Dear Andrew

Dear Andrew,

When I first heard the terrible news I was absolutely crushed. I told my wife the news and she was in just as much disbelief as I was. I held everything together long enough to drive Roman to school. I used the last of my strength to drive to the Ehrensing tomb in Metairie Cemetery. I sat by our tomb for who knows how long. I sobbed uncontrollably. I contacted my brothers and our mutual friends. I sent a text to your beautiful wife. I became angry….not at anyone or anything, just pure unadulterated anger. I was angry because your gorgeous daughters would grow up without you like I did with my father and that just isn’t fair. I cried some more until I thought I would throw up.

I don’t really know how I drove home and much of the day was hazy at best. When Roman returned home from school I told him the news. He’s only 6 so I’m not sure how much he understands of this but he has clung to me at night since then. That evening I contacted other family members as I had avoided most phone calls throughout the day. I spoke to Abel for the first time since 2005. At some point that first evening I began to go numb.

The next few days were a blur as we awaited information on your services. I spent a great deal of time trying to determine how we would travel to Chicago and where we would stay. Throughout this entire process I knew my family and I would be there for your girls as soon as we could. Over the next few days everything seemed to blur together. At some point the Saints lost to the Falcons in overtime and Weston celebrated his 3rd birthday. I couldn’t really tell if this was a dream or reality.

On Wednesday morning we loaded the kids in the car and started our journey to Chicago. That drive was one of the longest in my life as I still was numb to things and didn’t really process the reality. We left New Orleans at 4am and arrived in Deerfield at 11pm. My boys did incredible and had no issues on the ride. The first morning in Chicago was one of exhaustion, anxiety, and incredible sadness. We drove to your house for the first time and I was shaking. I didn’t know what to say to your wife and kids. All I wanted to do was hold them as tight as I could and somehow make them feel like everything would be ok. Unfortunately, Sara was in school and Haihong was taking care of some issues away from the house. I saw your dad first and, although we had our issues, we embraced and I knew right away that this was real. I saw your mom and she was putting up a strong front as you knew she would. Eddie was in the basement shoveling the leftovers from a sewerage pipe burst.

Your house is very nice and my only wish was that I could have visited your place before you were gone. I did tell you we would do our best to get up to Chicago sometime this year. I would have loved to give you a hard time for having a pink bathroom.

When Sara returned home from school on Thursday, Jaala and I loaded up the kids in Haihong’s car and took them for Oberweis and Potbelly’s…in that order. They had a great time. On Friday, I pretended to be you in order to take a bunch of us to the Field Museum. Roman has been wanting to see the dinosaurs for a long time and I promised him I’d take him to Chicago to see them. The ride from the house to the museum found all 4 of the kids laughing, telling stories, and just being cousins. Once we left the museum I took everyone to the McDonalds across from Wrigley Field. I figured the kids would be full and tired by that point but I still wanted to bring them by our old apartment. We did a quick drive by the apartment and figured we’d head home and they would all sleep on the way. No such luck. Instead, they were just as full of life and laughs as ever. My heart ached for you to be there to hear our kids play and laugh together like we had always talked about.

Oberweis

4 kids

Sue

McDonalds

On Saturday a bunch of us went to the Pancake House. I have to tell you, Oberweis, Potbelly’s, and the Pancake House all next to each other should be illegal. It’s like a slice of heaven on earth. Early in the afternoon I promised my boys I would take them on a train ride so Jaala, Patrick, and I took Roman and Weston on the blue line. On the escalator to the top we had a minor mishap. Weston decided to kneel down on the escalator and his pant leg got caught. Patrick hit the stop button and Weston was physically ok but his pant leg couldn’t say the same. He kind of looked like Hulk. My initial thought after determining he was ok was to take a picture and send it to you. I couldn’t…so here it is.

hulk

After the train ride we had the family visitation and the first time any of us saw you since you boarded the flight to Sydney. Your wife and kids, parents, and brothers all went in first. I told Jaala to keep the kids out until I went in and came back for them. While I came to say my goodbye to you, Sara asked me if she could bring Roman in. I went with Sara and Arden to get Jaala, Roman, and Weston. Sara led Roman over to see you and Arden and Weston hung out behind them. At some point all four of them were sitting on me on the floor. All I could do was hold them tight and try to keep from becoming angry again. These are not moments you and I planned. You weren’t supposed to be laying there with me holding all of our kids.

Sara & Roman

Saturday evening was full of alcohol and laughs. Your brothers even made a special run for me to have some gin and tonic…just like you taught me. Haihong’s sister flew in on Friday and she and Jaala took the kids swimming Saturday evening. I still chuckle when I picture Jaala with the four kids and your non-english speaking sister-in-law in the car going swimming with our kids.

Sunday was one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen in a long time. Bright blue skies and cool temperatures. We should have been sitting at Wrigley watching the Cubs lose. Your services were informal and consisted of family and friends talking about how great you were and telling countless epic stories that only you could have been involved in. We learned just how brilliant you really were at work and was not surprised at how many people you touched and inspired in your life. The reception at your house afterwards was a great time as well. Lots of stories told, drinks had, food eaten, and most importantly laughter. I think you would have been pleased. I’m pretty sure we all were waiting to see you come around the corner with that bellowing laugh. I guess we’ll only hear that laugh again in our memory.

