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Monday, September 27, 2010

Ultimate Fitness in 50 Words

Eat often

Small meals as close to nature as possible

Nothing artificial

Nothing processed

Protein at every meal

Fruit early, veggies late

All fluid consumed should be water

Exercise every day

Do intense exercise two + days per week

Get lots of sun and avoid toxic substance on your skin

Monday, September 20, 2010


I went for a run just yesterday. I ran for an hour in the semi-cool but yet insanely humid southern swamp like air. The grass was wet and it took about 30 seconds for my socks to be sopping. No worries though. I was running.

My thoughts on this day were in one place and one place only: Running.

Now, mind you, I’m not talking about running is the actual sense. I am talking about running is the figurative or shall I say metaphoric sense.

Running from or running to. Running away and running towards. Success and failure. Joy and hurt. The choices that we make.

When I run I don’t listen to music. I allow and encourage thoughts to come at me like ocean waves. Some slow and gentle and others quicker and more destructive. I run and allow the thoughts to be what they may; calm or upset.

Now I am going to see if I can get some of my thoughts here on this keyboard. You can be the judge.

We run. You run. I run. We run to and away. We run far. We run a little. We turn back. We run and don’t look back. It’s human nature to run. It’s fight or flight. It’s wrong or right. It can be both. We run to survive. We run to live. We hurt others when we run. Sometimes we care. Other times we don’t. We run for ourselves and we run for others.

We run away because we are scared.

We run to because we are hopeful.

Why are we scared?

Think about when you ran. Really. We have all run from something. What did you run from? What good came out of it? Who did you HURT? Did you care? Did you run from a job? One day everything is fine and you are content and the next day you quit and nobody can talk you out of it. Maybe you ran from school. Maybe you ran from a commitment of some sort. How about a marriage? How many of us are married and content one day but running the next day. (My hand is up.)

We run because we are scared. We run because we are afraid of success or we are afraid of failure. Rarely do we admit the whole fear of failure cause but it is there. It certainly is. Trust me.

People run from exercise all the time. It’s ironic I know. One week you work out and eat well the next you are running and hiding because you are scared. It drives me crazy. It is, however true.

What about running to? Here we have the good running! Running to someone or to something. Sometimes it’s too much but sometimes the running shows motivation, spirit and determination. No regrets here!

Sadly, more often than not we run from and not to.

Is running away bad? Not necessarily. Often though is certainly is.

Running away from something can often represent giving up. Sometimes you don’t fully give something a chance before you run and don’t look back.

We have all done this.

I want this to be short and to the point today.

Think before you run. Run when you have to. Bolt if you need to but do it for the right reasons. Always ask yourself, “Is running all that I have left”. If it is the only way then run with all your heart and don’t look back. But is running all you have left? Are you going to hurt someone? Yourself maybe?

Think before you run at or to something or someone. Remember that you can always be hurt by your own enthusiasm and vigor.

The question remains: How do you know? How do you know if running away or running to is right or wrong? You don’t know.

The not knowing is what makes our lives so amazing.

I say risk on the side of risking. If you are not sure how something is going to turn out; stick it out. Try staying with the fitness program that makes you sore. Sign up for that next race even though the last one didn’t go so well. Trust and follow your heart.

I don’t have all the answers and neither do you. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and neither do you. I do know one thing. I know how to run away and I do know how to run to for I have done both. Every time I run to I feel good and I have no regrets. I can’t say the same for the running away part.

Take this as you will. Remember that life is a journey. When it’s all said and done it’s not the things we do that we will regret. When we are near the finish line it’s the “what if’s” that will occupy our thoughts.

Live each day with passion and if you’re not running to something phenomenal then make your runs the kind that require to lace up and do a tick check when you are done. Just sayin’…

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Fat Kid

Kids are fat nowadays.

Do I need to look up the statistics? I don’t think so. It doesn’t take a slick pie chart to state the obvious.

Our children are getting fatter and fatter every year. Why is that? How do we reverse the trend?

I am glad that you asked because I am going to tell you.

I was driving into the office this morning and I heard something on the radio that kind of made me laugh. I think it was Taylor Swift (who made like $45 million last year, just sayin’…) was doing some sort of fundraiser or awareness campaign to “fight childhood obesity”. That’s ridiculous. She has no idea how to do that. I’m sure that whomever she’s raising money for has no idea either. Rest assured someone is going to make a financial killing by using her name. It all goes back to the money.

