Friday, May 26, 2023

Ironman Tulsa 2021

 There's nothing like crossing the finish line at an Ironman. Being unable to carry on a conversation during the 2.4 mile swim or the 112 mile bike, you spend a lot of time in your head. If your head space isn't right, it could turn into a long day.

For me, Ironman Tulsa was a constant battle in between my ears as I moved along in the race. There were times sublime when I shed tears of gratitude recognizing all the gifts in my life. This was balanced against dark times where I had to get into a meditative focus to just move forward one more step, one more aid station, and even one more mile.
Looking forward at the beginning of the run, I couldn't fathom running a full marathon. But I could run 1 mile. So I did. Then I ran another. Then another. Along the run, I probably wasn't the most talkative at this race as I was suffering and needed to focus A LOT!
Thank you to all the fellow runners out there who lifted me up, ran with me and encouraged me to join them in conversation. Thank you to the amazing crowd that lined the course all day cheering us on. Thank you to the amazing volunteers that made sure that my every need was met throughout the day.
So as the run portion brought us back into town, the energy shifted and became palpable. A magnetic pull to the finish. The density of the crowd started to increase. The words of encouragement shifted to sentiments of
for your accomplishment. The decibels increased.
The final right turn, a blinding light smacked my face. Hundreds lined the barriers. Dozens of high fives with the spectators- especially the kids whose focused mission that day was to not miss a single runner.
I heard the legendary Voice of Ironman, Mike Riley ahead. My smile grew, my skin started to get goosebumps. I entered the finishers chute and ran towards him as he announced, "Number 594 from Denver, Colorado, Brett Kessler- YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!" He had his fist out and we exchanged one final fist bump.
When I saw the fist bump picture, I thought of one thing, Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam". First, I thought it was a hilarious comparison. Then, as I thought about it, there's some deeper meaning there.
My interpretation of the painting is that God is reaching with a sense of determination to touch a non-chalant Adam- a metaphor of human ego edging out the spirit. I'm not a very religious person, but I do believe in a higher power and strive to get my inspiration from that source. Often, I become non-chalant towards my higher power and my ego runs the show.
Not today, and especially, not at this moment. I strongly felt the gifts of his presence in my life as I reached for one of my heroes in the Ironman world. A moment I'll never forget.
Pushing myself through challenges such as the Ironman never fails as an opportunity to explore myself at a deeper level. There's still lots to explore! Thanks for joining along for the adventure.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Level 5 Leadership

I was perusing through one my favorite books on leadership last night - "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. One of the key factors in a successful company comes from its leadership. The leaders that were at the helm of the successful companies that he studied had similar attributes. He defines the combination of these as "Level 5 Leadership". The five most important characteristics of Level 5 leaders as:

1. A personal sense of humility

2. A deep personal understanding of one's strengths and weaknesses

3. A laser-like focus on the organisation's purpose

4. A passionate commitment to continuous learning

5. A relentless determination to do what is right, not what is easy

No one leader does this perfectly, but it is definitely something to strive for. I find that I am most effective as a leader when I am exhibiting these characteristics leading my dental office, various committees/organizations I am part of, my family, etc.

I try to inspire others along these lines through my actions. I thank my many mentors and role models that I have had a long the way who showed me how effective this style of leadership can be!

#theadventurecontinues #anythingispossible #sober #ADAtrustee #14thdistrict #ADASRI #diversityandinclusion #Audit #ultrAspire #inspiredbyathletes 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

It's an Inside Job

A concious decision to grow demands that we become better versions of ourselves.

Expect to evolve.

Winning insists we clear out the noise and stay the path. Expect obstacles along the way.

Some people in your life (conciously or unconsciously) will be threatened - use it to strengthen your resolve. Playing small will not get you across the finish line. Pay no attention to their insecurities.

Some people in your life will be supportive - welcome their help.

Some people in your life will become inspired. They may even join you in your journey - Keep supporting each other as you grow.

Angels will appear on your path - search for the signs of their existence. Welcome the messages they bring.

