Bucket List #4: Complete

What once started as a weight loss journey has turned into something different; something more.  Over the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to support others; whether it be with weight loss, an overall quality of life, or just trying to find new and creative ways to make life more enjoyable.

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned since I started is that you don’t have to do something extraordinary to make an extraordinary impact on someone’s life.  You don’t have to stand in front of millions and give a thunderous speech to inspire people.  You can make a difference in someone’s life by being yourself and reaching out.  Whether you know it or not, your actions will trigger a domino effect that will inspire others to reach out.  The lives you touch will touch others, and those lives will touch others.

The fourth item on my bucket list was to run a race for a charity, and Thanksgiving provided a perfect opportunity to do that.  The run was for the Life With Cancer organization, which offers support and education for those who are affected by cancer or who have loved ones that are affected by cancer.  There are millions of people who are living with cancer today, and this organization makes their day-to-day lives a little easier.

Some background: I’ve never run a race before.  Ever.  So this was a very new experience for me.  I did not train for this 5k race and only signed up a couple days before; however, my normal runs are anywhere between 2 miles and 4 miles, so running 5k (3.1 miles) wasn’t a stretch for me.  If you have run races before, you may just want to skip to the end.  If you haven’t run races before, stay tuned; I’ll be going through a lot of lessons that were learned.

I woke up around 5:45 AM for an 8 AM race.  Normally before a morning run (despite most of my runs being in the afternoon), I may have an apple and a swig or two of water.  Today it was 16 ounces of water and a banana, which I drank/ate at 6:25 AM.  I was out the door by 6:45 and arrived at the race site at 7.

Starting line an hour before race-time.

Starting line an hour before race-time.

First lesson: If you’re running a race in November, dress warm!  I feel like I was adequately prepared, but many people brought some of the disposable hand warmers and that would’ve been nice because – IT WAS FRIGID!

An actual picture from 30 minutes before the race.  Yes, it’s below freezing!

An actual picture from 30 minutes before the race. Yes, it’s below freezing!

I’m making the assumption that most races have bathrooms or Port-a-John’s close by, which leads me to my second lesson: For short races, don’t eat or drink anything different than normal.  I was nervous and over-thought the pre-race meal a lot, and as such, I was in the bathroom twice in a span of 45 minutes before the race.  Rookie mistake!

Five minutes to game-time and I’m about 100 yards behind the starting line.  There were over 3,000 people running in the race and I’m guessing I was around the middle of the pack.  Everyone is standing around and talking.  Meanwhile, I’ve got my headphones in my ears listening to “It’s A Fight” by Three 6 Mafia and “Warriors of the World” by Manowar, which aren’t my running songs, but usually precede a general workout.

The horn sounds and we see the front of the pack in the distance start to go.  Lesson three: The start of a race is nerve-wracking and tense, especially for a first-timer, but it’s anti-climactic at best, so be patient.  While everyone at the front was running, everyone around me was slowly walking forward.  I found out later that it took me one minute and 55 seconds after the race started before I reached the starting line.

Fourth lesson: The starting line might not be level to the ground, so be careful.  I tripped over the starting line like an idiot but maintained my balance and started to run.  Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to run better when I’m trying to keep up with someone, so I began to look around for a “pace car”.  In front of me was a woman and her boyfriend?/spouse? running at a decent pace with marathon jackets on, so I decided to stick with them for as long as I could.

Lesson five: Do not be phased by the people you pass or the people that pass you.  Both will happen and happen often, so just run your race.  After the first quarter mile, three younger guys just flew by me, and my initial thought was that I was going too slow and needed to speed up.  I stayed the course.  You’re not competing against 3,000 people or three speed demons; just run your race, I told myself.

Despite knowing that I was still running on pure adrenaline after the first 0.75 miles, I decided to go faster.  I accelerated past my “pace car” and began searching for someone new to keep pace with.  I came up on another couple who both looked extremely slim and fit who were running at a quicker pace than I had been running earlier.  Similar to the last couple, I camped out about 10 feet behind them and just worked on keeping pace.

Lesson six: This may not apply to everyone, but it does to me.  Do scout work ahead of time.  I knew exactly where the mile markers would be and, in addition, despite not having a watch, I knew exactly where I should be in my playlist when I hit those markers.  At the 2-mile mark, I was still with my pace-setter and WELL ahead of where I should’ve been had I followed my normal pace.  I evaluated in my head whether or not I should continue to keep pace with him while wondering how long I can keep up the pace before running out of gas.

The side-stiches came at the 2.5 mile mark, with only 0.6 miles to go.  Not now!  Not when I’m so close!  The pain continued until a couple minutes later when the finish line was in sight.  I heard my pace-setter motivating his significant other, “There’s the finish line.  Keep going.”  The distance between us opened up as I could see them going faster.  I sped up and caught them again, trying to muster every ounce of energy to stay within my normal 10 feet.

