This week I had the pleasure of attending an event with the International Dyslexia Association. It was part of a professional development training for teachers. The teachers were put through a simulation of what it was like to be a dyslexic student. They read out loud with difficulty, wrote in their note books with challenges and experienced the hardships of the classroom. Then, they discussed how hard it was to do these very things and imagine what a student would feel like doing this 6 hours a day.
While they experienced this, my question was if they realized their intelligence was not affected? They still had the ability to comprehend the fact that they were having trouble. Dyslexia does not affect intelligence. Following the simulation, students from grades 7 through high school spoke about what it is like to be dyslexic in the classroom. They talked about how hard they work to get assignments done, finish readings and being in the classroom in general. These students were amazing, gifted and bright. In business, they talk about hiring people who pass the airport test, people you would want to be around and create with if you were delayed on a 10-hour flight. These students are creatively using technology, self-advocating and gaining a perspective on the world that we all could use. They passed that test with flying colors. Supporting these types of students is critical because it would be easy to lose them if we do not take the time to understand them.
My hope for this journey that I am on is to continue to bring awareness for what the International Dyslexia Association is doing for students, parents and teachers. The organization is working hard to support future generations. Time to get on board!
While training for the World Marathon Challenge, I have been able to talk at schools that are dedicated to working with students with learning challenges. I have also had the opportunity to attend events like the "Light It Up Red Event", a fundraiser at the Bethany Public House, and participated in a fun run called the “Red Light Run” through Fleet Feet Sports PDX. At these events, I have been able to share my story of being diagnosed with dyslexia and it being a part of my life. I feel grateful to be able to connect with people about this subject.
Growing up in the school system, there are times where I felt alone, because people generally did not talk about learning challenges. Knowing that there are 1 in 5 people that deal with this challenge, it clearly needs to be talked about more. By bringing this story to the surface, my hope is that others can connect with it and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. These young students do not need to feel alone and isolated, they need to feel supported and understood. This will help give them the confidence to work through challenges and turn them into opportunities. I am also talking with people that might not have dealt with learning challenges and helping bring them into the conversation. Part of the solution to helping young students feel more supported is to educate all.
As I continue to train for the challenge, my mission is to bring more awareness about the International Dyslexia Association, an organization I feel helps support these students through a number of practices. Here is a link to support the cause.
As I am dedicating time to training, I am working on all facets of the body as well as the mind. It is an interesting process: as I am working on flexibility and stretching, I am doing the same with sharing about being dyslexic and dealing with learning challenges. Similar objectives with different approaches and reasons. It feels like the right kind of approach to work on opening up as a holistic endeavor.
For the body, becoming more flexible improves my running. I have been working out at Wy’East Wolves boot camp, Flex and Flow Yoga, Evolve Performance, Melt and Correct Toes to achieve this mission. Becoming flexible and stronger is not an overnight process for me. When I first made Yoga a legitimate part of my routine, I struggled to get into the correct poses, yet alone holding them. It had been a real tug of war to quiet the mind and allow the body to explore new depths. Now, not going to class does not seem like an option. And if I can’t make it for whatever reason, I am working on my mat at home to get a session in. It is a purposeful practice that needs daily attention. The more I do it, the more flexible and stronger I get. Imagine that.
For the longest time I never talked about growing up with dyslexia. I really thought it was something to hide. Realizing that dyslexia is common in 1 in 5 people makes me think that people, especially young students, need to hear from people who have it. My objective in doing this is to help serve as a resource for students, parents and teachers. While, I am naturally more of a listener, and sharing is an entirely different approach, I continuously work on sharing my story. Ultimately, I recognize that I am lucky to have had the support I did that allowed me the opportunity to pursue two post graduate degrees including a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). If I can help others and make their journey easier, then that is a responsibility I have to the community and something I want to do.
Opening up and being vulnerable is totally a unique thing for me. It brings me a lot of questions. Knowing my "Why," has quieted those negative thoughts and helped me realize how much I believe in this journey.
As I train for the World Marathon Challenge I reflect on the WHY? Part of this journey is exploring new depths in running for me. Having the time to take to the trails and explore without direction or regard for time; to be on my feet and travel distances that I have not reached before. This takes training as well as the freedom to allow myself the time to explore. To focus on the movement and action of running. Concerned with only the next mile and free from distractions. It is a complete mindset and I have challenged myself to explore every opportunity.