When I was in middle school there I was friends with a kid named Tom Collins. He stands out to me today because he was fat. Yep, he was “the fat kid”. If you’re over the age of 30 I’m sure you remember “the fat kid”. Why do you remember this? Yep, there was only one. Tom was “the fat kid” in school.

When I was a freshman in high school I was in a new school. There was a girl named Vanessa. She was the fat girl. I guess there were a few others when I was in high school but Vanessa stands out for the same reason Tom did. Why, you ask? Well both of them left school in the spring one year and came back on the fall THIN! That’s right. Fat didn’t suit them. They didn’t want to stand out any more as the fat kids and took care of that problem.

These days the skinny kids stand out…

So there are two glaring issues here. Why are our kids so fat and how do we reverse the trend? Shockingly I have my theories. I know, surprised, eh?

Kids are fat because of money; simply as that. So many people make so much money because our children are fat. That’s the simple answer.

Kids stay fat because people don’t know how to make them healthy again. Our instant gratification, everyone needs to make a buck society won’t allow it.

This is ramping up to be a very long blog post. Whatever. Read on my friends. Read on.

So who benefits from our kids being fat and unhealthy? The food and drug companies perhaps?

Did you know the four biggest food companies are: Tyson, PepsiCo, Nestle and Kraft? Now you do. Presumably the biggest food companies supply the most food and make the most money. Can you think of a single healthy thing these companies put on our table? Neither can I.

OK, stick with me here.

When kids are fat they have more asthma, “ADD”, diabetes, etc. Do I need to look up statistics here? No I don’t. Do said sick kids need drugs? You bet they do. (OK, not really, but that isn’t the scope of this article)

OK, so fat kids eat more food thus the food companies make more money and they are now sicker so the drug companies make more money.

Is it overly cynical to believe they know EXACTLY what they are doing? You decide.

Over the last couple of months I have had several conversations with people about kids that are overweight. Young kids that are overly tall and heavy. Some of the parents are fit and active and some are not. The common theme is that the kid is like 10 and 130 lbs. Not a good thing. We didn’t have this problem 20 years ago. Why now?

It comes down to the two basics. The kids are eating the wrong foods and they aren’t getting enough exercise.

Let’s look the eating part first.

Kids are not little adults. They don’t understand things like we do.

This morning I was getting my 10 year old off to school. We were late and rushing. He goes to the fridge and grabs a foiled package. Before he slipped it into his back pack I stopped him. “What is that?”

Yeah, I knew what it was and I didn’t wait for him to answer.

“You are NOT bringing that to school.”

It was a big ol’ Nestle crunch bar.

“But, Dad, I get hungry during the day.”

As much as my son has been around ME you’d think he’d get the point by now. Kids really do think that a chocolate bar is going to relieve their hunger. Oh man. Yeah, it’s our fault.

Kids want to be instantly gratified just like we do. They learn it from us! Plus they are flooded day and night through the TV with ads and images that perpetuate the myth that we need sugar, caffeine and beer to get through the day. OK, maybe not the beer for the kids. They are being set up for that later.

So let’s reset here shall we? Kids are fat today. They are fat because they eat the wrong foods because they don’t know any better. Plus fat is now normal. Yeah, my kids a little over weight but so are all the other kids.

Eating is only half the story.

Obviously, our kids don’t get enough activity. When I was a kid I played either freeze tag or kickball at recess EVERYDAY. No teacher EVER told us to do this. The games were organized and played because there were no iPods and Nintendo DS’s. Just sayin’. I had PE class 2-5 days per week where we did warm-ups that involved running and jumping. We played organized and games and COMPETED. It was hard and we worked up a sweet. After school I rode my bike or walked to my friend’s house and we build forts, played war and explored. During sports seasons I wrestled and played baseball.

What kid does this now?

My kid comes home and watches the Discovery Channel and plays on Facebook. He is thin and very fit so we must have done something right BUT most kids these days are not.

We live in a different world now and our kids are paying the price; so are we.

How can we reverse this whole trend? We can’t; plain and simple we can’t. We can stop the bleeding though.

