Operation Jack, Week 1: What a Long, Quick Week!

Week one post-launch is in the books, and wow — what a week! The days fly by so fast, and at the same time, they’re so long and busy. I knew what I was getting myself into … well, to be exact, I knew that I would have no idea what I would be getting myself into. And I was right.

There’s work, more work, and then a little bit of work on top of that. Oh, and there’s the regular work that pays the bills, the training (I should probably stay in shape) and when there’s nothing else to do, it’s nice to spend time with the kids. Yeah, so I’m still trying to figure out what I got myself into! I love a challenge, though, and it’s for a great cause. It’s for an opportunity to help countless people afflicted with Autism, and, selfishly, it’s an opportunity for my superstar Jack to have a big impact and purpose.

Operation Jack is starting to remind me of my first marathon. It started with some talk, it turned into action, and the next thing I knew, I was right in the middle of it. When I crossed the start line in San Diego on June 4, 2006, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I’m in the middle of a marathon!” But I was, and a little more than four hours later, I crossed the finish line. Somehow, I pulled off the unthinkable. I pray that God will get me to the finish line of Operation Jack and I don’t end up with a DNF (for those of you non-runners, that’s “Did Not Finish”, the official result for entrants who start a race and have to drop out midway through).

I’ve been overwhelmed by the support so far. Good folks all over the place are coming out of the woodwork and offering to help. It’s totally surreal. I’m not big on attention or asking for help, but several people have reminded me that I’d better get used to it. I can do without the attention and I’ll do my best to deflect that to Operation Jack and Train 4 Autism, but yeah, I’ll take the help!

Well, the goal of Operation Jack is to raise funds and awareness for Train 4 Autism. So, I’m trying to boost participation and raise money.

There’s an easy way to participate: Register on this site! If you’re reading this, and you’re not registered on the site, please do! I’m never going to give your information to anybody, and when I get the time to start sending the occasional email, you’ll have the opportunity to very easily opt-out from any message I send. I promise, a great way to make friends is to not make enemies! So sign up!

Once you register, you should join a team. If I can plan on running 60 marathons, you can sign up for at least one race, right? There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be in your area! I have to run 26.2 miles, but most races also have a 5K or a 1/2 marathon. If I can do it, you can do it!

Also, one big help would be if you could refer just one person to Operation Jack this week. Just one — that’s all I ask! You get one, I’ll find two!

Now, with the fundraising. We’re working fast and furiously to improve our pledge site at Kintera.com. It’s going to be easy for you to use and it’s going to have the Operation Jack look-and-feel. It’ll be one of many tools we give you to help make a difference! I’m working on a project (real-life work!) that’s going to keep me busy through July, but in August, I’ll be developing tools on operationjack.com that will make it easier for you to get people to the site and get to your fundraising pages. Patience for now, though, please — I still have to get some work done and pay the bills!

The other fundraising option we have is a unique approach through Apriori Beauty™, a new beauty company. Apriori Beauty™ is a multi-level marketing company, and my goal is to build a downline for Train 4 Autism to benefit from for years to come. In a nutshell, if you try the products, not only will you like them, but Operation Jack and Train 4 Autism will directly benefit. If you like them so much that you recommend them to your friends, you’ll make a little money for yourself while making money for Operation Jack and Train 4 Autism. When they recommend them to their friends, … well, you understand. Every dollar raised this way is going directly to Train 4 Autism, aside from funds used to offset the costs of the endeavor. Don’t worry — I’m flying coach, renting compacts and sleeping on couches when possible, Motel 6s when I have to pay. It’s not a first-class/limousine/Hyatt kind of journey.

Of course, if you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to Operation Jack, our Sponsors page has information and we’ll certainly list you there! If you know of any company that would be interested in supporting Operation Jack, don’t hesitate to send them in this direction!

I can’t believe how supportive everybody has been. I’ll start with my wife, Tiffany. I’ve been so busy with everything this week, and she hasn’t complained. I’m up early in the morning working or training, up late at night working, and in between I’m working. No complaints from her. I think she knows it’s for a good cause. And I’ve already promised that we’re going on a trip on January 2, 2011!

Tara Larivee, Deirdre Edwards, Danica Kooiman and Kathy Ting-Ting Yu, thank you for your efforts and for truly wanting to help. Same thing to all the good folks from Train 4 Autism — Molly, Ben, Shelly, Chris and others I’m probably not mentioning!

