Friday, June 18, 2010

Make a Difference in Others

After working as an independent business owner and then consultant for the first eight years after college, I waddled into Village CycleSport at 232 lbs. A shadow of my former athletic self. A large shadow. I'm either all in or all out and the people I'm around make all the difference.

In college we did yardage and lifting that would stagger people - my college coach was an alcoholic, abusive and master of over training. Imagine getting up at 4am daily in college and having someone call you an "asshole" or (my favorite) a "fucking retard" because you missed an interval by 0.8 seconds. That's the kind of coaches we had back then. Everyone on our team had chairs thrown at them (while we were in the pool) and then were called "shit heads" because "You made me throw that chair at you." Yeah, that's healthy. Makes you want to go right out and work hard for a coach. My favorite part about being cursed at in the morning was the whiskey on my coaches breath combined with the salami he used to try and cover it up. That same coach broke a water polo flag on my leg when I came out of the water because a good pass I made missed the shooter - he was being fouled at the time - and because I didn't "anticipate the foul" it was my fault. Another cherished moment from college, being called a "pussy" because I could only do seven reps of xxx pounds on the leg press at 145 lbs of my body weight. In February, when you are swimming 100,000+ yards a week, lifting three times a week, working a part time job and going to school with 16 hours... you may be tired. I remember being a walking zombie because of fatigue from October through March. So tired I could feel the pulse in my shoulder. Wah - I know. I got a "free" college education. Didn't feel free in any way, shape or form.

Every Big 8 Conference swimming meet or NCAA Water Polo Tournament we were told, "This is where you gain or lose your scholarship." Swimming for dollars is what we called it. Perform well or beyond expectations - more money. Below - you might be on the street with no scholarship. Now that I think about it... that doesn't sound so bad. I could have transferred to a better college coach. I wanted to quit the team (a first for me ever) after my junior year. It wasn't fun. What was funny (now) is when I considered it a scene from a movie popped into my head. Faris Buehler's Day Off - Faris says, "If I'm gonna get busted, it's not gonna be from a guy like that." (Referring to the principal "Ed Rooney".) I thought about quitting and then said, "If I'm going to have to quit sports, it isn't going to be because of a guy like that." The rest of my college swimming experience was much better as I became a lot closer with our Brazilian Specialty Coach (Specialty is swimming talk for specific strokes. Coach Cesar worked with the IMers, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly specialists). I'm friends with Cesar to this day. Cez WAS easy to talk to and a very good coach. He was the glue that kept us going. I didn't care what my head coach said as long as Cesar was happy with my effort.

In the summer, thankfully, I swam for a great coach. The opposite of my university coach. Regardless of your actual talent he supported you. He wanted you to go as fast as YOU COULD. YOU determine your own limits. This is probably why I enjoyed the summer so much. It was about what was possible versus the doom and gloom of an NCAA season (or two seasons really) - we were never "off" in college.

After college, I bumped into several people who made a difference in my life and how I view the world, athletics and me. Gen. Colin Powell, John Wooden, Tony Robbins and Lou Holtz specifically. I learned decades in the moments I was with these people and in the subsequent reading I did after meeting these folks. (*When I owned an insurance and financial planning practice we often had speakers come in to motivate the sales force. I saw a lot of rah-rah speeches in my time as well as a lot "hog wash".)

At Village, when I made the decision to go into training again I met a guy named Tony who (instead of laughing at me as he probably should have) invited me on a ride. A 30 mile bike ride. When we finished - I was really tired, but it was fun. All the guys and gals were encouraging me to show up on other nights. So I did. Mark Rouse from Runner's High ('n Tri - now) gave me AMAZING advice and recon on Kona when I went in 2000. That cannot be replaced. The key... Mark and Tony helped me with no expectation of any return for themselves. They are lifelong friends who I will always be in debt to.

