When You Exude Positive Energy, It Will Come Back to You in Racing and In Business

April 12, 2017

My friends love to hear my stories about my “good karma” experiences, and they have been asking me to write a blog about them.  This is that blog, and it features some of my favorite stories from last year or two.

Sometimes Home Is Closer Than You Think

When I lived in Cincinnati, I drove more than 45 minutes each way to shop at Costco.  I was there almost every week because I was buying food for my cooking classes and my personal use.  I knew all the staff there, and they knew me.  They were like an extended family.  I knew about their health, their families, their hobbies and so many other things.  I loved that.  When I moved to Kansas City, I found a Costco much closer to where I live.  I’d been shopping at this same Costco for more than a year.  One day, I got into the checkout line with 180 eggs and a bunch of fresh vegetables, fruit and lean protein.  The gentleman checking out my purchases looked so familiar.  I knew that couldn’t be. Then he says, “You’re from Cincinnati, right?” I tell him I am and ask how he knows that. He smiles and says I used to work at the Springdale Costco where you shopped. I was nearly in tears. I knew who he was.  It was Gene, one of my favorite team members at Costco.  I was so glad to see a familiar face from home. I ran around to the other side of the conveyor belt and gave him a huge hug and kiss and told him to tell his wife I said hello.  I asked how she was doing and he told me she is a manager at another Costco in KC and her transfer to that store is what brought them to Kansas City.  He asked me, as he looked at my purchases, how marathon training was going.  I told him it was in full swing and going well, all while holding back tears of joy.  I had been clicking my heels and saying, “There’s no place like home!” since I got to KC. That day my Cincinnati home came to me.  Now I wait in line for Gene even when there are shorter lines.  He is my KC connection to fond memories of home.

Sometimes Home Is Closer Than You Think Part 2

I was flying home to Cincinnati to race and visit friends.  It was the day after Delta’s computer system crashed.  Lots of flights were delayed or cancelled.  My flight was scheduled to leave on time, but I got to the airport very early anticipating long lines.  As I’m waiting in line, I notice the Delta agent looks familiar.  But I know I’ve never seen him at the KCI airport.  He asks me, “Where are you going?” I tell him home to Cincinnati. He says your driver’s license says you live here. I reply with a smile, “You asked me where I’m going…not where I live.” He then asks where I lived in Cincinnati. I said Burlington, Kentucky. He smiled and said I used to live in Oakbrook and worked at CVG, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport. That’s why he looked so familiar. He had checked me in on flights numerous times when I lived in Cincinnati.  As I headed to the gate I said, “Please take good care of my bag. My racing gear is in it.” Imagine my surprise when it was first off the conveyor. Here’s why…Vince had priority tagged my bag.  It was treated with VIP status.  Bless his heart. This is what I love about Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky people…hearts of gold and we take care of our own.

A couple months later, I was heading home to Cincinnati to visit friends and relax…no racing on that trip.  I had hoped to see Vince when I checked in, but he was not there.  As I was waiting for my flight I decided to take a walk around the gate area.  At one of the gates (not the one for my flight), Vince was checking people in for their flight.  I was so glad to see him so I could thank him for taking such good care of me and my bag in August.  I walked up to him and said, “I know you won’t remember me, but can I give you a big hug?”  He looked a bit puzzled, but said it was fine.  I went on to tell him that he had priority tagged my racing gear bag to Cincinnati a couple months ago and it arrived safely and first off the conveyor.  He smiled and said I know exactly who you are.  We used to be neighbors.  I smiled, gave him another hug and headed to my gate so happy that I could thank him in person for what he did for me and his kindness.

Once a Runner, Always a Runner

After leaving the Cincinnati airport with my priority tagged bag, I headed to Avis to pick up my rental car.  Art (who I’d never seen before) greeted me and asked me if I had a reservation.  I told him I had one and had a free upgrade to my reservation.  Art told me that due to the computer issues with Delta, many people rented cars when they couldn’t get flights out of Cincinnati and their fleet was depleted. I said that the upgrade wasn’t an issue, I’d be happy with any car that had a big trunk since I had to pack my large suitcase due to having a lot of racing gear.  He asked me, “Are you a runner?”  I told him I was and asked if he was a runner too.  He said he was in his younger years.  I smiled and said, “I bet you were fast!”  He said he was.  I laughed and said, “Me…not so much!”  We both laughed about that.  Once he got my paperwork done, he told me he got me the best car they had left but he was having them wash it and clean it out since it just came back in service.  He wished me good luck on my race and told me to run like the wind.  I thanked him for the good luck wishes.  When the driver pulled up with my rental car it was a full size car with a huge trunk…much nicer than what I’d expected.   Runners in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky also take care of their own.

Share Kindness and It Will Be Returned

One night when I came home from work and a run, I didn’t feel like cooking dinner.  I told my dad we were going to a grocery store down the street to make salads for dinner from their salad bar. As I was waiting for my dad to finish his salad creation, a lovely older woman asked me, “How do you get to the checkout? I’ve never been in this store.” I told her I’d walk her there and told my dad to please follow when he was done. As we were walking to the checkout lane, I asked her if she was from the KC area. She said she wasn’t.  I said, “This is a lovely store, but there are grocery stores here that are much less expensive.” She said she knew that, but the roast she was buying was on sale. She got in the checkout line in front of us and the young man ringing her up asked her if she had a store loyalty card. When she said she didn’t, he asked her if she wanted to apply for one. She told him she didn’t have a need since she was from out of town. I asked him, “Can she get the sale price on that roast without a loyalty card?” He said she couldn’t. I asked him to please use mine. When he was done checking her out, he told her she saved $33 with the store loyalty card. She nearly had tears in her eyes when she hugged and kissed me and thanked me. It made my day!  In the midst of all the violence, hate and political rhetoric, we must not forget that we are all human beings and a little kindness goes a very long way.

You Never Know What You’ll Learn When You’re Being Friendly with Strangers

I went to packet pickup for the Rock the Parkway Half marathon last week. I was fifteen minutes early and the volunteers weren’t allowed to hand out packets until 11am when packet pickup officially opened. So, I walked to the Garmin booth and started talking with Brian. We talked about local and national half and full marathons that we loved and other things running geeks talk about. During the conversation, I mentioned that my Garmin Vivosmart HR+ was acting up and not tracking my runs and walks this week. He told me Garmin’s headquarters had a customer service center where I could walk in and get help. I didn’t know that. So I headed to Olathe, Kansas which is about 10 minutes from where I was picking up my race packet, and Clint took extraordinary care of me. He looked at my activity tracker and realized it couldn’t be fixed. He then went and got me a brand new one to replace my old one, for free!  He then set it up for me and synced it to my phone. I have always said that Garmin’s customer service is as good as Disney’s. And this is why I constantly tell people that I can’t imagine owning any other brand of GPS/running/fitness gear than Garmin. I tell them when it comes to quality and customer service, I think Garmin is the best!  My new tracker works great and it’s a more recent model so it has some features my old tracker didn’t have.  I’m really enjoying the new features.

So what do these stories have to do with business?

What goes around comes around in racing, life and business.  People respond to your positive (or negative) energy accordingly.  When you are kind to strangers and co-workers, they will be kind in return.  When you are helpful, people will be helpful in return.  When you show you care, people will care about you in return.  Racing, life and business are simply about the Golden Rule.  Be golden and you will have shining moments and amazing experiences like the ones I’ve shared in this blog.

Life’s About Changing, Nothing Ever Stays the Same in Life or in Business

January 17, 2017

One of my favorite Patty Loveless songs is “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye.” The refrain lyrics go like this:
Mama whispered softly time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing nothing ever stays the same
And she said how can I help you to say goodbye it’s okay to hurt and it’s okay to cry
Come let me hold you and I will try how can I help you to say goodbye
At no time in my life has this song ever hit home more than in the last few years. The latest goodbye happened on January 17, 2017. I had to say goodbye to one of the greatest loves of my life…my nearly 19 year old cat, Sheba. It was heart breaking. This was a heart ache that was different than what I had with my other cat that passed away three years ago. Cleopatra went into full kidney failure. She could barely walk. She looked at me as if to say, “Help me go. I’m ready.” It was painful, but the decision was one that was obvious. But Sheba wasn’t ready to go. Her heart and mind were with me, but her tired body was not. She was dropping weight and her colon had gotten to a point where it could no longer evacuate on its own. Laxatives and drugs were only a temporary solution before an enema was needed. The procedure was invasive and exhausting for Sheba. After a while, the enemas stopped helping for more than a few days, and my vet and I had the conversation that all pet lovers dread. I told her I needed some time to say goodbye to her and she agreed that was fine. I spent the next week being a helicopter mom. I loved on Sheba every waking moment I was with her. She would look at me with love and adoration and my heart would break that much more. Finally, the time came. I was a mess. I’m still a mess. Fortunately, I have a job I love that is a great distraction from the pain and friends across the globe sending me love and support and trying to keep me busy. And through all my losses, I go running.
During this week, I thought about many of my friends that had recently suffered other kinds of heart breaking losses such as being let go from their job after 20 years, the end of a long marriage and the passing of loved ones…both two legged and four legged. I kept thinking about the song lyrics and how I could help them to say goodbye to their losses, and more important how I could help them recover from their broken hearts. This blog is a small, but sincere effort to help do that.
Sheba was perfectly healthy prior to my move to Kansas City. The move nearly killed her. Dogs deal with change. Cats don’t. After her passing, I realized the last three years of my life had revolved around Sheba and her rigid and constant medical needs and medication schedules. All of a sudden, that disappeared. I had all this time on my hands and a sad sense of flexibility and freedom I hadn’t had since I moved to Kansas City. As I try to recover from my grief, I am now focusing on a very different future and actually focusing on what I want and need for the first time in a very long time. If you follow this blog, “Lessons from the Road,” you know running is my center…my go to activity when it all goes wrong or things in my life are off center. A run is my go to activity because it’s “me time” and a time where I feel at peace and centered. I thank God every day that I’m able to run and go to this place with my mind, body and spirit.

