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The Beauty of the Now

The Beauty of the NowMy racquetball buddy surprised me one evening when he leaned over and whispered, “Russ, I have a couples crush on you and your wife.” I laughed. I knew what he was talking about. But, I also knew something he didn’t.

You see, I run a video production business. It’s quite simple. There’s one employee: me. There’s one office: my home. I take on the clients I like and turn away the ones I don’t. My schedule is wonderfully flexible. I work as little or as much as I want. Dreamy.

My wife is in a similar situation. She’s a personal trainer, works out of the home and sets her own schedule as well. We spend much of our day together. Our marriage is really amazing. Again, dreamy.

But, here’s what my friend didn’t know. In the wee hours of most mornings, before the sun comes up, my wife and I often stir awake thinking about the day ahead. And then it hits. Pressure. Stress. Moments yet to happen rushing into the now.

These mental, morning intrusions often provoke anxiety and pressure—pressure to perform, succeed and accomplish. What exactly? Not sure, but the day already feels heavy and we haven’t even gotten out of bed.

It shouldn’t be this way. If anyone should awake to an exciting day of opportunity and promise, it should be us. Throughout our marriage, we’ve made specific, intentional choices to live a simple, minimalist life. Why then is it so hard to experience the dream life that my friend thinks we have? I want to know why this uninvited pressure continues crashing into our calm mornings, setting an unhealthy pace for the day.

I think it has something to do with our cultural mindset of performance—if you work hard enough, you’ll be happy. We learned it as a kid: work hard and you can have a happy life. But, if you’re not working, not succeeding, not accomplishing, then you can’t be happy.

It’s so pervasive in our culture. Do well in school, and you’ll get good grades. Work hard at your job, and you’ll get that promotion. Perform well and you’ll do well. It’s the American Dream. But, if you’re not performing, then life will not be good for you. What we do becomes who we are instead of letting who we are become what we do.

What is it that drives us, that fuels our need to perform? I believe it’s this undertow of lack that makes us feel like we haven’t quite arrived yet. There are more tasks to accomplish, more mouths to feed, inventions to create, stories to tell. So, get to work. No time to rest. Why? Because right now, in someway, you are lacking. You can always be moving towards more.

This lie fuels performance. And, it’s everywhere. It’s prominent in the TV commercials we see, the magazine ads we read, the sermons we hear. The unsettling discontentment shifts our thoughts away from the present moment. We become focused on the past (with its failures) or the future (with its pressures), and we miss the beauty of the now. Perhaps, choosing to live in the now is the key to a joyful life.

Last night after dinner, my wife was getting ready to take the dogs on a walk. Alone. I was busy juggling some client emergencies and trying to get things ready for the next day. Alone. Our son had disappeared into his teenage man-cave to the battle cries of League of Legends. Alone.

I was about to sacrifice a now moment at the altar of tomorrow.

So, I shut down the computer, grabbed my shoes and said, “Hey, I’ll come with you.” My wife smiled, probably leaping on the inside. Then, to our surprise, Caleb emerged from his gaming lair and wanted to join us.

We spent the next 20 minutes walking, talking and laughing. Together. Completely content in the moment. And, it almost slipped right by us.

Yes, we do have an amazing life. I have a wonderful, beautiful wife who loves me unconditionally. I have brilliant, witty son attending college to be a professional game designer. (Go figure.)

Life is good. I just need to be careful not to miss the beauty of the now.

“God deals out joy in the present, the now.” — King Solomon

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My Ironman Mental Game

Arizona Ironman Mental GameExactly six weeks from now, around this very time (5:30 am), I’ll be wrapping up my morning race routine with one cup of coffee and some toast. Then, I’ll put on my Zoot tri suit, grab my start bag and head to the race venue. On November 16th, I will be doing my first, full Ironman race in Tempe, Arizona.

Previously, I wrote about my quest for 140.6 in hopes of sharing some of the motivation as to why I want to complete an Ironman. (I need to go back and re-read that.)

This morning, I want to share more about my training experience. I have learned so much about myself and life in general during the process.

Getting Started

A year ago, I sat at the computer, my stomach was churning. I knew that once I hit “Submit”, I would be registered for Ironman Arizona. It was nerve wracking! You have to register a year in advance to secure your spot in this coveted race. It always sells out in minutes.

