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Enter letter or word. Image size Auto x x x x x x x x x x x x x x Font color. Background color. Your graffiti font letter is generated! I had a college professor tell me because I had a learning disability I could never been an educator. She was wrong. It takes focus to overcome poor spelling! Another human in my life with laser intense focus is my triathlon buddy. She was a college athlete, turned Space Camp counselor, an outstanding classroom teacher, transcontinental cyclist, Boston Marathon qualifier, world traveler and four time top ten age group finisher in Ironman triathlons.

She has focus, serious, laser beam, focus! Accomplishing so much before the age of 31 takes focus! I want, this is the type of focus. This fall while running the back roads of Madison County, Mississippi, I came to the realization that mentally I am the best version of myself while swimming, running or biking.

I am not the best version of me when multi-tasking. Maybe I was at one time, but not now. In , I will embark on a new adventure for me. I will spend more time with my family, tackle a few bucket list items and try to work on my focus. In , I will work on my focus in everything I do. Focus on my relationships, athletic endeavors, family matters and more… Focusing on keeping my blog post more regular is on the to do list! Many great memories are attached to a Dixon Ticonderoga NO. From my mom trying to make me a swell speller by writing words thousands of times to teaching hundreds of Space Camp staff how to give a presentation everyone likes.

It is a worthwhile trip for any educator, artist or pencil lover. The museum and gallery are on the fifth floor of an office building in Lake Mary, Florida. To visit you must make an appointment.

It is perfect for school groups local to the area. There is even an activity center for students to learn more about the amazing assortment of products the Dixon Ticonderoga brand has to offer.

If you are interested in a tour, please follow this link for details. I am very thankful to have a relationship with the corporate office of Dixon Ticonderoga through a few social media conversations with Donna Cochran. She was so thoughtful to give me time from her day to show me the artifacts and original works of art on display for the guests of the museum.

My favorite story was about the restoration of their Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell had been contracted to produce three works of art for the Dixon Ticonderoga company. Some of their art work had been mishandled through the years. With the new gallery and museum, it can be preserved for many generations to enjoy. The museum and gallery is currently two rooms in size, however I am sure this is just a start for the Dixon Ticonderoga museum.

The artifacts on display are rich with history. Not just pencils and crayons, there are marketing graphics, company stock shares from the early years, links to many pop culture and industrial innovations. The story of the Dixon Ticonderoga is a story of our American history. A company which began when our country was just a fledgling nation can teach us many things about who we are as a country. I learned that Ford Motor company contracted with the company to make coil boxes for the Model T.

These boxes were original made to sell crayons to students. Crayons even flew aboard STS Amazing to think of all the places a Dixon Ticonderoga product has been. But Mr. Corso has been affiliated with the company for years. Dixon Ticonderoga really makes the best pencils and they have great people working for them. I am thankful for my mom making me use them and love them years ago! To be fair, the half marathon course is more down hill than up hill.

The course is adorned with beautiful hillsides, charming goat farms and friendly volunteers. That was before the Civil War and before a the hound Ludivine ran the course and the story went viral. The story made national news and put the small race on the map. Saturday morning the small townhall had a line of crazed runners out the door for packet pick-up.

Ludivine greeted the runners. I was lucky enough to get a photo with the famous K Ludivine was there for the start of the At the start of the race, Ludivine howled and moaned in sadness as the hundreds of runners started the rainy adventure.

Poor dog! She is just a country dog, but now Ludivine is priceless to the community of Elkmont. No one would want to see the hound dog hurt. It was still sad to see her not run. The first mile the course passes an old cotton gin.

Perfect small town race. This year, I noticed the community had added permanent road signs to mark the entire course and each mile was marked by a cute dog house sign.

Super classy for a second year race! Up and down we ran as the rain fell on us. I still made friends and chatted with people along the way despite the hilly terrain and dreary conditions. A covered bridge, an old church and all the wildlife and farm animals along the way made for a great but challenging run.

A blood hound made this race famous, but the community made it first class. After I finished, I had a great bowl of chicken stew and chatted with the wonderful people of Elkmont. If you get a chance to run this charming course, please do… It is tough, but run it for the community of Elkmont. This past weekend, I completed Mountain Mist 50K. I have heard competitors say it is the hardest event they have ever done. I am certain it is one of the most challenging things I have ever dared do, especially with limited training.

The first half of the race is challenging, but nothing special in comparison to many other trail races in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Twist and turns, ups and downs. I set a conservative pace but still pushed myself. Mountain Mist has strict cut off times. The first quarter of the race is mostly downhill. But the last quarter is mostly uphill, straight uphill.

At mile 6. I discarded my ski cap and gloves. The temperature was in the mid-thirties so I kept my sleeves for a bit longer. Volunteers are an important role in any race. But seeing friendly faces who are kind and compassionate are vital in endurance sports. Volunteering is often more difficult and draining than people think. I am very thankful for those caring souls. I knew someone at each aid station. Jen Cox had her MSU cowbell on the course.

She let me ring the darn thing! Volunteers are great. I make it a practice to volunteer for events like Mountain Mist to get the courage to sign up. Thanks friends! By the time I arrived at mile I arrived roughly thirteen minutes before the cut off. Friendly faces hustled me through the aid station.

Many Mountain Mist veterans advised me there is no loitering at aid stations. I prayed for her and me as I shuffled along the trail. Anytime I could keep pace with a fellow runner, I would take the companionship and conversation. It was gold to my mental state. Any helpful hints, words of encouragement or smiles along the way were valuable. The trails I had run were comforting. Just knowing where the heck I was meant a lot. Once I made it to aid station 4, I knew the hard part was approaching quickly.