So what does this have to do with business?
People can be like cats and not deal with change well. But like the song says, life’s about changing and nothing ever stays the same. How we deal with that change is what sets us apart.
We can be consumed by our losses and let them paralyze us. In the workplace, losing our jobs or seeing people we care about lose their jobs can make us feel angry, unappreciated and feel so many other ways that are natural when we’re in shock or in crisis. Losing clients or bids on prospective new business can make us feel exhausted and cause us to second guess ourselves. But we cannot let these feelings keep us from moving forward. Life is about changing and it’s about relentless forward progress. When we dwell in the past or stop moving forward, we stop living our best, most productive lives.
I’m not saying we cannot mourn and grieve for our losses. We should do that. But we also, in our grief, must try to focus on the future and the positive things we want and need to achieve going forward after our losses. We must remember our joy and not just our sorrow. The joyful things remind us that we are still here…living, breathing, growing, evolving and thriving to be the best we can be for ourselves and those around us.

Mourn your losses, but don’t forget to rejoice in the opportunities and adventures that lie ahead! Wishing you a joyful, exciting journey.

Finding Your Center and Where You Fit In Is a Blessing in Racing, Life and Business.

January 1, 2017

For those of you that follow this blog, Lessons from the Road, you know I write about life lessons I learn while running and how those lessons relate to business. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog talking about my transition and the struggles that I experienced after moving to Kansas City to care for my father after my mom passed away. (If you missed that blog, you can find it here: https://abelpr.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/life-and-business-are-a-journeyyou-dont-always-know-what-lies-ahead/ (Many that read Life and Business Are a Journey said I should warn you that you will most likely need a tissue. You’ve been warned.) This blog picks up where that blog left off.

To give you some background, prior to moving to Kansas City, I spent 25 glorious years in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. I knew exactly who I was there. I was the owner of several thriving small businesses. I was the “parent” to two healthy cats. I was surrounded by the love and support of amazing friends and neighbors every day. I was inspired and challenged to be the best I could be by my clients. And last, but not least, I was a runner. These things centered me. They were the core of my soul. I lost my center when I moved to Prairie Village, Kansas where my father lives and I grew up.

My experience in Prairie Village and Johnson County (the county where Prairie Village is located) was the opposite of my experience in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. I found the people in Prairie Village and Johnson County cold and unwelcoming. Making friends, something that had always been easy for me in every other city I’d lived in as an adult, was nearly impossible. I felt isolated…something I’d never felt before. It was disconcerting. But sometimes in our discomfort, we find the silver lining. This blog is about that silver lining and the incredible journey and learning I experienced this year.

When I lived in Cincinnati, I wanted to qualify for three running groups called the Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. Qualifying for these three groups had been on my dream list for many years. These groups don’t focus on how fast you run. They focus on your endurance…lots of races in short periods of time. I always tell people I’m built for endurance, not for speed. So this goal was realistic for me. However, this is a goal that takes a lot of time and training. In Cincinnati, I put it off. I didn’t want to take time away from my friends and busy social life to do the training and racing needed to qualify for these groups.

But in Kansas City, I didn’t have that issue. So, in November, 2015, I created a training and racing plan that would help me qualify for all three groups in 2016. I ran 24 races in 2016…most of them were half and full marathons. To put that in perspective, I averaged seven to nine races a year in Cincinnati. In the spring, I qualified for the Half Fanatics by running four half marathons in 37 days. In the fall I qualified for the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents by running three full marathons and three half marathons in 60 days. Basically, I was racing most weekends and training constantly when I wasn’t working. It was relaxing and rejuvenating to be working toward such a big, long-time goal. But during this endeavor, I achieved something far greater…I found my center and sense of self again in a city where I have never felt at home, even when I was a kid growing up there. And that journey was one of the most joyful ones of my life. Here’s how it transpired:

I went home (or what I consider my home) to Cincinnati to kick off my Marathon Maniac and Double Agent qualification process. The race was a half marathon I’d done several times before when I lived in Cincinnati. It poured the entire time, but it was a summer downpour, so it actually felt nice because it was so hot and humid that day. I met some friendly people on the course and had a good time in spite of the less than ideal weather conditions. To me, that’s part of racing. You take what Mother Nature gives you and you suck it up. Racing is a metaphor for life…you take what life gives you, and you suck it up.

In September, I ran the Patriots’ Run, the first of the three qualifying marathons. I met a couple of Marathon Maniacs prior to the race and learned a lot! I learned about other races I’d like to run in the future, and I learned a great deal about the race I was about to run. They were so friendly and welcoming. They were also from out of town. Patriots’ Run is a unique race because it’s a one mile loop. It starts at noon and ends at 9:11pm because it is a race on September 11th to honor those that died and served on September 11th. For some, a race like this is intimidating or unappealing. The heat can be daunting. The tedious course can be a huge deterrent to many. For me, neither was a factor that would prevent me from running it. I loved seeing the same people over and over again as we cheered each other on to the finish of either the marathon (26 laps) or the ultra marathon which consisted of running as many laps as possible in nine hours and eleven minutes. During the last eight miles, I caught up with one of the Marathon Maniacs I’d met prior to the race. Thomas was my saving grace. I was starting to slow down from the heat, and it was nice to have a running buddy for those final eight miles. We talked about life and our families, and we talked about how he qualified for the Maniacs and my goal of doing so in the coming 60 days. As we talked, I found out he was running the Des Moines marathon which would be my final qualifying race for both the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. He shared a lot of great information that only someone that had run the race before would know. At the end of the race, I was greeted by my dear friend, Mel, the only close friend I’ve made since I moved to Kansas City. She had run the 5k earlier that afternoon, gone home to clean up and came back with her lap top so she could work while I completed the last few miles of my journey. She cheered Thomas and me on for the last 4 laps, and she was waiting at the finish line with a high 5 and a cold protein shake. Flanked by two wonderful, supportive people, it reminded me of my days back home in Cincinnati. It was joyful.

In October, I was at church and a woman came running up to me and said, “Pastor says you’re a runner, and I need to meet you!” I had never met Alicia before because I go to the early service and she and her family go to the late service. As we talked, we realized we were running the same marathon, Prairie Fire, the following weekend in Wichita. She had only run two marathons and one of them was Prairie Fire which was in her home town. She was looking to beat her fastest time and asked if I would pace her. I told her I would. For 26.2 miles we talked about everything you can imagine…family, work, life and our experiences with the Johnson County culture. It was girl bonding at its best! She was a fabulous tour guide on the course, pointing out all kinds of things only locals would know. It was great. While she served as the docent, I focused on our pace and making sure she achieved her goal. She did. And it was so great to share that moment with her. Her parents were at the finish line to greet us and congratulate us. It was heart-warming. I was beaming with joy and pride for my new friend.
A week later, I would run my final qualifying marathon in Des Moines. Two of my dearest running friends, Pam and Tony, had signed up for that race too. We met many years ago at the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati through the Runner’s World Challenge. We ran that race together and ran many more races together after that. They knew how important this race was to me. It was great to have them there for support even though we wouldn’t be running together because they are much faster than I am, and I was taking this race at a much slower pace than usual due to running a marathon the previous week. One of the other benefits of Des Moines was it happened to be the reunion race for the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs. Because I was a Half Fanatic, I was able to attend the reunion meeting. My new friend, Thomas, was there and we sat together and caught up on running and racing. During the reunion meeting I felt welcome and centered. I was surrounded by people that love running as much as I do. Many had run marathons or half marathons (or both) in all 50 states! I was surrounded by kindred spirits…it was like a family reunion where you liked everyone in the room. I felt at home and centered.

The day after the reunion was race day. Pam and Tony met me at my hotel and we walked to the start line together. We wished each other well, knowing they’d finish long before I would. The race began and I was off to achieve my big goal. After the pack of runners spread out, I settled into a comfortable pace. My body felt beat up all week from the marathon in Wichita, but that morning, it was feeling fabulous. I was grateful for that and being able to run my usual pace from previous years…for however long it lasted. As I found my comfortable pace, I ended up in a pace group with a bunch of very friendly runners. It was great to talk and run. I have not found the runners at races in Kansas City to be friendly. What I was feeling at Des Moines felt like home. It was like running with my running partner or my running group friends. It was similar to the comradery I was used to at races in Cincinnati, where we knew no strangers and everyone we met on the course was family. It was joyful. At mile 17, I couldn’t keep the same pace and dropped back from the group. Not long after that, I heard a familiar voice. It was Thomas. Once again in the final miles of this race, we were running the same pace. It felt good to run with a buddy and it made the miles go faster. We picked up a couple Marathon Maniacs during our final miles and we all had great conversation and a wonderful time on our journey to the finish line. As we turned the corner for the final mile, Tony and Pam were waiting to run me in like they’d done the previous year when we ran the Kansas City marathon. At the finish line, once again, I was surrounded by friends and lots of support. We all walked to the Marathon Maniac booth so I could have my photo taken with the sign that said I’d just qualified for the Marathon Maniacs and Double Agents. I was beaming! My long-time goal had been achieved. But the most rewarding part of the process was the journey itself…the people I met, the friends I made and the things I learned.

So what does this story have to do with business?
Just like in racing and life, in business we often have to redefine who we are and find a new comfort zone. At one point in our personal or business life we may feel at peace with ourselves and our work environment. Then one day or over a period of time, that can all change and we find ourselves isolated and off center My advice to you, if you experience this, is to be like a true endurance athlete… keep going and don’t stop moving forward. Often in life and in business, we don’t fit into certain situations, social groups, community cultures or careers. The key is to keep looking for a place and people that feel like home in our personal lives and our work lives. Home is where your heart is, and that’s not always where you currently reside personally or professionally. Remember while you search for what feels like home, keep your eyes and hearts open to new challenges, wonderful new people and better days ahead.
Wishing you a healthy, happy 2017 and a joyful journey to find who and what centers you.

