John Tenney

Professional and Personal Blog of John Will Tenney

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The Mother’s Day I Dreaded

Cynthia-Ann-Roberts-TenneyIt’s Mother’s Day, 2015. I sit alone in my mom’s house, typing this from her computer.

Mom left us just over a week ago. She was 81. I hadn’t had the closest relationship with her most of my life but she was my only surviving parent, since Dad left us in 2004. I attended the funeral service, cried, attended the burial, cried a little there too, and the rest of the week have been spending time with my brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc and their families.

She left quite a legacy. Five kids, most with kids of their own, and all of them successful in life.

The five children at Betsy's wedding

The five children at Betsy’s wedding

I’m the last one here, at least the last one from out of town. I roamed over the house at 6am this morning, unable to sleep. I opened every drawer, every closet, looked in every cupboard and explored the house one last time. I found 52 years of accumulated junk. Of course, there were some highlights as well. I found an old guitar, no longer playable, my first guitar. I found a wetsuit I used to wear when sailing and windsurfing in the 70s. I found some great pictures. I found lots of memories.

What I found most was sadness. This house will be leaving us, or more accurately, we will be leaving this house. It will be cleaned out in the next few weeks, with all of our things sorted, cataloged, sifted, and eventually either sold or thrown away. I have no facility for taking anything back with me to Orlando that makes any sense, so instead I’ve taken a lot of pictures and scanned many photos I found here.

A photo of 15 Slaytonbush Lane in the winter, after a fresh snowfall

A photo of 15 Slaytonbush Lane in the winter, after a fresh snowfall

The sadness from the realization that this, my last refuge, is leaving the family. This, the house I grew up in, will no longer be a place to visit or stay. This beautiful house, which I never really appreciated until now, will soon belong to someone else. This incredible house, which was the neighborhood playground, the center of so much social action, the cradle of my immediate family, hopefully will be all of that for another family. My hope and prayer for you, whoever you are, is that you enjoy it and appreciate it in the way that I didn’t.

The street has changed since I was young. In the 60s and 70s, when I grew up, it was always teeming with kids. Bikes flew up and down the street. Basketball hoops were everywhere and in much use. Dogs roamed up and down the street freely. Parties were frequent and loud. I recall one birthday evening when friends down the street, had a local rock band (“Willie and the New Yorkers”), playing on the back porch. I recall many evenings when my own band, several names but mostly the same guys, me, Jim & Ray Barnes, and other notorious local music icons, would play in the cellar, on the porch or even in the living room (mom hated that.)

Now the street is quiet. I see no kids when I travel up and down. No bikes. No dogs. No basketball games. Very little noise. Is it because we are all older or is it electronic devices? The irony that I am typing on a computer at this moment is not lost on me.

A Hidden Treasure

I had more time in the afternoon, so I did some more searching through the house and found something interesting. Hidden in a nondescript box next to mom’s favorite chair on the porch, I found a small photo album. There were pictures of all of us in there, but the picture below hit me, and hit me hard. It made me cry. This is me as a new born. It made me cry because it made me feel very old, it made me miss my mom, it made me realize that this is how mom and dad thought of me, even until the end, and I know this, because this is how I think of my daughter Grace, my first born.

Yes, I know this is how she always thought of me, and dad too.  I think of my oldest, Grace, the same way.  I can't look at this pic without crying.

Yes, I know this is how she always thought of me, and dad too. I think of my oldest, Grace, the same way. I can’t look at this pic without crying.

So here it is, Mother’s Day, my first without a mother. I can’t call you anymore mom, I can’t tell you all that is going with the wife and kids, the business, and all the personal things in my life that we pretended you cared about. I’m sure that in some way you did. As a parent now, I know how it is. My daughters are everything to me but I now understand the practice of pinning things up on the refrigerator, looking at a drawing, appreciating projects, and even turning off the TV so I can hear a story.

I won’t be the same after this. I will pay more attention to my children. I will treasure and value each moment with them. I know they probably won’t appreciate it until I am gone but now I see it’s important then as well.

So it’s the worst Mother’s Day ever, but it’s also the most emotional Mother’s Day I’ve ever had. I never thought I would miss you as much as I do. I realize that to us, you were much more than just our mother, more than just another person. You were Home. You held down the fort. This house is just another house without you in it. When we lost you, we lost much more than just a mother. We lost our family stronghold. What am I going to do now?

I’ll head home, hug my kids, my wife, and probably all the pets as well. I will continue to cry. I appreciate things I’ve never appreciated in this way before. I suppose I have you to thank for that.

Happy Mother’s Day mom.

Economic-Gardening The Right Way

Economic Gardening

Economic-Gardening  The Right WayFlorida has touted the term Economic Gardening for several years now.

Many business, political and economic leaders have dropped the phrase many times. Is there something to it? What’s it all about?

More important: Is it working?

The subject has several parts. It would require an in depth study beyond the scope of this essay but let’s try and explore it a bit.

What is Economic Gardening?
I first heard the term in a Florida Trend article (which I have been unable to find online) several years ago. I believe it was an editorial on the current practice and some excellent suggestions on how to improve it. Hopefully someone will point out the source to me as a result of this essay.

Economic Gardening, simply put, is the process of planting and growing business in a specified region. All regional leaders, be it village, county, state or even nation share a common desire to grow their economy. All realize that starting, growing and cultivating regional businesses will accomplish that goal nearly all the time. Unfortunately the practices some regions use are less than optimal. Let’s discuss some negative practices and follow up with some positive suggestions.

What NOT to do
One practice that sounds good at first but is counter-productive in the long run is attracting businesses from out of the region by giving tax breaks for moving to the area. While this might be initially advantageous, it will eventually hurt the existing businesses, and history has shown that a high percentage of transplanted business get up and move once their tax breaks end. Well, of course. If they were eager to move once to save money, why not do it again?

Another practice that can be abused is marketing in other regions. Aside from being expensive, with travel and all, it hasn’t shown a large success rate. My own county used to pay one of its commissioners to make “marketing trips” to another state with the auspicious intent of attracting businesses to move down to Central Florida. The ROI on this effort was extremely poor. It was also discovered that this commissioner was combining family visits with nearly all the trips as well.

The final error I will discuss is the tendency to concentrate on larger businesses, and neglect the high potentials of smaller business. A region would benefit much more from 100 small businesses than one large employer. When a region is dominated by a large employer that employer starts to get too much power in the region, and creating many other problems.

Let’s do it RIGHT
One of the most enlightening features of that Florida Trend article that burned in to my memory was the concept that most of the “seeds” for the region’s garden are already here, in one form or another. There are startups all the time. Giving assistance to local startups seems like a good idea, no?

Another idea was that a lot of the businesses you want to recruit from other areas may already be visiting. In Central Florida we have a large tourist population, and many of those are business owners. The article even went on to say that it might be as simple as starting a conversation at one of the local attractions and including a comment such as “Wouldn’t it be great to live here year round? Wouldn’t your business do just as well or better in this region?”