In my experience, this process is a cyclical paradox - Action strengthens the drive. Ultimately, the spark to do what it takes comes from deep within. The spark initiates the action, then the action creates a stronger spark.

Know this is a courageous, solo journey. However, we are not alone. "The moment one fully commits oneself, Providence moves too." (Geothe)

Cannon Beach- Facing West, Oregon March 2023

Same location facing East

Welcome the bumps in the road as they make us stronger. They build our resilience.

Investigate, contemplate and meditate on every milestone along the way. Celebrate the progress, learn from the challenges. Keep the goal in focus.

Know that the person you are becoming is a better version of yourself.

Your journey will impact the world along the way. Not just at the destintation.

Be Bold.

Go All In.

#TheAdventureContinues #AnythingIsPossible #Sober #ADATrustee #ADASRI #ADAchangemaker #ultrAspire #inspiredbyAthletes #MeditationCreatesInspiration #stoicism

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Learning from the past...

Several years ago a teacher in my daughter's school was converting the loft in her garage into a yoga studio. In the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver - where she lives, many houses were built in the early 1900's and they are charming.

There was a stack of roofing shingles in the corner of the loft. When she went to move these stacks, she saw that they were magazines wrapped very diligently in butcher paper and twine in groups of 12. As she unwrapped a package, she realized that they were old scientific dental journals - specifically, JADA ("Journal of the American Dental Association).

She called me up to see if I could help her get them to a museum. From what we could tell, Dr. Jackson (the former owner of the house) had been collecting them since the early 1900's though 1950 or so.
After calls to the ADA library and the dental museum in Maryland, they had no use for them since they weren't a complete set (1860's-present day). I took them and continue to store them in my garage - still wrapped.
Every once in a while, I open up a stack and peruse through the pages. I am the chair of the ADA's Science and Research Institute (ADASRI) and have been focusing a lot more this past year on reading the multitudes of current journals so I have my finger on the pulse of the latest trends in current dental research.
Back in 1939, there was only the "Journal of the American Dental Association" (to the best of my knowledge). There was no internet. Local/regional/national dental society meetings, study clubs and dental conventions were sporadic.
The only source of what was going on in dentistry came once a month in these pages. New materials, techniques, equipment were all highlighted here. It was truly their window to the world. I am sure it was an exciting day for Dr. Jackson when the new journal arrived every month!
I find these journals to be intriguing and cerebral as these pioneers were "figuring things out." One of the responsibilities of being a profession is to share new knowledge with our colleagues to continue to raise the bar so we can treat our patients in the best possible manner.
Today's JADA is equally insightful, but since we have so many sources to get knowledge, it doesn't have the same effect on me as these would have back in that time period.
I am so grateful for those who paved the way for myself and my colleagues in the dental profession. After reading a few pages of these journals from 1939, I am reminded that on behalf of today's dentist, we truly stand on the shoulders of giants!
If any of my colleagues are interested in these journals, please DM me, happy to share.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Rafting with Max

My Son Max (20)

I went rafting down the Animas River with my son Max this past Sunday. This summer, he is a raft guide in Durango, CO. I drove out for the weekend to see him. We did a few hikes, but my hope was for him to take me down the river - Just the two of us. I got my wish!

As with anything in nature, there is a certain amount of danger involved whitewater rafting. Even though it isn't a particularly dangerous river, as a guide, he is responsible for the safety of everyone in the boat. Also, I am sure he wants everyone to have a fun experience.

He made it very clear prior to getting on the raft that he is the guide, I am the passenger. He told me he will give me instructions on when/how to paddle, and he will pick the routes through the varying flows.

I used to do a lot of canoeing on lakes when I was young. The goal was to go straight and fast. I found out river rafting is much different. He kept telling me to let the river take us down, I don't need to constantly paddle. Every time we hit a section of rapids, he would say things to me like, "get ready, it's going to be tricky here.' This was usually followed by "2 forward strokes", or "1 reverse stroke," or "Stoke Hard!"

