PAT FELLOWS

I view things through my eyes mostly.

What is the Measure of a Man?

My dad died a week ago.  I wrote an obituary.  I wrote and gave a eulogy, and none of that seems to be what I need to say.

Since high school, writing has been an off and on way of dealing with the world for me.  It comes and goes, but it’s how I process things, spread ideas and I guess it’s going to be how I grieve.  Maybe.

Since June, my family has dealt with watching my dad suffer and die. From a lung cancer diagnosis, to chemo, radiation, to heart failure, to death.  3 months of an accelerated shit storm.  My mother, endured the eye of the storm, or as is more accurate to those in our area, the northeast quadrant.  A storm surge of unfairness, disbelief, anger, sadness and overwhelming pain.  Yet, we will endure.

I am lucky in some regards.  In June, when my dad went through the brunt of his treatment, I asked he and my mom what they needed from me.  Help with the day to day treatments?  To be there for them physically to do the things that needed to be done?  My dad’s ask was that I take the kids to Canada to our cottage so that they wouldn’t have to see him sick and so they could carry on with their planned vacation.  I obliged and spent 2 weeks  with them wondering if it was the right choice, but honoring his wishes nonetheless.

In August, dad got the scans back post treatment and the cancer in his lung which was 5 cm across in June, was now 4 cm.  A lesion on his adrenal gland gone.  Great news for sure.  He was 87 and was fighting back and winning the bigger battle.  But really he wasn’t.

Sometime at the end of July dad awoke with chest pains.  An ambulance trip and multiple tests showed he had heart failure.  A couple weeks in the hospital got him pneumonia.  He battled back.  The decision was made to try and fight the heart failure.  Unfortunately a valve replacement was ruled out due to his prognosis for longevity.  An aortic valvuplasty (balloon inserted in the aorta to open it up) was the best they could do.  He was transferred via ambulance to New Orleans for the procedure.  It went well and again we got a glimmer of hope.

On the Monday before dad’s surgery I spent a few hours writing him a letter.  I swear I actually started it as a blog post and then I was like, “What the fuck are you doing?  What is this about?”kk  In a nutshell, I told him who I was and who I’ve become.  The “man” the dad, etc.  It was tough to write in some ways, but I can tell you that while we can’t say goodbye perfectly, it at least gave me some peace.  My dad read it and thought I didn’t love him.  So much for being a good writer.  Fuck me.  Thankfully I straightened it out before his surgery.

After spending the rest of the week in NOLA recovering, my mom made plans to move dad to a nursing home about 10 mins from their house.  They had PT which was his next step for recovery.  He arrived at the beginning of the last week of August.  He began doing some PT and on Wednesday the 30th, he did some PT and mom texted me saying it was the best he’d looked in months.  By that night he was the worst he had looked in 5 months

On Thursday, he he was in immense pain and he began sliding.  We don’t know why.  I just know that he was hurting and had been for the last 4 months.  We arrived on Saturday and he was in and out of lucidity.  We told him we loved him.  We told him he could let go.  Sunday was much of the same.  Short visits.  He wanted us to go home.

On labor day morning the phone rang at around 6:45-7 a.m.  Mom was up and when it was ringing said “Oh shit.”  A short conversation and he was gone.  He had died that morning.

I initially wanted to beat myself up for not being there with him when he died.  I won’t say it to make myself feel better, but knowing my dad the last few weeks.  I don’t think he wanted us there.  He was a man who hated inconveniencing people, and waiting at his deathbed would be considered a terrible inconvenience.

To say I have no regrets would be an overstatement, but thankfully the list of them is short.  I also look at the last months of his life through the lens of the lifetime of our relationship.  My dad wasn’t my best friend.  He was my dad.  He raised me to be independent, and to that affect we talked for 3-5 minutes every couple of weeks.  Do I regret we didn’t spend more time together?  Of course, but calls and visits go both ways.

I regret I don’t have a ton of pictures with him.  This one hits me hard for some reason.  Very hard.

I regret the same things we all do.  The pieces of our lives we hide from everyone.  That subtle lack of honesty we all use to hide what we are ashamed of or where we feel we are letting people down.  I’m not killing myself about it, and the good news is an evaluation of these things let’s us share with other people we think we have let down.  Likely we haven’t let anyone down nearly as badly as we though we did.

There really isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone has to figure it out.  Staying busy doesn’t help that much.  The biggest thing I seem to be dealing with is not wanting to talk to or really interact with anyone.  It’s like I have to “sort it all out.”  Attempts to do so are falling short, both on time and method, and yet the world keeps plummeting forward.  Every day feels like I am losing more of the opportunity to truly do this.

I don’t really know what will be next, but at 17 days out from his death, it feels like the world can easily forget you (him).  What I mean is that there’s a week of “What can I do for you?” and “Call me if there’s anything I can do for you.”  Shit, I’ve said the same to people in my place.  What I need for you is to not forget him.  If you met him, to consider what he may have meant to you, or even just a memory.  Not just in this proximity to his death, but forever.  That’s a tall fucking order. What with carpool, hurricanes, shitty politics and the nonsense we have surrounded ourselves with that define life, but that’s what I feel I’m desperately searching for.

I thought for sure, I’d end this with a number of memories about my dad, but I’ll leave those to you to dig in and remember, or I may write again.  Who knows really?

At his funeral, I tasked myself with writing his eulogy.  It was easier to write than to give, as can be expected, but I was honored to do it.  It’s below for those who couldn’t be there, and then the title of this will make a whole lot more sense.