The food and drug industry I believe is to blame for the whole ball of wax. They make food that tastes great, lasts from now on, addicts or children and then sells us drugs to make everything better.

The profit margins for food and drugs these days are fantastic. Billions of dollars are spend every year designing and marketing new food and drugs. What is the goal? Health? You are already on drugs if you believe THAT.

The food and drug industries are mandated by stockholders to MAKE MONEY. You and I and our children are paying the price.

How much money do you suppose is spend on marketing and developing healthy food? Broccoli is broccoli; can’t make money there. You can, however, put SpongeBob on a box of gummy bears and sell it to my kid. Awesome. No, it’s sad really.

There are only two solutions to this massive problem. It can either start at the bottom or start at the top.

The top means the government. Yeah, they can actually care and do something about this mess. Show of hands: Who thinks that most elected officials don’t have the stones to stand up to the food and drug industrial complex? Soooo that’s not going to work.

The only other option is to work from the ground up. Yeah, that’s you and me.

“No, I’m not buying you soda.”

“No, you don’t need ice cream after dinner.”

“You can have an apple for a snack.”

“But Billy’s parents let him have candy after school.”

“ Billy’s fat.”

“You’re playing a sport. You pick.”

“But I don’t like whole wheat bread. I want white bread.”

“Let’s see how starving suites you.”

“You can watch TV for 1 hour after our walk around the block…. 6 times.”

Do you get the picture? It’s the little things everyday that make a big difference. You aren’t going to thin your kid out over night but you will if you hold yourself and them to a higher standard. Trust me. Once you start it will be like a snowball.

What follows is a plan. It’s a plan of attack that will keep (or make) your kid healthy, fit and productive. Don’t expect them to jump up and down for joy when you start implementing the plan. They may or may not get it in the next few years. Stand up to them though. Love them by making the right choices for them.

1. Educate yourself and your kids. Make them watch “Supersize Me”. TELL them that broccoli will make them big and strong. Make stuff up if you need to. Tell them Coke puts hair on your back. If they are young enough the girls will believe it!

2. Limit TV. Yeah, I don’t have cable TV in my house. You don’t need to be a dramatic as that but YOU are the parent. Limit use of the TV. Make them pick shows and approve them. No kid should be watching “Family Guy” or “South Park”. Just sayin’.

3. They need to exercise every day. Make them walk to the bus stop. Make them ride 3X around the block. Have fun with this. Time them. Make it interesting in some way, shape, or form. Challenge them. Sign them up for sports! Kids (and, ahem, adults!) need to exercise each and every day. Do it with them!

4. DO NOT BUY CANDY, COOKIES, ICE CREAM, SODA OR PASTRIES. The kids don’t need this stuff. Sure they are likely to get in at a friend’s house. Whatever. Yeah, be that parent. It’s OK. They don’t need a treat. How about you make a treat a banana or something. That’s the ticket!

5. Make them as many meals as you can. If they don’t eat then they get hungry. This actually works. If you have Fruity Pebbles in the cupboard then why would they eat the fried egg, melon and whole wheat toast that you make them for breakfast? Yeah, it’s easier to make a can of raviolis then it is to cook a meal that your kids will likely hate at first. How hard is it for your doctor to tell you that your 10 old has high cholesterol?

6. Pack food for the road. If you are going out ALWAYS bring a cooler with healthy snacks. “I’m hungry”. (they always seem to get hungry when there is a McDonalds in view) “Hey you go. Mmmm. Enjoy your carrots!”They might be mad a first. They get over it.

7. Do NOT. I repeat, DO NOT, step foot into McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Arby’s etc. etc. EVER! Do I need to explain this one? (HINT: Make the watch “Supersize Me”!! (again))

8. Don’t go out to eat very much. It’s OK every once in a while but not very much. It goes without saying that you need to avoid the all you can eat buffets.

9. Don’t let them eat school lunches! Holy cow! They are awful! Avoid sending them to school with money as well. Who knows what they are going to buy!

10. Stand up to your doctor. No they really don’t need all those vaccines or the “ADD” drugs or the cough medicine or the Tylenol. I know this is beyond the scope of this article again BUT do your research. Kids don’t need all these drugs. The more we drug them the fatter and sicker they get. Coincidence? I think not. But the drug companies make lots of money…

OK, you get the theme here. I could go on all day. I will stop soon.

