The Last Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time you’ll do something.

For instance, the Bolder Boulder Memorial Day 10K Run is something I’ve done for 21 years, and the last 10 of them have been with my son, Cole. Sometimes we run together, sometimes he runs with his mom, but each year after we’re done we have some time together at Folsom Field. Here’s a photo from 2019:

In 2020, the Bolder Boulder didn’t happen due to the pandemic, and instead they offered a Virtual Bolder Boulder. I was into it and had some fun with that.

This year, in 2021, Covid-19 has again impacted the Bolder Boulder but instead of a virtual event, this year’s course has been divvied up to choose from 1 of 6 routes each in a different town, and time slots are spread out over 3 days. I signed up to run one of the courses on Sunday morning and keep up my streak of participating in every Bolder Boulder since I moved to Colorado in 1999.

But I will not be meeting up with Cole at Folsom Field afterward. I’ll run solo this year and he’ll maybe come support, but he’s not planning to run, and there will be no post-run celebration in the stadium. He’s leaving for college this fall, so that photo above was likely the last time we’ll be at Folsom Field together, after having done so for 10 years. There was no way to know, in 2019, that was it.

On one hand it feels sad, like something lost. And it is emotional, to be sure. During my training run this morning, I felt pangs of loss deep in my chest as these thoughts came and went.

On the other hand, tonight Cole and Quinn and I cleaned up after dinner and instead of retreating to their computer games or digital drawings they both wanted to watch a movie. We made popcorn and lounged on the couch as we have dozens and dozens of times over the years.

There was no other place on Earth I would rather have been tonight, than laughing out loud with my kids over a Netflix movie (The Mitchells vs. The Machines, three big thumbs up!) not knowing if this might be the last time we would ever do this together. And savoring every moment of it.

Make a Little Light

Been a while since my last post. But my commitment to this blog is about attempting to capture the experiences as I move through this life. Mostly for my future self to be able to look back. (If others reading this blog derive some benefit, that’s cool too.) And these experiences only captured if I actually write.

The trick is putting all the emotions in order and making sense out of them through words. For example, today I’m sitting home alone, because there was a possible exposure to the coronavirus in my germ bubble, and I don’t want to meet anyone else until a negative test confirms there is no risk of that. I’m listening to a Spotify playlist that my son shared with me. Missing him and his sister and their youthful, playful energy that must be restrained in these complicated days of Covid-19.

Cold temperatures outside, fire in the wood stove inside. And a wild flurry of emotions have rampaged across my mind and heart all morning.

Thoughts of work and the extraordinary growth we’re going through — and all the challenges that come with that territory.

Thoughts of my son who is writing college essays and building a self-portrait that will be foundational as he figures out his own life. And wondering what are the best ways to me to support his growth and coming-of-age.

Existential thoughts of who I am and how I fit into this complex world – big with 7 billion people yet small in a universal context. If my life force is snuffed out, a few people around me are affected but the world keeps moving. While I am alive, a few people around me are impacted but the world keeps moving. What, then, can or should I do to improve the world? Do I even have a responsibility to improve things?

I believe the answer is yes. My duty is to make a little light, right here where I am, in any way that I can. I’ll do my part, you do yours, and the interconnected web of our positive pushes will make a difference against. But we have to be very intentional about it.

At the workplace, I influence the people who work with me. And they influence the colleagues, customers, partners who interact with our company.

At home, my kids will absorb every remark and every moment I spend with them. I can build them up or tear them down, and they will bring their experience of me into their future networks of relationships.

There is a lot of darkness out there. Incredibly difficult circumstances, injustices, crises of giant proportions, and people carrying deep pain.

I’ll combat that today by making a little bit of light, here in my world, right where I am.

Virtual Bolder Boulder

Happy Memorial Day! The unofficial start of summer feels very different this year, but we should still celebrate and acknowledge our American heroes who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. And this year, let’s also remember our present-day heroes, from those stationed far away to the ones in the hospitals and also at the corner grocery.

Under non-COVID circumstances I would be running the Bolder Boulder 10k road race with my kids today. In lieu of touring Boulder’s streets in close proximity with 50,000 of our closest friends, the Bolder Boulder organizers are encouraging a Virtual Bolder Boulder – one in which we all do our runs separately.