Hugs and high fives dad,

PF

 

First, from my mom, sister Susan, and brothers Bill and Lindsay, a sincere thank you for being here, for calling, for the messages and for the support.  It’s been wonderful and the support helps more than you know.

Dad wouldn’t have wanted a big fuss, but he knew we needed something.  We all do.

I could stand here and wax poetic about the man my father was, but I won’t.  If you are here.  Then you know.

I could tell you a hundred different examples of a lifetime of kindness, but I won’t.  If you are here.  Then you know.

I could stand here and tell you anecdotal stories but I’m sure they’d fall flat to their realities, because most of the time, they do.  Take the time to think of your favorite one.  Cherish it, and if you want to come tell us after, please do.  That is what we are here to do.

For the last week I have been thinking about what I’d say today.  One thought kept coming to me.  “What is the measure of a man?”  Of course there is no way to define this measurement as it’s defined by a lifetime of interactions and can’t be “summed up.”

Yesterday while trying to come up with the words, I took this literally.  In the spirit of “measuring”, I compiled some numbers.  Please know, I have a history degree and that these numbers are embellished, as is the Fellows way.

·      He was born on March 3rd, 1930.  He lived for 31925 days.  17,320 of which he was married to my mom.

·      He lived through 15 presidents.  But only liked Ronald Reagan.

·      He survived 6 or 7 hurricanes, due more through luck than preparedness. 

·      He saw the end of the depression, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, A moon landing, and specialized in sending text messages with the “SLAM” effect.

·      He was 37 minutes early for everything.  Unless you were going to the airport.  Then he was 3 hours early.

·      He owned upwards of 20 cars and only totaled 3 or 4 of them.

·      He loved sailing and owned a dozen boats over the years.  None of them fast.

·      He lived in seven houses in 3 states and 2 countries.

·      He had at least a dozen dogs.  Terry, Captain, Snoopy, Duke, Wendy, Bosun, Muffy, Snickers, Merle, Heather, and Abbie.  We had a gazillion cats.  None of them need mention.

·      He had 4 kids who he was immensely proud of.  

·      He had 11 grandkids.  Lauren, Heather, Clay, Craig, Cody, Madelen, Chloe, Claudia, Larson, Paige, and Ian 

·      Last, but certainly not least.  He practiced medicine for 61 years.  22265 days, give or take.  He humbly served over 3000 patients, and after his love of his family, this summarily defined him.  He was a doctor, and that oath and commitment was his rudder.  

We will miss his laughter and his love but we will also go forward with his lessons of loyalty, kindness, work ethic and respect.  

Thank you Dad.  We love you.

the 1989 pivot

1989On this, the day after Taylor Swift won a lawsuit against a douchebag who groped her, I was looking at this post I started last April, but apparently I got sidetracked and didn’t finish it.  I finished it today!

Enjoy…

As my life progresses and I think about what motivates us to do the things we do in our life, the culprit of  inaction and stalemate is always fear.  Per the usual, I am not unique in this realization, and “fear facing” has become a motivational battle cry for all…until we are onto something else.

I was driving to New Orleans yesterday to look at a possible location for another FRESHJUNKIE.  These trips are at once exciting and anxiety filled.  Risk drives fear.  Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of making wrong decisions.

Just because I am more prone to do the things many people say they want to do, doesn’t mean they don’t cause me just as much misgiving and fear.  I also think saying things like “The difference between me and you is I face those fears and go forward anyway. ” is disingenuous and bullshit.  It’s naive to think that I am any different.

My daughter loves Taylor Swift.  If I am honest, I think she’s pretty great too.  I have been a hater of all things “new country” for as long as I can remember, and I am sure I dismissed her from the jump as some sort of “new country Hannah Montana.”  As I continued to listen, her mostly feel good pop songs, grew on me as did her live show and seemingly too good to be true persona.  Certainly the other shoe would drop, and she’d “Miley Cyrus” out at some point.  Hasn’t happened.  As the father of a 15 year old girl, this is refreshing and hopeful.

These two lines of thought may seem incongruent.  FEAR and Taylor Swift, but stick with me.

On September 21st of 2015, Ryan Adams, critically acclaimed music guy released a song for song cover album of Swifts, pop smash, 1989.  I have long had a “I should like Ryan Adams, I dislike Ryan Adams,” relationship.  I’ve seen him live, love some of his songs, and think he’s overall pretty great.  He’s also a pain in the ass and overrated.  Such is his rock dichotomy.

His album got all sorts of good and bad press and reviews.  Regardless if I like it or not, it was a brilliant marketing move.  I liken his versions of Ms. Swift’s songs to a lot of his music.  “It’s not bad.” or “You can clean your house to it.” may have been uttered.  This album is the same.  What it did do was make me listen to the original further, and that’s when I had a interesting revelation.

Taylor Swift threw away a guaranteed sure thing by going a completely different direction.  Yes, her base was likely going to buy anything she put out, but what’s not talked about much is the true strength of the songwriting and production and the vision she and the producers had to go a completely opposite direction.  While there was some security in that, pop music is fickle and there had to be some fear that it wouldn’t pan out.

