This July, 2014, will mark the 10-year ‘anniversary’ of my motorcycle accident. I’ll spare the details here, but suffice to say, it was a ‘major life event’, and recovery, at times, was in doubt. Fast-forward to November, 2012….I was overweight, stiff, sore, and sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had to make some hard decisions if I was going to change.


When I was in the hospital, it took small steps to go from being immobile to rolling over in bed. One day, I was able to sit up by myself….which made watching television from the hospital bed a lot easier. Because I needed assistance to transfer to the wheelchair, getting to the bathroom was a major production, which required advance planning. After several days, I was able to transfer myself….which was a major boost in my confidence (and privacy). From there, I was able to stand with a walker….then take a step…then another, and then another.

After I was discharged, I nearly exhausted myself walking 60 feet to the neighbor’s mailbox……but each day, I’d build a bit more, to the point where I would be walking as many as seven miles in one day.

That doesn’t mean it’s been all successes….8 years after the accident, I was significantly overweight, and not exercising much at all. I certainly wasn’t pushing myself. I came to the realization that nothing would change if I didn’t. Knowing that I had failed a number of times in the past, I decided to do this effort a bit differently…..making small changes, but measuring my progress along the way.  To paraphrase Covert Bailey, my goal was to ‘start so slowly, people would make fun of me.’ Day one, I started out walking. Once I got up to 30 minutes after about a week, I decided to see if I could run (slow jog, actually). I jogged 60 yards. Then walked. I built up to 60 on/60 off….and each week, I’d add a bit, going to 90/60, then 120/60, and building to running half a mile, then a full mile.

During the spring, I built up from my first 5K, then a 5-miler…then a 10K, and then a 10-miler. At the end of the year, I finished by running the Indy Monumental Half-Marathon with my sister and her husband. Building up wasn’t easy, but I did it in such small increments that it didn’t feel like more work.

After a short break for the holidays, it was time to continue evolving. In February, I ran up the Empire State Building (thanks to the MMRF, and inspiration from friends), and planned out this year. Again, building from where I was, I’ll be doing two century bike rides, a number of shorter races, to a sprint and Olympic triathlon, culminating in the Marine Corps Marathon this fall. Just like in nature, to survive and thrive, I need to keep evolving.

In the end, I’ve gone from a hospital bed to a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane……to walking unassisted. From there, I’ve continued to evolve, taking on more and more challenges as I’ve become more capable. This year, I’ll be doing a number of challenging events, including the swim/bike/run of at least two triathlons. Looking back 10 years, I couldn’t have pictured it. By taking small steps and building on each accomplishment, I’ve gone much farther than I could have ever imagined. You can too.

Just Jump

Do you have a fear or phobia? I have to confess….I’m afraid of heights.  Not so much of heights…but of long, rapid descents followed by sudden deceleration.

I have a fear. I also have friends.  Friends that like adventure. Friends that like……skydiving.

There’s an old saying about skydiving, that nobody should jump out of a perfectly good airplane….at least nobody in their right mind. Well, my friends must not be in their right mind….because they signed up to go skydiving…and they wanted ME to go with them.scared skydiver

I didn’t tell them I was nervous.  When my family went ziplining in Costa Rica, the locals nicknamed me  “El Pollo Grande.”

It was a beautiful summer day, Sun was shining in the sky I could smell the fresh cut grass, hear the sound of a tractor in the distance….and feel my knees knocking and teeth chattering.

I was scared – but I was just as afraid of being embarrassed……so I went along for the ride.

During the day, we did lots of training  - We watched  videos, practiced with mockups, and even  jumped off a short platform to simulate the intended landing.  It was clear early on, that I was not a natural at this. My jump, drop and roll was more like……just drop.

Finally….it was our turn. Three of us shoe-horned ourselves the back of a Cessna 182 with a pilot seat…..and that was it. It didn’t even have a door. Our over-excited, caffeine-infused jump master looked back at us, telling us how GREAT this was going to be.

We taxied down the runway, Lifted off,  and slowly soared skyward….taking large circles, like a hawk riding a thermal.  You’d think we were excited, right?  It was so quiet inside the plane, you could have heard a pin drop. We were all focused on the big open doorway on the side of the plane. There was only one way down…and that was it.

The more the jump master talked, …the more we kept…

Getting quiet …..Getting nervous…and wanting to Get out of there.

My two friends jumped….and now it was up to me. I turned, hooked up, and faced the door. The jump master barked at me, “ARE YOU READY TO SKYDIVE?”

Shaking my head, I said, “Yes?”

I  HAD to answer YES! – because if I didn’t, it would be a long ride back to the ground….then the walk of shame back to the car.  I wasn’t  brave enough to admit I was scared.

