Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Wall


2014 was a transformational year. I accomplished a lot of things I never though possible just 12 months ago. Most of these were personal challenges, lose weight, run some races, take a hike and a few others. I have covered most of these individual event already in this forum, but today I am reflecting on my wall tracker, seen above. For me, setting written goals is such a strong motivator. Sometime early in the year I decided I would dangle a carrot each month, and set some sort of goal for the month. Some were races, weight goals, individual mileage challenges,etc. 

Without a list of these in my face every day in my office, the tendency to straggle off the path would have been strong. None more string than my December goal, running a 10k. two weeks before the race, I fell training and hurt my ribs pretty badly. They may have been broken, maybe still are, but either way the ribs hurt bad. I could not train, could not breath, could not laugh or cough without a good deal of pain. Yes, I probably should have gone to a doctor. The final set piece for my 2014 tracker seemed to be slipping through my hand, and I felt like I had no control. I felt like everything I did all year was wasted, and I felt like quitting. This was upsetting,I have had such a great year, I did not want to end on a down note. This race was supposed to be my strongest run, and best race pace of my year. By the time the race came the personal record time I planned was definitely off the list, I was worried I would even be able to run at all. By race day, I said screw it, I am running, as long and as hard as I physically can run. If I have to walk or crawl, I am finishing this damn race. I ran my race, and did the best I could. The last two miles of the 6.2 mile race were excruciating, I could not breath without sharp pain, but I did not walk, I did not quit. I finished the 10K in 59:32, under one hour. The time is disappointing, but considering my condition it was great to beat an hour. It was nice to have a friend run with me, he could has left me behind early, but he stayed along for the run. 

What I need to consider is even in the face of some pain, and a much slower time than I wanted, the distance and time I did run were totally unthinkable just 8 months ago. To run around 9:30 min/mile with an injury is crazy to me. Injured December me, would have dusted April healthy me by several minutes per mile. This isn't to pump my running up, I have friends that would blow by my best pace times, but this helps me put end of my 2014 in perspective.

The point here is all week leading up to the December race, my brain was saying "don't run, you can't run, you're hurt, just quit." But each day I thought that, I came to work and saw the blank next to the December goal on my wall. I rested and tended to my rib injury as much as possible, and by the day before I knew I could do it, but all because I kept my goal visible. I will take a minute to reflect and be happy for 2014, but as the sage Eddie Vedder says "it makes much more sense to live in the present tense." I will wipe the 2014 goal tracker off the wall soon, and move on. My 2015 goals are being formed now, and will be up on the wall before new years eve.

If you want to make a change, start now, find your wall, start challenging yourself, and write your goals down. Your goals can be anything, write more, run more, laugh more, volunteer more. Look at them every day, and accept if you are off course, and celebrate if you exceed. You will surprise yourself what you can accomplish if you just take the leap

Monday, November 17, 2014

Humbled


There are times in life when you think you know someone, especially those very close to you like family.My Aunt Mary Lee, we call her ML, has been ever present in my life. ML has been one of my biggest supporters in my life, there with words of love an encouragement for my entire life. She is my Godmother and a Catholic Nun in the Ursuline Sisters. Over the years ML has never once forgotten about me on a holiday or special day. I know ML has been a teacher, and administrator and an anchor for the family, spending most of her career working at a church that generations of my family has been baptized, confirmed, married and buried .

Sometimes you can overlook the great work people do when you are not looking. Now, even as much as I have been around and enjoyed time with my aunt, the majority of her life she has spent on her own, with the Ursuline mission in her view. Recently, ML was awarded the Alumna of the year from her High School, Ursuline High School. I was happy to attend the mass and ceremony. During the ceremony the Alumni Association President gave a remarkable introduction for my Aunt. It was amazing to see how much impact ML has had on the community. When they read through her list of work, professional and charity, I was humbled. ML has spent her entire life, all of it, at the service of others. Not here and there charity work, or donations, but a lifetime of devotion and dedication. I cannot fathom more than 50 years of humbly serving God, the poor, the marginalized, students, families, abused women, children and just about any group of overlooked people. Simply stating my Aunt is a Nun is such an understatement. ML's counterpart award winner called my Aunt the "Queen of the East Side." This is a successful Doctor, making a living running a highly successful and profitable medical business, calling my Aunt the Queen. This made me laugh, it was like I was meeting a whole different side of ML.

During her thank you speech ML was entirely humbled. All she could speak to was her thankfulness for what Ursuline had given her and her lifelong service to the Catholic Church. She was taught to be of service. She thanked her parents and siblings for their support. She continues to grow in her faith even after 50 dedicated years. I have never seen my Aunt complain about not having a nice car, a great set of clothes, a house or apartment, jewelry or fancy electronics. She was made to serve.

I look at myself in this light and I am humbled. How many times do I let my self interest cloud things. How many times have I let a little materialism get in the way. How much of my time to I spend serving others? I am blessed with a bounty of love from my family, a family of my own, and a nice career. I have looked inside a bit since ML's celebration day, and looked at how I can serve more. Whether service to my kids, my wife, my workers, the opportunity is there to be more like the Queen of the East Side, and focus on service.

