Thursday, June 25, 2015

Xtreme Road Trip, Part 2

Many of you were interested in the story I posted the other day about my friend and co-worker, Amaury Dehez. Well, as luck would have it, I had the honor of writing a follow up piece for our company on Amaury's amazing journey to Swissman status. So, without further adieu, I present "An Xtreme Finish":

So, as you read last week, Amaury competed in the Swissman Xtreme Triathlon this past weekend. Well, I don’t know if “competed” is the right word…more like dominated! In a field of 352, he came in 7th, finishing in about 14 hours. He was the first in his age group and the first French competitor to cross the line. C’est magnifique! Il est incroyable! He had a strong support group all over the world cheering him on, many of whom were following along with the Live Tracking offered on the Swissman website (yes, I was one of them!!).

For the swim, he felt he could have been stronger, but he also knew that it would be possible to make up time during the bike and run. When it came time to get on the bike, he realized that he couldn’t push too hard right out of the gate and he would need to get in a good rhythm in order to gain position. The realization that this section is exceedingly difficult could have had an adverse effect on Amaury, but he was not only prepared physically, he was prepared mentally as well. The only wild card was the weather. The wind and rain (and sometimes snow) created additional challenges that can make this race so extreme, but rather than lament the conditions, he just decided that the weather is part of what made this race so special and epic. Early on – and during some of the most extreme conditions – he lost feeling in his hands and still had two summits to climb. The ups and downs of the mountains surely mirror the range of emotions that he experienced while he was out on the course. Just before the final summit, he grabbed an energizing snack which helped him pick up time and positions, as some of the others fell victim to the elements. By the time he got to the final portion, the marathon, he was in “Robocop” mode. He was able to overtake additional competitors during this phase. But as the end is nearing, his mental fatigue is kicking in, his coach/mentor picks up on this and pushes him to keep going. He does and finally, the end and he is a Swissman.  This brief recap does not come close to doing justice to his experience. Reading about his experience in his own words was amazing. I felt as if I was in the middle of the Alps right along with him. 

One would think that after completing this feat, that the next thing on the list would be to relax, but not Amaury! He will be competing in the Mallorca Ironman, which will help with World Championship Qualifications. He knows that, while he couldn’t take unnecessary risks in the Swissman, he will take some risks in Mallorca to help him learn, and push, his limits. His goal is to continue to improve and be an inspiration to others. After hearing him talk about this experience first-hand, I can say that he is truly an inspiration to me. He is not only a world-class athlete, but he is world-class person and I look forward seeing what his future holds!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Most Xtreme Road Trip

OK, so it's been a while and I truly apologize. I have been bogged down in traffic and just haven't been able to get out on the open road to enjoy my Road Trip. That being said, I was given the opportunity to speak with one of my friends and co-workers who is participating in, what I consider, the ultimate Road Trip! Below is something I wrote to share his story with our company. After thinking about it, I figured it was actually a perfect fit for my personal blog. While this is most certainly not my story, it is the story of perseverance, finding a goal, taking the steps necessary to achieve that goal and then getting your ass out there and doing it! His story is a literal representation of "no mountain too tall to climb and no river too wide to swim." So, sit back, relax and enjoy the story of a most extreme road trip. And, Amaury, bonne chance mon ami!

S-One’s very own Amaury Dehez will be participating in the SWISSMAN Xtreme Triathlon starting June 20th. It is a grueling, 12-hour swim/bike/run that covers some of the planet’s most treacherous terrain. Not only does he have the support of S-One behind him, but he will be wearing a jersey with the HP logo to raise brand awareness in the European market.

In case you want to know what his day will look like, he will get up at about 3 AM to head out for a 4 AM check-in. Then at 5 AM starting at the Isle of Brissago on to Ascona, is the 3.8 km (2.4 mile) swim. He expects to finish the swim with about 20-30 competitors ahead of him, but he knows that he will be able to make up time with the bike ride and run.

The next leg of the race is a mountainous bike ride through three of the tallest summits in Europe. With varying altitudes from 303 meters (909 ft) at Biasca to the tallest peak of Furkapass (2436 meters, 7969 ft), the bicycle portion will end 180 km (112 miles) away in the town of Brienz. At this point, Amaury says his strategy is to be smart and think like a fox, outsmarting his closest competitors. He knows that he will be able to make up some time on the bike that he may possibly lose in the water.

As if completing those two challenges weren’t enough, the final stage of the SWISSMAN Xtreme is the marathon (42 km, 26 mile run) from Brienz to Kleine Scheidegg. The completion of this competition will be a testament to the dedication of mind, body and soul that Amaury puts into everything he does.

