Last day

Today is my last day of living in California. I will not close the door on ever moving back, but there is a big world out there and I intend to explore it. I am restless at heart and always have been, especially after I tasted foreign travel for the first time when I went to Hong Kong and lived there for a semester in 2006. But I got a “great” job offer after college–I got the job at the bank with a good starting salary and benefits the week after Lehman Brothers failed in late 2008–and thought I should probably take it. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Go to school, study hard and then get a good, safe and secure job once you graduate. Well, it’s been four years and I still can’t wrap my head around that one; still can’t wrap my head around “settling” and putting my dreams on hold for the illusion of safety and security. At the end of the day, there is very little we are really in control of, and even those things we think we have control over, we probably don’t. God is in control and life is about trusting in His plan and having the faith to take risks because as a friend once told me, FAITH is always spelled R-I-S-K. And life is about swallowing my pride on a daily basis and having the humility to admit, “I don’t have it all figured out, in fact, I don’t very much of it figured out at all. But I’m going to start by chasing after what’s on my heart and not worrying about what people might think.” So I ripped off the bandaid that was my safe and secure job, the illusion of control. Yes, I’m moving home first, and I’m ok with that. Family is so important to me and I’m going to start this new adventure by not missing out on all of my 15-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister’s high school years.

This post is dedicated to dreamers and to everyone who is pursuing their passion. You inspire me.

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The Ironman Chronicles: And Then I Rode 112 Miles

Part 2 of my Ironman Chronicles series on Ferrigno Fit is LIVE! This post tells the story of the bike portion of Ironmna Arizona, the first Ironman I raced in November 2011. Check it out and check out the Ferrigno FIT website as well. Great content and inspiration all over it!

The Ironman Chronicles: It Starts with the Swim

Check out this first chapter in a three part series I’m writing about my Ironman Arizona race. They will be posted on Ferrigno FIT and here’s the direct link to the article. Many thanks to Shanna and Marti for all their hard work and for giving me this opportunity to be apart of this incredible movement!

What Makes an IRONMAN? | Ferrigno FIT

Friends! For those of you following my WordPress Blog here, my previous post called ‘Endurance Inspiration’ is being featured on Lou Ferrigno’s website, Ferrigno Fit! Please check out my post and browse around their site as well. It’s dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles and body, mind, spirit wellness. I feel privileged to be apart of spreading this positive message! Link below.

What Makes an IRONMAN? | Ferrigno FIT.

LA Marathon 2012: Now I love running…especially when it hurts

Pre-marathon preparation: I logged about 10-hours of sleep on Friday night and relaxed and stretched for most of the day on Saturday. The expo at Dodger Stadium was great and I picked up some new Pro Bars, Stinger supplements and of course CLIF Bar products (Thank you, Brooke and Josh and Nadine and everyone else!) on Saturday afternoon. Saturday evening was spent resting, stretching and eating with lights out at 9:00 p.m.

Race morning: The alarm went off at 4:20 a.m. on Sunday and go-time was just over three hours away (7:24 a.m.). Breakfast consisted of some oatmeal with peanut butter and a banana, then a CLIF Builder’s Bar. I also drank a green protein mix and began hydrating with water as well. I arrived at the stadium by 6:00 a.m. and made a few trips to the bathroom before stripping off my warm-ups, packing ’em up and handing it to the gear check table at 6:45 a.m. I’d started sipping on a 5-Hour Energy around 6:30 a.m. and took a CLIF Double Espresso Shot Gel just before 7:00 a.m. Since my fastest and only marathon had been a 4:15 at LA in 2009, I hadn’t been able to get in the seeding corral with the 3:30-pace group but some volunteers took away the barriers about 5-minutes before the start and I worked my way up towards the front. The gun went off a few minutes late at 7:30 a.m. and we were off!

Miles 1-3: My intention had been to warm up with 8:30-miles for the first few miles and then drop down to 7:30-8:00-miles thereafter but the beginning of the race was all downhill and flat so I was posting 7:30- 7:40-miles rather handily. The course took us from the ballpark down onto Sunset and along there onto Cesar Chavez, then into Chinatown and under the Dragon Arch.

Miles 4-6: The course turned uphill after that as we ran up 1st Street and turned right onto Grand at Disney Concert Hall. The hills saw my splits go to about 8:10-pace for this section as we started leaving downtown and heading into Echo Park (and around that reservoir that nobody seems to know the name of). The energy was super high and the crowds were big, especially as we crested the small hill at Sunset Junction and began the gradual decline back on Sunset.

