WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS…

Make lemonade!

When Life Gives You Lemons

We’ve all heard the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” It is a cleaver way of making the best of your situation. Lemonade is such a simple thing to make, the most basic recipe uses just three ingredients. lemons, water, and sweetener of choice.  You can even make it healthy by avoiding processed white sugar. Sweeten it to your taste with stevia, or honey, just avoid the artificial sweeteners, that  stuff is worse for your health.

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Covid-19, AKA ‘the Coronavirus’ has shut down nearly the entire USA, as well as most of the world. As I happen to live in the USA, my focus is on what is happening in my country.  As of April 1st, 2020 there are over 300,000 cases of the disease in the USA, and over 8,000 deaths.  Everything is cancelled or closed. Today is Palm Sunday, next Sunday is Easter, and for the first time in the history of the USA, people will not be allowed to gather in churches to celebrate Holy Week. Any worshiping of Almighty God has been relegated to whatever private citizens are doing in the privacy of their homes, with their family members who live under the same roof. Guests need not bother visiting, least they bring the plague with them. People are scared, people are unemployed, and people need hope.

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This past week during a Covid-19 press update from the White House rose garden, President Donald J. Trump invited Michael J. Lindell to speak. Lindell was one of several CEOs present to speak at the conference, and he owns the My Pillow brand. Like many companies eager to do what they can to stop the spread of this highly infectious Coronavirus , Michael Lindell explained how his company has temporarily  stopped making pillows and re-tooled to start making surgical face masks.  He concluded his portion of the conference by encouraging people to enjoy the time spent isolated with their families, and to spend time reading their Bibles. 

As it stands at this time, the shut down continues, and will last the reminder of the month of April.

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.– Reinhold Niebuhr, 1943  

This is the first time in the history of my country that the entire nation has been shut down for weeks. The last time we had widespread shortages and rationing was during World War II.  At Heath Evangelical Union Church in Heath, Massachusetts,  Reinhold Niebuhr first spoke his famous Serenity Prayer at a sermon delivered while the country was embattled in war. Today, like then, we are fighting a war, only it is now against an invisible enemy.  We cannot control the virus. It is a force of nature, and it must run its course.  We cannot control how long the shutdown remains in effect,  and we cannot control who dies from the disease because their immune system was just not strong enough to fight the virus. There is no cure. There is no vaccine. They can treat the symptoms, isolate you if you get it, and in extreme cases put you on a ventilator if you stop breathing, assuming there is one available.  The only thing you have control  over now is yourself.  If you are unsure of how to avoid the virus, or what to do if you are sick, consult the official US government website at  https://www.coronavirus.gov

God tells us not to waste our lives worrying about what may come to pass, or obsessing over things which we have no control over.  God is real, and God is good, ALWAYS. You can choose to curse the darkness, or you can choose to be a source of light in the world. No matter what the situation, you can choose to make the best of the hand you are dealt and rise above your circumstance.  The economic ripples from the impact of the coronavirus will be far reaching, but for now we just have to hunker down and get through it.

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For me personally, the last Sunday in April is a special anniversary. One year ago, on April 28th, 2019 I became a runner.  That was the day I ran my first ever official 5K race. Over the  course of the year I would run nearly a dozen races, including 2 half-marathons. This year I had planned to run more than two dozen races as I trained towards running my first marathon in November. Now all of my official races in April have been cancelled, as well as some in May, and possibly even some in June. I cannot go to the gym and train on a treadmill, gyms are closed. Fortunately my small pack of running friends and I have been hitting various trails and making our own fun. 

The Wolf Pack 2

Yeah, there are no race t-shirts, no medals. It’s just fun-runs. I had been looking forward to running a half-marathon on the last Sunday of this month with my friends to celebrate, but that race was cancelled. The best thing about half-marathons and up is that you get a finishers medal when you complete the race.

It is my firm intention NOT to allow this virus to destroy all the progress I have made this past year, and moving forward. My official races have been cancelled but I am doing more running now than I ever have with the support and encouragement of my friends.  Today The Pack will be running at least 8 miles. A runner runs! Just because you cannot do the things you normally would, you don’t quit! A runner runs! You find an alternative. A runner MUST run!

