Spartan Heart – Through The Eyes Of A Child

Shortly after my daughter was born, she was diagnosed with Amblyopia, or a lazy eye.  To most people, it’s not noticeable.  At least not until I point it out.  When she looks at you, it takes a little longer for her bad eye to focus.  Most people wouldn’t know she is almost legally blind in that eye.  She never lets it stop her.  She has finished two Spartan Kids Races at four and half years old.  Fast forward to when she was three, the specialist eye doctor told her that she needed to wear a patch over her good eye.  This would force her to use the muscles in her bad eye, strengthening it.  With enough persistence, her bad eye may become strong enough that she won’t even need glasses.  The problem was, she hated wearing her patch.  Her bad eye was so bad, she couldn’t see anything.  It was pitiful watching her bump into things as she walked around the house.   Fast forward again.  Two weeks ago, the eye doctor said that surgery wasn’t an option anymore.  She HAD to wear a patch.  Not only did she have to wear the patch, she has to wear it for at least six hours a day for the next year.  If she doesn’t, she may eventually go blind in that eye.  The deterioration of the one eye could lead to the deterioration of the other, causing her to go legally blind. The doctor had a sit-down with her and explained the importance of wearing her patch.  This was reiterated by her mom, and again by me when I got home from work.  I explained to her that if she didn’t wear her patch, she might not be able to see things anymore.  If she can’t see things, she might not be able to do some things that she was excited about doing when she got older, like driving a car. I was very careful not to tell her things she can’t do.  I don’t ever want my child to think that she can’t do things just because she has a disability so I was very careful.  However, some things, like driving, are just a reality.  I sat down with her and explained that wearing a patch is a lot like working out.  She understood this because she loves Spartan Races and she loves to go down in the basement and work out with me.  I explained that whenever she wears her patch, it makes her bad eye work out.  The more her eye works out, the stronger it gets, just like when you exercise.  I guess something in her head clicked, and she understood.  She wears her patch on a daily basis.  Yesterday, we were out of patches, so we had to stop at the store and get some more.  They didn’t have any patches with the fun kid designs, they only had the plain jane flesh-colored ones.  She was upset that she didn’t have a pretty patch.  So I told her I would make her an awesome patch, a spartan patch!  A couple of minutes later, this is what I came up with:


She loved it.  She calls her bad eye her “spartan eye” because it keeps getting stronger and spartans are strong.  So naturally, I thought this was adorable, so I posted this same picture on the Spartan Parents Facebook page.  One mother saw Jocelyn’s picture and commented that she had a 6 year old daughter who had optic nerve hypoplasia and she struggled with her patch too.  She said that she hopes I didn’t mind if she showed the picture of Jocelyn to her daughter because her daughter felt “different” and seeing her would mean a lot to her.  So of course I said, ABSOLUTELY, DO IT!  I immediately told Jocelyn this story.  I told her:  There was a mommy of a little girl named Addison that saw your picture.  Addison has to wear a patch too because she has a bad eye.  Her mommy wants to show her your picture so she can see that wearing a patch can be cool and that she doesn’t have to be scared or afraid to wear one. Because you are being so good and wearing YOUR patch, you are helping her wear HER patch so her bad eye can get stronger too!!! 

Jocelyn thought that was the coolest thing.  Then Jocelyn showed her spartan heart.  She asked me, “Can I make a video for Addison so I can tell her to wear her patch so her eye can get stronger like mine?”  My heart melted.  I asked her what she wanted to tell her.  I only wanted her to tell me so that she could practice what she was going to say in the video.  I pressed record and I heard, “ummmmm….” with a really long pause.  I said, “it’s ok, don’t be nervous, just talk to Addison and tell her what you were telling me. I’ll start over and we can try again.”  So I pressed record again.  This was the result.

I couldn’t have been more proud as a dad.  I couldn’t wait to send this video.  Just when you think this story is over and couldn’t be more mushy.  There’s more.  As I opened up my phone to send the video, I got a message back from Addison’s mom.  This is what it said:

I couldn’t get the video to download when I just got Addison off the bus, and she just went to a birthday party.  But I told her about Jocelyn and that the video would be waiting for her, and you should have seen her face light up.  I showed her the picture you posted and she said “that girl sees differently too! She’s sooo pretty! And a spartan!” LOL.  She said she wants to make a return video too, so when she’s home in a few hours we will 🙂 “

I teared up.  Here I am, reading this little message with tears streaming down my face. Not because of anything I did, but because of how proud I was of Jocelyn.  Yes, my daughter has a bad eye, but she has the most awesome heart in the world.  Nobody wants to feel alone.  Today, she made Addison’s day, all by herself, just by being her.  She showed her that she is not alone and it’s ok.

This morning Addison sent a return video to Jocelyn.  She was so happy to see Addison.  She keeps watching it over and over.

