Tag: success



12 Aug 18

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Tracy with Eilean Donan in the background

Randy and Tracy with Eilean Donan in the background

Braveheart was the last movie I ever watched with sight remaining in my eyes. The landscapes capture my memory still even if the historically divergent Hollywood script was not the source of my early love of the land. The imaginations of my youth fed the adventurous spirit of my later years and I’ve long wanted to hike the highlands, feel the castle stones, hear bagpipes echo off the munros, taste the sea spray of Fingal’s Cave, smell the peat of Loch Ness and so much more from this ancient land. Tracy and I attempted to make as much of those dreams reality in our whirlwind tour of the country.

We landed in Edinburgh airport and walked out into a courtyard of shops with an energy belying the overnight flight without sleep. It was a quick walk to an easy rail which smoothly and efficiently cut through city blocks towards our hotel in Haymarket Square. Tracy noted all the personal gardens and shared garden spaces throughout the city as well as an abundance of green space. Temperatures were cool and comfortable, a tremendous relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of London and our home in New Hampshire. The lyrical language around us was a delight to my ears and it was with considerable discipline I did not continuously try to emulate the accents.

Eilean Donan Castle up on the hill with a cloudy sky

Eilean Donan Castle

We had two days to appreciate Edinburgh Castle, including a marvelous walking tour. The “crag and tail” of castle rock provides iconic placement atop the city and “Game of Thrones” fans would find little difficulty in the likely origins of the Lannister homeland of Castlerly Rock. The “Fringe Festival” was in full swing with music, theater, and comedy throughout the city in celebration, ensuring Autumn’s work along the Royal Mile was all the more impressive for the crowds gathered. We did not get to hike to Arthur’s Seat to experience some of the oldest signs of humanity in the city but Facebook informed me which of my friends had been there recently!

Off to Sterling Castle, we encountered one of our few disappointments as the all too popular tourist destination had absolutely no parking and we experienced it only from a distance. Deanston Distillery salved our spirits with a tremendous lunch and tasting and we did ultimately replace Sterling with the Eilean Donan Castle later which was one of our more tremendous castle experiences.

The shores of Loch Ness with a partly cloudy sky

The shores of Loch Ness

First though, we had to travel through the Cairn Gorm. This mountain range is similar to the White Mountains in height and wintry ferocity with a bit more remoteness preserved. Though the weather was overcast, the contrast of these open field mountains to our own wooded summits was noteworthy and common throughout Scotland. Arriving to Inverness atop the Great Glen we crossed the river Ness and found our hotel on the shores of Loch Ness.

Scotland’s mountains were carved impressively by the glaciers during the ice age and the resulting dramatic landscapes are truly remarkable. The Great Glen runs through to the west side with the Caledonian Canal using the route for travel. I was impressed by the deep smell of peat and Tracy’s reports on the darkness of the lake which combined tremendous depth and peat to hold a haunting sense of the unknown. It is small wonder the legend of the Loch Ness Monster lasted so long. The ruins of a castle destroyed in the Jacobite rebellions provided a haunting ruin over the entire scene even as the immensity of the lake stretched well beyond sight.

This stop was our gateway to the Highlands and we set forth the the Isle of Skye through incredible Highland hills. The heather was in full bloom and we constantly used the lay-by traffic stops to capture photos or take a short walk in the beauty and splendor which surrounded us. Sheep grazed everywhere with enormous stretches of road without sign of habitation. We just marveled at the rugged beauty of this land as the mountains plunged deeply and rose sharply with waterfalls and twisting streams in full view due to the open landscape so rare in our New England hills. Rounding one bend and dropping steeply, the ocean of the west side of Scotland emerged pressed tight to the mountains we were within. It was here we found the castle of Eilean Donan, popularized in the United States for its use in the “Highlander” film. With more than 2,000 castles in Scotland, few are so well maintained as this gem and we toured through it with the staff encouraging me to take advantage of the tactile offerings of many artifacts on site.

View of Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye. Dramatic waterfall flowing into the ocean, with a cloudy sky.

