Information, Inspiration, Hard Work & Dedication

July 22 | 21 days to go

I’m often asked what do I think is going to be the hardest part about an endurance triathlon. Most times, my answer is different, depending on what I’m feeling that day, but usually its one of the same three things: 1) finding the time to train, 2) nutrition – what to eat in a normal training day and what to eat during the race to have enough energy to race for 7 continuous hours, or 3) running for 2+ hours after 4+ hours of swimming and biking. Then this answer is usually followed up by either a “wow, that’s a lot”, or “I don’t know how you do it”. The answer to that statement, how I do it, is not hard: I made a choice. Last October I made the choice to start this journey, once that choice was made, I have relied on four words that I’ve adopted over the last two years as my pillars of strength, and my method to get up from setbacks and continue working towards a better future.

Four words, well five technically, that changed my life. Four ideas that became the cornerstones of my healing and ideas I continue to rely upon them to push towards this giant goal of completing a half-Ironman race 21 short days from today. These thoughts are things I’ve picked up along the way, learned from people a lot smarter than I am, read somewhere or heard someone speak about but together they are a powerful recipe that provides, for me, hope of a brighter future.

Information, Inspiration, Hard Work and Dedication

These are the ideas that helped me get through heart disease, brain cancer and these four ideas are continuing to help me aim for the goal of completing a half-Ironman next month.

Information | Learning as much as you can about something. There is great power in knowledge and with power comes the ability to overcome the fear of beginning. Sometimes the hardest step in any journey is the first one. Gaining information is the tool that has helped me to overcome stagnation, fear and launched me into progress. After the diagnosis of heart disease I read books by Dr. Ornish and Dr. Esselstyn about reversing Heart Disease; after the brain cancer diagnosis I read books like Anti-Cancer – A New Way of Life, and when I decided to run a triathlon, I immediately bought books like Strength Training for Triathletes. The point is that by gathering information, the fear dissipates, the cliff you think you are standing on the edge of is actually the base of a mountain, and the newfound information can serve as a map to the summit.

Inspiration | No journey up a mountain can be completed with knowledge alone. Many times, during cardiac rehab, throughout chemotherapy, and training for this triathlon, I have thought about giving up, thought about reducing my expectations for myself, or thought about skipping a workout. Its’ in these moments that I rely on inspiration to keep me going. Inspiration exists all around us, if we stop only to look and take it in. During cardiac rehab, I was inspired by the opportunity to regain my health. To see people 20 years older than I was, showing up and being committed to cardiac rehab as a means to live their best lives inspired me to do the same. In my cancer battle, I was inspired by the other cancer patients choosing to fight and the friends and family that supported me constantly.

Friends would send me pictures of their “DavisStrong” bands, a source of inspiration. Scott Treon, a friend and coworker who fought courageously through his brain cancer journey. Scott inspired me more than I ever had the chance to tell him.

Hard Work | Once you commit to doing something, once you make the choice to get up and keep going, know that its going to be hard work. Heart disease was hard, losing 30 pounds through Cardiac Rehab required hard work. Brain Cancer was hard. Enduring radiation and chemotherapy while trying to build a family and raise two young daughters was hard. Sometimes in life the things that are the most important are also the most difficult. We can’t be afraid to put in the hard work that is necessary to fulfill our dreams. Training for a triathlon has been hard work. My workout schedule is typically early morning before the girls wake up or 8:30 at night as they are making their way to bed. I am trying to minimize the amount of time I am away from them, the result of this choice is that training is hard. Running a 60 minute interval training after a long day of work and parenting is hard work. But it is also worthwhile. The mantra I keep repeating when the training is hard is the same mantra I used during the hard times of cancer “YOU ARE NOT DONE YET, KEEP GOING

This weekend I had my “race prep” training. Friday night swim workout was 2,700 yards, Saturday Brick (bike to run) workout was a 30 mile bike followed by a 10 mile run. This weekend’s work was hard, but I wouldn’t have made it through them without gutting out some hard workouts that were 500 yards in the pool, 10 miles on the bike or 2 mile runs. Hard is relative. Building strength in training is a lot like building love, hope and gratitude, it’s about muscles that require work to build.

Dedication | Probably the most important of the four. To really achieve our dreams requires a level of dedication that is stronger than the doubts that creep in and distract us from achieving our goals. Every day I have a choice, do I workout like my training plan says I should, or do I take a night off. It’s been 917 days since I was diagnosed with cancer. It is due to the dedication I have to be healthy, to be strong, and to be a positive example for my kids and my community that I would even be able to exercise for 42 miles like I did this weekend. I’ve had to make the choice to remain dedicated to the goal and that means dedicating myself to take each step, one at a time, that leads from where I’ve been to where I want to go.