In my house we took this idea one step further and created a scavenger hunt to amp things up a bit. We created a loop that is 2.07 miles and starts and finishes at the same location at a local park. Three loops is 6.2 miles – the 10k!

Just follow the chalk arrows. For the scavenger hunt there are 6 baggies tucked away along the course. Each baggie contains a hand stamp to prove you found it.

You know you’re near a hand stamp if you see a number like this on the ground. Wherever there’s a number, there a hand stamp hiding nearby.

It’s a gorgeous day for running!

Limited Resources

Here’s a map of the world my kids gave me for my birthday. We are using stickies to mark all the places in the world we’d like to visit. Mine are pink, Cole’s are green, and Quinn’s are blue.

Now here’s what my life looks like plotted out by weeks. Each column is a week. It’s easy to see how finite my life is. If I assume a 90-year life span, I’m just over halfway through. There are a lot of “white” weeks ahead of me, but also a lot of “gray” boxes that are behind me. What will I do with the time ahead (especially knowing 90 weeks is just a guess, no one knows their expiration date).


Such limited resources (financial and time) for all the places I’d like to see! It makes no sense to keep putting things off. Now is the time to act. It’s also the reason to eat healthy and exercise every day — so I can keep mobile and continue to pursue my dreams.

Hidden Gems

I’ve been running the trails of Boulder’s mountain parks for over 20 years. This week I was looking at a trail map and noticed a small loop that I’ve never been on before. I decided to check it out.

I parked my bike at the trailhead, strapped on my hydration belt and started off. About 2 miles in I found the trail turnoff (unmarked) and followed it steeply uphill. I was already riding the excitement of exploring something new when I passed another smaller trail shooting off on its own. It looked legitimate, but it was not on any maps. Should I go explore this unnamed trail or be satisfied with the pleasure of what I’d already found?

After a moment’s debate I took the unnamed trail, not knowing if it would dead-end or take me very far out of my way. It led to a beautiful hidden overlook and then a gigantic boulder in the forest. The trail never petered out and eventually I found myself connecting back to the well-known trail system. The detour added about 3/4 mile and the new trails formed a perfect loop back to the trailhead. Awesome!

Some of my favorite experiences are discovering new places, those hidden gems, and it’s all the more exciting when they have been hiding nearby all along. I suspect there are hidden gems everywhere if we’re open to looking for them.

Story Skills Workshop

I recently completed a 6-week virtual story skills workshop from the Akimbo team. It was an excellent, if demanding, experience. I signed up because I wanted to tell better stories in my work life. Along the way I discovered I also wanted to see if I could learn to write better song lyrics. I had the opportunity to learn and practice proven techniques for creating stories that matter. I received a lot of helpful feedback and gave feedback to others who were working at their own skills. Perhaps the most fun was getting exposure to so many examples of excellent stories that are out in the world. What I learned is this: any of us can become good storytellers. Even me. I don’t think it is a natural state for me, but with practice I can get better.

The most unexpected take-away came near the end of the workshop. We were asked to watch a TED talk from someone named Matthew Dicks; his talk is called Homework for Life. It’s an entertaining talk and worth watching. His “homework” for writing great stories is to take 5 minutes at the end of every day and write down the most memorable or impactful moment of the day. He made a habit of this for years, and before long he had an endless stockpile of ideas for stories, because he realized most great stories are built around small yet poignant moments.

What I loved best about the TED talk is his habit had the unexpected side effect of slowing down life. Taking those 5 minutes to remember some moment each day (usually they were good moments, sometimes they were not) created space to appreciate and relish what was happening in life, rather than just passing through. Another unexpected benefit is the act of recording an event from today tends to trigger memories of other episodes from our life, so we get to reconnect with moments we might otherwise have forgotten or lost track of.

I’ve tried doing this myself – taking five minutes at bedtime to write down a moment from the day. So far my track record isn’t great but I do have about 4-5 ideas captured on paper. I’ll keep going and see what happens.

People Over Things

I’m going to link this blog post from Vitaliy Katsenelson. The gist is ‘what would you do if you knew you had 6 months to live’. He shares some great insights – ones I hope to act on even today with my kids.