Instead this happened:

“After debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, 1989 sold 1.287 million copies during the first week of release. The total US sales figure from the debut week of 1989 was the highest since 2002, and made Swift the first artist to sell one million or more copies of an album in a week-long period for three albums. 1989 eventually became the best-selling album of 2014 in the US market and has sold over 6 million as of January 2017, while selling 9.5 million worldwide. Seven singles have been released from the set: “Shake It Off“, “Blank Space“, and “Bad Blood” all reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, while “Style” peaked at number six, “Wildest Dreams” at number five, and “Out of the Woods” peaking at number 18 in 2014. The first five singles have all reached number one on the Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 and all have received a multi-platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).” Wikipedia

I imagine as they mixed these songs, they knew they had something special, but as with everything, there had to be some trepidation with this 180 degree pivot from her light country history was going to be too much for her fans.

Change is hard and jumping towards the abyss is part of it.  I read a quote somewhere that I don’t remember. (sorry to not give credit), but essentially it is this:  “Jump, and the bridge will appear.”  Fear is always gonna be there, but you got one shot on this here planet.  Sometimes a jump into the abyss is exactly what you need.

HUGS+hi5s,

PF

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Whole 30 experiment- aka The Great Hunger Strike of 20117

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Thursday, March 2, 2107. Up pops the FB messenger.

Seth-“Hey man, want to do whole30 with me?”
Me- “F$*K NO!  Have you lost your mind?”

Friday, March 3, 2017-My eating for the day consists of steak nachos, pizza, potato chips and Sierra Nevada….

Saturday, March 4, 2017
Me: “Alright, I’m in.”
Seth: “Great, we start Monday.”

And so began my Whole 30 challenge, or as I began referring to it, as “the hunger strike,”  “Going Ghandi” and “my poor life choice”.

“Why you ask, would I do such a thing?”

“You eat great.” you say.  “You’re the FRESHJUNKIE guy.”

Truth is, earlier in the week, I had stepped on a scale for the first time in months and I was around 185.  About 15 pounds heavier than I had been in years.  I was pretty unmotivated and was looking for something.

Over the past 16 years or so, I have not done much “dieting” and as a rule, think that “diets” are a bad idea.  Every diet you “go on,” you will eventually “go off.”  It’s not the going on that gets, you.  It’s the off.  That being said, I am easily challengeable, and winning the challenge, even though it wasn’t a contest, was all I needed to motivate myself.  So I fired up the old computer and took the worldwide webses over to the Whole 30 site to see what I had gotten myself into.

I’d heard of Whole 30, but really had no idea what it was beyond being 30 days long and “whole-some”.  After a little reading I realized I was going to starve.  Started in 2009 as a way to determine what was causing inflamation and food allergies, the Whole 30 diet eliminates almost everything but fruits, vegetables and meats.  No grains, dairy, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, sugar substitutes and on and on.  You can check out THE RULES.

On it’s surface, this doesn’t seem that hard, but my approach was to drink beer and eat every banned food on  Saturday and Sunday and then I’d  start Monday after a swim.  This was fatal error one.  One of the most important ways to ensure success on the diet is to plan.  And on week one, I did no planning and was immediately hungry.  I ate some eggs, and had some fruit.  Which got me to 8:00 a.m.  I ate my first salad at 9:00 a.m. and from there it was on!!

The first thing you will notice when on the whole30 is how terrible the American diet is for you.  If you open your pantry or walk into a grocery looking through the w30 lens, you see you can’t eat anything.  Damn near 80% of the store is off limits.  It’s crazy.  I knew there is added sugar in things, but how many was astounding.  Add in not being able to eat grains and basically your whole pantry is out.

For the first week, I ate a lot of salad, a lot of cashews, eggs and fruit.  I did read the fine print and realized I could eat potatoes by around day 8.  I also learned that using red potatoes for hash browns is ill advised and I created and ate some of the worst things I have ever cooked.  I ate them anyway.

Added to this dieting adventure, I signed up for a 3 day long distance swim fest and began upping my swimming mileage substantially.  NEWS FLASH-Whole 30 is a terrible idea for endurance athletes.  I was constantly lethargic, and every workout felt flat.  I kept pressing on though as I am a black and white kind of person.  All in or nothing.  Despite the misery.

By week 2-3 I was actually fine with the changes. I still wasn’t getting enough calories, but I wasn’t ready to go postal any more.  By the end of the 3rd week I forgot how many days I had left, and the last week was the same.  I finished with no fan fare and was still alive, despite my 3 yr old tantrums in week one.

WHAT HAPPENED!?
First the #.  I lost 11 lbs.  No, I didn’t take posed “before and after pics,” because you don’t really want to see that.  I burned some fat and leaned out a little.

But really,  I felt no different.  I must eat pretty okay most of the time, because I had no discernible good feelings.  In fact, I mostly felt shitty.  Lethargic, tired, and grumpy would be the top of my list.  From reading some of the whole30 reviews, I was led to believe I’d have full clarity and have so much energy I’d be ready for anything.   I was waiting to see rainbows and saw mostly fog.  Wompwompwomp.

THE GOOD:
The reality is, I needed a kick start, and if nothing else, whole30 is great for that.  It gave me rigidity in my life that I don’t usually have.  I also needed to lose a few lbs. and this was a good way to do it.  I ate more veggies, and was made more acutely aware of how much sugar and garbage is in our food.  Read labels  get to know what you are putting into your body, if it’s from a box and or from a restaurant other than FRESHJUNKIE, it’s probably not great.

30 days of eating on any diet really can be a positive in that it can give you a much needed jump start.  The reality may be that 15 days is also enough.  I found it took about 20 until I completely quit caring about any of the food I ate.

I did learn that I am likely allergic to something, not sure what.  So, another minimal win.  I may do one week of it again and see if I can figure it out, but probably not.