At first it would drive me crazy because I wanted go straight and I thought constant paddling was helping. I wanted to insert my "control." He said, "Dad, I got this - just paddle when I tell you and we will have a great run!"

It turned out to be a new opportunity to practice step three from my recovery program.

Step 3- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

I turned it over to him as he took control of the boat. Every time he said "Forward 1 stroke" I paddled one stroke. He was eyeing the best routes, taking us through the most exciting rapids and eddies. We slid perfectly between the rocks. It was a rush letting him lead us. He is truly a master of this river.

During the slower sections, we would relax as the current kept us moving downstream. He shared about how much he loves the river and living in Durango. This kid used to be lost. Today, he was in his element with a clear direction of his life. And because I am sober, I get to witness it.

He told me the final section was his favorite. It is more remote and it presents better opportunities to see wildlife. It was a wide section of the river with a lot of rocks.

A great blue heron was perched on one of the rocks. Max told me to watch the bird. It was looking for food down flow of the rock it was perched on. As we got closer to him, I could see him looking for fish. He turned to look at us, and effortlessly flew to the next rock down the river to repeat his quest. We watched him do this 5 or 6 times.

On the final rock, he took off and skimmed along the surface of the water. He dove down. When he came up, he had a fish in his mouth and landed ahead of us on another rock perch. We watched him shake the fish around and swallow down his long neck. While I am sure the people fly fishing nearby were upset at the missed opportunity, we watched with awe.

Not my picture, but you get the idea...

Soon after we came to the take out area where we had parked our car. As we pulled the raft out of the river and loaded it onto the roof of our car, I expressed how much fun this adventure was for me. His smile beamed the expression of pure joy. I'm sure he thought it was going to be just another trip down the river for him. It was an experience we both will treasure.

I wasn't expecting to practice step 3 today. I find when I integrate the steps into my daily life, my days are amazing. I'm sure glad I did, this day was amazing!

#theadventurecontinues #anythingispossible #sober

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Escape from Alcatraz - Swim, Bike and Run like you stole something!

Escape from Alcatraz is a triathlon that has been on my bucket list for over 20 years.  The legendary island prison held the most dangerous criminals including Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly and "Whitey" Bulgar. It was deemed to be impossible to escape from - until 3 men escaped in 1962.  No one ever confirmed that they were successful, but the legend goes that they lived out the remainder of their lives on the lamb.  

This triathlon is also legendary.  It started in 1981 as Sn Francisco's answer to the "Ironman" then staged in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Like all endurance races, this one is an extremely challenging physical endeavor designed to see how far the human spirit can be pushed.  

A boat ferries us out to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.  We jump off the boat and swim back to shore.  The SF Bay is known for cold and rough water, currents, wind, sharks, etc.  The swim is followed by an 18 mile bike through the Presidio, Golden Gate Park, Land's End and the Golden Gate Bridge, with the bike to run transition at Marina Green.  Then the race continues with an eight mile run on pavement, sand, mud, crushed gravel and asphalt.  Both the bike and the run have steep technical climbs/descents which add to the allure of this race.  

The view of Alcatraz Island in the background

I am 3 weeks post Covid and 4 weeks post Ironman St. George.  I haven't worked out much due to lingering fatigue probably from both the Ironman and Covid.  Unfortunately, I didn't finish Ironman St. George. It was my first DNF.  In the back of my mind, I really wanted to finish the Alcatraz race and not make a habit of DNF-ing.   

I knew I wasn't in tip-top shape, but Esacpe from Alcatraz is a much shorter distance race than I usually do.   I should be able to will myself to the finish line even if my body isn't ready. And, as always, I wanted this to be a fun experience.  I have dreamed of doing this race for over 20 years and I was finally picked from the lottery entry process.  

My mindset going into the event was "I'm going to have a smile on my face no matter what."  I finally get to do this iconic race. 

