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?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Nat Geo essay and ZIDILEADER selection

National Geographic just published an essay I wrote about cycling 1,000 miles to Niagara Falls and back with my young kids.  It was posted in Nat Geo Explorer's Journal by Gregg Treinish and his team at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, the group we worked with to document roadkill during the ride.  If you're interested, check it out here.

Also, I was recently selected by the new life action brand and social community ZIDILIFE as a "ZIDILEADER."  "Zidi" is Swahili for "go beyond, become greater, do more."  The goal of ZIDILIFE is to encourage people to take action to create meaningful lives.  That's a cool goal, and I was honored to be selected.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Videos from NYC to Niagara Falls Family Adventure

Monday, Aug 11, 2014

For your viewing pleasure, our good friend Paul Descloux captured some short videos from the end of our 1,000-mile NYC to Niagara Falls trip.  Thanks Paul!

Paul waiting for our arrival at the Croton River:

Cycling on bridge over the Croton River:

Arriving at Paul's house in Ossining:

"I got spanked by the hills of Ossining" + helmet head:

With Eiko, getting ready to start our final day of riding:

Start of the final day of the 1,000-mile NYC to Niagara Falls ride, pedaling out of Paul's driveway to ride 40 miles to our home in NYC:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 33 (Final Day): NYC to Niagara Falls

July 26, 2014

This was the final day of our family cycling adventure from New York City to Niagara Falls and back.  As I calculated our final route, I realized that the total distance came out to almost exactly 1,000 miles from start to finish.  Is it too much to ask of a 13-year-old and 7-year-old to pedal that far?  I don't think so, and Sho and Saya didn't either.  The trick is to keep the pace manageable, take breaks when needed, find fun things to do along the way, and of course, keep the kids fed.

In the morning, we said goodbye to my good buddy Paul Descloux, who let us sleep in his home in Ossining.

Then we made our way toward the urban megalopolis we call home.  Many people we spoke with were intimidated by the idea of cycling out of and back into NYC.  Here's how we did it:  from Ossining, we rode a few miles on side streets, then got onto the North County Trailway, a paved rail trail that covers dozens of miles from Westchester County to the northern tip of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  It turns into a dirt path that we followed for a few miles through the park:  

We then cycled on busy urban streets, going slowly and sometimes riding on the sidewalk in order to stay safe.  We crossed over the Harlem River Ship Canal on the Broadway Bridge, which marked our return to Manhattan:

We followed Broadway to 181st Street, staying close to the side of the road to allow cars to pass, and made our way over to the Hudson Greenway, a bike path along the Hudson River.  Here is Saya with the spires of Midtown Manhattan in the background:

We arrived at our apartment on 25th Street at 6:45 p.m., where my wife Eiko treated us to a congratulatory meal of sushi, miso soup and salad.  Eiko cycled with us for the first 2 weeks of this ride and would have preferred to ride the entire trip with us, but she needed to return to her job in NYC.

  This is the fifth "family adventure" I've taken with my kids, in which we spend their summer vacation cycling long distances, linking each ride to a charitable cause.  We've pedaled over 7,000 miles across Japan, Iceland, Europe and the U.S., carrying our gear, figuring out the route, and deciding where to sleep as we go.  The trips have been physically challenging and stressful at times.  I tell my kids, "Sometimes, an adventurer just suffers for a while."  We've been pounded by heavy rains, struggled to pedal through gale-force winds, cycled over many mountain passes, learned to keep pushing when we thought we didn't have any more energy left, and experienced the remarkable kindness of strangers around the world.  

We've become closer as a result, like team members who learn to trust and rely on one another to achieve a difficult goal.  My kids bicker and sulk from time to time.  So do I.  That's called being human.  But they also have learned the remarkable feats their bodies are capable of, the power of self-confidence, and the joy of uncovering nature's secrets.  

We live in a world full of stunning beauty, and the time we have to appreciate that beauty is all too short.  I hope that these trips will linger in my children's memories, reminders to look for ways to treat each day as a gift, to protect nature like you would a family member, to seek adventure and to have the confidence to craft a life full of love and meaning.

Days 31 - 32: NYC to Niagara Falls

July 24 - 25, 2014

After sleeping in a hotel in the town of Hudson to escape the lightening storm, we continued our journey south along the Hudson River, enjoying cool temperatures and the bounty of the surrounding farmland.  One of our snack breaks was at a stand selling locally grown fresh produce.  We ate delicious cucumbers, blueberries, peaches and raspberries.  Saya liked the fresh food so much, she asked if we could move out of NYC and become farmers, so that we could eat like this all the time.  Hmm, not a bad idea...

A few hours later, we eliminated the middle man and just ate raspberries straight from the bush!

After cycling about 40 miles, we set up our tent in Mills Norrie State Park, 1,000 acres of woodland along the Hudson River that includes a camping area.

Sho and Saya have become proficient at building a fire and enjoyed the fruits of their labors by roasting marshmallows.

People have asked me how we deal with laundry on a long trip like this.  Sometimes I find a laundromat, but another option is to use the Scrubba wash bag.  It's compact, easy-to-use, and turns stinky socks back into something fit for polite company.

Childhood slips by too quickly, and as a dad, I'm always trying to slow down time with my kids.  If you're looking for ideas, I suggest fishing at sunset on the Hudson River.  We won't forget this for a long time.

On July 25, the penultimate ride of this 33-day adventure, we pedaled about 54 miles from our campsite to Ossining.  On the way, we spotted a Great Blue Heron that took off just after I snapped this photo.  We've seen perhaps a dozen of these gorgeous creatures over the past month, always at water's edge and always quick to fly away when humans are near.  They are majestic in flight, their broad wings fanning up and down elegantly, almost like an aerial dance.   

We stopped regularly to take short breaks on today's long ride.  

On one of the breaks, we met three adventure seekers who were hiking the length of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail.  The journey typically takes from 4 - 6 months.  Here's a pic of Sho with Megan Kelly (trail name: Peter Pan), Adam Beard (trail name: Bilbo Baggins), and Josh Hunter-Duvar (trail name: Skippy).  Good luck to you three -- you're looking great.

Including breaks, we spent about 9 1/2 hours on the road.  This was one of our most challenging rides, as the terrain became seriously hilly.  By the end of the day, my legs were spent, and I had difficulty pedaling up the long climbs.  Sho, on the other hand, said he felt great and bounded up 10% grade climbs without difficulty, waiting patiently for Saya and me at the top.  

We ended the day in Ossining at the home of our dear friends, Paul and Debra Descloux.  They made us feel special, treating us to hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob, which we ate on the deck of their beautiful home.  It was a deeply satisfying end to a hard day of cycling.