In the post he cites the story below, which is what I really want to share even if you don’t click over to Mr. Katsenelson’s blog. It’s the first-person story of Randy Pausch, a 46-year-old (same age as me) professor who has only six months to live – he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Here is an excerpt:

Once, about a dozen years ago, when Chris was seven years old and Laura was nine, I picked them up in my brand-new Volkswagen Cabrio convertible. “Be careful in Uncle Randy’s new car,” my sister told them. “Wipe your feet before you get in it. Don’t mess anything up. Don’t get it dirty.” I listened to her, and thought, as only a bachelor uncle can: “That’s just the sort of admonition that sets kids up for failure. Of course they’d eventually get my car dirty. Kids can’t help it.” So I made things easy. While my sister was outlining the rules, I slowly and deliberately opened a can of soda, turned it over, and poured it on the cloth seats in the back of the convertible. My message: People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing.

I’ve been thinking recently how easy it is to be selfish and material, especially in America. I’m watching out for my own well-being, helping my kids through school and hopefully to college and off on the right foot in life, planning for my retirement, outlining travel trips I want. I contrast this with friends who are constantly reaching out to me and others, checking in, asking to make plans, willing to set aside their own needs, actively seeking ways to bring comfort to others. They embody the social support that makes us feel connected and loved.

Then there’s the video made by my daughter’s middle-school teachers, each self-isolating at home, and one of them edited a series of 30-second clips of each teacher recording themselves saying hello to their students. So evident how much these people love their kids! They exemplify prioritizing people over things.

So, too, do the brave health care workers who are out on the front lines taking care of sick patients, like my friend Brian who is a hospital physician in Philadelphia. People are more important even than personal safety.

Today’s daily blog post from Seth Godin challenges us to consider what our principles really are. “What makes it a principle is that we do it now, even though (especially though) it’s hard.” If my principles value people over things, what am I going to do today, even if it’s hard even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, to live that?

Home Workout

We are all adapting to our new circumstances of being home a lot more. I like exercising, so I’m very grateful neither the state of Colorado nor the city of Boulder have closed the outdoors. Bike rides, trail running, hiking are all still available. Still, there are indoor days when I prefer an old-fashioned workout with weights. I’m no body-builder; I prefer many reps with lighter weights and getting my heart rate up. For this kind of exercise I historically went to a gym. I have limited equipment at home, so I’ve been adapting with a make-shift solution.

First, a pair of home-made dumbbells that my father and his colleague welded over 25 years ago while I was in college. I think it’s 1/4″ scrap metal welded into hollow box shapes connected with 1″ steel dowel. Back in college, I used those hollow weights for a time, then after a while I filled the hollow boxes with concrete. Yep, concrete and steel (happy materials for a structural engineer). The dumbbells got rusty over the years, so last weekend I cleaned them down with steel wool and repainted them. (Mark McIntyre is a friend of mine who ran for Boulder City Council last year – here I’m recycling his yard sign for painting.)

I also have a pair of 10lb steel hand weights that I inherited long ago. I can use one weight, or grip both at the same time for a 20-lb dumbbell. Those steel+concrete dumbbells weigh in at 31.5-lbs so I have options for 10-lbs, 20-lbs, and 30-lbs. (I do wish I had a 40-lb option, so if anyone can think of a safe way to lash the 10-lb and 30-lb weights together, I’m all ears.)

For a bench, I’ve gone super-high-tech with a 2×10 plank and two 4×4 blocks. I have no idea why I had these scraps of wood sitting in the garage – I didn’t even need to use a saw to cut lengths, the perfect lengths and sizes were sitting there. I can use these in two positions, horizontal bench press and inclined press. A pair of my son’s old pajama pants makes a perfect headrest.


I’ve found I can get a complete upper body workout with this set-up. If you’re interested in my regimen, I’ve written that up below. I’m curious about what creative ways are you adapting at home?

Johnny’s at-home work out. This usually takes me about 30 minutes.

