THE YEAR WAS 2010
From the outside looking in everything about my life seemed pretty darn perfect. I had settled into a new career as a certified public accountant and was working for one of the largest professional services firms in the world. I was married, had recently purchased a house in a prominent neighborhood, had an adorable dog and a bustling social life. All of that was a facade. The truth was I was doing a job I did not enjoy, had an unsubstantial marriage that at times felt like awful roommates, and was engaged in social activities that left me unfulfilled and revolved around alcohol. I was not living a healthy lifestyle, and my bucket was empty and nothing seemed to help.
As my marriage finally started to fall apart, I needed some way to cope. My neighbor was a runner and I had enjoyed running as a teenager, so I decided to give it a shot. In the beginning, I would run anywhere from 1-3 miles, but it was hit or miss if I enjoyed them.
2011 saw the loss of my home and my job. Looking back on it I was somewhat of a rudderless ship being buffeted by the wind, but amidst all the chaos, running was my constant. It became my Zen and where I felt grounded and powerful. This was when I developed a real passion for the sport. After completing my first 5K, I was hooked on training, racing, and pushing myself. I did my first half marathon in December 2011 and had started training for my first full marathon: the 2012 Dallas marathon.
THE DAY THAT CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER
In August 2012, all of my plans were interrupted. On a fairly routine Monday afternoon I was attempting a repair on my car at a buddy’s house while he and another friend tinkered with their radio-controlled helicopter. The helicopter became lodged in a nearby tree and I volunteered to climb up the tree to retrieve it. Unfortunately I could not reach it because it was too far up so they handed me an aluminum pole to help me retrieve it. The pole was just long enough to barely reach the high voltage power lines above me. While I was aware of their presence, in all of our minds they were a very remote if not impossible threat.
At some point my foot slipped and I started to lose my balance 25 feet above the ground. The power lines were located parallel to the branch, but falling was still my primary concern. As I let go of the pole to try to keep myself in the tree, my body and momentum were heading towards the ground while the pole and my right hand went over my head, making connection with the power lines running above me.
I was immediately electrocuted and shot out of the tree, landing face down and lifeless. Mud clogged my mouth, blood gushed from my nose and face and smoke was rising from my body’s exit points. I smelled like burning flesh. My friends did CPR but could not get a rhythm and the EMTs arriving on the scene took over until they finally had to use the defibrillator. Once I arrived at Parkland Hospital I quickly went from bad to worse as I started to convulse and blood began seeping from my nose and mouth. The doctors told my loved ones to say their goodbyes because the chances of my survival were slim. As my friends and family waited with the hospital chaplain, a team of surgeons administered twenty-two units of blood and repaired my lacerated liver and abdominal wall strong enough to keep me alive. By the time I woke up thirteen days later, the damage was severe. I had been electrocuted, had scarring on my heart, a lacerated liver, multiple fractures to the face and frontal sinuses, multiple fractures to the ribs, fractures in several cervical and lumbar vertebrae, bruised pancreas and spleen, pulmonary embolism, and deep electrical burns requiring excision. I underwent four procedures in three weeks and in less than a month I checked out of the hospital and went home to begin the recovery process.
Instead of training as I had planned, I spent the latter part of 2012 healing. The notion of recovering enough to return to running was questionable at best. Running dominated my thoughts and physical therapy sessions. Setting and achieving the seemingly now unreachable goal of completing a full marathon was the motivation behind my will to recovery.
I had many conversations with my doctors, mostly about how they could not believe how quickly I turned a corner and started to heal and hit every positive milestone. They were prepared for months of recovery and instead it took weeks. They also expected significant and long-term cognitive deficits, but I passed every test with flying colors. It is important to note that recovery was full of hard moments, doubts, dark thoughts, and even bouts of wanting to give up. It would be disingenuous to represent my mental and emotional state as anything more than fragile during this time, and I am not trivializing the severity of the accident or the recovery process. But the one constant in these discussions with my doctors was that my physical conditioning from running and marathon training was a significant factor in my survival and speedy recovery.
After the overwhelming emotions that came with the revelation that “running saved my life,” I became a certified running coach and a Cooper Institute certified personal trainer, making a commitment to my new life of running, fitness, and endurance sports.
