Unexpected Consequences and Life Impact

It looks like I started this blog in 2009 and did a lot of posting at first, but now rarely do.  I hope to change that by using some of the habit-changing tools I’ve recently learned about.  In fact there are a bunch of things I want to change.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle

This post is about an influential person in my life… and gratitude. And being grateful is a habit I want to cultivate.

We all affect everyone we come in contact with. Positive or negative, our actions can have long-reaching and frequently unforeseen influence. This is the story of one such individual.

This person is a man I worked with 20 years ago and he literally changed my life, but I doubt very much he knows it.

drum roll…..

Rocky Sample.

I know, I know…there is a big kerfuffle these days about the use of the word “literally” when you really mean “figuratively”…but Rocky LITERALLY changed my life and changed it so completely that barely a day goes by that I don’t feel his influence.  We weren’t really friends.  At times we weren’t even particularly friendly.  He was a manager and I was a machine operator so our social circles didn’t overlap.  He was also a little older than me. But he helped me discover  a passion that I had denied since childhood.  I was 36.

In grade school I was the kid that was always coming up with excuses to miss gym class. In high school, I was harassed and teased about my lack of aptitude and coordination with any activity involving a ball.  Consequently I identified myself as a non-athlete and experienced a fair amount of shame about it as a result.  By my mid 30’s I was a middle aged father of 2 that smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day and stayed far away from any real exercise. My wife and I  lost our baby weight together after child number one, and after number 2 was born, we set out to do it again.  20 minutes of elevated heart rate was the absolute minimum daily physical activity prescribed by the particular diet plan we followed.  My pride prevented me from being seen doing  aerobics with a videotape ( a WHAT?) on vacation in front of my father-in-law, so I decided a good way to get my heart rate up for the Minimum Daily Activity was to jog for 10 minutes down the road then turn around and jog 10 minutes back.

When we returned from our July 4th vacation, I was blabbing at work  to anyone that would listen-including Rocky- about how I jogged 1.7 miles.  Rocky said  ” You should run the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest 10K in October.”  “10K?” I asked. “How far is that?”  “6.2 miles.” he answered. “Yer friggin’ nuts.” I opined, but I got out on the road and increased my mileage in my now-familiar haphazard fashion, learning the hard way about plantar fasciitis and runner’s nipple.

When we came to the end of October 1996. I donned my cotton t-shirt, cotton gym shorts, and a monstrous pair of Nike Air Pegasus running shoes, took off at the starting gun, and marveled at myself for what I was doing: RUNNING in a RACE…with people I had heretofore identified as kooks, crazies, and whack-jobs!  Around the 5-mile mark I saw a familiar face in the thinning crowd ahead of me.  It was Rocky! I trotted past him after a brief greeting and plowed through the remaining 1.2 miles with a huge grin on my face.  I further amazed myself by kicking the last 100 yards and passed a couple more runners.


They say the difference between a jogger and a runner is a race number. During the ensuing 19 years I’ve run too many 10K’s to count, a handful of 5Ks, a couple half-marathons, four 30K’s, two full marathons, several sprint triathlons, a few olympic tri’s and a 1/2 ironman (70.3 mile) tri.  I went out and ran almost 6 miles before dinner the other night just because it felt good.


I guess the kids on the playground were wrong.

I AM an athlete. I am a runner.  Thank you, Rocky.

Soapbox Tuesday

Last week, we in Sycamore suffered a tragedy.  A local man was riding his bike to work in the morning, was hit by a pickup truck and killed.  To avoid disseminating information  I have only second-hand knowledge of I won’t repeat any details or opinions of the specifics, but this incident reinforced some of my currently held beliefs.

State laws regarding bicyclist‘s rights notwithstanding, bikes and cars don’t mix.  I don’t mean I don’t ride on the street.  I DO. I DO follow the rules of the roadI DO signal turns. I DO stop at stoplights, take my turn at stop signs, and get in line (off to the right) in traffic.  I DO make eye contact with drivers. I also claim my lane by riding away from the right edge.  The danger of getting hit comes from not being seen.  Riding in traffic is VERY dangerous, and the outcome of any disagreement between vehicles is predictable.  If you are on a bike, you lose! And you lose in a big way.  Helmet or not, it makes no difference. My in-traffic attitude is whomever is driving the car has the right of way.  When I’m driving a car I give cyclists a wide berth and make liberal use of the pedal in the middle. And do any of you see the people riding on the wrong side of the street? What are they thinking?

All of this vigilance is not conducive to endurance training. So my training rides are different.  I do most of my bike training on the weekend in the morning, out on country roads that basically just wind through corn fields.  I have set routes that I know are not well traveled.  Saturday morning and last night I took a circuitous route around the great “twin cities” of Sycamore and DeKalb that concentrated on bike paths instead of highways.

Quite scenic, but hard to get any real speed on.  Then there are the pedestrians, children, geriatrics, et al that have every bit as much right to be on the bike path as you do getting in the way.  Sheesh! What’s a guy supposed to do? I use an app on the PC called gmap-pedometer.com.  Great for measuring distances and elevation changes and mapping out routes etc.  Maybe someday I can get computer-savvy enough to insert one of my maps in my blog.

Spin classes at our local YMCA start this week, so I’ll go spin.  Strong quads really help with running also, and I can use the time off my feet to heal my foot.