Helping Someone Reach the Finish Line Is One of Life’s Great Rewards

May 24, 2016

Recently, I ran the Trolley Run in Kansas City. It’s a four mile course that’s flat and fast. This race started like any other. I was running alone, enjoying a beautiful day with 10,000 other people and supporting a great local charity.

I was about 2.75 miles into the race and feeling great. I was running at the fastest pace I’d ever run. As I powered up a slight incline, I saw a young woman just ahead of me that seemed like she was struggling a bit. I told her she was looking great and to keep up the good work. She replied, “I have no idea why I signed up for this!” At this point I am beside her, and I asked if this was her first race. It was. That was my cue that I needed to pace this young woman and get her to the finish line. I introduced myself and she told me her name was Claire. And from that moment on, we were on a mission together to finish the race strong.

I told Claire, “Follow my lead. Relax your arms. Breathe slower. I will pace you to the finish.” She had no tracking technology, so I told her we were coming up on mile three and she’d be fine. She looked at me like I was crazy, but I noticed after about a quarter mile her arms relaxed, her breathing slowed and she was in her zone. I kept talking to her and telling her where we were each quarter mile. At 3.65 miles we were about to make the final turn to the finish line. I looked at her and said, “This is where you shine. Give it all you have. Run as fast as you can. You can do this, and I will see you at the finish line.” She started to run like she had fresh legs and took off as we high fived each other. She finished about 10 seconds in front of me. It was joyful to watch her finish and see her sense of achievement.

At the finish she turned around and thanked me. “None need,” I told her. “You did this all on your own.” She told me when I started to pass her, she was about to start walking because she didn’t think she could finish. I knew better when I saw her. She just needed a little encouragement and a little coaching. I hope Claire runs other races in the future. She now knows she can do this on her own.

The following week, I was scheduled to run the Independence Half Marathon. I had been coaching one of my clients to run this race for the last three months. On race day, I saw her waiting for the race to start. This was her first half marathon. The pre-race jitters were obvious and natural. I had told her that for a first long distance race, your goal should simply be to finish. But I know this client. I knew she had a time goal in mind. So, I said, “You know the ultimate goal is to finish, but I’m guessing you have a time goal. What is it?” She told me 2:20 to 2:30. I was a bit surprised. During one of our conversations she mentioned wanting to run a half marathon in two hours. I found out that was a long term goal, which is good. There was no way I could pace her for a two hour half marathon finish. Knowing her goal was a finishing time I could pace easily, I told her she could run with a pace group or I’d be happy to pace her if she would prefer that. Her eyes got big and she said, “I’d love for you to run with me! Are you serious?” I told her it would be my honor.

Like many new long distance runners, she shot out of the starting line like a rocket. I gently encouraged her to slow down and let me set the pace. I told her not to let the excitement and adrenaline get the best of her since we had 13 miles to go. I was able to get her to settle into a good pace. My job was to keep her entertained and focused, especially in the later miles when fatigue can set in and your head can get in the way with negative thoughts.

We took a couple of walk breaks due to her asthma, but I made sure she got back on track after she caught her breath. At mile 11, we were greeted with an uphill climb and some serious headwinds. She was feeling some fatigue, which is to be expected. I told her to envision the finish line and getting that big 1.1 pound medal. (Yes, it really did weigh more than a pound as the race director had advertised.) She continued at a slower, less energetic pace. Then, she saw her running partner, who was not racing that day, holding up a sign with her name on it. That was the last push she needed. We rounded the corner to the finish line and I said, “Go! Give it all you’ve got!” She took off and I ran just a few seconds behind her so I could watch her finish and see her being greeted by her husband, daughters, parents and running partner. She looked at me and said, “We finished in 2:18!” I smiled and said, “Of course you did! I knew you could do this all along. Congratulations on a job well done and finishing your first half marathon.” She hugged me and smiled as she looked at her huge medal. This race happened to be the weekend of my birthday. I can’t think of a better birthday gift than to share a moment like that with someone I care about and have coached for months.

After both of these races, many of my friends commented on how selfless it was of me to “sacrifice my race” for these women. My reply was that it wasn’t a sacrifice in any way. It was a joy and an honor to run with them and witness their feeling of accomplishment…a true runner’s high.

So what do these stories have to do with business?

Statistics show that people often leave their jobs because they feel unappreciated, uninspired and lost with no guidance. I have heard many young professionals say that they wish there were people willing to mentor them at work. Others say they wish they had someone at the office that had their back.

The message here is simple. Mentoring and being a good cheerleader is crucial in racing and in business. If you see someone that shows great promise but is struggling a little or needs a confidence boost to get ahead and reach the finish line at work, step up and help them. Be a leader. Be a good pacer. The time you invest to help someone achieve their goals will be time well spent. It’s a reward that costs you nothing but a little time and effort. But it’s a reward that has far more value than money. To me, there is nothing better than watching someone succeed. And if I can play a tiny role in that success, that’s even better.

So, look around you at work and when you’re out and about. You never know who you will inspire and how that inspiration can help lead someone you know or a total stranger to achieving something special that could change their life and their perspective forever.

Life and Business Are a Journey…You Don’t Always Know What Lies Ahead

March 13, 2016

Two years ago, on March 13, 2014 my mother passed away. The original plan was for my father to move to Cincinnati to live in my home with me, but the stress of that move was sending him to the cardiologist and the ER on a weekly basis. He didn’t want to move. As an only child, I did what was right. I moved to Kansas City to live with my father who was terrified to live in the house alone. I sincerely felt the move to Cincinnati would kill him, and I wasn’t about to lose both my parents in less than a year. I know the statistics.
While still in shock over my mother’s death, I sold my home, donated almost everything in the house to charity and got on a plane with my beloved cat, Sheba, to take care of my dad. That year was filled with loss. I’d lost my 19 year old cat, Cleopatra, about six months before I lost my mother. I was leaving my clients and friends of 25 years that were like family to me. I was leaving my neighbors that were like family for the last 25 years. I’d lost my center.
As those of you that follow this blog know, I write this blog based on things I learn while running. When I moved to Kansas City I spent the first four months at the vet every day trying to get Sheba stabilized. The stress of the move nearly killed her. Losing her would have nearly killed me. She is my child! Our vet did a wonderful job of getting her stabilized, and I finally felt things with Sheba were under control. I am her center.
My dad’s health improved during that time too. There were no more trips to the cardiologist or ER once I moved in with him. His recent annual physical was the best it’s ever been. His doctor says I’m the reason for that. As a health coach, I make sure he eats right and exercises every day. I am his center.
With Sheba and my dad stable, it was time for me to focus on getting my center back. Running has always been what grounds me. It brings me joy, peace and helps me stay healthy.
What I didn’t know was that the streets of the town where my dad lives are steeply graded. Running in the road, which is what I did at home in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, tears you up! After running in the road for a few months and feeling beat up, I realized something was seriouly wrong. I found a great Active Release Techniques chiropractor through the one I used back home. Marty got me put back together. It took months, but I was able to run as he helped me heal the damage I’d done to my body. Running started to be comfortable again…joyful again. It was a blessing. He was a blessing.
Yet I still wasn’t inspired to write a blog. I knew it had been a long time since I’d done so, but Kansas City wasn’t inspiring me. My dad’s neighbors certainly weren’t inspiring me like my neighbors back home did. Nothing I saw on my runs captured my heart…much less captured it enough to inspire me to write about it. I wasn’t meeting people at races that inspired me either. Frankly, running in Kansas City left me utterly uninspired…until March 12, 2016.
I decided to run the Westport St. Patrick’s Day race in honor of my mother. It’s a four mile race. It was the perfect distance because I suspected I might be in tears for the entire race. But tears weren’t what my mother had in mind for me.
Here’s what happened:
Race morning, I get out of my car and a friendly young woman sees I have a race bib on and asks me where packet pickup is located. I told her I was there yesterday and it’s hard to find. I told her I’d walk her there. As we walked and talked, I found out she’d signed up for the race the week before with a friend that had bailed on her that morning due to being sick. So, she was completely untrained to run the four miles and was going to have to do it by herself. “No way! I will run with you and pace you for the four miles,” I told her. She had only run a 5k quite some time ago and had trained for that race. But I knew with the fact she was young and fit, she was up for this task…even though she hadn’t trained. Amanda did fabulous. We took a couple of walk breaks but averaged a 10:33 minute/mile and finished in about 43 minutes.
She knew I was dedicating this race to my mother and she apologized for slowing me down. I smiled and told her it was an honor to run with her and we made my mother proud. She thanked me and my mom for getting her to the finish line. She told me she would have walked more of the race if I hadn’t been there to push her.
My mother didn’t know a stranger. She made friends with anyone she met. That day, I honored my mother’s memory in the best possible way by making a stranger my new friend.
So what does this story have to do with business?
Life and business are a journey. Sometimes the road is bumpy and throws us curves. Sometimes the road is smooth and easy. Life and business journeys are about the paths we take and the people we meet along the way. When we open our minds, bodies and spirits to new things and new people, we open our lives and our businesses to new possibilities and opportunities. Those possibilities and opportunities can be joyful and life changing in very positive ways.
It was a joy to run with my new friend, Amanda, and pace her for a PR (personal record) at the race! She said I was a blessing to her sent by God. She was an angel on earth and a blessing to me sent by God and my mother. Without Amanda, that race would likely have been filled with pain, loss and sorrow. Without Amanda, I most likely would have cried the entire four miles. But because of Amanda, my new friend for life, I found inspiration, purpose and joy. She was my center that day.
My advice to you is to mourn your losses…in life and in business. But in that process, open your eyes and your hearts to the joys that can be part of those losses and you may find your inspiration and your center again. You may find a new friend too.

A Year of Great Joy and Great Pain, But Worth Every Second

January 2, 2014

I turned 50 years old in 2013. That, in itself, is an exciting milestone. To celebrate this milestone year, I started planning for it in 2012. I decided for my 50th birthday, I would run a 50 mile ultra marathon. To do that, I knew it would take a lot of planning and racing to be ready.