If I can get to a place where I can leave everything behind and only focus on the next step, then the action is all that I am concerned with. It's all about the simple execution of being in that motion. How much time do we allow ourselves the freedom to wander, and how can we create that space within a busy day? I truly believe that the mission is possible, and greatness will come from it. It does not need to be a run, it can be 5 or 10 minutes or something that you create entirely on your own to do within a day. I use this space to create and find ideas and a path to turn the impossible into possible.
On September 3rd, 2017, the world watched a snap that could be heard around the world. Long Snapper, Jake Olson, took the field and snapped at the University of Southern California’s first home game of the season. A moment that was big for the world and one that Jake was ready and prepared for. For those of you who are not familiar with Jake's story, he is legally blind and has been since the age of 12.
I have had the pleasure of seeing Jake put work in over the last couple years. From the moment Jake entered the USC Football facility, his attitude had always been "I am going to play and do this." It was never a question of “IF” for Jake, it was just a matter of “WHEN”. Walking around the facility, going to practice, going to the weight room or heading to meals, Jake was always the one leading the way. I saw Jake put on healthy weight by eating right, taking his workouts in the weight room seriously and doing what he needed to do to accomplish his goal.
Jake is a stud with a spirit larger than life. He is a vocal leader and leads by example. He is a visionary and has found a blueprint for creating success for himself. He is as humbled as they come and after the game he texted me “We did it!” All I could say to him was “Jake, you did it, this was your goal, sure you had supporters along the way and it's humble to recognize that, but you put this thing together.” Listening to the radio call was an amazing moment and I look forward to seeing his successes only continue to unfold. Jake, thank you for inspiring me and the world!
The last few weeks have been interesting for me. Coming off three marathons, I needed to give my body a chance to recover. This was difficult for me, because I often times think of recovery as simply being rest and only rest. That being said, I've started to think of recovery a little differently. In particular, I've focused on how recovery can be an active time. Specifically, I've focused on yoga, swimming, stretching, nutrition and taking time to build thoughtful workout plans going forward. This required me to find some patience with the process, and I now feel like I'm opening up to this new idea of recovery. The last two weeks, I have been starting to build a base of running again. And it goes deeper than that. Taking a 360-degree approach with this process, I have decided to train differently to get ready for this race. And that is a powerful feeling for me, because I used to focus on the work but now I am focused on the build and more precisely, the preparation that goes into all of the hard work. I'm emphasizing an attempt to build a foundation. There is no finish line here, just constant doing and tweaking.
I was fortunate enough to participate in Hood to Coast this past weekend. It's an event I have watched from afar, and being a runner from Portland, have always wanted to do. There was a moment where I was running through a trail close to midnight and could only see 10 feet in front of me. It was a pretty epic feeling as it felt like the perfect metaphor for having only yourself to challenge you--nothing around to distract you but the open challenge of the race. It was special when I had a conversation with another runner days before, who reminded me that whether you are running a marathon or a 10K, you decide how you are going to challenge yourself. I kept that in mind as I ran my three legs of the course.
I haven’t written a post for a while, and would like to catch everyone up to speed (you see what I did there? ;) #runningpuns).
The past few weeks have been MONUMENTAL. If you’ve been following my instagram (@jaredsblank), you might have seen that I QUIT MY JOB at USC! I spent countless hours deliberating in my mind and with friends + family to ultimately decide that it was time to leave USC. The departure was bittersweet - I know most people say that, but really, it was! I remember joining the organization as a student at USC, and I spent 9 seasons with the team; in my heart, I’ll always be a Trojan.
Over the years, my coworkers and players became like family to me, and my fear was that in quitting my job at USC, I’d be walking away from those relationships and those memories. I realized that I’m not walking away from anything … I’m running towards my dream of competing in the World Marathon Challenge (7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents ...yes, you read that correctly). The support I’ve received from my USC fam has been nothing short of INCREDIBLE; thank you to all of my coworkers, players, former players, coaches, friends, alums who have reached out to encourage me as I take on a new adventure.
So where did I go? I moved to Portland!! I grew up in Portland, my family is in Portland, the trails that I ran in my childhood are in Portland, my hipster beard fits perfectly in Portland; basically, I can breathe here, and I can’t think of a better place to train for the World Marathon Challenge.