We drove home late Sunday evening after everyone had left your house. I was exhausted but I knew we had to keep moving. At some point after the sun rose I had Jaala drive. I don’t know that I have ever been so emotionally and physically exhausted. My nerves were raw. I sat in the passenger seat and just cried for a while.

I didn’t speak at your funeral service. I don’t really know why. It’s not like I didn’t have anything to say about you. Maybe it’s because I could have talked for hours about your influence on my life. I could have told about all the books, movies, and news articles you recommended to me. Maybe discussed all the sporting events we attended together. You took me to my first Cubs game at Wrigley. My first game at the old Soldier Field. We sat next to each other in Busch Stadium when the Red Sox broke their World Series curse. We were with each other in Wrigley the last time the Cubs won the division.

Maybe I could have talked about how I always tried to outdo you whether you realized it or not. As most people who knew you already know this was nearly impossible. I thought I had you about 7 years ago though when I called to tell you Jaala and I were pregnant with the first great grandchild. I could feel your smile beaming through the phone when you asked when our due date was. I told you September and you crushed my dream when you responded, “Cool, we’re due in August!” I wasn’t really crushed though. I was actually very excited as our kids would be the same age. Fast forward a few years later when we were all eating dinner in New Orleans and you remarked how it used to just be the 2 of us and now there was 8 of us.

Maybe I could have talked about our plans for our families. How we wanted our kids to be as close as we are. That, although we were born cousins, you and I became brothers. I will forever have a hole in my heart. You were my inspiration, my mentor, my friend, and most importantly, my brother. I will miss our talks. I will miss your laugh. I will miss your outlook on things. I will miss knowing no matter where you were in the world you would take the time to talk to me and I could always rely on you. I will miss everything about you. I love you.

I will look after your girls and will keep the bond between them and my boys strong. I will do what I can for Haihong. I will keep your memory and spirit alive.

Your brother,
Geoffrey

PS I hope you enjoy the pictures and music I picked for your slideshow. Click here Andrew

Sorry there is other stuff on the blog post that might be distracting.  I need to clean it up but I’ve been a bit of a procrastinator.  I learned from the best.

Filed in Geoffrey |

Changing My View

It’s been far too long since my last post. A quick update on what has been going on. I’ve done well keeping myself physically in shape and have been eating better for the most part, green smoothies and such. I’ve put so much effort into getting back in shape and staying in shape that I seem to have lost focus a bit on other parts of my life. I seem to have stalled out in areas. I know this rut and know the longer I stay in it, the deeper it gets.

So, with that said I need a goal. My goal is to change my view. Not my personal view on people, situations, etc. but my actual view. This is my current view from my office.
Office window

This is the type of view I would rather have.
Dream lake RMNP

Woods

Now to figure out just how to do this while still giving my family everything they need and deserve from this life.

This is my starting point…right here…right now. How do I get to where I’m going? Well I don’t have a damned clue. However, as George Harrison states in one of my favorite songs of his, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there”. Some of you may also recognize this from Alice in Wonderland. I’ll stick with the George Harrison version.

Anyway, if you’d like to see where this journey takes me, jump on board. I can’t guaranty we’ll make it there quickly, if at all, but I can guaranty it will be bumpy and at times it may seem like a lost cause. Stick with it though and it should be a hell of a ride.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

Filed in Journals |

What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been

The day I had been training for over the last year was finally here.  I woke up excited and ready to go.  I immediately checked the weather report.  No trace of rain in sight and not many clouds in the sky either.  However, the one weather issue that I had feared came true.  I woke up to find high winds of 20+ miles per hour were expected all day.  My fear was trying to stay warm with this much wind and constantly being wet.  Fortunately, although the weather was cool and crisp at 54 degrees it was also warmer than anticipated and I was prepared anyway.

 Weather Report

I’ll get back to challenge day in a minute but I wanted to give a mention to those members of Keep Movin’ that showed up to take on the challenge.  As most of you may remember, Team Keep Movin’ lost several members leading up to the event and we were down to 3 as of the event, Joey, Chris, and me.  I was a little shocked to see that Joey had still decided to take on the challenge seeing as though he had done very little training over the last few months.  I was equally shocked that Tim had backed out of the event only 2 weeks before.  This was all forgotten however, once we arrived at our destination, Brackenridge State Park in Edna, TX.

Our campsite was located next to a couple of fellow Goruck Tough members and their team of 5.  The night before the challenge we all decided to have a few beers and go walk the course.  We were only able to walk the end of the course and a couple of us decided to try out the Funky Monkey obstacle ahead of time.  Two guys tried but only one succeeded which meant a nice pre-challenge dunk in the cold water.  We didn’t stay up too late though as our challenge started at 9am the next morning.  That night did allow us to meet some cool people who would eventually help out our team tremendously.

The morning of the challenge we decided to walk over to registration pretty early so we wouldn’t have to wait in any lines and so we could check things out while it was still pretty quiet.  On the nearly 1 mile walk to the registration area we were greeted with the windy conditions we would face throughout the day.  For any of you who have never been to Texas, the land is very flat and very open.  This means the wind is whipping through with nothing to break it up.  It wasn’t unbearable but it was certainly cold.