THE BAD:
It’s a diet.  You will go on it and then you will go off it.  I have pretty much returned to my normal eating habits, with perhaps a little adjustment.  Like almost all diets it’s not sustainable (nor does Whole 30 claim to be a forever plan).  It takes a lot of planning and if I am honest, completely ruined food for me.  I guess I am also a little lazy in that even though I am a good cook, I wasn’t super interested in cooking lots of whole 30 approved meals and for sure wasn’t going to dig into making snacks and stuff.  I ate for calories, and ate a lot more raw food than cooked.

Not sure whether this is good or bad, but one of my realizations during this whole deal was how incredibly difficult it must be for people who love food and who are overweight and obese to lose weight.  Food is a place of comfort and emotion for a lot of people, and the choices we have out there are at best terrible.  Eating right takes will power, and planning.  There isn’t a snack food that you can buy off the shelf that isn’t mostly garbage (IMO) and shit choices are EVERYWHERE.

It made me realize again that food is 80-90% of the fitness game.  You can’t out work a poor diet.  Eating right gets you close to your goals, exercise sharpens the knife.  A balanced approach with some carbs and grains is going to be more sustainable.

EAT right, live right.

 

Hugs+high fives,
PF

 

Tomorrow the Green Grass

46690881-grassThe average life expectancy of the American Male is 78 years. 28470 days. Each year these days slip away in massive chunks like a real time reverse longevity mudslide. I realized today (11/20/16) that I didn’t turn off the pilot light on the fireplace from last winter. 9 months gone in a flash.

It would be easy to point out the “every day is a gift” but this is tired and overdone. I’m more concerned with the waiting around. This notion that things will get better after a calendar year flips over.

In Baton Rouge, LA and the nation as a whole, one could say that things have been challenging in 2016. It’s true, a lot of struggles and a lot of challenges, not to mention a country divided. But really, what happens on December 31st, that resets any of this?

Over and over I hear, “2016 is cursed,” “Ugh, I can’t wait for 2016 to be over.” or “2016 has been the worst.” What makes Saturday December, 31st any different from Sunday November 20th? What magic are we expecting to Happen on Sunday, January 1st, 2017 that can’t happen tomorrow?

I understand the notion of a New Year and a reset, but you control the ability to start over every day. What’s a step in the right direction to right your struggles? One step, one new day, one new attitude.

There’s a band called the Jayhawks that wrote an album called Tomorrow the Green Grass. If I’m honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever listened to it. That being said, the title is something I say to folks a lot because to me it encompasses the opportunity to start new every day.

Quit waiting around for 2016 to end.
Tomorrow, the green grass.

H+HF,
PF

Floods, Demo, Fevers and Ironman

Back in March or so when I decided to toe the line with my mom at IMFL, my only option was to do a charity slot.  I had done it before for another race and wasn’t concerned about raising the money or the time to train.  Little did I know what the summer would entail.
Without rehashing the whole summer in Baton Rouge, needless to say.  Things didn’t go as planned.  July was as tumultuous a time in my 25+ years in Baton Rouge.  Then here comes August.
All this is to say that there were multiple weeks off from training and raising funds for the IM Foundation, while an awesome charity, seemed hollow considering what was going on in our city.
After an 8 day stint of fever virus in September, by October 1st, I was resigned to not racing.  It all seemed too much.  I emailed my coach, said I was done and went about my day.
For a week or so, I was in a funk.  I felt like a fraud internally.  “Practice what you preach.  DBAP.  Quitters are losers.  DOERS>SAYERS.”  All sorts fun things and more that I say out loud  every day were banging around inside my head.  The biggest one however, was “When else will you have the opportunity to race IM with you mom?”  So I heeded them.  Regardless of the outcomes, I am going to race.  To do that I have $1750 to raise in a couple weeks.  Per the usual, I am up against it.
If you feel so compelled to make a donation.  The link is below.
Appreciate you.
H+HF,
PF

CELTIC STAGE 5: August 14th, 2016

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It was Thursday, August 11th, when the usual afternoon South Louisiana rains began to fall in and around our home town of Baton Rouge.  By Sunday morning, 25-30 inches of rain, more than has fallen in four years in Los Angeles had inundated the area thanks to a low pressure system that pulled in tropical moisture and dumped for hours and hours.  This caused a flash flood that covered nearly 60% of East Baton Rouge Parish and 90% of Denham Springs with up to 10 ft of water. I was 120 miles away in sunny South Mississippi, where perhaps 1-2 inches fell.

Jonathan Dziuba and I were in Mississippi wrapping up 3 days of planning for our inaugural Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon.  At around 1 pm on Saturday the 13th, we figured out that interstates were flooded and that we couldn’t likely get home.  We stayed one more night, and then on Sunday drove through New Orleans and beat the I-10 closure that essentially locked off all exits. 

We went home, changed and started gathering up our kids, and a plan to go get all the old Louisiana Marathon T-shirts and go drop them off at shelters.  We figured it would take a couple hours.  We were wrong.  After our first stop at a small shelter, we headed to Celtic Studios, a movie soundstage in the center of the city.  They were accepting donations so we headed there.


I had seen a post from Patrick Mulhearn, Executive Director of Celtic saying that they had 500-1000 people at the shelter and only 2 toilets.  2.  Juba got on the horn and got our friends at Workbox in motion.  Pulling in we saw a half dozen or so port o let’s heading in.  We felt good to have helped, thought we’d drop our T’s and head on.  That wasn’t to be.