Click! “Congratulations! You are now registered for Arizona Ironman!” That was too easy. Time to start training.

I don’t like training in the winter. The cold and I don’t get along very well. So, I started doing lots of indoor activities, mostly racquetball at the time. Occasionally, I would run or bike, even swim a few times. The key for me was to get moving and stay active through the winter.

Once spring hit, I was able to get outdoors more. In March, I signed up for DFW Tri Club and started training with them once a week. But, as the spring turned into summer, I knew I needed a more focused training regime designed specifically to get me ready for Ironman. Through the recommendation of a friend, I hired coach Trevor.

On June 2nd, six months before Ironman, I started training everyday for Ironman.

Work the Training and the Training Works You

I’m not a fast guy. Never claimed to be. In fact, my Ironman goal is very simple. It’s three goals described in one short sentence:

I want to finish (1) within seventeen hours (2) uninjured (3).

My coach said there are two types of people who do Ironman — those who race and those who survive. It should be clear by now which one I am.

Over the past few months, I have really enjoyed seeing the benefits of training. Sure, it’s hard work and takes a lot of time, but if you work the training, the training works you. I have seen this first hand. My bike times are faster. My run times are quicker. My swims are stronger. All measurably so.

But even as you make progress and get stronger, you still have to fight the Ironman mental game.

Get to the Start the Line

They say that running a marathon is 90% mental and 10% physical. For Ironman, it’s 90% mental and 10% mental.

The past four and half months have been extreme. The mental highs and lows have been challenging. Just the other day, a friend asked me how the training going. I replied, “It’s the most exhilarating, frustrating, exciting, terrifying experience I’ve ever had. Ask me again tomorrow.”

The swings between “I can do this” to “What the heck was I thinking” are drastic. Sometimes, an injury will set you back or you bonk on a long ride, and then the doubts start singing in your head.

Then, there are weeks like this week where everything clicks. The runs are strong, the bike rides feel good, the swims are fast. You’re back to, “I can do this.”

I asked my coach about this and he said something very important: The hardest part of Ironman is getting to the start line.

I think in life, this is also true. What “start lines” have alluded you because of doubt or insecurity? What voices in your heard have convinced you not to try? What dreams have you shelved in hopes that “One day, I’ll get to that start line.”

To get the start line, here’s how I’ve changed my perspective about the race.

Many Small Goals instead of One Big Goal

The thought of doing an Ironman–2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 marathon, all in one day–is daunting. That’s a massive goal. It can be overwhelming to look at it as one big goal.

Another great piece of advice from both my coach and my wife is not look at the race as one big goal but as many small goals.

For the swim, once that horn blows, your goal is simple: swim to that first buoy. Woo Hoo! I made it. Next goal, swim to the buoy. Yeah, another goal accomplished. Eventually, you’ll finish the swim.

On the bike, there are three 37.5 mile loops. That’s a comfortable Sunday ride for me. I can do that. That will be my goal. I will bike 37.5 miles. Awesome, finished 37.5 miles! Next goal, 37.5 miles. Killed it! And then another goal, 37.5 miles. Bike ride finished.

Then, the run, my weakest event of the three. I will not look at it as a marathon. I don’t have to run 26.2 miles. Instead, I will just run one mile. Then, celebrate that mile accomplishment. Then, run another mile. Then, run a mile. Just a mile. Run another mile. I do this 26 times, each mile celebrating the goal of running that mile.

But, Russ, it’s the same. No, it’s not. Not in my mind. They are not the same. Short, achievable goals are… well, achievable.

I have experienced this in a few areas of my personal life. When I made my first movie, I was a bit naive (kind of like my Ironman experience). I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I broke it down into many, small steps.

First, I needed to find a story. That was my focus. My only focus. After finding the story, the next step was finding funding. Again, that was my only focus. After the money, I needed to find a team. Next, we needed to shoot the film. Next, we needed to edit the film. Etc. Etc. I didn’t look at the entire process, only the next step.

Had I truly known the extensive amount of work it was going to take to make a feature film, I could have easily talked myself out of it. Today, having done three feature films, it’s a daunting task when you look at the entire goal. So, don’t.