My final suggestion is to spend more time on the smaller, high potential businesses, which are generating positive cash flow for the region. This would be companies that are creating an inflow of cash to the area, be it through the private sector or government contracts. Several local organizations here in Central Florida are working in this direction – GrowFL, UCF Incubator, SBDC to name a few.

As I previously stated, a large number of small businesses makes a more attractive economic environment than a small number of large ones. Keep in mind, that every large business at one time started as a small one. Next time you see a small business owner, encourage them. And you might ask them, “Hey, you know anyone in business from out of the area that might like to live here?”

Good business to you!

From Couch to Marathon in 35 years

JWT-finishAt the age of 21, long distance running was not part of my fitness plan. Sure I had to run for some of the HS and college sports I played, but nothing more than a mile at a time. 35 years later, I am wide awake at 4am, the morning after I completed my first marathon.

When I started distance running in 1980 my goal was always to complete a marathon, of course. It was another one of those things that never happened. The greatest distance accomplished was a 20K race in Oriskany, NY – or about 12.4 miles – in 1981.

This year, December 1st, the Space Coast Marathon was held in Cocoa, FL, over a route I was very familiar with – on a bicycle. Running this route had never been an option I had considered. It was hard enough on a bike.

Some perspective is called for here. 3 years ago, December of 2010, I weighed 287 lbs and would have had difficulty running a mile. I weighed 232 lbs after the marathon, and that was after a week of “carbing up.”

Dave Brillhart and I before the start of Space Coast Marathon 2013

Dave Brillhart and I before the start of Space Coast Marathon 2013

In February of this year I tried my first Half Marathon, The Xtreme Half, put on by Epic Sports Marketing at Orlando Wetlands Park. I had run a few 10Ks around the neighborhood and figured I should be able to stretch it out to 13.1 miles. After walking the last 4 miles, with severe pain in my feet, I realized I was not ready. Oddly enough I finished at 2:52 which put me on the podium in 3rd place for my age group. I had some issues to work on though.

First thing to do was get some good running shoes. After trying the popular “running” store, which didn’t give me what I needed, only what I wanted (big difference there) I ended up at Foot Solutions with Corinna Dexter, wife of my running buddy Patrick. She got me in to the correct running shoes with special inserts that were suited to the shape of my feet. They were not really comfortable to walk in initially, but she knew that as I broke them in they would fit my feet and she was right. Made a big difference in the marathon. My feet hurt at the end but not nearly as bad.

Coaching was essential. Brock Brinkerhoff helped me correct my running form. During the marathon I thought constantly about what he told me: “When you get tired your form will be the first thing to go. Don’t let it deteriorate. When you start feeling pain, slow down and concentrate on your form. You will recover more quickly.” He was right. Other members of our fine club, Orlando Runners and Riders, were also a big help, not only in inspiration but in tips on form, fitness, nutrition and training regimen. Special thanks to Dave Brillhart, Patrick Dexter, Janine Vance, Mike May and Brian Young, who all supported our running efforts. Also a big thank you to Crockett Bohannon for introducing me to “Injinji” socks, which fit your toes, very much as a glove would. Reduced blisters incredibly.

Injinji socks, or "toe socks" feel a little weird at first but they are excellent for running.

Injinji socks, or “toe socks” feel a little weird at first but they are excellent for running.

The most important and essential support came from my wife Kathleen, who made special meals for me, shopped for me and most of all, put up with me during the last month of training, which was very stressful.
Nothing meant more to me than seeing Kathleen waiting for me at the finish.  I am so thankful for all that she did to support me.

Nothing meant more to me than seeing Kathleen waiting for me at the finish. I am so thankful for all that she did to support me.

Training Challenges
In the early summer I started developing a burning pain in my right knee. Brock’s rule was always “Sore, keep going. Stop when it burns.” I stopped running for a while to see if it would go away. Although it subsided, it would come right back any time I tried to run. Finally, I visited Orlando Orthopedic for x-rays and other analysis and was told by the doctor that all was well, it was just the way my knee was adapting to a new running style. There was no bone or cartilage damage and the muscle pain would not cause any permanent harm. Good to know but I had lost about 2 months of training.

So when November started the furthest I had run since the Half in February was 6 miles. The plan was to get a 15 or 20 miler in before tapering off. That didn’t happen. 10 miles was as far as I got and the holiday schedule interfered. I still did a lot of smaller runs, 5Ks mostly, and one 10K. So the morning of December 1 arrived with only a 10 miler as my “longest run.”

My strategy was to run the first half, and try to beat my time from the Wetlands Park Half (2:52). Shouldn’t be that difficult as an 11:30 pace was expected, or about a 2:30 half. Since I had not trained for a longer run, I would “wait and see” what to do with the second half, but I expected a run/walk method would be necessary.

Brock (left) and Dave (right), shown here with Jerry Hertzler before a Hal Scott trail run, were tremendous trainers and motivators.

Brock (left) and Dave (right), shown here with Jerry Hertzler before a Hal Scott trail run, were tremendous trainers and motivators.

The Race
The first thing I noticed besides the large crowd, the crazy costumes and the incredibly loud music (why do the play loud music at 6am? Do they really want non-runners to hate us that much?), was the several “staging” groups with banners stating the expected finish time. It started at 3:15 and went up in 15 minute increments right up until 7 hrs. I had no idea where to start. I stood at the side of the road and wished I had read up on my Galloway running method a little more. Granted, the method works but it is annoying for people who want to run the whole thing to be constantly weaving around and through large packs of walkers, and then get overtaken by them as they sprint by in 2 minutes, only to do it all again. Safety tip: Please move to the side if you are walking? Please?
Dave took this photo of the crowd.

Dave took this photo of the crowd.

After working my was around several groups I got in to some clear space and settled in to my pace. Too soon, I had to pee. I just went before the start! This became an issue for the first 10 miles. I lost count but I think I had to dodge behind a bush 8 or 9 times in the first 10 miles. So while others were doing the run/walk method it seems my body had chosen the run/pee alternative. I still do not know why that happened as I had not had any unusual amounts of fluids other than normal hydrating procedures. Probably nerves.

I intended to run the entire first half, but it was impossible to drink from the cups given at the water stations without walking. I tried at the first one and spilled Gatorade all over myself. From then on I would walk a few feet while drinking and resume running ASAP. It slowed me down some, but not as much as all the pee breaks. I was conscious that I was running in a mixed crowd and had to go quite a distance in to the mangroves to pee without offending anyone. At least I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

I also noticed that the mile markers seemed long. In my experience, the Garmin runs behind actual mileage. It was the opposite on this course. I hit the 10K timing strip showing 6.5 on my Garmin. This continued throughout the race, as I crossed the 20 mile strip at 20.4, and the finish showed me with 26.7 miles. Others have confirmed that the course was long, although not everyone came up with an extra half mile.

Anyway, I made the quarter distance turn and began heading back to Cocoa. The weather was turning out to be perfect. Overcast, breezy and temps between 62 and 70 made for perfect running weather. Even on the “downwind” leg, with the breeze behind me, over heating was never an issue. I was watching my heart rate to judge my speed and it only got a little high when I was climbing up hills. Fortunately in Florida there aren’t many of these.