Fast forward 13 years, 5x Ironman, 2x Triathlon World Championships (Kona and Clearwater) as well as 11 marathons. My coaching has affected about 45 people who have affected others. I've had five folks go to Kona and three go to Boston. One even won a USAT National championship and another a NORBA championship - they'll tell you it was luck. Collegiate championships as well as "cat'n up" for the cycling teams I coached for nothing. Two pro triathletes who pissed off some of the "old pros" by coming out of nowhere to challenge for primes. My spin class participants lost tons of weight in contests I derived and when I go to those gyms I still get asked, "Are you teaching here now? When?!" I've applied but have been told by management at both gym that they are "full" for teachers. So, I decided to coach more - more personally.

What is cool about being a coach is seeing a difference I make in others. Brad started from this:

To this:

Melissa, from being afraid of the water here...

To swimming daily in a pool, swimming 20,000 in a week and doing open water swimming here!

In summary, what is interesting about the blogosphere is that there are many positive and negative people. I've lived through a lot of negative. I choose to be positive. I won't know how many people I will ultimately affect, but I'll tell you that whatever the coaching fee is I would do this for free (if it weren't for things like liability insurance, CPR classes, CEU, etc.) Triathlon and multisport events are too young for people to get snooty. Help each other. Help me too! I'm in this too! I love working out with a group!

Make a (positive) difference in others. It feels so good and the return is far beyond your wildest dreams.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why You Don't Need to Train on the Course Every Week

I got a lot of interesting feedback from people about a statement I made about not training on the Madison, Wisconsin Ironman course. Most of it was very defensive or aggressive. One was just respectfully disagreeing. Here's my opinion about "training on the course".

Amateur Athletes:
As an amateur athlete, you have many responsibilities that out weigh your training; job, children, family, and financial. I appreciate that many athletes are willing to give up all of this for a crack at the Ironman dream, but before you answer, think about the consequences of your actions. One of the biggest complaints from athletes is the "loss of balance" in their lives.

My solution for you is to plan a family weekend up in Madison (or any other Ironman course). Find the hotel that is close to the race site. The best ice cream in town for the kids. The vegan restaurant that everyone loves. Whatever "floats your boat" - find it ahead of time. Bring part of your entourage and scope it out while you get one or two weekends of training in. When training, start early so you aren't missing the entire day with your group. Go once or twice.

When you are training for an Ironman understand that NOTHING at an Ironman happens quickly. Ironman is all about not slowing down versus going fast. Most amateur athletes (and some pros) don't have enough base training or time on their feet. This is because we have to work for a living or to make ends meet. While many athletes go up to Madison and endlessly ride the "Verona loop", they do so in vain because they haven't been out there on race day when things are a bit different. What is missing from the amateur athlete?

Aerobic conditioning.

Shocking, I know. What will fail you on race day is your overall endurance. Then you will go too hard. Then your stomach will shut down. Then you do the Ironman shuffle. It wasn't how many grams of sodium you got or didn't get, too much power (especially in Madison on the first loop of the bike ride - listening 30 something males?) It wasn't how you "took" the big hills.

It was fatigue - pure and simple.

My question to you, wouldn't your time be better served riding a long route from home? Think about it. What's so great about home?

1) You know the route and traffic patterns - no stopping to look at queue sheets or waiting for something going on you didn't know about. (More consistent riding with no stops.) You know the weather locally. You can control your workout sessions much more closely.

2) Upon your return, better recovery. Recover and RE-LOAD for tomorrow's session. I cannot emphasize this enough. The amateur athlete does not recover well as a group. I've seen it repeatedly.

3) You have a life. The mental aspect of racing is often left on the computer when people sign up. As a marshal, I see this EVERY DAY I work a race. Really intelligent people forgetting everything from leaving their racing flats on as they try to put on their wetsuit to leaving their swim goggles on for the bike leg, to grabbing someone else's shoes in T2. Lest we not forget, seeing our spouse, kids, dog, cat...etc. Mental health is an aspect of this too. Karen Smyers, Lothar and Nicole Leder and other pros have children and they actually get to see them.