As we pulled up, the gravity of the situation became pretty evident.  In Sound Stage 6, there were about 1000 evacuees.  Stage 7 was a whirl with accepting donations, but it was clear that this was just the beginning.  We saw a lot of familiar faces and members of our TLAM team, Damian and Rebecca Burdette, were already deep into things.  We jumped in.

The first goal was helping organize Stage 7.  There were so many donations coming in that it was getting clogged at the entrance a little spreading out and things smoothed out quickly.  Now we were about to begin preparing for more people.  Tons of long time friends were there. Jared Loftus, Merle Francis, Tommy Talley…more than I can remember and name.

Volunteers were in charge.  No Red Cross, no FEMA, no police.  Volunteers.  There was one guy from Homeland Security.  One.  This threatened to become a shit show, and fast.  We did our best to keep moving and keep on point.  After a quick meeting with Homeland Guy, Juba, Damian and I went into race director mode.  Our first task was to stock stage 5 and get it ready for some 300 cots that were on the way from North Louisiana.  We also put a plan together or re-routing some of the supplies that were coming in to go straight to Stage 5.  We took our kids and got after it.

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After 20-30 minutes of prepping for people, we got an unexpected surprise.  More people were evacuating, and all of them were being sent to us.  Juba and I had a quick pow wow.  He and I had the only communication devices and decided we were not giving those up to anyone.  He and I would take tasks and communicate to each other.

The cots never had a chance to get to the studio before hundreds of evacuees did.  We all did our best to maintain order.  Get people blankets and seats when we could as well as talk, give hugs and help any way we could.  We only said it once to each other, but though 10 years removed, the thoughts of the Morial Convention Center and Superdome were in our minds.  We would not let this thing get out of control.  I am happy to say that there was not one incident that I am aware of.

After a couple hours, Jared Loftus and I had a pow wow on how we could utilize the Celtic Wifi system to help people get the word out to someone, anyone, and tell them where they were.  We didn’t know or realize at the time that other shelters were flooding and the OEP’s of several jurisdictions were sending their evacuees to Celtic.  People would show up not knowing where they were nor knowing how to get in touch with anyone.  Jared and I agreed that the system couldn’t handle 2000+ people on one signal at once, so he and Logan Leger got a secure wifi signal set up and then we decided that 4-6 volunteers would go group to group and ask people if they needed to contact someone.  It worked smoothly and we were able to maximize our sparse wifi resources.

As there are so many things that can happen in this situation, I’ll list them bullet style as they are all kind of anecdotal.

  • Early in the day a volunteer brought me to a man in his early 70’s.  He was 3 months post stroke, and had left his wallet on his bed when he was rescued.  I talked to him for 30 mins or so trying to figure out the name of his kids or someone.  I thought that if he could just relax, some of his synapses would connect.  After a bit, we figured out we knew a guy who is one of the owners of a restaurant next door to mine.  We got him to medical to see if they could find out next of kin information from his records.  I checked with the mutual acquaintance later that night and found out we got him home.
  • You need a lot of mundane things to make an operation go smoothly.  Things like folding tables, chairs, wheel chairs, blankets, trash cans, dumpsters and short term plans.  Thanks to Chad Dudley who went to Costco and bought like 30 chairs (perhaps more) and distributed to those that needed.
  • An evacuee who had hip surgery earlier that week was in a bad spot.  They couldn’t get out of their wheel chair onto one of the cots we had because it was too low nor could they sit in their chair due to pain.  These are things you don’t think about.  We got them to our medical area and hopefully they ended up comfortable.
  • A lady walks up to me with 7 Syrian refugees that spoke no English.  We made them comfortable.  3 hours later an Arab family walked in.  We connected the two and they all went to the second families friends home. 
  • I saw no less than 20 mutual restauranteurs who came and set up to bring hot meals to people. 
  • Over and over people came up to me and asked what to do.  Often the answer was, “Please take trash bags and let’s stay ahead of keeping this place clean.”  Not one eye roll, or question. 
  • I have a friend that will go un named who works in the governors office.  At one point as there was no one yet in charge, I texted him and let him know, that “We were making decisions, but I promise we will do our best.”  His vote of confidence was welcomed.
  • Putting on marathons and events in general makes one adept at the same sort of problem solving needed to set up a shelter apparently.
  • I have heard that the powers that be (General Honore etc.) were impressed by how smoothly things were going.  That’ll make you feel good.

I’ll end with this.  There are thousands of great, hard working people that work in government, but some of the trappings of government policy and procedure left me believing that smart people with common sense and a strong desire to help, are just as capable if not more so in the fine art of disaster/emergency management.

Per the usual, DOERS>SAYERS

hugs+hi5s,
PF

RAAM-Part 1

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I’ve started this 4 times and still don’t think that whatever I will write here can give the adventure of RAAM it’s full justice.  I think I could go back and crew for RAAM 10 more times and nothing would come close to the experience of last week.  Part of that is due to it being the first time, and the rest may be attributed to naivete or just plain stupidity.

In December of last year I reached out to a friend, Robb Finegan, who had taken some time off from work.  I was curious as to how he was doing and really just checking in with him.  Over a quick message session on FB he told me he had been riding a lot and was training for RAAM-Race Across America, a 3000 mile team bike ride from San Diego-Annapolis.  I was intrigued and almost nonchalantly offered to go crew for them if he needed help.  2-3 months before the event, I enlisted my partner in crime Juba, and after not replying to about 600 emails, we were set to fly to San Diego on June, 16th.