Upon returning to our campsite after registration, we decided to break camp so we wouldn’t have to do it after the challenge.  This proved to be a smart move since we had to leave early Saturday afternoon to head home. Waiting to break down camp after the event would have been a nightmare.  We picked up our new friends and we all drove back to the starting line in anticipation of our 9am start.  Things were getting a little hectic and I didn’t really have a chance to think about the course or the challenge I was about to undertake.  Thankfully I was prepared and it all became second nature pretty quickly.

The starting pit (line) of the race was blockaded around all sides and only accessible by climbing over a 12 foot wall.  Once inside the pit, there was a guy shouting out instructions followed by the Tough Mudder pledge.  He also talked a bit about the Wounded Warrior Project which was followed by a raucous applause and cheering when he mentioned how much money had been raised for this great organization.  All the while in the starting pit we were kneeling on one knee while listening to the instructions.  We were told to stand up for the National Anthem and told to look at the person to the left and right and remember this challenge is all about camaraderie and teamwork.  Even if the person next to you was a stranger you were all teammates now.

When the challenge began, we all ran out of the pit into a field led by a cowboy on his horse and orange smoke all around.  At this point everything was still surreal as it typically is for me at the beginning of any race/challenge.  We approached the first obstacle which was a belly crawl through some very slick and thick Texas mud with barbed wire about a foot off the ground.  I had decided to wear my GoRuck GR1 rucksack for this event and it was filled with food, water, and most importantly, beer.  I was immediately stuck on the barbed wire and was snapped back into reality.  I was able to unhook myself pretty quickly but was covered head to toe in this slick mud which would prove to be a big hazard on the next obstacle.

The Start

The second obstacle was a set of “Berlin” walls which are 12 foot high walls with nothing to use to climb up.  This is where the teamwork and camaraderie came into play.  As we approached the walls immediately people were moving into position to help boost others up and over the wall.  I had decided to wear gloves for this event as well which proved to be worthless after the slick mud.  On the first wall I grabbed the top and was attempting to pull myself up as my hands slipped and I went crashing into the top of the wall.  I decided quickly to remove my gloves for the second wall which helped but was still pretty tough due to the slick mud at the top of the walls.

After the walls we ran over to an obstacle called, Walk the Plank.  This obstacle is a 15 foot platform that you jump off of into a lake.  Once in the lake you had to swim across the lake which was probably about 75 to 100 yards long.  This was the first time I had ever attempted to swim fully clothed with a rucksack.  I was a little nervous at first but once I jumped in I quickly realized my GR1 floated!  This made the swim to the other shore much easier.  However, there were a lot of people in the water and some weaker swimmers.  Chris and Joey assisted a couple of people who were panicking and almost drowning.  By the time I made it to the other side I realized just how long a swim it had been and how dangerous it was to those people who were not the best swimmers.  It was around this time I realized just how tough the rest of the course was going to be but I was up for the challenge.

Walk the Plank Jump

The next several miles and obstacles started to just come and go and at some point I just began living in the moment without thought of how much further to go.  Somewhere between mile 3 and 4, Chris and I lost Joey.  We knew he was going to fall back eventually and really didn’t think he was going to complete the challenge.  We had discussed this the day before as we knew Joey had not been training as much as we had.  He told us he would finish no matter what and to just leave him behind if he couldn’t keep up.  I was torn about this though.  The challenge is all about camaraderie and the Goruck challenge certainly taught me the value of strong teamwork.  I finally came to peace when I realized that I was not letting Joey down by leaving him during the challenge.  He had let the team down by not taking his training seriously and had made his choice to be left behind.

Team Keep Movin'

As Chris and I carried on we met every obstacle with a smile on our face and no hesitation.  We ran in and out of water and mud along a lake.  We scaled cargo nets, logs, and mud hills.  We crawled through tubes, trenches, and tunnels.  We got wet, muddy, and dry, and did it all over again and again.  The strong winds helped us dry rather quickly after each water obstacle.  Unfortunately, it also dried the thick mud onto our arms and legs before we could reach another water obstacle to wash off.  At one point we had enough mud caked on our elbows and knees that it became hard to bend our legs and arms as we trudged on.  The mud became like concrete.  Our bodies would continuously go from warm to cold as we would dry out just in time to reach another water obstacle that may or may not have ice in the water.  I was beginning to understand just how tough a challenge this thing really was.

Mud Hill

Joey Cold

We eventually came upon the “Hold your Wood” obstacle which consists of picking up a log and carrying it a ways before returning the log to the log pile.  At this point I told Chris it might be a good idea to rehydrate.  He agreed and grabbed a couple of beers from my GR1.  The look you receive when you pass someone holding a log while drinking a beer is priceless.  We were even asked by a rather shocked volunteer where we had found a beer out there.  Chris smiled and pointed to me.  I expressed my disappointment to the volunteer for only providing water on the course and not beer.  I told him no matter though, I brought my own.