Your kids health ultimately is your responsibly! You have little or no help. The food and drug industrial complex is so not on your side. They say they are but they are not. The government is a pusher. They will not help. That leaves it up to you and I. Be strong! Stand up to the enemy! This is sometimes your kid! Be strong! Stand up and take control. With a little extra effort you can safe your son and your daughter.

We need to do something. Our kid’s health is pathetic. Just sayin’….

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I am an Ironman

When I awoke at 6am Saturday I decided to leave my hotel room and go for a little walk. The late summer northern coolness was in the air. For a few minutes I actually had some goose bumps. It felt marvelous. 66 degrees at 7am was perfect. I was excited for the Ironman the next day.

Sometime between Saturday morning and Sunday morning a warm front slid through Louisville, Kentucky. The chill was gone. Sunday brought Florida weather. 76 degrees and sticky.

Ironman in the heat? Bring it.

At 1:39am I shot bold upright in bed. I had a bad dream. When I checked my phone I found an unexpected message from a dear old friend. There two events coupled with the excitement of the event I was about to partake in could mean only one thing: I was awake for the day. Five hours of sleep was going to have to be enough.

I arrived at the transition area of the 2010 Ironman Louisville at 5am to find the place a flurry of activity. The goal of the day for most was to get there early. I wasn’t alone in my promptness. I took my time getting ready and eventually made the ¾ mile trek to the start.

When I got to the swim start I found there to be a wicked line. I mean a line that went well beyond my field of vision. Crap.

I went in search of the end of the line.

The Ironman Louisville is a time trail start. This means that 3000 people have to get into the water 2-3 at a time. I guess the people that REALLY wanted to get into the water early well, got there early. I was at least a ½ mile away from the start. It was 5:30am. I would wait for 2 hours.

Eventually the line started to move. At 6:50am the pros started then the amateur line started to roll at 7am. This is about the time I got hunger pings. Uh oh. I had my last gel and moved forward.

At 7:30am I reached the penultimate spot on the run up till race time. The goggles went on and we were instructed to run down the dock. I did.

I got to the water and jumped in. My Ironman debut was under way.

I decided in January to sign up for the Ironman. My secret goal was to qualify for the World Championships in Kona in October. I needed to find an Ironman to do and Louisville was the only one available that wasn’t full. I paid my $500 and I was training for the Ironman.

The winter and spring were good. I was swimming a ton and working my way into shape on the bike and on the run. Then as spring turned to summer my life got turned on its head, so to speak.

I got injured and then I separated from my wife. I held things together as best I could. A couple of weeks off from running and biking and I was back at it. I lost some fitness but I kept my head up. My new lifestyle actually allowed for more training time so that was a good thing.

As the peak of the hot summer months arrived it became more and more difficult to train. Swimming ironically was the worst. I just seemed to run out of gas so quickly in the water. It was awful. I tried to maintain my efforts but my swim workouts suffered. Running was a similar story.

I tried my best but my training for the Ironman just didn’t turn out the way it should have.

No matter. The day was here and I was as ready as I was going to get.

2.4 mile swim.

The swim started east up a narrow channel in the Ohio River. The current wasn’t strong in the channel. As we emerged into the main river I thought I would feel some current. I didn’t. Was I swimming strong? Uh, no.

The turn seemed like it would never come. Just before the turn I felt it. There was no mistaken that feeling. It was early and I’d be lying if I wasn’t concerned.


It started in my toes and worked into the feet and the calves. I had to slow down. I was less than 30 minutes into the race so I had to do something. Slowing down did little to help. It was hot so I was losing fuel. There are no water stations in the swim…

OK, it’s a swim.

As gross as this is I needed to do it. I started drinking the Ohio River. I cringe now thinking about it but it was something that I needed to do.

It helped.

The last 1.5 miles or so was straight west and downstream (with little to no current) in the Ohio River. The finish seems impossibly far away. I had intermittent cramps but I soldiered on.