I don’t know what anyone who reads this is dealing with.  Maybe someone reading this is dealing with a disability, or a difficult situation, or struggling emotionally somehow.  Jocelyn and Addison showed me today that your situation doesn’t have to define you.  You can define your situation.  As adults, it’s easy to feel down on ourselves because things aren’t going the way we’d like.  You never know who you might help along the way when you help yourself.  Your difficulty could become your biggest testimony.

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Fitness Wishlist

Everyone has their fitness wants.  It is your wishlist of things you would buy if you went out and picked from the money tree in your backyard. Unfortunately, I could never get my money tree to bloom.   In my head it’s been blooming for years.  Apparently the blooms are only visible to my 4 year old daughter.  It must be a magic money tree.  So here are the top five things on my fitness wishlist:

  1. Skulpt –  this thing looks awesome! I’ve always wanted to have a way to measure my bodyfat in a more accurate way.  By measuring body composition, you can tell if you are getting stronger or more fit, regardless of whether you are actually losing weight.  
  2. Fitbit – I love the thought of having a fitness tracker as a fashion accessory.  If I could choose, I would choose the model that shows the time as well. Fitness tracker + watch = awesome product.
  3. Spartan Race season pass –  this is probably the number one thing on my list.  If you reference the money tree at the top of this post, I don’t have the funds to do near as many races as I would like to.  I’m lucky that I had enough to get my trifecta in this year.  A season pass would be amazing.   I’m pretty sure these are given at the pearly gates when you enter Heaven.  
  4. Brooks Glycerin 12 –  I saw a pair of these at the local sporting goods store the other day and I fell in love.  They were the ones that were mostly black with the blue and green accents.  My first serious pair of running shoes were Brooks.  I bought the GTS Adrenaline 13 and my feet thanked me for it.  I can only imagine these are even better.
  5. Prescription Sunglasses – now that I’m getting older, my eyes have gone downhill.  It’s a major difference between my eyesight when I wear glasses compared to when I don’t.  I have a pair of Oakley Flaks and they are amazing with the Prizm lenses.  Yet my vision isn’t clear because they aren’t prescription.  It would be amazing to have sunglasses that allow me to see clearly as well as protect my eyes with amazing clarity.  

If anyone on here knows where I can find a money tree that will bloom, please let me know.  Ours is clearly defective.  If you had a coupon for it, that would be even better. AROO!

P.S. Hersheypark, here we come!


What Are Your Goals?

If any of you read my previous posts, you would know that I am very goal-oriented.  There is something about setting a goal for yourself that forces you to work harder.  When you achieve that goal, there is nothing like it.  I had a goal to run an ultra-marathon by the time I was 30.  I achieved this goal by setting smaller goals along the way.  I started with a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon, then a metric marathon, then a full marathon, until I ran my first ultra-marathon.  I cried after achieving every one of these goals.  Why? Because it was important to me.  Every one of those moments were a defining point in my life.  Every one of those moments showed me that I was capable of way more than I ever thought I could be.   Completing a Tough Mudder and a Spartan Race was part of this.  I also ran the Merrells Down and Dirty in DC, a 10k.  After completing it the first time, the 2nd time I elected to ruck it in the brick division, 40lb of bricks in a backpack.  None of this is to toot my own horn although I am proud of myself for putting in the work to achieve these goals.  It goes to show that if you set smaller goals for yourself, even an average guy like me can do great things.  

So what are my goals moving forward?  I have signed up for the Spartan Super in VA on Aug 22.  This is the third race for my trifecta, which is a goal of mine.  In September, I want to compete in the Civilian Military Combine in the Poconos.  I think my running and crossfit background will fare me well in a race designed like that.   The Battlefrog series looks challenging and was rated high in the OCR arena so that might be worth giving a shot.  I also want to complete an Ironman triathlon.  The Ironman is a longer term goal.  This isn’t something that I can do this year, nor have I extensively trained for it.  The Ironman is one of those races that are reserved for elite athletes.  I want to be in that club.  Maybe next year.  Fitness wise, I want to be able to bench twice my body weight.  I got a ways to go on that one, farther to go since I’ve put on 20lb in the last 4 months.  I’ve always wanted to be that guy that can bench twice his body weight then go out and run a 6 minute mile.  When I think of fit, THAT is it.  That is why I personally aspire to be.

Whatever your goals are, put in the work to meet them.  Figure out how to make that happen.  Set smaller goals along the way.  I don’t want to see anyone sitting around their living rooms at 75 years old, reminiscing on life, and thinking “man, I wish I would have done __________.”  Dream big.  Aspire to do more, be more.  You never know what you’re capable of until you give it an honest shot.  So I ask you….what are your goals?