My Garmin shows me hitting 13.1 in 2:44:30. Of course, I crossed the timing strip in 2:48:28, showing 13.4 miles on my Garmin. Either way, I had managed to set a new personal record but was nowhere near my goal of 2:30. This made me change my goal of doing a 5+ marathon to just finishing. I began the run/walk right away with a 2 on / 3 off split. A few miles later I switched to 1:30 on / 3:30 off, hoping that when I turned around and headed back in to the wind for the last quarter that I would be able to cool off quicker and go back to 2 on / 3 off. While that was true, and I did so for a mile or two, once I got to mile 22 my feet were starting to hurt, and even with the Injinji socks on, I was feeling an impending blister on the bottom of my left foot. I looked at my watch and realized I had almost 3 hours left to beat the 7 hour time limit. It was time to relax a bit.

So I didn’t run the whole thing. In fact, I pretty much walked the last 4 miles (although at this point walking hurt a lot, like a real lot). Is finishing with a 4 mile walk still an accomplishment? I keep asking myself that. The time limit was 7 hours, and that wasn’t going to be a problem so why beat myself up more than necessary? I made a decision to walk the rest of the way, even though it was painful to walk, it caused less damage to be recovered from over the next few days. It hurt my pride a little to walk 4 miles, but my legs and feet are grateful today. 6:34:55 is nothing to shout about for a marathon finish, but it is a finish, and that is what matters. If at sometime in the future I decide to run another one, I will train better and be ready to run much more, and I will worry about a better time when it happens.

As it stands, I am different than I was 24 hours ago in at least one way. Back then, I hadn’t completed a marathon.

They had beer for the finishers.  I really thought it would taste better.  Even though it was good beer I couldn't even drink half a glass.

Patrick Dexter, Dave and myself with a FREE post race beer. Really. They had free beer for the finishers. I really thought it would taste better. Even though it was good beer I couldn’t even drink half a cup. Training has ruined me as a drinker.

My split times:

Sports in 2013 – Updates

a-2013-Spring-Fling-PodiumIn my continuing battle to keep at a reasonable weight, stay in shape and enjoy life, the outdoor sports of running, cycling and swimming have taken center stage.

After a reasonably successful year of cycling accomplishments in 2012 I decided this would be the year of the Triathlon, and maybe even some running events (half marathon? marathon?). Also, more focus on different types of cycling, such as trail biking, cyclocross and time trials, as opposed to pure road cycling.

Road cycling is still a passion, and I intend to do several road cycling events this year.

I will race in the Lake Louisa road races, some Cyclocross races and do a few century rides. I missed out on Cross Florida, a ride from East coast to West in one day, totaling 168 miles. I was “drafted” to officiate a USA Cycling road race, the “Race of the West,” which happened on the same day. Some mountain road rides are on the schedule too, such as Blue Ridge Breakaway and Six Gap.

But the focus will be on variety, such as cross training in swimming, running, triathlons, and mountain bike events.

Race and Event Updates
December 2013
December started out great. On the 1st, I ran my first marathon, the Space Coast Marathon, which actually came out to be 26.7 miles. I didn’t have a great time, but I finished, and I can now say I have completed a marathon. I was well under the seven hour time limit!

A lot of fun stuff happened in December, including parties with the Orlando Runners and Riders, Christmas lights rides, and some great time with my family. I finished the year with 6662 total miles in all exercise activities that I measured, which included road cycling, mountain biking, cycle commuting, running, swimming, indoor cycling trainers and even a little kayaking. Great year!

November 2013
November was great. Since I am back running, I am going to attempt my first Marathon on December 1st, in Cocoa, FL. So far, I have run 10.4 miles without walking, a new PR. Completed the Horrible Hundred ride, staying together with teammates Bill Edgbert and Manny Espinosa. I also got to volunteer as a lead bike for a 5K race, part of the Florida Half Marathon – 10K – 5K event in Lake Louisa State Park.

October 2013
October succeeded where September failed. A lot of “firsts.” Rode through Hal Scott Preserve before dawn in a thick fog layer, which was exactly the height of my head on the bike. Very cool. Got cleared to start running again, which I did. And at the Space Coast Intra Coastal Waterway Century ride, with teammate Bill Edgbert’s help, set a new personal record for a 100 mile ride, finishing 102 miles in 5 hrs, 52 minutes.

September 2013
September started great and ended poorly. I flew up to NY to pick up our Ford Transit Connect, which will be of great use to the cycling club. While there I got to do a Bucket List ride that I wanted to do since my teens.

We put on the Second Annual Cowbell Classic Time Trial in Clermont, with an 8.4 mile course that finished at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain Road. It was a great event, and got rave reviews from all the participants. Also raced in the last NTC Short Course event of the season with my friend and coach Brock Brinkerhoff, and had a great time afterwards at Tijuana Flats with him, and Adam Baskin.

The rest of the month was taken up with training for Six Gap. On the last weekend in September, Brock, Christian Rowe and I drove up to Dahlonega, GA with high hopes. Those two had great rides but my ride ended prematurely when I broke a spoke shortly after completing the Hog Pen descent. The hardest part of the ride was over, but I was done as no one could repair it, and there were no spare wheels to be had. So I completed only four gaps this year, which was a huge disappointment.

August 2013
August was mostly a training month, although I did win my age group in a Olympic Duathlon and a 5K Forest Run down at Moss Park. Also competed in a cross / mountain bike race out in Clermont at the NTC.

July 2013
July 12th was my birthday. I didn’t celebrate much as I was scheduled to do a Moss Park Sprint Triathlon the next morning. Wise decision. No getting out of the swim this time. I was about to swim .75K in open water, or just under a half mile. I was terrified and couldn’t sleep at all the night before. So how did it turn out? It was every bit as terrifying as I expected. The water visibility was about 18 inches. I could see my wrist, but not my fingers, as I stretched out each stroke. I was fighting panic the first two-thirds of the race. I could not get my breathing under control. I did side stroke, back stroke, dog paddle, you name it, every stroke but the crawl stroke which is most efficient but involves holding my breath with my face in the water. I even held on to one of the buoys for about 15 seconds in an attempt to catch my breath. Finally, on the last leg of the triangular course I was able to do a normal crawl stroke for a few seconds before bursting out of the water to breathe, and to see where I was going. Amazingly, the timer shows I completed the course in 19:19. It seemed more like an hour. The bike went fairly well, as I started to regain control of my breathing, and ended up with a 19.6 mph average. Respectable. The run was a little slow but not terrible. I took a quick porta-potty break at the start but then ran the rest of the way, taking 32 minutes to finish a 2.95 mile course. I’ve done worse!