I started my year by running the Disney Goofy Challenge in January. You run a half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. I had a great time, met some wonderful people and felt my journey was on track toward the 50 miler.

The months leading up to the 50 miler in April were filled with long runs. I was running 50-60 miles per week and 40 of those miles were on the weekends. The back to back long runs were the best way to prepare my body for the 50 miles I would run in Nevada. While there was no way to prepare myself for the high elevation of the course, I knew practicing proper fueling and hydration would be critical. I did that for several months. Then, race day arrived. As I wrote about in a previous blog, this race was perfect…the only perfect race I have ever run. It was perfect in the sense that there was nothing that went wrong, nothing I felt I could have done better or differently. I packed my drop bags with everything I needed (and a whole lot of things I didn’t need, but you never know), I fueled and paced well and because of that, my last three miles were my fastest miles of the entire race. I went to the hotel and took an ice bath so I could run the 10k the next morning and walk and run with my friends I’d met on the course the previous day that were completing the 100 mile race. It was an amazing milestone and milestone birthday.

A couple weeks later, I ran the 10k and the 5k back to back at the Flying Pig with the women I have been volunteering for the last three years. These women are a great joy and blessing in my life. They are all recovering addicts. Teaching them the importance of a healthy living lifestyle and watching them on their journey to sobriety and independence is inspiring. Over the last several years, I have spent every Tuesday training these women at the Y to help them improve their fitness. One Thursday each month I teach them about how to live a healthier life through nutrition and exercise and then I cook them a healthy lunch and healthy dinner so that they have healthy left overs for the weekend. I often say that Tuesdays and Thursdays are my favorite days of the week because these women mean more to me than words can adequately express.

In July, I launched the healthy cooking division of my fitness firm. As a public relations and marketing professional, I realized that marketing the cooking and the fitness sides of Abel Fitness Training separately was the best strategy for success. So, Abel Fitness Training http://www.abelfitness.com focuses purely on healthy and safe exercise education and training. The cooking division, Abel to Cook http://www.abeltocook.com, focuses solely on teaching people how to cook healthy meals that are fast, easy and figure-friendly.

In the summer, I ran a half marathon in Cincinnati as I prepared to run the Marine Corp Marathon in October. The Marine Corp Marathon (I wrote a blog about it too) was one of the most moving and meaningful races I have run to date. I was honored to run it.

In October I hit another major milestone. My public relations firm, Abel Associates Public Relations http://www.abelpr.com, celebrated its 20th anniversary. One of the most joyous parts of this milestone is that most of the clients who were with me in the early years are still with me today. I’m truly grateful for their loyalty and friendship over the last two decades.
People often ask me which of my two companies is my favorite. I tell them having two companies is like having two children. You love them both equally, but differently. Both of my corporate children bring me great joy and I’m grateful for both of them.

By the time 2013 came to an end, I ran a 5k, two 10ks, two half marathons, two marathons and a 50 mile ultra marathon. I ran a total of 1200 miles (ran, jogged and walked to be completely accurate) and spent more than 230 hours on my feet. That doesn’t include the more than 30 hours of cross training with swimming, yoga and weight training I did last year. I also celebrated 20 years in business with my PR firm and launched a new division of my fitness firm. That was the short version of the joy!

While the joys were exhilarating, the pain was poignant. Now, you may be thinking to yourself that pain is inevitable when you run 1200 miles in a year. This is true. But the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain of 2013. Some of it ended well by year’s end…some didn’t.

In May, my father had a very serious heart scare. My dad eats healthy, walks three to five miles each day and works full time at 82 years of age. He does everything right. So as a fitness trainer to hear him say that one of his heart valves was only pumping at 30% was terrifying. While my mother is my cheerleader, my father is my rock. He’s my go-to person for advice on anything from business to life. The thought of losing him was one of the most frightening times of my entire life. Thank God, by July the doctors were able to treat the problem and get the value pumping at 50%. While that may sound very low, and it is low, you have to realize that valve had been operating at 40% for years and he was doing well. The goal was to get the value back to where it had been operating. To get it higher than that was truly a blessing we are grateful for and hopeful that the treatment will continue to sustain him at that level or continue to improve his condition.

In early August I lost one of the great loves of my life…my 19 year old cat, Cleopatra. Cleo was my warrior…a true fighter until the very end. Cleo had been diagnosed with kidney failure the previous year but she was holding her own, for the most part. In January, Cleo had this freakish situation that the vets still have no clue what it was. One very cold January morning, I was getting ready to head out for a run. As I was lacing up my shoes, I heard and saw Cleo hacking…getting ready to cough up a hair ball. I thought about leaving and cleaning up whatever she might heave up when I got back, but fortunately I decided to wait. Thank God I did! As she began coughing harder and harder, she collapsed. I was frantic. I called the vet. They told me to bring her in immediately. They spent quite a bit of time with us and couldn’t diagnose the problem. They wanted to put her to sleep, but I refused. I was so shocked since she’d been doing so well prior to that day, I couldn’t get my head around losing her. I told the vet that I wanted one more night with her at home and I’d call the next day to tell them how she was and what I was going to do. The short version of this story is that after that violent coughing incident, Cleo felt better that night. She began eating and drinking again. The next day she seemed much better. It was truly miraculous, but she was bloated. Her body would fill up with air and she’d puff up like a balloon after this incident. I had to take her to the vet each day to get her “tapped.” The vet would inject a needle into her body and extract the air. Over a period of weeks, the tapping became less frequent and eventually whatever it was that was leaking inside of her, healed itself. Did I mention she was my warrior? After this incident, things went back to being normal…normal for her, which meant daily pills and IVs, but she felt like herself and for a 19 year old cat, my vets were amazed by her spirit and her determination. During 2013 there were several times where her kidneys crashed and the vets thought she wouldn’t survive it, but she did. She was tough, determined, a fighter. My vets learned never to underestimate my girl.

In early August, I went to the farmer’s market with my dear friend and running partner. We had a great morning. Cleo was fine when I left, her usual self. When I came home, she was a bit wobbly. This wasn’t unusual. She had bad arthritis, and she hadn’t had any treatments for that in about 6 weeks, so I watched her and just assumed I’d call the vet on Monday to get her scheduled for another series of laser treatments that helped improve her mobility. It wasn’t her arthritis. By 5pm, I was on the phone to my vet, calling him at home saying I need to know where to take Cleo now! She was in crisis and needed help immediately. My vet and his wife were heading to dinner with friends when I called, but they told their friends they had an emergency and would be late. They met me at the clinic. He ran some tests. We hoped it was something structural, like a bone fracture or that her arthritis was just getting much worse. It wasn’t that. It was full kidney failure. My vet looked at me and said, “We need to change her IV formula. We can keep her here on a slow IV all weekend or you can take her home and give her the IV twice a day. Either way, I don’t think the outcome will be any different.” Of course, I chose to bring her home and give her the IVs myself. Unlike in the past, where I was confident she would overcome her medical crisis, I wasn’t this time. I knew this was the end. I slept on the floor with her all weekend because she couldn’t get on and off the bed. Sheba, my 15 year old cat, slept with us part of the weekend and slept alone other times during the weekend, probably coping with what she already knew…we were going to lose Cleo. The hardest part of this was that Cleo was still trying to fight. Her eyes were bright, her spirit was strong…she wanted to live. But her body had given up and given out. Monday morning, August 5, I called the vet. I asked to have their last appointment of the day. I wanted just a little longer with my brave warrior. Putting Cleopatra to sleep was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My last two pets, both ferrets, passed away in their sleep. One of the most comforting posts on Facebook was from my friend who said, “I am so sorry, we have had to do that twice and it’s heartbreaking. Be at peace. It’s the last great act you can do for your pet. I’m thinking of you.” He was right. It was the last great and most loving act I could have done for her. And while my heart is still broken and I’m in tears typing this, I know I did the best thing for her. She was surrounded by love in her final moments…my vet and one of the many vet technicians that treated her over her 19 years on this earth were there and in tears, like I was. The last voice Cleo heard and the last face she saw was mine. That is the way it should be. She’s with God now. She’s at peace and in no pain.

In August, the triumphant trio became the dynamic duo. It was just Sheba and me. During Cleo’s illness, Sheba developed a new habit…she was expressing her distress over Cleo by acting out. The vet thought it was a medical issue. It wasn’t. It was behavioral, emotional. I knew that, but wanted to run the necessary medical tests to be sure. The behavior stopped after we lost Cleo. In the month after losing Cleo, Sheba was a bit lost without her friend who had been with her for her entire life. But I did everything I could to make her loss less traumatic. While I’d see Sheba lying in places Cleo used to lay, I felt she was adjusting to the loss of her life-long companion fairly well…much better than I was adjusting. That’s what I thought.

In October, when I left town to run the Marine Corp Marathon, I had a house sitter/pet sitter for Sheba. Every day, she would text me about how Sheba was doing. It wasn’t good. She was under the bed and wouldn’t come out. She wasn’t eating or drinking much and that’s not like Sheba. She’s my big eater! I got home from the race and she was eating a little better, but not much. A few weeks after I got home from the race, I headed to Kansas City to visit my parents. Sheba’s eating was much worse. She wasn’t eating at all the first couple of days. It got better by the third day and I was home a couple days later. I, of course, took her to the vet to make sure she wasn’t sick. I said to my vet with tears in my eyes, “I can’t lose them both this year!” The vet looked at me and said, “That wouldn’t be fair. We will do everything we can to make Sheba better.” I knew I had to have faith. Sheba’s blood tests came back and all were normal. Again, I had to assume her not eating was behavioral. It was, fortunately. Sheba had never been alone when I was away. Sure, I had the house sitter, but that’s not the same as her constant companion. Sheba was in mourning…just like I was. Once I was done traveling, Sheba started acting like her usual loving self and eating and drinking normally. That was the best Christmas gift I could imagine.