When something this physically devastating hits you, returning to work is out of the question until physical and mental health are re-established. By the time I woke up from the accident my total net worth was $71. That is literally all I had to work with, $71 and a pile of debt. It is really difficult to start plotting a course out of those dire straits and without the proper attitude it would have been very easy for me to give up, but once again running came through and saved me. My local running clubs came together to host a fundraiser that supported me and another runner who was dying of cancer. All of the proceeds benefited us, and it was a huge honor and a major factor in my mental and financial recovery.
MY SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE
I ran my first 5K after the accident on January 5, 2013, ran two half marathons that year, and completed my first full marathon in December 2013. After accomplishing my goal of completing a full marathon, I launched my own coaching practice, coached a charity marathon program, ran multiple half and full marathons, two 50Ks and in 2014 ran a sprint triathlon.
In addition to advancing my career as a consultant, speaker, and coach, future endurance event endeavors include longer triathlons and ultra-marathons, with my ultimate goal of completing a storied 100 miler, like the Western States Endurance Run. I am intrigued by the ultra distance and am a sucker for quotes and etymology. One of my favorites is about passion.
“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”
—Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
The reason why ultramarathons are my highest goal is because at some point over the course of 100 or 200 miles, it becomes about who has the higher threshold for pain, discomfort, mental exhaustion, etc. — essentially, who can suffer the best, or who is most passionate. It is not about absolute strength or endurance — those are prerequisites.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
I love my local Dallas running community and am a member of the White Rock Running Co-op and the Dallas Running Club (DRC). I really enjoy the camaraderie of pace groups on long training runs and one of my absolute favorite aspects of running
is to help others with pacing. I have paced countless people to distance PRs, race PRs, first times, and the like – but keeping people motivated and on pace is only part of my job as a pacer – I also remind people to smile and have fun!
I currently live in Dallas near White Rock Lake with my girlfriend and our goldendoodle, Birdie. I look forward to what the future holds and know that running will always be a part of who I am.
Running has helped me through the hardest moments of my life both pre and post accident, ostensibly helped me cling to life and recover from devastating injuries, and helped me get back on track, physically, emotionally, and financially. One of my mentors always says “running is a gift,” and my situation was no exception. Running is cemented in my life and is as important as the air I breathe and the water I drink.
I am not trying to motivate you to buy “my program” or adopt my list of life principles to be tacked up in your cubicle to repeat to yourself like a half-hearted mantra every day. I am really interested in giving people just enough of a different perspective that each person gets exactly what they need by coming to listen to me speak. I cannot tell you how to fix or live your life – it’s YOURS! You have to be happy and satisfied with it. My goal is to help you start the conversation so you too can pursue your passion.
Drawing on my experiences from the accident and recovery, running, training, coaching, racing, and life, I deliver a conversational talk around a variety of topics and themes that fit your organization’s specific needs.
My running career does not have anything illustrious to put in a display case; I am a solid, slow, middle of the packer. I have never won “my age group” at any distance and my strategy to Boston Qualify is to stay the same speed and just get old without slowing down.
However, the fact that I probably should have been relegated to walking 5Ks after my accident and have come back from a debilitating injury to run my favorite distances for surprisingly average times for my age group, I consider that a win. Every single time I lace up for a race and run across the finish line, I win.
My 2015 race goals were to personal record or PR at a 50K distance (which I achieved by 66 minutes,) and to PR at a marathon distance, which is scheduled to take place at the Dallas Marathon on December 13, 2015. My 2016 plans include a debut at the 50M distance and an Olympic triathlon.
I am currently a pacer for Beast Pacing, responsible for pacing duties at local and regional races and I coach and train other runners and have a variety of plans and programs. For more details on my running coaching rates and plans, visit the coaching page.
It is my personal mission to help others live a more authentic, happier life through fitness, prioritization, and goal-setting, but also to simply offer a friendly, helping hand to those in need.
My accident left me with feelings of helplessness and the lack of a socioeconomic safety net. Literally, one of the first three questions out of my mouth upon waking from a medically induced coma was, “How much do I have left?” $71 in the bank and a mountain of debt. That’s where I started rebuilding my life in 2012. Without my accident I do not think I would have ever realized exactly how lucky I am to have things like a job, a place of my own to eat, sleep, and relax, and the gift of having supportive friends and family.
I am committed to donating 10% of my total revenue, NOT PROFIT, to local charities aimed at giving freely and without “moral” stipulations, to people and families in need.
Giving to others of time, talent, and resources is something I have always taken as a personal responsibility and priority, even when I have not had much in the way of financial means. If you are interested in giving back to the community or are part of a local non-profit whose mission helps people and families in need, please contact me so we can connect and together we can make a difference.