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.”

It’s Best to Think Positive and Not Make Assumptions in Racing and in Business

December 13, 2012

I truly believe in practicing what I preach as a personal trainer and distance running conditioning specialist. When I’m training for a race or series of races, I design a training plan and follow it. With that said, just because someone follows a training plan, doesn’t mean all the training runs will go well. In fact, I’ve never had a training season where every long training run went well. I usually have one or two long runs that go poorly, but that’s not uncommon during a 16 week training season where you’re running three to four times per week.

While training for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k (31 miles) in Kansas City, most of my long training runs were disappointing. This was a new experience for me.

One of the things I stress with clients is that you must train with the products the race is serving on the race course. This particular race was serving products I had never tried. I spent eight weeks trying to get my body to accept the new products, but it wouldn’t. The products made me ill and the runs were unpleasant because of that. I struggled due to a lack of fuel and my body “hitting the wall” causing me to walk some or most of the mileage during the long training runs. While the runs didn’t go well, I sucked it up and finished every run and completed the mileage according to the plan no matter how long it took.

By the time I realized I wouldn’t be able to force my body to tolerate the products, I had accumulated a lot of knowledge. The main thing I knew was the only thing I’d be able to drink on this particular race course was water. So I had to plan accordingly by carrying my own fueling products…products I’d used successfully in the past.

When training for an ultra marathon, or a series of ultra marathons in my case, the most important thing is spending a lot of time on your feet. So, training runs with walking mileage have some benefits. And while I wasn’t happy with how the runs went, I was happy that I completed all the mileage for each training run.

I arrived in Kansas City a few days before the race. K.C. is my home town and my dad was nervous about my running this race. I had been in K.C. four weeks earlier for his birthday and we’d driven the course. All he could say the entire time was, “This is all uphill. I’m exhausted driving this. How in the world are you going to run this?” I explained to my father that while my training hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped, I was ready and had trained adequately for the race. I was prepared, and I would finish within the time limit.

The night before the race, I told my dad I’d be up at 2am to eat breakfast but I’d be very quiet so I wouldn’t wake him, my mom or the dog. He asked me if I was taking a cell phone with me on the course. I told him there was no need. I knew why he was asking this. I explained to him that if something horrible happened to me, and that was highly unlikely, he is the emergency contact listed on the back of my race bib, so the race would call him since I’d be in no condition to do so. Regardless of my logic, my father kept insisting that I take a phone. His next comment was, “What if you get tired or your foot starts hurting and you don’t want to finish? Don’t you want a phone so you can call me to pick you up?” Again, I explained to him that unless they were taking me off the course in an ambulance, I’d finish. I explained that the foot injury from last year was much better and while I had some discomfort during training, it was a muscular issue and not structural. As a trainer I know when to stop and the foot was fine. I told him that I expected to finish in seven hours, based on my training runs going badly, and told him where to meet me at 2pm. Keep in mind I ran a 30 mile ultra marathon in just under six and a half hours the previous year with the foot injury only 60% healed. This year, it was 90% healed, but the training runs were so far below my expectations that I assumed a seven hour finish was what I could reasonably expect.

Race morning arrives. I get up as scheduled at 2am and eat my usual breakfast (six egg whites, a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of black coffee) and head back to bed to rest a bit at 2:15am. I never sleep the night before a race, so resting is relative. It’s more about staying off my feet and visualizing the race I hope to run before I need to get dressed and head out so my dad can drop me off near the starting line.

At 2:20am I hear this quiet knocking on my bedroom door. It’s my dad. He says, “Aren’t you supposed to be up at 2am eating breakfast?” I reply, “I already ate. Why are you up?” He says, “You were so quiet, I didn’t hear you. And I’m up because I’m racing today, and I can’t sleep!” He then asks me again, are you sure you don’t want to take a phone? I have never seen my father this nervous. This is so unlike him. So, to ease his mind, I tell him I will take a phone with me and I will call him on his cell phone when I get to mile 25 so he knows it’s time to head down to the race and pick me up. My father doesn’t leave his cell phone on, so I remind him to turn it on at 1pm since I’m hoping to finish around 2pm. He tells me he will turn it on at noon.

One of the things I regularly tell people is that some days the race course owns you and some days you own the race course. Over the years, I’ve experienced both.

I woke up on race morning feeling great and felt good at the starting line. But once the gun goes off, anything can happen between the start and finish lines.

