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Race Report: Rock N Roll USA Marathon 2013

Greg Garvin and Greg Rittler Rock n Roll USA Marathon 2013Leading up to marathon #4

I finished marathon #4 this past weekend. I have to pinch myself when I say that because I worked really hard just to finish #1. Years actually. To this day I have still failed more often than I have succeeded (although I’m catching up fast).

I first set out to run a marathon in the early 90’s with my dad. I fell off the training plan pretty quickly. He kept training but eventually had an injury that prevented him from getting to the starting line. He determined that half marathons were a better distance and has an impressive number of post 60 year old (and into his 70’s) Baltimore half marathons to show for it.

I tried again in 2001, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and finally ran my first marathon in 2011. I was a serial dreamer before that. I could never quite make the commitment turn into a reality. I would inevitably downgrade and run a half marathon instead.

So to look back now and realize I have a fair amount of experience running marathons still surprises me.

I always thought this was a bucket list thing and never expected that I would run in multiple races. But I did. I finished Baltimore in October 2011 (4:59), Baltimore (3:59) & Marine Corp (3:49) in October 2012, and Rock N Roll USA 2013 last week.

On the bike or running I love to compete with friends that I spend so much time training with. These are my fellow obsessors. They get the “it” behind questions like “why are you doing all of this?” and “how do you spend so much time running & riding?” I don’t need to explain it to them. They are obsessed also.

Rock N Roll USA Marathon 2013 was especially fun for two reasons:

  • I was able to race with Greg Garvin who is one of my closest and longest lasting friends in life.
  • Greg and I were both able to train with Jeff Dudley one of our friends and an experienced athlete and very strong runner.

Both Greg and Jeff are superb athletes and are a blast to be around. We ran 80% of the long runs needed to get ready for Rock N Roll USA Marathon 2013 together.

I love being alone. I’m an introvert by nature. But when I am heading out for three hours of pavement pounding I am very happy to have good company.

I was concerned about this race going into 2013 because I was intentionally taking it easy in December & January. My coach had suggested that I needed two months to focus on taking weight off to get ready for this year and so I had cut back to very little exercise and a very low calorie diet. It worked. I dropped twenty pounds in two months. But I was under trained by conventional standards.

I trained for all of Rock N Roll USA on one run per week. I wouldn’t recommend this plan for anyone else but it was working for me and I was getting faster. I kept thinking that I should add two more runs a week as the race was getting closer but I was feeling good and riding a lot by that point so I never did.

Greg Rittler Rock n Roll Marathon USA 2013

The Race

I didn’t sleep much the night before the race. We were meeting at 5:30 to drive and take the Metro to the race with my friend Sissy who was running the half marathon so I was up at 4am for normal race morning prep. I miscalculated travel time a little so we ended up getting to the start line just in time but it worked out fine and we weren’t sitting around waiting to start which I like.

I felt good getting to the starting line. I was rested and my body was fresh. The weather was questionable going into the race. There was a chance of rain but so far so good (it ended up not raining and just getting better and brighter as the race went on).

Because we were tight on time we started in a wave that was back further than we were slotted for. This turned out to be great because we passed people the entire race which is a big psychological boost. Note to self for future races.

Greg is a stronger runner than I am so I was expecting to let him get out in front of me early on but I stayed with him for most of the first half. We both felt good and although he was pulling me along a little faster than I would have gone out otherwise I felt good and didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard.

It might have been the two French presses I drank prior to the race (I always drink a lot of coffee before events) but I had to go to the bathroom 4 times during this race. That’s unusual and I took it as a sign that I was staying well hydrated. I drink at every water station (usually gatorade and water at each).

Just before halfway I ducked into a spot a pot and Greg kept going ahead of me. By the time I was done he was out of sight and although I saw him a time or two from a distance after that we didn’t meet again until the finish. I thought about trying to catch him and I’m sure I could have but I would have paid dearly the second half if I had.

Rock n Roll USA is both a half and a full marathon and both start at the same time. As a result around mile eleven you start hearing people saying “we are almost there” and “keep going it’s almost over.” For full marathoners halfway is just the beginning. We’ve all trained at longer than 13.1 distances for quite a while so getting to halfway is great but we know the real work is still ahead.

