Monthly Archives: July 2009

Taking Vermont by Storm

Mike Hall at Vermont 100Last weekend Becca and I made the trek to Vermont for the Vermont 100-miler.  We were going out for a fun filled weekend “crewing” for Mike who was attempting his first 100-miler.  Neither of us had ever been to a 100-mile race event and really had no idea what we were supposed to do as Mike’s crew.  All I knew is we had to meet Mike at certain points of the race and make sure we kept him alive (fed, hydrated) and moving in hopes of finishing the race under his goal of 24 hours.

Waiting at the Vermont 100To me, this meant we would be sitting around for hours waiting for Mike to come to an aid station, give him some water and food, watch him take off down the trail, and repeat for 24 straight hours.  When you look at it that way, it does not really sound like a fun filled weekend.

To tell you the truth, Becca and I had a great time.  We camped out for a portion of two nights (with a bit of sleep), met some great people (Jeff, Geof, and Serena), caught up with a few friends (Paige, Stephen, Kelly, Jamie & Mike’s parents), and got to enjoy the beautiful Vermont horse country.  We also got to see Mike demolish his goal of 24 hours.  He finished in just over 22 hours 20 minutes, an incredible 100-mile debut.

Serena, is this what it takes to get 3rd place? No can do Mike!

Serena, is this what it takes to get 3rd place? No can do Mike!

All that being said, the point of this post is not to recap our weekend or even recap Mike’s race (he did that on his blog and I encourage you to check it out).  I am writing this to congratulate Mike.  But it is not to congratulate him for finishing the race or achieving his goal. (We already did that in person and email.) I want to congratulate him for the focus and determination it took to prepare properly for the race, which ultimately helped him to make the Vermont 100 his ____ (I think you all know the next word).

I have known Mike for nearly 15 years.  And one consistent thing about Mike is his love of dreaming up ideas, the crazier or more off-the-wall, the better.  In college, he dreamt up things he wanted to do or businesses he wanted to start.  A couple of my favorites include:

  • Selling advertising on toilet paper (the best path to create a crappy brand)
  • Start a line of doggy earrings (as a dog owner you would think he would have noticed how much they scratch their head and ears)

Mike now knows that when he gets silence after sharing an idea, it is my way of gently telling him it might not be the best idea.  Not to say he does not have good ideas.  He actually has many of them, including doing trash runs at races.  But for every incredible idea, he typically has 10, let’s call them, more interesting ones.

And when Mike decides to jump on an idea, he does not always think it through. This often leads to him being a bit unprepared.   If you read back on his blog you will see many of these instances including arriving for a 50-miler at 11pm the night before the race with no lodging arrangements.  He also locked his keys in the car that same night and started the race with his water bottle sitting securely on top of his car.  I personally get quite a bit of amusement from these adventures.

As much as I like to bust on Mike, this is not the point of today’s blog.  When he told me that he had signed up for the Vermont 100, I was a bit concerned.  He had yet to even run a 50-miler, an important qualification for getting into the Vermont race.  I told him several times you can’t just wing a 100-mile race, especially with an aggressive goal of finishing under 24 hours.

Mike hardly tried to wing this race.  He put a great training plan in place working with Bryon Powell and followed it.  And he put together a thoughtful race plan and followed it, improvising as appropriate.  He put together a seamless plan for his crew (we knew at every aid station – what to feed him, how to hydrate him, and what clothes to offer him).  He even had his bags packed with all the gear and chow to sustain him when we arrived in Burlington 36+ hours before race start.  So congrats Mike!  Keep dreaming, and with a little bit of planning you will go further and faster than you ever imagined!

P.S.  And of course, Mike’s Atayne gear contributed to his success.  We like to say: you will run faster (and further) without the weight of the world on your shoulders.

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Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…

Run Forrest Run

Run Forrest Run

“My momma always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”
-Forrest Gump

Generally speaking, I have to say I agree with Momma Gump. I don’t necessarily believe in destiny.  I think people have the ability to choose their path in life.  Take me for instance.  Who would have ever thought that I would be “destined” to start a company that makes athletic gear from “trash” and organizes people to go out for runs and pick up trash?

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love what I do.  Being able to start a company around things I am passionate about (an active lifestyle and the environment) is a dream come true.  But I question if it was my destiny, or at least I used to.

