Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ODDS can be a good thing

My trip to Denver went incredibly well. I had three huge goals to accomplish: 1) find a good job in development/fundraising utilizing my experience and skills, 2) find a place for us to live for the next few months until our house in Chagrin Falls sells and we can finally buy, and 3) find a good childcare facility for Noah.

Amid the beauty, odds to beat.

Two of the three have been accomplished. We found a nice apartment community in Parker (elevation 6,000+ feet), a very fast-growing city just south of Denver, and we have enrolled Noah in an excellent school less than two miles from our apartment. I have some great job leads and have received an excellent verbal offer from a wonderful health care organization in Denver. Things are looking up!

As someone who spends a lot of time in the yard, I'll often come upon a weed that has sprouted such deep roots that it's often hard to pull it from the ground. Sometimes it comes apart as you pull and you have to remove it a little at a time until the weed is totally gone. I don't see my life as a weed--far from it--but I do feel like with this move we're pulling up our roots and going to a far off land. At first, I didn't want to pull at my roots in Cleveland and was resistant--hence all the pain and suffering I've been through the last few months. It got so bad that I talked with a counselor here at University Hospitals who told me the following:

"You have a lot going for you. You have a loving, supportive wife and family. Your son is too young for this move to affect him. You have been very successful at UH and will get another great job. Your house will sell. Your wife already has a job so you have some income during this transition. You can still run in Colorado and you'll make friends there. And it's Denver--one of the most desirable areas in the US! Change your thinking and start playing positive messages rather than messages of doom and gloom!"

In this economy and housing market and with unemployment being what it is and the stories of desperation you hear, it was hard not to be overcome by doom and gloom. But I have changed my thinking and I now look at this move as an adventure and the start of a new life in a spectacular part of the country. I guess it doesn't hurt that I have some great job prospects.

When I survey my life from boyhood to now, it seems I have consistently beaten the odds, and I believe I'm beating the odds now in positioning myself and my family for success and a good life in Denver amid some difficult times for families across this nation. Or maybe I just see myself as a guy who believes the odds are always stacked against me--even if they truly aren't. Perhaps it's a subconscious mindset or mind game arising from some kind of inferiority complex. Maybe that's why I work so hard. In my mind, I believe hard work, devotion and a sense of purpose will almost always conquer the odds.

When I'm training for a race, I tell myself everyone has more talent than I do, and so I have to outwork them. I did that going into the 2009 Mohican 100--a race I won. Whether or not I have talent is immaterial to me. Talent alone doesn't win ultramarathons. Hard work, lots of miles, running through pain and suffering and generally devoting 20+ hours a week to training are the components of winning a long race. You have to motivate yourself every day--and I do so by telling myself everyone else is better than I am and they know it and so I have to outwork them and even outhink them. They look down at me and think I'm a joker and so I'll show them on race day. I will never give up and will keep going after those in front of me. It works!

When I'm looking for a job as I have been for the past several weeks, I tell myself other candidates have a better resume and maybe an MBA, and so I find ways to separate myself from the others. I show my smile and I believe in myself.

At work, I tell myself the last project I did wasn't good enough regardless of whether I got praise or whether what I did brought in money for the organization, and so I put even more effort and energy into my next undertaking. You are only as good as what you're doing now and can't base success in the workplace on what you did last week or month. Success is a day-to-day investment of blood, sweat and tears.

When I look in the mirror, I see a guy who has beaten the odds in losing over 50 pounds and keeping it all off for over seven years and counting. I tell myself every day the fat, lower-back pain and size-38 pants will come back if I don't stay focused, disciplined and dedicated to my running and healthy eating. I have never declared myself "fat free" forever and never will. It's a daily battle.

I guess these messages keep me motivated. I want to be counted out and told I have no chance. I want the world to overlook me and tell me I'm not this and I'm not that. That only motivates me to work even harder. And regardless of how many more ultramarathons I may win (maybe no more!), I want people to tell me any victory I achieve was a fluke because, while that may aggravate me, it will also motivate me. I believe those who achieve and fully know success are at great risk of laziness and an ultimate decline. We have seen this time and again throughout our history--the rise and fall of fill-in-the-blank.

Success--it's come here in Cleveland and maybe that's why this move was so agonizing for so long. I got lazy and forgot that life brings challenges--many painful. This new challenge has the odds stacked against me--or maybe I just see it that way--and so now I practice what I preach. I work hard and with focus. Nothing comes easy and this move to Denver certainly will be no exception. I will have to dig deep.

I give thanks to all who have believed in me throughout this painful but ultimately growing period of my life. And I give thanks to the depressing news headlines, alarmist talking heads, staggeringly depressing statistics and other discouraging mumbo-jumbo that made me work my tail off to find a job and discover a sense of hope and excitement as our new, wonderful life in Denver awaits us. I'm sure there I'll find plenty of big odds to beat. Bring 'em on.


  1. After you settle into Parker, head out to Jefferson County for great trails to run. My favorite trails are at Apex and White Ranch (Golden), Elk Meadow (Evergreen) and Deer Creek Canyon (near Littleton). I will be running on these trails over the next 4 months to prepare for the Pikes Peak Marathon. Here is a link to the Jefferon County Open Space website:

    Good luck!


  2. You can do this little move! Just think about all the great new runs you are going to have!