I start with a pack of about 250 men and women who are running the 50k and we all have a bounce in our step and are filled with anticipation. I remind myself not to start too fast and to find a comfortable pace and settle into it. As I make the third turn, a young woman in her 20s asks if it’s okay if she runs with me. I tell her, absolutely! It’s always nice to have company and make new friends on the course. I ask her about her finishing goal and she tells me it’s purely to finish. I’m thinking that’s perfect. We’re probably going to run the same pace and we can hang out together for a while. As we continue on our journey, I find out her name is Maria, she’s studying to be a doctor and she’s always been a runner ever since she was a kid. With this knowledge I ask, “So, I know your goal is to finish, but do you have a goal time in mind?” She replies that she does. It’s two hours more than her slowest marathon finishing time. Again, I’m thinking I have lucked out and found a good running partner for this race. But being a former investigative reporter, I have to ask the obvious question, “What was your slowest marathon time?” She replies it was four hours. Holy smoke! I know I’m pacing too fast if she’s running with me. But I feel good at that pace, so I stick with it knowing I will adjust my pace as necessary. About three miles into the race, Maria says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going to walk to that stop light. I have some leg cramps.” I explain to her that if I start taking walk breaks this soon in the race, I’ll be in trouble. So we agree that she’ll work out her cramp and catch up to me since she’s the fast runner and I’m not. That’s exactly what happened and we continued on together for a few more miles. She got another cramp. Same thing, she stopped to walk it out and caught up to me. The third time, that didn’t happen. I never saw Maria again, but by running with her, I realized I probably started out too fast, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. So, my strategy is to listen to my body and do what it tells me. That’s always a good strategy.

Since Kansas City is my home town, we ran through some very special, sentimental parts of the city that hold lots of fond childhood memories for me. Several of the places we ran by were places my grandmother and I used to go when I was young. My family lost her two years ago, but I felt her spirit with me the entire race.

We also ran through some spectacular places I had never seen. I got caught up in the beauty of the course including a bridge over the river, stairs that take you down to a path beside the river and this overlook where you can see for miles. As I got caught up in the beauty of the course, I really wasn’t paying attention to my pace. I was paying attention to my body and it said it felt pretty good. I took some walk breaks to conserve energy up some steep hills where head winds were beating us up, but for the most part, I was feeling good. Next thing I know, I see a sign that says I’m at mile 20. I look at my GPS watch and realize I’m way ahead of my expected pace. I’d been running for three and a half hours. Doing the math in my head, I realized I might finish in closer to six hours than seven hours and was glad I brought my phone. Father knows best, as they say! But I also knew that, as runners say, the wheels can fall off at any time during a race and I still had 11 miles to go.

When I saw the mile marker and water stop at mile 25 I looked at my watch. It was only 11:40am. My father wasn’t going to turn his phone on before noon. I picked up my phone and called him. My voice mail said, “Dad, it’s 11:40am and I’m at mile 25. I’m way ahead of schedule. When you get this message at noon, you need to get in the car and head down to the finish line to meet me. I’ll see you soon.”

The last six miles were the most exciting. As I looked at my running watch, I realized I really could break six hours. Prior to this point, I’d stopped at almost all the aid stations to get water and make sure I was staying well hydrated. But once I left the station at mile 25, I was a woman on a mission and there would be no stopping or stopping me.

As I rounded the final turn I passed the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum, one of my favorite places in K.C. and a place where my grandmother and I spent many afternoons when I was a child. I felt my heart and soul fill with joy and all I could think is that she would have loved this moment and seeing me finish this race. As I headed down the final hill, I could see the finish line. I still had some energy left, and I kicked it into high gear. I was going to break six hours. As I crossed the timing mat at the finish, all I could see was the finisher’s clock…5:52:31. Then I heard this voice shouting, “Lauren, you did fantastic. You had a great race!” It was my dad. He’d gotten the message in time and was able to see me finish the race. My father had never seen me run or race, so this was a thrilling moment for us to share. He was beaming and so was I. I’m not sure who was happier or more proud.

So what does this story have to do with business?
In racing and in business, the road to the finish is an adventure. Sometimes the road is smooth and sometimes it’s rough. But what you have to remember in both circumstances is that just because the majority of the journey is rough, it doesn’t automatically mean that the ending will be equally difficult. Race and business situations can surprise us…in good ways and in bad ways. The key is to take each day and each part of the journey as it comes. If you are prepared, stay focused and maintain a positive attitude, you’re more likely to have a rewarding outcome.

When We Help People Achieve Their Goals and Dreams, We Experience Rewards Far Greater Than Money.

October 25, 2012

Over the winter, I started training several clients to run races of various distances. Their accomplishments are inspiring and I was proud and honored to be part of their journey. And now I want to share their journey with you.

Heidi was a runner in her youth, but got away from it after college. Today, she’s a talented executive, wife and mother. We’ve known each other for years as business associates through my public relations company. One day she called and said, “I want to get back into running and improve my fitness. I need your help!” One of the things that struck me about Heidi was her reason for wanting to be more fit. She wanted to be a good role model to her 3 year old daughter.

Over a period of months, we worked on improving Heidi’s eating habits. She works long hours and travels quite a bit for work. My job was to make eating healthier easier for her, whether at home or on the road. I also wanted her to focus on her nutrition because it’s critical in fueling her workouts.

Summer came and she wanted to run a 5k. She emailed me the link to the race she was considering. I emailed her back that I thought it looked like a fun race and I would run it with her. She was shocked. She called me and said, “Trainers don’t run races with their clients.” I replied, “This trainer does.”

We ran the race together and had a great time. But the best part of the race was seeing the look on her face as we crossed the finish line. She felt a sense of accomplishment and pride. And being there to share it with her was amazing.