In November, I lost another love in my life, but this one wasn’t a complete loss. Joe, who I’d been seeing since June of 2012, and I had grown apart over the last eight months. I had hoped our trip to DC to run the Marine Corp Marathon would help us reconnect. It didn’t. While we had a great time together, I knew we didn’t have what it took to go the distance and spend the rest of our lives together. It was a tough decision, but the right one. I knew I had to walk away. But this story has a happy ending. We’re still great friends and I’m grateful for that. Many of my friends are in awe of how I’m able to maintain a friendship with my former husband and former boyfriends. My feeling is that if I cared enough about them to spend long periods of my life with them, I should care enough about them to maintain a friendship with them. While partner love is different from friendship love, it’s love. I’ve always felt that friendship love shouldn’t die when the relationship love does as long as there hasn’t been a betrayal of trust or respect. Trust and respect are the foundations of any good relationship, whether it’s between partners or friends.

The holidays got me back to a more joyful place. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with Greg (someone I dated for 5 years prior to meeting Joe) and his family. While people who don’t know me might think that sounds weird, it wasn’t. Greg and his family have always treated me like one of their family. His family knows we’re good friends and I’m also very close to Greg’s oldest sister. The three of us go to dinner every month or so, and it’s always a good time. Friends and family are what the holidays should be about, and I spent my holidays with my extended family and friends.

So what does this story have to do with business?

Our business lives, just like our personal lives, are filled with joy and pain. The pain in our lives is what makes the joy more meaningful and makes us more grateful. I have said in many previous blogs that I feel blessed every day to love my work and my clients, and I never take either for granted. I also know that many people are not as fortunate as I am in this regard. If your business life is more painful than joyful, it might be time to reevaluate and make some changes in the new year.

Wishing you great health, happiness and joy in 2014!

Adaptability Is Crucial in Business and In Racing

October 31, 2013

Anyone who knows me well would probably classify me as an obsessive planner, and I wouldn’t disagree. As a public relations consultant and a personal fitness trainer, I understand the importance of proper planning. A well thought out and executed plan can mean the difference between success and failure. However, unforeseen circumstances that you cannot possibly plan for can arise. When that happens in business and in racing, the key to success is being responsive and adaptable.

The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is the third most popular race in the nation and the tenth most popular race in the world. It’s been on my dream list since I took up running seven years ago. Getting into the race is not easy. It sold out last year in less than three hours and many people were disappointed. I knew this year would be no different and it would likely sell out even faster.

Earlier this year, I found out that MCM would be one of the races for the Runner’s World Challenge. That meant registration for the MCM Challenge would be two days prior to open registration for MCM. I have done three Challenge races, and they were all fabulous experiences. Nobody spoils runners like Runner’s World. And knowing that I could hopefully secure my registration prior to tens of thousands of runners trying to register during open registration was an additional bonus. As soon as the MCM Challenge registration opened, I was online and submitting my information. A few minutes later, I had secured my MCM spot. Knowing that in two days, 30,000 people would have their registration secured, I thought planning ahead would be wise. I booked my flight and did my research on which hotels were closest to the start and the finish. The race start and finish are about two miles apart, so I needed to pick which one I wanted to be closer to on race day. I chose a hotel closer to the starting line and booked it because it was also across from a Metro stop. I knew from being in DC before, a car was not necessary because you could get just about anywhere you wanted to go via the Metro or on foot. By 5pm that evening, I had also researched restaurants, what was on their menus and made dinner reservations for each night I’d be in DC. I was set. With all the logistical details handled, I could focus on my training plan.

I have a number of friends that have run MCM and raved about this race. All of them gave me the same advice. They said, “Don’t run this race for a PR (personal record.) Take your time and experience every mile of this incredible race and course.”

So, with that trusted advice, my training plan was not designed for speed, but for endurance. While I did my usual hill and speed runs, my long runs were done at a slower, relaxed pace that would be similar to my race pace. I expected to finish the race in five hours to five hours and 15 minutes, which means I would average an 11:30 to 12 minute mile pace for 26.2 miles. I felt that pace would let me see all the landmarks on this course and also experience the many moving and emotional aspects of the race.

Everything was going as planned until October 1 when the government shutdown began. Keep in mind that a majority of the MCM course goes by or through parks, monuments and other facilities that were closed due to the shutdown. The race wasn’t until October 27. I was optimistic that the government would have this matter settled long before then. A week passed, then two weeks passed and there was no end in sight. Then I woke up on October 15 to see the following post on MCM’s Facebook page:

Dear Runners,
Since the government shutdown occurred, the Marine Corps Marathon continues its coordination with hopes of a conclusion in time to host the event without impact. Without a resolution to the government shutdown this week, the MCM as planned is in jeopardy of being cancelled.
While still considering and exploring all possible options, the MCM has targeted this Saturday, October 19 as the date to officially notify runners of the status of the event. It is sincerely the hope of everyone associated with the organization of this event that MCM participants can run as planned.
When I read this, I felt sick to my stomach. Runners often think about their race being derailed by an injury, illness or transportation issues such as bad weather cancelling flights, but we never imagined the government could potentially cause our race to be cancelled.

This was an unforeseen circumstance that nobody could have planned for…not the MCM race director and staff, not the Marines, not the MCM volunteers and not the MCM runners. All we could do was hope that things would be reopened by October 19.

All I could think about after reading that post was all the people who had worked so hard to make the 38th Marine Corps Marathon a reality on October 27. That group included the race director, race staff, civilian volunteers and crowds of spectators that were planning to come out and support the runners. The most heartbreaking group was the Marines who view volunteering at this race an honor. And, of course, there were 30,000 runners who had been training for months and their families who were looking forward to celebrating “Mission Accomplished” when their loved ones crossed the finish line.

On October 16, I pulled an all-nighter. I stayed up watching the news to see if Federal lawmakers would come to an agreement to end the shutdown and “kick the can” down the road again. They did.

On October 17, my training plan called for a 5 mile run at an easy, relaxed pace. I headed out the door as I had for the last four months to carry out my plan in the spirit of the Marine Corps motto, Semper Fidelis…Latin for Always Faithful or Always Loyal. I was being faithful and loyal to my plan and hoping to hear good news upon my return from my run.

When I got back home, I checked the MCM Facebook page. A video entitled “We’re So On!” had just been posted. I watched it with joy and was sure I could hear the thunderous voices of 30,000 runners and everyone associated with the MCM shouting “Oorah” at the top of their lungs.

Now, there were just a few more training runs left and then it would be time to pack for the race. I had my packing list that I have used for several years so that I don’t forget anything I might need. My strategy when packing for a race is over pack vs. under pack. The best plan is to have everything you could need on race day because weather conditions can change quickly and that can impact what you wear, how you hydrate and fuel and ultimately how your race unfolds.

My friend and I left for Washington, DC on October 24. Everything went according to plan. The flight departed and arrived on time. Hotel check-in was quick and flawless and the microwave and refrigerator I’d ordered were waiting for me in the room. I headed to the grocery store that was a quarter mile from the hotel (another reason I chose this hotel ) to buy the food I eat each day for breakfast prior to a race because I know this particular breakfast fuels me well and doesn’t upset my stomach. Next we went to the Metro station to buy a Metro pass and headed into the city for dinner. Our table was ready and waiting. So far, everything was going as planned.

The next day, we ate breakfast, got directions at the hotel for dinner that night and took the Metro to the packet pick up location to arrive as soon as the Expo opened at 10am. Because we were with the Runner’s World Challenge, we were able to bypass the very long lines to get our race bibs, participant shirts and drop bags. The Challenge booth had all of that ready for us when we arrived. While at the Challenge booth, we got directions on how to get to the starting line from our hotel. We were told we could walk or take the Metro, but since you have 30,000 runners and their families all trying to get to the same place, it was recommended that we walk to the starting line and skip the Metro. There is nothing more stressful to me than not knowing where you need to be on race day. So, my friend and I took our race bags back to the hotel, grabbed a high carb lunch and headed out to find the starting line area.

We had the hand drawn map that we’d gotten from one of the Runner’s World staff members and followed it. Everything was going as planned until I stepped down on uneven ground and felt an old foot injury rear its ugly head. I hadn’t felt that shooting pain in my foot in quite some time, but I knew what it was immediately. We finished our journey to find the starting area and then headed back to the hotel. I put my foot on ice, elevated and rested it until we left for dinner. Dinner was a bit of a walk from the Metro stop, but my foot felt better after icing it. I thought it was going to be fine. We walked back to the Metro after dinner and when I took off my shoes at the hotel, my foot was sore and I repeated the procedure…ice, elevate and rest. As a personal trainer, I know this is the best thing I could do for the grumpy foot. Saturday, my friend went sightseeing. I chose to rest my foot and continue to ice and elevate it.

On race morning, I woke up, had my usual breakfast and got dressed so that we could walk over to the starting line. The race staff and Runner’s World staff recommended you arrive two hours prior to the race starting to get through security. My foot was sore on race morning, but not painful. I ran an ultra marathon with this same foot injury two years ago, so I knew it could be done. Because the injury is a deep muscle pull, I knew I was at no risk of causing permanent damage, so I was ready to take on the 26.2 miles ahead of me no matter how painful it became.

Another nice thing about the Challenge is that we had our own private tent with tables and chairs. That was a blessing! I knew I wouldn’t be standing on my feet for a couple of hours prior to the race. Being able to rest and elevate my foot really helped.

The race started just before 8am, so around 7:30am, we started walking towards the starting line so we could get in our corrals. The corrals are set up by estimated finishing times. While I had anticipated a 5 hour finishing time, I got into the 4:30 to 5 hour finishing time corral. The reason for this part of my plan is that I know from previous races that the first few miles are very slow due to the crowds and you’re not going to be running that pace until people start to settle into their pace and either surge ahead or drop back. I found I was in the right spot once we started running. I was running between an 11:15 and 11:30 minute/mile pace, which was about right. While running a negative split is ideal (you run your first half of the marathon slower than your second half), I knew that wasn’t likely with my sore foot.
MCM has time limits and there are two check points you must pass before a certain time or you will not be allowed to officially finish the race and you don’t receive a finisher’s medal. One check point, known as the Gauntlet, is at mile 17.5. The other check point at mile 20 is called Beat the Bridge. My plan was to run fast enough that if my foot started to hurt worse as the race progressed, I’d be past the bridge long before the time cut-off so I wouldn’t be in jeopardy of being pulled from the course and not finishing. That would be an unacceptable outcome.