The jump master checked my gear, and I started inching my hands out the strut of the plane, towards to red hand prints painted on the strut.  (At least I think it was paint.)

As I  got closer to the hands, I realized that I couldn’t keep my feet on the step….no matter how much I wanted to. At that point….I was hanging on like a pair of pants flapping on a clothesline.

When I got to the end, the jump master said “LOOK UP!” I looked up, and  yelled “DOT!”  (because there’s a dot on the underside of the wing), and with the tension reaching a peak,…I….

Let go.

Now, when you see it in a video, it looks like you fall slowly and gracefully..

You don’t.  If you’ve studied physics, you know that a feather and a rock fall at the same rate – a skydiver falls faster.

You’re SUPPOSED to slowly count,  One Thousand One, One Thousand Two, One Thousand Three, One Thousand Four, One Thousand Five,  but with me, it was more like,  other way) 12345LOOKUP! 12345LOOKUP! (again)…..check watch….12345LOOKUP!

At that point,…..my chute magically opened….and I began to float slowly down, gracefully turning right…..then left……then right….then left…..This was actually fun!

As I approached the ground, I could hear a ground crew member talking to me on my headset:

He kept saying, “You’re doing great!” “Looking Good!” …”You’re Doing Great! Looking Good!”…I think it was a recording.

As I got closer,  he gave me instructions, , guiding me until I pulled both toggles down to stall the chute and land. I must have waited a bit too long, because when I stalled the chute, I REALLY STALLED THE CHUTE ….but I kept going –  doing  my dramatic re-creation of that ski jumper on Wide World of Sports….The Agony of Defeat, indeed.

I rolled, rolled and rolled and eventually came to a stop. I couldn’t hear anything,  I THINK I rolled through something  in that cow pasture. I got up, dusted myself off and realized – I wasn’t dead.  I was ALIVE!  This was FUN!

…and that’s the whole point – it’s easy to be afraid BEFORE you jump.

It’s perfectly natural to fear the unknown.

It’s safe inside the plane …..but that’s not why you’re there. On the diving board…it’s safer to go back down the ladder….but that’s not where the fun is. It’s easier to not ask for that dance….not make that phone call…..avoid asking for that promotion….but that’s not where the reward is.

The risk…the adventure…the FUN….are all out there….after you just jump. Fear is  JUST a feeling. It can be strong…. but it’s a only a feeling. How do you deal with it? You just jump. Is there risk? Sure. You might get turned down. You might look foolish. You might fail.  It’s safer to do nothing…but that’s not where the excitement is. It’s out THERE, AFTER you jump. But you’ll never get to experience that adventure, or have that fun…or get that reward until you just jump.

THAT’S why you jump. The fear is there, but it’s only temporary. Once you jump, you can never see the world in the same way. Ever again.

When you are afraid, nervous or fearful about what’s going to happen next….turn, hookup, face the door…and answer one question – Are you ready to skydive?

Stage Fright…

Lady and the Champs on stageIt’s been said that the most common fear among adults is the fear of public speaking. Death comes in second. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, most people would rather be in the casket, than delivering the eulogy.

This weekend, I worked on making that fear a bit smaller. I attended the Lady and the Champs speaking conference in Las Vegas. It was a fairly big event, with nearly 400 attendees from all over the world, at all skill levels. I worked hard trying to ‘blend’.

There were way too many interesting people to count. The conference featured the legendary Patricia Fripp, an amazing speaker, coach and first female president of the National Speaker’s Association. Standing just over 5 feet tall….she commanded the attention of the room any time she was on stage. The ‘Champs’ are former Toastmasters World Champions Darren LaCroix, Craig Valentine and Ed Tate, all top-notch speakers, each with their own areas of expertise. I also got to meet Charlie (Last Name) Wilson, who I first saw in the movie “Speak”. I was in a place where I didn’t know if I belonged.

There may be different levels in the speaking world….but at this conference, they made every effort to make it a learning experience accessible to speakers at all levels. There were seminars on skill building, coaching as well as the business side of speaking. They also featured break-out sessions on storytelling, training and humor, including a hilarious presentation by Tim Gard. If you ever get a chance to see him, you should. He can make the most aggravating and mundane travel circumstances so funny, the audience (full of speakers) was laughing from start to finish. To top it off….Tim got stuck in the hotel elevator for over an hour….giving him yet another funny story.