Miles 7-9: My splits dropped back into the high 7s on this downhill and to my surprise, I saw Curry run up beside me around mile 8! She said she was feeling great. Check out http://babystepstothefinish.blogspot.com/2012/03/rematch-la-marathon.html for a recap of the rest of her race.  We saw our friend Julie right about this time in Silverlake and that gave us an awesome boost. There’s something about seeing friends out on the course that really has a lingering positive effect for the next few miles.

Miles 10-14: From mile 10 through the halfway point at Sunset and Crescent Heights, I was feeling great and running about 7:45 and 7:55 pacing. My friend, Chum, jumped in and ran with me from 13.1 to about mile 14. This really took my mind off the run and I was able to maintain my splits right where I needed them. I also spotted my friend, Alexis, cheering at about my 14. Alexis is the world’s greatest fan and even though we only get to hang out about 4-5 times a year, she’s probably been at 3 or 4 of my LA races over the past few years.

Mile 15-16: This stretch of the course finished off the Sunset Strip and took us cruising down San Vicente and then right onto Santa Monica Blvd and into West Hollywood. I was able to open it up down the hill and on the flat with 7:30/7:45-miles. The crowds had been great along the whole course and the weather couldn’t have been better. The forecast was for torrential rain but our prayers had been answered and it was gorgeous. A bit windy at times, but crisp, clear and sunny.

Miles 17-19: These miles were interesting and very scenic as we ran through Beverly Hills, down Rodeo Drive and onto Wilshire past Niketown. There were a lot of high school sports teams and cheerleaders out along the sides of the course and I started high-fiving all of them as I ran past. With racing, like other areas of life, I thrive off of other people’s energy. And I take every chance I get to encourage my fellow racers or say thank you to fans. Yes, it costs me a little extra effort but the mental boost I get always makes it worthwhile.

Miles 20-21: These miles were right around the end of where I felt good. My motivation was the CLIF Cheer Tent just after the turn onto Sepulveda. I remembered cheering with CLIF in the rain at last year’s marathon and they kept the energy just as strong this year. DJ AmRo was spinning again ( http://www.facebook.com/DJAmro1 ) and that gave me the push I needed for the next half mile till I grabbed a Citrus CLIF SHOT Gel when we entered the VA area. The VA was brutal with a lot of turns and even the little hills felt huge at this point.

Miles 22-23: There was a 50-yard downhill when we exited the VA and entered Brentwood on San Vicente and I remember thinking, “WOW! My legs are shot!” These were the worst miles and the gradual uphill to 26th Street was torturous. They make you find your reason for suffering and try to break you. One thing I did this time was repeat to myself, “This doesn’t hurt, this doesn’t hurt…” about 7-10 times. And each time I wanted to slow down (more than I had already) or stop to walk I thought, “I’ve come this far and maintained 3:30 pacing so well the whole time and I WILL NOT waste this opportunity. Come on, LET’S GO! This is where it counts and where you have to turn on your mental game!” My super running friend, Laura, ran up behind me around this time and that really fired me up. She ran about 18-miles or so of the marathon for a training run! Check out this video for a little picture of just how inspiring she is:  http://vimeo.com/36517857 . Yep, she’s THAT strong.

Miles 24-25: It was all downhill from 26th and SV to Ocean Avenue. My legs and feet were on fire but I didn’t care. I relaxed into the gradual descent and forced my legs to just spin and tried to keep my cadence as quick as possible.

The Finish: I picked it up even more as we made the sweeping left turn onto Ocean Avenue and started on the straight shot to the line at Ocean and California. According to my Garmin, I had already hit 26.2 miles at 3:29 but there was still almost a half-mile left to go till the official finish. I was dropping almost to 7:15-pace at this point and then I heard someone hootin’ and hollerin’ and as I looked up I saw my coach, Ariel Rodriguez, jumping up and down in the middle of the course and cheering for me! I had never been so happy to see someone before and I just pushed even harder and went sub-7:00 for that last ¼-mile. I crossed the line and as my legs slowly came to a stop I literally almost collapsed! My knees just about buckled and I reached for the closest volunteer to support me. It was all I could do to keep moving to cool down and not stop completely. Everything within me wanted to just lie down and pass out. I was broken and had left it all out there on the course with an official clock time of 3:32:23.