I ran my plan and truly understood why my friends said to take my time and really look around on the course. There were so many things to see. The course begins in Virginia on Route 110 between Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. You run through beautiful Georgetown with its elegant architecture and along the Potomac with the fall leaves bursting with color. You run by a number of memorials before reaching the Gauntlet. But what brought tears to my eyes was a memorial that only runners got to see. There were a series of signs along this one stretch of road. Each sign had the photo of a war hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Under each photo was the officer’s rank and age. The age was the chilling part. Almost all of the photos were of men and women in their 20s. All I could think was God bless them and their families as I could not imagine the loss their loved ones feel and the honor they feel through their pain. This moving memorial was followed by a sea of individuals holding giant American flags. It really put all the government craziness into perspective for me. While our nation has its issues, it is still the greatest country in the world to me. And I have never been more aware of how proud and honored I am to be an American as I was at that moment.

Other things I saw on the course that made me proud were the wounded warriors running with prosthetic legs, hand cyclists pumping up hills with all their might, groups of Marines running in full gear and many “Angels” running while pushing their physically challenged children in large running strollers. Their determination was inspiring.

Throughout the course, Marines lined the streets. Some had megaphones to shout out encouragement to the runners. Others high fived us and cheered us on as we ran by. This was one of the best parts of the race for me. It was my opportunity to try to thank every one of those brave men and women for their service. Their reply was often, “Thank you, mam, for your support.” Seriously…they’re thanking me? Their gratitude was so touching, yet it seemed unwarranted. I’d done nothing special. They have done so much and continue to do extraordinary things for this country. They are the ones who deserve our gratitude.

When I reached the Gauntlet, my foot was starting to hurt but I was an hour and a half ahead of the time limit for that check point, so I felt confident I was on track and the race was going according to plan. My reward for my efforts to this point was turning the corner and seeing the majestic view of the U.S. Capital. It was breathtaking. After that we proceeded to the National Mall where we passed a number of museums. I was now approaching the last check point.

At mile 20, I was ready to “Beat the Bridge.” My foot was really starting to give me some attitude, but I knew I had to push myself and get over the bridge to assure I’d finish in well under the time limit. Once over the bridge, I felt this huge sense of relief. I knew I was going to finish in plenty of time and now I could relax and enjoy the last six miles of the course.

There were so many beautiful things to see the last six miles, but they paled in comparison to what I was feeling…an overwhelming sense of pride. Not because I had run 26.2 miles, but because I was part of something so special, so unique…a chance to witness humanity at its best. Between the 30,000 runners cheering each other on, the Marines giving up their day to be part of our experience, the MCM staff and volunteers who planned for months to make sure we had a great race and the Marines we didn’t see who guarded the course by air and on top of buildings to keep us safe; it was an experience of a lifetime.
My journey ended at the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. As I ran through the finishers shoot, I was greeted by a Marine who presented me with my finisher’s medal, shook my hand, thanked me and congratulated me. I thanked her for her service and being part of the race. As the MCM warming jackets read, “Mission Accomplished!”

So what does this story have to do with business?

Business and racing share so much in common. Good business is about planning, smart strategy, proper execution and positive outcomes. Good business is also about being aware and agile. And good business isn’t just about us…it’s about others and the positive impact we have on other people…clients, vendors, co-workers, etc.

By plotting your course you help ensure a successful outcome. But the best laid plans/courses can have unexpected bumps and detours. How we deal with unforeseen circumstances sets us apart. By being flexible and adapting our plan we can still reach our intended goals and learn some things during the journey’s detours. Those detours may offer opportunities for us to mentor and inspire others along the way.

In business we are often so focused on the finish line that we fail to experience the joy and beauty of the journey. So, the next time your strategic plan doesn’t go exactly as planned, take a look around you. What you might find is that the detour makes the journey and the finish line even more rewarding.

In business and in racing you need to find your happy pace!

May 28, 2013

Once again, this year, I had the honor of running the Flying Pig 10k and 5k with the Having the Courage to Change women.  These women are on an incredible journey as they recover from a variety of addictions and emerge healthy, happy and clean. I have volunteered as their personal trainer and nutrition coach for three years, so I have had the opportunity to watch them grow and be part of their journey.

As we were running the 5k, I noticed a number of kids with shirts that said “Find your Happy Pace.”  That made me smile because running, business and life are all about finding your happy pace.

For some runners, their happy pace is a fast pace and setting a PR (personal record.)  For others, like the Having the Courage to Change Women, their happy pace is the one that gets them to the finish line, however fast or slow that might be, with a sense of accomplishment and pride.  People’s happy pace for their personal and professional lives is quite similar.

In the past, my happy pace for running was the fast, PR happy pace.  But over the last two years I have run races that were so spectacular, such as Big Sur with its incredible views and Labor of Love with its incredible 50 mile distance, that my happy pace has been to just run for the pure love and joy of it and take my time.

After running Labor of Love two weeks prior to the Flying Pig, my body was fatigued from a year of heavy mileage training and the race.  It was nice to run the Pig races with the women at their pace…a slower, joyous, celebratory pace.  That pace screamed of passion and perseverance. It was their happy pace and mine.

After running a 50 mile race, the rule is to take 50 days of recovery.  That means you’re still training but at a more moderate pace and running moderate distances to let your body heal from the race and the year of training leading up to it.  For the first two to three weeks after the Labor of Love, my body was enjoying the lower mileage runs with very moderate weekly mileage.  My pace after the race was about the same as it was during race training…slow and steady.

By the fourth week, things began to change.  While I was still running short distances and low weekly mileage (5-6 mile runs three times a week), I felt my pace starting to pick up.  My Garmin (which tracks my mileage and pace) confirmed that.  There were several runs where my pace was close to my PR pace days.  It felt good to know those days weren’t gone.  On those runs, faster was my happy pace.

My next big race will be the Marine Corp Marathon in October.  This is a race I have wanted to run since I began running about seven years ago.  I haven’t decided what pace I will run…faster to possibly set a PR or slower to enjoy a race I’ve dreamed about for years.  All I know is that whatever pace I decide to run, it will be my happy pace.

So what does this story have to do with business?

We live in a society where instant gratification is the norm, and it’s often expected.  While running your work and personal life at race pace is required at times, especially if you’re on a deadline, most people don’t have to work and live at race pace all the time. In fact, working and living at race pace, like training and racing at race pace all the time, can lead to extreme fatigue and burnout.  In our professional and personal lives, we need to find our happy pace the same way we do in racing.  What we must remember is that our happy pace is not always the same pace. Sometimes our happy pace is fast.  Sometimes it’s slow.  And sometimes it’s something in between.

To find your happy pace, you have to evaluate the situation and set your pace accordingly.  When we do that, we get to the finish line with a smile on our face and a sense of accomplishment…just like the Having the Courage to Change women.

The Labor of Love 50 Mile Ultra Marathon Was a Journey of Love

April 28, 2013

Joe and I met through running in June of 2012. Our love for running is what initially drew us to each other. On our first date, we talked a great deal about running and running our businesses. When Joe asked me about my racing plans for the year, I mentioned I was going to run a 50k race in November as a “training run” for a 50 mile race in honor of my 50th birthday in 2013. I was glad I shared this with him in person instead of on the phone or by email because I really wanted to see his body language when I asked him if he thought I was crazy. He looked me in the eyes and said, “No, I think it’s amazing!” And my journey with Joe and the 50 mile race officially began at that moment.

Over the next week or so, Joe would ask me a lot of questions about training for that kind of distance including the time and mileage involved and the process of deciding on which race to run. I explained to him that I had done a great deal of research on various 50 mile races and found that there are many trail races of that distance, but not that many road races of that distance. Since I’m a road racer, I only had about a dozen options. Joe was fascinated by what I’d found and asked if he could see my research. I was happy to share my findings and was interested in his take on what I’d found.

A couple of weeks after we met, I invited Joe to my house for dinner. While he was standing in the kitchen with me as I was preparing dinner he mentioned, again, that he’d be very interested in seeing my race research. I smiled and said, “Make yourself comfortable at the dining room table (which is right behind my kitchen so we can talk easily while I make dinner), that folder is my research on all the races. Take a look at each race and tell me what you think while I cook.”

Joe methodically read the information from each race and commented on them as he went through the file. Listening to his comments about each race was like an echo of everything I had thought when I read each race’s information. He joked about one race saying, “They give you a mug for running 50 miles? Are they kidding?” I laughed and said that I had thought the same thing. I had ruled that race out for that very reason, even though it was in driving distance, had a fairly flat course and a reasonable finishing time limit. As he continued to review the research he determined one race was going to be way too hot, one was too tedious since you run a 2 mile loop 25 times, another could be in ice and snow, a third had a midnight starting time due to high temperatures and humidity and since I was a morning person, that might really send my body clock into shock in addition to the heat and humidity. Several other races had what I viewed as aggressive finishing times and Joe’s comment was, “Do you want to spend 50 miles worrying if you’re going to finish in time and possibly not get a finishers medal and have your race results listed as a DNF (did not finish)? I smiled and told him that I had the exact same thoughts.