I’ve also received great responses from several marathons. Jackson (Mississippi), Mobile, Carlsbad, Virginia Beach, Catalina, Pasadena, Portland, Lakefront, Oklahoma City, Grandma’s, Kansas City, Pocatello … there’s a lot that are helping me out and I’m sure I’m forgetting some. But I’m getting positive feedback by the hour. No turning back now!

Without a question, my run of the week was early in the morning on July 4. A good friend of mine lost her father last year on July 4. He was only 65. As a tribute to him, she planned a 65-mile run. She mapped the course, she trained for it, she fought through injuries.

Life got in the way last week and she almost canceled the run. But I told her she’d never get July 4, 2009 back, and dropping the run was not an option. I’m sure other friends told her the same thing. Wisely, she gave it a go, starting at 7 p.m. on July 3.

I told her I’d help her wherever she needed me to. She asked me to pace her through the last 25 miles and meet her at about 1:30 a.m. Without hesitation, and with 100% support from Tiff, I accepted her invitation to join her. I was up at 12:30 a.m., starting my Saturday on two hours of sleep when most folks were still up celebrating Friday. I was fortunate enough to catch up with her and spend about four hours with her in the middle of the night.

She was 40 miles into the run when I caught up with her, so she was a little fatigued. But she kept on fighting, and it was great to get to know her better than I ever had before. I had to leave a little early, because Tiff had a 5K in Ladera Ranch and I needed to watch the kids while she ran. But she was fine, and she finished the 65 to meet her goal!

Tiff ran a PR and earned a 2nd-place finish in her age group. After her race, I ran the 10K. I can truly say that this was the first time I’d ever had a 20.5-mile warmup run before a 10K! I was only 14 seconds slower in the race than I was on the same course last year, so I was fine with how I ran. And I viewed it as a perfect first race during my Operation Jack Era: I ran more before the race than I typically would have to help somebody else, and when all was said and done, everything worked out fine and everybody had a great day. If I can say the same thing about my weekends next year, I’ll be thrilled.

OK, that’s all I have for now! Thank you for your support and participation!

Wow, is this really happening?

Wow. I can’t believe that this is all happening! This started with brainstorming about a year ago, started to move along before ending up on the shelf, and then revived itself again in early February. Several months of planning later, and nearly a year after I first thought about using my running to help fight autism, we’re here on day one of Operation Jack!

I was so nervous this morning when I launched the site and updated my status on Facebook — nervous to the point of nausea. I was throwing around ideas when this all started, and the good folks from Train 4 Autism started to work to make this happen. Once I went public with it, there would be no turning back. The minute I pushed that index file up to the web server, I locked in to 18 months of obligations. I have to stretch myself thin now (more than I already do!). I have to wake up early and stay in shape. There are no rest weeks. There is no weekend off. There certainly is no vacation. I don’t know what’s going to wear me down more — the travel or the running? I’m literally going to run myself into the ground. But it will be the experience of a lifetime and it will be for a cause that’s very dear to my heart.

I have an opportunity to do something huge in my son Jack’s honor. It’s incredibly sad to watch him and wonder what’s going on in his mind. He’s nearly 6 years old, but does he know who I am? Will he know I’m gone when I’m off running these races? I have faith that he’ll get better, but I am concerned about how much he’ll ever be able to mainstream. It’s very likely that he’s always going to have his problems. But I pray that this endeavor is successful, and maybe someday down the road, other kids won’t struggle as a result of Operation Jack. I’d love for him to have an impact beyond what he’d ever know or understand. I’ll always be sad that he won’t have a typical childhood, but it would be comforting to know that he has a purpose and that there’s a reason for it all.

I’ll give it my best shot and hope my knees hold out! I have the support of an amazing wife, and she’s going to be going through as challenging of an adventure as me in 2010. None of this would be possible without her. You’ll see me get sappy about her over the next 18 months, but I’m a sucker and she’s an incredible woman.

So, I’m very excited about this, and gracious for the initial support I’ve received. From all the hard-working people at Train 4 Autism, to friends and acquaintances who have volunteered, to people I’ve never met just wishing me well and jumping on the bandwagon — it’s been an amazing first day and I can’t believe I still have about 540 more days until this is done!

If you’ve read this far through the blog, you obviously have some interest in Operation Jack. So I beg you — PLEASE join a team! Please take part! I’m counting on strength in numbers to make this an incredible endeavor. You don’t have to run a marathon. Run a 5K or 1/2 marathon that’s associated with the full marathon I’m doing. If you want to participate but don’t want to run, fill out the Contact Us form to get in touch with me and we’ll figure something out.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Thanks for reading and thanks for caring!