Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Life Lessons

(all photos in this blog entry were shot for The Boot Girls and The Boot Campaign, and are courtesy of professional photographer Scott Roeder of Scaughty Photography)

In 2005 I had a successful LASIK surgery. After wearing glasses or contact lenses since sixth grade, I became the poster child for LASIK, as I could see better than 20/20, I didn’t suffer from any “halo vision,” and my eyes did not dry up. It was neat to be able to purchase sunglasses and not have to pay the extra $200 - $300 to convert them into prescription sunglasses, or if a particular style could even be converted. Gone were the days I had one pair of prescription sunglasses, as my sixty-nine pairs of Oakley eyewear can tell you … I loved it! Then on October 16, 2010, I felt blind to the world around me.

My friends and I regularly participate in the Irvine Lake Mud Run (ILMR), a 5K muddy obstacle course along scenic Irvine Lake in Orange County, CA. Nothing like thousands of runners tackling hills, mud pits, walls, nets, and even more mud, all in the name of fun! On October 16 our Gavin’s Groupies team planned something special, with two runners who running blind: John Flores, Team Captain of the Gavin’s Groupies team, and model Heather Rene Smith, would wear specially designed goggles. These goggles were spray-painted so John and Heather would not be able to see. This was a way to experience how a little two year old, Gavin Stevens, experiences the world around him.

Gavin was born with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a very rare, genetic hereditary disorder that causes blindness in infants and children.

Not novices to the muddy fun at ILMR, it was always neat to see that at each race the ILMR organizers continued to top the previous race with more muddy surprises and challenges. However, imagine running a 5K muddy obstacle course blind! Imagine the day of a race you were to lose your sight. How would you find your way to just make it to the start line? How would you know what obstacle awaits you? How would you even take that first step? Would you even take that first step … and miss out on the fun others would have just taken for granted? John and Heather took that first step, in order to bring awareness to Gavin and the mission of the Gavin R. Stevens Foundation. As such with someone losing their sight, friends and family are around as support, and Jayson Nelson volunteered to be John’s guide and I was Heather’s guide. It was an eye-opening experience for me.
Heather and I didn’t practice the blind/guide coordination, and quickly we learned how it would be in real life should one be stricken with blindness out of nowhere. Let me just add to the equation that John, Jayson, Heather and I wore combat boots from The Boot Girls, to support our troops, as it made it that much more difficult to not step on each other’s feet when I’d say, “turn left,” and I really meant “turn right.” Come on, how many times has a sighted person had to verbally say such directions? It was quite humorous at first, but I think we were both using humor to hide the fear, the fear of uncertainty. Oh my goodness, what were we about to get into?

At the start of the Gavin’s Groupies wave, the organizers of ILMR asked Troy Stevens, Gavin’s dad, speak to the crowd about our Foundation, who the Gavin’s Groupies are, and what John, Jayson, Heather, and I were about to do. Whatever fears I had about tripping over Heather five steps into the race were slowly going away, as Troy spoke about all the Gavin’s Groupies teammates wearing orange, and how we were there to help find a cure for Gavin’s blindness … SOON. It was an emotional talk by Troy.

Around me I could see the sea of orange shirts and I could hear the cheers, and it was comforting. My strategy with Heather was to interlock our arms and I would turn her hand the direction we were to go, and provide verbal cues about hills, dips, mud pits, etc. Oh boy, easier said than done. Heather was blind before we got to the start line. I had to describe the hundred yard dash to her, as it led to a hill where we would have to hang left. She was already asking what we needed to do first, what was just ahead of us, how far away it was. Oh my… During Troy’s talk I felt calm. Now that Heather was asking me all these questions, I started imagining the running sound of the hundreds of runners in the wave we were in who were behind us, stampeding behind us as we charged across the field. The horn sounded and our wave took off!
I looked at John and Jayson to observe their stride, and they were fearless (Oh, did I mention the four of us did some friendly trash-talking among us before the race? Such grownups … who knew? LOL). I observe folks on a daily basis, looking at verbal, auditory, and kinesthetic cues, to see if they’re congruent or in conflict with each other. That start of the race had to be one of THE MOST classic example of congruency ever. There was no holding back from Heather that she was friggin’ shocked at this experience: squeezing my arms and hands, the haste in her tone of voice, and the words she used … yeah, no mixed signals there! Could it have been the sound of shoes pounding the pavement around her? Could it have been the uncertainty of the terrain her boots made contact with with each stride that she took? Or could it have been the misdirection of her guide (ahem) who had problems with his left/right directions, causing some minor crashes?