Keri and I have known each other through our passion for yoga. Keri is an outstanding yoga instructor. I would take her classes on Fridays to get loosened up and stretched out before my long runs on Saturday during marathon and ultra marathon training season. After class, she and I would talk about my running, my racing and how much she missed running. It broke my heart to see the look in her eyes when she said that.

Keri was training with a running group for her first marathon back in 2006. She got injured early in the training process and never made it to the starting line. Since then, she told me she was never able to run more than three or four miles without being in significant discomfort or pain. Knowing how fit she is and that she’s a fellow fitness professional, I was almost certain I knew what she was doing wrong and what would get her back to running longer distances.

After class one day, she was talking about the beautiful weather and how she used to love running in nice weather. I told her that I wasn’t sure that running longer distances had to be part of her past. I thought, with the right, safe training, it could once again be part of her present and future. I invited her to run with me and see if I could get her past this wall of pain she kept hitting. I told her there were three rules she had to follow: 1. She couldn’t wear a watch. 2. She couldn’t look at my GPS watch. 3. She had to tell me immediately if she felt any pain. She agreed.

The following week, we went for a run together. I could tell she was excited and hopeful. So was I. We talked throughout the run and the time and miles flew by. Every so often, I would ask her if she was feeling okay and if she was having any pain. She replied she was fine. The last time I asked, she told me she was feeling a little tightness, but no pain. I said that’s to be expected and asked her if she thought she could run a few more minutes. She said she could and we did. After a few minutes, I told her it was time for a one mile walking cool down. She looked at me and asked, “So, did we run three miles?” I replied, “No, we ran six miles.” The look of elation and accomplishment on her face was priceless. She couldn’t believe she ran six miles with no pain. I told her that what I suspected was the problem was indeed the issue. She was running way too fast and her body and her old injury were revolting. I told her that training at a more moderate pace would allow her to enjoy the sport she loved and help her be pain and injury free.

She decided to train with me and we did our long runs together every week. As the weeks progressed, she mentioned how much she would like to run a half marathon one day. I told her if that was the goal, we’d train for it and make it happen. We continued to run a little longer each week and maintain a moderate pace. She continued to get more confident that she could run longer mileage and one week I told her it was time to sign up for a half marathon. I had one picked out for months, and I knew she was ready. We signed up to run it together. I could see her excitement building after that.

On one of her long runs, she shared a story with me. She was trying to explain to her three boys how far she was going to run in the race. So, she drove them around on some errands to try to help them visualize how far 13.1 miles is. She didn’t have a lot of errands that day, and only drove about half that distance, but her boys were in awe of how long it took to drive and how far it was.

Race day came and I knew Keri was ready. We treated the race like a training run. We paced evenly and embraced the joy of running together and talking as we ran. The next thing she knew, we were a mile from the finish and she was about to see a dream she thought was impossible, come true. The best part was her husband and three boys were waiting at the finish line. We crossed the finish together with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. Words cannot begin to describe how I felt seeing her achieve this milestone. Her husband and children were so proud of her. They admired her medal and she just beamed. Helping Keri on her journey was incredible. But being beside her as she achieved a dream and met her goal meant more to me than words can say.

Rob was my first client after I got certified as a personal fitness trainer. We’d known each other professionally, through my PR firm, for a couple of years. And our love of running strengthened our professional relationship. When we’d run into each other at Chamber or other business events, we never talked about business. We talked about running.

When Rob wanted to take his running to the next level, he hired me to help him. He had been running 5ks and wanted to run a 10k. I trained him to do that and he had a great race in the spring. After that race, he told me he wanted to run a half marathon. He chose the one he wanted to run and I designed a training program to make sure he was ready. During this time, his wife, Terri, decided she wanted to move up from 5ks to a 10k and I designed her training program too. When I told Rob that I would run the half marathon with him, he thought that was great. We talked and emailed regularly during the training process. We talked about his goal and while we both agreed it should be to have fun and finish, he said he’d like to run the half marathon in two hours and ten minutes. I knew my goal was to pace him. Rob is a fast runner. I saw his training run splits. I also know that racers can get caught up in the starting line excitement and go out too fast. This is not a good strategy. The goal is to go out slow and run what’s known as a negative split…a faster second half than first half of the race. My job was to make sure that happened. It did.

On race day, we started at a moderate pace and every time Rob picked up the pace, I’d jokingly say, “Easy Rocky! We have 10 more miles!” At mile 10, Rob said, “If I’m still feeling this good at mile 11, I’m going to give it all I have for the last two miles.” I agreed that was a good strategy. He kicked it into high gear and finished in just over two hours and seven minutes. We were both thrilled. That was an outstanding finishing time! As we made our way out of the finishers shoot, we went to find his wife who ran the 10k that day. She was smiling as she admired her medal. She had a great race too. It was a fantastic day and everyone performed the way they had hoped they would. Being there to see it, made my day complete.

So, where do these runners go from here? Heidi is going to run faster 5ks and a 10k in the future. Keri is going to run more half marathons and possibly a full marathon. Rob is going to run two marathons next year and Terri is considering running a marathon or half marathon and improving her 10k times in her next races.