I’ll bet you’re wondering what I’ve been up to since I moved to Portland, right? Well …. this past week, I ran three marathons. Yes, 3 marathons in 1 week. It started with an ultramarathon (my FIRST! ultramarathon) at The San Francisco Marathon race--two laps around the marathon course. Six days later, I followed this up with the Jack and Jill Marathon in North Bend, WA. My goal was to put together a series of races that would help in preparation for handling the volume of 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents -- it was grueling, yet fueling.
The San Francisco ultramarathon was a meaningful race as it was the FIRST! time I had family members attend one of my races. Up to this point in my life, I’d say that I was a pretty private person--I hadn’t invited my family to any of my races, nor had I really shared any of my running dreams with them. I’m creating a new story for myself with the World Marathon Challenge, and I’m working on being vulnerable and sharing my truths.
I crossed the finish line of the SF ultramarathon into the open arms of my brother Adam who has helped tremendously with this campaign to send me running around the world.
My parents also trekked to SF to be there as I ran 52.4 miles (which was on my birthday!), marking 35 years of their encouragement, support, motivation, and love for me. It was all the feels. There is something special that happens when you have a SQUAD to meet you at the finish line after 9 hours and 7 minutes of running.
Another cool development is the creation of what I’d like to call the #DreamTeam: Molly Stark who captures the photography, and Miguel De La Rosa who creates the videos; they are helping me share my story with the world.
Check out the video recap of my SF ultramarathon adventure on Facebook.
After running The SF Ultramarathon, I headed back to Portland to rest for a few days before running the Jack & Jill marathon in North Bend, WA. This race was special to me because it was in the Pacific Northwest and a homecoming of sorts as I returned to my old stomping ground. I’m not gonna lie, this race was HARD; my hamstring cramped up at mile 20, and I was in major pain. Even through the pain, I found joy in every step, knowing that I had a beautiful trail at my feet and good company at the finish line.
Check out the video recap of my Jack & Jill marathon adventure on Facebook.
I’m looking at this new direction in my life as a race without a finish line. It is an adventure that begins with a single step, and I’m loving being present in each moment of embracing the world through running.
One step at a time.
Something that is really important to me is being properly prepared for a workout. Shoes, hydration, and having a route in mind. Being detailed-orientated is great, but only if it does not become a distraction. Specifically, it does not need to be a perfect run. Running distances are something that I never feel total control over anyway. I do not know how long I will be on the road sometimes, and that's okay. What it really comes down to is that I want to have all the tools to know I can adapt and keep going. My point in writing this is that I want to be prepared enough to get out the door and take to the road. Ultimately, I want to be prepared to go further and harder.
Today is Global Running Day. Stop reading and Go Run!!!
There is an old saying I'd like to reference: “Who is the best surfer?” The answer is, “…the one who is having the most fun.” I think the truth of anything as well as running is no different. This Memorial Day Weekend during a long run, I took a pause while the National Anthem was being performed. This was occurring for another sporting event that was taking place near the path I was running on. It was a cool moment, that showed me there were more important things than focusing solely on a training session. Especially on a weekend that is honoring those who have served our country. While there are so many serious issues occurring around us, I remember that what I am doing is challenging, hard at times, but most of all, it's through enjoyment and fun and it's incredible I get to have this experience.
The next day was Monday, normally a true rest day for me. However, I wanted to use the day to have fun with my sport. I found a trail that I wanted to explore and took off on it. I enjoyed every moment and appreciated the fact that I get to do this because others invest so much in our country. Their devotion is recognized through my continued thankfulness and appreciation. What I am doing needs to have an element of fun, because with all that is going on, that's exactly what the passion of running is to me: fun.
This past week I ran 50 miles in three days. Working on some back to back to back long workouts. Adding time on the feet. Also, I am in phase 2 of my weight training program and found time for a yoga session. That is about it for now.
Following http://www.sallymcrae.com, I learned this trick about how to put on your shoes and socks. The goal is to put on your socks and shoes standing on one foot at a time. I have been practicing this for a couple of weeks. I make it a morning ritual getting ready for work, going for a run or anytime I am putting on shoes and socks really. What's the purpose? Details.
The first time I did this I fell completely onto the floor. My coordination has started to improve and the process makes me appreciate the small details that go into running. Even when time seems short there is still energy that can be put into this sport. The process all reminds me of something John Wooden talked about in his book on how he would get his players to learn the process of putting shoes and socks on. He did this to avoid players getting blisters. This kept his players on the court longer. I use this process to work on the fine motor skills that help in the running process.
It also makes putting socks and shoes on for me more fun. Who knew?!