Special thanks to Kristina G. for being a finish line volunteer and helping me walk afterwards and finding my gear bag amidst the chaos. Thanks to my coach, Ariel Rodriguez, for all of his support. Also, great job to my friends, Curry M. and Jessie J., for both breaking 4-hours and setting PRs of 3:55! And thanks to the following people for their support on the course and after: Paul, Albert, Alexis, Amy, Sarah, Rowena, Blair, Brandon, Fernando, Brett, Mike, Jasmine, Cindy, Jordan, Chum, Meg O, Thomas, Kara, Jenn, Priscilla, Shiloh, Bernard, Heather, Jens, Laura, Kendall, Larry, Brett, Rocket, Anthony, Shu, Brooke, Julie, Byron, Moka, Dave, Matt, Eileen, Joe, Mimi, my awesome family and anyone else I missed in my endorphin- and lactic acid-induced euphoria. You all are my inspiration and I so appreciate your support.

Crushing the bike at Desert Tri 2012

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Desert Triathlon Race Report: March 4th, 2012

“Why is everyone swimming that way?” I thought to myself as my arms churned through the waters of Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta, CA, just outside of Palm Desert. During the swim warm up before Wave #1 of the 2012 Desert Tri, one of the paddle-boarding life guards had pointed out a buoy that I thought was the first turnaround point. This was not so, I discovered soon after the gun went off, and I hastily corrected course and fell in behind the other swimmers. Thankfully, this rough start to the race would not be a foreboding for my finish line result.

I got through the 3/4-mile swim in a terrible time of 21:38. There were rumors that the swim was somewhat longer than 3/4-mile, which made me feel a little better about my time. Regardless, I’d only swam maybe a dozen times since resuming training (post-Ironman) in January, so I couldn’t beat myself up too badly. I blitzed out of the water and one minute and fourteen seconds later I was clipped into my FELT AR5 bike and flying across the flat and fast roads of Palm Desert. Did I mention it was a very flat and FAST? The Bontrager HED 9.0 deep dish wheelset, courtesy of my coach last year, Anthony Barton, helped a great deal also. For the first half of the 24-mile bike portion of the race, I was averaging nearly 25 MPH! Being 6’3″ and close to 190 pounds as a triathlete sometimes makes it tough to keep up with some of the smaller guys, but when the bike course is flat, I eat those guys for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My speed tapered off towards the very end as I could definitely feel the fire-like burning of the lactic acid building up in my legs and although I blazed through T2 in one minute flat, my body felt like lead and my lungs were like a forest fire. My bike time was 1:01:13.

I started the run off at 6:30 min/mile pace with my coach, Ariel Rodriguez, running beside me for the first few minutes to spur me on. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hold that pace for long and it took all I could muster to keep it under 7:00 min/miles foe the remainder of the race. The 6-mile run course was two laps around the lake and mostly flat with a mixture of dirt and paved trails. I finished with a time of 41:26 and an average pace of 6:54 min/mile. After the finish, I cooled down with one more lap around the lake to make it an even 9 miles of running. This was done primarily in lieu of the upcoming LA Marathon on March 18th that I’ll be running.

I placed 1st in the M20-24 age group in what was my last official race in that category since my 25th birthday is this Friday! My official time was 2:06:31 and my closest competitor was 12 minutes back. Here’s the link to the results page: 2012 Desert Tri Results

Pro Heather Jackaon ended up winning the whole race and therefore “chicking” every guy there! Her background is in ice hockey and so that’s where she got her legs! Her bike speed is ridiculous and she can run. She shreds it in the swim too! check out her cover article in this month’s issue of LAVA Magazine: http://lavamagazine.com/features/video-behind-the-scenes-with-heather-jackson/#axzz1oVOl02En.

My friend Jason May got 4th overall and won the 35-39 age group. Another friend of mine, Reilly Smith, won the 30-34 age group and got 11th overall. Friend Tom Burbank won the Clydesdale division and Scott Chaney got 2nd in the 35-39 age group and 6th overall. Another friend and colleague of mine, Curry Michels, got 8th in the 30-34 age group. Overall, it was a great day!

My next race on the calendar is the LA Marathon in 11 days on March 18th. For those of you living in Southern California, it’d be great to see you out there somewhere along the course as I run from Dodger Stadium all the was to the Santa Monica Pier. 🙂

Who am I and why do I wake up every morning?

I dug this up from an exercise I went through about 14 months ago while reading a book called The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson, a book that explores the concept of discovering one’s created purpose. I highly recommend it for those who are searching for fulfillment or who feel that there’s got to be something more than what they’ve experienced so far in life. I know this book helped me tremendously.