Spartan Super VA

So this is what separates the boys from the men, the weak from the strong, the daddy’s from the Spartan daddy’s.  I signed up for the VA Super on Aug 22.  I was telling my daughter about me signing up and she was like, “I want to run a Spartan race too!”  So looks like little miss Spartan girl will get her second orange medal.  This race is extremely important to me.  This will be my first trifecta. I’ve been dying to get my trifecta ever since I saw the huge red, blue, and green masterpiece at my first sprint.  It’s a pride thing for me.  The reason I run has nothing to do with anyone but me.  I’ve always said that my running is pushing myself to my limits, doing things I never thought I could do, getting to that point where you want to give up but you don’t.  Intestinal fortitude.  Guts.  You never know how strong you really are until you get to that point.  That point where you really have nothing left, but somewhere deep down inside, there is more.  That’s why I run.  That’s why this trifecta is so important to me.  Can’t be any harder than Norm’s NJ Beast.  Eff Norm by the way.  Although the accounts I’ve heard is that the VA super is even harder, which is perfect.  Push me to my limits, make me want to give up, break me down and hurt me.  But when you know what, that medal is mine and there is nothing anyone can do to stop me.  Run, walk, or crawl, it’s going to happen.  The best part is, my tiny Spartan mini-me will have a pretty orange one to match my red, blue and green. AROO!!!

How to Eat Healthy but Keep Your Man Card

One of my really good friends Simon, the author of The Intentional Dad Blog, recently contacted me and asked, “bro, what do you eat bro?” Ok, so he didn’t ask me like that, but it’s a relevant question.  How do I eat to be fit?  Eating to be fit isn’t to be looked at as a diet.  Not to me anyway.  It’s a lifestyle.  It’s a constant daily choice to be what you eat.   Every guy wants to be happy with what they look like.  It’s not a vanity thing, it’s a pride thing.  There is a difference in being OK with what you look like and being happy with it.  But it goes deeper than that for me.  Being healthy means I’ll live life to its fullest extent.  My life won’t be cut short due to the many illnesses that plague bad eating habits.  I will be in my kids lives until the good Lord decides to take me.

So let’s get to the real question.  What diet should I do?  There are millions of diets: Atkins diet, south beach diet, weight watchers, paleo, raw food, vegetarianism, Mediterranean, slim-fast, Jenny Craig, TLC, DASH, nutrisystem, HMI,  Ornish, flexitarian, etc.  I must admit there is something appealing about being on the flexitarian diet.  “Hey bro, I’m on the flexitarian diet.” (Hits front bicep pose) Let me first say that I don’t think any of these diets are bad. If they work for you, fantastic.  Kudos to you! AROO!  Me personally, I’ve chosen the Eat Clean diet.  I find it to be the least restrictive and easily modified.  The Eat Clean diet tends to be more on carbs and less on fat. My diet tends to flip flop those to lower the carbs I’m taking in.  Basically, if it’s meat (like actual meat from an animal, not Bologna), fruits, veggies, nuts, basically anything that isn’t processed, eat it.  If I can’t kill it, pick it, dig it up, or harvest it somehow, I don’t eat it.  Unless it’s hot dogs. I love me a good hot dog, but i digress.  As far as drinks, I tend to avoid sugar and drink lots of water.  Problem is, I don’t really like the taste of plain water.  My answer, Mio.  Flavor your water with zero sugar and zero calories.  I even found some with caffeine! Win win!   Mio isn’t included in clean eating but it helped me drink more water, which was good for me.

Here’s a typical day:  breakfast: eggs, bacon, homemade sausage, oatmeal, protein drink.  I like casein protein because it’s longer digesting and acts more of a meal replacement than a muscle fuel.  Lunch: ham, salad with grilled chicken and low fat dressing, fruit.  You don’t want people to ask, “hey, you want some salad with your dressing?” No.  Just no.  Dinner: meat, veggies, salad, fruit. Snacks: one of my favorite snacks is to buy a container of raisins and a container of unsalted peanuts and put them in a larger container and shake it up.  Voila!  Healthier trail mix!  I also have a protein drink post-workout in the evenings.  I usually use whey instead of casein as a more immediate delivery to the muscle.  Drinks: water and milk.

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not perfect.  You won’t be either.  I don’t see anything wrong with indulging every now and then.  Note I said EVERY NOW AND THEN.  If you are shopping in the ice cream, chips, and soda aisles, you might have missed my point.  I’m sure I could write more on this, but this post is flirting with “too long”.

As always, incorporate cardio and weight training into your diet.  Yes I included it in your diet.  Muscle burns off anything you eat much faster than fat.  Also, keep in mind that this post is NOT medical advice, it is not professional, it is merely what has worked for me.  It’s still manly, gives you lots of choices while you’re out and about, and won’t give the appearance you’re actually on a diet (Can a man even utter the actual word diet out loud in reference to himself?).  Find what works for you and that picture on your man card will be of someone you can be proud of, a better, healthier, manlier version of you. AROO!

My dinner tonight…