Podium for Sprint Tri.  I finished 2nd in the Clydesdale division, for men over 100 kg.  The winner didn't hang around to get weighed ... hmmm

Podium for Sprint Tri. I finished 2nd in the Clydesdale division, for men over 100 kg. The winner didn’t hang around to get weighed … hmmm

Sundays this month are going to be spent in Clermont, practicing hills, in preparation for the Blue Ridge Breakaway and Six Gap.

On July 24th it was time for another Clermont NTC CX race. Patrick Welch and I headed out there on a very hot summer afternoon. I did not set my expectations very high, as it was really hot. I was also fighting some sports injuries, like a bad knee. All the running I’d been doing was causing the right knee to act up again. Still, I was unpleasantly surprised at how much slower I was, and certainly did not expect to finish last in my division. I lost nearly a minute on each lap. Results aside, it was a lot of fun and I posted three videos on my YouTube channel.

June 2013
On Father’s Day I was scheduled to do an Olympic Triathlon at Moss Park, which would involve swimming in Lake Mary Jane. I have not done an open water swim since 1989, the last year I did a Triathlon, and the length of the longest swim I ever did was 1/3 of a mile. Was I ready to swim 1.5K (about .95 miles) in a Florida lake? As it turned out I was not to find out, as the water quality was declared below minimums the day before the race, so once again we did an Olympic Duathlon. 3 mile run, 12 mile bike and a 6 mile run. I didn’t do very well. It may have been the recent bout of flu I was fighting, or maybe just the heat, but I ended up walking a large part of the last run. I ended up at just under 3:03, or about 14 minutes slower than 2 months prior. I did get some nice photos of me on the bike though, with the Zipp front wheel and my Father’s Day present, a new Giro Air Attack Helmet.

The bike portion of the Father's Day Olympic Duathlon.  I did the bike in 1:12, which was not my best but not my worst either.

The bike portion of the Father’s Day Olympic Duathlon. I did the bike in 1:13, which was not my best but not my worst either.

The first two weekends of this month were taken up with road riding. I went on the Florida Freewheelers overnight ride from Clermont to Inverness (and back the next day) called the Wild Wild West ride, for a total of 144 miles. The next weekend I did a century ride on Saturday with the ESCC group and good friend Brock Brinkerhoff, down to the St. Cloud area and back for 101 miles. The next day I did a 55 mile “recovery” ride out to Fort Christmas and back. I guess it was because I wanted to break in my new Zipp wheels …

Advanced Cycles gave me the ESCC discount for these Zipp "404s" which are actually 60 mm deep.  They are a handful in a cross wind

Advanced Cycles gave me the ESCC discount for these Zipp “404s” which are actually 60 mm deep. They are a handful in a cross wind

May 2013
2013-04-24-NTC-CX-1The National Training Center in Clermont starter an open series featuring a mountain bike / cyclocross race on six Wednesday evenings throughout the summer and fall. I entered for all six although I will miss the June 12 race out of town on travel.

Technically the first race was on April 24th, but for writing continuity and “poetic license” I will include both races in the May report. The first race involved 2 laps of a difficult, 1.2 mile course over rough, bumpy ground with a lot of elevation changes and a few sand pits just for fun. I completed the two laps in 19:14, which landed me in 5th position out of 15 in my division. I was happy with those results.

The climbing began right away, with this terraced back breaker right after the start of each lap

The climbing began right away, with this terraced back breaker right after the start of each lap

The second race, on May 22nd, was in much hotter conditions, taller grass on the course, and a recent, fresh rain to make it just a little harder. In addition, the organizers added another lap. My first two laps were faster than the two laps in the first race but I attribute that to knowing the course, and a little smarter riding. I certainly didn’t feel any stronger. I ended up with 29:00 overall for the three lap race, which still landed me in 5th position, but only out of 13 riders this time.



April 2013
In April I entered the Spring Fling Triathlon series, same course as the Wildman, selecting the Olympic Duathlon as my event (again.) Even though I didn’t feel as good as I did a month earlier, I managed to improve my overall time by 2 minutes, from 2:51 to 2:49. I gained about a minute on the first 2.8 mile run, and almost 4 minutes on the 24 mile bicycle portion, only to lose nearly 2 minutes on the second 5.6 mile run as I ended up doing some walking.

Comparison of Wildman vs Spring Fling results

Comparison of Wildman vs Spring Fling results

FB-avatar-JWT-finish-Wildman-DuathlonMarch 2013
On March 9th I was scheduled to swim, run and ride in the Wildman Olympic Triathlon in Moss Park. Upon arriving at 6:30 am I discovered that the lake was 58 degrees, and I had no wetsuit. Fortunately, Epic allowed me to switch to a Duathlon, which is run-bike-run. At 7:36 we started our first running loop, a 5K. My goal was to finish the 5K run, the 24 mile bike and the 10K run after in under 3 1/2 hours. I gave myself 30 minutes for the first run, 1 hr 20 minutes for the bike, and 70 minutes for the 10K. That adds up to exactly three hours, so allowing for transitions of 5 minutes each I was hoping to make that goal without too much difficulty. I managed to exceed my expectations and finish at 10:27, for a total time of 2 hours and 51 minutes (!) I even managed to win my age class, 55-59.

On the top step of the podium for my age class.  I missed the first call so the other guys had already left.  Photo by Epic Sports Marketing

On the top step of the podium for my age class. I missed the first call so the other guys had already left. Photo by Epic Sports Marketing

February 2013
In February I entered the Xtreme Half Marathon at Orlando Wetlands Park, put on by Epic Sports Marketing (who does a great job at events by the way.) It is a trail run, but not anything horrible. It’s mostly a hard packed dirt road with some sandy spots. The scenery is beautiful, as the course takes you around two lakes. I managed to go 7 1/2 miles before I had to stop running. I couldn’t hold it any longer and ran in to a porta potty :) After that things got difficult. About mile 9 my feet started hurting really badly. I was wearing some new sneakers that I thought were broken in. Was I wrong. Turned out they were way too small and tight for me. After mile 11 it hurt to walk on them. Still, being stubborn, I walked/ran the last two miles and even managed to run as I crossed the finish line, ending with a time of 2 hrs 52 minutes. Hardly a blazing speed. There are some advantages to being OLD however, as I finished third in my age class! A podium.

The pain in my feet was excruciating, and then I recalled, that I still had to walk nearly a mile to my car, parked out in a field to the south. It was definitely the worst part of the whole day. The pain lasted for a few days as well. I hurt in places I had never hurt before …

Barely moving at the finish of my first half marathon

Barely moving at the finish of my first half marathon

January 2013
In January I entered my first cyclocross race in Clermont. Now I do not have a “cross” bike, so I just brought a mountain bike. They were more than happy to let me compete. They even let me enter a mountain bike division. Cyclocross is more controlled than mountain biking, where the course is clearly defined and set up before hand. Using police tape and fencing, a course is designed around a small area, which is great for spectators. It was possible to see the entire course from several, comfortable vantage points in Clermont, for example. I can see this becoming quite a popular spectator sport. Obstacles are put in by hand, or used naturally. In this course there was a railroad tie that went across two sections of the course, and there was also a very steep, sandy hill that could not be ridden up. Riders had to dismount and either push or carry their bikes up the hill. I chose the push method as my mountain bike was pretty heavy. I didn’t finish anywhere noticeably in the standings but I had a blast. The people were great, the other riders very friendly and helpful and the course was just challenging enough to make it very interesting. Here are some photos from the event, courtesy of Stuart Beal and Leslee Mitchell:

Dismounting to push my bike over the railroad tie. (Stuart Beal)

Dismounting to push my bike over the railroad tie. (Stuart Beal)

Climbing up the slippery sand hill, which was not ride-able.  (Leslee Mitchell).