How well do you think you'll race if you are burned out from training versus someone who is mentally fresh? You are both excited to race and fit. I'll take the mentally fresh person and spot you a touchdown or two in terms of minutes.

4) The towns. Think about the places you visit as an athlete. Now, imagine that your town is somewhere athletes go to train on the course. Imagine that every time you went to the store on EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK from June to the end of August (THREE MONTHS) that there are cyclists slowing you down. People urinating on your lawn. PowerGel wrappers in your mailbox and empty PERFORM bottles and bike bottles in every drainage ditch all summer. They come from Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Des Moines, and other places across the US. Week after week, the roads look the same. Athletes flipping you the bird as you try to pick up groceries. How happy will you be to approve the race coming back?

"But Bob, we bring millions of dollars to the city/town." Great. Have you ever said, "It's not worth it" about anything in your life? In 2005 at Ironman Wisconsin, I had golf balls miss my head by a few inches on race day while I descended a large hill - TWICE (so it was more than one person hitting golf balls.) The second one missed me by inches and I still remember hearing a ball approach and watching it rotate as it sizzled past my head - missing by about 4". I'm sure that person doesn't give a rip about "millions of dollars" coming to town.

I leave you with this. If I told you two scenarios for training. Which would you take?

Scenario A: You train on the course. Get up close and personal with every turtle in the lake, rock on the bike route and hill on the run. You spend a lot of money. You are tired from driving back and forth on weekends. You have several locals get really mad at you. You don't see your kids, a movie or friends and you still finish between 11 hours and 17 hours.


Scenario B: You train at home except for one or two weekends. You still train a bit on the course. You get LONG sessions and RECOVER completely at home with more sleep and familiar bed and food. You can recognize your kids, family, spouse, dog and may take in an occasional movie. You finish Ironman between 11 and 17 hours.

Which would you choose?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Effects of (Becoming) a Champion

The triathlon blog takes a backseat to the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks today. What part did I have in winning it? Nothing. Did I enjoy it? You bet. I won't give you my "hockey resume" of how many games I've seen, etc. Who cares?

To understand the Chicago Blackhawks' journey to winning a Stanley Cup, you have to understand some human psychology and THAT relates back to triathlon.

Since I was a kid, hockey was NOT on TV in Chicago. Radio only. The old owner, "Dollar" Bill Wirtz was once quoted as saying, "If games are on TV people won't come to the stadium and drink my liquor." The Wirtz family owns one of the largest liquor distributors in the United States. Hockey was near death in Chicago. When Mr. Bill Wirtz passed away, his son Rocky took over the franchise. He made instant changes: ALL Hawks games were on TV, WGN and it's 50,000 watts (38 states and Canada) became the radio home, they invited once wronged Hawk veterans to return and heal old wounds. "We aren't in the grudge business" he said. The emotional baggage surrounding the team was cut loose. It felt like the Blackhawks were a NEW team. The air was clear. The wheels were now fully in motion.

The ATTITUDE had changed.

When I said I wouldn't tell you my hockey resume - I partially lied. I was at the December game, just after Christmas, where the Blackhawks worked hard to overcome a three goal deficit and win a regular season game. The crowd kept encouraging the Hawks in spite of bad breaks. The crowd could have boo'd, but instead every person kept yelling to "KEEP TRYING! WE CAN WIN THIS!" After the game and win, the players came to center ice and raised their sticks in salute to the fans. A tradition that continues today. Toews, Kane and other players pointed into the stands and acknowledged the encouragement. A cool moment. They had started to believe they could do it.

Often we need to believe or have someone else believe in us and SHOW US we can be great.

The attitude of people around the team went from bitter and mean to encouragement and "One Goal", the team's theme for the last few years. The goal - win it all. Imagine what YOU could do if you believed in ONE GOAL?

So, is it worth it? How about the plane being greeted by a champion salute by the fire department at 4am? Buildings changing their lighting?