To wrap up today’s post, I want to make a clarification, dedication is different than perfection. I do not always choose to follow my training plan, I sometimes choose to take the night off. I sometimes choose to have the cake, I sometimes choose to sleep in, and I sometimes am not the picture of hope and strength I wish to be. But that is ok. I am not perfect, and I don’t expect myself to be. Being dedicated to reach a goal is about allowing yourself to be imperfect. To know yourself and know when you need to reach back into the bank of information and inspiration to get back on track. Be dedicated to progress, don’t be afraid to fail, treat each failure as a learning opportunity.

Three weeks ago I had signed up for a 1/3 Ironman event at Cowan Lake. This 1.2 mile swim, 36.6 mile bike and 9.3 mile run event was the last stop on my race training before my half Ironman. It was 100 degrees out that day, and humid. About 10 minutes into the run, I couldn’t go any further, I had reached the limit of my ability to move with any degree of pace. I had swam the 1.2, biked the 36.6 and was about 1.5 miles into the run. With 8 miles to go, I was gassed, but I remained dedicated to the goal. I walked for 5 more miles and completed 6.2 miles of the run course. And I decided to end my race.

Here’s the lesson though, although “ending the race” may feel like not being dedicated, in truth deciding to end the race is the embodiment of my dedication. I knew three things that day 1) this was not the biggest race of my season, 2) I’ve met my quota of hospital visits over the past two years and 3) if I keep going, I will be down for a week recovering. So I stopped. But in stopping, I was able to stay on track of my training and this weekend’s output proved that decision to be a wise one. I remained dedicated to the larger goal and reached back into the information and inspiration bucket and got right back on track. Dedication is not about success and failure, its about persistence and choosing to get back up once you are able. The other great thing about ending the race early, my girls got to finish with me. The race team was nice enough to give them each medals, and to them, they didn’t see a quitter, they didn’t know I stopped one lap (3.1 miles short of the goal), they saw their daddy working towards his goals, and they got to have a medal around their neck to prove it. Remember when I mentioned that more is caught than taught? This was a catching moment.

Learning to Dream

July 15 | 27 days to go

I’ve heard before and was reminded of this truth in the last few days: “When you are surviving, you cannot dream”.

I am taken back to those days following the placement of my heart stent, where there were no dreams, focus was on survival, my view could not extend beyond my current circumstances. I am taken back to those days, weeks and months of cancer. From the first MRI, to the brain surgery, to the radiation and to the chemotherapy; nearly all thoughts surrounded getting through the current challenges, overcoming the obstacles immediately in front of us. We were unable to dream, even though we had two beautiful girls, precious and perfectly aged (1 and 3 at the time) to dream about, plan a future for and hope for how their lives would unravel into an adventure of joy. The mere act of survival, the focus required to work hard, overcome, and learn to become healthy overwhelms the space to dream. And that is ok.

Despite the possible negative connotation to the phrase, the truth is that although dreaming is not possible while you are surviving, you are not supposed to dream all the time. It comes as no surprise, that dreams are reserved for times of rest. In “normal life”, we are not expected to dream all day long, life’s design allows for dreaming during times of sleep, introspection, reflection and meditation. So when we are surviving we are not supposed to dream, we are supposed to focus, work hard and learn ways to heal, so that after the survival exists opportunities to dream.

In my story, it is the same, my survival was focused, infused with hard work and dedication along with vast amounts of learning. Learning to be healthy, learning to use my hands to their fullest, learning to walk without pain, learning to tell the difference between scars and healing. And after that, became the time to dream. It was during my time at cardiac rehab, after the survival was over, that I was able to dream. It was during the first visit to oncology exercise that I was had so much atrophy and weakness in my legs, I couldn’t walk 100 yards without pain and anguish, but I kept learning. I worked hard to embody the phrase my friends repeated “Exercise is medicine”, and I worked to heal. Then, as the strength built, as the learning sunk in, as the healing began, as the confidence built, the dreams returned. This time the dreams came back, but not as dreams are sometimes thought of as “I wish I could…” or “One day I want to…”, but with true conviction.

“I will run again, I dreamed. I will help people, I dreamed. I will be strong, I dreamed. I will share my journey, I dreamed. I will teach my girls about love, hope, strength, gratitude and grace, I dreamed.”