Climbing up the slippery sand hill, which was not ride-able. (Leslee Mitchell).

Descending the other side of that hill.  I had never gone down anything that steep before (Stuart Beal)

Descending the other side of that hill. I had never gone down anything that steep before (Stuart Beal)


Horrible Hundred 2012

Horrible-Hundred-2012-logoLast year, my goal at the Horrible Hundred was to finish. I didn’t quite achieve that goal. I made it to Sugarloaf Mountain and found myself walking up the infamous hill. At the top I found a shortcut back home and ended up with 95 miles.

This year, after a successful Six Gap under my belt, I was not really worried about finishing. I’ve done a lot of training since then. Taught a beginner cycling course that helped many people complete a century ride or two. Helped my wife in the Florida Freewheelers “couch to century” program. Between the two groups, we helped nearly 50 people achieve that goal.

I decided I not only wanted to finish, but also to set a time record, and beat a few choice riders to the finish line. In particular, one of my “students”, Linda Babadelis, was starting to tear up the roads in her new Cervelo S5 with fancy carbon wheels. I was determined not to let her beat me.

Linda and her new S5

Linda and her new S5

So my goals were as follows:

  • Finish in under 7 hours (total time)
  • Only stop at 2 SAGs (Support and Gear rest stops)
  • and above all, beat Linda!

It was cloudy, windy and chilly in Clermont on this fine November 18th, so I put on arm warmers and pulled up my socks all the way.

My plan was to park at the First Green Bank in Clermont (because they let me charge my Volt), ride down to the lakefront, and start the ride. When I got there I realized I had left my brand new Garmin Edge 500 GPS and my GoPro at home. I made a quick text to my wife Kathleen, who was volunteering at SAG 2, and we made arrangements to meet before the start.

Kathleen and I met up on Third Street, which is about 200 yards in to the ride. After retrieving my Garmin and GoPro I decided to start from there. Patrick Welch was with me, but he said he didn’t expect to keep up so just go on without him. That was a great relief, as I wanted to be free to go as fast (or as slow) as I wanted.

So we heard the announcer counting it down and for some reason we waited till he said “Go” – I don’t know why. It just made the leaders catch us sooner. I tried to stay with a few of them but they were moving pretty fast and weaving in and out like crazy people.

I was passed by Ted Hollander and someone I thought looked familiar. Later I realized it was Bob “Bobke” Roll from NBC Sports Network, former Tour de France sprinter.

Staying with the front pack helped though, as when I got to North Ridge there were no walkers. Walkers had been a traffic impediment the year before. I was able to go up North Ridge without too much effort, although my heart rate did approach max at the top.

This is a video by a couple on a tandem, who go by the handle pedalist53 on Youtube. I appear around 3:28 and stay with them until the bottom of North Ridge, at which point the lighter, single bike climbs away.

I skipped SAG 1, as both bottles were still pretty full and I wanted to keep on pace. The Wall was next, and the video below shows how much nicer it is to be near the front, as everyone keeps moving pretty well. Forgive the music, but this song got us warmed up for many a century this year.

After The Wall we headed down 561, over Scrub Jay and on to Cherry Lake. I caught up to Andrew Petty just turning on to the road before SAG 2, about mile 30. His freewheel hub had broken and he was done for the day. I stopped to hold the video-phone for him to prove he was broken. I felt really bad for him and he obviously felt bad himself. He finished The Horrible Thirty.

I did my planned stop at SAG #2 to say hi to my wife, as she was volunteering, and I just had to see the Elmo Pajamas in action. Video below:

Heading in to the Mascotte area I figured it would be a good idea to find some friends to draft with over the large, flat part of the course, and especially the return trip on Hwy 19 which would be right in to the north wind. I found two guys going roughly my speed, Greg and Kendall, from South Orlando. I stayed with them for quite a while. Probably a mistake. Kendall was a strong rider but Greg would fade on us and we had to wait for him several times.

Somewhere on the road in to Mascotte the unthinkable happened, Linda passed me. I was stunned. I thought I had been moving along pretty good. She and her husband Peter sailed right by, asking that I turn on the video camera. I didn’t have time to fire it up, so I missed them.

I tried pushing Greg and Kendall in to moving faster. Kendall was up for it but Greg was struggling. They insisted on stopping at SAG 3, which didn’t fit in to my plans at all. I stayed at the entrance to the SAG waiting for them to finish up.

Had a chance to speak to Linda and Jim Perry, who I caught up with at the SAG, see video below:

We did get out of the SAG before Linda but Greg was really holding us up. We would frequently hear “Greg is off” and we would slow up and wait for him. I was torn, because I didn’t want to leave the guy alone on his first organized century.

Unfortunately the unthinkable happened again. There she went, right on by.

I stayed with Greg and Kendall until SAG 4. I told them that very soon, I would be leaving them to go catch Linda.

I was worried I left it too late. Just before Buck Hill I began my push. I went up those hills, and Sugarloaf relatively smoothly but I still saw no sign of the white Cervelo ahead. Coming down Old 50 towards town, I saw a rider stuck at the side of the road with a flat. Turned out to be Michael Overman, and I helped him with my trusty pump, and got him on his way. Funny that he was left alone, as last I knew he was riding with Peter and Linda. Hmmmmm. I’m sure she knew I was trying to catch her.

I arrived at the lakefront at 2:55pm, making it exactly 6:55 for my ride, so I beat the seven hour goal. Unfortunately Linda was already there, finishing in 6:39. My Garmin shows me taking 11 minutes to help Michael. Not enough to make the difference so I can’t blame it on being a Good Samaritan. She beat me fair and square. I never did see Greg or Kendall again. I hope they finished without mishap.

At the finish of the Horrible Hundred 2012

Just finished the HH in 6:55, a new record. Unfortunately Linda did 6:39

It was a bittersweet finish, since I only accomplished one goal out of three but I have my goal for next year …


business trends


business trendsPart of success is preparing for changes in the business environment.

It’s important to pay close attention to trends. What kind of trends? Some are obvious: Tax laws, government changes, current events, technology advances and media swings are all important, to name but a few.

First, a warning to business owners: Trends can be overrated and greatly misinterpreted. Use these at your own risk. “The management can neither confirm nor deny the validity of the points in this article.”