One of the features of this conference was the opportunity to get ‘mini-coached’ by the 3 World Champs…and Patricia. This wasn’t the typical ‘nice speech’ feedback. Patricia and the Champs gave feedback that was direct, to the point….and while professional, didn’t pull any punches. Fair warning – if you say “stuff”, “things” or “tons”….don’t stand within arm’s reach of Patricia. She’ll remind you to be specific with words that add, not detract. Craig Valentine was a master at character and dialogue. Ed Tate helped show how to make a real connection with the audience….and Darren LaCroix debuted a brand-new keynote for the group, as well as broke down his 2000 World Championship speech to show how using the stage can really transform a story.

But back to ‘mini-coaching’. Several times during the weekend, we had opportunities to give speech examples – Once people caught on, it was hard to get a spot. I was lucky enough to get a few seconds of stage time on the first day to say why I was there….but the other times, I wasn’t fast enough to get feedback. The one time I got close…they ran out of time. Darren was kind enough to take our names, and offer to give us a shot if they had time on the final day. Seeing how hard it was to fit everything in, I breathed a sigh of relief when I DIDN’T have to go up….

….until, in one of the last large sessions, with 400 people in the room, and ALL the champs on stage, Darren held up a piece of paper and called our names. Now I was going to have to do this for real. I thought about begging off, but I had come a long way, and this really was an opportunity that I wasn’t likely to get again. So, I jumped up and took my place in line as the 2nd speaker.

Darren called my name, and I walked up on stage. Taking my place right in front of Patricia, I gave my opening line and tried to remember what I had learned in the past 3 days…as well as my story. I was able to deliver it without rushing, and even got the laughs I wanted in the right place. I got excellent feedback from everyone on stage, which was to the point, professional….and incredibly useful. It wasn’t NEARLY as scary as I was making it out to be….

….and here’s the thing. I had a number of people ask me how long I’d been a professional. I had several requests to tell the whole story (especially since I left it with a cliffhanger on stage)…as well as an offer to give it a video critique. That was an incredible opportunity…and if I had held back, I wouldn’t have had the experience. Now I get to write the whole story and work on it until it gets to the level that it deserves to be….because there’s somebody out there that needs to hear it.

P.S. This event would not have run nearly as smoothly as it did without people like Cynthia Lay, who worked incredibly hard to keep things running like clockwork…even when ‘stuff’ happened. (Sorry, Patricia). It was great to meet all my new friends and contacts, including Karen Susman, Walt Grassl, David Penrose, Mark Holtz, Cindy Greene, Gina Lende, Stacie Campanelli, Dr. Gloria Nixon-Pone, Joanne Smith, Deborah Reisdorph, Becky Spohn, Beatrice Blatteis, David Chase, Melanie DePaoli, Arieh Bitton, Dacia Moore, Matt Morey, Bill Fleischhauer, Leo Novsky, Mona Benjamintz and Darren Kavinoky.

Head in the Clouds….

This past week, I ran with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s (MMRF) Power Team in the annual Empire State Building Run-Up. It was quite an exciting event, from the training and fundraising leading up to the climb….to the event itself.

Snowy night before the ESB Run-Up!

Brushes with Celebrity:

Got up at 6AM to meet the MMRF crew on the set of Good Morning America – we were mostly ‘background’, but it gave us an opportunity to get our signs and jerseys on camera a number of times. It was exciting to be there to see Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, Amy Robach and Ginger Zee do their job. There are a lot of moving parts you don’t see on camera….and the crew worked hard to make sure everything went off without a hitch.

Dealing with Adversity:

The night before the Run-Up, NYC got 4″ of slushy snow-mess that made walking around the city a challenge.  I stepped on what I thought was pavement….which happened to be a 12″ deep puddle of icy water. As my feet were soaking wet and rapidly turning blue, I started looking around for a store that might sell boots……and socks…..or at least garbage bags that I could put over my feet so that I didn’t get frostbite. Thanks to City Sports‘ winter clearance sale…I got boots,  some dry wool socks, and new running socks…and sprinted back to the hotel to stuff my ASICS full of newspapers and dry the insoles. Not a cheap solution, but a necessary one.

Celebrating Achievement:

I was fortunate enough to join the MMRF folks at a luncheon hosted by Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company – they’re one of the leading companies who’ve developed innovative treatments for myeloma. I sat with some incredibly interesting folks, including Evalyn Merrick, a myeloma patient who did the Run-Up, and Touche’ Howard, a North Carolina firefighter, who raised $30,000…and did the run-up…in 60+ pounds of full firefighter gear. I also got to meet James McKissick, who raised over $30,000 for the MMRF in support of his friend Bo Russell, and Bill McHugh, whose ‘Promoting Global Hair Loss initiative raised over $37,000 for this years’ event. Hearing their stories made attending this event even more special….(and made me wonder how I snuck in).


