Monday, February 16, 2015

A Spin-a-thon, a school talk, and Yomiuri Shimbun

It's been a stimulating week. On Sunday, February 8, I rode a spin bicycle for 4 hours straight. This is the third year in a row that I've joined the Team Zoey spin-a-thon to support research to find a cure for the rare and fatal "rapid aging" disease Progeria. Children with Progeria typically die of a heart attack or stroke in their early teens. I learned about this disease after a friend's niece was diagnosed. She is 5 years old and her name is Zoey (see pic).

The research done so far has extended the life expectancy of kids with Progeria by a year and a half, from 13 to 14 1/2. You can make a donation here:

On Wednesday February 11, my friend Alison Berna and I gave two presentations to Kindergarten through 4th grade students at the United Nations International School in New York City. We told them about our experience last October guiding Dan Berlin, the first blind athlete to run across the Grand Canyon and back nonstop. Dan became a marathoner and ultra athlete *after* going blind in his 30's. 

Alison and I put on blindfolds and asked some students to guide us across the stage and around obstacles. But instead of cooperating, we intentionally went in the wrong direction, making our guides struggle to keep us on track. Afterward, we told the students to think of their teachers and parents as guides who can help them learn. Not listening to your guides only keeps you from getting where you need to go. We also encouraged the students to emulate Dan's resilience by coming up with their own adventures and looking for ways to improve the world.

Finally, over the weekend, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world, published an interview with my son Sho and me about our 67-day cycling trip across the country. Cool! Here's the article:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Being Adventurous

The Nikkei Shimbun Newspaper, which is analogous to the Wall Street Journal of Japan, published a book review today about the Japanese edition of “Rising Son: A Father and Son’s Bike Adventure Across Japan.” The Japanese title is “スコット親子日本を駆ける,” (Scott oyako nihon wo kakeru) which translates to “The Scott father and son pair zoom across Japan.” Not as catchy as “Rising Son,” but native speakers tell me the title actually works great. 

The Nikkei reporter interviewed Sho and me (with translation help from my wife Eiko) when we were in Tokyo last week. The piece included a quote about why I've cycled over 7,000 miles with my kids: “Children grow up so quickly. I wanted to give them the gift of my time.” Here’s a pic of the article:

The article ends with my hope to share the joy of being adventurous with many people. I did a lot of that this week! Immediately after returning from Japan over the weekend, I flew to Dallas, Texas to give a 3-hour workshop to a group of executives. Entitled “What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?” the workshop includes exercises to encourage adventurous thinking and promotes the value of “meaningful discomfort.” I then flew to Rochester, New York, where I gave the same workshop to a different set of executives. After another flight, I gave a 90-minute evening presentation to parents in the school district of Pleasantville, NY. We talked about various approaches to raising resilient kids, and I used anecdotes from my family cycling trips to make the point that “a kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think.” The conversation was stimulating, and I appreciated the willingness of so many parents to stay out late on a school night to analyze ways to raise children with grit.

The next day, I gave three 1-hour talks to hundreds of students in Pleasantville, ranging in age from Kindergarten through High School. I could not have had more fun! I told them the story of guiding 69-year-old triathlete Charlie Plaskon in the NYC Ironman Triathlon. Charlie’s quote, which I repeat in all my talks, is “No one is interested in your best excuse. Just find a way.” I also asked rhetorically whether a 6-year-old girl can pedal over the Rocky Mountains. Answer: Yep! My daughter did just that, riding on a trailer cycle attached to my bike. 

After each of my talks, students approached me to share their own adventurous goals. I loved their ideas and enthusiasm. It was stimulating to be around their positive energy. Special thanks to Sam Aidala for arranging the Pleasantville talks. Here are a few pics.

Sam Aidala (on left) and I

Sam getting the K-4 students settled before my talk

Talking to Pleasantville High School students. The slide reads, "A few years ago, I created a list of life goals. The list included this: Dream up adventures with my kids."

Playing a blindfold game with middle school students. The purpose was to illustrate how teachers are our guides. And it's important to pay attention, or you must just fall off the stage... I nearly did!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Big in Japan?