We made the first hill and turn relatively OK, and we were not trampled upon. As we reached a downhill slope Heather went at a lot faster pace than I would’ve expected. Considering we were interlocked at the arms, she went forward, I slowed down, she slowed down, and I went forward… we could’ve been a pair of bobble-heads filming a skit. What the heck? Couldn’t Heather read my mind?

It was at this point that it really clicked, “Reggie, she’s blind and you are her guide. You need to build trust, and trust is a two-way street.” I should no longer rely too much on mental telepathy. She should no longer rely on my cracking jokes when we ran into each other. We should experience our surroundings together. This was BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #1. (It was a much-needed epiphany for us to get through 5K of this.)
I found that while I tried being proactive and describe the layout way in advance, it didn’t matter too much. What was important was the here and now. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #2.

Aside from the fact that Heather was blind, she is quite a capable person. Know that she can handle herself; as long as I don’t steer her wrong, I should concern myself to focus on us moving forward. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #3.
When I sensed uncertainty from Heather, it was my job to recognize those signals and counter them with acts of confidence, so she could build trust in my judgment and direction. It was fun to crash into each other and into our surroundings, but it was more important to let her know that I knew what I was doing and that she could trust me. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #4.

At times I had to let go of our interlaced arms, place myself ahead of her, and face her, so I can test the terrain sliding down the muddy embankments. Doing so, Heather could just slide down against my arm, knowing I’d stop us both at the bottom. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #5.
At times I had to loosen my grip of death, when the path was flat, clear of rocks or hills, so she could enjoy as much of the surroundings as she could. It was neat to see her smile and actually run with some freedom. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #6.
This was the ILMR, where mud and fun mixed well together. Enjoy life, have some laughs … and dunk your friend in the mud, given the chance to do so! It’s pretty rewarding to enjoy some fun, especially as your goals are well at hand. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #7.
I’m not a swimmer and I don’t execute the best swimming strokes at all. Being so close to the edge of the lake at times, and with Heather crashing into me she didn’t know any better that it was too close for comfort for me running closest to the edge of the water. Face your fear, run along it, and it will just blend in the background with everything else. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #8

Folks would stare, point, and make comments, at our mishaps during the course. When they found out Heather was blind, their demeanor was open and helpful, and offering cheers of encouragement. Awareness of other people’s circumstances helps bring the inner Good Samaritan out of people. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #9
Over the course of various walls, hills, mud pits, tires, and rocks, I observed Heather’s transition from showing signs of excitement change to fear to confusion to trust and to accomplishment. Our official photographer for The Boot Girls expertly captured moments of our race, and as I look back at those pictures, each picture is definitely worth a thousand words. I consider Heather a close friend, but I found out even more about how she views life, from the interaction and conversations we had about the course, in addition to the casual interaction and conversations we had about random topics. Sometimes during the most obscure and challenging times is when you find out the most about the people you surround yourself with. BLIND MUD RUN LESSON #10 … wait a second … these lessons don’t seem to apply to just BLIND MUD RUNS now. Wow.
This whole experience gave me a perspective of Gavin’s life, and others who do not have sight. Gavin relies on his family and friends to support him, but he also wants to experience life as he “sees” it. Gavin has trust in those who he has built a relationship of trust with. It’s not a matter of just verbal cues or physical cues, but a matter of his experiencing the world together with them. As a sighted individual, I felt blind to some of the emotions associated with walking, running, falling, and getting up. I was humbled by what I experienced that day. I was humbled by how two year old Gavin impacted me this way. I was humbled by how The Stevens Family opened their world to Gavin’s Groupies.