What goals do you have in your life that seem too big to accomplish? Why don’t you figure out the first step towards that big goal, and focus on accomplishing that one small goal first. And see what happens! You might be surprised.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 4:10).

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Camera Shootout: BMCC, Canon 5D and Canon C300

Recently, I was asked to do a quick, no-budget shoot for a client. It was a pilot piece, so he didn’t want to spend any money, but see if we could deliver a good, quality product. I love a good challenge.

We needed to shoot a multi-camera setup for a band playing a song in a darkened setting. And, I only had access to my three cameras — my new Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, my Canon 5D Mark iii and my high-end Canon C300.

The challenge was how to match these three, very different cameras. I knew the two Canon’s could be matched relatively closely, but the BMPCC was a bit different. It didn’t have a Canon EOD picture style. Yes, it has a raw option, but even then, that would require a substantial amount of post work to match it to the Canon styles.

FilmConvert

One of my DPs was telling me about a new plug in called FilmConvert. He was telling me about how it takes digital video and makes it look like film. While I thought that was interesting, I knew there were tons of plug ins and post production tools that could do that. So what.

But, I downloaded the plug in and thought I would try it out. Here’s what he didn’t tell me. This powerful plug-in was actually designed to work with specific cameras and their visual settings to setup a baseline for the film conversion. In other words, before it converts the digital image to film, it takes the camera and its setting, and starts from a common look. That was very interesting!

In theory, that means I could shoot with any camera and make sure I used a setting supported by FilmConvert, and then I could match all the looks even across different cameras.

The Camera Test

Time to test it. I had about 20 minutes that Saturday morning before the shoot to see if I could match three different cameras. So, I started by setting up each camera based on what was supported in FilmConvert. I first set the white balance to match each of the three cameras. Then, I set the ISO to 200 for each one as well since I was shooting outside. Then, using the BMPCC EF Metabones Speed Booster adaptor, I was able to shoot all three cameras with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens.

The one thing I had to do was make sure each of the cameras were setup to capture the image in a way that FilmConvert could use as a baseline. For the BMPCC, I shot ProRez in Film mode. For the Canon C300, I shot using the Canon Log mode. The Canon 5D was a bit more challenging, since it didn’t have a film setting. So, I downloaded a couple “filmic” picture styles, and ended up using the Marvels DSLR film picture style, which was supported in FilmConvert.

The Comparison

Below is the short video test I shot with the three cameras, and using FilmConvert to try and match the cameras.

  • CAM A is the Canon 5D
  • CAM B is the BMPCC
  • CAM C is the C300

You’ll notice that the BMPCC is slightly over exposed. That’s because the speed booster really boosted the light, and I didn’t adjust accordingly. But, overall, I was completely amazed at how closely I was able to match these three cameras. Very impressed with FilmConvert.

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My Quest for 140.6

As some of you may or may not know, I’ve decided to do an Ironman triathlon this year. When I started sharing this news with others, I got mixed reactions. Some were excited for me. Others, a bit confused. Then there were those who just looked at me, nodded their head and started praying. Out loud.

So, I decided to write a few articles about my experience. As the race day looms, I may also come back to these articles to remind myself why I’m doing this.

My first triathlon season

On March 14, 2010, a day before my 45 birthday, I completed my first triathlon. It was the St. Patty’s Day Sprint Triathlon in Keller, Texas.

If you’re not familiar with triathlon distances, a sprint race is the shortest distance in triathlons. This particular race started with a 300 meter pool swim, followed by a 12 mile bike ride and the finishing with a 3 mile run. It took me 1 hour and 38 minutes to finish the race.

Russ Pond, Half IronmanQuite unimpressive, but it was the start of an amazing season. I would go on that year to race in four more sprints, two olympics and then wrap up the season by crossing the finish line at the Austin 70.3 Half Ironman race. It was only 7 months after my first experience with triathlons. What an incredible experience! Two years later, in 2012, I finished a second Austin Half Ironman, this time with my wife.

After quickly realizing that two halves don’t make a full, I started to think about an Ironman. The 140.6 mile Ironman race starts with a 2.4 mile open-water swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then finishes with a full marathon (26.2 miles). And, I have to finish within 17 hours (7am to midnight) to hear those words, “Russ Pond. You are an Ironman!”