View of Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

Our half-way point brought us to the Isle of Skye, an absolutely enormous gift in the Highlands. We spent a few nights here nestled in an inlet of Sleat at Eilean Iarmain. Surrounded by the ocean on three sides with the peaks of the Cuillin Munros visible around us. There was a lighthouse adjacent to mark our way although we spent much of our time travelling the immense island.

First we traveled west to the edge of the Black Cuillins and a hike to the legendary Fairy Pools. The water crossings had some challenge but the climb was worth the spectacular views our camera could not capture on this cloudy and eventually rainy day. The series of waterfalls and cascades were remarkable and Autumn delighted in her most technical of the generally easy hiking work. At the end of our climb we found ourselves within a few miles of Talisker’s remote distillery and availed ourselves of their spirits before travelling to Portree. A tour to the northernmost point on the Isle of Skye included a stop at the infamous Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. Of course a bagpiper played in the background as we stood at the windy point and marvelled at the scene. Later we found the ruins of a Clan MacDonald Castle which marked the wind-driven point atop the island. It was here Tracy commented on the absolute vastness of the entire island. The sky seemed limitless here, the mountains immense and unending, the ocean again vast beyond measure. With gusting winds making it hard to stand, let alone walk, it was easy to feel humbled by the land upon which we stood for so brief a time.

All too soon our time took us away from Skye. We traveled to Glen Coe and what many feel is one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Scotland. While more renowned to some for the massacre of 1692, it is the beauty of a valley surrounded by mountains from the three sisters on the southern end to the technical ridges of her northern end. We feasted at a hiker’s lodge adjacent to where Hagrid’s hut was located in the filming of Harry Potter. Appropriate since I was in a magical fantasy trip of my own.

Oban port image, under a pretty partly cloudy sky at sunrise.

Oban port images from breakfast.

Our effective final stop was Oban Bay, a beautiful port south of Skye and suddenly the best weather of our trip. It is worth noting we did not find Scotland precisely rainy as many might suggest. It did rain at times but mostly it was a quick spritz of rain in one place or another while half a mile further was sunny and beautiful. Occasionally it was full sun for a rain shower. In New England we say if you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes and it will change. In Scotland they say all the seasons in a single day and that showed to be true, though we never saw snow while we were there. Oban was a beautiful sheltered Bay and it was our launch point for a three island tour of Mull, Staffa, and Iona.

Mull, like Skye was immense and we took a bus tour across it to see the many glens, munros, and forests which comprise a seemingly separate world. On the far side we could see the pink granite quarry briefly before boarding a smaller vessel to sail us to Staffa. Autumn’s work in these transitions was solid and the crew and passengers always marveled at her work. Her true work came on the tiny island of Staffa where the walk to Fingal’s Cave was the most difficult of our trip. A guide wire lent stability for me to make it safe but her patient warnings kept me striding where many thought it unlikely for a blind person and guide dog team.

The rocky Staffa Island shoreline under a clear blue sky.

Staffa Island shoreline

Last winter the final section of ledge leading into the cave mouth collapsed and while we were able to view fantastically the incredible basalt column cave of historic fame, the sounds which inspired so many were lost to our ears as the crashing of the waves into the cave did not return the echo of legend to our more distant point. Tracy’s awe was more than uplifting enough to make the trek worthy and as we scaled the perilous stairway to the heights of the island again as a testament to Autumn’s prowess we crossed the island to unrivaled views. The puffins had left just two days prior and Tracy was sad for the miss, but invigorated by the freedom of our stroll across the grassy top of Staffa island. Here is where I will most remember the taste of the ocean and the scent of Scotland as my girl guided me in the sunlight high above the Hebridean entrance to this land.

Staffa is the Norse name for the island, meaning stick or staff. I did not use a blind cane on this trip, as Autumn was my link to a freedom of travel beyond what I find with that stick. Scotland was a symbolic freedom of travel as well. In the film Braveheart, William Wallace’s father says “Your heart is free, have the courage to follow it.” Reflecting on yet another excellent adventure, I am so appreciative to have such wonderful dreams and the courage and patient determination to follow them.