Here are some of the trends observed lately:

Big Government is In, Private Industry is Out
One needs only to look at the results of the last election to see this. Government spending is at an all time high and shows no sign of reduction, as the “entitlement generation” is coming of age. They are used to things being handed to them and want that to continue. However, with all trends there is also a reaction, which leads us to the next one …

Small Business is In, Big Business is Out
This perception is not a reality, of course. Big Business has too many weapons to be eliminated, but the “trend” is to buy from small businesses. The recent success of Small Business Saturday shows the effect of that campaign. A related trend is …

Buy Local
Even though internet sales are higher than ever, this “mantra” is being repeated over and over. Conscientious buyers are checking local stores first, or even shopping from the local website. Again, the big chains are not in any serious danger from this, as they will break up in to smaller, local operations. This will happen more and more in the near future.

Social Media is In, Talking Heads are Out
More and more people are getting their information from social media, and then only going to networks to get more information. This leads us to the next one …

Facebook is In, LinkedIn is now LinkedOUT
One at the top of the businessman’s social media, LinkedIn has plummeted in popularity while Facebook is growing faster and faster. LinkedIn has attempted (and failed) to make their interface look more like Facebook but they have missed the key points that make Facebook more popular, which is the viewer control of unwanted content and contact. Facebook users can block ads, spammers and marketers to the extent they desire. Indeed, LinkedIn has turned in to a “Lead Generation” device, which is backfiring, as those people who are successful resent the intrusion of being considered a “Lead”

Twitter is Entertaining, but still generally useless for serious business
The appeal of the one-way distribution of information is irresistible to celebrities, sports figures and entertainers, but is still generally useless to the average Joe, except as a way to follow such people’s activities. Even though they have a “Trending” function, the number of people that really know how to use it is still regrettably small.

Image Management is In, Customer Service is Out
Sad but true, marketing experts have realized that the level of customer service matters very little compared to the perception of that service. So expect to see more “green” marketing campaigns but less actual effort towards pleasing customers.

Your author hopes to continue this series. In thirty days he will review the trends predicted and see how they look. Until then …

Six Gap Century Ride 2012

Before I tell you about Six Gap this year, let me share some history. Last fall, September 2011, at the last minute, Kathleen and I decided to head up to Dahlonega, GA for an event known as “Six Gap / Three Gap”. The official name of the event is the “Six Gap Century and Three Gap Fifty Ride”. Here is some info from their website:

“Coming on September 30,2012 and taking place in Georgia’s Premier Cycling Venue, the Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty boasts many of the same roads and mountain climbs as the elite Tour de Georgia. Come ride the Ride of the Pros! The Six Gap Century’s ultra challenging route takes you up and down six of the steepest climbs in the North Georgia Mountains. Test your stamina with more than 11,200 feet of vertical climbing over the 104 mile course. Elevations for the six gaps in this ride range from 1,400 feet to 3,460 feet. The toughest climb, Hogpen Gap, will test even the strongest riders, averaging a 7% grade for seven miles, with sections as steep as 15%.”

It was my first organized bicycle-only event. My previous experience was triathlons and relay races in the 80s and 90s. I attempted the Three Gap Fifty ride (which came out to be 60 miles, oddly) and although the hills were challenging it was a beautiful ride and definitely a memorable experience.

That was fine, but I still had the challenge of doing the “whole schmear”. So all this year I have been training to attempt the century. 104 miles of up and down Georgia mountains, that include the legendary Hogpen Gap, known as one of the hardest climbs this side of the Mississippi.

I had been stressing about it since mid August. What kind of training should I do? Does it help to go ride around the relatively small hills of Clermont? Should I just do interval training? I consulted many experienced riders and other “experts” and decided on a regimen of at least one hard century ride to establish the distance and speed, and a anaerobic spin class 2 or 3 times a week.

I did the End of Summer Watermelon Century Ride in Ponte Vedra in a record time of 6 hrs 18 mins for 102 miles. Kathleen and I started doing spin class Mon, Wed and Fri at a local gym. We had two rooms reserved, expecting four of us to go up there and ride. Strange, that a week before heading up to Georgia, it was only me.

I reached out to my friends at the Eastside Cycling Club. Welcome to join us at the ride John, but our travel plans are already made. A last minute attempt was made to fit me in to one car and have my bike go up a day earlier, but wisely we all decided not to complicate the logistics, since I was staying at a different hotel.

I couldn’t sleep at all Friday night. Finally at 3 am I gave up, got up and started the final packing procedures of my car. By 4 am I was on the road, stressed, nervous, short on sleep and not at my best. It took me 11 1/2 hours to get to Dawsonville, which included several attempts to plug the Volt in along the way, just to get some extra electric miles. I had trained myself not to use gas, and this was just adding more stress.

Chevy Volt plugged in to an outlet at a gas station

The BP at Lake Park, GA was gracious and offered me a 110v outlet while I ate breakfast. Unfortunately the power was not very consistent (spiky) and it kept resetting my charger. Gained all of 2 miles from this effort.

Eventually, when I reached the Best Western (who graciously allowed me to use a shielded, outdoor outlet to charge my car) I was able to relax – a little bit. A quick dash up to Dahlonega to pick up my packet, look around at the Crit race and back to the room. I took a two hour nap which helped a great deal. The ESCC guys texted and said to meet them at Johnny’s Pizza for the traditional, pre-century pasta carb fest. A nice dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and it was off to the hotel room. Not right to bed, no, had to get everything “ready” – had to pin the number on the jersey, had to put out my water bottles and the prepared mix for them, had to lay out the cycling outfit that would have to keep me warm for the first hour of 50 degree weather and NOT overheat me in the hot afternoon.

The next morning at 4:40 am the alarm woke me and I got prepared. There was very little breakfast ready but I did manage to wolf down some oatmeal, Froot Loops and a cup of tea. I sneaked a waffle in as the batter was brought out just before it was time to go.

photo by Linda Babadelis

Got to Lumpkin County HS at 6:15 am and was lucky enough to get a pretty good parking spot. Right across the lane from the ESCC guys in fact. The next hour was spent unloading the bike, going to the bathroom, pumping up tires, going to the bathroom, eating a food bar and one more trip to the bathroom just in case. Still had to stop by the side of the road before my first stop. Guess I was nervous (but I was also well hydrated.)

Me and 2800 other maniacs about to tackle one of the hardest rides known

Six Gap is not a race but there are some timed segments, and some time requirements. In order to be allowed to do the full course, one has to reach the top of Jack’s Gap by 11 am. It is the second climb and is about 40 miles out. This was one of the things I worried about all year. I knew that I first had to traverse Stone Pile Gap and the cross country path to Turner’s Crossing, and then climb and descend Neel’s Gap. I was worried a little about Neel’s. It was not a steep climb, but very long, almost nine miles from Turner’s Crossing (the first rest stop) to the top.

Somewhere in the first few miles my bike developed an annoying click. Like all things that aren’t going perfectly, it worried me. It definitely affected me the rest of the ride. I resolved to try and ignore it, and carry on. Yeah that didn’t happen. (Note: it was weeks later we discovered at the LBS that it was grit stuck in my seat post. ARRGGGGHHHH!)