Partying with your friends and mates who believed in each other to accomplish great things well into the NEXT DAY!

It CAN be done! You don't have to be a pro to do it. You can do great things like losing some weight, helping a neighbor, combat a disease, qualify for Ironman, win your age group or "just" finish.

For me personally, this spring represents my second spring as a RIF'd employee. A very hard stretch mentally. What did I do? Earn ratings of 5:5 and "A+" from the President of the companies I worked for. Being new leadership to these two companies, I was released from employment as seniority was the only rationale for cutting employees in down economic times. Fair? No, but taking a quote from Rocky Wirtz, I'm not in the grudge business (either). My coaching and project/program management skills are on par with the best in my industry. Do I know everything? Of course not. Nobody does. In project management, I have done amazing things in multiple countries and languages. Do I know everything? Of course not. Am I the most knowledgeable multisport coach on Earth? No, But one thing for sure, I'm pretty damn good. Did the Blackhawks "give" me confidence? No, but I see a parallel in our life experiences. They did help me see that.

The guys winning the championship for the city doesn't change a lot for the unemployed or those struggling with many issues. It didn't stop the BP oil "leak" in the Gulf or even slow it. The really big problems still exist. Somewhere, somehow, I hope that a struggling person or persons start to believe in themselves too. Great things can happen when you do.

The air is clear. The wheels were now fully in motion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cycling - How Do I Become Better?

"Don't buy upgrades, ride up grades." - Eddy "The Cannibal" Merckx, World's Greatest Cyclist

It doesn't take too long to get exited and anxious riding a bike. After riding for a few weeks or months; one day you say, "Wow, I really enjoy riding and I'm starting to get faster."

Some of my Ironman Wisconsin athletes were elaborating on their grand plan to "ride the course" every week. Just imagine if everyone went to Madison every weekend? Oh, wait... people already do that. Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis, Des Moines, St. Louis, Cincinnati - they come from all over to "ride the course". More on that topic tomorrow.

It is often said in cycling and triathlon circles that beginning riders best way to improve is to "ride a lot". To a certain degree, that is true. There's nothing like a little more saddle time for increasing your capacity for riding. In June before my first Ironman in October, I asked then Naperville resident Mark Bush for advice on training for Kona. His response was quite simply, "Put a trainer in your bedroom. Ride until you collapse from fatigue. Eat something. Then do another hour or so." Especially for Ironman, that is true. Your run fitness reflects your bike AND swim fitness. A lot of coaches blow off the swim fitness part because they see people collapsing on the run. I would argue that they collapse there because of the previous events.

So beyond simply "MORE!" how does an athlete improve? Simply put, a structured training plan which develops weaknesses and maintains our strengths. Some folks call problems issues or weaknesses limiters; which they are. Whatever the key word selected as athletes we have to consistently work on everything to emerge better and faster.

So what do I work on? What are the categories? I consider the following and how is something a weakness?
  1. endurance (aerobic conditioning): Do you finish long rides easily or struggle?
  2. speed: Do you struggle with high cadence? Is your pedal action smooth or are you a masher?
  3. force: Do you struggle with short climbs? What is your power to weight ratio?
  4. muscular endurance: Can you ride for extended periods at high effort?
  5. anaerobic endurance: Do you struggle when a group you ride with surges?
  6. power: Do you consider yourself a sprinter? Are you last to the "town line"?
*Training and Racing with a Power Meter - Allen and Coggan, pg: 61-71

Here is where I start to part with "conventional" coaching. I agree with some things:

A) UP the frequency first: if you ride 3x a week add another day, then another; BEFORE you add time or intensity.

B) Off the bike cross-training: Simply put - lift weights. I HIGHLY recommend working with a trainer. This winter I worked with a CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist). My squat was significantly harder with 2% of the weight. However, my feet were in different places and even after only 15 repetitions my legs were feeling it. We RARELY needed weights. Everything involved balance. I know... shocker.