Mercifully the swim ended. It was a complete and utter disaster; a travesty of the worst kind. I’d lost 10+ minutes in the swim because of cramping and generally crappy fitness in the water. My time was 1:17:09 and I was out of the water 921 out of about 3000. I knew in my heart anyway that, because of the heat, today was going to be more about survival anyway.

I got on my bike and started flying. I felt great and my spirits soared. I decided that I would throw caution to the wind and bike at hard as I could.

The first 23 miles I averaged around 22.3 mph. I felt real good and I was gaining confidence. As I hit mile 20 the gravity of the day hit me. I have been busting my butt for over 2 hours and I still had 92 miles to go on the bike?

Run a marathon? Deep breath…

Attempting an Ironman is a noble feet. You train and prepare. You invest in equipment, make the drive and get a hotel room. Plans are made. You get excited. You are ready.

You aren’t ready. There is nothing on this earth that can prepare you for your first Ironman. This cross you alone must bear. It’s physical yes. The physical part loses its importance as the race goes on. Eventually it all comes down to you and what your mind decides for you.

I’ve already mentioned my personal struggles leading up to the race. In the weeks before the big day there were times that I doubted myself. I was a little scared that my ambition would abandon me. I was afraid that I just wouldn’t have the stones to carry on when it was gut check time.

I went alone to this race. I go alone to races all the time. This one was different because it was so big and there were so many people there supporting other Ironman. I never calculated how hard the loneliness would be. This could have defeated me.

It didn’t. I wasn’t alone after all. I was texting multiple people the whole time I was in Kentucky. I was sending pictures and talking on the phone. I was chatting on Facebook. Then when I saw that my old friend had reached out to me it all was crystallized. I wasn’t alone and mentally I was ready.

I hammered on through the bike course. The second checkpoint was 17 miles long and I average 21.5 mph. Man, Kentucky is hilly.

The first 10 miles were dead flat then the hills came; hill after hill. Then the bike creaks and the knee pain came. At least I wasn’t cramping.

Crap. Cramps…

For the first 40 miles I was absolutely jamming up the hills. Guys with super fast wheels and aero helmets would pass me on the flats then I’d dump them on the hills. It was kind of fun. Eventually I had to slow down on the hills for three reasons.

My knee. My right knee started hurting when I stood up and pushed on the pedals. I really couldn’t stand after mile 70 or so. Whatever.

The creak. After the race I looked at my bike while it was on the rack. “Wow! Is my derailleur hanger supposed to be bent like that?” This made for quite an annoying sound. I certainly pissed off a guy named Guido. He always passed me on the flats then I came creaking by him on the hills. I apologized profusely.

Cramps. I did a pretty good job of keeping the cramps at bay during the bike ride. Standing on the pedals gave me cramps so I avoided that.

The next 30 miles I averaged 20.5 mph. Do we see a pattern developing here? While I was getting tired the biggest problem going through mile 70 was my neck and back. Man, they just hurt. My back is always sore but my neck? Well I know was caused that.

Two weeks before the race I did my last long ride: 110 miles in the Florida heat. It was awful. It made even more awful because of the crash 50 miles into it. I was accelerating to make a light and BLAM I hit the ground. Hurt my neck. (…and bent my derailleur hanger! Who knew!)

70 miles into the race my neck just plane hurt… and my back… and my knee… and… whatever. It’s an Ironman.

By now the temperature was in the 90’s. I saw at least a dozen athletes in various places lying in a heap under a tree. I saw guys on $5000 bikes soft peddling at 12 mph because they were shattered. 105 degree heat index will do that to you. I was fine; in a lot of pain but fine.

The last 40 miles I averaged 19.7 miles per hour. I rode in on the pathetic train. The numbers don’t tell the story. The agony that I was peddling through I can’t put into words. I will however try.

The last 20 miles of an Ironman bike ride can seem euphoric. You’d think that seeing the finish would push you through. No dice. It’s a death march of the worst sort.

112 miles is a long freakin’ way on a bicycle; it really is. Did I mention that 77 minute swim in the Ohio River? There wasn’t even a beer to think about. Yeah, there was a marathon to think about.

By the last 20 miles I was done. Getting hit by a school bus was more appealing then riding 20 miles on my bicycle. The hills were done but I didn’t care. I couldn’t ride anymore.

But I did.

