New York, New York
An iconic setting, an epic moment and the vision of my dreams.
I’ve been dreaming about qualifying for the New York Marathon for years.
To qualify for New York, I need a time, a really fast time. A time my legs have never done.
Like all my big dreams, I first write the goal in my journal.
I force myself to believe I can succeed.
It’s not always easy, sometimes I don’t believe myself. Okay, most times I don’t believe myself.
The beautiful part is at some point, through hard work, I DO BELIEVE myself.
“The body can only go, where the mind has been.”
My first qualification attempt took place at the Boston Marathon in 2016. Boston’s euphoric event amazed me. I understood why this race was every runner’s dream. Robert and I worked for years to qualify. After hundreds of hours of training, and 2 qualifying attempts. We finally qualified in at the Long Beach Marathon in 2015.
We broke the coveted 3 hour mark. Coming in at 2:59.
It was a chilly, sweet morning in Boston. Robert and I boarded the bus to the start line accompanied with the world’s greatest runners. Everybody looked fast. Mind you, Robert and I finished the Long Beach Marathon 19th and 22nd out of 3,300.
I felt nervous. I felt excited. I felt ready. We wore the coveted red bib. The fastest bib Wave #1.
“I set the race target: 2:53“
The time needed to punch a ticket to the World’s Fastest Marathon, the New York Marathon.
The crowds erupted as the race began. The nervousness was gone. The fastest march to the finish line began. Robert and I were swallowed by the sea of runners. Besides the sheer number of people, I was surprised by the speed of the runners. Surely this will clear out, I thought. Everybody can’t run at this pace.
But they did.
Mile after mile after mile.
6:25, 6:18, 6:20…
No, matter how fast I ran. I couldn’t pass anyone. Everybody was fast, lightning fast.
I was supposed to be the fast one.
I’ll be honest, I get this weird feeling, whenever someone runs at my pace. Like I’m drowning. Like I can’t maintain the pace. Like I’m not good enough. You see, I’m not a runner, I played basketball and baseball in high school. So running with the world’s elite, I felt like an impostor. Everybody at that level, including Robert, ran track or cross-country. I lifted weights. I wished we we’re lifting weights that day.
Imagine if someone tied you to a car and drove off. You hang on for dear life, running at speeds your legs weren’t designed to handle. That’s how I felt that day, and then I cracked.
I felt like I got hit by a truck. My legs ached so much. The pace was ridiculous. The runners speeding by me, adding salt to my fresh wound.
By mile 13, I knew there would be no NY Qualification. Heck, there might be no finish. Robert was nowhere to be found. He dropped before I did. I decided to wait for Robbie D.
“To either suffer or celebrate together. We did both.”
We gave painful high-fives to the thousands cheering.
Boston became the celebration for years of effort.
As we turned in Boylston’s street.
The finish line neared closer. Robert and I embraced.
“We did it!”
Not exactly the 2:52 we aimed for.
I set many goals that seem impossible. They can overwhelm me. Whether they be business, personal or life goals. I set them as big as possible. Then I go out there and fail.
I fail again and again.
Failing never feels good. But failing is a prerequisite for success. There was no NY qualification in Boston, but I vowed to try again.
Then the injuries began…
“The unimaginable happened. During a comfortable 40-mile bike and six-mile run, I felt my calf pull.
I shut down my run immediately. Uber to the rescue. I was crushed.
For a moment.
Then I realized all the blessings in my life. I would recover, and if I didn’t I would be okay.
I focused on different workouts, nutrition, flexibility and promised myself I would control what I could.” -June 2017
One year went by.
“Not all stories have happy endings. In life, sometimes the hero doesn’t win.
I worked all year for a chance to qualify for the New York Marathon. Mile repeats, sprints, Ironmans, hundreds of hours of training.
I suffered a fluke calf strain back in June. I rested, I healed, and I completed my best Ironman to date.
2017 was supposed to be the year I qualified.
Today, I woke up excited. My calf felt great. But at 1.5 miles, the pain returned. I instantly realized New York 2018 was out.
As I ran in pain, I knew this would be my last sad mile of 2017.
I share this, not for you to feel sorry for me. I share this because sometimes people wonder why I work so hard? Why I try so hard? Why I get up so early on a Sunday?
I try so hard because I’m deathly afraid of failing. Failing at anything. Failure scares the sh#t out of me.
I’ve failed more times than anyone will ever know. And it always hurts. Always.
As many times, as I’ve failed. I’ve always found a way to pick myself up. Never give up on your dreams. In life, in sport, in business. Never give up.
Sorry, New York. I’ll have to wait another year.” -November 2017
Two years went by.
But my New York dream never relinquished.
When injuries happen. When accidents happen. When life doesn’t go your way.
It’s easy to be sad.
I’m working my tail off and nothing?
This freaking sucks, life isn’t fair.