I arrived in San Francisco Friday night around 1:30 am.  I was supposed to do the Aqua-thon race on Saturday morning. The Aqua-thon was a 0.75 mile swim followed by a 5K run.  I signed up for it because I wanted to do a formal "practice' swim in the SF Bay.  

My alarm went off at 5am and I immediately said nope, not today!  Not enough sleep,  still suffering from post Covid fatigue (3 weeks).  I didn't want to waste my best efforts on a practice event.  

I slept a few more hours.  When I awoke, I put my bike together and rode for about 30 minutes around Fisherman's Warf, Marina Green and the Presidio.  I went to the race village to check in. The lines were immensely long.  I patiently waited in line listening to my fellow participants.  Many people were doing their first triathlon ever.  Brave move! There was a lot of nervous energy and small talk.  

There were the "experts" telling the newbies all the things that they need to do.  I put on my headphones and tuned them out.  I am happy to share my experiences with anyone who asks. No one was asking, and I had nothing of value to share.  

As I waited in line for 45 min or so, my brain drifted into fear mode. This event has about 2,000 people participating in it. The same number of participants as some of the more popular Ironman races.  However an Ironman race is spread out over 140.6 miles.  This race is only spread out over 28 miles. 
The sheer density of people on the course frightens me. 
The bike ride is a very technical course with a lot of steep up- and downhills with tight turns.  Plus it is calling for rain on race day. Add in the inexperience of the several triathlon newbies, there is a high potential for disaster.  I prayed a silent prayer that no one gets hurt- especially me!

I get to the front of the line only to find out that since I signed up for both the "Aquathon" and the full "Escape" race, my registration is in the VIP area.

"Alright alright alllllrighhhht!"  I make my way over to the VIP area where I find my race packet and my t-shirts for both races.  Because I am a VIP, I had a personal valet to answer all my questions. These questions would have been easily answered had I actually read the race athlete guide like I was instructed to from the dozen or so emails they sent out.  

Live and learn...I made a mental note to read the athlete guide over lunch.  Better late than never!

I contemplated whether I should drop off my bicycle at this moment or ride it to the race start in the morning.  Rain was predicted overnight as well as throughout the race tomorrow.  I opted to drop it off  now and be done with it.  One less thing to think about in the morning.  Rain or no rain, it was going to get wet regardless. 

Obligatory "Bike in Transition Area" Picture

I then got lunch - legendary San Francisco dim sum in Chinatown (yummy!).   While eating lunch, I pulled out my computer to read the athlete guide.  Lot's of valuable information including a mandatory pre-race meeting this afternoon.  I was planning to do a practice swim after lunch digested for a few hours.  I scrapped that idea and went to the meeting.  

The race director gave some very important info regarding the swim. There are two distinct current channels so my swim trajectory is super important.  There are 20,000,000 gallons of water exiting the SF bay per second running through these currents.  He told us that if we don't get through the channels, we will miss the swim exit and could end up in Hawaii.  

So I spent the rest of the day/night researching swim strategies for this race on facebook and youtube.  I got my plan together and went to sleep. 

I woke up at 3 am.  My gear was laid out for one final mental visualization of my needs for the race.  I went though everything I would need for the swim, bike and run portions and put them into my bag.  Then I threw in a bunch of extra things for "just in case" situations.  

I shared an Uber with a fellow racer I met in the lobby to the transition area.  It was was raining fairly hard.  I usually like to set up my transition area with everything laid out for ease of accessibility in the order I will need them.  Because of the rain, everything stayed in the bag.  Our bikes were already drenched!  

I learned a while back that endurance events are opportunities to practice acceptance.  I try to train/plan to the best of my ability.  Unexpected things always come up.  My mindset must be open to these so I can troubleshoot in the moment.  If I'm rigid, my attitude will contribute to my demise.   

"Some people dance in the rain, others just get wet."   Today, I choose to dance in the rain.  

I make quick friends with my transition area mates. We all walk over to the shuttles that take us to the ferry.  All 2000 of us get on the boat and it takes about an hour to bring us into the proper coordinates.  

