Man at midlife making second half matter

Archive for the tag “running”

The Art of the (Fundraising) Deal

dad-rebturkeytrotHow hard could it be to get your friends, family members, work colleagues and acquaintances to contribute $10 or $20 to a worthwhile cause?

Plenty hard.

It’s something my daughter Rebecca is discovering through her prior work at a University of Maryland alumni fundraising call center, fundraising campaigns in which she has engaged for her sorority, and now, promoting her current individual fundraising effort to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through her participation in the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in June 2017.

I learned similar lessons. Fundraising was much more my downfall than my forte during my two campaigns for public office. I lagged woefully behind my competition in the drive for dollars, and ultimately all but threw in the towel in the money race, as I described in my political memoir about the exhilaration, disillusion and corruption of campaign politics, Don’t Knock, He’s Dead: A Longshot Candidate Gets Schooled in the Unseemly Underbelly of American Campaign Politics.

People in the fundraiser’s sphere of influence may have the best of intentions to contribute. But fundraising is no different than the old advertising adage: You have to hit up targets at least three times to make an impression or encourage action. If I learned anything about fundraising during my campaign, it was the need to go back to the same wells again and again if necessary, with no shame or fear of rejection.

I’m a case in point, I’m embarrassed to say. I first saw Rebecca’s fundraising ask on Facebook about a month ago, but didn’t take action. The next time she posted a request for contributions, I responded that I would make a donation by the end of the weekend, which came and went Feb. 3 with no contribution from me forthcoming. We talked again yesterday about her rather slow fundraising progress, and I assured her again that I would contribute. Three times. No money yet. (Here’s where you can pelt the Author/Laggard Dad with boos.)

I’ve written before about how proud I am of Rebecca’s running exploits, advancing from an eighth-grader who had difficulty finishing two miles to a leader on her high school cross country team to a marathoner. Now I’m proud that she’s using her passion to help a cause that is meaningful to her and vital to kids with serious illnesses.

So I’m using this blog space to plug her effort and ask readers to donate an amount of your choosing on Rebecca’s St. Jude Fundraising Page.

Go here to donate: http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR/Heroes/Heroes?px=4374955&pg=personal&fr_id=61921

A Hat Over the Wall

I threw my hat over the wall today.

It’s a saying I remember, and sometimes use with people who have no idea what I’m talking about, from the Landmark Education Forum, the three-day program designed to bring about life-improving “breakthroughs,” which borrowed the phrase from President John Kennedy, who talked about throwing the hat in reference to America’s determination to explore outer space, and who appropriated the expression from Irish author Frank O’Connor, who wrote the parable about two adventurous boys who were halted in their journey by an imposing stone wall – until one threw his hat over the top, compelling them both to scale the barrier to retrieve it.

I didn’t join NASA; I won’t be exploring Mars or spending a year in space. I did register to do (I say “do” rather than “compete in” purposely) the Columbia Triathlon, two hours before registration closed and 15 days before race day after debating whether to commit for a few months. I threw my hat over the triathlon wall.

As the original rap artists Sugar Hill Gang sang in “Rappers Delight”: “I don’t mean to brag. I don’t mean to boast (But we like hot butter on a breakfast toast).” But I guess this is a little about boasting. Anyone who tells others he is doing a triathlon is boasting, prima facie.

I am not an avid triathlete. Not like those eccentrics you see with the really tight onesies with the front zipper, the Terminator-style Ray-Bans, the spokes-less, flyaway bikes, the nutrition diaries, the hairless legs (OK for women), the oddly ubiquitous black wetsuits, the de rigueur upmarket bike racks, the fanny belts, the clacking  bike shoes, the 8 percent body fat and taut-as-power-cables leg muscles, and the neatly arranged race day gear and supplies, enough to suffice for a week’s vacation.

I am an amateur. I train the minimum. I’m not a member of any triathlon club or training group. I flaunt the convention. My ego requires me to do that. If I had all the proper equipment and clothing – if I looked like a triathlete — how could I explain finishing in the bottom 15 percent?

I’m positive I have the oldest and slowest bike of all the competitors…errr…participants: a 12-speed Fuji touring bike I bought in 1984. 1984! I can’t give it up, even if it would increase my speed by 20 percent and save my legs. It’s part of my carefully crafted image of the anti-triathlete triathlete. My bike pedals have no clips; just old-school straps. I don’t lock in with bike shoes. That’s unheard of in triathloning. Someone recently recommended I get the clips and the shoes. Solid advice, but I’m not going to – would ruin the image.

I’ll likely be one of the few not wearing a wetsuit. Again, bad for the image. I’m going to freeze my ass off at the beginning of the swim.

I train alone and modestly, mostly during lunch breaks at work when I swim or jog. I recently hooked up with another multi-sport event participant for a few bike rides, the one who advised about the bike clips. Whenever I told him to ride at his own natural pace during our rides, he blew me away and had to wait for me at the nearest stop sign. He also told me about the weekly “bricks” the Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club sponsors – bike rides followed by runs. I love the term. I’m going to put in one or two “bricks” before the event, by myself, just so I can say that I “bricked.”

