Saturday, December 31, 2011

What a year...

2011 truly was an amazing year!

As each year comes to a close, I like to take a look back to see the adventure that has been.

In January, I set a bunch of goals (see below) to help me accomplish some of the things I was looking for in my life. I spent several days at Disney. I ran a couple of 5K's and discovered that running was more than just something to do - it quickly became a hobby, a passion, and a way of life. I continued on my grad school adventure, graduating in May.

I packed up everything and crammed it into my Pontiac G6, and set off for a new adventure in Denver, Colorado. I finally broke the 30 minute 5K. I started a new job. I played A LOT of volleyball. I played in the mountains. I lost a bunch of weight. I ran my first 10K. I took some great trips.

And I met some of the most amazing people in the world.

Not a bad way to spend a year...

Here's a check in for how my goals for 2011 went:

1. Accomplish (as much as I can of) the Florida List - Made some great memories on the way out
2. Earn another 4.0 spring semester - It was easy, but it still felt good :)
3. Become a Master (graduate from grad school) - You're looking at Jeff Parker, M.Ed.
4. GET A JOB - Sweet home Colorado
5. Read 50 Books - I was on pace through June, but then moved to CO and started my new life there. That whole reading thing didn't keep up. But in 2011 I read 30 1/2 (mostly) amazing books
6. Run a race every month (mostly 5K, some 5K w/ obstacles, & hopefully a 10K+) - I ended up running 13 5Ks and 2 10Ks
7. More running goals- Run 211 miles, run for 10 miles, sub-7:00 mile - 162, 6.2, 8:30 - nope, but on my way!
8. Complete P90X (I was 0/4 in 2010) - Not even close
9. Lose 50+ lbs. - I've lost 50 total, but only 35 in 2011. I'm ok with that.
10. Visit 5 new states/countries - Oregon & Colorado, but lots of new experiences in states I've already been to. A great year for travel
11. Smile and laugh. A lot. Always

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1,000 Words

While at home in Minneapolis, I was sent yet another email wanting me to order pictures from a race that was... 9 months ago. I looked at it again, and just laughed.

I asked my brother, "Is it possible to have a picture taken during a race that looks good?"

Clearly the answer is no.

Here's a look at a few of the images that were captured for all of eternity.

Maybe my goal for 2012 will be to learn how to run more attractively.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I Run

I've been reflecting on why I run, why it matters to me, and why I've missed it while I've been out of commission for the past month and a half.

When it came time to explain it as part of a Christmas present, here is what came out:

Running has been a big part of my life (off and on). The very first time I chose to go running was in high school when I weighed 275 pounds and was suffering from depression. I needed to get my life together, so I took a step. Then another. And slowly, it became my way of life. When I felt lost, frustrated, angry, or scared, I would lace up my shoes and head to the road. The paved trails became the place where I would clear my head and reflect on my life. The wooded trails became my solace. At this point in my life, running was my way of finding myself.

Then, over the years, I lost touch with it. I was so inconsistent – two months on, six months off. Five months on, a year off. So on and so forth. My weight fluctuated, and although I lost a ton of weight in high school, I gained it all back. Until in grad school, I stood on a scale and the number that stared back at me scared me. 284. I went home and cried. And for the second time in my life, I turned to running to get my life back on track. One step at a time, I trudged my way to ½ mile, to ¾, to a mile, to 3, to 5+. Running has served two purposes during this phase of my life over the past year. First, to drop weight and become healthier. I have lost over 50 pounds, and still have a ways to go before I’m totally happy. I remember walking up a flight of stairs in Florida and being completely out of breath by the time I hit the top. I couldn’t live like that anymore. So I pushed myself to make that change. The second purpose came when I ran my first race last December. It struck something in me, and ended up changing my life. It hit my competitive spirit like few things ever have, and it became almost an addiction. Something that I will continue to do for a long time. The funny thing is, I don’t even call myself a runner... I just do it for two reasons: to find myself and push myself. The challenge of pushing yourself to run farther and faster is amazing, and with every race, I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment every time I cross the finish line.

Like nothing or nobody can stop me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stepping it up in 2012

This year (and the end of 2010) has been an amazing chance to rediscover my love for running.

I went from not being able to run a mile to running a 5K every month to running 10K's. I went from huffing and puffing and feeling like I want to die after a half mile to feeling energized after 6 miles. I went from 284 to 233 as I write this. Tears of agony and defeat turned into feeling inspired and motivated.

2011 was about running for fitness, for weight loss, and to get my life back on track. I ran a 5K every month (with a few 10K's sprinkled in toward the end) so I could have consistency and accountability in my life. Even when I would have a crappy month, I would still push myself, if even for a day.

2012 will take this momentum to the next level. It will be about running to push myself to my limits. For the love of running. To see what I am capable of. And not to run races just to run races - to find ones that I will remember for the rest of my life.

My race schedule for 2012 is already filling up. Here's what I've committed to so far.

January - Once my credit card turns over to next month, I am booking a flight to Florida and doing the Warrior Dash
March - I will be running the Canyonlands 5 Mile race in Moab, UT surrounded by the beauty of Arches National Park
May - Today, I just signed up for my first half marathon. Colorado Half Marathon in Fort Collins - named the most scenic and fastest race in America. Training starts in February.
June - I will be doing the Tough Mudder - a 10+ mile race up the side of a mountain with crazy obstacles.

