Day 273. The Oma One.

Oma means "grandmother" in German. Over 50 years ago, Stephen's Oma, on his dad's side, came over with her husband (from whom Stephen received his middle name and who many say Stephen reminds them of - high praise!) from Germany/Yugoslavia to start a new life path.

They settled in North Eastern Pennsylvania - Hawley, PA to be exact (30 minutes from Scranton, Office fans!) and started what was just a simple boarding house. Over the years, this boarding house grew to what is now Lukan's Farm Resort. The resort is still run by family, the recipes are still all Oma's, the family has all been raised to know and appreciate the value of hard work, the skills the family maintains and enjoys are the special things that many have forgotten, and, though not as frequently, at age 90+, Oma still goes to the Kitchen every day to watch over what she started.

I think its one of those rare things that comes with age, when you realize that you never appreciated your grandparents and all they can share. My grandparents are all gone so it had been some time since I had been around someone's older relatives. Its been a real treasure to spend time with "Oma" and see the ties that connect all that she has taught Stephen throughout his life...when he makes goulash, or my favorite tomato zucchini dish, its Oma's recipe in action. When I hear the stories that she will sometimes share, it gives me pause to realize how much life she has seen. I think its bizarre that when I was in college cordless phones were considered new technology, let alone cells, email and texting..imagine Oma's perspective on what has happened - what she has seen.

In this day and age, as we all disperse around the world, its easy to loosen the ties to our families. Its people like Oma the remind me of the value that lies in maintaining these connections. I am thankful for all that she has given to her family - she's helped to raise some of the most special people in my life today; I know she's also meant a great deal to so many guests over the years. For what Oma has given to so many, the least she deserves is my thanks and appreciation...


Day 272. The Movie Ones.

The movie Race Across the Sky has obviously had a big effect on me. I think its important to recognize those who even made that movie possible. I've searched and searched for an actual NAME but the closest I've been able to come is to acknowledge Citizen Pictures and Fathom Events as the producers of Race Across the Sky.

I will let the work speak for itself, but what I can tell you is that its been a while since I've seen a movie that so keenly balanced stories that were funny, emotional, and supremely human like this one have. During this movie, I laughed, I gasped, I held my breath, I even cried. That's movie making. Oh, and they turned this movie around in just around two months! (The bike race was in August, the first screening of the movie was in October)

Please consider watching this 5 minute trailer to enjoy the art that is movie making (and editing a trailer!)

** Also - please be aware that they've just added an encore screening of this movie. I STRONGLY encourage you to check out the website and see if its showing near you, and Go. See. This. Movie. (tickets go on sale November 6th)


Day 271. The Appreciative One.

My last entry talked a lot about the Leadville 100 and its great founder...but perhaps even more well known (and beloved) person within this event is Dave Wiens, the only 6 time winner of the event (and consecutive at that).

Dave is an acclaimed mountain biker who has built the life he has through the sport - he was able to make a living, meet his now wife, and support his family through his love of mountain biking. His accomplishments and acclaim are considerable in the mountain biking world, but that's not what gains him mention here.

In watching the Leadville 100 documentary, some of the first images you are greeted with are signs of "Dave, beat Lance! (sic)" and within the crowd of riders and supporters at the pre-Race meeting, more than a few wearing yellow shirts bearing the words "Go Dave!". When I first saw these things I thought perhaps this is the small town support of their hometown hero, or perhaps its just the tiniest bit of anti-Lance backlash. But I was thrilled to be wrong.

Why does the entire community of Leadville love Dave Wiens? Because through the "Across the Sky" documentary I found myself "meeting" one of the most genuinely nice, compassionate and thankful people perhaps in the world. Dave takes the time to talk at every pre and post Race event. He focuses on acknowledging the support of the many volunteers, the Leadville community, and other riders. It is hard to explain how his essence was so clearly communicated through the two hours of the movie, but the only story I can give is what honestly was one of the most touching moments in the whole film...the Race is an out and back course along a brutal route - the halfway point is the summit of a mountain another 14,000 ft above the 10,000 ft. above sea level at which you started. To say that the climb is brutal is an understatement. The film is telling the story of the battle for the lead of the race between Lance Armstrong and Dave Wiens. Competition is intense...the two men both want to win for so many reasons. Lance is ahead, Dave is trying to catch up, and as he spends the few brief seconds at the top of this brutal climb before he heads out to chase Lance he slows and yells out "Thanks you guys for all your help".