For the first time in this race I ran without music or food. I wanted to be light and not carry anything extra so even though I love running with music and having food when I want it I skipped those. Big mistake on the food front. I’d really like to have 3-4 gels during a race around miles 7, 14, 20, and 25 if I need it. I would rather stay ahead of my nutrition than get behind. In this race there were only two food stations at miles ten and twenty roughly.

I was hungry miles 16-20. I don’t ever want to feel hungry during a marathon. I also realized that because we had arrived later than we expected and rushed to get our gear checked I had forgotten  to eat a cliff bar which is my pre race food of choice that I eat a few minutes before the start (I have a huge breakfast hours before the race).

My pattern has been roughly this: feel good for the first 16 miles or so, 17-21 are tough, 22-24 are brutal, and 25-finish I usually get a little psychological pick me up as we are approaching the finish (Baltimore 2012 was different because I went VERY easy the first 18 miles and then increased my pace so I really felt strong the whole time).

This race was similar. During miles 22-24 I say “I am NEVER doing this again.” I get grumpy and angry. I’m not sure how to keep going but I do. Little tiny hills seem like mountains and flat sections feel like hills.

I can’t do any math in my head at this point. I try to calculate my finish time based on distance left and pace and I can’t do it. I can calculate pace/miles/time/distance all day long on a normal run. But when I’m 3 hours into a marathon my brain simply doesn’t do math.

So I gave up and just ran and tried to enjoy myself. And I did for the most part. One of the benefits of having a little bit of experience is that I know a few things you don’t know the first time around:

  • The pain is temporary and will be over soon. I know this is cliche but it is true. I know in my head it’s going to hurt like hell for about 45 minutes to an hour in any marathon. But this time passes quickly if you just keep going. The benefit of learning to push through the pain is priceless in so many areas of life.
  • I’ve never finished a race (running, biking, etc) that I have regretted doing. I’ve wished I was faster. I recount some mistakes and things I’ll do better next time. But the feeling of finishing and the legitimate joy that comes with it is always worth the pain. You’ve just crushed a huge accomplishment no matter how fast or slow you are. You are part of a very small percentage of people that have taken on a challenge that is incredibly difficult.
  • I’ll say in the middle of the race I will NEVER do this again and then promptly plan my next race before the car ride home. I broke my previous best by 3 minutes for this race and I’ll try to do that again by the end of the year. It’s not that I left anything out there. It’s just that I know I can continue to improve. This is about a lifestyle not a single event.

I crossed the finish line in 3:46. A year ago I thought breaking four hours would be my running lifetime accomplishment. I’ve done that three times now and I think I might have another big leap in me. I might not. But I’m going to try.

Greg finished in 3:37, an impressive nine minute personal best for him 12 years after his last marathon. Sissy had a great day (although she had to wait for us for a while to finish).

Marathons are brutal. There is no way around that. Rock n Roll USA was no exception. But every time I cross the finish it is a gift. After all it took me a long time and a lot of failures to get here. It hasn’t come easy but it has been worth every mile.

Keep moving forward (and if you need to keep failing forward),


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I Have a 20 Year Old?

Caleb Rittler

Rittler kid #1 turned 20 today.

As with most newbie parents Caleb rocked our world when he was born. He was and is awesome. Seriously. If you know him you like him.

When Caleb & Josh were little I called them Butch & Sundance after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Butch and Sundance were great partners because they complimented each other so well. Sundance was the action oriented executer. Butch was the schemer & talker. They always reminded me of the movie. Josh’s nickname didn’t stick but Caleb’s did.

From the time he was born Caleb loved interacting with everyone around him. He was always engaged in conversations with anyone who would engage him. He was soaking in life at each moment. He still is. He’s got Paul Newman’s chillness and quick wit.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Caleb is wise and has always been mature for his age. He’s always been able to interact with anyone and everyone. He loves being with his friends but can be comfortable alone. He has a deep faith that I admire and at the same time he is able to question just about anything. He holds things in tension well. He’s deeply committed to the things he loves and loves the things he’s committed to.

He’s taught me a lot. Other than the fact that he doesn’t come home enough he’s super awesome.

Caleb Rittler at the beach

I still can’t believe he’s 20 though. Happy Birthday Butch.