Time to get a handful of extra calories and water for the climb up Waterline. Every scary story about Mountain Mist included the trek up Waterline. Waterline is more than trail running. Waterline is more than an incline. Waterline and the climbing up the side of a limestone gorge tha tfwill judge what a person is made of.

Resilience and grit have been in my vocabulary, my mental fiber, my determined spirit for years. Climbing Waterline would put those ideas to test. Step by step, hand over hand and one foot over another, I inched my way up the monster incline. I focused intently on all the people above me. I convinced myself, that I would be where they were soon.

And eventually, I was at the top and headed for the last big cutoff. I was still trying to catch my breath and recover my legs as I approached aid station 5 at mile I saw many friends and spectators anxiously waiting for their runner. It was like the baseball team from Field of Dreams coming out of the corn, but it was random people clad in Patagonia apparel appearing out of no where as I shuffled to the last major cutoff. People were throwing out time and distance to the aid station, but all I could do was shuffle.

As soon as, I recognized the aid station and I heard the piercing sound of a horn. The horn represented the fifteen minute mark until the six hour and thirty minute cutoff.

I meander through the aid station, channeling the Little Engine that Could! I still had one good climb a head of me, then a sip of beer and a short jog to the finish line.

I was doing well keeping a good pace, but after making the last major cut off I was like the work horse headed to the barn at the end of plowing the fields. The day was beautiful but long. All I could do was soak in what was left of the trail. I was on the McKay Hollow Trail. It was almost like I was home because I had more experience on this trail.

The closer I got, the more I reflected on the trail, the limited mud, the limestone and the monster climb. My physical and emotional fuel tank was empty. I knew at the top of the hill, I could enjoy a sip of beer and a few calories to help with the tired body. The added companionship of a local runner and a runner from Georgia would make the short run from aid station 6 and the finish line enjoyable. All I wanted to do was finish, to endure. Mountain Mist is one of the toughest things I have ever done.

I would stay it is much tougher than any obstacle, mud or trail run. Spartan and Tough Mudder races can not compare in toughness. Mountain Mist has been known for thick mud, rain, snow, sleet and extreme cold temperatures. The version of Mountain Mist had perfect conditions with warm temperatures and minimal mud. The conditions were great but the course was still the same… it was hard. The year was hard for a lot of people.

However, as I review the past twelve months, I see a theme of mental toughness. Beyond my endurance sports, mental toughness has played a huge role in how I attacked and conquered As I reflect, was like an Ironman Triathlon to me.

In the first two months of the year, it was an easy swim. I started a new job at a camp, achieved a few certifications and attended a conference. Nothing too taxing at the time. I have been told I can swim all day long. I ran a few races at Disney World… Dopey Challenge, and then a local half marathon where a blood hound ran the whole course. By the time March arrived, I had discovered that the camp I worked at was in need of major repair.

This started the long miles on the bike. A constant churning at work to accomplish renovations and repairs was similar to riding miles in the summer heat. I worked most everyday from March to August. I compare that to not having a great swim to bike transition during a triathlon.

Once camp started the number one focus was the campers and their needs. That meant training stopped for me. I was chugging way with focused intensity on the work that needed to be done. While at camp in Guntersville, my mom called to report my nephew had been in a 4-wheeler accident. I scrambled to put things in place to leave camp. I relied on a great support team at camp to make this happen. They would have been my sherpas to continue the Ironman analogy. God is good all of the time, Rhett survived the 4-wheeler accident but he would have to recover from a brain injury.

It took three months of hospital and rehabilitation before he could go home. He is good! And in many ways, I think my family is stronger because of the accident.

It became the priority. I would rely on my mental toughness to grit through IM Chatty. I trained in the time I had left but nothing I trained for could prepare me for the heat in Chattanooga during the event. I needed to stay hydrated and keep my resiliency to cross the finish line. I had a few more events during the last three months of the year, this would be the marathon of my year long Ironman. Mentally, I am tired after all of that. The last day of brought one last event, a 50K.

This would be a great finish line to my year long Ironman mental toughness extravaganza. Oh, I had a sinus infection just to add a level of difficulty to the simple 3 mile-loop course.

I have mental toughness. I think the only reason, I convinced myself to grit this race out, was because of a book I read. In this book, billionaire Jesse Itzler, hires a former Navy SEAL and endurance athlete to live and train with him so he could conquer goals of his own. It is a book devoted to mental toughness and how to train your body not to quit.

I relied on my grit to get me out of foolish race events. I knew in my head, I could do two Ironman races in 41 days even if my body told me different. Yes, I am mentally tough. But what if my body was just as tough as my brain. If I complete most everything I do on limited training and my mental strength, what if focused more on training than ever before. I ask what is the goal… gutting things out with mental toughness or bettering myself?

Only forty-one days separated the two Ironman events. I woke up just a few minutes before my alarm clock at AM. I quickly dressed and got ready for the long day ahead of me. Nothing was out of the ordinary for me other than I was doing my first full distance triathlon somewhere other than Chattanooga, TN.

This meant a drive to the race location not a walk down the street. No worries, it was just about two miles up the beach. Body marking was fantastic! There was a guy who proudly proclaimed good penmanship. He was correct, he marked me perfectly with fantastic handwriting. Good start to the day! Only thing I struggled with before the race was just not knowing certain things. No one felt the need to line up at the start line, because it was a rolling start.

Everyone just wandered around during the hours before the start. I like structure and this was a little unnerving for me. As the sun started rising, I saw people headed toward the beach. Once I was on the beach, I was much calmer. The water temperature for the race was This was a wet suit legal race, but I opted out of wearing my wet suit. I feel like I swim better without my wet suit.

Yes, there is a buoyancy advantage with a wet suit… but I was in salt water. Tomislav Zlatic on November 25, pm. A big thank you to BPB reader Carlos for the info about this freebie.

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