The Run-Up:

…and they’re off!

As the start time approached, they gathered the ‘burst wave’ (those folks who you see in the pictures scrambling for the stairwell door). I’m more concerned with staying upright than I am being fast, so I held back for the time trial wave – one runner going off every 5 seconds. We saw the burst wave go off….then it was up to the line, one at a time. Finally, my turn came, and the volunteer said, “GO!”. I ran to the door and started heading up.  Immediately, it felt different than my training. The stair runs were longer, the pitch was different…..and I was quickly blowing my heart rate way over my target. I had to work to calm myself down and try to settle into some semblance of a pace.

The first 10 floors seemed to go by fairly quickly, but I could tell it was going to get tough. Floors 11-20….I’m still going OK, but starting to feel it. By the 30th floor, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed – I could continue to do two steps at a time….but I didn’t know if I would make it at that pace……so reluctantly, I went to 1 step intervals. there was a water stop somewhere around the 33rd floor, where I grabbed a cup, and took sips for the next 10 floors.

By the halfway point (floor 43), I felt like I was in trouble. I was WAY overheated, and tried to stop thinking about how much further there was to go. Pace wise, I was on target….but I didn’t know how long I could sustain that. By the 50th floor, I was having serous doubts. The 2nd water stop came at floor 62….and I really needed it. I tried to only think about getting to the 70th floor.

At 70…I thought about just pulling over and taking a break. I didn’t want to stop, because while I’d recover a bit, it would take a lot more mental energy to get going again….so I kept chugging along, pulling up the banister. Something happened around floor 72 – I realized that there were only 14 floors to go…and I only focused on the next floor. 73…(13 to go)…74 (12 to go)…then I was in single digits…..and floors 84-86 seemed hard…but they went by quickly.

At the 86th floor….we came out to dozens of camera flashes and cheers of supporters, race officials and volunteers - WE DID IT! I was finally able to catch my breath and get my finishers’ medal – because there’s not a lot of room up there, we were quickly shepherded to the elevator back down….and got to see runners still queuing up for their turn. As we walked back into the Heartland Brewery with our medals,  it was great to get applause from total strangers.

All done!

Cheers all around:

I had one fundraising goal – to raise $2500 for the MMRF. I didn’t set my sights higher initially, because I had never done fundraising before…..and, if I had to write a check myself, I could take that hit and still survive. Turned out that this story resonated with a lot of people. Being new to this, I got publicity any way I could. I got a story in the company e-mail newsletter, and was able to place a story in the Fairfax Times. The article was re-printed in the Washington Post, and even my hometown newspaper, the Kokomo Tribune. I posted stories on Patch.com, this blog, and my neighborhood Nextdoor.com site. Between those outlets, Facebook, LinkedIn and an e-mail campaign, I was able to reach nearly 80 individual donors – who nearly DOUBLED my initial goal.  I got donations from neighbors, newspaper readers, and friends from all around the country. I even got donations from Germany and Australia. I was very happy with the results…but those paled in comparison to the fundraising efforts of Ellen’s Stardust Diner team, Touche’ Howard, James McKissick and Bill McHugh. I could learn a thing or two from these amazing people. All told, we raised close to $800,000  for the MMRF for a one-day event – all from donations.

All in all, what started as a distant ‘bucket list’ item was now a reality. Thanks to Alicia O’Neill for making the suggestion, and Jane Hoffman for all their help in getting my campaign going and helping me realize it was possible. I’m now one of fewer than 7,000 runners who’ve climbed the ESB. At the same time, I got to be part of something bigger, raising awareness, visibility and funds for the MMRF. Now, when I look at what seems to be an insurmountable obstacle or an unreachable goal, I know I’ve got this in my back pocket as proof I can do something like this…..and when I walk by the Empire State Building….it doesn’t look nearly as tall.

You Say it’s Your Birthday…..

…”Well, happy birthday to you!” goes the Beatles song. Every year, it reliably shows up, and I work through the inevitable jokes, comments and (welcome) birthday wishes. I try not to make a big deal out of my birthday….not because I mind getting older (I don’t), but I try to take the time to do a mental evaluation of the past year, compare progress against my goals…..and use it as an opportunity to re-calibrate for the coming year. That’s one of the advantages of having a birthday at the beginning of the year – it falls right around the same time as New Years’ resolutions, giving me a reminder about making plans for the upcoming year.

You say it’s your birthday?

It has been quite the year, from a number of perspectives. With the help and support of a lot of people, I’ve done more than I thought I could. It’s also helped me raise my expectations for the future. I’m excited about what’s in store….but I’m just as excited about what I’ll learn, how I’ll grow, and how I can help others reach their goals.