I passed Turner’s at 8:43, two minutes ahead of my planned schedule. Surprisingly, Neel’s turned out to be much easier than last year. I was at the top at 9:33. I didn’t get off the bike, but I briefly stopped to switch my water bottles.

I headed down the descent, shown in the video below. Although nervous the whole way, I really enjoyed it. It was probably the most fun I’ve had on a bike in quite a while. Next year, I plan to attack this descent a little more.

The descent was also much longer this year, because unbeknownst to me, the Three Gap turn is not at the bottom as I thought, but about 3 miles from the bottom. Since I was NOT turning this year I got to enjoy a nice long descent. On the negative side, I think this long, cooling descent contributed to a bad cramp in my left leg hamstring. I never did get rid of that for the rest of the ride. Tip: Keep your legs moving in long descents.

We turned on to Jack’s Gap and it was steeper than I expected, at least in the beginning. I had been led to believe it was no harder than Neel’s. It was. I was barely cranking out 5 mph up the beginning, and the leg cramp wasn’t helping. I made it to the top at 10:15 though, plenty of time to spare. I even pulled to a stop and let one of the SAG helpers fill my water bottle. Another SAG helper handed me half a banana as I rode by. Still no complete SAG stop for me yet, as my plan was to rest up on Unicoi – the last stop before the dreaded Hogpen.

I knew I was running low on memory (and battery) in the Go Pro so I took no video of the Jack’s descent or the Unicoi climb. Unicoi was also harder than I expected. It was very much like Neel’s but shorter with steeper parts. It was also much prettier than Jack’s, which had been open, rural farm-type country. Unicoi was more “mountainous” and “woodsy” in nature.

At the top of Unicoi I saw Greg Wiedl from the Eastside club. We exchanged notes as I took my first break, and I stretched it out a bit, trying to get rid of the leg cramp (which didn’t happen of course). As I was waiting, Jason Ingalls came in and kindly took this photo of me.

Extended rest at the top of Unicoi. Greg Wiedle was leaving as I came in, and Jason Ingalls came in right behind me.

The descent down Unicoi was very pretty and pleasant. The middle part went alongside a mountain stream which looked very cool and inviting! I wish I had memory left in the camera to take a shot of it, but you’ll just have to do the ride and see for yourself.

About mile 50 I started thinking (who am I kidding, I’d been thinking about it for months) about the 7.1 mile, 2000′ climb I had coming up. The Hogpen. Legendary killer of cyclists. Well amateur cyclists anyway. I’m sure the Tour boys would not consider it much but with several long sections of steep grade, including a two mile stretch with a 12 degree average ascent, it was no joke.

“You’ve been training for this all year” I told myself. “This is IT. Are you going to let a little leg cramp stop you?” As we passed through the USA Pro Challenge KOM starting line at mile 56, I was a little surprised. “I thought this climb started at mile 60?” I said to many riders around me. I heard some answers but none that were intelligible. The pain had begun.

Well it was all that was advertised. It was steep, it was a crappy road, filled with vehicle traffic and the pain was extensive. The long, 2 mile section was every bit as bad as expected. My original plan was to pedal all the way to the top, and skip the mid point SAG, but I just couldn’t do it. Once I stopped there, I stopped three more times before the top. I never walked, but I stopped to let my heart rate sink down from max. The leg cramp and the sore right back hip bone were not helping at all. Here is a long and painful video of that climb. The camera doesn’t really show how steep it was. Notice the loud, 80’s disco music at the top!

The descent was terrible. TERRIBLE. If I do this next year, I am considering taking the shuttle down. It is SO steep and SO winding that I nearly wore out my rear brake. Finally, I used both brakes on a straight section to stop and let my rear wheel cool off before it burned through the tire. I suppose I could have let it build up more speed but there were cars everywhere, a lot of other riders and the road was not smooth at all. This video below is of the second part of the descent, not quite as steep, after I let the rear wheel cool off. At first it was too hot to touch.

Once at the bottom, we had to wait to turn on to highway 19, as four ambulances turned by us, to go back up Hogpen. We didn’t know it at the time but found out later that someone had a heart attack at the top(!) Last we heard he was OK and recovering well.

At the Vogel Park SAG stop I finally found a mechanic who had some chain lube, and tried to get rid of the annoying clicking in my chain. It disappeared for a while so that was a relief. I turned on to Wolfpen and started the 3.1 mile, 2000′ or so climb. I expected it to be hard, being at mile 75 and all. It was not that hard at all. I kept it going all the way up and was surprised to see the top so quickly. The timer shows me doing it in 33 minutes, as compared to 45 minutes last year.

Took a bit of a rest at the top to eat some food, fill water bottles and to thank all the volunteers for giving up their Sunday for us.

Shannon, a very pretty and nice young lady volunteering for the day, offered to take my picture at the top of Wolfpen

… and here is the picture she took. Thank you Shannon! Thank you to ALL the volunteers who gave up their Sunday for us.

I expected the section between Wolfpen and Woody Gap to be pretty easy, as there are no long climbs in that part and it was easy last year. However, it is important to remember that a section of road last year at mile 40 is not the same as this year at mile 80. It was draining. I wanted the climbs to be over. I felt that I had accomplished all the important climbs and now just wanted to get HOME. The crowd was thinning out too, as for most of the segment I was alone.

All I can say about the last 20 miles is that I hated every one of them. Several times I said to myself and the occasional rider I caught up with – “Next year I think I’ll just tear up the $45 and kick myself in the nuts 100 times instead.”

Resisting the urge to flag down a SAG vehicle every time they rode by, I made it past Woody Gap, did the long descent that followed, went through the three rapid and sharp 180 degree turns in the R Ranch, and conquered the numerous “rollers” on the way in to Dahlonega, and finished at 5:03 pm. I crossed the starting line right about 7:37 pm that morning so that puts me at 9 hours and 26 minutes. Far from record pace but at the end I can say this:

I completed Six Gap

John Tenney on his mountain bike in a time trial

The Positive Power of Exercise

John Tenney on his mountain bike in a time trialToday’s ride was not starting out well. At 4pm I laid down for a much needed nap, having a headache, shaking a bit and other symptoms which I can only describe as “flu-like” – you all know that feverish feeling.

At 5pm, not really having slept at all I got up and gradually began to “assemble my cycling ensemble.” Yes it’s an ensemble. What with the special reinforced shorts, cycling jersey, special socks, shoes, gloves, helmet and of course the all important digital watch with heart rate on it, yes it is quite a preparation.

Left the house at 5:25 armed with some special concoction in my “Clean Bottle” designed to replenish lost energy and reduce lactic acid build up in the legs, which I got from Nutrishop Orlando in Waterford Commons. Also had a second bottle of good old filtered water from the fridge.

I felt awful as I started pedaling down the street. Felt slightly better as I turned on to Waterford Chase Parkway. Started feeling pretty good on Avalon Park Blvd, and whaddya know, actually starting doing 20+ mph as I came in to Avalon trying to beat an approaching rain shower to the YMCA.