Going Virtual

MEDAL DASH is hosting a ‘virtual race’ The #CRUSHCORONA 5K/10K/13.1/26.2

https://runsignup.com/Race/TX/VirtualRun/CRUSHCORONA5K10K131262VIRTUALRUN

A ‘virtual race’ is one in which a person signs up online, pays the registration fee, and you run the race ANYWHERE during the appointed time period. You submit your time to the website, and they mail you your t-shirt and medal for completing the race. So today I’m going to encourage The Pack to help me celebrate on April 26th and run this virtual race when we meet this morning for our run. There’s about 8 in the group, and the line-up changes depending  if people are available to run when we meet up. Usually it’s always been about 4 or 5 at a time.  At least two of them will definitely run 13.1 miles with me, and another two may opt to go 10K. If it rains that date, we’ll do it the following week. You can’t control the weather, and The #CRUSHCORONA 5K/10K/13.1/26.2 virtual race can be run any time prior to May 31st. 

Now some people are un-employed at the moment due to this shut down, and maybe paying money for a virtual seems frivolous. My situation is good, for now.

There is also a totally FREE series of virtual races The UnCancelled Project offered by RUN THE EDGE just for fun during the month of April, and I will be doing these as well.

https://runtheedge.com/pages/un-canceled-project-registration

Being healthy is your best defense against COVID-19. Getting outside for fresh air and exercise is recommended by public health officials in most areas at this time, but precautions are necessary. It’s important to follow careful guidelines:

  •  DON’T go out if you’re sick! Stay home and help protect others.
  •  DON’T organize workouts in large groups. Keep it small.
  • DO announce your presence to others to help maintain the recommended six feet of social distance.
  • DO stay informed on your local rules and regulations in response to COVID-19.

The Wolf Pack

If you are in an area that’s under a total lock-down, use your time at home wisely and do things to improve yourself.  There are all sorts of home exercise programs you can start, if you have the internet, you have the sum total of human knowledge at your fingertips! Read, especially read The Bible. Catch up on all those chores you’ve been putting off. Don’t just sit there feeling sorry for yourself, enjoy your life! As always I wish you success and happiness!

A SMALL MOUNTAIN…

Is STILL a mountain!

a small mountain

Climb every mountain

Ford every stream

Follow every rainbow

‘Till you find your dream– Lyrics from the song Climb Every Mountain from The Sound of Music.

Last Sunday February 23rd 2020, due to an unexpected event there was no weekly article posted on my blog. It was maybe the 3rd or 4th time that this has happened since I began writing InstantCoffeeWisdom three years ago. To my frequent and long-time readers, I offer an apology, and an explanation.

Every now and then, life throws you a curve ball. Something you never expect. Sometimes it can be a bad thing, but sometimes it can be an unexpected and pleasant surprise.  This was the latter.  I was originally working on an article concerning nutritional supplements (which will now be posted next week, bumped by this article) when one of my running friends gave me a surprise gift.  Accepting this gift meant dropping everything I was doing, and being a little selfish to spend time with my friends. I feel bad for disappointing my dedicated readers like Ken, and  especially those who check-in from foreign countries like Romania, England and Canada.  I am always amazed that I have readers in other countries. The internet can be a wonderful thing, but I digress!

One of the items in my bucket list is training for a marathon. I have been putting in a lot of time running both at the gym on a treadmill, and in official timed races of various distances. Registration for official race events costs money, and as I planned 24 of them this year I had to pick and choose as well as budget accordingly to be able to afford to pay for my fitness hobby.  The point I have been stressing this year is that your Health is your Wealth, and vice-versa. What is the point of becoming rich, only to be too sickly and infirm to enjoy the fruit of your labors? The point of life is to enjoy it!

Gary Brendel, a friend who is part my pack of runners  wanted to run in The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run and he asked if I was going. This was a race that I had skipped. I told him that I had limited funds and had to pass because I couldn’t afford the extra race with all the others I had lined up.  Gary told me he would pick up the tab for my registration. I was stunned! It was such a wonderful gift and a generous surprise that to refuse would have been rude. It is very nice to know that when times are lean, you have friends who have your back. Gary is also planning on running in the Philly Marathon with me in November, and my other friend Steve will run the half that same day. Additionally, Gary also convinced another mutual friend, Alison Riley to run with us in The Ugly Mudder. Alison is a novice runner who believed that she was only able to run 5K (3.1 miles). This was her first ever 13K (8.078 miles) and she did amazing!  Like the Bible says in Proverbs 27:17, ” As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

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 One Ugly Mudder!

The name ‘Ugly Mudder’ is a play on words. It is a near homonym for ‘Ugly Mother’. A Mudder is a race horse that runs faster on a muddy track. This was the logo for this year’s commemorative  t-shirt.