Keep moving forward,


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Fat to Fit: The Dark Moments

131723611A month ago I would have told you how great I was feeling. I was coming off of 2 months of rest, dropping 20 lbs, and eating more healthy than I ever have.

I was running long runs keeping up with one of my old friends who is naturally quite a bit faster than I am. The few rides I did during my rest time I was keeping up with guys that usually dust me with ease.

I was feeling GOOD!

This morning was the opposite of that. I didn’t want to get out of bed (that rarely happens). I didn’t want to go workout (again, that’s a rarity nowadays). I felt heavy. I got on the scale realized I’ve added back few of the twenty pounds that I painfully took off in December & January.

On our Adventures for the Cure team ride Wednesday night (West Side Worlds)  I was dropped from the B group halfway through the ride. I wasn’t getting dropped at all at the end of last season. I went for a three hour ride yesterday morning at a very easy pace for me and I was exhausted even though that’s a walk in the park for me usually.

In a nutshell: I feel like crap.

I renewed my commitment this past week to get to a target riding weight by April 1. I was doing pretty well most of the week but my commitment to cut back on bad carbs ended with shoveling in two bowls of mac n cheese last night at Johnny’s in Roland Park (followed by two desserts). So much for my will power.

Some days I feel amazing. I am fit and getting fitter. I am light and getting lighter. I am swimming in endorphins and my mood is so good that even people I don’t employ or am related to like me.

Then there are days like today. No motivation. No will power. I feel like lying on the couch all day eating donuts and Doritos while watching mindless TV in front of the fire. The picture of fitness eh?

Fortunately this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been here before. The dark moments happen.

I don’t know why they happen. We are fickle creatures. More sensitive than we think. With so many different variables that affect our mood: emotional engagement, our perception of reality, our relationships with others and ourselves, other emotion, mental, sexual, physical and spiritual factors. On Facebook our status would be: “It’s complicated.”

I have found two things that I do when the dark moments come:

Recognize that this too shall pass. Ask me in a day or two and I’ll probably be feeling wildly different than today. The dark moments don’t last. If they did I would seek out professional help for sure. But generally I’ll get recharged and ready to go again in a day or so. Maybe less. Maybe more.

Don’t fight against the dark moments. There are plenty of times when the right response is to fight. Mile 20 of a marathon is one of those times. 80 miles into a 100 mile mountain bike race is one of those times. Fighting for extra reps at Coppermine Crossfit during an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) is one of those times. There are plenty of times when”fight” is the right response to a challenge.

But when I’m feeling weary, beat up, tired, off my game, and unmotivated I don’t fight that. I try to get some rest. I relax and let myself feel the exhaustion. I might eat a little more. I might indulge in something that i normally wouldn’t. I might watch more TV.

In these situations I try to relax and know the way forward is often through the dark moments. Tomorrow will be a new day with new challenges. I’ll be up for them.

Keep moving forward. If you need me I’ll be on the couch eating crap and watching TV.


p.s. Some of you have heard me talk about resistance. Sometimes when I feel the way I do I’d be suggesting the answer is to kick resistance in the teeth and push through the dark moments. Wisdom is knowing when to push and when to relax. Today I’m relaxing.

p.p.s.Sometimes it helps to put on the right clothing even when you aren’t feeling good:

Trophy Husband

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Race Report: 2013 Southern Cross

I’m barely into training for the 2013 racing season. I took December & January to drop additional weight and did little training. I arrived at February 1 twenty pounds lighter than December 1. I’m trying to take off another 10-15 lbs in the next couple of months as I prepare for my first serious race, Cohutta. I’d like to be as light as possible before spending 100 miles and 10+ hours on the mountain bike.

I officially began base training February 4. That gave me all of 12 days of training before Southern Cross. Southern cross was a C race on my schedule.

I spent Friday traveling to Dahlonega, Georgia with my friends Tom Blanks & Pat Blair. We arrived at 7pm just in time to get our race packets from Northstar Bikes. We had a delicious dinner at Piazza in downtown Dahlonega before we hit the sack to get some shut eye before the race.

The race wasn’t until 10am so we had plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Everyone has there own pre race routines. I followed mine: wake up, eat oatmeal with toppings, eggs & coffee, use the bathroom, suit up, get to the race 1 hour ahead of schedule, eat a cliff bar 30 minutes pre race, and stay warm in the car until 10 minutes before race (it was right around freezing at the start).