Seems small - but its huge.

Lance Armstrong has been quoted as saying that it was the Leadville 100 that motivated him to come back to bike racing because riding it last year taught him that there were so many more important things than winning. Dave Wiens personifies all those things. He is an athlete of the highest caliber and he still demands of himself to recognize and acknowledge all those with whom he shares his part of the world. Dave Wiens is a true champion...of life.


Day 270. The Leadville One.

Last night, I went and saw Race Across the Sky - a documentary about the Leadville 100, and I'm just warning you, that the next few posts will be about people that shared themselves with us all through that piece...but I encourage you to take the time to get to know each of them.

The first, and most important person that this piece introduced me to was the founder of the event, Kenneth Chlouber. Ken is a traditional western mining town man. A lifelong resident of Leadville, Colorado he worked as a miner. When the mines closed in the 80's, almost the entire town was suddenly without a job. I can't remember the numbers exactly, but I think Ken shared that in a town with the population of just over 5,000, over 3,500 people lost their jobs. That's the entire town. Ken and others were inspired to come up with something to drum up tourism to maintain the economy and the town, they came up with the Leadville 100.

This event is rediculous. To summarize, its a 100 mile bike ride that STARTS at 10,500 ft above sea level and then takes you on an out and back trail (TRAIL...not gravel, not road TRAIL) that climbs another 14,000 ft. Insane. You can imagine that the stories about personal accomplishment, personal growth, motivation and inspiration are many (and I'll be sharing some with you in the upcoming days)

But here's what sticks with me about Ken. He gets it. If you've done any kind of athletic event, heck any event in general, you know there's always some sort of hierarchy - there's always someone with a "comped" entry, or a VIP area, or certain seating arrangements. There's always someone who's just a little bit more important than someone else, and there's always someone who has better, or more, access to you. Sometimes this has an impact, sometimes it doesn't. Ken doesn't play these games.

First of all, to get in the Race, its a lottery system. Doesn't matter who you are, go in the lottery. Second of all, its a general start - no special areas, no zones, no rankings. Third of all, and most importantly, in every word that Ken says, you can tell that every single person in this event matters. Ken lives a philosophy of celebrating the common man. He says in the movie that this movie isn't about the Lance Armstrong's (who's raced the past two years) or the Dave Wiens (who's won 6 consecutive Leadville 100's !) its about the Joe's, and the Sally's, and the John's who make up the pack. Dave is the common man's Oprah - all he wants is you to "dig deep" and realize that "you can do more than you think you can".

You can tell there's a lot of life story behind Ken's eyes...as he waits at the finish and welcomes every. single. rider. You can see that he is more motivated by the man desperately trying to beat the time cut off than the Lance Armstrongs. He values more the rider who comes back year after year than the one time hot shot. He makes sure that EVERY person - rider, volunteer, fan, Leadville resident knows that they are doing something great - no matter what they do.

I can't adequately tell you how impressed I am with this man - he seems to be the life force of this small town. His energy and passion seem to be the beating heart of this event. I encourage you to watch the video on the event's home page - its two minutes with Ken. This is one man who can spout every single cliche in the book BUT the difference is, he means it, and you believe it.

To Ken - who believes in everyone being the best you you can be, and who believes that this can start with a bike race.


Day 269. The Skype Ones.

[Man, I'm clever with those titles aren't I?]

So - another Europe story - I know, the mind reels. Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, when I arrived in Zurich, to the first hotel with true free hi-speed internet (and time to use it) at my disposal, my MacBook pro promptly decided to stop working. The in's and out's of this technical melodrama are not important, what is important is that after dealing with some local resources at 10PM local time, I thought my final resort was Apple Help.

Well, here's the thing, I can't talk German well enough to go through technical issues, plus, in Europe, the Apple help lines aren't open at 10PM. Its that whole "Europeans have such a healthier outlook on managing time and balancing life with work than Americans" thing. So, I was sitting there thinking about calling the US Apple Care people. I literally sat there and debated the merit of paying $1/ minute on my iPhone to call back to the states and then I said, "hey, I have Skype on my iPhone". Another long story short, I was able to use Skype over wi-fi to spend a completely free 2 hours talking with Apple tech's trying to resolve the problem. As I mentioned, earlier, it took quite a bit more for the computer to get fixed, but it sure was reassuring to know that one thing I wasn't going to have to face was a huge phone bill back to the States or floundering through broken German or broken English wondering if the issue could ever have been fixed.