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The character depicted is reminiscent of Baba Yaga , the pestle wielding witch from Slavic folklore who would kill and eat unfortunate travelers who got lost in the woods. Baba Yaga was most likely an influence  for the fictional Blair Witch in the 1999 horror film, The Blair Witch Project.  

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The 17th annual event was timed by Pretzel City Sports. PCS was founded in 1987 by the awesome Ron Horn and they help many regional organizations such as The Pagoda Pacers hold races.

As for the race itself,  The Ugly Mudder 13K Trail Run is a foot-race up Mount Penn on some of the ugliest, treacherous, and muddy trails imaginable. Mount Penn is a 1,120-foot-high mountain that rises to the north and overlooks the city of Reading PA.  It’s a little mountain, but a mountain is still a mountain. For comparison the tallest mountain in Romania is Moldoveanu Peak at 8,346-feet , which is slightly taller than Omu at 8,219-feet, also located in Romania.  The tallest mountain in England is Scafell Pike at 3,209-feet.  In case you may be wondering, the tallest mountain in North America is Denali in the USA in the state of Alaska. At 20,237-foot, it is also the third tallest on Earth.

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There are two large structures visible on Mount Penn.  One is the William Penn Fire Tower. This imposing stone and reinforced concrete tower is 120 feet tall and is situated on Skyline Drive. The 120-ft.-tall former fire observation tower was built in 1939 for $30,000. A lighted Cross on the tower was forcibly removed in 2009 by God-hating atheists who threatened a lawsuit because the Cross reminded them that they had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.    

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One mile from the Fire Tower is Reading’s landmark Pagoda, the symbol of the city for over a century.

Commissioned in 1906 at a cost of $50,000 by William A. Witman, Sr. , the Pagoda was completed in 1908.  It was originally intended to be a luxury resort atop Mt. Penn, but due a bank foreclosure after the denial of his liquor license, Witman never opened the Pagoda.  By 1910 the Pagoda and its surrounding 10 acres of land were deeded to local business owner, Jonathon Mould and his wife, Julia (Bell).  On April 21, 1911 they “sold” the Pagoda to the City of Reading for the sum of $1.  Since then the Pagoda has been owned, loved and cared for by the citizens and City of Reading.

The Pagoda is 28 feet (8.5 m) wide, 50 feet (15 m) long, and 72 feet (22 m) tall and located at  98 Duryea Dr. Reading, PA.  After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 anti-Japanese sentiment nearly caused the building to be torn down. Cooler-heads claimed that the building was actually not Japanese, but a Korean Pagoda, so the Pagoda was spared.  (FYI– a Korean Pagoda is usually built entirely out of stone, and is slightly different looking than the Reading Pagoda which is clearly based on a Japanese design. Thank God there was also no internet in 1941. LOL. )

As for the course itself, it was rocky and treacherous, not to mention uphill and muddy at places. There was a little patch of ice easily negotiable just before the finish line.  You just knew it was going to be a rough trail when a priest was running in case someone needed Last Rites.

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The humorous description and cautionary words from the promotional e-mail flier are as follows:

The same thing happened to most of the trails used in the Ugly Mudder. Once, they were bucolic hiking trails used by courting couples, families with kids, dog walkers, etc. And then heavy storms took away their topsoil, lack of use resulted in wild indigenous plants growing across the path, erosion left huge gullies in them that twist ankles and make then unsuitable for biking, etc. And what we have left are trails that are so misshapen and un-navigable that they can ONLY be used for the Ugly Mudder. The Ugly Mudder is a mishmash of ups & downs, fallen logs, debris, rocks & roots, discarded household items, deer poop and urban relics.  To offset this misery, Pretzel City Sports provides a bunch of “perks” at the event including a great post race party with a free breakfast, funny signs on trail to ease your pain, unusual aide stations with equally unusual beverages, cold volunteers that will treat YOU even “colder”, great course markings & other niceties that has made this, on several occasions, one of the 5 largest rustic trail runs in the entire country & the largest East of the Mississippi. In fact, annually, 99.9% of its participants live to run another day so how hard can it be?  Come join the 250-400 people each year that REFUSE to let ankle deep snow, sub-zero temps and a few rocks & roots turn them into mega-weenies, candybutts or, worst of all, “Bachelor/Bachelorette Fans”. LEGAL B.S: You RUN AT YOUR OWN RISK & you alone are responsible for your welfare at all times while racing!! You SHOULD finish this race unscathed other than from frostbite & snot frozen to your face. But if you DO get a boo-boo, crawl to an aide station so we can pick you up in a warm car. You WON’T get lost; it’s marked that well!  But if you STILL manage to do so, ask someone how to Uber to Stokesay Castle; the finish is right next door. Since this is a mid-level challenge, people discouraged from coming are

  1. those under 18 (15-17 yr olds OK with parent present-14 or below MUST have someone run with them)

  2. anyone, other than a current employee, who will miss K-mart and

  3. people who religiously “eat clean” because we ALL need Oreos and  they’re about as far from “clean” as a food group can be. And also DAMN yummy!