THE TEAM//

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Over Thursday and Friday we met up with the folks who would become fast friends over the next 7 days.  I knew 3 of them better than others, but realized quickly we had a team of talented athletes.
COLIN INGRAM-My old Mizuno co worker.  Colin was a fantastic collegiate runner and owner of a luxurious pooper.  His Dartmouth profile says he loves donuts, bleu chees dressing and ran a 3:56.9 1500m
KEITH KELLY-The Irishman.  2000 Cross Country National Champion and 2009 Irish National Champion.  KELROCK was the hammer on this trip.  Super competitive and equally supportive.  Also credited with realizing we’d lost a team member.

KRIS HARTNER-Owner of 2009, 2013 running store of the year,  Naperville Running Co.  Ran a 3:08 in Boston at 42, and has successfully hidden the rest of his running career online.  He was one of the masterminds of the planning of this trip.

MATT HELBIG-Big River Running and Big River Running Events.  15:33 5k.  This whole thing was Matt’s good (bad) idea.  Following a ride in Boulder with Kris Hartner, Matt decided it would be awesome to ride across the country together.  This turned into racing it, which turned into living in a van for a week.

DANIEL GREEHALGH-President, Skinny Raven, Anchorage Alaska.  Skinny Raven Events.  Best hair in the crew, Ironman, lover, fighter, and voice of reason throughout the week.  Brought his twin brother along to crew.

BRIAN LAIDERMAN-Owner Optimal Performance Center.  Chiropractor.  Former collegiate cyclist at Indiana University (Possibly won a bunch of stuff), Ironman.  Convinced 3 young ladies to join 11 men on a cross country trek.  Eternal flame of positivity on trip.  Descends mountains with fearlessness that borders stupidity.

JIM KWASNICKI-Canadian Gentle Giant.  The “KWAZ” just did work.  He wouldn’t tell us much, because the KWAZ just delivers.  Quiet, positive, fun, and mysterious.  He’s like the James Bond of London Ontario.  New Balance bigwig.

ROBB FINEGAN-The HAMMER.  Robb is a forme 2:17 marathoner who spent 18 months training for this race.  He rode every single mile at an all out sprint.  In day 2, he dropped the eventual 4th placed team on a mountain climb and they’d never recover.  Robb is the reason I was here.  He, Juba and I shared many beers at the Running Event over the years.

DAVID GREENHALGH-CREW CHEIF-Daniel’s brother and train man extraordinaire.  He was responsible for putting together the vans, hot wiring shit, and keeping me awake for the next week.  The Great Alaskan Moose.

TRACY GRICE-Architect, Fitness Advocate, Social Media Powerhouse, possible rally car driver.  One of Laiderman’s additions to the crew.  Kept Juba sane and took 1034 pics and videos, chronicling our adventure.

AMANDA KENNY-Triathlete, former gymnast, doer of handstands at every turn.  Had the opportunity to be stuck with 6 guys for a week and never cracked.  Professional Ice chest sleeper.  Van mom to Van 1.

ERIN KALKBRENNER-Multiple National Champion Water skier and professional ski coach.  Triathlete and navigator extraordinaire.  Poor thing had to try and eat vegetarian across the country.  Hot tamales count right?

Jonathan “Juba” Dziuba-Multiple IM finisher, coach, IPA inhaler, RD extraordinaire and partner in crime/shenanigans.  We are always up for an adventure and JUBA told his wife Lindsey, “I think this is something I can’t not do.”  I volunteered him to be co-chief, as is customary in our relationship.

PF-Me.  Dr. Phil in a minivan.  Former running shoe rep, doer and sayer of things, prolific noticer.  Also up for shenanigans at any moment.

CREW

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THURSDAY//FRIDAY
Upon arrival, we got in a van with two of the riders, Jim Kwasnicki and Matt Helbig, and headed to meet up with the rest of the team at one of my best buds, Jason Lewis’ house.  He and his wife Kelly went up an beyond to let the team use their house as both the planning location as well as the receiving hub for the tons of equipment that the team would need to outfit the vans.  No bullshit.  Multiple trailer hitches, 4 bike racks, shoes, food, and everything else you can imagine, rained down upon the Lewis household in the weeks leading up to the event.  They handled it with style and entertained the crew for the two nights leading up to our start time.  This was an especially tall order as once the team and crew found out that we couldn’t drink for the duration of our trip, an exhaustive IPA carbo load ensued.

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On Thursday we figured out that we were painfully low on crew.  We had David Greenhalgh as Crew Cheif, Juba, myself and three lovely ladies that rider Brian Laiderman tricked into coming to help.  Erin Kalkbrenner, Tracy Grice and Amanda Kenney were thrown to the wolves first thing Friday morning.

After a quick run to the beach and a dip in the Pacific, Friday was filled with finishing gearing up the vans, racer check in, a 3 hour crew chief meeting for David and our newly appointed second crew chief, Juba.  He loves this shit so I volunteered him.  We made it through the exhaustive check in process without any issues packed up and went back to JLew’s to drink more beer and get ready for our adventure.

PRE RACE SELFIE OF A SELFIE OF A SELFIE in OCEANSIDE

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SATURDAY//SUNDAY//MONDAY
Juba and I got up early Saturday morning and hit one more quick run and a dip in the ocean as we knew we’d be living in a van for the week and we’d probably be eating hot tamales and beef jerky.  We hit up that plush ass Sheraton Carlsbad breakfast buffet one last time and headed to Oceanside for the start.  This early rise was something I’d pay dearly for on Sunday.