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24 Jun 18

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Andy Bragg at the start of the Hollis Fast 5K on June 14, 2018 with the rest of the race lined up behind them.I choose to run a fair number of races and often I want to measure myself against the clock. So often we are tempted to compare our time against those we admire, our friends, or some other vastly arbitrary standard. I believe we should be comparing ourselves against our own prior performances and perhaps goals based on those results. Sometimes we might want to see if we are faster or slower than a previous run. Hopefully we are respectful of the many factors which impact the time of our run. As someone who often speaks about reaching for and achieving our peak potential, it might suggest seeking a PR (Personal Record) at every opportunity but this simply isn’t the case.

Not only does the course, the crowd, the temperature play an immediate role but so does our goal! Have we needed to prioritize other aspects of our lives over proper training for speed for that race? Did we simply want to run for enjoyment and relaxation at that particular time? Perhaps that is always our goal in a run? One of my favorite quotes comes from a friend and coach for many, Dave Salvas. He advised a friend conscientious of time and proud of running for the experience to answer those questioning others who might over focus on time: “I had the time of my life.” How succinctly he cut to the point of understanding what it is really about.

I find similar wisdom outside of races. We have a certain amount of time and choices in how we allocate this time. For me, if insufficiently attentive, I can find myself claiming to be short on time when in truth I am simply allocating too much of it to things which do not deserve it. Certainly I need and value moments of relaxed down time; understanding what is truly the most relaxing and ensuring it receives the higher priority over things that are simply time traps for me is the key. If there are projects that require a lot of my time and yet my efficiency at working with them is enhanced by staggering breaks, I simply set manual timers to break me from them at what I’ve learned is the right time to give me a rejuvenation break.

I try to ensure those breaks are of the right quality I would choose by being mindful and then return to the project. In this I rarely run out of time, though I am certainly guilty of over-scheduling my time…at times! I think in this, my 52nd year (as opposed to 50-second year), it has been suggested to me I appreciate a fairly active pace for my life. There is no right or wrong as long as I follow Dave’s wisdom and ensure that I am having the time of my life on the path!

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9 Jun 18

By Randy Pierce

A group of hikers on a mountain summit with a partly cloudy sky behind them.I joined the students of this leadership and backpacking course in the spring of 2010 in preparation for my own hiking adventures and to provide an untypical aspect for those students. Those experiences and friendships left a significant imprint upon me and I continued to be involved in different ways through the years since then. This year Brent asked me to act as the TA for the class and we went through the appropriate approvals, hoping my many experiences in hiking, leadership, and communication would provide positive guidance in the classroom and along the trails.

Day 1: We set out on May 21 with my legs being a little weary from the Gate City Marathon the day before and my pack a little heavy as I was carrying Autumn’s sleeping bag and food along with all of my own supplies. The two student leaders of the day, Brian and Sam had provided us walkie-talkies to keep communications open in our two vehicles as we approached the trailhead for our first day’s hike into Wachipauka Pond.

Hikers with full packs walk on a rocky trail. As usual Autumn spent the first 100 yards being a little too enthusiastic and I had to mitigate her enthusiasm with my own enhanced caution as my right hand trekking pole work was emphasized. Quickly she settled into high quality trail work and I was very proud as on the hot day and steady climb she simply shined in work and obvious love for the wilderness. I spent the early part near the back with Brian behind me as sweeper, ensuring the group was together and ahead of him. As we began our first descent we switched to a little trail entertainment by partnering up, me with Caitlin, to talk about our day and trip goals with each other. It was a chance to begin building better connections and worked rather nicely. Ultimately as we reached a series of “bog bridges.” Autumn and I worked them tediously but Caitlin had the opportunity to help by becoming the first student to choose a little human guiding. She set the tone for many others later and we worked the short stretch of trail building the guide language for a comfortable pace and quality interaction.

