Now, let me clarify something: Yes, in junior high that one time I ran the Turkey Trot in my PE shoes. When I came out to the car with the frozen turkey I’d won, the first thing I saw was my mother pantomiming “Where is your saxophone?” not “Why are you carrying a frozen 12lb turkey?”
Yes, I did run track. But this was a real non-scholastic race – I’m talking about my first real race where it was me versus Little Father Time (oh do excuse my Thomas Hardy reference – but papa would be proud!) and not an awkward, gangly junior high/early high school me with bushy hair, bad skin and braces against girls who would beat me on sprints by full seconds. My events were the 100, 440 relay, 880 relay, and for a brief and fanciful time after much provocation from the coach, 440 hurdles.) In the end I suppose I was quick, but I wasn’t necessarily fast, depending on where you base your comparisons. I was a soccer player, a mid-fielder, conditioned to endure 90 plus minutes of sprinting, quick bursts, ball handling and sheer power behind shots (not that I took any, always the assist-er, never the assist-ee;) I was no runner.
Then the company challenge rolled around. The 2009 challenge culminates in a half-Ironman triathalon in September 2009. For whatever reason, my mind was made up; this was the year. I decided to do it.
Then I remembered I’m not a cyclist or much of a swimmer (unless you give me a wetsuit, board and some fins, I’m golden then!) Also?
Okay, I admit it. Over a decade of playing soccer and no, I’m not a runner.
Really, I’m not ashamed; they’re just truly two very different things. Being the good little monkey I am, I tried to educate myself some via Runner’s World (and not just because we’ve worked with them, thanks, I knew they were reputable prior to my employment.) Over pronation, under pronation, what the nation, I had no idea. After reading up some and consulting vendor catalogs, I prodealt some shoes for myself. Quickly I realized that utilizing my discount was not the fastest way to get shoes, so I stopped by my local Fleet Feet. The gal that helped me knew me to a T; lucky for me, she was a soccer player herself and understood that my concept of running shoe =cleats. I had no idea what good running shoes should feel like! I expected them to be hard, to feel the ground and anything near my foot, form fitted, tight, all the way to my toes. After comparison testing, I chose a cushiony pair of Sauconys. Little did I know my race partner Jenni would buy the same pair – having never seen mine – a few days later! (We’ve dubbed ourselves Team Bad-Ass Shoes. Well, “Shoes” is optional.)
Running with a buddy helped me loads! Sadly I lost a furry, feline little brother the day before the race. Thirteen years is pretty old for a one-kidney’d cat, but it still hurt and I felt almost like maybe I wouldn’t make it. However, I had paid for the race, talked about it, Houdini was busy chasing endless lizards in kitty heaven and my partner and I had committed to crossing that line just to cross it. The down-and-back course was great for morale; every time I heard a small cheer go up, I knew that it was my co-workers passing more co-workers, and while we were all racing the clock truly we were running as a team.
At any rate, my first 5K is done and I can already say I think I am hooked! The race times cannot be posted fast enough (I was too busy “finishing strong,” hearing my boss yelling encouragement, to see my time,) and I am already looking to the next one.
[EDIT: Race times have been posted – 30:44 for a 5K they said was too long by almost 100 yards. Not too shabby!…but I can beat that. Till next time!]
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Just ask Title Nine customer Stacy Tarrh. The 27-year-old physical therapist puts the idea to practice everyday in her work with patients who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries. Their goal? To walk again. Stacy’s goal? To help them do it.
Most of Stacy’s patients are victims of car accidents. She sees men, women, and children of all ages and levels of disability. Their circumstances vary, but they have one sad thing in common: One tragic moment changed their lives forever. Many of them have little reason to believe they’ll walk again other than a faith in their own will to make it so. Having already gone through standard in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation, they still find themselves confined to wheelchairs. Unwilling to simply accept their situations, they’ve chosen to undergo additional rehab consisting of three-hour sessions of intensive physical therapy. “They’re very motivated people,” Stacy says. “They could just sit at home and say, ‘This is my lot. I’m done. This is as good as it gets.’ But these are people who want to do everything they can to see how far they can improve.”
Tackling Challenges Head On
Much like her patients, Stacy isn’t one to shrink from challenges. In fact, she seeks them out, particularly athletic ones. For example, the longtime runner and lifelong athlete recently started competing in triathlons despite a deep-seated fear of open water. It’s a fear Stacy developed after a frightening childhood experience. She and her father were swimming out to a raft in the center of a lake, when her father suddenly cramped up so badly he couldn’t swim. Fortunately, Stacy was wearing a life vest, which she gave to her dad enabling him to make it to shore. Without the vest, her father is certain he would have drowned. The experience made quite an impression on Stacy, and ever since she’s been afraid to swim in open water.
Most people with such a deep and abiding fear of water would simply avoid water sports. Even the most aggressive cross-trainer could find plenty of land-based sports to satisfy her hunger for athletic variety. But not Stacy. She saw her fear of swimming as a challenge to tackle rather than an obstacle to avoid. So on January 1, 2008, Stacy resolved to begin training for triathlons. “I knew it would take serious commitment and would push me outside of my comfort zone,” Stacy says. “I find it empowering to face things that are difficult head on and trample out fears and perceived limitations in the process. Just running? Too familiar and safe. Biking? Fun, but not that different from running. Swimming? Now you are talking about no solid ground under me and no constant supply of oxygen for my lungs. Definitely outside my comfort zone. Swimming was the challenge I sought and running and biking were my reward for surviving the swim.”