My mom recently shared a picture with me that I drew when I was about 8 years old.  I was not at all surprised to see it was a scene of people running.  I used to draw sports pictures all the time – from running and soccer to baseball and basketball.  What really caught my attention was the fact that I added a trashcan near the race finish line of the picture.

The Fine Art of 8 Year Old Jeremy Litchfield

The Fine Art of 8 Year Old Jeremy Litchfield

As I reflect on this picture, I have few questions:

  • How did I pass the 3rd grade with these drawing skills? (Although, I was a much better drawer at that age than I am now.)
  • Why does the little dude in the back have such big feet, but such little arms?
  • Did I know when I was 8 that my future would combine running and trash?

I don’t have answers to the first two questions, but maybe the answer to the third is something like this:

“I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”
-Forrest Gump

I would love to hear other people’s stories of destiny, floating breezes, or both.

P.S. My very creative mother turned the picture into some great note cards that I use for hand written notes.  If anyone is interested in custom note cards, I highly recommend her services.  Leave a comment and I will make the connection.

Run with Nature, Not Against It

Over the last couple months, I have mentioned that we will be expanding the graphics we offer on our tops.  As we like to say at Camp Atayne, the Point of View is the Point.

We have several new designs in development, and I thought I would give the readers of the Red Shirt Blog the first sneak peek at one of these designs – Run with Nature, Not Against It.

Stay tuned for when we launch version 2.0 of our POV Performance top with 8 to 10 new graphics at the end of August.

Run With Nature

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

What does it mean to be socially responsible?

In a recent issue of BusinessWeek, I stumbled upon an opinion piece where a reader from Bulgaria wrote into Suzy and Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) with this question, “What do you think about companies being ‘socially responsible’ during these difficult competitive times?  Is it a necessity or a luxury?”

There were aspects of their answer that I found pleasantly surprising.  The couple stated, “In this enlightened day and age, whether times are good or bad, companies must be socially responsible.”  They then go onto say, “But tough economic conditions underscore a blunt reality.  A company’s foremost responsibility is to do well.  That may sound politically incorrect, but the reason is inexorable.  Winning companies create jobs, pay taxes, and strengthen the economy.  Winning companies, in other words, enable social responsibility, not the other way around.”

I don’t find anything “politically incorrect” about their answer.  If you read their whole response, it is obvious they believe social responsibility is important.  However, from their response it appears I have a very different opinion on what it means to “do well” or be one of the “winning companies.”  It is obvious we have different opinions on what it means to be socially responsible.

To illustrate this point, let’s consider an alternative situation.  What if, instead of the question going to BusinessWeek, it went to a general news publication like Newsweek, Time, or even the New York Times?  And what if the question asked was, “What do you think about people being ‘socially responsible’ during these difficult competitive times?  Is it a necessity or a luxury?”  That situation seems a tad ridiculous, right?

When it comes to someone’s personal social responsibility, it is viewed as an intrinsic value, i.e. it is part of who they are as a person.  During tough times, people don’t become less socially responsible; they just express the commitment in a different way.  For me personally, I am passionate about a lot of environmental causes.  However, given the fact I am an entrepreneur in a tough economy, I do not have the money to donate to the environmental groups I typically do.  However, I find other ways to express my commitment.  For example, when I walk to work I pick up trash along the mile and a half route.  Does this make me less socially responsible?

I think most companies view corporate social responsibility (CSR) as external to what they are and what they do.  It is something they are told is important and therefore they do it.  It is does not come from their core, their heart, their purpose; it is a strategy.  The problem with this thinking is during tough times, strategies change and some even are abandoned.  I would go out on a limb and say that the CSR strategy is one of the first to go under the microscope.

I view social responsibility as a manifestation of a set of values.  It is not a strategy with tactics; it starts with the organization’s purpose and ultimately should be expressed in everything the organization does.  When you look at it this way, it becomes much more than donating and volunteering.  While this list is far from exhaustive, socially responsibility is also about:

  • Providing high quality, planet and people safe products or services
  • Creating high quality, inspiring, and good paying jobs (and by the converse, not exploiting cheap labor)
  • Listening and continually learning from fellow employees, customers, investors, your local community, and others

If you do those things, you will “do well” and be one of the “winning companies.”  That is just my humble opinion; I would love to hear yours.