In short order, our shortest day brought us to Wachipauka Pond. The temperatures were ideal, the scene as majestic as previous trips promised, and for a time we just relaxed and enjoyed the remote serenity earned by an afternoon of trail work together. My SteriPEN water purifier refused to light as the single downside of my evening preparations, but Brent and the team found ways to help Autumn and me have purified water for the trip. The leaders brought the team together and bear bags were hung, tarps for sleeping and cooking were established and an idyllic evening descended complete with one of the sunset gifts those who experience them in the White Mountains usually treasure for the rest of their days. We had a couple of meetings to close out our activity before sleeping open to the air with the sounds of the pond and the likely moose who traipsed belligerently within 50 yards of our campsite and left his marks for us to find in the morning.

Rocky trail with a blue sky behind it.Day 2: Samm and Anthony were our leaders. (This “Samm” was male, vs. the female “Sam” who led on day 1.) Anthony was taking a bonus leadership day to fill in for our first casualty as Chloe had an illness requiring her to miss the trip. We started out with a steady upward climb to the Webster Slide summit and a beautiful overlook, our first official “peak” of the trip. We did a little stretching as a group and had a lot more interactions amongst the team as both Bridget and Emma took some turns guiding me to supplement the great work being done by Autumn as well. Down is simply always easier with a human guide and there were some fun challenge points along this route. We made excellent time to cross a road and make a significant water crossing which included an educational moment for the various methods of safer water crossing. Autumn showcased multiple crossings until a stick enticement convinced her to go all the way over and be held there awaiting my cross.

There is a point in most hikes where conversations bring teams together and as the rain held off for us, the trail was generally gentle, we came together decently. Just to enhance the scenario of challenge, a “fake” broken arm practice was added to the leader challenge and still we arrived to the Jeffers Brook Shelter ahead of schedule and feeling strong despite the rain joining our group. Several of us made use of the shelter and had a few AT through and section hikers to enhance the evening conversations. The evening debrief was a supportive and encouraging preparation for what most expected to be our most challenging day.

Sign pointing to various trails including Glencliff Trail 0.9 milesDay 3: Bridget and Anthony had us up at 5 with light traces of the rain still falling. Brent was ill and that complicated the start, as did our plan to hike a short distance to a car spot where we would have breakfast and adjust some equipment for the remaining trip. This was more important, as Brent’s medical device had lost its charge and the back-up battery wasn’t working. As my water purification system had seemingly failed, Brent was my support and my cook partner so both of us became a delay for the group. At the car Brent charged his device, we repacked, and set out for the Glencliff trail and Mt. Moosilauke!

Because of the low water aspects, I had my heaviest water load, and below Glencliff the trail gets a little boulder-strewn. Due to this, after the steady steepness we reached a section of trail which was particularly hard work for Autumn and me. At this point I shared my struggle to keep the group pace and for a short time switched to Emma guiding me to bolster both of us for a bit. Then Samm took his first shift to handle the long steady steep up to and over the headwall of Moosilauke with us pushing well into the full hunger-almost-hangry range for the team. A well earned lunch below south peak recharged us for the glorious ridge walk which Autumn handled once again until we emerged in the boulder fields and alpine zone where Brent guided as we all managed an impressive 40 mph wind for our spectacular summit reward!

Our goal for the day was Beaver Brook Shelter and so a fair bit of hiking remained. The trail involved some particularly precarious sections and due to Brent’s overall health concerns, he needed to be free of guiding. The students realized Autumn and I would be slow on this track and so took the challenging load for a strenuous section concluding with a considerable amount of snow/monorail hiking led by Sam, working some impressive final descents to the much celebrated shelter. It was a very weary team debrief, proud of the accomplishments and having fully come together to work through all the challenges and fully understand the many ways of supporting each other. Our AT section hiker had made the journey with us and surprised some by sharing that in his 23 years of section hiking the Appalachian Trail, this was his hardest day ever.

Bright sunrise on Day 4 of the hike. Day 4: Our fourth and final day began with the most powerful sunrise of the trip. We faced out over the Kinsmans, the Lafayette ridge, and the presidentials beyond with the sun rising to give the layered mountains a particularly majestic splendor few will ever forget. Caitlin and Emma were our leaders of the day. Brent had experienced his roughest night and was resolutely tending himself to overcome a difficult start. It was crisp and cold at our 3800 feet of elevation and Autumn wisely chose to curl up with our AT companion as he was the last one in a sleeping bag once we had all packed and prepared for departure. We set out as quickly as possible to retrace some of our prior evening’s steps up before descending steadily down through an old forest. It was part of a long-ago Dartmouth ski trail from an era when skiing involved no turns other than what the trail made!