In case you’re wondering about the funny signs, I took pictures of them all as I ran. They ran in FOUR series each spaced about 2 miles apart ,and  started with a warning:

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  • WARNING! BE PREPARED FOR…
  • THE SHITTIEST 8.078 MILES
  • YOU’LL EVER RUN (IF YOU CALL THIS RUNNING)

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  • LOTS OF “DOWNHILL” COMING UP
  • AFTER YOU FINISH THIS “RIDGE FROM HELL”

  • THERE HAVE BEEN MORE DEMOCRATS
  • RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
  • THAN WE HAVE ENTRIES IN OUR CLYDESDALE DIVISION
  • MAY MEAN THAT WE THAT WE HAVE LESS “FULL” PEOPLE IN THESE PARTS
  • THAN WE HAVE PEOPLE “FULL OF THEMSELVES”

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  • WHAT GOES DOWN, MUST COME UP
  • AND WE REALLY MEAN “UP”!

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At the last water station, they also had shots of whisky to anyone who needed calm their nerves after surviving this harrowing experience.

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Yeah it was quite the challenge, and this was only the second trail run I have done. Of the three of us, Gary finished first . Alison twisted her ankle on the rocks half-way, but was able to walk-off the injury and finished ahead of me. I’m a Clydesdale, so I tend to run slower, plus I took pictures. I did NOT finish last, and my pace from my first trail run had improved so I am getting faster which makes me happy. Progress is progress, and slow and steady wins the race!  

The best part was my friends waiting for me at the finish line.

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As always, I wish you success and happiness!

DUST AND THIRST!

Success requires both!

dust and thirst

I get knocked down, but I get up again. You are never gonna keep me down…– Lyrics from the song Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

Sir Richard Branson is one of my role models. I admire the man, he is an inspiration although I do not agree with him politically. Everyone is entitled to their personal opinions.  One of the goals in HIS bucket list is to go into space. When I was in elementary school, that was something I wanted to do as well. When I was a young boy, the only people who actually went into space were astronauts.  That goal is a very high bar which I abandoned in high school for various reason.  

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As of February 2020, the world population is about 7.7 billion people. In the history of the world ONLY 536 people have gone into space. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was the first man in space.  The first woman in space was also a Russian cosmonaut, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova  (6 March 1937–). When you raise the bar from just going into space to going to the moon, only 12 men have ever walked on the moon,  astronaut Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was the first to do it on July 20th, 1969. In case you’re wondering, the last man to walk on the moon was Eugene Cernan  in December  1972. The oldest person to go back into space was John Glenn (77 years and 103 days old) when  he ventured into space once again aboard the space shuttle Discovery on STS-95 in 1998. John Glenn could not have gone back into space had he not maintained a lifelong discipline of healthy diet and exercise.

The Sky’s the limit!

Sir Richard Branson has an excellent chance of going into space because not only does he maintain a healthy diet and exercise regiment, he’s attempting to create a space tourism company Virgin Galactic, and is currently funding and building reusable space planes. Fellow billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are also pursing similar ventures with SpaceX and Blue Origin, respectively.  There are over 2000 billionaires on Earth, and they pretty much collectively own everything. With a bottomless bucket of health, wealth, and knowledge at your disposal, you can accomplish damn near anything you set your mind to. If it’s possible, it will happen! It’s only a matter of time.

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Now here’s the key to success. All of these billionaires started small. Richard Branson opened a record shop. Jeff Bezos sold books on the internet from his garage,  Elon Musk was a co-founder of PayPal.  At one point or another, each of these  people encountered failures and setbacks. Their thirst for success enabled them to dust themselves off, pick up where they left off, and begin again. Each successful and completed goal lead to bigger and better dreams, and those dreams became reality because they took a chance and started something.