Being a personal fitness trainer, sports nutrition specialist and distance running conditioning specialist is so rewarding because I’m helping people achieve their goals and dreams every day. But to be there at the culmination of their training journey and to run beside them is an experience that fills my heart and soul with joy.

So what does this story have to do with business?
When we help others achieve their goals and dreams, we not only help them grow as individuals and professionals; we also help create a stronger, more competent workforce. And that benefits all of us. In addition to that, when we mentor and nurture others, we receive rewards far greater than a raise or promotion. The reward of personal satisfaction in knowing you played a small role in another person’s success is priceless.

So the next time you look around your office, see who you can help professionally. Take the initiative to mentor them and help them get to the next level in their professional career. Train them like an athlete to help them map out their strategy of achieving their goals. And stay the course with them until they cross the finish line. I promise you will both feel a huge sense of accomplishment, similar to getting a finisher’s medal at the end of an endurance race.

I have always said that I’m very fortunate to love what I do and to wake up every morning excited to go to work. I know I’m living the dream and serving my purpose on this earth to help people get more fit and achieve goals they never thought were possible. And that’s one of life’s greatest rewards.

I encourage you to seek out your purpose and help others achieve their purpose too. You have my word it will be an incredible journey.

Sometimes Strategy Is More Important than Speed…in Racing and in Business

May 31, 2012

I had the joy of running the Big Sur International Marathon this year. Running experts say this course is one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the world. I chose to run Big Sur because the race fell on my 49th birthday and several of my friends decided to run it with me. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the day than doing what I love with people I love.

When you read reviews on this race, the course is described as “brutal and breathtaking.” The day we ran it, it was definitely both. The brutal hills, including a two mile climb to Hurricane Point and some short, steep hills in the final miles of the race through Carmel Highlands, were no surprise. The 20 to 45 mile per hour head winds we encountered on race day were.

When I was training for this race, my strategy was to take my time, enjoy the scenery, not worry about achieving a PR (personal record), and pace myself to make sure I finished in well under the six hour maximum finishing time. Since I had run the Flying Pig, a hilly course, in under four and a half hours the year before, I felt this was an achievable plan. However, people I know who have run Big Sur and Boston have said they felt Big Sur was a tougher course. With that knowledge, I knew that I would need a strong strategy to achieve my goal.
As a public relations professional, I’m all about strategy. I truly believe the slogan “The best surprise is no surprise.” Because of that, my friend and I drove the course so we’d know what to expect on race day. Sure, you can look at the course description, elevation map and race reviews. However, driving the course gives you a much better perspective and lets you make any last minute adjustments to your race strategy.

The day before the race, Runner’s World magazine hosted a strategy session for all of us who were running Big Sur as part of the Runner’s World Challenge. During the strategy session one of the Big Sur board members who had run the race every year since its inception told us that a front was coming in that could impact race conditions. He said if it moved through quickly we wouldn’t have windy conditions on race day. If it didn’t move through quickly, we would have high winds. He told us a good gauge was to look at the grass when we got out of the woods around mile 5. If the grass wasn’t blowing hard or pinned down, we would probably not have an extremely windy race.

On race day, we exited the woods and looked at the grass. It looked pretty calm. We all thought the race wouldn’t be windy. We were wrong. By mile 7, the wind picked up. I’ve run in high winds before, but nothing like this. There were times you felt like you were running in place or being pushed backwards because the head winds were so strong. Fighting the wind would be a losing battle, so I slowed my pace when the wind got bad to conserve energy and picked up my pace when the winds died down. This strategy paid off.

As we started up the hill to Hurricane Point, the Taiko Drummers were there to energize us for the two mile climb. The beat of their drums made me pick up my pace because the winds had died down a bit, and I was ready to attack the climb. As we were climbing the hill, we could hear the sound of the grand piano playing, another unique aspect of this course. You’d lose the sound of the piano from time to time during the ascent, but when you crested Hurricane Point and headed downhill, you could hear the music clearly. The pianist’s music filled our hearts and souls. Several of us, including me, were moved to tears. We crossed the beautiful Bixby Bridge. The scenery from the bridge is astounding. Between the scenery and the piano, mile 13 was one of the highlights of the course and a great way to mark the halfway point of the journey.

By mile 20 I had only been running three hours and fifty minutes. I knew I had plenty of time to finish the race, so I slowed my pace down to take in some of the most beautiful parts of the course. One spot was so spectacular; I stopped for a minute to stare at the beauty. The waves were crashing on the rocks and beach, the sun was shining on the ocean and you could hear and feel the wind blowing. It was amazing.