Some of the terrain was more difficult than anticipated and trail games had the group laughing and entertained while I was in full concentration. On a particularly rough trail, I rolled an ankle on a shifting rock more seriously than usual, which resulted in a rare fall for me. The mirth of the group would be essential as would Brent’s high focus guidance to ease my hobbling worked out the long miles still remaining. When the trail eased by our stream crossing and gentle footing allowed us to pick up pace and find the Ravine Lodge for reward, a weary but satisfied group had once again undergone the transformative process of such hikes.

Leadership, guidance, and the richly rewarding wilderness experience were certainly all part of the process. For Autumn and me, we had bonded well with the people of this trip and it was easy at times to forget the decades of difference in our ages because of the commonality of our experience. There is a sadness to the ending and knowing we will never have the same group together to experience all of the varied powerful moments we did share. There is, however, much reward in knowing we grew together, shared together and all of us, student, teacher, and Autumn extraordinaire experienced individual growth on our journey towards personal peaks. I’ll take the growth and the memories and the solace of knowing the choice to be on the path is the most rewarding one of all.

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22 Apr 18

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose run the Boston Marathon in cold, rain, and wind.The 2018 Boston Marathon featured the worst marathon weather I’ve ever experienced: cold temperatures, relentless rain, and generally unreasonable winds.

Battling hypothermia for several miles, I reached the crest of Heartbreak hill to face a cold blast of wind and an astounding deluge which was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Barely able to speak and shivering uncontrollably, Jose guided me to the medical tent for treatment and the end of our race. It was absolutely and unquestionably the right choice. Pushing perseverance any further raised the risks of serious medical consequences tremendously and an ambulance ride was the most likely result, not a heroic finish line. Making the right choice amidst the various pressures to continue is a clear success, yet failing to complete the goal is also a failure. How do I reconcile these realities?

While I can admittedly be harder on myself than is ideal, I’m always working to improve on this. I believe in sufficient accountability to understand what went awry and then as soon as possible to put all the energy into a focus forward mindset. The goal is to ensure the energy is applied to where it can have an actual positive change.

In this instance my accountability is simple: I’d trained as fully as my post-injury time allowed and was reasonably ready for a normal marathon experience. As weather reports indicated concern, we adjusted our gear dramatically to allow for better warmth and water protection beyond the limits of any prior marathon or long run experience. Usually the concern is that such choices create a risk of overheating, so there is a fine line. In hindsight, I had room to purchase a new thicker and warmer outer shell of wind and water protection, although realistically predicting this need and ensuring I would not have been in danger of overheating was unreasonable.

In short, my accountability is reasonably low unless it was a matter of mental toughness. My guide, the medical team, the ambulance-riding runner next to me in the medical tent, and my own mind knows this wasn’t the issue and any push for perseverance would have been a greater type of failure. When faced with a choice of types of failure, success is making the best possible choice in those moments.

Now the trick is to convince myself this is just a setback and to begin the planning necessary to bring a greater success from it. There are two stages for me in this process.

The first is the process of facing my shortcomings with the same confident sharing that I celebrate my successful achievements. They are all part of the growth for me personally and perhaps for those who might also choose to draw some insight from the experiences.

Secondly, I use the hunger for a more full success to fuel my training on the next event of a similar style. In this case my eyes are now on the prize of the May 20 Gate City Marathon in Nashua, NH. This race will be an opportunity to put out a stronger marathon performance as well as achieve a Boston Marathon qualifier.

That will be my opportunity to work towards crossing a finish line which eluded me this year and it will be doubly sweet for the proper perseverance and resiliency required to achieve it.

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7 Apr 18

By Randy Pierce

“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” -Maya Angelou

Picture of a young woman with a guitar sitting on a stone wall.

Georgette Lillian Roy 1929-2017 – a young picture of my mom with her guitar.