The one thing he has learned during the extensive training is to not push his body too hard in the beginning. Then, with the start just a few weeks out, that’s when he goes hard and gives everything he’s got. The biggest reason for this training strategy is so as not to get hurt and then not be able to train at all. With months of rigid diet, exercise and mental preparedness behind him – not to mention the loss of about 9 kg (20 lbs) – it is these last few weeks that are the key to his plan of attack, as he is currently at the peak of his strength and conditioning.
If you want to check out the course and the different altitudes that he will encounter along the way, you can click HERE.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Starting with a Clunker, Ending with a...

So, here’s what I've been thinking: we all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (thank you, Shakespeare and countless others) but did you ever stop to think that the beholders have extremely different views? Look at the lineup of European cars versus American.You will see what’s important. In Europe, it seems that size matters, but so does functionality. In America, it’s all about the appearance. Who cares if you siphon gas off the neighbors, as long as you look good doing it, am I wrong? Which school of thought is right? There doesn't appear to actually be a “right or wrong” answer! The answer can only be given by the driver of the car. Initially, vehicles were created to get people from Point A to Point B without any additional flash. Now, however, it seems it’s all about the flash. But that’s OK, if that’s what you want. For me, I want to be functional, with a dash of flash. What that means is that I need to be able to have a routine that is sustainable but fun, easy to do but challenges me and keeps both my mind and my body in top form.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the reason for starting this blog (and the subsequent Facebook Group), was to prove that large, seemingly impossible tasks could be achieved by simply taking it on a little at a time. If you go all gangbusters at the start, without easing in, there is a higher likelihood of getting burned out before reaching your goal. All flash…most people don’t learn to drive using a Maserati (I’m sure they are out there, but us normal folk sure don’t!). No, we learn on our parent’s cars or a clunker that is already well on its way to the junk yard. The reason being, with the learning period, there are always rough patches and why would you want to do damage to a piece of art like a Maserati? Start with the clunker, get the feel of it, and learn how it drives, brakes, the intricacies of the machine. Then, when you’re a bit more experienced, you move on to something reliable like a Ford, Toyota or something equally functional, but a little flashier.

Eventually, you will have figured out what is the most important characteristic you need in your vehicle. It will vary over the course of your road trip. When you started, you may have thought that at the end of it you would definitely be getting the Maserati. But maybe, as you go along and learn about yourself, you will realize that it really wasn't about the type of vehicle you took on the journey, it was just that you decided to take the journey in the first place. That beauty that you are beholding can – and will – change. Don’t be afraid of that change. Hell, if you go through you’re journey and don’t change, then you haven’t made it to your destination yet.

Remember, each person has to take his or her own journey at a personal speed. Don’t look at someone’s Maserati and envy it while you drive your clunker. You don’t know what it took for that person to finally get to that point and you won’t know until you've arrived. Support others and let others support you, but don’t compare yourself to them. It can only lead to a pile-up on the expressway.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Driving A Stick Shift

Have you ever tried to drive a stick shift? It’s a craft that is not practiced much these days, as automatic transmissions clutter new car lots across the nation. Well, at least here in the States. I’m sure it’s different around the globe where driving is still considered an art form, not merely a means of getting from point A to point B. Anyway, I personally do not know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, I mean I guess I could figure it out if I were in a dire situation where that knowledge was needed, but I haven’t mastered the technique. Once, I had someone try to teach me, but I just couldn't get it. It’s not that he was a bad teacher– he was actually very patient – and considering we were using his vehicle, it could have turned ugly. The fact is, I was a bad student. I wasn't ready to learn what he wanted to teach. I just was not in the right mindset to learn the intricacies of driving a stick shift. Now, had I been in the right frame of mind, I bet I would have thoroughly enjoyed the lessons and the experience. Whenever you are going to do something outside of your comfort zone, you have to be both mentally and physically ready to accept the challenge and I just wasn't.

However, yesterday, I didn't just step outside of my comfort zone, I took a giant leap beyond it! With all the walking I do, I felt that it was time to push my limits and do a half-marathon. The longest distance I’d walked while “training” for this monumental goal was 9.5 miles. I was nervous going into the Sarasota Music Half Marathon since I hadn't actually walked 13.1 miles yet. Was I prepared for this mentally? Was I prepared for this physically? I wasn't sure. Not knowing what was in store for me, I anticipated finishing around 3 hours and 45 minutes or averaging about a 16 minute mile, and I would have been happy with that. As it turned out, I exceeded my own expectations! I finished in just under 3 hours with an average pace of about a 13.50 minute mile. I absolutely shocked myself! If I had not been in the right frame of mind and had not taken the right steps to be physically prepared, I probably would have given up just as I did when trying to learn how to drive a stick shift. Sometimes, your brain is even more prepared than your body even realizes. I fully intended on walking the majority of the race, after all, that’s what I do on my long Sunday walks. I had no idea that I would be so physically and mentally prepared for the challenge. Not only was I more than prepared, but I am determined that when I do it next year, I’ll do even more running! Now that I know what to expect, I will be able to do proper training. 