Part I: Warm-up
I do 4 sets of 5 movements (cardio, lunge, chest, abs, and squat). Each movement is 30 seconds for a total 10 minute warm-up.
Set 1 Cardio: Jumping Jacks
Lunge: Moving Ski Hops
Chest: Moving Push-ups
Abs: Bicycle Sit-ups
Squat: Squat with Jabs

Set 2 Cardio: Mountain Climbers
Lunge: Moving Squats
Chest: Plank Abs Jumps
Abs: Pile Drivers Left
Squat: Squat with Uppercuts

Set 3 Cardio: Mummy Kicks
Lunge: Belt Kicks
Chest: Plank Abs Side Jumps Left and Right
Abs: Pile Drivers Right
Squat: Squat with Attack Jabs

Set 4 Cardio: Jumping Jacks
Chest: Low plank hold
Abs: Russian Twists
Squat: Wall squat hold for 1 minute

Part II: Weights
I do three sets of 6 movements.
Set 1 Flat Bench Convention Press
Bicep Curl
Inclined Press
Overhead Tricep Press
Flat Bench Inner Chest Press
Traps and Deltoid Front and Side Shoulder Extensions

Set 2 Flat Bench Convention Press
Hammer Curl
Inclined Press
Tricep Push-ups
Flat Bench Inner Chest Press
Inclined row

Set 3 Flat Bench Convention Press
Seated bicep curl
Inclined Press
Tricep kick-backs
Flat Bench Inner Chest Press
Shoulder lifts

Part III: Walking Lunges
I picked this up from a P-90X video in their workout for building core strength. 24 reps, 12 left and 12 right. I use the 10-lbs weight and they get very heavy by the end. This one really gets my heart pumping!
It’s an 8-part movement, each movement slow and steady and controlled.
1. Lunge – and at the same time curl both biceps bringing the weights near your chest. The next 7 movements, continue holding that deep lunge in the lower body while moving the weights with the upper body.
2. Kick it back – a tricep kickback with both arms.
3. Sit up tall – as you do, the weights naturally come down by your side.
4. Curl – a straight bicep curl.
5. Press – a shoulder press, push the weights to the sky.
6. Put ’em back – bring the weights back down by your shoulders.
7. Release – bring the weights down by your side.
8. Stand up tall.
Repeat those 8 movements! I usually end up walking all around my house.

It’s a surprisingly good workout, with lots of different things going on so I don’t get bored. It also gets my heart rate up without getting exhausted.

Taking Action

I used to think, if I wanted to start something new, that I need a “big idea” to make it worthwhile and increase the chances that it will be successful. Most of us will not conceive a lottery-winning “big idea”. And even if we did, there’s really no increased chance of success just because of that. The idea still needs to be implemented and that could mean talking to people, getting funding, building skills, i.e. doing stuff.

It seems that taking action is the difference, even with small ideas. Everyone can come up with many small ideas. I may not be clear what the total future potential of the idea is, but I can take action on it now, see where it goes, and then evolve. Success is a process.

Will It Matter

Wintery weather this week and I fired up the wood stove in the family room. I remember when that stove first got installed many years ago, I think there was some issue with the product being back-ordered, and then maybe the installation crew wasn’t available or they were missing some parts, then I think there were delays with the inspection. The waiting was so frustrating, and I walked around feeling surly and snappish. Now I can’t even remember what the fuss was about! What a waste of energy that was.

Now when dealing with a frustrating situation I try to recall that perspective: “Will it matter a year from now if this happens today or tomorrow or next week?” If it won’t matter (and most of the time it doesn’t), then relax. Spend that valuable energy on things that matter.

I find the same is true with when dealing with a decisions: “Will this matter a year from now?” If the answer is no (which tends to be most of the time), make the best decision I can and move on. If the answer is yes, then it makes sense to invest more time and resources and then make my best decision.

Vision Zero

I want to give a shout out to the SUV driver who was making a left turn into a side street this morning. I was coming up the hill on my bike and we would have been in conflict as I entered the intersection, but he held the traffic behind him and waved me through.

#VisionZero is everyone’s responsibility. We clearly have shortcomings and there is a lot of work to do here to keep everyone safe, especially our most vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bikes, wheelchairs, etc). I am heartened to know we do have some people in cars who are watching out for all road users.