Since I first started doing triathlons, I’ve averaged – hmmm, let’s see – two per decade. (You thought I’d say something crazy, like 10 per year, right?). I did two in the 1980s, and three in the 1990s. I may have never done one again, except I broke my leg in a soccer game in 2012. It was a long and arduous rehab and recovery. I started on the road back by swimming. Then I added cycling. For motivation, I threw my hat over the wall and entered the 2013 Columbia Triathlon. Running was the hardest. I added that last and slogged through a bare minimum of training jogs. One year and 22 days after surgery for a broken tibia and fibula – and nearly 15 years since my last triathlon — I completed the Columbia Triathlon, a .93-mile lake swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run, in 3 hours, 37 minutes. I was proud of that. I had to disappear into the woods for a few minutes to shed some tears over the struggle of the previous year. I was amazingly consistent, too (i.e., consistently slow for a triathlete), finishing in the 85-90 percentile for each leg.

It was a spiritual experience. That’s all it is to me now, more than an athletic event. Time? I don’t care about time. I’m not chasing anything, not trying to qualify for anything, not seeking a PR (personal record) or age group award. I entered again for the spiritual experience. I want to find a rhythm in the swim and enjoy the feel of warming up in a cold, open body of water. I’ll revel in the feeling of speed and the sights and smells of the countryside on the bike. I’ll embrace the challenge of the hilly run and find inspiration in the struggle.

I may even break out the Ruggler during the run. That’s the Runner-Juggler (the “Joggler” was already taken). Now that may be showing off, but it has a real purpose – refocusing my mind from the pain, monotony and seemingly interminable length of the run to the three airborne balls.

The triathlon is the thrill of being alive, the delight of being able to do it at all. I’m excited I get to go retrieve my hat.TheRuggler

The Marathoner: Coming a Long Way

I’m going to try to tear my 19-year-old daughter Rebecca away from college and sorority life for a night to see McFarland USA, the movie about a white coach at a predominantly Latino California high school who struggles to connect with students until he discovers a group of great runners, and builds a championship cross-country team with a long-enduring legacy from nothing. I figure it will have some shared meaning for us, with the importance that cross country has played in Rebecca’s life and my small role – at least I like to believe – in making it happen.

Rebecca was never a star athlete. She stuck with soccer longer than I thought she would, long enough to make an “A” team in eighth grade. But she never gelled with her new teammates, and after one fall season, she was done. In a soccer-mad county with intense competition, high school soccer was realistic only for the most talented and dedicated.

That summer before ninth grade I talked to Rebecca about considering running cross country in high school. I had done a couple of slow 5K road races with her before. Her mother is a big-time runner – not fast, but extremely disciplined and relentless – who has a number of marathons to her credit, so Rebecca always had that role model.

I played tennis through high school. After I saw my younger brother join the cross country team and enjoy the camaraderie and inspiration from the group effort and make long-lasting friends, I wished I had done the same. Remembering my brother’s rewarding experience, I thought Rebecca could benefit the same way.

But my periodic reminders that summer before ninth grade to Rebecca about the valuable experiences of cross country and if she was considering it at all, the need to train at least a minimal amount, seemed to be more annoying to her than helpful. Maybe that’s the inevitable reaction of a 13-year-old daughter to the advice of a father who claims wisdom from experience. Rebecca would respond anxiously that I was stressing her out with all that talk about going out for cross country and training, so I tempered my fatherly advice with backing off.

When mid-August came, I had no idea whether Rebecca would go to cross country tryouts. She did. I feared she wouldn’t survive a week in the humid, 90-degree heat with what little training she had put in. She did. There was a time-trial within the first week. I believe Rebecca missed the designated cutoff time, but not by much. But the great thing about cross country is there were no cuts. Perseverance, commitment and determination were rewarded, and whoever stuck with it long enough inevitably improved, and in almost all cases, greatly. That’s what Rebecca did.

I remember doing a few organized runs with Rebecca early in her high school cross country career, including one on a high school cross country course, where she would break down with a debilitating pain part way through, usually a cramp in the side, or have trouble breathing. I tried to be caring, but I was also frustrated when it happened. She should have kicked me in the ass for that. Sometimes the pains would happen at meets I attended.

But as her career went on and her body developed and got stronger and adapted to the rigors of the sport, those incidents faded. She became a top-10 runner on her team, a leader in spirit activities, and ultimately a captain. She improved her times for the 5K (3.1-mile) course by about 8 to 10 minutes from freshman to senior year.  Perhaps most importantly, she made great friends on the team who constituted her social circle for four years – all of them excellent students and the type of kids a parent would want their own kid to hang out with. Also importantly, I believe cross country played a major role in increasing Rebecca’s self-esteem, self-confidence, intrinsic motivation and work ethic.

This is what I couldn’t have predicted more than five years ago when I felt I was on the verge of badgering my daughter to do something she didn’t want to do: She not only persisted at cross country, but she has become an accomplished distance runner in an amazingly short time, while carrying a full load as a full-time college student.

She has quickly built up over the past two years by running 10-mile events, half-marathons (13.1 miles), and metric marathons (16-plus miles). Then, in 2014, she announced she was going to run the Baltimore Marathon in October. I thought it might be a little too much to undertake as a college student, but she persisted, training with a group of adult marathoners all summer.

She finished the marathon in just over four hours, a month shy of her 19th birthday. How many 18-year-olds have a marathon to their name? I was proud to see her coming into the homestretch, heading toward the finish at the Baltimore football and baseball stadium complex, looking strong. She wasn’t trudging, either. I ran down the sidewalk for a ways to parallel her, and the pace was fast.

So hopefully we will share McFarland USA together, and reminisce about where Rebecca started and her running journey since then. It seems selfish to want to take a small bit of credit, but that’s my ego talking. Sometimes I like to know I did something right as a father, and whether Rebecca really needed a little push from me or not, I’d like to think I had a positive influence that has helped her enjoy and benefit from one of the most positive influences in her young life.Dad-RebTurkeyTrot

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