I think that’s been the biggest revelation for me this past year. I get a lot of satisfaction from accomplishing goals, but I get even more of a kick from helping others discover how to raise their expectations for themselves, work through problems and grow on their journey. As a parent, I’ve never been more proud than when my kids start doing things on their own. It’s hard to watch them stumble, but when they finally get their footing and start moving forward, it’s an incredible feeling. That’s what’s making me feel positive about my birthday – Even though the candles are lit on my cake….each one of those candles can light other candles, and make everything shine brighter.

What about you? How are you looking over your past year, and what are you planning for this next one? How will you be different then than today? Something to think about.

You say it’s your birthday? Well, happy birthday to you. 

Shameless plug: On February 5th, I’ll be participating in the Empire State Building Run-Up, for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. If you’d like to make a donation, follow this link:



A Game of Inches

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been posting about the Empire State Building Run-Up. I got ‘drafted’ into the cause by mentioning it as a bucket list item, but since then, I’ve been active in training and increasing awareness to meet both the physical and fundraising challenge.

MMRF at the start of the ESB Run-Up

The physical part hasn’t been easy. Training for a stair climb is very different than training for a running or cycling challenge. In most running and cycling events, once you get beyond the race-start jitters and settle into your pace, it’s just a matter of staying within your training and chugging along to the finish. In a stair climb, however, it’s relentless. It doesn’t take much to reach the top of your cardio capability, and there’s no way to slow down or ‘coast’ to relax, short of just pulling off to the side and waiting for your heart rate to come back down and the stairwell to stop spinning.

Then there are the physical obstacles – In my first days of training, I was brand new to stair climbing, and I developed a couple pulled muscles in my lower back, which made it hard to walk normally, let along keep working on stair climbing. I had to modify my training and dial it back a bit to allow my body to recover while still working on building my climbing muscles.

Next, was my (allegedly) broken toe – When I first started training, I was running up the stairs, hitting every step. What I didn’t realize was that vertical impact was doing a real number on my feet. I’ve either broken or sprained my 4th toe (If it were a hand, it would by my ‘ring’ toe). I avoided going to the doctor for fear that they might sideline me and keep me from doing the Run-Up. With a number of donors already committed, I couldn’t let them down. Even if I had to hobble up the entire building, I was going to keep working. I did a lot of Googling and reading WebMD…and found that fortunately or unfortunately, they don’t really do much for broken toes. Unless it’s poking at a 90 degree angle, it’s pretty much tape it up and move on. So….I made a couple changes. Instead of ‘running’, I’m ‘hiking’ the stairs, going up 2 @ a time, and pulling myself up. It’s just as fast as the other way, and much less stressful on my feet.

Then there is the fundraising challenge. When I signed up, I committed to raise $2500 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. If I didn’t raise the full amount….I was on the hook for the balance. Frankly, it was a little scary. I’ve never done a fundraiser before, and I don’t like asking for money. Since the cause is so important and my friend is impacted by the disease, I had to get over that really quickly to get moving on fundraising. I started generating publicity via a number of channels – through work, through social networking, e-mail….and calling up news outlets to see if they would run the story. I was lucky enough to get my story picked up by the Fairfax Times. Thanks to Kate Yanchulis and Shamus Fatzinger for taking the time to do pics and write up the story. That story got picked up and re-printed by the Washington Post. Even my hometown newspaper picked up the story.

The response has been humbling – I’ve received donations from friends, co-workers, business acquaintances, and total strangers. I’ve had donations from as far away as Australia, and as close as next door neighbors. I’ve had a number of donations from people whose relatives have been impacted by cancer.

Climbing to the top!

What have I learned? That it’s a game of inches. There has been no one thing that’s made this happen…but a lot of little things. Facebook, LinkedIn, Patch.com, Nextdoor.com have all helped get the story out. The newspaper articles have raised visibility. E-mail requests have made the requests more personal. All these things have worked together to make this goal a reality. With a little over two weeks to go, I’ve climbed as many as 145 flights of stairs in one day, and we’re only $300 away from the original goal……which gets me thinking – why stop when we hit $2500? I want to not only hit the goal…but to blow it away! So, I’ll keep working all the pieces to keep the story visible, and keep asking for donations. I know not everyone can donate….but I don’t know that until I ask. Every dollar I raise helps bring us one step closer to a cure….so that on February 5th, I can focus on not just one step…but 1,576 of them.


This is Why We Fight….

Over the past week or so, I’ve been writing about the Empire State Building Run-Up. I’m running it for a lot of reasons – it’s a challenge, it’s exciting, and it’s a bucket list item – not a lot of people get a chance to do it, so when the opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance.