In life you have choices to make every day. Most of the time, you will make the wrong decision. Knowledge and experience will reduce the tendency to guess wrongly, but you will never be able to totally eliminate mistakes and human error. If you quit every time you fail, you will never accomplish anything. If you do not make plans, nothing will happen. If you do not do the work, it will not get done.  No one is going to live your life for you. YOU have to make it happen! YOU have to make the plans and do the work. YOU, and ONLY YOU. There will be mistakes and setbacks. DO NOT QUIT! You have to have the thirst for success and the wherewithal  to accomplish your goals. They will require your health, wealth, and knowledge to be top-notch. You have to be strong in all three areas, and you can’t fake strong.  Do not sabotage your success by starting ludicrous goals. Start SMALL and build your strengths, then move on to bigger and better.

It is my ULTIMATE goal as a runner to run an ultra-marathon. If I would have started my first race with a marathon, I would never have accomplished that goal, and I probably would have sustained serious injury or death . My first official race was a 5K run, and I kept building up distances, and training between races. I started training months before I ran my first 5K on April 28th 2019. I ran 11 official races last year. This year I have so far run 2, and have another 22 slated by the end of the year. This does not even take into account the time at the gym running 5K after work, between races.    My first marathon is scheduled for November 22th, 2020, months from now. I will run FIVE half-marathons, Three 15Ks and about a dozen 5Ks between now and then. All the while dieting and cross-training. And at the end of NEXT YEAR, I will attempt an ULTRA if and only if I make it through this first marathon. 

There are long-term goals, and there are short-term goals. Bigger and better means starting, and starting small. Great things come from humble beginnings.  You just have to start somewhere, so hit the road because your journey begins today! As always I wish you success and happiness!

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THE END IS THE BEGINNING!

Life is a journey!

the end is the beginning

“Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” – Anonymous.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul made a metaphor between his life and career in the first century church equating it with a road race.  

” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” – Paul the Apostle (from 2 Timothy 4:7)

This was one of the many ways the early leadership of the church created bridges between people to connect unfamiliar concepts to various individuals. As I began running road races last year in 2019,  I quickly came to realize how appropriate this comparison was. Before I even attempted my first 5K, my goal was to run a marathon. 5K is 3.1 miles, and a marathon is about nine times that at 26.2 miles. I was inspired by Nathan Maxwell  @socialshark , a friend on Twitter who was an ultra-marathoner. Nate and I connected through a love of coffee. When the internet was in its infancy, it was referred to as The Super Information Highway. Now we have social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. The thing about social media is that it allows individuals to share ideas, images and information of all sorts at a rapid-fire pace, with little or no filter. This double-edged sword has both brought some people closer, while at the same time destroying some relationships.   I am often amazed at the number of people around the world who check in regularly to read my weekly Sunday opinion piece. It is quite humbling.  

Running is a lifestyle choice. Like many things, you do it for as long as you can, on a regular basis. Once you quit, often there is no going back.

 “The end is in the beginning.” – T.S. Eliot

The First Key to success in life is proper planning executed at an early time. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I am currently using a lot of racing and health metaphors because of the interconnectivity of health and wealth. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Your health IS your wealth, and your wealth IS your health!” As I prepare for my first marathon at the end of 2020, today I run my first official race of the year, a 10K in Muhlenberg PA. Last year I ran a dozen races, from 5Ks to half-marathons. In 2020, my plan is to run twice that, both in distance and frequency. Each of these races has an entry fee. Had my finances not been in order, I could not afford to do this. As an athlete in training for competition, I have certain nutritional requirements. Dietary supplements , special meal plans, and better quality organic produce all cost money. Again, had I not taken steps years ago to fix my finances, I would not be in a position to afford these added costs. Not to mention I also need to buy quality running shoes and gym clothes.  

The Second Key to success in life is you have to want it. That should be obvious, but saying you WANT it and actually wanting it enough to do the work to attain the goal are two different things. When you really WANT something, the effort you are putting into attaining that goal should be outwardly apparent to anyone observing you. Actions speak louder than words, but RESULTS shout from the rooftops! 

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The Third Key is not giving up. The road is long and hard, and there are many stumbling blocks.  My most grueling 5K of 2019 was a night run obstacle course, The Zombie Fun Run. The ‘fun’ stopped when I wrenched my knee as I slipped on a muddy hill. I was terribly concerned with each painful step that I would not be able to finish, but I managed to limp my way to the end. In a couple of days, I was right as rain again.  The first half-marathon I ran two months prior also was fun, until I hit the 9th mile, and was breaking personal distance records. That was when I started getting leg cramps.  I also limped to the end that time.  DNF (Did Not Finish) is currently not in my vocabulary. I have completed every race I signed up for. ONLY once (during the Chobert Challenge 15K trail run) was I DFL (Last), but I did finish.  Often when I am in such trying periods, struggling to reach the finish line, another quote from the Apostle Paul comes to mind.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Paul the Apostle (from Philippians 4:13)