I just kept peddling. On and on I peddled. Because it was flat and now 100 miles into the bike race I found myself mostly alone with my bike. Don’t get me wrong. I love riding a bike. Not now though. This bike had worn out its welcome under my ass.

The achiness is my body was unreal. My neck, back, hips, knees, feet…

I was ready to be done. 5 hours and 25 minutes and it was over.

Transition. Running shoes. Visor. 94 degrees. Marathon. Holy shit.

The first three miles were covered in about 24 minutes. I can do this. Before I reached the four mile mark I was reduced to walking. The calf cramps were unholy.

I was in deep trouble.

To be 22 miles worth of foot travel away from the finish line is hard. A 2.4 mile swim adds an element of fatigue. 112 mile bike? That is nothing compared to the fact that it was 94 degrees and the heat index was 105. Again, holy crap.

I needed to find a way to get through this. I needed to suck it up and go when my go was gone. It was time to reach deep.

Reach deep I did.

Eventually I found a rhythm. The feed stations were every mile. The mile markers were in between. At the aid stations I got two sponges and squeezed them over my head. Then I’d drink a Gatorade cup. Next it was a gel and two full cups of water. I downed it all as I moved through the aid station. When I was through I jogged to the mile mark. Then I would walk until I could run again.

I repeated this process for hours.

All of a sudden I didn’t need to walk anymore. I found a rhythm and I ran aid station to aid station. It was almost like a second wind. My second and third run segments were 9:50 and 9:30 respectively. The fourth was 8:19. Somehow from mile 12 to mile 16 the cramps went away and I could actually run again.

Believe it or not the sun went behind a cloud for about 30 minutes. Strange but true. Around mile 16 the sun came back out and the cramps returned.

For four hours I ran, ate, drank, walked… and suffered.

At mile 20 I again felt a euphoria that the finish was near. I was still an hours worth of running away from being done.

At one point I looked at my watch and realized that I’d been out here for 10 hours. 10 hours. My God, what in the blazes was I doing?

How was I still standing? Never mind running 10 minute miles.

Then a miracle came; to me it was a true miracle. I saw the sign post for mile 24. I was going to make it. I ran the life out of me.

I past mile 25 and I started to get the chills. I was about to accomplish the greatest achievement in mainstream endurance sports. I was going to finish the Ironman.

I ran and ran. The last aid station came and went. I didn’t even slow down. It was my time. It was my time to hear the cheers; to hear the announcer say THE words. It was my time to be a star. My greatest moment… I could smell the finish.

Left turn. Right turn. Left turn. Right turn… there it was.

Between me and being an Ironman was 100 yards and 100’s of screaming fans. I was going to savor the moment.

I passed the split; 2nd lap to the right. Been there done that. I stayed left; this is where the Ironman finishers go. When the people saw me stay left I could hears some cheers. That wasn’t enough. Come on people, I just did an Ironman.

Yeah, I put my arms in the air. I pumped my fists. I held my head back. I brought out the cheers. I deserved it. I worked the crowd. 10 hours and 53 minutes worth or swimming, biking and running. You people are going to cheer for me.

Then I heard the greatest words in sport. The announcer boomed for the entire world to here, “RICK COPLEY! YOU ARE AN IRONAN!” My God.

That finish shoot came to an end and so did my moment in the sun. I crossed the line and fell to my knees. Instinct kicked in and I kissed the ground. I had never been so happy to see a piece of carpet in my entire life.

I finished 123rd out of 3000 people. The marathon took me a pathetic 4:03:26. While I’m not happy with the run time I can tell you that my last mile was the fastest of the race. You know I ran 7:00.

I emptied the tank. I did my best.

Those last 100 yards meant something. As I type these words 5 days later I am free to admit that this moment was the greatest moment of my athletic career.

I’ve won at all levels. I’ve done a lot in the last 23 years. I am proud of many moments. This one though is special. Finishing this race was the pinnacle of my career. This I have no doubts about.

At the end of the finish shoot I got my hat and t-shirt. Then as I walked out the back it was put around my neck. I took a deep breath as the lady draped that heavy finisher’s medal around my neck. It was an emotional moment for me; my most valuable medal.

When I finally reached my ailing fathers side the first thing that I did was to give him that precious medal. It was the least I could do for my biggest fan.