Gap Jumps

Cargo Net

It was also at this obstacle where we ran into our friend Travis and his girlfriend Lauren who had come down from Houston to take pictures for us.  We received some great words of encouragement from the both of them as they watched us take on another set of “Berlin” walls.  This set was a little different as they were dry, as were we, and much easier to get over.  However, by this time there was also a lack of other competitors around and Chris and I had to take on the walls with no other help.  Since I was carrying the ruck and the beer, we decided I should go up first with Chris pushing me up when I needed it.  Chris would then run toward the wall and jump to catch the top and pull himself over.  I’m a little surprised at how quick and easy we were able to do this.  I guess training pays off.

Berlin Wall Approach

Chris on Wall

Me on Wall

Around this time I started to get a few leg cramps that would move around from my hamstring down to my calf and back again.  Chris was also having issues with his knee.  We did a little bit of walking at this point to make sure we were alright.  We were around mile 8.  We eventually learned just how fast we could run without causing any additional issues with my cramps and his knee issue.  Remarkably, we were still passing people as we lumbered along.  I suppose it was around mile 10 or 11 when we finally came around a bend and could see the finish line.  Our spirits were lifted and our pace quickened.  Little did we know the worst was just ahead.

Me and Chris muddy

Me and Chris Running

As we waded across a small knee deep creek, we were greeted by a fair amount of spectators.  From here on out the course was lined with spectators cheering everyone on.  It was great to see so many people out there cheering on complete strangers and offering words of encouragement to keep going.  We knew there were a few big obstacles coming up as we had seen them the night before.  These obstacles included the Funky Monkey, Everest, Electroshock Therapy, and another lake swim which also made us swim under a set of floating barrels.

The floating barrel obstacle was relatively easy as there were only a couple of other people in the water with us.  I was able to roll onto my back (and my floating ruck) after passing all the barrels and let my legs rest as I backstroked to the shore.  It was almost a relaxing swim across the lake which contrasted the earlier swim in the same lake where people were nearly drowning.  We eventually made it to the Funky Monkey which is a monkey bar obstacle where the bars start on an incline and then decline back to the other side.  I had no expectations going into this obstacle of completing it as I had no real way to train for this.  Chris made it across with no problem and the crowd was cheering pretty loud.  I figured I would do whatever I could to make it without falling.  As I started along I was moving pretty quickly and thought I would make it with no issues.  However, about 4 bars from the end, one of the bars I grabbed onto spun backwards and I eventually lost my grip plummeting into the ice water below.  I was freezing but also pleased with how I did.

Me on the Funky Monkey

Chris on Funky Monkey

The next obstacle caused me to hesitate ever so slightly.  The obstacle was called “Shocks on the Rocks”.  I don’t know what sadistic bastard thought this one up but I’d like to buy him or her a drink….then punch them in the face.  The obstacle consisted of a frame of 2×4’s about a foot from the ground.  Inside the frame were electric wires which hung down toward the ground.  If that wasn’t enough, the crawl space under the frame was filled with ice.  Chris and I watched as a few guys ran and slid under the frame as far as they could before crawling.  Chris tried this as well and probably made it about half way through.  I decided to just start crawling from the beginning while pushing my ruck in front of me.  I was a little worried about running toward the obstacle and sliding under such a low beam.  I figured with my luck I would either smash my head/face into the beam or I would slip and end up on top of the frame with no way to get out.  Crawling through this obstacle was absolute misery.  I felt as though I got shocked by every wire I went under.  Later, Chris had told me he got shocked and blacked out for a second before coming to and realizing he was still in the obstacle.  Sadistic!

Me in Ice

Chris in Ice

Chris after Ice

The next obstacle was Everest.  This obstacle is a halfpipe with a slick surface.  You have to run up and catch on to either someone that is holding their hand down for you or to the top of the structure.  We waited our turn and watched several people almost make it only to come rolling back down into the mud.  I’m not exactly sure why but this obstacle actually seemed really easy to me as I made it up on the first try with no problem.  Chris also made it on the first try.  We decided to stick around up top for a few minutes to help other people complete the obstacle.  I think we pulled about 5 people up before we decided to move on to the final obstacle and the finish line.

Chris on Everest

Me going up Everest

Helping on Everest

The final obstacle was “Electroshock Therapy”.  This is an obstacle that forces you to run through electric wires that are hanging all around.  Some of the wires are electrified while others are not.  The ground is also mud and water so you can’t really move through the obstacle with great speed.  As Chris and I approached the obstacle there were 3 other guys running with us.  It seemed like everyone was hesitating a little so I just yelled, “GORUCK!!!” and hauled ass through.  I’m not sure how but I did not get shocked at all.  I did however lose my footing which caused me to slide across the mud and water.  I didn’t care.  I was a few yards from the finish line and no more obstacles to overcome.  Chris did get shocked coming through at the end but it wasn’t enough to ruin his day either.  We turned and ran toward the finish line knowing we had accomplished our goal.  We had started at 9am and we crossed the finish line at 12:34pm.  We were pleased…and tired.