I just returned from giving a series of talks, interviews and book signings in Tokyo. Kinokuniya, the country's largest book seller, just published the Japanese translation of my book, Rising Son: A Father and Son's Bike Adventure Across Japan, which chronicles a 2,500-mile bicycle ride across the country with my 8-year-old son I did back in 2009. Here's what the English version looks like: 

And here's the Japanese version (available here):

Publishing a book feels like sending a child out into the world on her own. You do your best raising the child from baby to adult (the writing process), then hope everything turns out alright. The book has already received several very positive reader reviews in Japan, and three articles will come out this month from two major newspapers (Nikkei and Yomiuri) and a bicycle magazine (FunRide). I thought Kinokuniya did an excellent job with both the book jacket and the translation. Here's a pic of my family with the people most responsible for such a great product.
L to R: Arima-san (Manager at Kinokuniya in charge of my book), my wife Eiko, my son Sho, my daughter Saya and I, Sasamoto-san (literary agent at Japan UNI Agency), and Kojima-san (translator).

Kojima-san translated the book in about 3 months and, from all accounts, turned my prose into beautiful Japanese. He's in demand thanks to his high quality work, and I'm lucky that he was willing to take on my book. Sasamoto-san was my primary contact over the past year and patiently responded to all my requests for information and support. She was great to work with.

Arima-san read, fact checked and edited every word of the Japanese version of the book. She even tracked down the organizers of a sumo demonstration Sho and I happened across in the Japan Alps during our ride. Sho and I challenged the wrestlers, and the fiasco that ensued makes for a humorous story in the book (Hint: it's a bad idea to challenge a sumo wrestler). I didn't know the name of the town where the fiasco occurred or the sumo stable, but like a police detective, Arima-san was able to figure it out using my hazy memory of our general location and a few clues in photos I had taken. 

Arima-san put together last week's book signing event at Kinokuniya's flagship bookstore in Tokyo, and over 50 people attended. I gave a 45-minute presentation in Japanese, describing the bike trip across Japan and encouraging people in the audience to be adventurous. I'm not native fluent in Japanese. I speak with an American accent, and I make plenty of grammatical mistakes. But the audience was forgiving, and whenever I faltered, my wife Eiko stepped in to translate. In the Q&A, the first two questions were directed to my son, Sho. One questioner asked how the trip had affected him, and Sho said, "I learned not to give up when things get hard, a lesson that has been really useful when I play soccer." What a great answer! He sure knows how to make his dad feel proud. A YouTube video of the event is in the making, and I'll post the link when it's ready.  

Here are some pics:
Poster announcing the book signing event

Readers lined up waiting to get their book signed

My son Sho (on my left in this photo) signed books too. The guy on my right held the page open for me, then slipped a thin white piece of paper into the book so that the ink wouldn't smudge. This is the kind of customer-oriented detail you often see in Japan, and one of many reasons I like the country so much. 

My 8-year-old daughter Saya got bored during my talk and wasn't sure what all the fuss was about ("He's just my Daddy. No big deal."). She perked up, though, when a few people asked her to sign books too.

Here I am with my wife and trusty interpreter, Eiko.

Anyone who reads "Rising Son" knows about Saito-san (aka Mr. Saito). He's an important character in the book and has become our good friend. He lives in Yamagata, 3 hours away from Tokyo, but made the effort to attend the book signing event.

Eiko, Sho, and I got to meet with Takai-san, the President of Kinokuniya. I first met him at the LA Times Festival of Books nearly 2 years ago, and I'm honored that he thought my book was worthy of publication in Japan.

I also gave talks last week at Sophia University, to the Fletcher Club of Tokyo, and met with representatives from the Mayor's office in Chiba prefecture to discuss urban cycling. Here's a pic:

The meeting was organized by Watanabe-san, second from the right. He has helped many foreigners and locals alike discover the joys of cycling all over Japan.

I'll return to Tokyo March 23 - April 3 to give a series of talks at schools and businesses. I tell students that a kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think. And I encourage adults to enhance their personal and professional lives by being adventurous and embracing the value of discomfort. I can't wait to go back to Japan.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

California International Marathon

I guided Dan Berlin in the California International Marathon today. The weather in Sacramento was ideal for running: 50s F and cloudy. A few minutes before the race started at 7 a.m., we were clustered with thousands of jittery runners loosening up and jumping around. The imminent sunrise scattered the eastern sky with soft hues of orange and red, balanced on the opposite horizon by a fat, full moon glowing behind a gossamer cover of clouds. The transcendent moment disappeared quickly as the race started, however, and my attention quickly shifted from the stunning morning sky to the throng of runners surrounding us. 