Taking on a challenge is all about timing. No matter what it is that you are looking to do, if your heart and your head aren't in it, my advice is to not begin. If you’re not properly prepared and you don’t see signs of success (or the only thing you think you see is failure), chances are, you will grow discouraged and quit. Being able to overcome the fear of the unknown and interpreting failure as merely an obstacle on the path to success, that’s when you know you are ready to take on the greater challenges. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, I know that. Life has setbacks, but it’s how we deal with those setbacks that allows us to achieve greater things than we could have ever imagined.

Don’t be the bad student with a good teacher, like I once was. Dig deep and find that higher gear that you never knew you had and achieve greatness. You are worth the effort it takes to be awesome!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I am Exactly Where I'm Supposed to Be

So, recently, I had a writing epiphany while driving. I know, it seems with a title like “Road Trip”, all of my ideas for posts would come while I was behind the wheel. Actually, most of them occur while I am walking and I have time to let my mind wander. Usually, when I’m driving, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing while operating a motor vehicle: paying attention. Not that having a figurative light bulb go off is going to actually disrupt my driving ability. Truthfully, it was because I was paying such close attention to my actions on the road, I realized that in that moment in time, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The green light that I made, the red light I didn't, the slow car that I’d been behind, the Starbucks pit stop – everything. Every step along the way put me at a certain place at a certain time.

Most days, we don’t think about all those little actions, in fact, usually there’s not a reason to dwell on them. That is, until one day when you hear that there was a bad accident at an intersection that you've already crossed because you are ahead of schedule. But knowing that on a normal day, given the time of the accident, you would have possibly been right in the middle of it, had you not made that extra green light or left a minute or two earlier than usual. So yes, all of us are where we are because of the steps we take.

Where we are in our metaphorical Road Trip is just as dependent upon the steps we take every day. This journey started because of a conversation. At a restaurant. On the water. There, that’s a green light, a yield sign and probably getting behind a slow poke, figuratively, of course, but for whatever reason, we chose to go to that restaurant, sit outside and enjoy the weather, and my Mom and one of my Aunts decided to have the conversation with me that changed the course of my life. Every step along the way has put me where I am right this moment.

Yes, there are the things that have slowed down my progress at times, but I don’t consider them stop signs or U-Turns. I look at them as learning opportunities, so that when I’m back up to full speed, I will be a better driver after gaining experience. The most important thing that I have to remember is that there is no time limit on this journey. I will be doing this for the remainder of my life and I know that I will have others along with me for the ride. Some of them will speed ahead of me and others may slow down, but since we are all traveling in a pack, so we can learn from what others experience along the way.

I know that it’s been a long road trip – almost 3 ½ years – but I’m not ready to get out of the car anytime soon. I hope you aren't either!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Enrolling in Driver's Ed

Well, will you look at that! It turns out I had one last story to tell for 2014. You see, last week, I was fortunate enough to get lots of outdoor walking worked into my day because of Christmas vacation. Walking outside does something to my brain, it wanders ­– in a good way – and that’s usually when I start planning my next post. So, here we are.

As I was enjoying the sunshine, I started thinking about all the posts that I've already written and what driving analogies I may have missed. Then it dawned on me, with the new year starting and the images of gyms, news articles and opinion pieces, Facebook memes and pretty much any ad on TV or radio that inundates our subconscious with ideas that everyone’s New Year’s Resolution is (or should be) weight-loss, I decided that I would dive right into that saturated field and offer my own opinions on the subject. Please note that everything I state here is strictly my opinion and I have received no compensation for what I’m about to say!

For those who have decided that 2015 is going to be “The Year” of successful weight loss, I would offer this suggestion: treat it like Driver’s Ed. Before you went out to get your Driver’s License, you had to become familiar with the car and the rules of the road. For many of us, learning on our own or with the help of a parent was not enough, so we enrolled in Driver’s Ed and used the support of the teacher and other classmates to help us learn and eventually pass the test.