C) Hill Repeats - don't go below 60 rpms. Use a hill that has super low traffic. I'm fortunate enough to have several fairly deserted hills of considerable length within 3 miles of my house. If you are "stuck" in a city or limited on time due to family responsibilities; you can always create a hill. I use 4 - 4x4s and a piece of plywood about 4" high and a CompuTrainer. Don't have a CompuTrainer? Use a standard magnetic trainer and do some accelerations with your front wheel on the 4x4. ALWAYS recover after the effort by spinning easily down the hill and then go again. For ANY Ironman race, I go to Bull Valley here in IL. So a long ride would be from Barrington, IL around Lake Geneva, WI and back with several repeats in Bull Valley around mile 90+.

Trust me... you don't need to "ride the course" in Madison. I can kick your ass right here and save you four hours of driving and a hotel stay.

Other measures...
Power Meters - yeah, I have one. I can get you a discount on any one you want. I am an SRM preferred dealer. Do they help? Sure. Does understanding your power on a training ride make it more valuable? Potentially, if used correctly. I encourage folks to watch both heart rate AND power. BOTH matter to a certain extent. BOTH are irrelevant at certain times.

You need to be able to USE the data and have someone understand WHAT they are doing during a workout. This is very difficult for many people. The Thursday night ride (for example) is a balls out flurry of testosterone. At what point does the workout "cross over" into time wasting? For example the group I rode with, I let everyone go in front of me. I built into each interval. 150 watts, 200 watts, 250, 300, 380. No drafting. Heart rate hitting scary numbers. 110% of maximum heart rate (MHR) according to my last treadmill stress test at the hospital. So much for heart rate being the end all be all.

Power? It's a number. Relative to HR data over the course of the ride - THAT is the key. I was looking for a hard interval session. Hard means really hard. Lungs on fire. I'm shaking and close to blacking out hard. Muscular cramping and quaking after six repeats hard.

Don't have a power meter? Say it ain't so? You can use other things like your GPS or a speedometer and heart rate monitor to measure the effort. Now... it won't be wattage, but you'll know how hard you are working.

Long ride wattage versus heart rate - so, you're training for an Ironman. Its 78 F and coach says hold 200 watts for the long ride. Your heart rate is SOARING (95% effort) and your average watts are down around 175. You finish the ride. Was this a good training session? I would argue not. Though the wattage wasn't too bad, your heart rate was scary high. In an Ironman, NOTHING is fast. It is all about endurance and NOT SLOWING DOWN. A more productive session would have been to back the heart rate down a little and see what your wattage did.

In my opinion it isn't WATTS or HEART RATE. Its both. Most people have a PowerTap, SRM and heart rate monitor and have no idea how to use them. ESPECIALLY for an Ironman.

How do you maximize your fitness, time, wallet and enjoyment?
  • Patience grasshopper - "we are what we repeatedly do"
  • Get an outside observer of your workout performance
  • Ramp up SLOWLY
  • Listen to your body
  • Stick with it
  • Don't you ever quit, ever

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Coaches Teach: The Three Greatest Coaches of All Time: Wooden, Holtz, Richardson (Ed)

I've had the pleasure of meeting, speaking with and working with some of the greatest coaches and teachers. Coaches need to be great teachers. Not only teaching a sport, but teaching life and mentality.

My three favorite are John Wooden (basketball), Lou Holtz (football) and Ed Richardson (swimming).

I met Coach Wooden when he was a speaker at an industry conference when I was a lot younger. True to some of my brushes with greatness, it was in the men's toilet where Coach was giving the keynote speech. While washing our hands I spoke to the older man at the sink next to me and said hello. We talked briefly about sport and at the time, I was rediscovering my athletic ability (which is really just showing up and trying everyday). Coach Wooden appreciated what I said in our conversation. He smiled wryly. He looked at me and said, "All I ever asked of some of the best players I ever had was to try hard every day. Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. Good luck to you son." I shook his hand and thanked him for our brief conversation. I was literally shaking with excitement. As he left he said, "One more thing. You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will NEVER be able to repay you." Hence the name "Kokua" to my coaching business. Kokua in Hawaiian means, "extending help, sacrificial help, to other for their benefit or consideration".