We walk around with blinders that we inadvertently place there, which hinder us from what we want to do, while those without sight live life blind to barriers as nothing could hinder them from what they desire to experience. I’m dedicated to helping find a cure for Gavin’s blindness, as I know Gavin will do amazing things. I hope you can help us? (check out our video on this page)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Bring On The Men!

I thought there simply was not a more fitting title for this blog.

My friends know I'm up for just about anything fitness-related. Whether it's a new series of fitness DVDs, an invitation to participate in a mud run, or more recently, an opportunity to work out with some fit folks at Pure Barre at their newest location in Mission Viejo. I heard about Pure Barre through friends, and I might add an important factor, my female friends. I accepted an invitation to Pure Barre's "Bring On The Men!" the weekend of June 19-20. Guys were encouraged by their female friends to experience 55 minutes of the Pure Barre Technique (PBT) that has the motto: Lift, Tone, and Burn!

My friend Ashley Affeldt (everyone say hi to Ashley, above) sponsored me for this unique opportunity, and, wow... let me tell you all about my day at Pure Barre...

WARM UP: As with any fitness program we started with a warm up. Granted I've not worked out in front of room full of mirrors in a while, I found it actually helped me see how my form was during this phase of the workout. It also gave me a chance to see all the guys and gals in my class, so there was that bonding experience going already.

As you can see I'm already out of sync, this whole reverse-image-in-the-mirror and following Monica Pommier (Instructor, Owner of the Mission Viejo & Newport Beach studios) movements, was confusing for me. How will I last the full 55 minutes? On the one hand my lack of coordination was saved by some floor exercises and some work with the weights. On the other hand, I soon realized this was the calm before the storm.
The competitive nature in me prompted me to sneak a peak in between sets at some of the other fellas and it looks like we were all on par with our female counterparts thus far.
CORE WORKOUT: Soon the core of the PBT began: Thigh, Seat, and Ab Work. I underestimated the intensity of the PBT as Monica led us through some of the most intense, but small, isometric movements combined in a class. If not for the high-energy music I would've been too focused on the burning feeling these movements created on key areas of my body.

About a month ago I suffered a crazy hip injury that knocked me out of my workout routine for three weeks, and at this point I wasn't sure if I should tell Ashley that this "Manly Man" may have to bow out. However, I found that the exercise movements of the PBT provided the burn, but since it did not involve any bouncing or jumping, I would have to find another excuse to not go through this intense program. Monica had to help adjust my stance a couple of times, but other than that, I continued with the program.
After various focused exercises my abs, hips, glutes, and arms were telling me in unison that THIS had to be one of the most intense 55 minutes I have ever worked out...yet my recently-recovered hip was still intact! I spoke with the other guys in the class and we all had the same sweaty, exhausted, and relieved look ... giving me some cue that I was not the only guy wondering how Ashley, Monica, and our female classmates could do this regularly and not smell of Icy Hot.

I'm very grateful for Pure Barre welcoming me and the other guys to "Bring On The Men" as guys very seldom get a chance to participate in fitness classes for females. Personally I like to try various programs and routines, as I'm usually asked by both guys and gals alike, "What would you recommend if I want to...?" I consider myself very well-versed in some of the innovative programs out there, but was not so much with the ones that especially focused on goals and areas on most females' checklists. I also consider myself a pretty fit individual and may have done a great job masking my pain. In the days that followed my abs, my thighs, and my glutes were STILL burning from ONE session at Pure Barre! I cannot make that statement about my previous or current programs.

I hear that Pure Barre invites us guys twice a year to experience how the PBT works out the body through zero- to low-impact movements, providing effective results in a short amount of time. You can be sure I'll have my guy friends check it out for themselves, if I haven't already flooded them with stories from my one day with Pure Barre. As for my female friends, you all are fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Pure Barre classes. It's no wonder talk about Pure Barre has caused more studios opening up. It works and more folks want to experience it. On Saturday, June 26 the Mission Viejo studio will have a Grand Opening Party. Please check it out for yourself and speak with Monica, other Pure Barre instructors, and the Pure Barre students!