Starting this journey shouldn't be any different. There are some people who are successful at losing weight without any outside assistance, they are rare, but I don’t doubt they exist. I am not one of them. I need the support and the tools of my Weight Watchers group to continue my success. Now, I've changed a lot of habits over the years, so I’m not as dependent as I was in the beginning, but the right group or program will allow you to spread your wings. To be successful, you must be allowed to share, vent, support others, be supported, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and never stop growing. Programs (like Weight Watchers or Shibboleth) and retreats (such as Green Mountain at Fox Run) that focus on education and support seem to be the most successful platforms. But ultimately, the program that is successful for you is the one in which you want to follow.

When you learn the proper driving techniques from qualified instructors, your driving record is usually better than someone who is just winging it. That’s not to say that you won’t ever get a ticket or be in an accident, but at least you have been given the tools to learn how to recognize the signs of dangerous road conditions. These groups operate in much the same manner. Just by attending the meetings doesn't guarantee that you will lose weight, you must take on the responsibility to use what you learn and not expect it to come without hard work.  I realize that sounds a bit preachy, and I typically try to keep everything here light-hearted, but I can’t stress enough that it is ultimately up to you to be successful in your journey. You can have the support of the entire planet, but you must be the one who puts the key in the ignition and starts the car. Knowing that you have the support of a driving instructor along for the ride should make things easier in the beginning, but the instructor is only there to impart her knowledge, you must be willing to absorb it and put it into action so that you take control of your own vehicle. After a while, you may find that you've mastered some of the techniques so well that you are willing to put yourself in the instructor’s seat for those newbies that are about to hit the road with their New Year’s Resolutions!

I hope that 2015 finds you happy and healthy and I encourage you all to enjoy your own Road Trip! You are worth the journey!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Navigating the Holidays

I’m sorry that I've been slacking, things are just crazy busy for me! Trust me, it’s not that I’m not interested in keeping my eyes on the road, I just haven’t had time to really focus on what matters, and that’s a most unfortunate thing. But now, with Thanksgiving behind us, Hanukkah starting last week, Christmas this week, culminating with the binge drinking and binge eating event otherwise known as New Year’s Eve, I just figured it was time to examine where I am on the map. After all, isn't the end of the year the best time for reflection? Looking at where you've been this past year in order to plan where you are going for next year.

I had to ask myself a few questions: 

Where have I been? Well, in 2014, I logged about 1846 miles worth of walking this year (with yet another week to go, I should end somewhere close to 1900 miles), hit my goal weight, had my story featured on, appeared on the TV show “The Doctors” and was interviewed for, so all in all, 2014 was a great year. 

Where am I going? No one knows what the future holds, but I do know that I will be focusing more on my passion in 2015. This weight loss journey has not only inspired the birth of this blog, but it has also given me the spark I need to put myself out there as a writer. I expect that spark to grow into a much larger, brighter flame this upcoming year. I will most definitely be making time to nurture that spark in 2015! 

How do I keep moving forward? It’s not easy to stay on track, especially this time of year, but there are little remindersroad signs, if you will— that I come across on my journey. It’s those little signs that help me stay focused. For instance, at my meeting this past Saturday, one of my awesome meeting friends gave me a custom Christmas card telling me how I inspire her to continue on. It was the best feeling, knowing that what I've done, and continue doing, helps others. When I started back in 2011, my goal wasn't to inspire others, I was lucky if I could inspire myself, but as I have attested many times right here on this blog, I get my inspiration from those who surround me. That is how I keep moving forward! 

How do I navigate these holidays? I can’t believe it, but the Holiday season will be over before long and knowing that I have the tools and trusting in the awareness to keep my eyes on the road ahead is what helps me stay the course. One thing Margie the Magnificent is fond of saying is “they are called ‘HoliDAYS’, not ‘HoliMONTHS’!” Meaning, we are allowed to celebrate the day, but don’t let it continue on for the entire month of Octovember (also known as October, November and December)! We've all worked too long and too hard for a derailment this close to the end of the year.

I've found that self-reflection and self-awareness always seem to be my two best road trip buddies. Usually, I typically lose focus when I ignore who I am and what I’m doing. Self-doubt and self-recrimination are the worst possible traveling companions for any journey. The best thing I've ever done was leave those two along the side of the road somewhere, and never look back. Besides, I just didn't have enough room in the car to keep carrying them along. 

How will you answer the questions? Will you be able to find your spark in the new year? That is my Christmas wish for your passion and may you never have a wasted day. 

I most likely will not be posting again until next year, so to all of you out there, have a very Merry Christmas and a brilliant and blessed New Year! 

Safe travels into 2015! Cheers!