My pacing strategy also meant that I wasn’t feeling pressured to kick it into high gear when I hit the Carmel Highlands at mile 22. This worked out well. The road camber, which we were not aware of, was brutal on this course. Your body was rarely ever running on a flat surface. Between that and the wind, I felt a bit beat up by the time I got to the Highlands, but I had plenty of time to finish, so there was no rush. At mile 23 we were told to be sure to take a handful of fresh strawberries at the aid station. This is another one of the unique aspects of this course. Since I had plenty of time, I stopped and enjoyed the berries while I thanked the volunteers for taking the time to cut the tops off for us. At about mile 25 we were told to breath deep to smell the eucalyptus in the air. I’ve never smelled anything like that. It was so fresh and clean. It was truly breathtaking. That breath of fresh air gave me all the energy I needed to pick up my pace and sprint for the finish.

At the finish line I was given the ultimate birthday gift…a Big Sur International Marathon finisher’s medal. It was my reward for a job well done and a race wisely run.

So what does this story have to do with business?
While there are certainly times when speed to market is the top priority, many times it’s not. The key is to know the difference. Many great ideas stumble along the course or fail because people are in a rush to get to market, but fail to take the time to map out a strategy to ensure the ultimate goal is achieved.

Life is no different. When we rush through it, we often miss those special moments that take our breath away, move us to tears and fill our heart and soul with joy.

So the next time you find yourself in a hurry at work or in your personal life, stop for just a moment and really think about whether speed or strategy is the best course.

You really are what you eat.

April 17, 2012

One of the things I stress with my clients is the importance of keeping a food and exercise log. There are several reasons for this. First, statistics show that people who keep a food and exercise diary are much more successful in achieving their weight loss and health goals than those who don’t. Second, it can be fun to see your progress and the best way to measure that is by keeping a log. Last, it’s a great tool for me, as a trainer, to be able to give clients input on things they can do to improve their diet, exercise performance, etc.

To help my clients with this process, I have them use a tracking program. One of the components of this program is that it emails me their log each week. This way, I can see exactly what they ate, what exercise they did and monitor their progress and make suggestions.

One of my clients started running in the last year or so. He has been running 5k races and doing very well, but now he wants to move up to longer distances. When he hired me, we talked about his training goals. He had two: increase endurance and lose the last 10 pounds he hasn’t been able to drop since he started running.

As someone who has been an endurance athlete for more than five years, I told my client that his nutrition would be the key driver in meeting his goals. It’s the old saying, garbage in, garbage out. We talked about how and what he ate and how he could improve his nutrition with some simple changes. Keep in mind he’s married with kids, so I suggested he might want to consider eating different things than his wife and kids.

I get his report the first week with him using the tracking program. He is following the training program I designed for him exactly. I’m very pleased. Then I take a look at his food log. I see what he ate, the amount of saturated fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium. It’s way too high, especially for achieving his two goals. His fiber is also lower than it should be. I email him that I’m really pleased and proud of how well he’s following the exercise component of the training plan, but I had some suggestions regarding his nutrition. I explained the areas he needed to reduce and why and that he also needed to increase his fiber intake. One of the areas I explained he could fix easily was breakfast. He was eating a frosted cereal with vanilla almond milk. I recommended he eat a whole grain cereal, such as oatmeal or shredded wheat with skim milk and some egg whites. I told him I eat a bowl of plain oatmeal and 5-6 egg whites every morning for breakfast because it’s a lean breakfast that gives me healthy fuel to start my day.

A few minutes after I hit the send button, I get a call from him. Here’s how the conversation went:

Client: “While you’re my trainer, I also consider you my friend. So, I’m going to tell you this and hope you take it in the context in which it’s meant, which is a complement and a bit of constructive criticism. You’re a food freak!”
Me: “So what’s your point,” I say laughing. I then go on to tell him that I will give him the same response I give my public relations clients and that is that you pay me to give you the best possible advice. However, it’s entirely up to you whether you take it or not.

My client laughs too, but goes on to say he is really not interested in being as diligent with his nutrition as I am. I tell him that I understand that his nutrition is up to him. But I’m still going to continue to give him the best advice possible regarding his diet and exercise. What he does with that advice is his decision.

The next week, I see his diary…it’s about the same; however I see some small changes that I’m pleased with. This time my email is a bit gentler in light of our conversation the previous week. Again, I tell him how happy I am with his training workouts and that my comments about his nutrition haven’t changed much from the prior week. I encouraged him to continue to make small, positive changes such as the ones we talked about and ones his log shows he made since we spoke the previous week. I closed by saying the most important thing is for him to be cognizant of the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium he’s consuming and realize those choices have an impact on his goals.

Moments after I hit send, the phone rings. It’s my client. But this time, he’s telling me he’s really looking at the packages more, realizing that this one product he really likes and thought was a good choice, really isn’t because while it’s marketed as a low calorie ice cream dessert, it has a significant amount of fat in it and almost of all that fat is saturated fat! While he cannot see my face, I’m fairly sure he can hear that I’m smiling by the tone of my voice. I tell him that being aware of what you’re eating is half the battle. Making better choices is the other half.

In the months following these conversations, his awareness about what he eats and the food choices he’s making continue to improve. He’s on his way to a successful journey into better nutrition and achieving his goals. And I’m proud and honored to be with him on this journey.

Change is a choice when it comes to your health.

April 9, 2012

Here are actual stories of people I know.