So, I set a goal to do a full, Ironman race before I turned 50.

The quest begins

Bike, Half IronmanI asked my coach what was the easiest Ironman venue, if there was such a thing. He suggested either Ironman Florida or Ironman Arizona. Each had their challenges, but the courses were good and well supported. But, because of the popularity of these two races, they sell out fast. Arizona typically sales out in less than an hour. And you have to register a year in advance.

In 2013, I had to register for a 2014 race to meet my bucket list goal of doing an Ironman before I turned 50. Why 50? I figured what a great way to kick off the second half of your life, doing something crazy like an Ironman.

Even then, I knew there was a deeper reason.

But why, really?

Half Ironman SwimI’ve been asking myself quite a bit lately, Why am I doing this? What is my motivation to do something that seems impossible, especially for non-athletes like me? (When you spend hours alone on a bike ride, run or swim, you tend to have lots of time to ask yourself these scary questions.)

I do enjoy swimming, biking and running. They were never much fun before, but as you get more accustomed and stronger, it becomes easier and more enjoyable. There’s also the obvious benefits like better health and weight loss. Plus, my wife loves to be active. We train together quite a bit. For us, date nights are not the typical dinner and a movie. Our dates often consist of races and long training sessions together. It’s wonderful to live with a full-time encourager, trainer and helpmate!

But still the nagging why. Why do an Ironman?

I think it comes down to fear.

I used to battle crippling fear much of my early life. Decades of panic attacks and anti-anxiety medications. The key to freedom for me was not to avoid the fear or numb the fear–it was to face the fear. That’s when I started to experience freedom and peace.

And to be honest, Ironman scares me. But, that’s why I have to do it. If it didn’t scare me, then why bother.

Fear has no hold on me, because I do those things that I’m afraid to do.

Registration

On Sunday afternoon in November of 2013, I sat nervously at the computer waiting to hit “Register.” My heart was racing. Do I really want to do this? Will I even get in? Why am I so nervous?

In a matter of minutes, my registration went through and the confirmation email popped up and said, “You have successfully registered for the 2014 Arizona Ironman.”

Oh, crap.

Training and preparation

Ironman TrainingI immediately started training. Nothing specific at this point (plus I hate training in the winter) but I started being more active, playing lots of racquetball and swimming. It was going to take a year of work to get this 49-year old body ready for the grueling race.

In March, my wife and I signed up for the DFW Tri Club. They provide tons of workouts during the week to help with your swim, bike and run. Every Saturday morning, they have an open water swim clinic at a lake nearby. Excellent drills and skills!

As the summer rolled in, I knew I needed a more-focused, disciplined training regime if I was going to be ready for Ironman. So, in June, about 6 months prior to race day, I hired Trevor at Kingdom MultiSport to train me. And, my weekly schedule is packed!

I’m enjoying the intensity of the training more than I thought I would. I’m not a fast swimmer, biker or runner. Especially a runner. So, I’ve never really pushed myself hard. But, this first month of training has been challenging. I’ve had to push myself so much harder than ever before. Sure, it’s exhausting, but I can start to feel how it is really helping me get stronger.

That voice of fear is starting to fade.

Why write about this?

Scott RigsbyI wanted to write this article for two reasons: accountability and encouragement.

The more people who know about this goal of mine, the harder it will be to back out. (Yes, I still have those thoughts.) I share this with you so that you will know what I’m planning to do. And, if by chance we talk or chat, ask me how it’s going. I’m sure you’ll get an ear full.

Secondly, I want to encourage you that you can do anything you set your mind to. I was not athletic growing up. Tennis and bowling were the extent of my physical abilities. When it came to endurance sports, I made fun of those people because deep down, I wanted to be one of those people. Today, I’m confident that with persistence, a good mindset and some dedication, you can do whatever you want.

There are so many inspirational stories out there about people doing Ironman races, from an 80-year-old nun, Madonna Buder to a double amputee, Scott Rigsby.

You can do anything you set your mind to do.

Ironman motivational videos

Cool, I found this playlist of Ironman motivational videos!

P.S. These videos are for me, not you. :)

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“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

―Ralph Waldo Emerson