Most would try to warm up the legs prior to the start more than I did but this was a C race and I knew I’d be on the bike for 4 hours. Plenty of time to get warm. Additionally there is a cross course section at the start that I knew would be a big bottleneck for everyone except the leaders so I thought that would give me plenty of time to get warm. If this was a 1-2 hour effort I would have gotten more warm before the start.

I was in the starting line right in the middle of the pack. About where I figured I would be in the race. The start was typical for us mid pack cyclists: take off quick, hit your brakes as things bottleneck going through the cross course, avoid the minor wrecks from people bunching up, and just try to stay with the racers in front of you and not hold up the racers behind you.

I knew going into the race that it would be hard. I knew there were 2 really tough, long, climbs that were 75% of the effort.

The first climb was REALLY tough. I had low expectations going in for my performance but it was all I could do to keep the pedals turning over. I wasn’t expecting that. In my short cycling experience I’ve done at least one thing: I’ve climbed a lot. So even though I was early in my base training I still didn’t think I’d have much trouble with these two climbs. I was wrong. They were brutal.

At one point I took a break to eat something. In retrospect that probably saved me from bonking. Later I would find out that both Pat and Tom bonked on that climb. And that was only 12 miles into the entire race. So my grabbing a cliff bar may have kept me from getting into much worse shape.

I managed to hang on to the group around me for the most part during the climb. The climb was so steep that even though I stopped for a cliff bar and kept walking while eating I was was still nearly keeping up with those that were grinding up the climb. I jumped back onto the bike after eating for a minute and felt ready to crank away. A mile later I reached the top of the climb. Hallelujah.

As I was reaching the top I passed Tom who had bonked and was hurting bad. I yelled “You look like sh$t…eat something.”

Then began the 1st of 2 big descents. Fast, gravel, tight turns. It was awesome after climbing for 10 miles. The only problem was it didn’t last very long. The first climb took an hour. Although the decent was 10 miles long, it only took 15 minutes. At the bottom we turned onto roads for a few miles. I caught onto the back of a group that was moving pretty quickly and held on for the ride until we were back in the woods and climbing again. Trying to use as little energy as possible I let everyone else pull. I just sat in.

All too soon we started the second climb. This one was tough but not quite as steep as the first. Again about midway up the 10 mile climb I took a break and ate. Tom had eaten and recovered a bit so midway through the 2nd climb he caught up with me and we were together the rest of the ride.

In every endurance race there is a moment when I ask a really important question: “What the hell are you doing?” That moment for me came towards the very top of the 2nd climb when there was yet another steep climbing section. This one was breaking people. I saw some very fit looking riders stopped in the middle of the ride trying to recover. It was tough.

I finally crested the hill and began the decent. I was relieved but soon was suffering again. This time on the downhill. The first downhill was fun after the first climb. This one was punishing. The gravel was rough, there were lots of ruts and bumpy spots in the road. At one point I was offering a mountain biker cash for his bike to make the descent. It was painful and long. While the first climb went all to quickly, this one seemed to take forever and was jarring the entire time.

Finally we were dumped onto the road at the bottom. After some confusion about which way to go we were cranking away on the road toward the finish. Homestretch now. 12 miles of relatively easy road riding. Until the finish. Tom did most of the work pulling me along.

The race organizers, tortured souls that they must be, put another section of cross course at the end starting with a HUGE run up (or walk up for the vast majority of the riders I saw). I was completely depleted at this point.

I struggled through the cross course and finished in about 4:20. I was shooting for 4:30 so I was happy with my day in general.

In terms of effort this was likely the hardest I’ve done to date. When I loaded my ride later on Strava it showed that I spent over 2 hours above my anaerobic threshold which is about as high as I would be able to hold for a 4 hour effort. I was pleased with that given my stage of conditioning. I’m not faster yet but I’m able to suffer. That’s a good sign hopefully of good things to come:

2013 Southern Cross Suffer Score

Pat and Tom had both had disappointing days. Pat hadn’t eaten enough pre race and bonked in the middle of the 1st climb. He recovered and was able to reel people in the 2nd half and was strong through the finish. Tom had been sick all week and was barely recovered so I’m pretty sure his body just mutinied and decided to throw him under the bus. We all changed and jumped back into the car for the drive home. 30 minutes post finish we were making the 700 mile trek back to Baltimore.