There is a lot of nervous energy on board.  I chose not to participate in it. Until...some of the seasoned Escapees see that the boat isn't in the proper position.  We all go to the windows to witness the change of plans.  

The race director makes an announcement over the PA that a dense fog has moved in. We will not be able to sight the landmarks.  They moved the boat closer to shore and told us to swim towards the west.  This would bypass the first current channel making for an easier and safer swim.

I put on my wetsuit, my thermal swim cap,  and layered my race cap over.  I positioned my goggles over my eyes and prepared for the leap into the 55 degree water.  

To prepare for the shock, I have been taking cold showers for several months. Both of my races this spring had cold water swims in the mid to high 50's.   

Last year, I jumped into 59 degree water at St. George Ironman 70.3. My heart rate
spiked and my oxygen demand went up from the cold.  Plus, as I started exerting myself with swimming, my heartrate went up even higher.  I went anaerobic and had to hang onto several lifeboats positioned along the swim course while I tried to catch my breath.  

As I got into position, I watched my fellow racers jump in and get out of the way quickly. One of my fears was getting jumped on by my fellow racers as I entered the water.  I jumped as far forward as I could to avoid this from happening. (Other fears include shark, killer whale attack, drowning, etc).  

I jumped in feet first.  When I surfaced, I swam as quickly away from the boat as I could.  I escaped Alcatraz and no one landed on me!  Now I need to get through the swim.  

That isn't me, but it was the closest picture I could find...
Note the fog toward the shore!

It is easy for my mind to drift during the swim.  It is impossible to talk to other people during this leg of the race - so it is just me and my thoughts.  Mindset is everything on race day.  I do a lot of mental training in addition to the physical training.  One of  the mantras that I use often is "Race the mile I'm in."  This reminds me to stay focused and to enjoy every moment. 

In the current channel going towards shore.  Note the fog completely obliterating the view of shore

I am in a tight group of swimmers.  I tried to draft off of a few in front of me, but they all kept bumping into each other and stopping forcing me to swim into them.  I moved out to the right (further out from shore) and found some swim space.  About 10 minutes later, I realized that I was all alone. 

"I'm either in first place or last..."  I thought to myself.  I looked over towards shore and didn't really see anyone.  Suddenly, I felt a tapping on my shoulder.  I look up and it is a safety kayaker tapping me with his paddle blade.  I stop to see what he wants.  He told me with a great big smile on his face, "You are swimming really strong, but you are swimming towards Hawaii!"  He points me towards the shore.  I laugh and redirect my trajectory. 

I quickly found that I had to swim across the current to get back on course.  So I dig in and get across it within a few minutes.  I used a sprint effort and I was happily able to recover to a manageable heart rate fairly quickly.  I got back in with a better group to work with.  

When I swim, I naturally breath towards the left (facing the shore in this case).  As we got closer to the shore, I can see how fast the current is taking us.   It truly felt like I was swimming downhill. The rest of the swim was fast and smooth. 

Total Swim Time:  38:40 (1:22min/100yd)  Total Yards: 2,841 (1.6 miles)

Swim Stats from my Garmin Watch

I escaped the water and let the wetsuit strippers help me out of my wetsuit.  I had a pair of shoes at the swim exit but I opted not to use them.  I was wearing swim booties to protect my feet from the cold water.  I decided to keep those on for the 0.8 mile run to the the transition area.  I got rid of my "sea legs" pretty quickly and easily ran to T1.  It was raining fairly hard but the air temperature was a perfect 65 degrees.  

About half the bikes were gone already from my rack in the transition area.  Which meant I was in the middle of the pack.  I was extremely happy as I was still recovering from the exhaustion from covid three weeks prior.  

My bag was soaked on the outside, but dry inside.  I put on my helmet, socks, cycling shoes and sunglasses.  I was tempted to not bring my glasses as they don't do well in wet conditions. I have a prescription insert and when it is raining, water gets between the insert and the sunglasses making it impossible to see through. I decided to wear them anyway. It definitely hindered my field of view as I ended up wearing them down my nose a bit. 