The next couple of hours were great. I rode a total of 39 miles, all in about 2 hrs 21 minutes. I pushed it through our time trial route and beat my best time by almost a minute. Here’s a SportyPal profile of the ride.

Had to rush home because I was running out of daylight, and gave the wife a bit of a scare because I apparently couldn’t hear the phone ringing in the back pocket of the jersey I was wearing.

Had a nice dinner and drank four full bottles of water! The flu symptoms are gone, and I feel great :) There is healing power in going out and putting your body in motion.

Feeling lousy? Try a little exercise :)

Luck does not exist

“You’re So Lucky”

Luck does not exist“You’re So Lucky”

Do you hear this when people see something that is part of your life, or someone’s life, that they wish was part of theirs? It’s a common expression but think about it, by saying that to someone what are you saying? I suppose on the surface it says “I wish I had your lifestyle.” Let’s dig deeper though, what does it really say? Perhaps the intent of saying “You are lucky” could be translated as “I made just as good life choices as you but somehow you got a better outcome.” Is that closer to the truth?

I have now been alive 54 years. I can’t say I ever saw anyone that was truly “Lucky”. It’s been said that “Luck is when preparation and opportunity come together.”

I’ve definitely seen people who were more prepared when opportunity came along. I’ve also seen people recover from situations you would call “bad luck.”

May I share a personal example? On September 10, 2011 I was a Boeing 737 First Officer for Midway Airlines. On September 12th, we all received emails telling us that the airline was shutting down, “good luck.”

“Fortunately” (“Lucky for me!”) I had a second job. I was working part time as a consultant for a local charter company. I went to work there full time. Now really, was this luck? Or was this being prepared?

Obviously, no one could be prepared for the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. The nation was in deep shock. I never expected the charter job to become full time.

Continuing on with this story, it quickly became apparent that the charter job was a dead end. The future I desired was not going to come from there. At first, I tried to change it. I made several attempts to grow the company, many of them successful, but it was privately held, and I knew the owners would never really share the equity I was creating with me to the extent I wanted.

This was made glaringly apparent when I solicited, researched, arranged and closed a large charter deal that netted the company $30,000. I asked for a $5,000 commission. The answer I got was a shocked expression and an exclaimed “Five Thousand? Are you crazy? We can’t pay you that much. We can give you Five Hundred maybe …”

I started to chalk it off to “bad luck” but stopped myself. I learned the lesson. I needed to change my outlook if I wanted to change my life.

That was also the sign that I needed to build my own business, and take control of my own financial future. I began to form the Tenney’s Rules of Financial Security. The rules grow as life goes on but here are the Thirteen Rules About Luck.

Rule 1: Good Luck is When Preparation and Opportunity Meet
From this point on I was determined to be prepared.

Rule 2: If You Want To Change Your Life, You Have To Change Your Life
or “if you want to change some things in your life you need to change some things in your life.” Another corollary: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” The gist of this rule is there are risks to be taken, and changes to be made to achieve better results.

Rule 3: Nobody Else Will Look Out For You As Well As You Do
Translation: If you aren’t in control of the money, you won’t get it. Sadly I had to have two incidents like the one above to make this point. This also leads to the next rule:

Rule 4: If You Don’t Control It, Then You Don’t Really Own It
That’s important. I remember being told as a multi-level distributor that I “owned my own business.” I can see the fallacy in this now. I had only one supplier, inflexible pricing and no options. In short, I was on my own with no control over what I could sell or how much to sell it for. I had “rules” to follow which basically prevented me from getting any position or advantage over any other distributor. There was no compelling reason to do business with me. This, among many others, is a reason I do not like multi-level businesses.

Another thing people think they “own” but they really don’t: real property. If you think you own your home now that you’ve paid your mortgage think again. Just try missing your property taxes for a few months and you will find out who really owns your home. This was another good lesson that led to the next rule:

Rule 5: Equity In A Home Is Mostly Worthless
The mortgage bankers are now screaming “heresy! blasphemy!” but this is true. Unless you have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that is unilaterally irrevocable equity in your home is not going to help you at all when you really need it. Think about it. You get disabled, lose your job but you have all this “equity” in your home. Just take out a loan and live on that until things improve right? Hmmm, nice plan but I never met a banker who would lend you money unless you really didn’t need it. Even on equity loans they want to see income, and income that is capable of repaying the loan in a timely fashion. So don’t count on home equity as a “security blanket” – it isn’t!

Rule 6: There Are Friends In Business, But Only So Far …
I have done my best to surround myself with people I like and trust in business, but I always remember that even friendship will wither when times get hard. This is not cynical, it’s just fact. When it comes down to a person feeding their family, friendships have to take second place. So the next few rules apply to this rule.

Rule 7: Get It In Writing, Signed, Dated and Maybe Even Notarized
I had a lawyer tell me once that his primary source of income was other people’s failure to prepare written documents. While he enjoyed working for people who got everything in writing, he had to admit that the lion’s share of his fees were from resolving disputes between people that did not have written agreements or contracts. It may seem silly at the time but 10 years from now that contract is going to mean everything to you. Get it in writing.

Rule 8: To Keep Your Friends in Business, Give Them Something to Lose
Keep it equitable. If your friends are gaining as much from you financially as you are from them, the friendship will not be as strained when times get tough.

Rule 9: Always Get an IOU for Everything You Do
This is actually a rule by David Sandler, but I’ve said it enough that it’s been adopted in to the Tenney Rule Book. I’ve taken expressions such as “don’t worry about it” or “no big deal” out of my vocabulary. Instead I say things like “I’m sure if situations were reversed you would do the same for me” or similarly if I know them well “you owe me one.” People keep score. You know they do. All we are doing is helping them remember the score. Conversely, if someone does something above and beyond for me I remember it.

Rule 10: Become a “Trusted Adviser”
This is also from David Sandler. A trusted adviser is someone who would never knowingly give you bad information or attempt to mislead you. This also involves being an expert at something. I’m not suggesting you give away “free consulting” but if it is in your best interest to advise something, then do it well and with their future in mind.

Rule 11: Your Time is Your Most Valuable Asset
You can always make more money. It is impossible to make more time. Use your time wisely and use it the way you decide. Once I learned to stop letting other people control my time, my lifestyle became much better.

Rule 12: You Can’t Enjoy Life Without Good Health
The most important thing you can control, other than your time, is your health. You can’t be a good steward of your life if you are sick or unhealthy. You will also enjoy your life much more if you are in good shape. There is nothing more important than this, nothing! You may think spouse, family and things like that come before health but they don’t. Believe me, your spouse, family and friends would rather have you healthy and taking care of yourself than otherwise.

Rule 13: There Is No Such Thing As Luck
There really isn’t a rule 13 but I couldn’t have a story about luck without the number 13 in it could I?

That’s enough for now. There are other rules, corollaries, guidelines and watch words that are important but this is a good start. Someday I will publish the complete Tenney Rulebook, but until then I plan to enjoy my time, my success and my lifestyle.

I guess I’m just lucky :)