Are you made to serve?


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Those Moments


I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am proud of to do so. It does not take much in a movie or a song to get me sentimental. I had one of the most amazing weeks recently when it comes to moments, particularly revolving around my Fraternity. In a week period I buried a Fraternity Brother, traveled to Phoenix for Fraternity board meeting, returned home and conducted my annual Leadership School, culminating the week by Initiating my Father into my brother Matt's & my Fraternity.

At my Leadership school one of the Undergraduates asked an alumni "when you know you have one of those Phi Alpha moments?" I have a list so long I could not expose them all here today in this story. But, I have had so many that week it was clear how much the Fraternity has been a good part of my life. 

The week started with the news my friend Josh had passed suddenly at the early age of 33. He leaves a beautiful wife and 5 young children. Being a father myself, this is a crushing blow and reminder that I only rent my mortal coil from God, and have to make the most of each and every day I have on earth. Josh was a good man, a True Gentleman, and lit up every room he was in with smiles and laughter. Leading the Fraternity alumni at Josh's calling hours through the Burial Ritual was the single most difficult thing I have done in my volunteer life.

The morning after the service, I left at the crack of dawn to travel to Phoenix (fitting) and participate with other men to help guide our Fraternity forward. This was a complete recharge to my batteries having just buried a friend. The men at this meeting are examples of leadership, friendship, intelligent planning and true Brothers. I am truly lucky to be exposed to the caliber of man that volunteers currently with my Fraternity. I am confident my son will have SAE there when he gets to college in 2031, and I am proud to talk about my Fraternity with my non-Greek friends and colleagues.

The Phoenix trip was followed immediately by my most busy and hectic Fraternity week leading up to my regions  Leadership School. Approximately 100 men from Northern Oho met up to work on being the best versions of ourselves we can be. Again the work the volunteer alumni, staff, and speakers did was inspiring. It was especially nice having my Brother Matt, up from Texas, participate as a breakout facilitator this year. I really think the men of my region are some of the best, and out Fraternity will be in good hands for decades.

The real moment to cap off the week was initiating my father Ralph McDonough. The local Chapter and National leaders approved a special non-student initiation for my Dad. He is the patriarch of a family the sports five SAE's already My brother Matt, me, our cousins Marc & Tom and my brother-in-law Ian. Our Dad is simply the best example of a True Gentleman I have ever known. Over the last 21 years, each time I recite the True Gentleman, all I think of is my Dad. Seeing my brother Matt Initiate our Dad, and getting to swear him in and pin his badge (315135) on him was the best moment.

So in one week, I had both the hardest and best moment of my Fraternity life. Tears of sadness and joy were shed all week. Truly a Phoenix week, a 33 year old friend entered Chapter Eternal, and my 73 year old father entered the Brotherhood. I would prefer just the good moments, but the bad ones also help define a heart. I am a lucky man to be able to have these moments, moments that define me as a man, a friend, a brother, a son, a husband and a father. I commit to working on being better at all these roles. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rest Your Head


I love Peter Gabriel's music even though I don't listen to it that often. He has tremendous skill in writing emotionally heavy, touching lyrics. This may be why I don't listen frequently, I need to be in the right space to enjoy. I recently threw his album New Blood on my iPhone, thinking it was about time to refresh some Gabriel tunes. This album is an orchestral remix of some of his greatest songs, not necessarily the most popular in every case. Not one of the cheesy "The Orchestrated Pink Floyd" style albums, where a random full orchestra plods through a close instrumental version of the songs. This album is created by Gabriel with a fresh take on vocals with orchestrations. Some versions on the album are breathtaking, some leave you wanting to listen to the original.

The songs Digging In The Dirt and Darkness are personal favorites, and the new versions on the album are perfect. Invoking emotions I can remember from the first listen in 1992 and 2002 respectively, and lending new meaning for where I am personally today. Timeless connection is the mark of a great song.

What hit me today was the song Don't Give Up.I always forget about this tune. The original is a beautiful rendition featuring Gabriel and Kate Bush. the New Blood version features Norwegian Ane Brun in Bush's spot. Legend has it that the song was inspired by a dreadful newspaper report about a woman jumping off an apartment building with her child or that it was inspired by thoughts of folks in depression while unemployed and supporting a family. The theme Don't Give Up fits both. Gabriel was also getting out of his own depression at the time he wrote the song, and he points to the support he received from friends and family. The song really needs a listen to feel the true beauty within. The message is so pure, do not give up. Find someone you can rest your head on in times of challenge. Conversely, be that person for someone else. Connect with your friends and family and make sure they know you are there, and you can lend support. Sometimes I think this is assumed, but when someone is in a bad spot, it can be hardest to remember you have friends and family that will help you. Connect with them and help them never give up.