Finally, he got to the information on the Labor of Love. Joe didn’t know it, but I had already chosen this race as the one I was going to run, even though logic would say it was the worst possible choice for a number of reasons. As Joe read through the information he said, “Okay, I know this in in high elevation and that is an issue for several reasons including the fact you can’t train for those conditions here. The course is brutally hilly, by far the toughest of any of the races you researched. But you have adequate time to finish this race. I know how determined you are. So, even if the course and the elevation beat you up, I know you’ll finish. This is the race I would choose.” As he’s saying this, I’m cutting up vegetables for the salad, so I have my back to him. I turned around, smiled and said, “Interesting you came to that conclusion. I felt the same way about everything you said and have chosen to run that race.” Joe replied, “Well, I know what my job will be…to get your ice bath ready and call room service because you’re probably not going to be up for going out to dinner after you finish that race.”

At this point in my life, few things surprise me. But that comment did. What surprised me was that we’d only been going out a couple of weeks and he was committing to going with me to Nevada for a race that was nearly a year away. What surprised me even more was that I truly believed he’d end up going with me on this adventure.

About four weeks after this conversation, race registration for the Labor of Love opened. I registered immediately even though I knew there was no chance of the race selling out. I not only registered for the 50 miler on Saturday, I also registered for the 10k on Sunday. My thinking on the second race was two-fold. First, I knew it would be good to try to keep blood flowing in my legs the next day, especially since it’s a long flight home that night and there is an increased chance of deep vein thrombosis. Second, if I did the two races back to back, Love Me Two Times, I’d get three medals. I thought that was well worth some additional pain and effort.

Once I got confirmation of my registration, I was on the phone to the airline to see if I could use miles for my flight. In a matter of minutes, I was committed to this race, had a flight and was ready to research hotels. I emailed Joe that I’d registered for the races and booked my flight. Within minutes, he emails back asking me to send him my flight information so he could book the same flight. I emailed the information to him and within minutes, he’s emailing me his flight confirmation. I then called the airline to let them know we’d be traveling together so they could seat us together. Now we’re both committed to this adventure.

A couple weeks later, Joe asks me if I looked at the finishing times of the marathon for this race last year. I told him I’d looked at all the race finishing times…the 10k, marathon, 50k, 50 mile and 100 mile. He commented on the finishing times being somewhat slow for a marathon. I just smiled and reminded him this course is brutal and it’s in high elevation. I commented that I thought the winner’s time was actually quite good considering the race conditions, and the other finishing times seemed to be in line with the conditions too. Then I asked him why he was looking at the marathon times. He replied, “Because I’m going to run the marathon, go back to the hotel to clean up, eat something and be back to see you cross the finish line.”

Keep in mind, Joe is a very fast runner. I am not! I laughed at his comment and told him he’d have time to clean up, have lunch, take a long nap, have dinner and have a late night snack before he had to head back to the race to see me finish. He told me he didn’t care, and he’d be waiting for me no matter how long it took me to finish. That’s commitment.

A few days later, Joe told me he signed up for the marathon and the 10k the following day. He went on to say, “If you can’t get out of bed and aren’t up to doing the 10k on Sunday, I won’t think any less of you. You know that, right? You will have accomplished something extraordinary by completing the 50 miler. That’s the goal. That’s what’s important.” I told him I appreciated him telling me that. But his job was to get me out of bed and on that course on Sunday, no matter how lousy I felt. I told him I knew there would be no way I could run the 10k, but felt I would be up to walking it. He said that if I was up to walking the 10k, he’d walk it with me. That’s teamwork.

A couple weeks later, I see that Runner’s World is doing their first Runner’s World Challenge of 2013 at Disney World. They’re doing the Goofy Challenge. The Goofy Challenge is a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full marathon on Sunday. You get a Donald Duck medal for the half, a Mickey Mouse medal for the full and a Goofy medal for being goofy enough to do them back to back. (I tell people you get a Goofy medal because there wasn’t an eighth dwarf called Crazy!) The Goofy Challenge has been on my dream race list since I took up running in 2006. And with 2013 being the 20th anniversary of the race, I knew this was my year to do it.

As soon as I saw this on the Runner’s World Challenge web site, I emailed Joe. “Do you think doing the Goofy Challenge is crazy and too aggressive after the 31 miler? I’m thinking this would be a good training run for Nevada. What do you think?” He emails back, “I checked the dates on the Goofy Challenge which would make the timeline as follows – 50k November, half and full marathon middle of January and 50 miles in April. It all sounds doable and if completed successfully I will award you the coveted running machine medal. Time to get a whole new medal rack, baby!” That’s faith!

I signed up for the Goofy Challenge moments later. I ran it in January and had so much fun. After finishing each of the two races, I didn’t have to log on to the Disney web site to see how I did. I was greeted each day by a text message or voice mail from Joe who was tracking me online. When I got back from the half marathon, Joe’s voice mail said, “You nailed it. You said you wanted to run the half at a relaxed pace and finish in 2:30 so your legs won’t be tired for tomorrow’s marathon. You ran it in 2:29. Your pacing was perfect. Great job and good luck tomorrow. I’ll talk to you this afternoon after you take your ice bath.” The next day, it was the same thing. Joe knew my results before I did, so I didn’t need to log onto the Disney web site. When I got back to the hotel, I was greeted with his congratulatory messages telling me how proud he was of me.

Now I had two races (technically three) down, with the largest one yet to go. My training for the 50 miler began within days of finishing the Goofy Challenge. Normally, you let your body recover after long races, but with the training schedule I’d designed, that was not an option if I wanted to be successful in my “A race” endeavor. The back to back long runs each weekend began immediately, after running close to 40 miles at Disney. Disney prepared me for the coming months of 40 mile weekends.

Every night we’d talk about our day…at work and on the road with our runs. Joe’s runs would be fast and fabulous. Mine would be slow and sometimes exhausting. I’d say to Joe, my body is fatigued. I feel really good. I have no pain. I’m tolerating the abusive mileage in all the ways that matter, but some days my body feels a little worn out. Joe would tell me how amazed he was at how my body and I were handling all the mileage, especially after doing the 50k and the Goofy Challenge so close together with no recovery time after them. Sometimes I’d reply by reminding him that I wasn’t running at race pace like he was. I was running more at a snail’s pace. Again, he’d say what I was enduring was incredible and I shouldn’t lose sight of that. “You’re amazing,” he’d say. That’s support!

February and March flew by. The majority of Joe’s time was consumed by tax season, since he’s a CPA. He got long training runs in whenever possible. The majority of my time was consumed with work and getting all my training runs in, which meant more than 50 miles a week which is about twice what I usually run.

One night in March, Joe exclaimed we were just over a month from race day. I gently corrected him by saying technically we were just less than two months from race day. That sounded much less intimidating to me. I was starting to get anxious, which is very unlike me. A couple weeks later, I mentioned in a morning email to Joe that I was a bit nervous about what food to take and what I needed to pack in my drop bags and whether it would be the right combinations and choices. He sent back a very reassuring email, saying that I wasn’t alone and we’d get through this together. He ended the email by telling me I would be the best trained and best prepared athlete at the race. I knew better. But that email was very reassuring to me. That’s encouragement.

It was April before we knew it…race month and time for me to start my taper. Taper is where you cut back on your mileage significantly to let your body recover from many months of heavy mileage and abuse, nine consecutive months in my case. Many runners dread the taper because they have a lot of time on their hands and that time can make them anxious and cause them to feel like they should be running more and training harder. As a personal trainer, I know the importance of the taper and that a proper taper helps you have a better race. I used my spare time during the taper to resolve last minute details and purchase final items for the drop bags. It was time well spent and helped me relax a little bit.

A few nights before we left for Nevada, Joe says, “Honey, I think it’s time we address the elephant in the room.” I laughed and asked which elephant? Joe replied, “You know this is going to be ugly. We’re talking high elevation, 80 degree heat, a brutal course of nothing but hills. There’s going to be a lot of pain for both of us.” I laughed and replied that I knew that, but felt there was no point in focusing on those things. That’s honesty.

As we got closer to race day, we talked about what I thought my average pace would be and what I thought my finishing time would be. I know that every race is different and some days you own the course and some days the course owns you. I was hoping it would be the former, but was prepared if it was the latter. Both Joe and I came up with the same finishing time estimate and we came up with that using the same logic. Our original plan was for me to pack my phone and call him when I reached mile 44. That would give him enough time to make the one hour drive to the race site from our hotel. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. When I emailed the race director to find out which drop bag I should put the phone in to be able to do this, she informed me that cell service was spotty to non-existent on the course. I told Joe what she said about the cell service and that there is no live/online tracking for this race, so it wasn’t an option for him to track me. He replied, “I will be at the finish waiting for you no matter what and no matter how long it takes you to finish. If I have to wait for hours, I will. I’ll bring a book and wait for you. I will be there when you cross that finish line, and I will carry you to the car if you can’t make it another step further!” That’s compassion.

I’m a planner…many would say I’m an obsessive planner. We flew out two days before the race so we could pick up our race packets, make sure we knew how to get to the race, drive the course and see how the elevation felt. When we drove the course, we had a much better feel of what was in store. The hills on the elevation map looked brutal. Driving them was intense. So, we decided to park at the bottom of the longest, steepest hill and run up it to see how it felt in high elevation. It felt like someone beat me breathless. Joe ran up it a bit farther than I did, but slowed to a walk and I caught up to him. We looked at each other and I jokingly said, well, we’ve now addressed the elephant and let him take a swing at us with this trunk. But at least we knew what we were up against. And for me, that’s comforting. I don’t like surprises on race day.

Next thing we knew, it was race day. We got to the race in plenty of time to hear the race instructions. Since the Boston Marathon bombing had occurred earlier that week, there was a moment of silence. Runners are a family, a very special community. So we all were feeling more grateful than ever to be alive and able to run and pay tribute to those who died, were injured and who helped save lives.