Big kudos to Cheryl Sornson who not only won the women’s race but also was behind us on the highway and waived us down to tell us Tom’s bike was precariously moving around on top of the car. Her warning helped us avoid a bike mishap that would have added insult to injury on a tough day.

I did hijack our dinner plans and meet up with my oldest son, Caleb, and his roommates for dinner Saturday night in Blacksburg. It was 9pm before we pulled in and we were still in a hurry but we were able to grab a quick mexican dinner with he and his roomies (he lives with some terrific guys). We left an hour later and made it home around 3am.

Great weekend road trip. I slept soundly. At least for 4 hours.

Keep moving forward,


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Fat to Fit: Stop Being Normal

I worked hard this week. And long. And early. I was up and working by 5am every morning. And most nights I was still responding to email late in the evening. Trying to get 5 days of work done in 4 days. I had a lot to do before Friday.

I’ve been looking forward to Friday since the end of last summer.

Last summer I started eying the American Ultra Cross series as I was adventuring into Mountain Bike Racing & Ultra Cross Racing. I tested the waters at Iron Cross and I loved it: long tough climbs, gravel roads, single track, mountain bikes, cross bikes. What’s not to love about that?

So tomorrow marks my first race of 2013: Southern Cross. It’s going to be tough and I’m going to be slow. I’m barely into base training and have done little climbing or long rides in the last couple of months. I will be underprepared.

Prepared or not I”m sure of this: it is going to be a blast.


So this morning I woke up in the wee hours, finished a little work, took this beauty out for breakfast and then dropped her off at school, and left for the short 700 mile drive to Dahlonega, Georgia with my friends Pat Blair and Tom Blanks.

Pat is the co-founder of the team that I am on, Adventures for the Cure. He is a super strong rider and could easily finish on the podium. Tom is also very strong and will be a bit behind Pat but still very competitive. Tom has his own fat to fit story and has been a huge encouragement on my road to becoming fit. Tom has spent the last few years going from the back of the pack in our group of local riders to the very front.

With my current conditioning and experience level I am hoping to put in a steady effort and finish well but don’t have much in terms of expectations. This is a C level race on my schedule. It’s important for me to do it but it’s not a race that I’ve been training to do well in. I want to get the experience and use it as a training ride while giving it everything I have at the moment.

I did get to perform one important function on the trip: getting Pat & Tom to the race rested. Mission accomplished.


Is it crazy to drive 700 miles to Georgia, sleep for a few hours, race, and drive 700 miles home?

Sure. I guess. We’ll be gone from Baltimore for about 42 hours total. For a 3-4 hour race. That’s a little nutty.

It’s certainly not “normal” – whatever that is. But I’ve found normal to be overrated. Normal is safe, normal is “easy” sometimes. Normal is predictable and doesn’t stir the pot. But normal is just normal.

Not being normal is going to give me some great benefits this weekend:

  • getting to know two terrific guys a lot better than I did before
  • exploring a new place that I’ve never been
  • riding 50+ miles in some beautiful country through the mountains
  • beating up my body a little in the name of becoming more fit
  • getting really tired (tired is good…God’s reminder that I get to entrust everything to him)
  • hustling home to Elise – absence does make my heart grow fonder

Stop being normal. It’s overrated. Go do whatever God created you to do to be awesome. It certainly doesn’t need to be UltraCross racing. It could be one of a million things.

Keep moving forward. Wish me luck tomorrow.


P.S. Side Note

Dahlonega seems great. We rolled into town at 7pm. Checked in at Northstar Bikes for the race. Found Piazza for a little carbo loading on the recommendation of one of the local bike shop guys. According to Tom it’s the best pasta he’s had for $15. I had pizza and that was great. Pat ate some spaghetti with meatballs (he wouldn’t eat the meatballs – He’s not normal).

The bruschetta was incredible.


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Fat to Fit: Two Things I Could Do

I didn’t go from 260 lbs to 175 overnight.

It’s taken a long time. It began with the awakening, I knew I had to change, and I made a start. Now what?

I’ve been thinking a lot about limits lately. We don’t have unlimited bandwidth to do everything. And especially when it comes to time we all feel the squeeze. Getting healthy often seems like yet another thing to add to already busy lives.