Conquering Her Swim Demons
Prior to her New Year’s resolution, Stacy had not done any real swimming since the terrifying experience with her dad. The mere thought of putting her face in the water seemed scary. Actually doing so made her feel panicked, like she couldn’t breathe. Figuring she needed to start her swim training at square one, Stacy decided to take a five-week swim class at a local high school pool. “Pools are always easier,” Stacy says. “I don’t like to put my face in the water no matter what, but in a pool at least you can see the bottom and touch the sides.” The class went well, but Stacy knew she wasn’t yet ready for the open water. Next, she signed up for a ten-week triathlon training class with a local sports store. A few weeks into that class Stacy did her first open water swim. It was a great success, thanks in part to the fact that she swam in a wetsuit which increased her buoyancy and made her feel safer. “It kind of felt like wearing a life jacket,” Stacy says. But her newfound confidence didn’t last long. Near the end of the training course Stacy’s class did a trial swim at the site of the triathlon in which she intended to compete. “That’s when the nightmare happened,” Stacy says. “It was awful. My chest got tight. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t put my face in the water. I panicked.” Swimming without a wetsuit, Stacy swam sidestroke about half of the course and was one of the last few people out of the water.
Discouraged but not defeated, Stacy resolved to train even harder. She started doing frequent open water swims with her husband, Scott, who was also training for triathlons. He swam right next to her and they stayed close to shore. Slowly but surely, Stacy got more comfortable in the water. When race day arrived, she had a strategy- start the swim in the back of the pack and take her time. Stacy emerged from the water unscathed and with a smile on her face. And she did it without a wetsuit.
Training for Tri’s
These days, Stacy is as dedicated to her triathlon training as she is to her work. Four days a week she gets up at 5:30 a.m. and heads out for a three to five mile run. A lifelong Michigan resident, Stacy runs outside with her dog Wrigley even in the dead of winter, resorting to the treadmill in her basement only when single-digit temps pose serious health risks. Most evenings after work she heads to the gym to swim (once or twice a week), do Pilates (once a week), or take a spin class (once or twice a week) with Scott. Once or twice a week Stacy lifts weights as well.
To date, Stacy has completed two triathlons. She placed fourth in her age group in the first race and first in her age group (fourth female overall) in the second. Not bad for a gal who’s still battling a fear of open water. According to Stacy, it’s a battle she’s slowly winning. She still gets nervous before every swim, but she feels a little more comfortable each time. Who is the most impressed by Stacy’s triathlon accomplishments? Yep, it’s her dad. Still a bit spooked by open water himself, he knows what it takes for Stacy to will herself into the water, let alone swim competitively.
No doubt, meeting her challenges better equips Stacy to help her patients meet theirs. It’s hard to imagine a more worthy endeavor. You go girl!
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At times it seems like a pretty crazy world, one that even really great minds can’t seem to get a fix on, one that seems completely beyond control. But I can and we all can, take control of the balance sheet that is our life. I can stop worrying about my fiscal fitness and actually do something about my physical fitness. I can’t control the markets but I can control my mind, my body, my attitude.
The rest will have to take care of itself because I am going for a run.
Missy park, Founder
Though “sustainable” and “organic” are quite the buzzwords these days, they’ve been a part of our company vocabulary from the very beginning. We started almost 20 years ago without a lot of money, and with the trust of a few good suppliers, so conservation was critical. As we’ve grown, we’ve sought sustainable growth, growth that we could fund with our own internal resources. We have no outside investors and try to avoid bankers. We have come to find that most investors will drive us to grow at a fast, often wasteful and always unsustainable rate.
Ours is not some new-fangled business philosophy but one that has evolved organically over 20 years of selling products we use to people we like. If you stop by our offices, you’ll see our philosophy at work. The bike racks are full with our commuter bikes. Most of our employees live just a short distance away from our office. Sure, fewer hours in the car mean less carbon in the air, but it also means more time for family and fitness. Our chairs are not the latest from Herman Miller but rather the recycled ones from the business that used to be in our building. So for us, “sustainable” is not a marketing term, recycling is not just something we do with newspaper, it is a business necessity. If we conserve our assets, if we avoid frivolous technology, and continue to invest wisely when it is required, then we will be around to enjoy this business and our customers for many years to come.
Yes, we are still a multi-channel retailer and we DO send out lots of catalogues. But as we move more of our business to the internet and get smarter about how we use our data, we are actually sending out fewer catalogs even as we grow our business. This most certainly does have a “green” impact, but it also saves us and ultimately our customers the kind of green that we can all put in the bank. The catalogs we do send are all recyclable and are made from a renewable resource. The wood we use for our paper pulp comes from sustainably-managed forests and is independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Last, and perhaps most important, are the products we sell. We do not sell disposable fashion, never have, never will. From the beginning, we’ve had a rule for ourselves. We won’t sell anything that we might be embarrassed to wear next year. And the clothes that we do sell? Well, they are meant to be worn hard and worn well for a good long time.