It also becomes more essential to clear roofs and do other work not common to the typical winter for us. People are tired and discouraged as more storms and more work continue to be a part of the routine.

Yet in the midst of this we find everyday heroes among us. For Tracy, Autumn, and me, this includes two separate but close families who live across the street. It is a rare snowstorm in which we don’t have one or both of them in our driveway with a snow blower–often without our knowing which one came to the rescue–simply because they are the helpful, caring, and kind people who so often find the motivation to do just a little more for others.

When I posted the above picture on my personal Facebook page recently, it was to capture the depth of snow and ice which was invading our home and to mark it before I began the process of clearing the ice and snow from the roofs – a project I would never finish as the neighbors descended in force and worked tirelessly with an invigorating good-humored laughter central to the work. I’ll spare their names for this public blog but suffice it to say they have earned our appreciation and tremendous thanks so many times over that the above quote fits so very well.

“Good fences make good neighbors.” – Robert Frost

While the New England poet’s words have garnered more fame than the heroic quote I opened the blog with, I think the fundamental part of New England community and strength is knowing when to come together in support. We may not raise a lot of barns together in this day and age, but our opportunities to positively influence those around us is simply tremendous. Learning to cross the lines all too often used to divide us is such a worthy approach. My friend Court Crandall took it a step further in his TEDx talk “Creating the Lines Which Unite Us”. I’m just thankful for the great people who choose to do heroic things great and small to show the positive power of community–people like our neighbors, and people like all of us if we so choose.

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7 Feb 15

By Randy Pierce

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” – Barry Finlay

Group shot on Franconia Notch

Group shot on Franconia Notch.

Our rather epic adventure to summit the tallest standalone mountain in the world should become reality this year. We have assembled a team of 10 friends to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in September 2015. January 30 brought 8 of the team together for a practice hike in the frigid Franconia Notch.

Originally we hoped the steady steeps of Mt. Lafayette would be excellent work and the views a worthy celebration, but as temperatures began to drop and wind speeds began to rise we adjusted plans to avoid the 2 miles above tree line in dangerous conditions. Hiking just across the notch Lonesome Lake trail and the Kinsman Mountains allowed for more sheltered work which would still have team building challenge and experience. As we assembled by the trailhead, the lowest temperature noted dropped all the way to -8 along with winds to make it more challenging still. This was below the range of our comfort and we expected the hike might be curtailed yet chose to at least work towards the well traveled trail up to the frozen tarn.

Frost-covered Tracy looks at the camera and takes the lead.

Frost-covered Tracy takes the lead!

Tracy took the lead quickly so we could begin keeping warm with the exertions, but many snow drifts quickly had her stopping to don her snowshoes. The long legs of Rob and Randy stayed with micro-spikes to the start of the tree-sheltered incline which made the trail more packed from the frequent daily trips to the AMC hut. This also eased the worst of the wind chills and we all came together along the trail enjoying the beauty of the snowscape and mountain escape.

Autumn guided me with enthusiasm to be working and moving. Pups and people were fine in motion but every stop brought a uncomfortable chill for both Dina and Autumn, the two dogs on the trip. Worse, Dina’s furry paws kept binding snowballs and neither her boots nor the musher’s wax seemed to be helping her.

Rob and Randy cross the bridge.

Rob and Randy cross the bridge.

Thus just before reaching the lake, Michelle turned around and the group consensus suggested that Lonesome Lake would be our turn around point as well. Those few who braved the gusty Arctic chill of the winds on the lake did so mostly to appreciate temperatures well below what we are ever likely to experience during our African journey. We all then headed down with Autumn and me managing much of the down on our own, knowing we had Cat and Tracy ahead of us and the main crew of Rob, Greg, Frank, and Cathy not too far behind. It was a fun part of our trip to work the trail entirely on our own. Once caught up though Rob Webber took over guiding to help us make a faster return to the warmth below. While vastly shortened as a hike, it allowed us to explore the group dynamic for making decisions and supporting each other in fairly difficult conditions.

We spent the rest of the day together feasting, planning the final timing for our travel, Safari, and just having fun. Whether it was a teaser to some of the deeper questions and answers we may share on the trail or the laughter and competition of Catch Phrase, it was quickly apparent that the friendship held by some quickly led to a warm and welcoming friendship for all to share. It’s just over six months away, but it finally feels like the real beginning to our journey together has arrived. We’ve set the next date for a little hike and hang out work. I’m excited to bring the full team steadily together and make the dream a reality. Thank you to the entire Killy Team: Rob, Jose, Greg, Tracy, Michelle, Cathy, Frank, Maureen, and Cat!

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