To the best of my research, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis are the two men to which I owe my gratitude. They are the co-founders of Skype. In addition to the story I've shared here, Skype has given me some of the best impromptu conversations I've had, a connection with my mother-in-law, some truly classic moments involving my Godson, my sister-in-law and a video conference, and a tremendous business resource. Skype was another "game changer" in technology, in my humble opinion. I love it on my MacBook and I love it on my iPhone. It lets me stay in touch with those who are most important to me professionally and personally no matter where I am in the world - via text, video or audio.

I think the power to envision that which doesn't exist yet is amazing - and so, for all that its given to me - particularly that night in Zurich, I thank Niklas and Janus.


Day 268. The Agitator One.

I like ice hockey. I like it a lot. (and, given the current antics of a certain prima donna college QB its a lot more satisfying then my Buckeye football this year, but I digress...)

Last year, towards the end of the season, the playoffs loomed and each game of my beloved Columbus Blue Jackets carried with it heightened excitement and intensity. I'm still learning the game and all its rules but one night, as I was watching the game, a certain player caught my eye: Derek Dorsett. The guy was playing his guts out.

Derek is quickly now becoming a young star for the Jackets and I love that. A recent article highlighting him talks about so many of the reasons I like him, so I will leave the minute details to the professionals (i.e. please go read article) but I will say this: Derek optimizes so many of the things I value most about the human spirit. When he is on the ice, he plays every second, and he plays HARD. He plays like its the very last chance he'll ever have to play again. He shows intensity, he is scrappy, he shows a belief in team AND in the power of one. Derek is *just* 22...and, although more and more of these amazing athletes is so many sports are now reminding me how old I'm getting, in this case, I am also in awe of the tenacity and work ethic that he can show at this age.

If you have ever heard me go on about sports (ahem, Brian!) or career you will know that what I value most is the intangibles - raw talent alone cannot make someone great.That's why I like Derek so much - I like what he's putting out there into the world and I hope its contagious for my Jackets and for everyone in pursuit of whatever they chose...


Day 267. The Choosing One.

[sidebar: after going to battle against the mean, nasty germies, I am officially back among the living]

It seems fitting that during October, which is breast cancer awareness month, that I had the opportunity to kick of this time of year with so many inspiring people who have chose (or been chosen) to fight against this disease. Today, I'll share the story of another one with you...

During our Tour de Pink experience, every night, we had a group dinner and the Ride organizers would use part of their brief talking time to share the story of a rider, or of our fight against breast cancer to serve as inspiration for the following day's ride. Saturday night, everyone was tired and mentally and physically trying to gear up for Sunday which would be our last "real" day of riding. Our hosts wisely asked Diana to speak.

Diana, like so many in the room, and on the ride, is a breast cancer survivor. She was very nervous to share her story and was very emotional about her experience. Her story, in fact, is still going on - later this year, Diana will have prophylactic procedures to help ensure that she can continue to live her life cancer free. As she spoke, her theme emerged: it was so hard for her to deal with breast cancer because she didn't even have a choice...she didn't seek out cancer; she had to fight; she couldn't take a break. I've met Diana a few brief times and her honesty really struck me. Its easy for me to sit in "my place in the world" and see her strength and see how brave she is in her fight and in her ability to share her story. Its also easy for me to sit where I sit and get bogged down by the day to day annoyances, nuisances, and issues that seem paramount to everything.

Now don't get me wrong - I am, and always have been, a HUGE proponent of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but a lot of times when we are down in the dumps about our own issues, its easy to forget to gain perspective (missing a flight does NOT equate to world hunger...just an example here people, I went grandiose for effect), its also easy to forget that we CAN get through it.

And that is why Diana is so special to me - she drove home that everything we do - well, most everything we do - is something we CHOOSE. Tired from a long bike ride? You chose to get on that bike. Angry at a co-worker? Well, you accepted the job and you chose to let him/her affect you. Feeling a bit of self-pity (and believe me people, I do this!) well you have chosen to wallow there for a bit - perhaps you need to - to move past whatever is bothering you. The choice options may not always be the most desireable - but there's always a choice. And of course, there will be things that life throws at us that we CAN'T choose - like cancer.

Diana now appears in my mind almost every day reminding me to remember there's a difference between what we choose and what we don't choose. And I need to own every choice I make - no matter how passive, and then, I need to make the best of that choice.