It’s a bit raw and uncut but I’m posting it because it re-inspired me as I read it today and I hope it inspires you as well! Enjoy. 🙂

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Q: What have I always been good at?
A: Talking with people, meeting strangers, connecting people, communicating, public speaking; athletic pursuits, racing, being active, pushing people in sports, motivating and inspiring people because of who I am and what I do; traveling solo; snowboarding; writing; numbers, financial concepts.

Q: What needs do I care about most?
A: The need to protect unborn children; the need for people to be healthy, eat well and exercise to prevent numerous types of injuries, diseases and problems; the need for people to be inspired and motivated–to be excited about life; the need for people to feel accepted and valued and to feel that what they’re doing matters and is having an impact.

Q: Who do I admire most?
A: My dad, Bono, Lance Armstrong, Mark Zuckerberg, Tony Robbins, anyone who’s raced an Ironman, people who are living their dream, my mom, Heather, Joelle, Troy, my family, people who quit their job to go travel around the world, Paul Richardson, Tim Ferriss, Daniel Silva, Richard Branson, Laird Hamilton, Erwin McManus, Tim Chaddick, Joe Focht.

Q: What makes me feel most fulfilled?
A: Pushing my body/mind to the physical/mental limit, essentially challenging myself; traveling, international travel, adventure, thinking on my feet while traveling, being somewhere totally new in the world when no one knows me and no one that I know has any idea about exactly where I am; having deep conversations with people about their passions or dreams or brainstorming new ideas; the feeling I get when I know I’m doing what God created me to do.

Q: What do I love to do most?
A: Experience adremaline highs; go fast downhill on my bike; travel around the world; meet random people on the way, there, and returning from trips; read Dan Silva novels; write about intense experiences and dreams and create writing that moves people; connect/talk with people; adventure with my family; snowboard; go for a swim in the ocean with friends on sunny days with no wetsuit; trail run; mountain bike; watch inspiring movies; race; speak in front of people and inspire them.

Q: What have I felt called to do?
A: Change the world; travel around the world going on adventures and meeting new and interesting people of all cultures; live in a foreign country(ies); learn the 6 UN languages over a period of 5 years by living in each of those countries somehow and discovering a way to finance it without having to go into debt; race an ironman (CHECK!); start a nonprofit; become a motivational speaker; race triathlons at a higher level.

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Cables betwixt canyons and five hundred feet to the ground

There I was, standing aboard a small, crowded, cable car with a half dozen total strangers, dangling from a cable connecting the canyon walls, hundreds of feet above a tiny creek bed with barely a detectable trickle of water flowing.

‘Yea, that’ll help the landing,’ I remember sarcastically thinking to myself. ‘No! Don’t think that way. There won’t be a landing… Right? Right?!’

Docking at the pod in the center didn’t ease anyone’s uneasiness either. The flooring was made entirely of clear plexiglass and that seemed to be the only thing keeping your stomach from falling through to the abyss, as it perpetually dropped from your abdomen from total and complete lack of composure and intense fear. I was sentenced to second in line since the order ran from heaviest to lightest to minimize the potential for weakening of the line…

‘Weakening? Jon, don’t think about that. This is going to be fun, remember? You paid good money for this and you’re on the complete other side of the world about to experience the most insane 8.5 seconds of your 23-year-old life.’

My heart dropped with the first person to go (I guess my stomach wasn’t around at that point so one of my organs felt obliged to have a severe reaction). Then, my name was called and I carefully stepped across the threshold dividing the plexiglass-covered waiting area and the metal grate flooring of the staging zone. Up onto the chair of last remarks I went and the three interlocking sets of buckles were clasped onto my already mounted chest, waist and ankle/leg harnesses. I’m pretty sure I was numb at this point. As I’m writing this, I’m literally reliving every emotion and feeling that I felt in those last moments and the anticipation I’m experiencing right now in my apartment is insane!

I was helped out of the chair and once standing, encouraged to proceed to the edge. Well, technically, I ‘waddled’ to the edge because my ankles were essentially tied together. So I’m waddling away and think I’m pretty close to the edge and all I’m hearing is voices saying, “Just a little bit closer. A little more. Almost there. Ok, STOP.” I did.

“OK, now on the count of three, you’re going to go. It’s important that you show us your best swan dive because the distance is much farther than at other places. And if you don’t go on three, we’re just going to push you off anyway so you might as well go.

“3 – 2 – 1 – BUNGY!!!”