My mother did not keep her hope or love for me secret as Oliver Holmes suggests, but its enduring power always encourages and motivates me. She was the force of nature Maya Angelou suggests, and I might rightly be described as the diffused form of her willpower and determination. She did much in her guidance and likely genetics to inspire my approach to my life and it has led to so many of the most rewarding results for me. In my first three Boston Marathons — from the first very successful 2015, to the medically compromised endurance event of 2016 and even the plans going awry challenges of 2017 — Mom was proud and spent the day hoping for any/every update.

In this, my first Boston Marathon since her death, I will be dedicating my every effort to my mom. There won’t be a phone call before or after for encouragement or celebration, but every mile will still be graced with her love and support. I will touch my hand to my heart and lift my arm in celebration throughout to honor her and draw strength from all the gifts of love, courage and determination she gave to me.

  • Bib #: 23600
  • Wave 3, Corral 8
  • Approximate start time: 11:14 a.m.
  • Estimated pace: 8:45 minutes/mile

Jose Acevedo will once again be my guide. We’ve shared so many experiences together it will be right to have him for this (hopefully!) healthy Boston Marathon together. We’ve won a National Marathon Championship together in 2014 (pictured at left), endured through Boston 2016 despite knowing the neurology challenges would be excessive, and most recently we made a bid at running California for the National Marathon Championship despite knowing my dislocated ankle was going to make it unlikely.

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

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

This time we hope for just savoring the celebration of a Boston Experience healthy, happy, and prepared. As with any such event, all the planning and preparation is vital but the teamwork, friendship and ultimately execution on Marathon Monday is what will define the day.

There is such a community aspect which sets this particular experience apart. It will be on display throughout from Team with a Vision, Mass Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired celebrates 25 years of supporting VI athletes as well as a community of those who benefit from their services all year round. It has been on display from the many training miles supported by guides and friends who make running possible for someone like myself where just stepping out and running on my own isn’t a viable option.

Thank you especially to Rodney Andre for logging so many miles together, sharing his insights on life, running and the humor in every moment to keep life fun. Thank you to Greg Hallerman who continues to provide coaching and strategy despite being deprived of the joy of running for too many months himself. The Gate City Striders are the running club of Nashua and the are also my supportive, patient and encouraging friends as well who constantly find ways to help me create or meet new running goals.

Thank you to the 2020 Vision Quest team who understand the various events of my life are a part of our awareness mission but yet takes a toll on the teamwork at times. Most of all, thank you to both Tracy and Autumn who often have to put up with a little extra for my training and running goals. Autumn takes it begrudgingly as long as I supplement it with extra walks and play for her. Tracy goes out of her way to give the encouragement, support and even at times restraint when I’m over reaching for my schedule or medical best interest.

It takes a community before we ever line up and then somehow a community shows up and helps us get through the hardest of the miles along the way and celebrations at the end. It is no wonder that a marathon is often a metaphor for life. It’s an endurance event some of us can do alone but how much better an experience when we work together for all aspects so that at the end we are celebrating the wonderful human accomplishment of challenging ourselves to give our best. I will certainly strive to give my best and in doing so hopefully honor my dearly loved mother who I know always gave her best for me. In the marathon of her 88 years on this earth she stumbled and struggled at times as do we all. When she crossed the finish I know without question she holds a well earned first place in my heart.

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25 Mar 18

Group shot at the LA Tough Mudder

Randy poses with his team at the Tough Mudder.

By Randy Pierce

“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!”
– Randy Pierce following the March 28, 2015 L.A. Tough Mudder

We are all going to face our share of obstacles on the path. Will it turn us back, unable or unwilling to achieve for the challenge presented? Will we try, fail, and try again until we reach the goal? Will planning, problem solving, or the helpful guidance of another enable us to learn, grow, or better ourselves enough to overcome the obstacle?

The choice in approach is vastly up to each of us and we’ll experience the result of the choice as powerfully as the obstacle. I’ve always felt there’s a partial frustration in having met an obstacle and a similar frustration in the effort involved to overcome it. Since I’m facing some of the frustration either way, I’ll choose the version which most often results in the eventual jubilant feeling of success. In the process I tend to find an earnest dedication to the problem solving and perseverance often distracts me from the disappointing aspects of the challenge and invigorates me as well.