On Sunday - when the hills were painful, and I was tired, and I was hot...I choose to ride for Diana. I chose to own the experience, and I chose to love it. And I still do.


Day 266. The 10 Year One.

You all know by now that I was part of the super cool Tour de Pink that benefitted the Young Survival Coalition. The lasting gift its given me is meeting so many amazing people. Every rider has a story, as I mentioned before. One of many amazing woman had a little bit of a spot light put on her experience...and I'd like to keep that light shining just a little bit longer...

Its the quote after she sees her daughter that gets me - its everything....

Please watch and let yourself feel it...Alane - as a survivor, as a rider, as a mother, as a wife...thank you for being all of these things and reminding us how precious each role is.

[please note - you may need to adjust your volume - please do listen]


Day 265. The Marketing One.

Another story from the road...I was recently in Switzerland to help coordinate the very first Swiss Race for the Cure. It was a success and definitely a learning experience! This was on the tail end of some other European travels and I have to admit, as excited as I was for the Race I was also feeling a bit ready to be home and a bit lonely as the sole American in the circles in which I was running.

Luckily, Margo, from Susan G. Komen for the Cure joined me. Margo is the point person for all cause related marketing with Susan G. Komen. When you see the Komen ribbon on something, Margo probably made that happen and is successfully managing that relationship today. She is a powerhouse. She's my kind of girl: take no prisoners, brutal honesty, cut to the quick and don't waste time...find what you are enjoying and work the heck out of that, don't suffer needlessly.

Professionally - its easy to see her and be humbled. Sitting in meetings with her I was inspired, educated and in awe. Personally, she is even more impressive. I was happy to spend our free time together and feel like I really got to know her. We ended up having a lot in common: doing crazy endurance sports, working hard, living hard, enjoying shopping and good food. While i know that Margo's job has her travelling a million miles a year, and this was one more trip on her agenda, it was a real treat for me to get to spend time with her and get to know her better. I am thrilled that she is in the corner of the breast cancer community and I am thrilled that she's just out there in the world putting out her energy and smarts.

Margo took time away from her family, her training and her "normal life" to come spend a few days in Switzerland and spread the word that we can have a world without breast cancer and, in the mean time, show me just one more rediculously cool person that is out there. Margo - you rock.


Day 264. The Volunteer One.

We've finished! 3 days, 220 miles, over $6000 (so far!) raised by our team and almost $1 MILLION raised for the Young Survival Coalition. The riders on this event were amazing, but, I know, more than most, that things like this just don't happen without volunteers. People who take their personal time (or sometimes even work time!) and give it to help another. Volunteerism comes in all shapes and sizes...this weekend in came in everything from handing out room keys to making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches...and on that note, speaking of good PB&J sammies, let me honor my friend Dinamarie.

Dinamarie is an amazing woman I met through the YSC. She gives so much of herself to the cause, and what I love about her is that what she gives is who she truly is. She is open, she is hilarious, she is smart. When she is volunteering, its kind of a treat to be with her - not even for the work she might be doing at the moment but because you get to spend time with her. And, as I mentioned above, the girl makes a damn fine PB&J - one of the best ever.

Whether we are discussing the virtues of a truly good PB&J, singing Jessie's Girl, kvetching about *something* or redefining the commercial for the "bumpit", Dinamarie makes it all worth while. Girl - you are a real treat and one of the great parts of the past weekend!


Day 263. The Partner One.

So yesterday was day one of our Tour de Pink ride...it was pretty brutal - even according to "real" bike riders who've done the Tour de France numerous times. (The wind was whipping around from every direction and riders who had done numerous training rides in excess of 110 miles said today's 90 miles were harder than any of those rides that were longer). I was pretty nervous as Anna has been sidelined with 3 broken ribs and I didn't know if I'd be able to make it all the way or who I'd ride with.

Luckily I found Anna's friend, Joy.

Joy and I are now bike buddies - and, we affectionately call ourselves "the caboose". I can proudly say that we never were the last ones into any rest stop or the finish tho and that's because we had each other. When one of us was getting tired, luckily the other was riding a burst of energy. While I could fly up the hills, Joy could fly down. We kept each other on pace, we kept each other company and we kept each other motivated. Its hard to have a really meaningful conversation while on bikes, but I now consider Joy a friend. She's an amazing cancer survivor, mother of two, wife and woman. She crushed every single mile yesterday and I know, that riding with her, I'm gonna be able to do this too.