The first 1.5 miles were cold rainy and the road was flat.  The race director said "to ride like you stole something" in this part of the course to get warm.  

San Francisco has legendary steep hills.  The course definitely didn't disappoint and showcased many of them.  It was a very technical bike course with steep ups and downs, several sharp turns and rough roads.  I am happy that I brought my road bike for this ride.  My time trial bike isn't great for climbing and tight turns due to the frame geometry.  My road bike is really nimble and climbs like a dream. 

The bike course, as I expected, was really crowded.  Combine this fact with the rain and the technical nature of the route, it was fairly dangerous.  I saw several people wipe out and take others out with them.  There were lots of people with flat tires.  I even saw someone break their chain on a steep climb.  I was very conservative on my ride due to this.  Maybe if the conditions were a little better, I would have taken more chances.  The views were obscured by the rain clouds which was a bummer.

As I went through the Presidio, I knew it was a flat ride into transition.  But again due to the amount of riders on the course, I took it easy, happy to have made it though this unscathed.  

Bike stats and elevation profile from my Garmin watch

Transition 2 - still raining.  Changed into my running shoes, grabbed my run visor and a gel and got moving.  Again, I contemplated leaving my sunglasses in the transition area.  Hopeful that it would stop raining, I chose to wear them.  For most of the run, they were on top of my visor as I couldn't see out of them due to the rain.   

The run started out flat which was nice as I found my running rhythm.  I loved the run course - it almost could be classified as a trail run.  The running surface varied from pavement, crushed gravel, mud, sand and asphalt.  Like the bike course, it had a lot of short and steep climbs/descents.  I was able to run most of the course.  


The only section I power hiked was though the deep sand at Baker Beach, then the famous "sand ladder" which rose from the beach to just below the Golden Gate Bridge.  (300 ft. +/- climb)  

Exiting the sand ladder climb

I ran the up-hills, and really tried to push the pace on the downhills.  I  have been running long course races the past few years where I am intentional on conserving my energy to ensure that I will finish.  This run was only 8 miles so I didn't hold back.  If only I was in better shape! 

I met many people on the run and had many conversations along the way to pass the time.  I tried to keep the mood light and cracked many jokes with the people around me.  I wore my Colorado triathlon kit with my name on the back.  Dozens of people yelled "Kessler" at me as I passed them or they passed me.  

There was a paved downhill section with some tight turns.  I decided to pass a group of 3 runners taking one of the turns wide.  As I passed them, a photographer sat there waiting to take our picture.  Not knowing this, I ruined their opportunity for the best picture on the course.  I apologized to them and laughed.  Now that I see these picture, they turned out to be my favorites!

The "Pass"

Embarrassed smile as I knew right then that I ruined these runners' picture

The finish was on a grassy section.  I always get emotional as I cross the finish line.  This was no exception.  I was extremely grateful to complete this race.  So many thoughts were going through my brain:  My recent DNF followed by Covid;  Grateful to have had a relatively mild case compared to how Covid was 2 years ago; My lack of fitness due to the aftermath of Covid;  Getting through a challenging race on a challenging weather day; Completing this race after 20+ years of trying to get in; And finally recognizing that without my sobriety, this would never even be an option.

Almost home!

Elated finish!

Run data form my Garmin Watch

After the race, I had my medal engraved with my times, and ate a lot of food in the finish area.  I collected my bike and my drop bags and rode my wet bike back to the hotel.  

Thank you to my coach Charley Perez (CP Coaching); my family, friends and colleagues; My training partner Shane Mahoney for pushing me on my runs; And to the universe for giving me so many gifts in my life!

#theadventurecontinues #anythingispossible #sober #ADAtrustee #UltrAspire #InspiredbyAthletes #RockyMountainTriathlonClub

Ironman Tulsa 2021

  There's nothing like crossing the finish line at an Ironman. Being unable to carry on a conversation during the 2.4 mile swim or the ...