One of my most epic physical obstacles was out in California for the “King of the Swingers” obstacle featured around the 1:45-minute mark of this short video clip from Oberto’s “Hero of Summer” series. I encourage you to take a moment to remind yourself of a team oriented and determined approach to obstacles.

As we lined up below the platform with my team watching others attempt this incredible leap and swing, I was absolutely intimidated. I understood the difficulty and the large chance for failure. I knew there would be video cameras capturing every aspect of my attempt and reaction to it. I wasn’t aware beforehand that they would stop the other swings so that the entire Mudder Nation surrounding the challenge would be focused upon my attempt. This was an additionally daunting aspect of the obstacle.

I knew those things, understood them, accepted them, and let them go in favor of what I consider a more powerful consideration. By choosing to try, I was already growing and becoming stronger. I learn as much from failures as success if not more. We made a plan to help me orient on the T-bar trapeze. A teammate suggested the brilliant idea to grab the vertical bar instead of the smaller, easily missed, horizontal piece. I’m told my leg launch was a strong enough surge I almost sat on the T-bar. I managed this because I committed fully to the idea of the attempt and that is a strength for me most of the time. A partial commit would have made the first catch and grab of the trapeze weak and more likely to fail. Make the commitment and give it your all to succeed.

Oberto’s motto was: “You get out what you put in.” I find that true of so many things in life and especially our attempt to manage obstacles. If we decide to take the challenge, then give it our best effort and we’ll likely experience our best growth. As for the final release and ringing of the bell, how much of that involved my long arms and a fair bit of luck I’ll never know. I do think we make a fair bit of our own luck by the choices we make. I would not have rung the bell if I had backed away from the challenge and my life would have been missing a ringing success.

That said, I always want to honor the team who made such an incredible experience possible. Thank you Greg, Jose, Loren and Skye! It was an incredible experience and while we can’t ever  quite reproduce the magic of the day, it’s not hard to recall the experience and most especially our incredible teamwork! There’s a line from a stranger in the video and I hear it and love it every time: “Keep moving forward.” And so we shall!

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12 Mar 18

By Randy Pierce

The first picture of Autumn, Randy's Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014.

Here is the first picture of Autumn, Randy’s Guide Dog partner, who arrived in Nashua on March 16, 2014. Happy Anniversary!

It is so easy to celebrate every single day with such a joyous, loving lady as Autumn! She is far and away the most affectionate pup I’ve had the fortune to have in my life and I’m told it is to my benefit that I cannot see the “look” with which she would otherwise put me at her bidding!

March 16 will denote four years of our being matched as a team, which includes not only the wonderful relationship as a great dog but also some pretty solid guide work.

Most dogs love the opportunity to step out for a walk and Autumn is no exception. What makes her and all of our Guide Dogs particularly exceptional, however, is that for them each walk is a true labor of love as well. All the wonderful distractions of the world are mitigated by her training to ensure she tends the responsibilities of keeping me safe.

Thus when a winter Nor’easter named after her predecessor, Quinn, has deposited more than a foot of snow on our roads, things get a little more interesting. As such, I thought this week I would take you on a short half mile audio/video walking tour of Autumn’s work with me. I hope you enjoy as much as I certainly enjoy having this wonderful girl in my life.

Thank you, Autumn, and Happy 4th anniversary!

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14 Jan 18

By Randy Piece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Landry on a hike on Mt. Willey.

Matt Landry on a hike on Mt. Willey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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25 Nov 17

By Randy Pierce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to meet the USABA 2017 National Marathon Championship Field

Randy and Jose on Kilimanjaro

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Vision Quest California International Marathon shirt: front

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

2020 Vision Quest California International Marathon shirt: back.

 

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19 Nov 17

By Carolina Tumminelli

Carolina with her table having fun at Peak Potential 2017!

Carolina with her table having fun at Peak Potential 2017!