There is a bigger reason that I’m doing it, however. I’m supporting the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). Through a tremendous network of supporters, focused effort and continued research, they have helped improve and extend the lives of patients. They have a single-minded focus. They are tirelessly pursuing means to accelerate development of next-generation treatments, and their results have been nothing short of phenomenal. They have helped four new treatments get approved in record time, and those drugs are now being used to treat 19 other cancers. 

I’m doing this for another reason, one more personal. I’m joining the fight in support of my high school buddy Jeff Goad. Jeff sat next to me in band, and we were known as better comedians than musicians. Our teacher had the patience of Job in dealing with our shenanigans…he would occasionally glance up, raising one Spock-like eyebrow in our direction, letting us know we’d been busted…..but that was all part of growing up.


Once, we were young. Then we got better haircuts.

Over time, we went on to different schools, graduated, went on to college, started careers and families…but with the advent of Facebook and other social media tools, I got back in touch with Jeff’s brother, David. We began to share details of our lives, and I found out about David’s new-found athletic endeavors – as we all approached 50, David had suddenly taken up endurance sports, running a marathon, doing a triathlon, and doing all sorts of stunts to raise money for an organization called the MMRF. I came to find out that the reason why is that his brother Jeff had developed multiple myeloma. After just a few conversations with David, I understood how important this fight was….and I contributed to a couple of his fund-raising efforts.

As I read more about Jeff’s fight, the story became even more real, and more personal. Jeff was diagnosed in 2010, finding out after a softball injury. While I was a casual athlete in high school, Jeff lived for sports. He was a star football player at my high school, and he continued to be athletic all through college in beyond. Prior to his diagnosis, he had run 9 marathons and participated in grueling sailing competitions….but this discovery brought everything to a screeching halt. Now it wasn’t a matter of how soon he’d get back to playing softball……it was a moment where everything else had to be put aside to focus on the fight against the disease.

After a full year of chemo and two stem cell transplants, Jeff went from being a true athlete, to barely walking around the block….but Jeff knew that making his life better depended on starting from where he was, and building from there. As his condition improved, he slowly built his strength and endurance. His first major post-treatment goal was to hike in the Grand Canyon -  down and out of its South rim at 9.5 miles each way, braving a 5,000 foot change in elevation and 100 degree temperatures.


Jeff has come a long way – and we need your help to continue to fight the battle!

Doing the hike gave Jeff the confidence that he could do even more. Since then, Jeff has completed the Chicago Marathon in 2011, and the New York Marathon in 2013. At this stage, while Jeff may consider this living a ‘normal’ life, I think it’s an exceptional one – and it’s inspired me to join in the fight. I’m training hard to get ready for the ESB Run-Up, and doing everything I can to get this story out.

How can you help?

1) By making a donation to the MMRF through my ESB Run-up pageAll donations are welcome – and your donation may help someone else who’s been on the fence. Since over 90% of funds raised go directly to research and programs, you can make an impact in the fight.

2) By sharing this story through e-mail and social media. Share it on your Facebook page, your LinkedIn feed and groups, and e-mail it to your friends. It’s an important story. You can help.

I am very appreciative of any donations, but even more thankful to spread the MMRF story, and how people can help the cause. I want YOU to join the fight by supporting the MMRF, and my climb to the top of the Empire State Building. Join me in the fight by making a donation to MMRF.

This is Why We Fight…

Because it’s there….

As I’ve been talking about recently, I’m doing the  Empire State Building Run-Up in February, 2014. I’ve been training on my office building stairs…and trying to get the story out to as many people as possible. It’s going to be tough….It’s ONLY 1,050 feet. Straight up. 1576 steps, and 86 flights of stairs. Only 700 runners get in each year, and fewer than 7,000 runners have completed the climb in the event’s 36 year history.

I guess the big question is, “Why?” My first answer is to raise awareness and funds for the  Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). One of my high school friends was diagnosed with the disease, and I want to bring attention to the cause. The more personal answer is that I understand what it’s like to have your life dramatically changed, and what it takes to come back from a major physical setback.

In 2004, I was in a motorcycle accident that fractured my L2 vertebrae. According to the ER report, it was an ‘explosive’ fracture, along 3 axes, with 60% compression of the spinal canal. My right leg was initially paralyzed, and I went through major surgery for a spinal fusion from T12-L3. I was literally glued and bolted back together. After surgery, I was immobilized in a TLSO (Thoracolumbar Sacral Orthosis) brace from my armpits to my hips to keep from moving and causing more injury. I was in critical care for over a week, and in a rehab hospital for 6 weeks after that.