“Do not think about it and just go run for the love of it!” ~ Luke Tyburski.
These are the words Luke gave me after I asked the question, "How do you determine the pace to run for 50 miles?" He first offered some thoughts. "It depends on what you're training for, if you have been using heart rate for long runs and what that's saying, what pace you think you can do, how you feel, is the course flat or hilly. All those variables matter," he said. He mentioned a much bigger factor though, and that is the "why."
What is really at the heart of my running. For something, from something or the love of it. I have been asked a lot this past week, “why I am running, what is the point?” What has taken me a long time to realize, is that I truly love it. I love the pain it brings when one goal is not quietly reached. It hurts but it does not change the relationship. I love the feeling after crushing a workout that no one sees or cares about it. I love when I am on the road and after a few miles of being defeated, all the energy somehow comes back and you get that 'game on' attitude as your splits get back to on pace. I love being part of a large community and knowing there are people that I consider family (the running community, that is) that I may never actually meet in my lifetime. I think a run does not only change my day, I think it contributes to bigger and larger movements out there.
This past weekend I put 35 miles in and some of it felt great while other times, I struggled. Still, each mile I never lost sight of the 'why' and that is because I love it. And when love is truly at the center of something, anything is possible, even when it is hard and everything feels like it's slipping away. My challenge will be to continue to run for the love of it.
Running is a passion of mind. You go through good days, hard days, and days where you just struggle with it. I enjoy all of that. So much can be accomplished on a run. Ultimately, it can change the outlook of a day, it can build productivity, and it can be a place for new ideas or breaking the chains of feeling stuck. Most of all, it can take you places that you have only dreamed of.
In 2018, I want to capture the essence of taking running to a global level for a great cause and with a solid teammate, Luke Tyburski. In partnership with Walking Strong I am planning on running the World Marathon Challenge. The World Marathon Challenge is in my opinion, the ultimate challenge: 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. We are doing this with the plan of building support through corporate partnerships and establishing mutual beneficial relationships. As athletes, we want to give back as much as the sponsors are willing to invest in us.
Our relationship with Walking Strong is one where we are working to build awareness for the organization on a global level. We want to run for people that may never get a chance to. Luke and I are going to run these races as a team, holding each other accountable and working as a unit to finish each marathon on each continent.
We are excited to work to make this dream become a reality and serve others in the process. If you are interested in helping with this project people feel free to reach out and we can discuss the opportunities.
I remember taking a martial arts class and the instructor told us sometimes you are going to get hit. Who cares, keep going, do not stop, be relentless. I lost sight of that statement this past week. I let life stuff get in the way of my training plan and that sometimes will happen. It is important to understand why that occurred though and work to make adjustments to continue to prioritize training.
I was able to find my balance and finish out a strong week of training. My training included 4 workouts of 10 miles and a 20 miler. Also, I was able to continue the second week of a core and stability plan. Really enjoying the new program as it is helping with supporting me as I continue to add volume to running.
Relax, focus and rotate; those were the words that I kept on replay as I worked to set the tone of finishing each workout and continuing a path to execute a difficult week.
This last week of training was about putting in work when the conditions were not ideal. This included some workouts in windy conditions as well as working through fatigue by doing long runs after full work days of being on my feet. To give you an example, during a typical workday, I may end up walking approximately 9 miles, so any day like that could tire someone out. My purpose after days like these have been to go for a long run afterwards, and I make it especially challenging and get some hills involved, working on my uphill and downhill practice. In my opinion, this can closely simulate how my body might be feeling towards the end of a marathon when you experience that final stretch where you either make it or break it.
The point of all this is to learn how to work through being tired and fatigued much like at the end of a race. Finishing strong is always the desired result and I have faced challenges with finishing like one of my races in Oregon in 2013 and last year at Boston. The only way I know how to get better during the last stretch of a marathon is to practice working through equally tough scenarios.
With this strategy comes the importance of recovery. This is utilizing active recovery, nutrition and having the right equipment. All of it matters as we begin to push the limits.
At the end of the week, I had the opportunity to reflect upon some workouts that challenged me physically and also got me thinking about mental toughness. I had the chance to discuss the topic with a professional strength coach, but before we get into that conversation I need to explain something first: goals to me are targets, and often times, I miss. And missing sucks, I do not like it. What transpires from misses are plans, renewed focus and the drive to keep pressing until you reach the target. That part, I can say, I do like.