When I got certified by USAT, an "experienced" coach from Minnesota questioned some of the knowledge from Coach Wooden that was being discussed after Bobby McGee spoke of "1%-ers"; the 1% of athletes who EXCEED their ability and preparation in the biggest competitions. Coach Wooden said to his athletes, "Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you SHOULD have accomplished with your ability." John had very good teams at UCLA. The reason they did so well is they PLAYED to their ability and greater. When his teams began to "thin out" toward the end of his career, his teams won games where the scoreboard said they lost and lost games when the board said they won. I use this in my coaching. I want my athletes to compete at their ability and fitness (or greater).

Two years ago, I had a female athlete "lose" a sprint to the finish line. She PR'd for the distance and EVERY split - swim, bike and run. She was really down after the race. I was very happy. She didn't understand why. I explained her performance on a hot, sticky day and when she thought about it for a minute or two her face lifted and her posture changed. Same athlete a year later, TORCHED the race she was in. Course record and won by a couple of "touchdowns". She smiled across the line, but when she came to see me she said her race was, "Disappointing". I asked her why. She then told me that her power numbers, heart rate and all factors were NOT where her training indicated she should be. It was an "average" day. We talked about being happy for the win and the record and filed away her disappointment in her performance to use another day during the hard training days ahead.

Currently, Coach Wooden is in a Los Angeles hospital. At age 99, I can't help but hope for easy passage to whatever God has planned for him here or elsewhere.

Coach Lou Holtz literally ran into me in airport. Nobody's fault and nobody hurt. "Are you OK?" he asked me. (Lou is a small guy.) I smiled and said, "I should be asking you that." We shared a laugh. "True! True!" I wished him luck and we went in our own directions.

Later that year I got a tape of him speaking at the Million Dollar Round Table. A life insurance industry conference for top sales folks. His title was "Love, Trust and Commitment". The speech was about connecting to people on the most basic level; as a coach or sales person, the only way you'll get results is by proving you love the other person, they trust you and you are BOTH committed to each other and the results you strive for. In that speech he has a really funny quote which I've heard repeated many times since. When asked about Notre Dame's very tough football schedule Lou said, "I sleep like a baby. I wake up every two hours and cry."

He also talked about "luck". When answering questions about his championship team, a reporter said, "Isn't your team lucky?" Lou bristled at the thought. He responded with, "These young men are lucky. They were lucky in July running extra sprints on an empty field on a 95 degree day. Spending time watching film after studying for exams when they could have been with their friends or girlfriends. They were lucky they worked so hard when none of you were around." Exceptional response!

The last name many of you outside of Illinois may not recognize. Ed Richardson, retires this year as the Palatine High School swimming coach and science teacher. I am a HUGE fan of Ed as he is of all of his swimmers who worked so hard for him over they years. Last fall, people LITERALLY flew across the country to attend a surprise "retirement" party for Ed which was well put together by his wife Joyce. When have you EVER had 30+ years of swimmers in ONE ROOM coming back to visit their coach? Ed greeted everyone of us with a bear hug and a smile. Ed taught us what Coach Wooden and Coach Holtz taught their players. He demanded attention to detail, promptness and teamwork. Regardless of your ability - give Ed your best and he will treat you like the team superstar. Don't "put out" and find yourself watching. The year we won the first IL Senior State Swimming Championship - Ed and the team voted to kick THREE individual event state champions OFF the team. The parents and boosters FREAKED OUT. The athletes stood with our coach. The team rules apply to everyone regardless of ability.