Be the main character in your life, and the supporting character for others, especially in those lives of the people you hold dear.

When Randy asked me a few days ago if I wanted to write the guest blog about his foundation’s main event, Peak Potential, I was thrilled.  When I realized that he asked me because of a conversation we had had months ago – marathons ago, difficult times ago, ages ago – I was honored.  I have never heard an unkind word spoken about Randy or Tracy – in fact, everyone always says they are both inspirational, awe-inspiring, amazing.  That’s all true, and last night’s event was a complete testament to that.  But that wasn’t my take away from last night’s dinner and fundraiser.

I arrived fashionably early last night, and was immediately greeted by Tracy, Randy’s beautiful and also inspiring wife.  Tracy isn’t just the woman behind the  man – she takes on her own challenges – school while working full time, running, etc – and handles them with grace and sometimes, I’m sure, a few choice words, but nonetheless she handles them!  I was handed my name tag, given a few details about the night, and directed to the room where the silent auction items were laid out.  There were people milling about looking at items, but what struck me was the team that was still working diligently to take care of those last few details to make sure the event went smoothly.  As my friends arrived, we drank, ate and chatted.  And that’s the second time I was awe-struck again.  I was surrounded by friends – amazing people who were doing amazing things, some small, some large – none more amazing than the next and everyone had chosen to spend an evening in support of our friend, Randy, because of what he meant to us.

The items for the silent auction were plentiful and amazing – from jewelry, to weekend stays at a ski resort, to a beautiful, handmade afghan blanket made by Randy’s mother (probably the most valuable item in that room).  It was wonderful to see how many different people and organizations had come together to donate items to support 2020 Vision Quest.

We were slowly ushered into the dining room, where dinner was served.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere lively – somehow you felt and knew that Randy and Tracy, and their friends, had orchestrated every last detail so that we would all have an amazing evening (although I must admit, the coffee was lacking in quality, but I’ll let it slide).

The Live Auction was next and brought laughter, bribery with puppies, bidding wars, and an extraordinary amount of money raised for the charity! And apparently someone is being fed homemade scones by Randy while riding in a hot air balloon – I’ll let you decide if that’s a prize or not.

Then, Randy spoke.  I don’t want to say he gave a presentation – he does that almost every day to various schools and organizations.  Nope, last night, Randy spoke.  He spoke to a room full of friends, family, supporters – he spoke to his team – the people he has in his life who help him get through the big challenges, the daily struggles, the happy times and sad days.  Randy spoke about being the main character in your life story – making the choices that allow you to be the best person you can be, to reach your Peak Potential.  No matter who you are, you need to surround yourself with a team of people who will help you, guide you, catch you when you fall, laugh with you, and love you.  Randy spoke about building that team so that you could be the main character in your life story, not just a backseat driver.  And I’ll take it one step further: on top of being the main character in your own life story, be a supporting role for others, particularly those people that you hold dear.  Life is too short to live it in solitude, thinking you can achieve your goals alone.  Besides, when you get to the top of the mountain, you want someone there to share in the champagne, whiskey, coffee, and cake (okay, maybe not the coffee!).

2020 Vision Quest Poster with Quinn and Randy on a winter slope, with the words "Climb Your Mountain" superimposedGuys, life is not easy, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We all have our stories, our struggles, our journeys. I own my own business, have two small children, attempt to be a runner, and try to be there for my friends and family – the people I hold close.  Because without those people, I wouldn’t be able to even THINK about achieving the goals I want to achieve.  They believe in me, even when I do not.

The final “event” of the night was a team/table event where people could make pledges towards 2020 Vision Quest.  The team – everyone in the room – raised more than $13,000 in less than 10 minutes! That’s teamwork!

At the end of the night, I grabbed one of the posters that was being handed out.  I didn’t open it up until this morning, but when I did, I knew it was a poster that was going to be hanging in my kitchen so that I could see it every day, so that my kids could see it every day.  It is the embodiment of what I want to teach my children – climb your mountain, reach your peak potential, and remember, you can’t do it alone – build your team and be there for the people who have chosen you to be on their team.

Learn more about Carolina Tumminelli.

 

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