Last year, one of my closest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. There is no history of cancer in her family. So, once we got over the shock, we all went into information gathering mode. We gave her books, names of the best doctors and a list of a variety of other resources.

One of her coworkers, who is a breast cancer survivor, gave her a book that is considered to be one of the best and most complete on the subject. My friend read the book cover to cover and called me to say, “I need to make some serious changes, and I need your help.

One of the key things the book talked about was the importance of healthy eating and drinking habits. It talked about research that says certain bad eating and drinking habits may increase your chances of getting cancer and that a healthy diet may help prevent certain types of cancer and help prevent it from coming back once you’ve had it. So we set out together to change her nutrition for the better.

On her own, she immediately said, I have had my last soda and alcoholic beverage of any kind. She was not a heavy drinker to begin with, but she was committed to give that up. She has stuck to her commitment, and I know she will continue to do so. She also committed to being more diligent about drinking more water each day. So, she had the beverage battle under control.

Now it was time for us to work on the nutrition battle. She is an executive with a large company. She works long hours. Her husband owns a business and works long hours too. They often go out to eat because they’re tired when they get home and she doesn’t feel like cooking.

To be successful, I knew it would come down to choices. So, we talked about what types of things she should order when they go out to dinner, how to order them, etc. We also talked about what types of foods she traditionally cooks, which ones are healthy choices and which ones are not. We talked about the types of foods she keeps on hand and how to upgrade those foods to healthier options such as brown rice instead of white rice, wheat pasta instead of regular pasta, having more fresh fruits and vegetables and buying leaner proteins. She did all these things.

Next, her doctor told her due to the type of cancer she had, she would need to exercise every day for the rest of her life. She dusted off the treadmill they’d had for years and began using it every day.

The outcome is that she has lost 51 pounds in about nine months and plans to lose about 25 more pounds in the months to come. She looks great. She feels great. And the reason for that is she made the choice to live a healthy life in order to save her life. I’m so proud of her. But I have to say, I’m not surprised. When she puts her mind to something, she achieves it and this lifestyle change is no different.

On the other hand, I know someone whose husband just had his fourth heart attack and fourth surgical procedure. His doctors have been saying for years that he needs to drop a significant amount of weight because he is morbidly obese. The doctors have told him he needs to improve his diet and get some exercise. He hasn’t heeded the warnings from his doctors or the heart attacks.

Then there are some acquaintances that have Type 2 diabetes. One is a couple the other is a widow. The doctor told the couple they needed to improve their diet and get some exercise. They weren’t interested in that. Today, they’re on insulin. The widow joined Weight Watchers but wasn’t really sticking to the program. Because of that, she wasn’t losing much weight. So, she decided to have surgery to try to help her eat less. There was a complication with the procedure and she was miserable for several weeks. Her weight loss since the surgery has been about a pound a week…safe weight loss, but not any different than what she could have done if she was willing to modify her diet and improve her exercise. She is also still insulin dependent, even after the surgery.

Studies show that making healthy lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and getting more exercise can reduce or prevent heart disease and can prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes.

I’m always stunned by people like this. I cannot understand why they won’t make simple, safe, inexpensive changes to improve their health, increase their longevity and take steps to insure they’re around for the ones they love for many years to come.

What it comes down to is choice and willingness to change. Nobody can make the choice for you and nobody can force you to change. You have to choose to change your life and improve your health. If and when you’re ready to do that, I’m here to help you.

The joy and reward of loving your work and the people you work with.

March 22, 2012

I consider myself very fortunate.  For nearly 20 years I’ve been an entrepreneur.  I thoroughly enjoy owning Abel Associates Public Relations (www.abelpr.com), the first company I founded.  Over the past two decades, I’ve helped my clients get the recognition they deserve for their community service work, the innovative ways they run their businesses and much more.  It’s very rewarding seeing good people and good companies acknowledged for their efforts and ingenuity. I look forward to the next decade of owning this company.

This year, I founded another company, Abel Fitness Training (www.abelfitness.com).  This company focuses on corporate wellness through nutrition and fitness education and training.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I view corporate fitness as a component of public relations.  Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be able to spend my days doing the two things I love most…public relations and helping people and companies get healthy.

Most of the people and companies I work with have been with me for at least 10 years. Some have been with me as long as I’ve been in business.  So, it’s understandable that I don’t just consider these people clients.  I think of them as friends…some of them are like family.  The business and personal relationships we share bring me great joy and fulfillment.

Over the weekend, the American Heart Association hosted the 35th annual Heart Mini Marathon.  The race offers a 5k, 15k and half marathon.  I have been helping to train two executives that I have known and respected for 15 years.  Their goal is to walk their first half marathon in Indianapolis in early May.  The Heart Mini 15k was a training race to help them gauge their progress and work out any gear or fueling issues for their goal race.

These two women are very driven.  When they put their minds to something, they do it…whether it’s for work or for personal reasons.  So, I had no doubt in my mind they would follow the training plan and be successful in achieving their goal.  But there is more to training than just doing the workouts.  Endurance races require other types of preparation including proper nutrition, hydration, training gear, etc.  So part of my job was to make sure they were fully equipped with what they needed to have a successful and enjoyable race experience at the Heart Mini and at their goal race.