My only regret is that I only got to swim with Ed for five years. Three in college and two as an Ironman athlete. What other Ironman athletes swam for Ed? Oh, just Lars Jorgensen... Ironman Hawaii swim course record holder in 46:41 - a record still standing from the 1998 - WITHOUT a speed suit.

I'd swim through broken glass for Ed. He's that kind of coach. Something you should all know about Ed is he would wear shorts and a polo or jacket and was on deck every second of every workout. Rain? Ed stood there with a stop watch and a golf umbrella. If we were "out in it" he was with us.

Coaches have a great opportunity to teach athletes much more than an athletic skill; we can teach athletes to exceed their wildest dreams about their results. One of the reasons I left a "successful" coach (who may be an "official" coach of something or another) - is because when I said I believe I have the ability to compete at an elite level if I trained appropriately he laughed. How's that for earning love, trust and commitment? Anyone with some basic training can build you a program to get you fit to race. A coach will help you EXCEED those possibilities that even you may doubt.

Dream big. Dream fast. Be great.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sometimes its Easy to be an American

It's easy to be an American on national holidays. Show up to a parade. Put a flag up on the outside of the house. Did you know that there is only ONE company in the USA that makes flags here? The rest are made overseas. Pay for the Made in the USA brand folks.

Other times it isn't, voting - every time - not just on the "big elections". Buying an "I support our troops" yellow magnet (made in China) at the local Wal-Mart.

Some of us support the troops by sending things; weeks turn into months that turn into years. In 2004, I was nominated for the US Department of Defense Citizenship Award. The highest honor bestowed on a civilian by the USA. What did I do that was so "outstanding"?

Sadly, I just organized a group of people locally to start sending care packages to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not super human. Not even three hours of work per month. An award? REALLY?! Thankfully, the award went to someone who really deserved it. They make our efforts look like patty cake.

Yes, "unemployed", I am still sending things out to the troops. Wanna help? Send this to the USO or email me and I'll give you a unit overseas you can send it to.

Freedom isn't free.

Thank you to everyone who helps the troops complete their service with a little more comfort. Thank you to the troops for all you do or have done.

Care Package Items:
  • single serving cereal boxes
  • granola & cereal bars
  • pop tarts
  • instant coffee & coffee mixes
  • small powdered creamer & sugar packets
  • tea bags
  • hot chocolate packets
  • rice krispie treats
  • individual fruit cups & cans
  • raisins & dried fruit
  • individually wrapped snack cakes
  • cookies
  • cheese crackers
  • individual serving packets of powdered drinks (no liquids), Gatorade, MotorTabs, Country Time Lemonade, iced tea, Kool-Aid
  • easy Mac & cheese
  • canned soups & stews
  • canned chili - I like Hormel. It is great cold.
  • instant cup of noodles
  • instant cup of soup
  • canned turkey or chicken
  • tuna fish packets & individual serving tuna salad kits
  • pudding cups
  • individually wrapped sugar packets
  • chips, pretzels, popped popcorn, shoestring potatoes
  • trail mix, nuts and sun flower seeds
  • gum & breath mints
  • candy
  • beef or turkey jerky
  • crossword puzzles & sudoku books
  • sun screen
  • insect repellent & insect bite relief
  • frisbee, hackie sacks, cards, small foldable board games
  • dental travel kit
  • Wet Ones, Clorox wipes
  • Kleenex
  • waterless antibacterial hand gel
  • tide hand wash sink packets
  • baby wipes; small portable packets
  • deodorant
  • gel insoles or foot pads
  • Oder eaters & foot powder
  • antibiotic cream & anti itch cream
  • Imodium, Pepto Bismal Tablets, Rolaids, Tums
  • Band Aids & Blister Pads
  • Ibuprofen, Aspirin & Tylenol
  • Chapstick & Carmex
  • cough drops & throat lozenges
  • eye drops & eye wash
  • Wrap around sunglasses
  • disposable cameras (with bubble wrap envelope)
  • AA/AAA batteries
Below are a few shots of my dog enjoying the freedom you provide.