I had to learn to stand all over again. I had zero strength in my legs, had to have nurses help me in and out of bed, and I couldn’t even take care of my most basic needs. As I healed….and as the nurses and doctors did their work, I slowly got better. Working with a physical therapist (who must have been a Marine drill instructor), I built strength little by little…until one day I was able to push up out of the wheelchair. Another day, I was able to support myself on parallel bars….and then to take a step with a walker. Then I was able to take multiple steps using the walker….and eventually take a step on my own. Then two steps…then 10. After 6 weeks, I was discharged to go home and work improving on my own.

The first day, I walked to the neighbor’s mailbox…and almost had to call for a ride home. The next day, it was two mailboxes, and each day, I went further. Over time, I built up strength and coordination, and took up cycling. After learning how to balance properly, I rode 100 feet, then a half mile, then a mile….and eventually rode as many as 100 miles in a day. Since then, I’ve ridden over 10,000 miles, and in 2013, ran a bunch of 5K’s, a 10K, a 10 miler and even a half-marathon.

2014 will mark 10 years since my accident, and I’m doing the Empire State Building run-up to remind myself of just how far I’ve come. It’s taken a lot of work, but a lot of credit has to go to the doctors, nurses, therapists and technologies that helped me get to where I am today.

And that brings us back to the MMRF. Treating and eventually finding a cure for Multiple Myeloma isn’t as straightforward as bolting me back together. What I went through wasn’t easy, but once I was stabilized, the path to recovery was long, but clear. I am incredibly grateful for my medical interventions - but know that in the case of Multiple Myeloma, it’s going to take a lot more research and study to find a cure. The MMRF is pioneering indidviualized treatment approaches, which can translate directly into longer lives for MMRF patients. THAT’S why I’m doing this.

How can you help?

1) By making a donation to the MMRF through my ESB Run-up page

2) By sharing this story through e-mail and social media

I am very appreciative of any donations, but even more thankful to spread the MMRF story, and how people can help the cause. I’ve gone from learning to walk all over again to running to the top of the Empire State Building. Join me in the climb by making a donation to MMRF.

What a Difference a Year Makes….

As we’re coming up to the end of 2013, I’m looking back over the year to see if I’ve accomplished everything I thought I would. I’ve hit the mark on some goals, missed on others. The big thing I’ve realized is that it’s one more trip around the sun….and I need to make the best use of those opportunities.

This time last year, I was not in the best shape (that’s putting it mildly). I weighed too much, I was too stressed out, and kept putting off making a positive change. I finally got to a point where it was more painful to stay where I was, than it was to start moving in a direction that I wanted to go. So, I set some goals, shared them with a few trusted friends, and started working on them. I kept it pretty quiet at first, but as other people started noticing my changes, I felt better about sharing them.

After putting it off for way too long, I got serious about eating right and taking better care of me. Over a period of about 9 months, I lost 80 lbs, getting back to my high school weight. I would joke with people that I was trying to get down to my original weight…..7 lbs, 7 ounces. It took a lot of work…but mainly it took focus. Exercise was important, but eating was more important. I needed to eat less, but also to eat better. Some days I needed to make sure that I ate enough.

Exercise was a big part of it, too….but I needed to follow Covert Bailey’s advice – “Start so slowly people make fun of you.” The first day I went jogging (not running), I jogged 60 feet…then I’d walk 60. Each week, I’d add a bit more jogging…..and eventually, was able to start (slowly) running. I progressed to running my first 5K, then a 10K….then a 10 miler…..and eventually a 1/2 Marathon.

To keep from getting injured, I alternated running with biking, and built up my distance gradually, going from 5 miles in the early spring, to riding two full century rides (100 miles) in the fall. During the course of the year, I found a few truisms:The old saying about it all being about “Eat Less, Exercise More” is true….but emphasis needs to be on the “Eat Less” part. I found that I could out-eat any exercise program. For me, losing the weight came down to one simple rule. “It’s what you eat.” If anyone asked me about other rules, I just repeated rule #1. It’s that simple. Not easy…but simple.

I also realized that the process I followed could be applied to almost any goal – so here are three principles that worked for me:

1) Write your goals down – That’s goal setting 101, and I’ve known it for years…..I knew it so well, that I didn’t think I had to write mine down…..and subsquently didn’t make any progress. In fact, if I didn’t write them down, I couldn’t fail. THAT was the big realization – in order to move forward, I had to risk failing. So, I wrote my goals down, and made sure that I reviewed them daily to keep them in focus.