Electroshock Therapy

Once we crossed the finish line there were people placing orange headbands on those that completed the challenge.  These were our finisher “medals” and have to be earned.  There were others handing out protein bars, shirts, and beer.  I didn’t realize how cold I was until we saw Travis and Lauren again and my hand was shaking so bad I was spilling beer all over.  We decided to take a finisher picture than head to the hoses to wash off.  After this I decided to grab a survival blanket to wrap around me to try and warm up.  At this point we also thought it a good idea to check the first aid tent to see if Joey had been brought in.  We were told he was not there but there were 3 people headed in that they didn’t have names for yet.  We decided to head to the truck and change into dry clothes before we came back to see if Joey was being brought in.

Me and Chris after finishing

Finish Line

As we walked back to the first aid tent which was located next to the finish line, we ran into a couple of our camp friends, Andy and Benson.  We asked if they had seen Joey and they told us they caught up to him and made him stay with them.  Then they dropped the bomb on us…he had finished.  We were shocked….and incredibly proud!  We all gathered around by the hoses and talked about the event.  They told Chris and me stories about how they got Joey up Everest and how he had a smile on his face through the entire challenge.  I want to publicly thank those guys for helping out Joey and for pushing him through so thank you Justin, Andy, Chris, Matt, and Benson.  I’d also like to point out that I believe they all had a few beers throughout the challenge but Justin went above and beyond by finishing 1 beer per mile during the challenge.  12 miles, 12 beers, and he looked like he was still doing pretty good after the challenge.  Justin, you sure make the GRT family proud.

The Guys

Overall, the challenge itself was an incredible test of strength, endurance, and fortitude.  I had a great time over the whole weekend as I was able to catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones.  I offer my congratulations to all of those that finished especially, Chris, Joey, Nick, Lauren, Sherri, Justin, Andy, Chris (the other one), Matt, and Benson.  I also offer a big thank you to Travis and Lauren for coming down and taking pictures of us during the challenge.  Most of the pictures seen throughout this journal entry are courtesy of Travis.

I also want to thank those that supported me throughout the year to reach this goal.  I want to say a special thank you to my wife and kids for dealing with me as I went through soreness, sickness, and injury while you all dealt with my near obsession at times with all things training related.  Thank you to my extended family and friends for all of the support throughout as well.  The emails and text messages with encouragement throughout the year meant the world to me.  Thank you to my training partner Tim who made me wake up at 5am all those mornings to train.  There is no way I could have reached the level I have without a training partner early on. Next time I’ll drag your ass to the challenge regardless of what you say.  If I have forgotten anyone I apologize, it’s been a long and incredible year, thanks again for everything.

Now that my Tough Mudder challenge is complete, I have decided to continue with my journal entries.  I will be focusing on helping out those who don’t know where to start as getting started is definitely the hardest part.  We all have to make a choice eventually and remember; an object at rest stays at rest while an object in motion stays in motion.  It’s time to start asking yourself which object you want to be.  If you’re trying to make your decision one way or the other and not sure what to do, always remember to…

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

Filed in Geoffrey |

The End Draws Near

I have checked the calendar and there are only 9 more days until the culmination of my year long journey.  The training has been endured and injuries, sickness, mental fatigue have all been overcome.  The only thing left is to get to Texas and kick some Tough Mudder ass!

Since I am so close now to having this journey completed, I thought I would take a moment to recall a few personal motivations and inspirations that have helped me through my training.  If you recall, I have spoken already about the inspiration I have received from Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS.  I have shared the story of Lt. Nick Vogt who lost his legs in Afghanistan and would not be alive today without the help of so many people around him but also the perseverance and hope that resides inside of him.  These 2 men, along with all those soldiers who serve and sacrifice for me and my family, have helped me along this journey.  They have all made a choice to be better, be stronger, and to fight through every obstacle in their way.  For this I am proud of all of them and thank them for all they do.

My motivation and inspiration does not stop there however.  As the end of my journey draws near, I am humbled by another journey that has recently ended.  The journey I speak of is that of a child, Tripp Roth.  A lot of you have heard the story of Tripp and may even know his family.  For those of you who don’t, this story is one of love and strength that cannot be measured.

Tripp, his mom Courtney, and their family and friends have endured a journey that has touched countless hearts across the world.  When Tripp was born, he was diagnosed with Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa which is a rare genetic skin disease.  This disease causes blisters to form with any friction on the skin or mucous membranes.  Tripp was not supposed to live past his first year.  However, Tripp was a fighter.  His journey ended on January 14 of this year, 32 months after he was born.

Through all of this, his mother, Courtney, was always there.  I knew Courtney and her family when we were kids as we grew up in the same small town.  Courtney is only 25 years old and has already put to rest her own child.  I cannot begin to fathom what she has endured over the last 32 months and what she will continue to endure the rest of her life. Courtney and Tripp have inspired me, along with countless others, with their incredible strength.  I have immense respect for the both of them and I will continue to pray for her as she continues her life without her precious child.  You can read about Courtney and Tripp on her blog, “EB”ing a Mommy.

As I navigate the Tough Mudder course next weekend, I will have the thought of all of these inspirational people in my heart and in my mind.  My challenge, unlike theirs, is only 12 miles long with 29 obstacles.  This is not tough.  This is a walk in the park considering the toughness they have exhibited.