At the last tenth of a mile, my pace-setter went into a dead sprint, leaving his partner behind.  I followed as we broke away from the small pack that we were with to cross the finish line.  It was my fastest 5k time that I’ve ever run by a full minute and 45 seconds.

Race Results

Race Results

Your actions, however large or small, can be inspirational to those around you.  Unbeknownst to them,  by just running their race, that couple inspired me to push harder than I ever have before.  Maybe one day, I’ll serve as the pace car to someone else.

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Bucket List #12: Complete

Senseless acts of violence are absolutely terrible, but it hits much closer to home when it’s in your own neck of the woods, and I cannot even imagine what it must be like for the people and families who are tragically involved.  From 9/11 to today’s events at the Navy Yard and everything in between, I just can’t understand why things like this happen, and what logic people follow when they commit these horrendous crimes.  My heart and prayers go out to everyone involved in this incident at the Navy Yard.  I wish nothing but the best for you and your families.

 

When something that is overwhelmingly negative occurs, it is extremely difficult to maintain faith.  When a tragedy occurs such as this one, it’s tough to maintain faith in people.  If someone goes through a bad breakup, it’s easy to lose hope in finding love.  Even something as little as seeing a higher number on the scale can cause a difficult strain on your psyche.  Today, I was determined not to lose faith in society just because of one nut case.

 

For those of you that haven’t read my “Bucket List 2013”, I welcome you to do so.  I didn’t start the day thinking that I was going to complete one of the “pay it forward” items, but my hope was to spread just a tiny bit of good will to someone, even if I didn’t know who that someone would be.

 

I pulled up to the drive-thru at Wendy’s and ordered the usual… two Grilled Chicken Go Wraps.  Considering the fact that it is fast food, it’s actually somewhat healthy at only 500 calories for the meal, and I usually can mix in a fresh apple for variety.  It was a little after noon and I saw a packed line behind me.  As I pulled up to the window, the gentleman told me the total with change already in hand.  I gave him the money and told him that I wanted to pay for the car behind me.  He looked a bit confused, and after completing the first transaction with my full change, he then told me the total of the car behind me: $6.91.  I paid for that as well, after which he handed me my food.

PIF_photo

I don’t know who I paid for, or whether it was a man or a woman (they had very tinted windows).  I didn’t look back.  I didn’t see a reaction.  To be honest, I didn’t want to.  My hope is that I was able to give whoever it was in the car behind me a slightly better day.  My hope is that six dollars and ninety one cents made one person see that the world may not be as messed up as it sometimes seems to be.  My hope is that even the smallest good deed will inspire good deeds elsewhere.

 

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

Bucket List 2013

Over the course of my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a lot of amazing experiences, and as such, coming up with a bucket list was a bit difficult for me.  I’ve been blessed with a great wife, dog, and close family, a beautiful place to call home, and lots of travel to many beautiful (and sometimes not-so beautiful) places.  That being said, there are still many things that I would love to accomplish.

While there are many “bucket list” blogs out there, I have come to follow one in particular called “Project Light to Life” (http://projectlighttolife.wordpress.com/).  Her experiences and her drive to complete the items on her list have been extremely inspiring for me, and I would highly recommend that you check it out.

In my opinion, 95% of all bucket lists are incomplete, because there are always things that you forget about when creating these things that you want to add on later.  In addition, once you complete certain items, you may strive for more.  This is the main reason why I entitled this post “Bucket List 2013”, because I’m sure there will be additional items added in 2014.

So without further ado, here are the 30 items that comprise of my bucket list.

1. Go to an indoor trampoline park

2. Participate in a mud run

3. Complete a walk for a charity

4. Complete a run for a charity

5. Volunteer at a soup kitchen

6. Run a half marathon

7. Swim in the Dead Sea

8. Create an entertaining video

9. Explore a cave

10. Swim with a ride on a dolphin

11. Go scuba diving

12. Pay for someone behind me in a drive-thru line

13. Pay the toll for the car behind me

14. Buy a round of drinks for complete strangers

15. Skydive

16. Learn how to surf

17. Sleep under the stars

18. Drive a race car

19. Go to a murder mystery party

20. Visit a waterfall

21. Write a nice letter to someone for no reason without signing it

22. Babysit someone’s kids for a day to give the parents some time off

23. Go on a multi-day hike (preferably the Appalachian Trail since it’s so close)

24. Visit the Grand Canyon

25. Have a child with my beautiful wife

26. Compliment 10 strangers in one day

27. Help someone cross an item off their bucket list

28. Throw a dart on a map and travel to that place

29. Watch the ball drop in New York City on New Year’s Eve

30. Visit all 7 continents (yes, including Antarctica) (4 already complete)

What is on your bucket list?  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

Avoiding the Introvert’s Nightmare

Being an introvert and slightly timid is not easy.  Sometimes I’ll want something at a restaurant and my waiter will pass by.  I’ll say “Excuse me” to him, but I won’t say it very loud.  Usually he doesn’t hear me and I just get him on the next pass.  The hallway stranger walk-bys are always interesting.  Do I say hi?  Do I not say anything?  Do I give the awkward head nod?  I don’t know about anyone else, but these situations are nerve wracking for me.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why I love this blog so much.  I couldn’t speak these posts to anyone, but gathering my thoughts and putting them on paper (or the internet) is a much easier pill to swallow.