Race day approaches.  I send them a checklist of things they need to do in the days prior to the race.  I’ve fine-tuned this list over the last 6 years with my own training experiences, so my clients get the benefit of that.  I know this dynamic duo is race ready and I feel good that they’re going to have a great race experience.

All races are special in their own way.  But a first race at a particular distance is extra special.  This is their first 15k.  I know how they’re feeling…excited, anxious and lots of other things.  This is also their first race that they will get a medal when they finish.  And that is something special because it’s a tangible acknowledgement of their incredible accomplishment.

In my final email to them on Friday, I wish them good luck because I may not see them in the crowd on race day.  They know I’m running the half marathon.  What they don’t know is that I plan to be waiting for them a couple blocks from the finish line.

I finished my race and went to meet my fellow Pain by Numbers running group friends at our tent, which is in the perfect spot to see people approaching the finish line.  I hang out with my friends as we cheer people to the finish…a few we know, most we don’t.  Runners are that way.  We support and take care of our own. 

I know the pace goal my friends have set.  I look at my watch and just as I comment to one of my running friends that my friends should be coming by us soon, I see Debbie and the look of determination in her eyes as she spots the finish line in the distance.  She’s so focused on her goal, she doesn’t realize I’m there cheering until I get right next to her and say, “Let’s go. I’m running you in.”  As we’re heading toward the finisher’s chute, I ask her, “Where’s Ginny?”  She says she’s right behind us and we’ll meet her at the finish. As we run towards the finish, I tell Debbie how proud she should be and how proud I am of her.  She just smiles and keeps saying, “I can’t believe you’re here and you waited for me.”  I told her I wouldn’t have missed seeing her finish her first big race.  As we get close to the timing mats, I say, “It’s all yours now.”  She looks at me and says, “Aren’t you going to finish with me?”  I replied, “This is your race and your photo opportunity.  I’ll see you on the other side of the timing mats. Go!”

As I watched Debbie cross that finish line, I had tears of joy in my eyes.  I knew exactly how she was feeling.  And I was thrilled to be there to share that experience with her.  Moments later, Ginny crossed the finish line and we were there waiting for her.  She had the same look in her eyes…a look of accomplishment and pride.  The photographers at the finish line can’t capture that look. Being there is the only way to truly see it, feel it and experience it.  It’s priceless. After I gave them both one more hug, I said, “Let’s get the medals that you’ve earned!” Once again, seeing the look on their faces as they got their first finishers medals was incredible. 

After they had a few minutes to admire their new hardware, I told them that they should be proud of their accomplishment for several reasons. Seasoned runners and walkers will be the first to say that the Heart Mini course is very tough due to its relentless hills.  First-timers finishing in under their goal time is remarkable. Also, because the Heart Mini course is so much harder than the half marathon course they’re racing in May, I made it clear to them that they should have no doubt about their ability to complete the half marathon, and I knew they would do so successfully.

On Monday, I got an email from Debbie thanking me for being at the finish line. She said, “You have no idea how it felt to see you there waiting and going that last block with me. Having you run that last block with me warmed my heart.”  Ginny also sent me an email, thanking me for the tips, checklists, etc.  She said Sunday was a great day for her, but the best part was when I told her that based upon the race she just finished, she would do well in Indianapolis. 

You’ve heard the saying, do what you love and love what you do.  I am living that every day.  And the fact that I love the people I work with makes it even more amazing.

The joy and reward of loving your work and the people you work with.

March 22, 2012

I consider myself very fortunate.  For nearly 20 years I’ve been an entrepreneur.  I thoroughly enjoy owning Abel Associates Public Relations (www.abelpr.com), the first company I founded.  Over the past two decades, I’ve helped my clients get the recognition they deserve for their community service work, the innovative ways they run their businesses and much more.  It’s very rewarding seeing good people and good companies acknowledged for their efforts and ingenuity. I look forward to the next decade of owning this company.

This year, I founded another company, Abel Fitness Training (www.abelfitness.com).  This company focuses on corporate wellness through nutrition and fitness education and training.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, I view corporate fitness as a component of public relations.  Not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be able to spend my days doing the two things I love most…public relations and helping people and companies get healthy.

Most of the people and companies I work with have been with me for at least 10 years. Some have been with me as long as I’ve been in business.  So, it’s understandable that I don’t just consider these people clients.  I think of them as friends…some of them are like family.  The business and personal relationships we share bring me great joy and fulfillment.

Over the weekend, the American Heart Association hosted the 35th annual Heart Mini Marathon.  The race offers a 5k, 15k and half marathon.  I have been helping to train two executives that I have known and respected for 15 years.  Their goal is to walk their first half marathon in Indianapolis in early May.  The Heart Mini 15k was a training race to help them gauge their progress and work out any gear or fueling issues for their goal race.