Guiding a blind athlete demands attention to details, like avoiding small divots in the asphalt, raised reflective markers in the pavement that are just high enough to cause a stumble, and the obvious problem of other runners cutting in front. It can be helpful to have more than one guide to look out for obstacles, and today I was joined by Eric Waterman, an accomplished runner who took turns holding Dan's tether. 

Although he only started distance running a few years ago, Dan is already an experienced marathoner and knew how to pace himself to cover the distance. He struggled with foot cramps and lower back tightness in the final 8 miles of the race, but was able to hang tough and "embrace the suck." That quote came from a participant in one of my recent CEO workshops, who liked my idea of embracing the value of discomfort. Dan adopted the saying, and we took solace in the phrase as we suffered from exhaustion near the end of the race. 

It's hard for me to express adequately the respect I have for Dan and his outlook on life. It was an honor to serve as his guide today.

Here are some pics:
4:45 a.m.: Leaving our hotel for the race start. Dan with his 14-year-old daughter Talia, who volunteered to hand out water on the course.

The final stretch of the marathon with Dan Berlin and fellow guide Eric Waterman

With Dan and Eric immediately after finishing

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Guiding Dan Berlin in the California International Marathon

I'm in Sacramento, California to guide my friend Dan Berlin in the California International Marathon on Sunday, December 7. Dan steadily lost his sight over many years due to the disease cone rod dystrophy. But he didn't let blindness stop him from becoming a marathoner and triathlete. I served as his guide two months ago when he became the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon and back nonstop. That feat has generated a lot of press, including a story on CBS Evening News (see pics below).

This will be the third time I've guided Dan in a marathon. We also did a 1/2 Ironman together last year. We were tethered together on the 1.2-mile swim, rode a tandem bicycle on the 56-mile bike portion and held a tether between us on the 13.1-mile run. And we'll run the Boston Marathon together on April 20, 2015. He's in remarkable shape and always up for an endurance challenge. There's more to come!

Scott Pelley introduces the story about Dan Berlin

Dan being interviewed by Barry Petersen, one of CBS's most experienced correspondents 

In this photo, I'm helping Dan cross a stream in the Grand Canyon with assistance from fellow guides Alison Qualter-Berna and Pete Kardasis

Saturday, October 25, 2014

FOX News Interview

My friends Dan Berlin, Alison Berna and I just appeared on FOX News to talk about our 28-hour trek across the Grand Canyon.  Dan, who just became the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon nonstop, 46 miles "rim to rim to rim," supplied my favorite quote: "I'm not necessarily an adventure seeker, but I think life's too short to really sit back and be a passenger."  Well said, sir.

You can see the interview here.

And here are some pics:

Julie Banderas (left), Dan Berlin (top), Alison Qualter Berna & Charles Scott (bottom right)

Video footage helping Dan cross a stream in the Grand Canyon

Alison Qualter Berna, Julie Banderas, Charles Scott

With Alison's daughters, Maddie and Sydney, and my son Sho

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Interviews with Dan Berlin, First Blind Runner to Cross Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim

The press have been picking up on Dan's historic rim to rim to rim crossing of the Grand Canyon.  Here's a TV and a radio interview (click on the title to watch/listen), and more press is in the works!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Blind runner makes history across the Grand Canyon

We did it!  Dan Berlin (aided by four guides) just made history as the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim in one go.  Here's a photo of our group near the end of the 28-hour effort:

In order: Alison Qualter Berna, Dan Berlin, Charles Scott, Pete Kardasis, Brad Graff 

The 46-mile route over rocky terrain included 25,000+ feet of elevation change, and in certain sections, dangerous switchbacks on narrow trails beside thousand-foot drop offs.  The four guides took turns guiding Dan, usually two at a time - one in front and one behind to keep him safe.  We took only short breaks to refuel, refill water supplies, repair damaged feet and other body parts, wrap sore joints, and encourage one another not to give up.  We were completely self-supported and at one point refilled our water bottles from a nearby stream.

Dan describes his blindness as an inconvenience instead of a disability.  Rather than focusing on what he cannot do, he explores what he can do.  Hmm, sounds like a lesson for the rest of us...