This will be my last journal entry before the Tough Mudder next week.  I will provide a journal entry covering my Tough Mudder experience with as many pictures as I can after the event.  It has been my pleasure providing my experience with you over the past year and I hope I provided at least a small amount of motivation and inspiration throughout the year.  I also hope to join any of you that decide you want better.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

Filed in Geoffrey |

Changes are Afoot

The first few weeks of 2012, have brought about some changes to my training schedule.  First of all, my employer has started a wellness program, part of which includes a gym membership.  You may remember I am not a fan of working out in a gym.  However, the membership is free and the gym does include access to several pools both indoor and outdoor.  This has helped me with cross training and will also come in handy during the spring allergy season.

The other changes that I have made to my training include doing more weighted runs. I made this decision since I plan on doing the Tough Mudder with my ruck filled with either bricks or liquid “bricks” (beer).  Ever since I started weighted runs a few months back, I’ve noticed an increase in overall strength and attitude.  I feel I am running stronger, faster, and more confident.  I have cut back on the circuit training as well but only because I was bored with it.  Before I cut back on it though, I was able to complete the exercises for the full minute required.  Even the crappy exercises like jump squats.

The weather has been rather inconsistent over the last couple of weeks.  There are some mornings I leave the house for a run and require a hat and gloves.  The next day I am sweating profusely in short sleeves.  Welcome to southern Louisiana winter!  Just the other day I went for an early morning run only to be met with 65 degree temperatures, 90% humidity, and a blanket of fog by the levee and over the river.  It almost felt like I was running in June again.  This same morning I noticed the Mississippi River looked more like an undisturbed lake instead of the turbulent shipping lane it is.  The water was like glass and to be honest it was a bit eerie.  I don’t know what that means, if anything.

River Fog

More river fog

Glass river

The Tough Mudder is 16 days away now.  It has been a long and fruitful journey thus far.  The excitement of the challenge is starting to creep up on me and I feel like I’ve been obsessed over the last few weeks with getting things in order for the challenge.  Here are just a few things I’ve done over the past week for the challenge.  I put together a packing list for the team, I check the 10 day forecast for Edna, TX everyday to see what the weather patterns are doing (temps could be in the 70’s or the 30’s), I have assembled my chosen gear and worked out other logistics with the team.  It has been crazy.

I should take a moment here to apologize to all of those who have had to put up with this obsession lately.  I think Tim is ready to throw me out of our 22nd floor office window and I know my wife, although still very supportive, is ready for this to be over with as well.  So for driving you all nuts, I am sorry.  Also, this is just the beginning!

Some of you may remember a few weeks ago I posted a story about Lt. Vogt and his fight for survival after being severely injured by an IED in Afghanistan.  Lt. Vogt is still fighting his battle and will be for a very long time to come.  He, along with all of our soldiers, continues to be in my thoughts and prayers every day.  Here is a link to the story of how a military base came to the aid of one of their own even though most of them had no idea who Lt. Vogt is.  Also, if you would like to follow Lt. Vogt’s story on facebook please click here.  Lt. Vogt’s parents typically update their facebook status daily to inform those who wish to follow his story.  Stay strong Lt. Vogt and may God bless you.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

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Ready to Build

A bit of time has passed since last I wrote.  Another Christmas season has passed and mine was filled with lots of family and good times.  Sure there were some moments over the Christmas holidays where I wanted to punch people in the throat but with it being Christmas I decided to withhold all violence and aggression.  My favorite moment this Christmas season was when the hot water heater decided to go kaput while we had family in town.  Nothing says Christmas like sharing one bathroom and shower with 7 adults and 2 children (Fortunately not all at once!).  I am certainly thankful for our awesome plumber and my uncle for spending almost an entire day in the attic replacing the hot water heater while I spent the day at the zoo with my wife, kids, and my cousin and his family.

Every year for Christmas, since I can remember, I have always asked for the same thing, world peace.    As you may have already guessed, I have yet to receive it.  (Stupid Santa, I’ve been a good boy!)  I did, however, receive one of my favorite gifts this year from my two sons (Thanks Mimi).  This year my sons gave me $20 to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.  Although it might not be world peace, hopefully it can benefit a soldier in need this Christmas season.  Maybe next year will finally be the year Santa will finally grant me my one Christmas wish.  (Just a reminder Santa, I am a lifelong New Orleans Saints and Chicago Cubs fan.  I waited my entire life for a Saints Superbowl victory which I finally received a couple of years ago and I am still waiting for that ever eluding World Series title for the Cubs.  My point is, once I set my desire on something I will wait unwavering until I get it.  So bring on the world peace Santa because I won’t stop asking for it and I won’t stop waiting.)

I do enjoy the Christmas season although I’m sure it sounds above like I am a bit like Scrooge.  New Year’s however, has always been a pretty bad holiday for me.  Not necessarily bad but very uneventful.  The one year my wife and I attempted to do something big for New Year’s turned out to be nothing but a fizzle.  A few years ago we decided to take a quick trip to the Tampa/Clearwater area for New Year’s and to see some old friends.  We had planned to be on the beach at midnight to ring in the New Year with fireworks, festivities, and sand.  The clock struck midnight and, as we had feared, nothing happened.  No fireworks, no festivities, but plenty of sand as there were also no people on the beach.  New Year’s seems to give my wife and I the finger every year and that’s ok.  Maybe one year I’ll give New Year’s a punch in the throat to welcome it! (But only if Santa fails to provide me with world peace.)