We should have known that the week would be a challenge when we fucked up both where we were supposed to park as well as something else in the first 15 minutes we were there.  The head official was as pleasant as jock itch and jumped our shit for being in the wrong parking lot.  RAAM is the real deal and there are a ton of rules (needed) and penalties are given for all sorts of things.  We almost get one 1 hour before the race starts.  Awesome.

RAAM uses a time trial start with each team going off about a minute or so behind each other.  At 12:37 it was our time to roll.  Van 1 consisting of riders Kris Hartner, Keith Kelly, Colin Ingram, Daniel Greenhalgh and crew Amanda Kenney pulled in behind Dave G and I in the Kia Sedona that would be our home for the next week and we rolled to the start.

The riders took a left at the top of a hill and we were now in full on RAAM navigation mode.  Dave and I had the first 12 hour shift which consisted of leapfrogging the support van every 10 miles or so.  We initially got lost on the first leg, but recovered quickly.  Add to this that RAAM forgot to give our rider the GPS tracker that was to be used for the next 7 days and the first 90 mins was a near cluster fuck.  We got to rider switch one ahead of schedule and things started clicking.

Colin went next and in his first leg he got a flat.  I mentioned already that RAAM was full of rules.  One of these was that if you pulled off the road, your left wheel had to be 5 ft from the outside line.  This means you need 5 ft of shoulder.  Colin got a flat where there wasn’t much of a shoulder and a ton of traffic.  In our haste to get him up and running I pulled about 3ft off the road.  It was like the rules police were following us and the head official stopped to jump our shit less than 2 hours into the event.  Awesome.

1 hour penalties are given for any of a number of infractions.  No warnings must be given, and you call in 2 days later to see if you received any.  We wouldn’t know for 2 days if this little hiccup would cost us an hour so we had to put it out of our head and keep moving onward.

The first van switch was scheduled for Blythe, CA, where the temperature was supposed to be 110 degrees.  Things fell into a rhythm and the directions got easier as we left the San Diego area.

As we approached the first hotel (I think, as I can’t remember), a decision was made in the follow vehicle for me to ride with Juba and Erin for their first shift.  I figured sleeping 3-4 hours in a bed was the same as doing the same in a van.  FALSE.

Van 2’s first shift started out with a bang, when a rider who will go unmentioned about got the three of us whacked by an oncoming vehicle.  During the hours of 7 p.m. until 9 a.m. all teams had to be on Direct Follow.  This means within 50 ft of the rider at all times, aka “in the headlights”.  This was to be one of the most nerve wracking things I’ve ever done.  Some of the descents were at 40+ mph , in the dark.  I felt we were a pothole away from crushing a rider during all of the Direct Follow periods, which for our van was 10 hours a night at least.

Upon Van 2’s 12-ish hours, I jumped back in with David and following the crew I’d be with for almost the rest.  We headed towards Flagstaff across some hot ass pavement (135 deg readings in the van, and made our way through Flagstaff, AZ threough the Navajo reservation.  This was some sketchy ass riding and roads and we did our damndest to keep the riders safe with drunks everywhere, short shoulders and crazy ass drivers.  I was stoked when we ended up at the hotel for what would be my first sleeping of the trip in Tuba City, AZ (I beleive).  By this time I had been up for roughly 42 hours with a couple or three hours of napping in the mini van, and I was cooked.

I slept 4 or 5 hours and woke up on Monday I think.  Either way, I was amazed that I felt as well as I did.  We immediately got in the van and headed to Colorado to meet up with Van 2 somewhere near Pagosa Springs.  On the way we stopped at 4 Corners Monument which is where Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona all share a corner.  Obligatory selfie of a selfie of a selfies were taken and Kelrock and I ran around all 4 states and we jumped back in the van to meet the other van.

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MONDAY//TUESDAY
We ended up trading off in Pagosa Springs and van 1 would have the honor of climbing the Rockies…in the dark.  We started out with a climb to the Continental Divide and both vans stopped for a pic at Wolf Creek Pass.  Colorado seemed to fly by as we ascended and descended all night.  This proved to also be some of the scariest shit I saw, and got me close to one of my only “losing my shit on someone” moments of the night.

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Following a bike at 45 mph downhill is not an easy thing to do during the day.  At night, it is a flipping nightmare.  As an athlete, I know that when you are in the moment of riding or racing, you can’t see much further outside of what I call the “visor”.  This is the area that falls under the bill of a trucker hat and the athletic/racing mind can’t see any further than what’s outside of it.  After a particular dicey descent, an already frazzled crew may have jumped the shit of a rider who was to be fair, concentrating on the road and not his speed when his headlight fell off…going almost 50.  All parties kissed and made up and continued on into the Colorado night….

To be continued….

 

 

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

I am not religious.  At all.  I’m not even sure if I believe in God, but that’s for another day.  Needless to say, I am not an avid prayer. I did grow up in a house of  house of addiction and the serenity prayer was said, a lot.  I will admit that when I need a centering, there isn’t much better than those 26 words.

 

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The line that always sticks out to me above is THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN.  I go on ad nauseum about being accountable and honest and the like and even espouse for people to, “Control your Controllables.”  This is like the prayer version of harden the fuck up and do what needs doing.

Currently in this nation, and more specifically in my home city,  shit is going fucking sideways and I don’t have the slightest clue as to what I should personally do about it.