We've received a lot of donations to the two blindness foundations we're supporting.  Thank you!  For those who haven't donated, but would like to, the page is still open:

We're getting lots of press interest, including (click on name to see the article):
 Outside Magazine
 New York Family Magazine (written by Alison Qualter Berna)
 The Coloradoan Newspaper
 Colorado Springs Gazette
 KAFF Radio

More press is in the works.  FOX News will run an online story next week and a TV spot later in the month.  Cool!  Check back here for updates. 

Here are a few more pics:
The amazing Alison Qualter Berna (one of Dan's guides) doing a handstand by the Grand Canyon

Group pic at Phantom Ranch: Alison Qualter Berna, Charles Scott, Dan Berlin, Brad Graff, Pete Kardasis

Approaching the Colorado River

Pausing to party on the way up the North Rim

Thursday, October 2, 2014

First Blind Athlete To Run Across the Grand Canyon and Back in One Day

In less than a week, my friend Dan Berlin is going to attempt to become the first vision-impaired athlete to run across the Grand Canyon and back in a single day.   I’m going to guide Dan on the 46-mile route with help from my friends Brad Graff and Alison Qualter Berna.  Dan went blind in his 30s and THEN decided to become a marathoner.  And now he’s taking on a physical challenge that intimidates even the strongest of runners.   

Here's a pic while guiding Dan in the NYC Marathon:

And here's a pic from the Toughman 1/2 Ironman (Swim 1.2 miles, Bike 56 miles, Run 13.1 miles) race with Dan and Alison:

And here's a pic of Brad Graff, who is an accomplished endurance runner and adventure hiker:

Known as “rim to rim to rim,” this challenge is a bucket list item for ultra runners looking for an extreme endurance test.  There will be no race officials or aid stations.  Just the four of us carrying everything we need and supporting one another as we attempt to traverse over 20,000 feet of elevation change.  

We will start running at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, October 7th, at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, run down to the Colorado River, across the base of the canyon, up the north rim, then turn around and re-trace our steps. 

October is Blindness Awareness Month, and we’re using this run to raise money for two organizations:

 - The Blind Institute of Technology, a nonprofit whose mission is to prepare the visually impaired and the employers who hire them for success in the workplace. 

 - The Foundation Fighting Blindness, whose mission is to drive the research that will prevent, treat and find cures for people affected by the entire spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases.

If you would like to support us, please make a donation on our fund raising page:


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Keynote at the World Bank

Thursday, Sep 18, 2014

I gave a keynote today in Washington, D.C. at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank entity that makes investments in private companies in developing countries in every region of the world.  I spoke to several hundred investment professionals about the value of “being adventurous.”  Here’s a pic of the crowd:

I love IFC’s mission, because they are not simply trying to make money through investments.  They are trying to make a material difference in the lives of people in developing countries around the world.  The cool people who work at the IFC are genuinely trying to make the world a better place.  Just the kind of folks I like to hang out with, and they could not have given me a more enthusiastic reception:

I told them stories about people who inspire me, like Charlie Plaskon, a blind athlete I guided in the NYC Ironman when he was 69 years old.  And Dan Berlin, my friend who decided to become a marathoner after he went blind in his 30s.  He has every excuse to feel sorry for himself, but instead, he decided to do something that intimidates the healthiest of athletes.  And he hasn’t stopped at marathons.  With help from my friends Brad Graff and Alison Berna, I will guide Dan in a 46-mile, single-day, round-trip “rim to rim to rim” run across the Grand Canyon on Oct 7.  If we’re successful, Dan will become the first blind person to accomplish this feat.  Coolness.

In the IFC talk, I also shared lessons I learned from cycling over 7,000 miles with my young children across Japan, Iceland, Europe and the U.S., saying, “A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think!”  I ended by encouraging the audience to challenge their limits and ignore the naysayers who might discourage them from taking risks and seeking vitality.

After my keynote, I hung out for a while chatting with a number of IFC employees who shared their own personal and professional ambitions.  I even received invitations to bring my kids on cycling trips in Africa and Southeast Asia.  Hmm, I may have just found my next two stimulating family adventure destinations…

Big thanks to Fabiana Feld, Macarena De Martini and Elizabeth Price for hosting me at this IFC event.  Here’s a selfie with Fabiana being silly with me on stage:

And a special shout out to Irina Likhachova for recommending me as a speaker.  You’re awesome, you know that?