Tag: success



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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15 Oct 17

By Greg Neault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1 Oct 17

By Randy Pierce

“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
-  Thich Nhat Hanh

The team with the Rainbow Mountain Range behind them.

The team with the Rainbow Mountain Range behind them. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

On our recent trip to South America, we chose a series of rewarding and challenging experiences that blended the historically intense cultures with the breath-taking backdrops of the incredible natural treasures held within Peru. This only served to enhance the notion of savoring each step along the journey despite the unparalleled splendor of Rainbow Mountain which dominated the landscape from our perch atop Winicunca at the end of our remote trek through the Andes. Certainly the altitude had already stolen much of our breath and yet the staggering views managed to evoke an astonishment beyond the expectations we had built, despite viewing many photographs in preparation for the moment. Each of us were held for a time, imprisoned in sublime silence by the majesty of those magical mountains and still there was something more powerfully at root within us for the true culmination of our expedition.

We began assembling in Cusco, Peru at an impressive altitude of 11,132 feet. We roamed around the historic Plaza de Armas and observed the melding of Spanish culture with that of the native Quechuan people. Such vast differences in culture from our own as the festive marketplace was an experience in and of itself. Soon our travel guides, United Mice, brought us to Walter Suri who would be our guide for most of the experiences ahead.  A native Quechuan, he spoke four languages and was well versed in the history and culture of his people with a bias understandably different from the textbooks with which most of us had more familiarity.

The team at Machu Picchu

The team at Machu Picchu. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

We toured many areas of original stonework crafting demonstrating the astounding talent of the Incan Empire. Their ability to build to withstand the earthquakes of the region and to integrate it with their natural world showcased remarkable artistry and engineering. We filled a week of learning on just the one-day trek across a pair of tectonic plates and seemingly a handful of centuries as well. Walter gave us insight into a people not quite lost to time. We stood in the chambers of the Temple of the Sun where King Inca was held prisoner and ransomed for a room full of gold and understood a little of the tragic results of civilizations colliding without the sophistication to preserve the worthy qualities of each culture. We took those somber reflections away from the city of Cusco.

The entire trip was initially founded upon a visit to Machu Picchu. While highly commercialized by the busloads of tourists brought into the ruins each morning, the vast mountain retreat is still impressively captivating. Built into the mountain with terraces, fountains, and the ever-present Incan stoneworkings, it was easy to  look across the deep chasm and marvel once again at the civilization which crafted this mountainside retreat.

Top-down view of a man climbing up an extremely steep stone staircase with jungle beneath him.

A very steep climb up Machu Picchu. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

We barely had time to appreciate a fraction of those marvels before we set out to climb Huayna Picchu. This craggy peak towers over Machu Picchu and is rated amongst the most frightening climbs in the world as it blends sheer drop-offs with steps built into the cliff edge along the way up to the terraced top. It provides an unrivaled view of the region and a challenge for those to whom heights are intimidating. While not more challenging a trail than what we routinely encounter in our White Mountains of New Hampshire, the consequences of a misstep were continuously more stark and the emotional energy was as significant as the rewards we shared in our team success throughout the many difficult stretches of this climb.

Already we had savored an incredible amount and the majority of our experiences remained ahead with the subsequent days’ start of our four day trek into the Ausangate Range. It began on a very rough road in which our adapting to the pace of low oxygen breathing was interspersed with dodging the “no license required” motorcycles which were a primary means for farmers to move simple supplies along this road into the mountains. We gained elevation steadily and the massive form of Ausangate or “Snow Mountain” was ever in our sights. This enormous peak is taller than Kilimanjaro and would be the center point of our hike. We passed through farms and briefly experienced a life so quiet and incredibly rural as to hear the call of civilizations past. Two very young school girls travelled with us after school, part of their two-hour walk on trails, one way(!) to attend school. Alpaca, llama, and sheep were commonly encountered along the way.