I am not going to get into the ins and outs of the shooting of Alton Sterling here.  The man was killed and the man who killed him likely had a split second he wishes dearly to have back.  It is tragic in every way.

Thursday morning, I went and ran.  The city was eerily quiet.  Like people decided not to drive to work or something.  I set out running, trying to suck in oxygen through the wet rag of humidity that is a Baton Rouge, July and somewhere around mile 2 I had an overall realization that there is nothing in this nation less equal than being a black male.  Black female comes in close second.

Many of you probably read that and go, “Yeah, no shit 45 year old white guy.  Tell us some more of your profound realizations.”  This isn’t the first time I’ve thought this, but now I am taking an active “putting yourself in their shoes” approach.  What would I do?  How would I feel?  Can I do anything about it.

As a runner, I say hello to everyone on the road.  This morning, saying hello to the African Americans I ran into seemed hollow, like saying “Hey, I have tons of black friends.” or “See, I’m cool, I said hello to those black guys.”

The web of how we got here is so tangled that I don’t know what string to pull to start making it right, and don’t know that it ever can be “right”, but we all have a duty to try and do something.  To treat people with respect, to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, to do our best to undo the web of racial and social bias this nation finds itself in.  We are all guilty, white on black, black on white, rich on poor, poor on rich and everything in between.

The following won’t undo it, or change it at once, but neither will carrying on with life like nothing is happening.

THE COURAGE TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CAN
These things-
Be honest about the stereotypes I harbor, conciously or otherwise
Give pause when I find myself forming a judgement on no basis other than those stereotypes
Ask why I drew this conclusion
Give benefit of doubt-real or imaginary
Don’t let those biases affect decision making
Do what I can to live right by others

If you pray, pray.
If you don’t, make change.
If neither of those work, then at the least try and have the

WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

hugs+high fives
PF

 

 

Luster-

281315_10151324588609686_217891491_nMost days, most mornings, the profundity of great thought dies with the cracking of my eggs.  Quiet is replaced by chaos and the day has begun.  Are any thoughts these days truly “great”?

Goal setting has, for quite a long time, become mundane for me.  I can’t put my finger on why, other than really, at the end of the day, the doing of the “big things” and the idea of “big ideas” has lost a little of it’s luster.  The “things” and the “ideas” have all been said and done.  But what if the doing and the saying is what drives you?  What do you “do” and “say” next?

It’s funny the things that we find inspiring or the things that will move us.  Just yesterday I watched a clip of a 12 year old, Grace VanderWaal singing an original song on America’s got Talent.  I don’t know if it was inspiring, but it was certainly uplifting to see the girls unbridled joy.  For others, it’s watching someone achieve something physical that they can’t fathom when positioned against their own abilities.  But what does that mean for you, today, tomorrow, and every other overwhelming day?

It means that big is over rated.
It means that the next simple step can be a goal.
It means you need to set both attainable and seemingly unattainable goals, because achieving the former makes the latter seem more possible.
It means you need to see that inspiring is everywhere.
It means that big ideas are usually just little ideas repacked and repurposed.
It means that you are the luster.  Not the goal.

 

Are you better than me?

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“And I think if you’re young and  you’re in that business of dreams, you’re always looking at the guy who’s got just a little bit more than you, and you’re measuring yourself in relation to that. And you always come up the loser.” -Warren Zanes

Warren Zanes played in a band in the 80’s called the Del Fuegos.  They were a rock band.  They wrote some pretty good songs, and I loved them.  After his stint as a rock star Warren almost accidentally went on to get a Phd, serve as VP of the Rock N Roll Hall of fame, and most recently, write a no holds barred biography of Tom Petty.  I am not a Tom Petty fan, but I heard a podcast with Zanes recently and the above quote hit struck me.  (I read the Petty book anyway)

I’m no geologist, but I’m pretty sure it’s our human nature to be competitive.  From a young age we gauge ourselves against others.  Animals puff up their chests, kids bully, we want to win.  It’s perpetuated I imagine by parents to some degree, but even in instances where parents don’t reinforce it, we can’t help but gauge ourselves against others.

It’s the little voice inside of us that won’t let us enjoy accomplishment.  The same voice that tells us we aren’t good enough.  The voice that that sets unrealistic goals.  To be clear, we need the voice, because I think its the same voice that helps us push us outside of our comfort zone.  We just need the voice to clear away the garbage.

There are 1440 minutes in a day.  360 of which we spend asleep.  Spending the remaining 1080 can happen quickly.  Shit, a trip to Walmart can adversely burn 85 of those minutes.  Tack on trips to and from work, meals, running kids around and you’re lucky to dedicate 30-60 a day to yourself.  To burn any of them in want of what the other guy has is a colossal waste of time and is likely holding you back from achieving what you really want to do.

Sure, it’s easy to say,  “Don’t rate yourself against others.”  But to do it takes deliberate practice to set inward bars.  Creating a way to rate yourself from where you are in the present against where you want to be.  Learning to take credit with ourselves for our accomplishment and not diminishing.  Setting stretch goals and figuring out the next step to get there.

Not a week goes by that I don’t interact with someone who self defeats by gauging themselves against others.  Hell, I will drive my kids down Highland road and look at what others have and wish I had a mansion.  Again, I think it’s natural.  BUT if we don’t recognize it, push it aside and keep going, we all come out losers in the end.

Take some credit today.  Challenge yourself against the you of yesterday.  It’s 7:01 a.m.  959 mins and counting.

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