Thank you, Monica (above) for inviting us guys to Pure Barre for "Bring On The Men!" It was quite a rewarding experience!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tracking my Insanity

My friends know me for being a pretty active guy in terms of fitness. In the past couple of years, I've been the guinea pig and crash test dummy for P90X and the TRX Suspension Training System. The results are crazy awesome and it's why it's cool whenever I hear my friends purchase these fitness programs and take on the challenge!

Not to disappoint, it was bound to happen...a program that describe the state I was in in wanting to punish my body further...INSANITY. I started the Insanity: 60-Day Total Body Conditioning Program. I started my 60-day journey on June 7th with a Fit Test of eight exercises to establish a baseline for my improvement. I consider myself pretty fit, so when I really did push myself to log this initial measurement of my performance. As with anything that can be measured, it can be improved. I decided to shoot for a 10% improvement on my counts by the time my Fit Test came in two weeks.

Two weeks later, on June 21st it was time to see how I fared, not sure if the 10% improvement in two weeks was aggressive or not. The first two exercises I didn't hit my 10% targets, so at 5:30am (when I usually work out) it was not looking too promising. Fortunately as the Fit Test went on, I was able to hit my 10% targets for the remaining six exercises...I was pretty stoked!

In two weeks it will be time for my third Fit Test, and I'm thinking an increase of 5% from my June 21st results might be a more realistic goal. In any case, seeing my overall improvement from the first Fit Test was encouraging. Even the first two exercises where I missed my mark, I'm pretty proud of the increase from my initial fit test. Overall, I'd say it was a pretty darned good performance. There was no merit in hanging my shoulders low after missing the mark on the first two exercises.

It's important to stay focused on the big picture and not getting hung up little things.


Friday, June 11, 2010

It's been a while!

Wow! Looking at the last post there have been a lot of activity that I really SHOULD have blogged about. Fortunately Facebook has pictures, videos, and some story to tell about the last seven months in the the active life of OakleyOC!

In January, I missed the deadline for the World Famous Camp Pendelton Mud Run ... again. The Xterra Trail Run at Crystal Cove was postponed again as Mother Nature was having fun with her rain machine.

In February, Mother Nature continued to pound sunny Southern California with rain the week before the Xterra Trail Run at Crystal Cove was to happen. It became known as the "Crystal Cove Curse," and was set for an April 25th date.

In March, it was all about continuing to train for Irvine Lake Mud Run happening on April 17. It was exciting to have about 30 people register for our socialMUDia team, comprised of Twitter, Facebook, and in-real-life friends!

In April, the Irvine Lake Mud Run proved to be a HUGE success. It was not so much that the venue was scenic and challenging at the same time. It was more about the socialMUDia team having a wide spectrum of fitness/running levels combining into a team that had a lot of fun that day. Also in April the Xterra Trail Run finally happened! It had to be THE MOST CHALLENGING 5K that I have ever run! Nothing like punishing yourself on a beautiful outdoor trail in Crystal Cove, and reaching the top of the course towards the end where you see a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean! Simply amazing!

May was a recovery month for me. While I wish I had a better story for my hip injury that knocked me from running for three weeks, I don't. I was casually running through a parking lot and decided to hurdle over a parking barrier. I landed fine, but I may have twisted incorrectly. It didn't help I had the Xterra race the next morning. By that Monday I could not lift my left leg using its own muscles. Walking around with a cane, electroshock therapy and physical therapy for three weeks and my doctor cleared me to train again ... for the June 5th Playa del Run in Huntington Beach!

On June 5, I participated in a 5K Beach Run at the Playa del Run in Huntington Beach. It was June Gloom time, but just being along the sand for the race was refreshing. It was my first race since my infamous imitation of House, M.D., and I didn't feel any pain during or after the race. There was a second part of the Playa del Run event ... a one-mile sand sprint with obstacles. That was so much fun as there was the challenge of the stop and go motion in between obstacles on loose sand, in addition to the mere fact the race was on loose sand! Nevertheless, I survived without any injury!

I promised myself after the above, it was time to put myself through the INSANITY: The 60-day Total Body Conditioning Program. Follow my progress through the next 60 days!

With any program, whether someone else's or one that you create, set up a log and your goals. How can you hit a target if you can see the target? Set a target and visualize it!