Just like Nate’s Twitter posts inspired me to begin running, other folks I have connected with have inspired me to continue. One fellow runner who is truly amazing is Bruce Cronrath. Bruce is 76 years old, has a replacement knee and still runs half-marathons.  Whenever  we race,  he’s usually a few minutes faster than I am. I currently run about a  12 minute mile, and outweigh Bruce by over 100lbs. Bruce is a Vietnam  Vet and a credit to our country. He is the perfect example of never giving up, and demonstrates what is possible when you devote a lifetime of dedication to a healthy lifestyle  . I hope that when I reach his age, I have his level of stamina and endurance as well.

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Hopefully I have encouraged you through my blog to rise to new heights in whatever pursuits you wish to engage in. You can accomplish it as long as you give it everything you’ve got and never quit!  As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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THE ‘I’ IN TEAM!

What role do you play?

the i in team

There are many different kinds of teams, and many synonyms to label them. 

  • crew
  • club
  •  company
  •  lineup
  • organization
  •  party
  •  side
  •  squad
  •  unit

Did you forget any? How about FRIENDS? FAMILY? CO-WORKERS??

You may have heard the old saying ‘There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM’. Simply put, the reply to this is yes, and no. Strictly speaking, when you spell the four letter word out TEAM , there is no letter ‘I’. Now there is a popular joke response floating about the internet that IF you type the word TEAM in certain fonts, you get a lowercase ‘i’ hidden in the negative space of the letter ‘A’. Often the caption that follows is something like ‘I found the ‘i’, it’s hidden in the ‘A-hole’.  This can be true in more ways than one.

First off, let’s address the ‘I’ in TEAM.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ‘I’

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Teams are groups of INDIVIDUALS working TOGETHER for a common goal. So the ‘I’ in TEAM stands for INDIVIDUAL, and that has good points and bad points.  Every INDIVIDUAL is unique and has unique needs which have to be addressed. Sometimes these individuals add skills and qualities to the group dynamic that improves the group’s overall performance. That is where the acronym T.E.A.M. comes into play, because TOGETHER EACH ACHIEVES MORE. It’s a wonderful thing when it works out that way, but  sometimes you get those negative elements that don’t play well with others. They are  the ‘a-holes’ bringing down the team.  In those cases, that negative player must either be corrected, or at worst cut, for the greater good of the squad. We are ALL individuals, and WE are all UNIQUE, and we each have our respective roles to play. We don’t always get to pick our teams, sometimes  teams pick us, and other times we are thrown together  by circumstance. Not everyone in the same organization will get along all the time, or even like each other.  Whether you like it or not, you on still on each other’s team. In those trying situations, the INDIVIDUAL you need to focus on is YOURSELF. Are you the solution, or part of the problem?   

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Who’s in charge around here?

Every effective group has someone leading the organization. Being a leader takes courage, discipline, and determination.  It is a very hard job that can be lonely. You can be open to harsh criticism when things aren’t going well, be accused of playing favorites, insulted by underlings who don’t like your leadership style, or feel you don’t recognize their contributions. Occasionally these gripes are true. We’ve all had bad bosses at one time or another. Leadership, like any new skill takes time to develop. Sometimes, happenstance requires that a void in the chain of command be filled. If no qualified  INDIVIDUAL can be found, willing volunteers may be asked to pick up the mantle, or have it forcibly thrust upon them.  This is what is sometimes referred to as ‘trial by fire’. You’ll either rise to the occasion, or burn out. If you suddenly find that you are now the ‘captain of the ship’, then YOU need to act like it, and run things as best as possible, while consulting with other captains of other ships, reading the appropriate manuals, and making the tough calls. This also includes listening to the questions and concerns of your subordinates, some of whom may have more seniority than you.

IF you find that YOU are NOT in a position of authority, and the duly appointed captain refuses to acknowledge the approaching iceberg, YOU have two choices.

Stay the course and hope for the best, or abandon ship.

The LONE WOLF

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As a  leader, we MAY be able to force someone to do something they don’t want to do, but they won’t do it well, and may even quit or take action against us.

As a team-mate, we MAY be able to convince our squad to run a play, but everyone would need to be on board and, the team leader would still need to agree to it. There may be repercussions if we just did it without authorization, EVEN IF IT WORKED.

As an INDIVIDUAL, you can always convince yourself to do anything you really want to do.