Life was never supposed to be fair.
Life doesn’t care.
Life relies solely on your attitude.
Life is what you make it.
Life is what you do.
Life is how you respond.
Life is what happens when you get knocked down.
Life happens when you get up.
I trained, I trained not only the body but the mind. I know what needs to happen to qualify for New York. I know it’s a two-year goal. I know, I need to run faster than ever. I know, I know, I know!
For the past year (when I wasn’t hurt.)
- I did speed work (fastest mile: 5:07.)
- I did half-marathon work (ran 5 in practice.)
- I worked on my cardio through the bike and swim.
- I lost weight (I’m 5 pounds less than my fittest weight ever.)
- And I added my secret weapon:
Breaking Two’s Turbo Pegasus coupled with yellow laces.
My generation’s PF Flyers
Guaranteed to make every kid run faster and jump higher.
The body can only do what the mind believes.
My body is ready.
The mind is ready.
The time has come to punch my ticket to New York.
The Long Beach Marathon is here. Oct 7, 2018
Goal needed to qualify for New York:
13.1 miles <1:25 Pace: 6:25/mile
Things go exactly as planned…
“My saddest finish line ever. I did everything right. The weather was perfect. The course flat. The training complete. I just didn’t have it.
The goal 1:24:59 for 13.1 Qualify for NY.
It was going great. No injuries, minor cramping on mile 6, but no big deal.
I beat a huge hurdle at mile 7. I fought and held up.
My pace was still there.
3 more miles and then the turn to the finish line.
I had a choice. If I pushed, I would be close. If I pushed, I had a chance. If I pushed, I could blow up.
Only one real choice, push.
I blew up and I was walking.
There would be no qualification today.
In fact, it ended up being my worst half ever.
I crossed the finish line, filled with sadness.
But the pity party will only last a few more hours.
Then it will be time to get up, reassess and do what I believe in my heart is possible.” -October 2018
“What happened? What went wrong?”
I had no idea what happened. I went to the restroom, and then the answer literally came out, bright yellow.
I replayed my water stations:
mile 2: skipped
mile 4: dropped cup
mile 6: missed station
mile 8: done
Rookie mistake, hydration. A tip so basic, something I always cover with my clients, water?
Nevertheless, I would learn my painful lesson.
- I added low heart rate training (new insight from my NASM Optima Conference)
- I added tempo runs.
- I read more (brain power.)
- I ran the Temecula Half Marathon and practiced drinking water from cups at race pace.
- I competed in an Olympic Triathon and practiced drinking water from cups at race pace.
- I found another race:
The Silver Strand Half Marathon
Coronado, CA Nov 11, 2018
Goal needed to qualify for New York:
13.1 miles <1:25 Pace: 6:25/mile
Here’s the link to track my race: https://register.chronotrack.com/event/tracking/eventID/45521
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently” -Henry Ford
The time has come to embrace the pain. Come on little legs, don’t fail me now.
Author, “Get Me Medals”
Ever wonder why people feel compelled to push for more? Why people obsess with chasing something seemingly impossible? Why few try so hard?
Let’s start by defining a goal. Webster’s defines a goal as the object of a person’s ambition or effort. But I don’t think this is an accurate depiction.
Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort
Ever since I can remember, I had goals. Without even knowing the definition of goal, or having an adult explanation, I knew. In kindergarten when anybody asked me that predictable question. “What do you want to be when you grow up little Tony?”
I looked the giant humans straight in the eyes and responded,
“I want to be President of the United States.”
Please forgive my innocence. I obviously didn’t know better (I was five.) I thought of the highest goal imaginable and I set my mark. I wanted to achieve something noteworthy. My upbringing was less than spectacular, and I didn’t know it yet, but dreaming proved instrumental in any achievement.
Struggle became quite familiar. Our broken family crippled by financial problems. I would close my little eyes and imagine a better life. A life where my mom didn’t need food stamps, a life where we didn’t need to ride the bus, and a life where Santa didn’t skip our house.
It killed me to watch my mom struggle. I asked the giant humans for help. The adults preached education. But, I didn’t need an education, I needed rent money. The giants explained education would earn a scholarship to graduate from college, get a job, and then get money. And then get money. It seemed so long, but okay. I figured if I went to school every day, this would help my goal of graduating college. My very first goal was set: perfect attendance.
As I stood receiving my first award for perfect attendance from kindergarten to eighth grade, I remember my pride. I stood 10 feet tall that day. Every year Jack in the Box would give the perfect attendance recepients a coupon for a meal (a brilliantly sly marketing move.) It was the only time I could afford Jack in the Box. I felt like I needed the finest silverware for my cheeseburger combo. I sat like a young prince, ready to eat my well-earned meal.
Over the years, my goals evolved. Graduate college, move out of the hood, help my mom, and start my own company. I’m proud to say, Total Body Project has helped hundreds enhance their lives. Our recent goals consist of our first fitness device, a new personal training course, and a new pregnancy book.