New Year’s is typically a holiday for reflection over the last year and of hope for better in the new year.  I took a quick moment to look back over 2011 and noticed a few incredible things in my life.  My wife and I were blessed with our second son to continue growing our wonderful family.  I also noticed a new foundation had been laid.  I started laying this foundation back in January and have strengthened it throughout the year.  My foundation is built on the strength of my family, my increased physical strength, and my increased mental strength.  Now that the foundation is laid and solid it’s time to start building upon it.

I plan on doing this year different than past years.  Instead of hoping the new year is better like I have done every year, I plan on making it better.  This year will be amazing.  How do I know?  I know because it’s my choice and I choose better.  I choose amazing.  Will there be stumbles, speed bumps, and maybe even a few pitfalls?  Absolutely, but I still choose better.  I still choose amazing.

Happy New Year to you all.  Do what you have to do to make this the best year of your life.  Besides, if the Mayans are right it’s our last year anyway.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

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Superdome Running

Last week was almost a return to normalcy for training.  I completed the Tough Mudder circuit workout once that I had been doing 3 times a week.  I also had a chance to complete a bike ride with my ruck and 5 bricks.  I am now 40 days out from the Tough Mudder and I really need to get going with my training.  All of this while still dealing with a lingering sinus issue and now a sick child and now maybe a sick wife.  I am not trying to make an excuse for my lack of training lately just pointing out what is going on lately. 

I had the opportunity on Saturday morning to complete an inaugural 5k which was attached to the New Orleans Bowl.  The race is supposed to raise awareness against crime in New Orleans.  The event is titled the Race Against Crime – Dashing through the Dome.  I found out about the race on Wednesday last week thanks to my aunt.  The goodies included the obligatory race t-shirt as well as a ticket to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.  The race started in between the New Orleans Arena and the newly named Mercedes Benz Superdome.  The course was very basic and looped around the Arena and the Superdome while also crossing through Champions Square.  The best part of the course though was the finish.  As you hit the home stretch, the course takes you into the Superdome with a lap around the bottom of the Dome and eventually out of the tunnel onto the Superdome floor with a finish at the 50 yard line on the sideline.

 Ruck Banner

Once I completed registration, I was able to go out on the Superdome floor and take pictures and stretch.  I have been inside the Superdome many times in my life for New Orleans Saints games, Tulane football games, and even to see Pope John Paul II.  I have sat in every different level of the Superdome as well.  This was the first time I have ever been on the actual floor of the Superdome with the football turf laid out.  It was pretty cool.

 Superdome Field

Mercedes Benz Emblem

I decided to run the 5k race with my ruck containing 5 bricks and a bottle of water.  Of course while standing in the crowd of about 200 people waiting to start, I was approached by a woman who was curious about my ruck.  She asked if I planned on running with it.  When I replied yes she immediately began asking other questions.  Doesn’t it hurt?  Is this some kind of military training?  What’s in the ruck?  I told her my ruck contained bricks.  I love to see that look on people’s faces when they receive a response to a question they didn’t remotely think they would hear.  I told her I was training for some other events and I just like to make 5k’s a little harder if possible.  She eventually passed me during the race but not until we were about to enter the Superdome.  She finished a few seconds ahead of me as I saw her finishing when I sprinted through the tunnel and onto the field.  When I crossed the finish line one of the race officials pointed out to everyone around that I had carried extra weight on my race.  I smiled.  I had hoped to finish in at least 30 minutes but instead I finished in 25 minutes. 

Tunnel to Field 

I’d like to take a second to congratulate Jessica and David for completing their first 5k.  Welcome to the world of running.  Maybe one day I’ll get you into a Tough Mudder or a GoRuck Challenge!  Keep up the running and enjoy yourselves.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

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Back to Work

I’d like to start out this week by apologizing for my rant last week.  I was feeling pretty crappy all last week and especially when I sat down to write my entry.  I still have some of the sinus garbage and cough going on but I decided it was time to get back out and train anyway.  I decided to wage a mental versus physical war and so far the mental is winning.  That is until I cough up a lung or something.

I went for an easy 3.5 mile run yesterday morning to get back into things and see just how bad my cough would be.  I was surprised at how little I did cough although the few times I did they felt pretty loud and a bit violent.  No worries though.  I finished the run and went ahead and knocked out some pull-ups.  The old fashioned pull-ups not the crossfit kind.  I felt pretty good when it was all over. 

The weather was a little chilly and I decided to go with long sleeves, a hat, and gloves to make sure I stayed as warm as possible especially if I got a mile or so out and decided I couldn’t run anymore due to coughing.  I wear Mechanix gloves and not any special running gloves or particularly warm gloves either.  These gloves are good for protecting my hands from scratches and splinters but pretty terrible from protecting against cold.  Maybe I’ll try out some running gloves some day but until then I’ll enjoy what I have. 

I’m not exactly sure what it is about wearing gloves when I run or train but for me it adds a little something extra.  To me it almost feels like my gear is complete when I have those gloves on.  Maybe it is my imagination but it seems as though I tend to notice an increase in desire for tougher training and actual accomplishment of said tougher training.  I guess subconsciously I feel as though with my hands having some type of protection I can jump into any kind of training or harsher environment.  Or, maybe I’m just a bit unhinged.  Either way I can’t exactly describe the feeling but I know I like it.