These two women are very driven.  When they put their minds to something, they do it…whether it’s for work or for personal reasons.  So, I had no doubt in my mind they would follow the training plan and be successful in achieving their goal.  But there is more to training than just doing the workouts.  Endurance races require other types of preparation including proper nutrition, hydration, training gear, etc.  So part of my job was to make sure they were fully equipped with what they needed to have a successful and enjoyable race experience at the Heart Mini and at their goal race.

Race day approaches.  I send them a checklist of things they need to do in the days prior to the race.  I’ve fine-tuned this list over the last 6 years with my own training experiences, so my clients get the benefit of that.  I know this dynamic duo is race ready and I feel good that they’re going to have a great race experience.

All races are special in their own way.  But a first race at a particular distance is extra special.  This is their first 15k.  I know how they’re feeling…excited, anxious and lots of other things.  This is also their first race that they will get a medal when they finish.  And that is something special because it’s a tangible acknowledgement of their incredible accomplishment.

In my final email to them on Friday, I wish them good luck because I may not see them in the crowd on race day.  They know I’m running the half marathon.  What they don’t know is that I plan to be waiting for them a couple blocks from the finish line.

I finished my race and went to meet my fellow Pain by Numbers running group friends at our tent, which is in the perfect spot to see people approaching the finish line.  I hang out with my friends as we cheer people to the finish…a few we know, most we don’t.  Runners are that way.  We support and take care of our own. 

I know the pace goal my friends have set.  I look at my watch and just as I comment to one of my running friends that my friends should be coming by us soon, I see Debbie and the look of determination in her eyes as she spots the finish line in the distance.  She’s so focused on her goal, she doesn’t realize I’m there cheering until I get right next to her and say, “Let’s go. I’m running you in.”  As we’re heading toward the finisher’s chute, I ask her, “Where’s Ginny?”  She says she’s right behind us and we’ll meet her at the finish. As we run towards the finish, I tell Debbie how proud she should be and how proud I am of her.  She just smiles and keeps saying, “I can’t believe you’re here and you waited for me.”  I told her I wouldn’t have missed seeing her finish her first big race.  As we get close to the timing mats, I say, “It’s all yours now.”  She looks at me and says, “Aren’t you going to finish with me?”  I replied, “This is your race and your photo opportunity.  I’ll see you on the other side of the timing mats. Go!”

As I watched Debbie cross that finish line, I had tears of joy in my eyes.  I knew exactly how she was feeling.  And I was thrilled to be there to share that experience with her.  Moments later, Ginny crossed the finish line and we were there waiting for her.  She had the same look in her eyes…a look of accomplishment and pride.  The photographers at the finish line can’t capture that look. Being there is the only way to truly see it, feel it and experience it.  It’s priceless. After I gave them both one more hug, I said, “Let’s get the medals that you’ve earned!” Once again, seeing the look on their faces as they got their first finishers medals was incredible. 

After they had a few minutes to admire their new hardware, I told them that they should be proud of their accomplishment for several reasons. Seasoned runners and walkers will be the first to say that the Heart Mini course is very tough due to its relentless hills.  First-timers finishing in under their goal time is remarkable. Also, because the Heart Mini course is so much harder than the half marathon course they’re racing in May, I made it clear to them that they should have no doubt about their ability to complete the half marathon, and I knew they would do so successfully.

On Monday, I got an email from Debbie thanking me for being at the finish line. She said, “You have no idea how it felt to see you there waiting and going that last block with me. Having you run that last block with me warmed my heart.”  Ginny also sent me an email, thanking me for the tips, checklists, etc.  She said Sunday was a great day for her, but the best part was when I told her that based upon the race she just finished, she would do well in Indianapolis. 

You’ve heard the saying, do what you love and love what you do.  I am living that every day.  And the fact that I love the people I work with makes it even more amazing.

Corporate Fitness is a Public Relations Opportunity

March 7, 2012

When I started Abel Fitness Training (www.abelfitness.com)  to help companies improve the fitness of their workforces, everyone who knows me asked the same question.  They wanted to know if I was closing my public relations firm, Abel Associates (www.abelpr.com).   I told them absolutely not!  The two companies were highly compatible and would operate accordingly.

When I made that comment, some people understood what I meant immediately.  Others gave me a puzzled look.  For those who seemed puzzled, I went on to explain. 

Abel Associates knows public relations. We understand that public relations is all about perception, and perception is reality. How a company’s internal publics (employees) and external publics (clients, prospects, vendors, etc.) see the company reflects directly on the company’s public image.

Studies show that people who are fit are viewed much more positively than people who are not fit. So if your workforce is fit, logic says your external publics will have a more positive impression of you. Studies also show unfit workers cost American companies billions of dollars annually in absenteeism, lost productivity and higher healthcare costs. Companies that help their workforces become healthier are sending a message that they care. Employees who feel valued and respected are more loyal and that saves companies money in lower turnover. The bottom line is that a fit workforce is a not just a good investment, it’s good public relations.

I’ve had my public relations firm for 20 years. I’m passionate about P.R.  I’m equally passionate about fitness and helping people get healthy.  Now I’m getting to share my expertise in both of my work passions to help others.  I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that.