In my conversation with the coach, I asked what mental toughness really is. His response was the ability to recognize what is needed to accomplish the goal and the willingness to do the work. For him, it is the drive to continue to show-up, push and fight through the discomfort to make it. This can be applied to anything. One example can be from treatment; I know that sitting in the cold tub for x amount of minutes is best for my body. I may need to work up that amount of time though. Another example is foam rolling and being willing to tolerate the pain knowing it is helping me. Of course, it can be applied to workouts and so on.
The biggest piece of this puzzle though to me is still the "WHY." When I truly know my "WHY", then it becomes simple. Because either I really want it and will to go all-in for it, or there isn't enough to motivate and ultimately the plan can fall short. That means having the target written down, the steps it's going to take and an evaluation of where I am in the process. This helps keep me accountable and always keep my goal on my mind.
Running for a cause was the theme of the @lamarathon for Team @PlayworksSoCal. Over $22,000.00 was raised during the marathon campaign for the Team. This year, Playworks SoCal served over 80,000 kids. The work is never done though as the aim is to reach more children in the Southern California area and to work in even more schools by the year 2020. You can join the team and learn more about the impact of Play by checking The Play Movement. We are already starting to brainstorm ideas for next year's marathon.
Reflecting on last week's race in LA, I need to answer a basic question: did I accomplish what I set out to do? The answer is not so simple. One of my goals was to break the 3 hour mark for the marathon. That did not happen. However, I did finish the race and consequently qualified for Boston. The good news is I have identified areas of improvement:
Being fast is a choice. For the longest time, I have been working against myself and I did not even know it. I would follow the training schedules, do all the workouts and the times were not always reflective of the work. What was going on? I would trudge through a long run, and it felt weak and tiresome. Recently, I sat down with a nutritionist and looked at my meal plan. The meal plan I was on was weak. I mean I was eating relatively healthy food probably 80% of the time. I was crashing at the end of the day and when I went to do my workout I was pushing on fumes. That’s not good enough. I really had to see that through. Anyone who knows me would not really be surprised and their response would be something like "told you so." Go ahead say it, I am cool with it. Because now I get it too.
I need to be the change in my running. Ultimately, the nutritionist can build the perfect plan, but it needs to come from me in the end. My body would push through the work, but I did not do enough in the system to get the benefits from it. I was training to survive, barely.
I was on a fuel plan for less than a month, going into the LA Marathon and my whole life has changed. The nutritionist says "Remember this new feeling, because you never need to go back." So now when I go running I have energy and my overall body is relaxed, even during intense workouts. My body and mind are now communicating to work together as a unit. They have been on different pages for too long. "I want to be fast," is a choice. Any decision has the chance to support that last statement or detract from it.
I recall so many moments from the La Marathon today. It all started for me at 2am this morning. Got a wake-up call from a buddy in Australia--it's only 8pm their time so not too much of an inconvenience for him. I ate breakfast, got my things together and headed out to Dodger Stadium in an Uber. I arrived so early that I got the opportunity to sit in Dodger Stadium by myself for an hour or so, enjoying the quiet. I reflected on what I love about running and I also enjoyed the quiet in such a great setting so much! I met with the Playworks Charity group around 4:45am, a reminder of the importance of community. There truly are so many special people that are a part of that organization. I got to the coral early. The race had moments of strength, taking care of myself, pushing, and it was not always pretty. There were times it got messy for me. Basically, there were times that I did not have my stride and had to stumble through mile markers. I usually run with music, but running without music was awesome. It sort of helped me zone out completely and I was able to enjoy the sights and sounds of Los Angeles. I felt like a little a kid staring out the window. Everything was so exciting. When I got done, I didn't realize it at first, but I actually qualified again for Boston. Nice way to finish a day that had so many twists and turns.
While I did all my training workouts alone, I have an epic "Pit Crew" and they really help me and deserve some love. Rob Scheidegger is my training coach, and he understands my schedule and takes time to build training plans for me. Krista Atzinger built a meal plan that I followed during the last month of training, which has dramatically changed the way I think about food. I am not big on carbo loading, still, so I outsourced that to Alex Rios and Alex Collins. I believe they spent the majority of yesterday consuming carbs for me. Luke Tyburski is a training partner that continues to inspire me with his epic challenges. Conor Knowles, who helps with documenting events. These are just a few shoutouts. Finally, thank you to the great volunteers who made the LA Marathon an epic event and to Playworks and all the people who contributed to the campaign.