Sometimes it’s just impossible to find a group that fits, or create a new group, or convince an old group to try something different that you really want to do.  The lone wolf has total freedom, but that freedom comes at the cost of camaraderie.  One really is the loneliest number, but regret is also a terrible thing.  If your team or group is holding you back, it may be time to explore new horizons and challenges solo. This requires a special kind of courage and strength, because the path of the lone wolf is the toughest.  If you falter and need help, you’re on your own. There’s no one to recognize your accomplishments, or say ‘good job’ at the end.  Only YOU can decide if it’s worth the risk of going it alone, or facing the regret of never knowing if you could have done it.  As INDIVIDUALS we all have the option of taking our ball and going home,  or finding new groups to play with, or just practicing our skills alone. Self-improvement  begins with SELF. No matter where we go, there we are. We can be part of many different groups simultaneously, but wherever we chose to be we need to bring our ‘A-game’ and give it our best effort.

 We cannot control the actions of other people, we ultimately can only control ourselves.   As always, I wish you success and happiness.

 

TIMING IS EVERYTHING!

Every second is precious.

timing is everything

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ~ Peter Drucker.

It’s been said that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. It’s also been said that ‘he who hesitates is lost’.  We all live in the moment and there is no ‘right time’. People who wait for ‘the right time’ often wait forever and never accomplish anything. Ultimately it all comes down to proper timing. Each day, we all get the same 24 hours and how we spend that time is up to us. We also all have dreams, some big, some small, some practical, some unrealistic, and occasionally some totally bizarre. Like our time, realizing those dreams is also largely up to us. Highly successful people manage both their time and their money exceptionally well in order to accomplish those dreams and goals. Your future success is determined by what you do TODAY. People who chose to do nothing accomplish nothing and have no future. That same group is the most vocal about how successful people have somehow held them back in life, and that life is unfair. They refer to successful people as being obsessed. The important thing to remember is that obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.

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If you truly want to improve your life, you cannot procrastinate, and you must attack your goal with full fledged determination. If you do this, you will succeed in life because most people are lazy. The important thing is to start! Do not put off for tomorrow what you can do today! Make a checklist of the things you need to do, and arrange them in a logical order so that you do not undermine your progress by having one chore undo another. For example, if you were  cleaning your kitchen, you would clean the counter tops BEFORE you swept the flour. You do not want to be counter-productive. The more efficiently you use your time, the more you can accomplish. Some tasks can be done simultaneously, others must be tackled one by one. Highly efficient people write things down and work from lists.

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Schedule EVERYTHING including downtime.  Dedicated people tend to over-schedule and burn out due to stress. Everyone needs a break. It’s OK to burn the midnight oil occasionally, but if you are constantly working late, sleeping little, and avoiding rest periods, you will begin to break down from stress. There’s an old adage: “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” If you feel you are not having enough time to do everything you need to do, you may need to cut out time-wasting activities. If you spend HOURS sitting in from of the TV, or playing games on the computer, then those bad habits are holding you back. I allow myself plenty of time in the morning by waking up earlier than I technically have to. This allows me time to have breakfast, pack lunch, exercise etc.  I allow a few extra minutes on the commute to work in case of construction or gridlock.  When I have tasks like shopping, I save time by making a single large loop and hitting all my destinations in the most efficient manner as to avoid back-tracking or going out of the way.

Remember, the future belongs to those who work for it. Do not neglect your health, no not neglect your finances, and if you have a family ESPECIALLY do not neglect them. People are ephemeral, we will all die one day, and it will be when we least expect it. The same goes for our friends and family.  How you spend your time is up to you. Will you waste it? or will you make the most of every moment? Only time will tell. As always I wish you success and happiness!      

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

(Your life may depend on it someday)

RUN FOR YOUR LIFE

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” — George S Patton

Two hikers stumble across a grizzly bear and her cubs. The enraged mama bear snarls and charges towards them. As the two men turn to flee in terror, the one says “We’ll never make it, we can’t outrun the bear!”  His buddy replies, “I don’t need to outrun the bear, I just need to outrun you.”

That’s an old joke, and you’ve probably stumbled across it before. Often it gets recycled or changed a bit.  Lately it’s been used pretty often in the popular Zombie Apocalypse Fiction genre.  One traumatic  example was in the second season of TV’s The Walking Dead when Shane shot Otis so he could outrun the zombies chasing them by sacrificing his buddy.  In the move Zombieland, Columbus had 33 survival rules, but his NUMBER ONE RULE was Cardio. “To escape a pursuing zombie you will need to out-run it, and this means being in good shape. ” There is even an running app for your smart phone called Zombies, RUN!