I was about to publish this entry as I saw a friend of mine post a story on Facebook that brought me to my knees for several reasons.  My battle buddy from the GoRuck Challenge, Ilya, has a friend, Lt. Nick Vogt, who was serving in Afghanistan.  A few weeks ago Lt. Vogt stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and lost both of his legs.  Lt. Vogt’s should be dead but instead his story is one of hope, perseverance, strength, and most of all faith.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to support our wounded soldiers that sacrifice everything for our freedom.  Please take a moment and read Lt. Vogt’s story here

If you are so moved and are financially able please take a moment to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project.  You can either donate through my Tough Mudder fundraising page on the right or directly through the Wounded Warrior Project website.  If you are unable to donate that is ok too.  Please at least say a prayer not only for Lt. Vogt but all of those who sacrifice for you and your family.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you’re going!

Filed in Geoffrey |

The Lost Week

Less than 12 months ago I never would have thought I would have been so disheartened to not be able to train.  The chest congestion that started the day after Thanksgiving has now turned into a rather aggravating cough.  This, combined with my allergies being triggered on Sunday, has led to a rather crappy last week and is not looking any better so far this week. 

Over the last few years I seem to have had at least once per year a bout with a sinus infection that turns into a dry cough that lasts for weeks.  The dry cough is the most pain in the ass issue I deal with.  I take different medications, suck down bags of different kinds of cough drops, try numerous home remedies and nothing seems to work.  I’ve seen doctors and have done countless hours of internet research to figure out how to both prevent this from happening and if I can’t prevent it, to stop it once it starts.  It is so frustrating to not be able to figure out how to prevent or stop this. 

Forgive me I as continue to rant about health issues but I also deal with allergies to just about everything, as you may have read about a few months ago here.  I have been taking allergy shots for nearly 2 years now and I take allergy medication every day.  Generally the daily medication helps but only if I still stay away from any allergy triggers as well.  I have no idea if the shots are working but the doctor did tell me to give it at least 2 years before I judge it.  I only have 4 months to go to reach my 2 year mark and I can tell you I have been mostly unimpressed by the results. 

I can’t tell you how furious I become when I realize I have to stay away from dust, oak trees, fresh cut grass, smoke, etc.  What bothers me the most is that I grew up in a relatively rural area and was always out in the woods, building campfires, and cutting the grass.  I also love history, always have.  A few of my favorite smells are the smell of old WWII era items like Navy ships, aircraft, etc.  I can sit for hours digging through old boxes and books that haven’t been touched in decades.  I love coming across old items that haven’t been seen or touched in years.  I can’t do this anymore due to the dust that comes along with it. 

It is a personal challenge to know I can’t do some of the things I love because of some internal issue that I can’t overcome just by mental strength.  I do realize my allergy issues are relatively petty in comparison to those who have much worse ailments or physical issues.  What frustrates me though is it seems as though allergies are something that should be easy enough to fix.  Obviously it is not though as so many people have allergies and no one knows of a “cure”.  I know these issues will pass and it has just been a fairly miserable week and a half without being able to train.  Especially since I now remember the joy I receive from pushing myself to the limit and then going a little further.  I suppose this is just another part of my journey.  Without this week and a half lost I may have never fully appreciated getting back to my training regimen.

If any of you have any allergy or cough suggestions I would happily look into any and all suggestions.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you are going!

Filed in Geoffrey |

Turkey Day

I just noticed I have 60 days until the Tough Mudder in January.  Time seems to have flown by this year.  I know I am ready for the challenge and I know I’ll kick its ass when the time finally comes.  I’m sure however, the next 2 months will go by slowly especially once Christmas has past.  I suppose I’ll have to step up my training even more now to make sure I am fully prepared for the challenge. 

My training last week was a bit off with Thanksgiving thrown in the middle.  I did a few runs weighted and unweighted in preparation for the Turkey Day 5 mile race on Thanksgiving morning.  The Turkey Day race was pretty fun as I finally got my training partner, Tim, back out to run.  Tim and I came prepared for our 5 mile run with a 6 pack of beer to carry and drink during the race.  I also decided to make the race a little harder by also carrying 4 bricks in my ruck.  Tim nor I had any concern with how fast we would run the 5 miles and instead I believe Tim was focused on just finishing while I was focused on enjoying the 5 miles while drinking some beer.  My only regret about the race was not having a video camera to record all of the crazy looks and the, “Hey, is that guy drinking a beer?” moments.  My favorite moment was when we were asked, “Did you guys lose a bet?” to which Tim responded, “No, we are actually training for a longer event that requires more drinking.”

 Beer Running

Unfortunately, the morning after the Turkey Day race, I began feeling chest congestion.  Luckily, I was scheduled to pick something up from my ENT that morning anyway and he had an opening to see me.  I have been on antibiotics ever since and hope to get out for some training later this week.  I have been getting antsy the last few days without being able to train.  Oh well, I’ll get back to the grind soon enough.

Keep Movin’ friends…it’s the only way to get where you are going!

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