For me simplicity and incremental change have been key.

So when it came to exercise there were two things that I did that helped me make the change that I needed to become healthy. I didn’t set lofty goals. I didn’t put together a schedule. I didn’t join a gym. I didn’t commit to a certain amount of time working out each week.

There is nothing wrong with any of these things. In fact I had tried these on multiple occasions before. For me structure, goals, gyms, etc. all came later in the process.

The first thing I did is move my body every opportunity I had. Sounds simple and obvious right? For me it was the catalyst for change.

I decided I was going to move my body a lot. I played ultimate as often as I could find a game being played. If I missed a game of ultimate I ran. If I didn’t have time to run I walked more during the day. On the weekends I added “hiking with my kids” to the activity list instead of “watching another sporting event.”

I avoided get stuck in routines. Sometimes I worked out in the morning, sometimes at lunch, sometimes in the evening, sometimes at night when it was dark with a headlamp. I ran with friends. I ran alone. Sometimes I jumped in the pool and did laps if I didn’t feel like running. Sometimes I walked somewhere I would have driven. I took the stairs instead of elevators. Even if it was 10 floors.

I kept running shoes, shorts, & a shirt in my car all the time. There was rarely a time that I wasn’t at least ready to move my body.

I substituted having happy hour drinks with friends and colleagues for movement. I substituted a weekend at the lake of inactivity with a weekend at the lake of activity. My friends and I went backpacking instead of sitting around a fire having beers.

The goal was simply to keep moving. And pounds started falling off without much trouble. I went from 260 lbs in mid 2010 to 220 by the middle of 2011.

The second thing I did was equally as simplistic: I started upping the intensity level for every activity I did. Every time I moved my body I tried to add a slightly higher challenge factor to what I was doing.

When you play ultimate after the other team scores you walk back to the other side of the field. I sprinted. Every time. After every point. It was the easiest change in the world. I was already there. I just upped the intensity.

Pretty soon the slowest, biggest guy on the field was now the average sized and paced guy on the field.

My fat runner pace was usually in the 9:30 to 10:30 minute miles. I started trying for a 9:15 minute mile. It didn’t take long for me to be running 9:00 minute miles, then 8:45’s, then 8:30’s.

If I was out hiking with my buddies I tried to take the hills a little faster. Get a little more winded. Push myself slightly more.

It wasn’t heroic, major change. It was slight incremental change. It was activities I was already doing just doing them a little harder.

I’d tried a lot of different things to get healthy. But these two simple principles made all the difference. I’m still doing them today. Still making a difference where other ideas had failed. It’s what worked for me. It might work for you.

Keep moving forward,


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Learning to love limits

I had a freeing observation a number of years ago:

I can’t do it all.

I’m a little slow to learn some things. Most of you are more advanced than I am so you probably figured this out long ago. But for me, I’m a work in progress so it took me a while.

I remember being in a seminar years ago where the instructor had us add up the activities we wanted or needed in our lives and how much time they would take. Things like:

  • work
  • family time
  • date night
  • exercise
  • time for reading
  • eating
  • faith practices
  • hobbies
  • sleeping
  • social activities
  • time to take care of things around our house
  • etc. (the list can go on for a long time)

Most of the people in the class ended up with 200+ hours per week that were needed to live the life they wanted to. Unfortunately there are only 168 hours in the week. So if we all had 4 extra hours a day we could live our ideal life. If you can get away with sleeping 3-4 hours per night you are in good shape. The rest of us have some hard decisions to make.

On the one hand that sucks. It would be easier if we could just have it all right?

On the other hand the limits can be great. Limits force you to identify the results you really want the most. Limits well managed force you to make the tough decisions with your time & energy to achieve those results. Limits help us focus.

In other words:

When focused, ‘I can’t do it all’ translates into ‘I can do some things VERY well’

In my work, at Blue Ocean Ideas I am the CEO. What does that even mean? I’ve struggled with that over the years. But I’ve arrived at two things that I need to focus on. If I do these well I am maximizing my contribution to my organization.