Many people take running for granted, often fooling themselves into believing that if they ever needed to run, or run FAST and far , they could if they had to. You’ll never know how far, or how fast you can run unless you make time for a regular fitness regime that includes cardio.  Now besides entertainment, end of the world Zombie fiction is good for getting people to THINK about what they what they would do if the unthinkable happened. When a natural disaster such as hurricane Katrina or Sandy suddenly devastated coastal regions would you have  fresh water, power, or food? What about tools, and other supplies. So let’s assume you were smart and did have a ‘bug-out-bag’ with supplies ready and waiting for an emergence. Could you strap it on your back and walk with that load  for miles if need be? Could you?

Two out of every three Americans are overweight, and half of those are obese. Being FAT is not healthy. It is bad for your heart, your veins, your bones, and your mental state. It is bad for every part of your body. I should know, I’ve been struggling with weight issues for years, and two years ago I embarked on a vigorous diet and exercise program to get my life back on track once and for all. Understand this above all else, it is impossible to lose weight by exercise alone. Exercise just helps to strengthen and tone the body. You’re food is your fuel, and your body needs the best possible nutrition to build strong bones and muscles. As a stress eater, I know that it is a struggle to give up comfort foods such as chocolate, cake, and pizza. Trust me, I know all about it. It is a daily struggle of mind over matter, but once you establish a daily routine and stick to it, you will see results. It will NOT happen overnight, all good things take time. The important thing is to start.

The Power of Positivity

When you feel good about yourself you feel better physically, and vice versa. I was in a bit of a funk a year ago because my weight had hit a plateau which is common.  So I needed to change what I was doing as far as both diet and exercise. After all what is the point of being rich and successful if you’re too sickly or overweight to enjoy the fruit of your labors? Doing NOTHING is not an option. When I was fatter, my knees hurt. Running was not an option in that state. As I began losing weight, the knee pain lessened and I started doing the elliptical more and more at the gym. And I began to see results so I started feeling better about myself. Obesity causes mental illness, such as depression.  Over the past two years I’ve managed to lose about 60 lbs so far, 30 last year, and 30 this year.  Last summer when I lost the first 30 lbs, I was on vacation and a cute waitress at my favorite cafe noticed, and told me I looked really good. That one compliment made my entire year and provided the impetus  to train even harder. So I decided to try running.

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One of my friends on Twitter is Nathan Maxwell @socialshark . I met him though CoffeeChat. He’s an Ultra endurance athlete, married with six kids. He started running 11 years ago and at the time he too was overweight, and couldn’t run one mile. Since then he has trained incredibly hard and to date has run more than 60 ultra marathons and four 100 milers. He has been (and still is) an incredible source of inspiration and motivation. I am fully convinced that I would not have reached the level of running I have currently achieved had it not been for his knowledge, wisdom, and encouragement.  Almost six months ago, I ran my  first 5K, that’s 3.1 miles. Since then I did a 15K Trail Run, uphill with 4 creek crossings in 90°F heat, and two weeks ago I ran my first half-marathon (13.1 miles). On October 13th I’m running another half-marathon, and four days later I have a 5K night run planned. I hope to run a full marathon in a year or so once I get my times down on the half-marathon.

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If there is one thing that I can say about the running community, it is filled with people who encourage and support other runners. I have been told that I was AMAZING more than once, and have gotten many thumbs-up, fist bumps, and high-five palm slaps. Likewise I have passed on encouragement to fellow runners, including one man  who decided to run his first 5K at age 70. And yes, Richard finished, and he wasn’t last! Even if he was, the point is running the race, and not giving up. I was dead last when I ran the Chobert Challenge 15K trail run. I burned over 2000kcals and was exhausted and staving when I crossed the finish line, but I did it, and there was even pizza waiting! Next time, I won’t be last. My first half marathon was grueling, but I finished! The best thing about half-marathons and up is that you get a finishers medal when you cross the finish line. This is not to be confused  with the insulting participation medal. It is a FINISHERS MEDAL and you earn it when you FINISH.  Crossing that finish line is an accomplishment that needs to be recognized.  Each year there are over 750 marathons and half-marathons held across America. Less than 1% of the US population runs in these races.  As for 5K races and such, there are also medals awarded by divisions and gender, so you can still win first, second, or third in your bracket even if you were not in the top three over all, and your times are recorded so you can track your progress as you go for the gold! Good luck, and as always I wish you success and happiness!  

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