But life is meant to be abundant. Goals must be both professional and personal. Enter the Ironman Triathlon. Most of you are aware of my ability to make drowning look like swimming. The invisible pools in the hood forged my swim stroke to look identical to Michael Phelp’s…puppy.
After I almost drowned in a 47-minute half-mile ocean swim. The Ironman Triathlon (2.4 miles of swimming, followed by 112 of biking and then a 26.2-mile run) seemed like a logical choice. When I told people about this goal, some laughed. But laughing at my goals doesn’t anger me, it inspires me. Laughter represents the right direction for my goals. They laughed when I started my own company. People questioned my reason for leaving engineering. Others are surprised when they learn of my Economics degree. Some even asked who wrote my books. When people laugh, I know I’m on the right track.
Even when I told Robert, my best friend, after we tanked the marathon at Long Beach. “Hey next year, I think we can run under 3 hours and qualify for Boston.” He thought I was delirious.
In 2016, Robert and I crossed the Boston Marathon with my biggest laugh yet.
For the past 6 years, I’ve worked tirelessly for my yearly Ironman competition. With only one goal in mind: qualification to the World Championships in Kona. I’ve recorded hundreds of hours of workouts, runs, swim drills, and cycling. I’ve watched my sleep, scrutinized my diet and did everything imaginable in preparation.
In one word, the Ironman is brutal. Six times I have stepped to the start line, and six times I got smashed by a train. Last year at Ironman Santa Rosa, I had the best Ironman to date. I had a poor swim, deciding to change my swim style slowed me down. I turned in my best bike leg ever and completed the marathon under 4 hours.
And I finished in … 37th place?
Nobody talks about 37th place. I needed one of the top 3 spots. I needed to be 2 hours faster. Two hours faster? I’ve worked as hard as I could, and I still need two hours?
As I threw up in the medical tent, after my best performance to date. I thought about quitting. It broke my heart. Maybe this goal is too much. Maybe I’m not meant to be at the start line in Kona. Maybe this dream is too big.
Maybe this is exactly what I need.
A goal so big, so big, that reaching it would yield incredible fulfillment. A goal so big, it requires not hours, not days, not months, but years. Years committed to bettering myself.
This is exactly what I need.
This Sunday I take another step as I compete in Puerto Rico in a Half-Ironman event.
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, 13.1 mile run all under 5 hours.
If everything goes right, it will be the toughest and most rewarding 5 hours ever.
If everything goes right…
In response to Webster’s, goals are the driving force delivering passion to our lives. Without goals, you cannot have passion. Without passion, life is not worth living.
Without passion, life is not worth living.
I know my goal. Do you know yours?
Ever thought about riding your bike around the globe?
So how do I always end up stuck on my bike at the top of a giant mountain with only Eric keeping me company?
I thought you might find this story inspiring, or nuts.
A few years ago, Eric and I we’re completing another personal training session. We worked through major back issues. He didn’t have a bulged disk, something far worse: 2 shattered discs! Eric experienced chronic back pain for over 20 years. Luckily, I had a plan for his back pain. Three issues I saw immediately: little to no flexibility, weak core and glutes. If he stuck with the program, we would see incredible results. The results blew my mind, his back pain became a distant memory.
Eric felt as strong as a bull. The strongest 57 y/o around. He asked me a question that changed my life.
“Would you ride your bike from San Francisco to Irvine?”
I obviously thought he was joking.
I replied, like any normal person. “Sure, no big deal. Let’s keep working, three more reps.” And I thought, that was it. The next session, Eric showed up with a map and possible dates. I pooped my pants. This guy is serious? I didn’t think it was possible, but I reluctantly agreed.
My butt cried, and every hill destroyed us. We would find ourselves resting on the side of the road just to try and make it home.I looked at Eric and I just didn’t think it was possible. I would have a tough time, and I knew it would be even harder for him. I had doubts, big doubts.But we had a secret weapon, we each possessed a Bigger Burn. A powerful Bigger Burn.
Eric was a cancer survivor. He beat the odds, coming back from near-death made him almost invincible. He wasn’t supposed to do any of this, not anymore. I had a starkly different experience with cancer. My friend Amadu fought bravely against the horrid disease. Sadly, cancer won.
We knew what we needed to do. We would make the mission bigger than us. We would bike to raise money for the fight against cancer.
Our first ride was incredibly challenging. We experienced everything from getting lost, chronic fatigue and a horrific bike crash. But despite all the obstacles, we persevered.
Armed with the right motivation, anything is possible.
We recently completed our 7th bike trip. The bike trek from Oregon to San Francisco. Eric performed like a machine. He isn’t slowing down one bit. He pushes me to work harder. And honestly, I need to. I need to be ready for whatever crazy adventure pops in his head.