 

Today I decided to break that mold.  In a future post, I’m going to discuss bucket lists (things you want to do during the course of your life).  In addition to my own list, I also wanted to get the opinions of others, especially those who may be in much different walks of life.  Yes, asking friends would be easier, but I didn’t want to take the easy way out this time.

 

The plan was to go to a public setting (in my case, a nearby shopping mall), go up to total strangers, tell them I wanted to ask them a simple question, and then get their answer.  In my head, that seemed simple enough.  After work, I left for the mall, bought myself a cold beverage, and looked around for people.  Instantly, I’m nervous.  This isn’t going to be as easy as I thought.  Even the 10-year old children look intimidating to me now.

 

Finally, I spot a younger gentleman with an easy-going demeanor who looks like he’ll play along.  Summoning up the courage, I ask him if I could have a minute of his time to ask him a question for an article that I’m writing.  Immediately, I can tell he’s put off, but he reluctantly says okay.  I ask him if he knows what a bucket list is and he says he does, at which point I ask him to name one thing on his bucket list.  At this point, the conversation already seems awkward, and even more awkward when he says, “I dunno, too many to count.”  Trying to get something deeper out of him, I ask for him to just name one.  He responds with, “I dunno, I can’t think of any right now.”  Aaaaaaaannd, the game is over!  I thank him for his time and he walks one way and I walk the other way feeling extremely dejected.  It wasn’t easy for me to put myself out there, but I did, and I promptly had a figurative hand stuck in my face.  I spent the next 15 minutes trying to summon the courage to try again.  That courage never came, and I was outta there.

 

Driving home, I realized that had I been in his situation, the result may not have been so different.  I brought that awkward situation on myself.  I’m not kicking myself for it, but the fact is that there were subtle parts of this situation that I completely took for granted which ultimately led to my failure.  Here we go with: How to Avoid the Introvert’s Nightmare.

 

Mistake #1: Going to the mall.  I’d venture to guess that only a small percentage of the population goes to the mall for pleasure.  If you’re there, you have a goal in mind for what you want to get.  Most people get in, buy what they need, and take off.  They don’t want to be bothered by others.

 

Mistake #2: Going after work.  Living in a large suburb of a big city means there is traffic all over the place.  If you are at the mall at 4:30 in the afternoon in the middle of rush hour traffic, you’re going to be in a pretty bad mood to begin with.  Some people just aren’t happy after work, so it doesn’t make sense to try and explore their creative sides.  I need people in a good an open frame of mind when I’m asking these questions.  Maybe I need to hit up a coffee shop or a bar during happy hour.

 

Mistake #3: I am not a journalist, and did not ask the question in a good way.  I believe I said that I’m writing an article for a blog and I wanted to ask a simple question.  That’s right, it’s amateur hour at the local mall today.  If people don’t know what they’re responding to, they are going to be wary from the get-go.  I need a better way to phrase my question such as, “I am doing an article about fun and inspiring things that people do with their time and was wondering if you could answer one question for me about that.”  Bingo.  Simple and direct in a way that doesn’t make it seem like I’m trying to sell them something.

 

Sometimes people are afraid to put themselves out there because they fear rejection or embarrassment, and are even further put off if that rejection happens.  The important thing is to make sure that you don’t give up completely, and this goes for many other aspects of life as well.  Work, relationships, going to the gym; there have been times where I think most people can say they’ve been afraid to fail or feel embarrassed at certain points, but don’t let that put you off from accomplishing the amazing things that you are capable of doing.

 

As for me and my dilemma, I may be down, but I’m far from out.  I fully intend to go back out and conduct my short interviews with strangers, but maybe this time I’ll be smart enough to avoid the introvert’s nightmare.

Want to know what’s coming up?

First of all, if you’re here, I want to thank you for coming out and visiting my blog.  Feel free to post comments and voice opinions.  I’m always amazed at some of the great inspiration I get from blog-surfing or comment-surfing.

 

Second, I wanted to give a short preview as to what you’ll (hopefully) be seeing this week.  I can’t promise that I’m going to post on a daily basis, but I will certainly try my best to keep the content fresh and entertaining!

 

Posts coming this week:

“Bringing Good Habits to Life” – I’ll leave you in suspense on this one

“Do Short Workouts Really Work?” – I have my doubts, but they say don’t knock it ’till you try it.  Time to try it!

“Video Blog #1 – Parasailing” – I’m still trying to figure out how to edit, but I’m hoping to put out my first video blog this week.

“Video Blog #2 – Waverunners in Action” – If #1 goes well, #2 will follow, and will be a lot of fun to watch.

“What’s On Your Bucket List?” – Take some time to think about this one; I’ll open it for comments when I write this entry.

 

Have a fantastic week, everyone!