Shortly after our moment of silence, the countdown clock started. Joe and I wished each other good luck, kissed each other goodbye and we were off! One of the many great things about the Labor of Love course is the marathoners have to do some back tracking, so I knew I’d see Joe again sometime before and after I hit the 11 mile marker which was also a turnaround point for the 50 and 100 mile ultra marathoners. As I mentioned, Joe is very fast and I am not. So, since he had to run four more miles on his course before I hit the 11 mile marker, we caught up with each other and were able to run a while together which was great. The next thing we knew, we were approaching the steep, long hill. I told Joe to go ahead because I was going to walk it. Joe insisted we walk it together and said he’d pick up the pace once we crested the hill. It was a lot more fun tackling that climb together. As we were climbing the hill, we checked our watch and Joe asked if I thought my second half would be the same pace as my first. I told him there was no way since it was starting to get hot and windy. But I was still confident of making it to the finish line by the time we’d calculated. I told him that he should stick to that pick up plan and if something significant happened to delay me, I left him a head lamp in the car so he could read while he waited for me.

At the top of the hill, Joe took off, pacing for the finish line. As he was heading out, he told me he’d see me at the finish which for my race was mile 22 and my second check point. When I got to the check point, I was about 5 hours into the race. Joe saw me check in and asked if I thought I was still on track to finish in the time we’d predicted. I said yes, I’ll be done by 8 or 8:30pm as long as I don’t hit the wall head on. (Hit the wall is an endurance sports term where your body starts to give you a lot of grief or it shuts down and makes the rest of the race extremely slow and painful until you’re able to refuel with carbohydrates and get some energy back Sometimes, if you hit the wall really hard, you never recover and the rest of the race is miserable.)

Once Joe was finished, I still had “friends” on the course. Because of the way the race was laid out, the 50 and 100 mile ultra runners were looping each other regularly. It was great to see friendly faces, cheer each other on and get any updates about what food was at the upcoming ultra stations.

By Mile 33, I was still feeling good, but I knew I was getting some hot spots on my feet. Hot spots need to be treated quickly before they become blisters that can wreak havoc on your body and your race. So, after I checked in, I did some foot care to prevent further damage, had the volunteers reapply my sunscreen and I was on my way. The volunteer not only applied my sunscreen, he coated my feet in this protective skin-like product and offered to tie my shoes. I smiled and said, “Do I look that bad?” He said, no, you look great, but I just want to make sure you don’t have to exert any more energy than necessary. That’s kindness and grace.

That was the last time I’d be at that check point in the race, so I thanked the volunteer and told him it was okay to load my drop bag in the truck and take it to the finish line when he left at 7pm. Mile 38.5 was the last ultra station and drop bag stop before the finish line. I grabbed my head lamp, my reflective vest and a long sleeve shirt to tie around my waist since I knew I might need them sometime near mile 44. And once I hit the last check point at mile 44, I didn’t want to stop for any reason other than to show my race number and head back out for the last six miles.

I checked in and headed out for the final miles of my journey. The next time I’d see that check point would be when I crossed the finish line. Miles 44-47 were uphill. I was walking them for the most part. Once I hit the turnaround, it was getting dark and the cars were making me nervous (the race was not closed to traffic at any time.) I took advantage of the downhill and the fact I’d paced well so I had energy in my tank to run the last three miles…really run!

There was a woman on the course who I’d played “cat and mouse” with for about the last third of the race. Sometimes she’d pass me and sometimes I’d pass her and we did this dance for most of the last 15 miles. She was quite a bit ahead of me when I hit the turnaround. But once I hit the downhill and started running, I was a woman on a mission. I was 3 miles from victory and accomplishing what I’d dreamed about for almost a year. As I passed her, I shouted “Good job. We’re almost there. I’ll see you at the finish!” She shouted back, “Wow you look strong. Good for you!”

When I got to the finish line there were a lot of things waiting for me…my medal, hot food and, of course, Joe. I finished in just under 13 hours. Joe and I had estimated a 13 to 13.5 hour finishing time based on my 22 mile check point time. He smiled when he saw me and said, “You did great. That was amazing.” I thanked him and said, “Let’s get out of here. We need some rest before we have to race again tomorrow.”

Sunday, we were back at the race site to run the 10k. The 10k course was my last 6 miles of the 50 miler, so I was very familiar with this. I had planned to walk the 10k and Joe had said he’d walk it with me. But I didn’t want Joe to sacrifice his race for me. So, I started out jogging. Joe said, “Are we running this? I replied, “We’re not. But you are. Go! I’ll see you at the finish.” Joe took off, and I slowed to a brisk walking pace. When Joe was on his way to the finish, I still hadn’t hit the turnaround. I cheered him on and said I’d see him soon. Once I hit the turnaround, it was déjà vu from the night before. I saw the downhill, knew the finish was near and took off running. Once again, Joe was waiting for me at the finish line. But he had something special in his hand. He’d won his age group for the 10k after running the marathon the day before! That’s drive and determination. I was so glad I told him to go on without me. And I was so impressed and proud of him.

The Labor of Love and Love Me Two Times races let each of us accomplish something very special and it was made even more special because we got to do it together and truly share our labor of love for running. I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate turning 50, and there is no one I would have rather shared this experience with than Joe.

So what does this story have to do with business?
I’ve said in previous blogs that I am very fortunate to love what I do. I love my work with my public relations firm and my corporate wellness/personal fitness firm. And I love training for endurance races. When our work is a labor of love, it hardly seems like work. It’s a joy. It’s rewarding. That’s the way it should be.

As we work with others at our offices, I think it’s important to keep in mind some of the qualities I highlighted in this blog.

Commitment: Without it, your personal work product suffers and the company you work for suffers to. If you’re not committed to doing the best job you possibly can, something is wrong, and it’s time to reevaluate your work situation.

Teamwork: Some of the greatest business leaders in the world are the first to say they achieved personal and business success by surrounding themselves with smart, hard working people. They created a team that shares a common vision and works well together to achieve the company’s goals.

Faith: When we have faith in our abilities and others we work with, we can accomplish great things.

Support: Successful business people are the first to acknowledge they can’t do it all alone. They need the support of other people…people with skills they don’t have or skills that are complimentary but add to the business person’s skill set. As business owners and managers, we need to support our people. We need to share our vision, mission and goals with them. By charting a clear course, we insure success and people don’t feel they’re on their own to do it all.

Encouragement: One of the top reasons people say they leave their companies is not because of money, but because they didn’t feel valued and appreciated. When we encourage people at our offices, we show them that their ideas and hard work are respected. And that inspires them to work even harder.

Honesty: Many times people are asked for their opinion, but they’re afraid to be honest and tell their bosses what they really think. While I realize this can be a career limiting move in some companies, it shouldn’t be. Tactful, well thought out, honest opinions are where some of the most brilliant and profitable ideas come from.

Compassion, Kindness and Grace : We spend a significant portion of our day at work. Treating your coworkers with decency is critical. People want to know they are more than just a workhorse to the company, their boss and their team. When we practice the “Golden Rule” at work the results are clear. The staff feels they are part of a bigger picture and a true contributor to their success and the success of the company.

Drive and Determination: Without this, there is no chance of success, in my opinion. When people are determined to succeed and driven to do their best, everyone benefits…employees, management, companies, vendors and customers.

So if your work isn’t a labor of love, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your work situation. I’m not saying that we all have to love our jobs every minute of every day. We all have tough days at the office. That’s a given. But if our work is drudgery, perhaps it’s time to look within ourselves and our companies and figure out what it would take to make our work a labor of love.

Magic and happiness are all around us in racing and at work.

January 21, 2013

When I decided to run the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge (a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday), my goal was to run this race as my second training race for the 50 mile race I am doing in April. Because I was using this race to continue to get a feel for my long mileage endurance pacing, fueling and ultra marathon race strategy, I decided this would be the perfect experience to take my time and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the Disney Goofy Challenge.

The half marathon starts at 5:30am. That means you’re running most or the entire race (depending on your pace) in the dark. There is something truly magical about Disney at night. The highlights of this course included the castle all lit up and Main Street Disney lit up and lined with cheering spectators. While I didn’t rush my pace on this race, I didn’t take my time either. The first eight miles of the half marathon course are the same as the marathon course, so I just wanted to get this race done at my relaxed goal pace, get off my feet and get into an ice bath to let my body recover and rest for the marathon the following day.

The marathon started at 5:30am, just like the half marathon. The fireworks for this race at the starting line were fantastic, just like for the half marathon. I had planned to run this race with a friend, but we got separated when I went to make a pit stop prior to the race. So, I started the race “alone” with 25,000 new friends.

I was doing the Goofy Challenge as part of the Runner’s World Challenge. This was my third race with the RWC. One of the many things I love about the Runner’s World Challenge is that you have plenty of time to meet your fellow Challengers prior to the race. During the days leading up to the race, I happened to be in the RWC hospitality room at the same time as Garrett, a teacher whose wife, two year old daughter and mom were at the race to cheer him on. We talked about races we’d done, our finishing goals for the Goofy Challenge and lots of other things runners talk about with each other.

I ran by several of my fellow challengers in the first half of the marathon. We exchanged “good jobs” and continued at our individual paces. About mile 14, I caught up to Garrett. We seemed to be running the same pace, so we decided to run together for as long as our paces matched. One of the great things about Garrett is that he recognized a lot of the Disney characters on the course…newer ones that I didn’t recognize. He and his wife are big Disney fans, so he knew a lot of interesting history about the various parks on the course. It was great to have a “tour guide.” It really enhanced the experience for me. Also, because he was such a Disney fan, he stopped for some of the photo opportunities with the characters on the course. I have to say, that was a lot of fun and since neither of us was in a hurry to finish, I was glad we took the time to stop at a few places. I would never have done this with my friend because he is not a fan of Disney or the whole character experience, and I would have missed out on a lot of the “magical” moments at the “happiest place on earth. “

So how does this story relate to business?

Sometimes, we get so focused on the final goal and end product of our work, that we don’t take the time to appreciate the process of getting to the finish. When we fail to embrace and appreciate the process that leads to our destination, we miss out on learning opportunities and often having some fun while on the journey. So the next time you’re all wrapped up in getting the job done, take a moment to slow down and use all your senses to embrace the experience and make it more “magical.” It may not only enhance your journey, but it may also result in a better and more creative end product. And that might make you feel like you’re in the “happiest place on earth.”