While being quickly surrounded by a remote and beautiful wilderness, the struggles were interspersed throughout the team as altitude can cause painful headaches, nausea, and a wearisome shortness of breath. The team began both encouraging and supporting each other early and I thought for some it was indeed the best of times and worst of times. Sunset on the first day was particularly incredible as we were just nearing our final camp destination and our rolling highland hills held dramatic clouds surrounding Ausangate’s glacially capped magnificence. Exhausted from the effort and immersed into the sudden splendor of these ranges, the Upi village hot springs were something only a few of our group appreciated and the gift of southern hemisphere stars without any light pollution was a wonder to behold. The Milky Way was vividly creamy and the “Black Llama” inverse constellation highlighted the nebula viewing possibilities.

Beautiful view of Ausangate in the distance.

Beautiful view of Ausangate in the distance. Photo courtesy of Jose Acevedo.

The next day we climbed higher still to Arrapa Pass as we circumnavigated the seemingly impassable mass of Ausangate. Tiny stone homes where a shepherd brought his herd every five years in rotation were some of the only signs of any connection to an outside world we had near completely escaped. As we camped by the Western Ice-fall of Ausangate, our evening held the sounds of many avalanches thunderous enough to raise our focus and just distant enough to ensure we had no peril. The twin glaciers dripping down the steep side framed a massive waterfall into turquoise lagoons in a valley of incredible serenity.

The views, celebrations, and struggles continued for many of our number and the support, caring and connection of the team grew with each step. I was trading guides regularly to avoid any strain on them and fortunately my health remained near ideal throughout the entire trip. Our third day brought us over 16,000 feet a couple of times and past remote locations where seemingly wild Alpaca ranged beneath a waterfall on the edge aof a ridge line across yet another lagoon. We had passed the shark-tooth mass of an unnamed dour mountain and the geological wonders of the rainbow striations were seen in the distance and our ultimate reward. Communal meal tent time brought the team together to reflect on the trail, distract with laughter, or simply share struggles and support. Each portion of the trip brought visual splendors which surpassed expectations and always the remote aspects of the experience were a gift to us. So it was that our final trek began at 3:30 am so that we would arrive to the Rainbow Mountain Ridge before the ever growing popularity of day trips brought people to our secret treasure. We had roughly half an hour of near seclusion to savor the team, the accomplishment, and the majesty before the arrivals of day trippers from the other side began. We made our way out amongst them, appreciative of our guide Walter’s impeccable timing.

For almost half the team this was a parting of sorts as eight of us would make a trip to Sky Lodge for a final adventure together, but an ending had begun. The team was not unravelling–our experiences together had brought us too close for that. We will part but in a moment of reconnection we will be back in the Andes together with the bonds only a shared powerful experience can create. With but an eyes-closed recollection most of us may vividly recall any of a multitude of amazing and breathtaking moments along the path in Peru and those are the truest treasures, not the iconic summit or achievement but every mindful moment of possibility upon the journey.

The team climbs up the side of the cliff to the Skylodge.

The team climbs up the side of the cliff to the Sky Lodge. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

Finally, I cannot leave out the Sky Lodge experience. Scaling the 1800-foot cliff to our transparent pods was as adrenaline-laden an experience as imagined. Risks managed by the two clip system, we still faced overhangs, wire crossings, and endless stretches of steep climbs and sudden drops. It was exhilarating and to culminate in the dining pod which was open rock face behind and wide open view to the sacred valley everywhere else was… simply unique.

We celebrated our accomplishment and were served an incredible dinner by our guides from the comforts of that cliffside perch. We retired to our 4-person pods to sleep in comfort and while the remoteness was not as hoped since 1800 feet is an eternity upwards and yet so very little actual distance from the roads, trains and shops below us, the exuberance was slow to fade. Morning’s breakfast involved a brief climb to the dining pod and then the six-point zip line retreat. There was a speed line named the Arrow and a 700-meter line called the Beast, but all of the traverses of a cliff were surges of intense excitement to cap off the adventurous portion of our excursion. We all had at least one tandem ride and all grew closer still to share these things together.

My final reflection as it all came to an end is how glad I am to choose experiences with friends as a way of building the person I hope to become. I grew as a person to view the people of Peru, the wonders of their land and most especially our triumphs and struggles together to ensure we could all succeed as we did. For me especially there is a feeling of occasional burden upon those who choose to partake of these things with me and yet never did any of my friends hint at such a thing. Instead, they are the kind of people who help me feel that together we experience the situation more fully and more richly because our differences do not separate us but unite us in appreciation of a world with wonders worthy of that union.

 

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