The first is this: My job is to create the ecosystem that will help my team thrive as we serve our clients and strive to tell the truth about who they are, faster. This can mean a lot of things:

  • making sure we are on point and have clarity on who we are and what we do
  • keeping our staff up to date with the technology, space, and other resources they need
  • creating very clear expectations for everyone involved in every project
  • finding the best people possible to work with – internally and externally
  • growing our staff as they become Jedis at what they do
  • keeping us relationally focused on how we serve each other
  • establishing what we can and can’t work on
  • pointing out and calling out our quality issues so that we can improve
  • encouraging people

Essentially, the first part of my job is to create a better place to work.. If I do this well we are generally healthy. If I don’t things start to fray.

The second part of my job, and the more client facing side, is making sure there is a clear strategy for everything we do. This usually looks like asking a LOT more questions than clients expect in every engagement. Many clients come to us saying “we need a new _______________ .” What they really mean is: “we want_______________ to happen.”

My job is to change the initial focus from the what to the why. And then it is making sure there is a how in the middle that will get us there. If I successfully help clients do that they thrive in their work with us.

If I do both of these things well I am on my game. The only way I can do that is by accepting my limits and focusing.

What are your limits? Do you embrace them or fight them? Do they help you focus or cause frustration?

Keep moving forward,


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Fat to Fit: The Start

I am sometimes known as a forward thinker. At Blue Ocean Ideas I’m tasked with helping our clients see a different future and develop the strategy to get there.

As much as I love to look forward, looking back is often the best fuel for creating the strategy and moving forward. Looking back gives perspective on where you are today and how you got here. Sometimes that’s a great story. Sometimes it hurts when you realize you aren’t where you want to be.

But good or bad, painful or pleasurable, looking back gives the context for reality today:  where I am and how I get here.

When I look back on getting more fit I can pick out dozens of events along the way that helped me change. Two of the big ones I’ve written about: gallbladder surgery & watching the ironman while I was recovering.

There is one event that stands out in the midst of the others. I was cruising on Facebook on March 14, 2011 and I saw  friend of mine, Tronster Hartley,  post something that caught my attention:

Moments matter. Even the seemingly trivial moments. The trivial ones matter much more over time than the “biggies”. If you are an NFL football player and win a Superbowl that’s a huge accomplishment. But how you act day to day is the creator of who you are and how you got there. The Superbowl is the reward for years of work.

So in this moment I was captured by a Facebook post and whisper of a thought flashed through my mind: that looks like fun; I can do that.

So I went and played Ultimate on March 15, 2011. I’d never played ultimate in any kind of organized way before. I didn’t know the rules. It rained. I was fat and slow and couldn’t keep up with anyone else on the field. I didn’t know a single person (Tronster didn’t play that night).


My heartbeat felt 10x faster than ever before. I was thoroughly exhausted afterwards. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t walk the next day.

I had started something. I had no idea at the time just how big a deal starting that little something would be. Starting that little something would shape another something that would eventually lead to running more and then marathons and cycling and then riding in events and a triathlon and 85 lbs of weight loss that has left me much more fit.

The start is EVERYTHING when it comes to change. Every day is a start, every activity is a start. Every thing I do is a start. It’s a start toward something or away from something. There are no neutral days.

The famous Scottish mountaineer, W.H. Murray, spoke about the importance of the start before a mountaineering exhibition:

“… but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay.

“This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

The BOLD TEXT above is my emphasis added. You should add it also. Burn it in your brain.

Begin it. Don’t wait:


And after you start:

Keep moving forward,


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#2 at 17 — The passage of Time

Josh_RittlerRittler kid #2 turned 17 today. Josh Rittler, or as he is known among his friends and on twitter, @Rat_Rittler. Elise and I have no idea where the nickname came from but it stuck with his friends and then family starting a while ago.

Josh is a great man. He’s hilarious, witty, and loud (at least when he’s around his friends or his Uncle Eric). He can also be sensitive to others, quiet, and pensive.

His smile is priceless. See what I mean?

And he cares about people deeply. His friends mean the world to him and sometimes he carries the weight of the world when they are hurting. Josh is spiritually hungry, and that goes a long way for anyone.

For Elise and I, Josh has always been a gift: easy to be with, fun to talk to, and our confidant at times.

Time keeps on passing. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes quickly. Josh was born yesterday and I was 17 just a few days before that.

All of life ahead of us.

Keep moving forward,


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