And once the dreaming returns, comes the opportunity to do the work necessary to transform these visions into reality. Yesterday, I rode with the sunrise, and ran with the mid-morning heat, 30 miles on the bike and a 4.5 mile run.

Bike at Sunrise (1) Bike at Sunrise (4) Bike at Sunrise (3)

27 days to go until a dream becomes realized. While its’ true, you cannot dream while you are surviving, if you are blessed enough to survive, in time comes healing and the space to dream. As I continue to work towards this big dream, I am reminded of why I am doing all of this in the first place. To run, to help, to be strong, to share, and to teach. For them…

Bike at Sunrise (2)

I race for the gratitude and grace foundation, if you wish to support the effort, you can donate here.

I wanna see you be brave

July 12, 2018 – 30 days to go

It has been a very long time since I have sat down to write on this page. Many days and nights I have been close to writing, had thoughts of what I wanted to share, envisioned images and passages and quotes and inspiration to pass along, but there was always an excuse or a distraction or some reason it just didn’t happen. Today I am committing to writing more often, especially during the next 30 days. Read on to understand why…

Last fall, I was honored to be recognized as a Champion of Hope from the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation. At the awards ceremony, I made a bold claim, that I would commit to running an Ironman 70.3 race next year. This is a race that consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and finishes with a 13.1 mile run. Since that evening in early October, I have quietly but consistently been training for the race. Today, we are 30 days away. August 12, 2018 is race day for the Steelhead Ironman 70.3 in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

ironman 640x480

After my experiences with heart disease and brain cancer, I have tried to commit to being as open, honest and vulnerable as I can. To commit to sharing my story, being proud of who I am, what I have overcome and not being afraid to fail. I have admittedly not always lived up to this desire, but I continue to try nonetheless. Other than the ceremony last October, I have not shared in a public way, my goal of completing this 70.3 mile endurance adventure. Friends and family knew, some co-workers knew, but I wasn’t comfortable announcing to the “world” that I would compete. The reasons for this are many, but the two main thoughts that plagued my mind were these: “What happens if you get sick again, your tumor comes back, your heart can’t take the stress, your body cannot handle the distance, and the doubts went on and on” and secondly “What happens if your healthy but don’t make it, you can’t complete the race, you don’t train enough, you get DQ’d because you’re too slow, and the doubts went on and on”.

I’m positive these are common thoughts for all those who have never completed a race of this distance and those who have been through serious illness like brain cancer.  These thoughts kept me from sharing this goal too loudly. As the race has gotten closer, I have felt the tug to share the journey more and more, but any time I felt close to sharing those two thoughts came bounding back louder and louder. It’s not that I am not confident in my ability, humbly I admit I have come a very long way. I have worked very hard, and trained many many hours to get to this point, I think it boils down to that age-old doubt of “am I enough”, “do I have it in me?”.

Today, on the way home from the gym, Hadley wanted to sing along to some music, something the girls and I do whenever its just the three of us. I said “Ok Hadley, what is your favorite song”. At this point a three year old normally would pick one of her kids bop songs, something from Moana, Frozen or another Disney movie, but tonight she said she wanted to sing the “brave song”. Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave”. I honestly don’t know the true context to the song and haven’t spent time digesting all of the lyrics to understand what the author was meaning, but what I do know is this: The song is one I first heard at the Oncology Exercise Program I attend, downloaded that day and since have listened along with the girls many times on the way to and from school (daycare). I’ve heard before that when it comes to parenting “more is caught than taught”. Meaning your children catch more life lessons from watching you than from any of the lessons you try to “teach” them. I hope this is true.

So the song goes…”I wonder what would happen if you say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave. With what you want to say and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave. I just wanna see you be brave.”

Maybe Hadley knew I just needed a push, that this feeling that has been welling up inside about sharing my journey to Steelhead is an opportunity to be brave. I just needed a reminder, that the doubts that creep in are not what matter, it’s the vulnerability to be brave that matters more.

So here goes, 30 days to go until the race. I initially signed up as a way to commit to staying healthy at the end of my cancer treatments, and thought of the race as a way to help raise awareness of the Gratitude and Grace Foundation, the non-profit we started to help provide hope, encouragement and support to those who are going through what we have been through. Today, I recommit to being more transparent about the journey, to sharing the struggles and the victories, and most importantly to being brave. If you want to join the journey, check back and read up, if you want to support the cause, visit the foundation’s website at We are raising money to help share the message of being brave, fighting on, and showing that even after the darkest of days, there can be light. If you are able, donate here, all funds go towards supporting the foundation’s work of Hope.

Today’s lesson from a 3 year old: “I wanna see you be brave”.