2) Share them wisely – In 2014, I’m going to be more public about my goals, because I’ve found a greater level of confidence that I can achieve them. In 2012, I needed more support, so I kept my circle pretty small. Find people that you know will be supportive of your goal. Too many times, other people can be negative or not supportive. It’s not always intentional, but when you’re striking out on a new path, you need the right team behind you. Find good people that are on your side.

3) Track your progress – I found that one of the biggest keys to moving forward was knowing where I was in relation to where I wanted to be. Accountability was important – not just with others….but mainly to myself. At the end of the day, if I didn’t care enough to be accountable to myself, neither would anyone else. Here’s  living proof: These pics were taken 1 year apart, at the Seagull Century – I don’t know who that guy is in the left picture….but the bike looks a lot less likely to break in two on the right:

What a difference a year makes!

So, how has your year been? Have you achieved what you set out to do? What have you learned? Good news is…2014 is right around the corner, and now is the ideal time to take action towards your goals. Make a difference in the way you do things, and you’ll make a difference in yourself.

Shameless plug time: On February 5th, 2014, I’ll be supporting the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) in the 2014 Empire State Building Run-Up. 1576 steps, 86 flights, and over 1,000 feet straight up. If you can make a donation, large or small, I would be most grateful.

Nowhere to Go but Up…

On LinkedIn, I participate in a group called Executive Athletes. I certainly aspire to be both….but I frequently find myself wondering if I’m deserving of either term, let alone both. I can certainly agree with their mission statement – “To inspire people to be the best that they can be and to push beyond any perceived limits they may believe that they have in order to be successful in life, business and sport”  I want to inspire others to be their best….and to push beyond my own perceived limits. In the past few years, I’ve certainly pushed beyond a number of limits, from recovering from a severe spinal injury…to losing over 80 pounds….to becoming a much better athlete as a middle-aged dad than I ever was when I was younger. 

In a discussion the other day, EA founder Ken Lubin posed the question -

“What event is on your bucket list?”

Since he had mentioned he was doing the Empire State Building Run-Up, I said that it sounded like fun. It’s ONLY 1,050 feet. Straight up.  1576 steps, and 86 flights of stairs. Only 700 runners get in each year, and fewer than 7,000 runners have completed the climb in the event’s 36 year history.  Sure. Sounds like fun.  Since it’s a ‘bucket list’ item, it’s really just a novel idea, something that I don’t have to follow through……..or so I thought.

Less than a day later, I got an e-mail from Alicia O’Neill, Director of Endurance Events for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). I was already familiar with the MMRF, because of my high school buddy, David Goad. David had been inspiring lots of people through his impressive endurance efforts…and his amazing ability to rally people around a worthy cause. In this case, David had skated to the top of a mountain, in a red cape and Spongebob Squarepants boxers, to challenge people to raise funds for the MMRF.  David also has a personal connection to the cause – his brother, Jeff Goad (who sat next to me in the high school trombone section), is a Multiple Myeloma survivor – and through treatment and incredible effort, has also achieved some amazing feats, completing both the Chicago and NYC Marathons in support of the MMRF.

But back to Alicia’s e-mail. She challenged me to sign up for the Empire State Building Run-Up in 2014. Now, I’ve tried some crazy things in my day – but up until that point, I never REALLY thought seriously about being able to do it – it’s a ‘someday’, ‘bucket list’ item. Well, bucket list items don’t happen…..unless you go out and go after them. So, I decided that I would give it a go. So…while I had donated to David’s MMRF event campaigns in the past….now I had to put my  OWN name on the line. With only about 2 months to raise funds AND train for the event, I had to think a lot bigger than I’m used to thinking.

BUT…..nothing happens without taking that first step…even if it’s the first of over 1500 of them. So….I’m going for it. On February 5, 2014, I’ll be joining the MMRF in the Empire State Building Run-Up. I’ve got a LOT of stair climbing to do to get ready……and I’m going to need YOUR help.

How can you help? You can help in two ways:

1) By making a donation to the MMRF through my ESB Run-up page

2) By sharing this story through e-mail and social media

I am very appreciative of any donations, but even more thankful to share Jeff’s story, and how he and David have inspired me to step outside my own perceived limits. While I have not suffered from Multiple Myeloma, I know what it’s like to have my world turned upside down by a physical challenge. Nearly 10 years ago, I was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in an ‘explosive fracture’ of my L2 vertebrae. My right leg was initially paralyzed, and the doctor said before surgery that it was unclear whether I would ever walk again.  It took me a full year to recover, but I’ve gone from being in a wheelchair to completing 10 full century bike rides, a number of 5K races and a 1/2 marathon. In 2014, I’ve committed to doing the Marine Corps Marathon, and now, I’m going to climb to the top of the Empire State Building. Join me in the climb by making a donation to MMRF.