Don't give up
You still have us
Don't give up
We don't need much of anything
Don't give up
'cause somewhere there's a place
Where we belong
Rest your head
You worry too much
It's going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don't give up
Please don't give up

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Triple The Fun in 1:49


This past weekend I completed my first triathlon at the sprint distance. This is a three part race that featured 750 meters of swimming, 22K of cycling and a 5K run to the finish. For those stuck in English standard units this is approximately a 1/2 mile swim, 13.7 mile cycle and a 3.1 mile run. The race was really fun to participate in, the training was a nice break from my normal running routine.

Starting out I knew I could do any one the three events right away, separately. As my friend Greg indicated, I was wrong about the swimming. My first trip to the pool I was able to do 1.5 laps before stopping to catch my breath, then I did 1/2 lap at a time, stopping each iteration. Within four swims I was up to 18 laps straight, more than the distance for the triathlon, so that skill improved quickly. The running was not a worry at all, after all I ran at least 5K almost every morning this summer. More on the easy 5K in  a bit.

What I did not realize would be so hard was the cycling. Not necessarily riding 14 miles, but making time to train. The bike is the most time consuming of the three events, and I trained far to little in this skill. Now that I have my first triathlon under my belt, I will approach training entirely different the next time. Lots of cycling, a good weekly run, and 1-2 swims per week. The bike, while "only one third" of the race, is the biggest target for time improvement. My 16 minutes of swimming can be improved by maybe a couple minutes, same goes for the 5K, but the bike I could save 15 minutes or more with better training. I will also train going straight from the bike to running more. The feeling of this transition is weird, and not comfortable at first. Your legs feel 200 pounds each, and it take a decent stretch to get your legs under you properly. The first time I ran after a bike I thought I was going to eat the sidewalk.

Transitions are also a bigger part of the over all race than I thought they would be. The transition area is where you switch from the swim to your bike, and later drop the bike off and start running. I took my time the the transition area. Next time I will lay out my area a little bit better, and spend as little time in there as possible.

All said and done, I really like the triathlon competition. Like my friend TJ said, be careful, you will want to do more, he was right. I now want to do one more sprint tri in the spring/summer and significantly improve my time, Then double the distances and compete at the Olympic length race by next fall.

My biggest takeaway from the triathlon is never, ever let someone, or yourself tell you that you cannot accomplish something. I would have laughed a year ago if I was told I would finish a triathlon in 2014, but I did. Lots of work, lots of commitment and mostly I believed in myself. Now I am back to training for a couple more races in 2014, and my first half marathon in the spring.

Find your finish line, and get it!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stop Giving Up


Today I am surrounded by feelings to jump off the fitness train. I have a terrible head cold or allergy thing going on, making me feel generally off balance. I had an off track weekend, and do not want to go to my weigh in tonight. This is even after I woke up at 5:00a today and went to the pool for a personal record (PR) in the half mile swim. You would think that would keep me on the path, the many PR's I have set in fitness this year. I borrowed the fitness photo/phrase from above from coachjennmcd.com and it struck a chord. So did a friends Facebook post about how "getting fat doesn't take a day off, I can't either." He ended his post with #nomorebeingpudgy which made me laugh a bit.

I am so tired of starting over, because I have quit so many times. I have not quit this year though, eight months of working hard. I can't believe that after all this work, I could easily go off the rails, especially with the diet. Only a couple weeks away from my first triathlon, and I am still fighting daily to eat well. I need to set a PR for the eats. Record the most totally healthy days with all solid meals.

I guess what all my accomplishments have taught me, is like the picture says, I will not be starting over, because I will not give up this time. I will not let a couple bad days turn into a week of bad days, or a week off into totally off. I refuse to go back. I refuse it. I am not perfect, and still have weakness for good (bad) food, but those cravings will not stop this train. I have to get my eating under control, and stop cutting corners here and there. Not sure how yet, but tracking 100% of what I eat will be a good start. Football Saturdays and Sundays will be tough, but I need to figure this out starting today.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Lucky To Help


I have had a great run over the last few weeks with the levels of charity I have been able to give. In the last month, I have raised money for the St. Jude's hospitals, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, participated in a race for The United Way, and donated to the ALS Association along with the ice bucket challenge. These events have given me time to appreciate how lucky I have been in life. I have a good family, nice career, great friends, positive mentors and the list goes on. 

I truly believe that volunteerism is a key to happiness in life. Whether you can donate time, talent or treasure, there might not be a more worthy action than lifting up your fellow man. Simple actions, signs of respect, or a simple acknowledgement of a human can go a long way. 

All the things I list as my lucky points take up time, family, friends, work, but you can find a way to give of yourself to others. Look to your circle of influence, have you been affected by an illness, a loss or some sort of struggle? Likely, there is a group that works toward helping that situation. Whatever you do, share yourself, share your talents, give some treasure, loan some time. With technology, this can take just a few moments of your day, surely we all have a few spare moments. We are only here on Earth for a short while, help make someone else's time worth living.