As I launched myself in an arc out into nothingness with my eyes wide and mouth agape, I experienced the most indescribable rush of adrenaline and excitement I ever have. I hurtled downward, my head leading the way and my arms still flying and my legs and feet above me, and the trickling stream rushing up at me. This was A.J. Hackett’s Nevis BUNGY, 134 meters high, outside of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. Queenstown is known as ‘The Adventure Capital of the World’ and it’s not hard to see why. In that same week, I went sky diving at the second most scenic drop zone in the world, hang gliding, glacier hiking, mountain biking and luge-ing. But even skydiving couldn’t come close to matching the rush of bungee jumping. The feeling of solo free fall within that proximity to the ground is unlike any other. The perspective is so severe and extreme and in-your-face that you can’t escape it.

Wow, go BUNGY jumping! NOW!

“Endurance Inspiration” Icebreaker Speech

The following passage is a speech I gave today at the Toastmasters chapter I recently joined at City National Bank where I work in Los Angeles. This chapter was just started a few weeks ago and I’m serving as the VP of Public Relations. This was the first speech I gave and was called the Icebreaker.

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Today, I want to share a little bit of my story and give you some insight into what drives me. But for me to do that, I want to invite you to use your imagination and take a walk in my shoes. Are you ready? Alright, let’s begin. Please close your eyes. Now, I’d like for each of you to imagine yourselves just waking up in a hotel room to an alarm that you set the night before. The clock on the alarm reads 3:45 a.m. The purpose of this early morning wakeup call is to give you adequate time to prepare for a day-long experience that will commence in three hours and fifteen minutes at exactly 7:00 a.m. At that time, you will embark on a journey that will altogether inspire you, challenge you, scare you, excite you and cause you to feel every emotion you’ve ever felt before and some that you have never felt.

You’ve been awake in the darkness preparing for the day for over three hours now and the sun is finally beginning to rise. Open your eyes. You haven’t spoken very much, if at all, since awaking, to conserve every potential drop of energy. At this very moment you are wearing a wetsuit and treading water in a lake with over 2,500 other people, male and female, ranging in age from 18 all the way up to 80 years old. There’s a nervous tension in the air as the MC’s voice blares over the loudspeakers. And then, at exactly 7:00 a.m., the cannon fires and the once calm lake turns into a raging river as the thousands of athletes at once begin flailing their arms and legs and swimming in the same direction, starting the journey 140.6 miles. This journey is called the IRONMAN Triathlon.

How many of you know what the Ironman triathlon is? Does anyone know what the distances of the race are?

My opening remarks above actually came from a personal experience. I raced my first Ironman in Arizona this past November and was fortunate to qualify for the Age Group World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That race is approximately 241 days away. Yes, I’m counting.

The reason I chose to give my Icebreaker speech about Ironman is because triathlons have taught me a lot about life and who I’ve been created to be. I am drawn to Ironman and other extreme feats of endurance for three reasons.

#1: I have a compelling desire to test my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits. Obviously, undertaking a feat like Ironman requires a great deal of physical endurance. The mental component becomes very important once you reach the point when your body wants to shut down–and you WILL reach that point. the emotional and spiritual aspects come into play because you will have to dig deep and look deep inside and ask yourself, “Can I do this? Am I capable of finishing this race?” as the famous runner and Olympian, Steve Prefontaine, once said, “The real reason to run a race isn’t to win the race but to test the limits of the human heart.”

#2: It gives me a platform to speak with people individually and collectively from a place of authenticity. Saying I want to be an Ironman and actually doing an Ironman are entirely different. To paraphrase an old poem I learned recently, “You’re writing a story, a chapter each day, by the deeds that you do and the words that you say. And men read what you write, distorted or true, so what is your story according to you?” Before people will take you seriously, you need to prove by your actions and words that you’re truly living the way that you say you are. Why do we rake people like Billy Graham or Tony Robbins seriously? Because they’ve demonstrated by their actions, by the millions of loves they’ve touched, that they are authentic.

#3: And most importantly, I believe my purpose in life is to inspire people, to lift them out of their current situation and open their eyes to see the unique potential they have. That is why I did Ironman. When I got home after the race and could finally reflect, I was overwhelmed by all of the support I had received via Facebook posts, emails, texts and calls. Tears just started flowing because I was so humbled and blessed when I saw the kind of impact I had made and the people I’d inspired. .

I know that wherever I go, someone is always going to see what I do. I have no idea what they may be going through at the moment when our lives intersect but I do know that my life and my actions have the power to impact them either positively or negatively. At the end of the day, that is why I do my best to live authentically in each and every moment. I don’t always succeed but I give it my best shot. And I truly believe that each of you are impacting lives everywhere you go, whether or not you realize it. So today I want to issue a challenge to you: What is your story according to you? Thank you.

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