2012 is going to be a big year for my running. Hopefully my body got the memo and can keep up. I'm looking forward to the adventures... mile at a time

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Listen to your Body

Disclosure: I am the type of person who never listens to his body. When I hurt myself, I usually hurt for a while, because I continue to do the things that I did to get to that point without letting myself heal entirely.

Here's just a few quick examples:
-I hurt my tricep playing volleyball in the spring of 2010. I can still feel it when I tweak it just right a year and a half later.
-My shoulder has hurt for about 3 months now from playing volleyball. Too much. Do I let it heal? Unless playing 5 hours of volleyball per day a few times a week counts as healing...
-About 2-3 months ago, I jammed my toe playing volleyball. It hurt a lot. This constant pain, but not enough to get in the way of anything I was doing. So I kept running. I kept playing volleyball. It kept hurting a little. Turns out it was broken the whole time. (See below)

In case you can't tell yet, I am smart.

On November 6, I ran a 10K. Aside from the butt kicking I took as a result of the course, my body felt fine. My legs felt fine. November 6th was good.

November 7, not so much. My right foot started throbbing. Like, difficulty walking throbbing.
November 8, more of the same. Something is seriously wrong. I'm going to go get it checked out if i don't feel any better tomorrow.
Each day after, things got progressively better. So naturally, things were ok in my book. I played a basketball game. Fine.

I went running. Foot hurt for 3 days. Uh Oh. Time to listen.

So, for the first time in a decade, I went to a chiropractor. Aside from the "used-car salesman" vibe I got from him, I got some pretty good information. But after 2 trips, I decided to try going to someone else.

My new doctor is freaking amazing. 1. He knows his stuff. 2. He is blunt, sarcastic, and we spend our sessions joking around. Done!

Then came the x-ray consultation.

Wake up call.

Some of my vertebrae have lost the separation that is normal.
I have a bow in my spine. Both my lower back and upper back curve to one side.
My hips are misaligned. One is a little crooked and .82mm higher than the other.
And that toe injury I've had for 2-3 months was fractured. Officially.

All of those things combined, it has thrown off my neck, back, hips, knee, ankle, and foot. Hence the throbbing foot.

They both suggested 2 visits a week for 6 months to a year.

A few quotes from the chiropractor:
"This is what I call an LLC - Looks Like Crap"
"This didn't happen overnight, this is at least 10 years in the making"
"You're 26, you shouldn't look like this..."

But 2 of the best quotes I received when I went yesterday:
"This is mostly fixable"
"I need you to start running again, so I can see how your knee reacts"

So I've been listening to my body, taking it easy, and getting it checked out. And although it's not the greatest, there's plenty of optimism.

Now, it's up to me to do the little things to help my body make this turnaround:
-Work on my posture
-Wear a lighter backpack
-Ice and stretch after workouts
-Start taking yoga classes
-Wear an insole to lift my foot

So many things that lead to living a healthier life.

Ok, body... I finally hear you calling.

Sorry it took me so long to listen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

525,600 Minutes

How do you measure a year in the life?

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of when I started this blog.

To me, it was no big deal. Just a fun way to document some of the things that have been going on in my life. A sort of virtual scrapbook to keep track of the important things, and maybe a chance for friends and family living across the country to be updated.

I never expected it to be anything more than that. Yet some of the feedback I have received has been overwhelming to say the least. I have had friends tell me that it inspires them to do things they wouldn't normally do. I have had friends tell me that it encourages them to take risks they wouldn't normally take. It has sparked some conversations that I will remember forever. This was even included in an email from an amazing friend:

Also, I wanted to mention your blog. I think the world would be a much better place if more people looked at life like an adventure and appreciate all the little things in life the way you do. I still remember one post you made about your doubts with creating a blog because no one would read it or be interested in it. But trust me, your blog is worth reading. I admit, I have gone back and read some of your old posts, and they are just the boost I need to stop being lazy, grab life by the horns and make things happen. Like your running stuff…I started running like 2 years ago to get into shape and I sucked at first, but I’ve been trying to get better because I actually enjoy the “not being able to breathe, my legs are burning, and I have so many cramps I can’t keep going” feeling…haha, it somehow always feels worth it in the end. I got so inspired by reading your blogs about your struggles and up and downs with running that I have been training all summer so far…and my roommate said she would sign me up for my first 5K once school starts!!! I’m nervous because I know my time will not be good because running just isn’t for me…but I’m working to get better, and well, I have to start somewhere…so I’m looking forward to it :) So keep updating your blog because I will keep reading it!! :)

I have been floored by some of the responses I have gotten.

Several times, I have questioned why I should even bother... but those responses are why.

Let's take a look back over what the past year has included:

-I saw a couple of the best concerts in my life
-I was in my first wedding
-I ran my first 5K. And 10K. I ran. A lot.
-I went to Disney. A lot.
-I moved to Colorado.
-I lost 50 pounds
-And so many other unforgettable experiences

And for the few people I inspired, there were countless more that inspired me. Thank you.

Thanks for sharing my journey with me :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Human Experience

Last night, I watched one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen.

The Human Experience is an incredible film following two brothers and some friends in search of finding meaning in their lives through having different experiences and perspectives. One of their main premises is that you are unable to understand someone's situation until you take the time to understand. To live it. To be it.

A film asking the ever challenging question: What does it mean to be human?

Their experiences take them to different parts of the world: NYC, Peru, and Ghana, and they encounter people from so many different walks of life. Many of their experiences involve interactions with survivors - homeless, abandoned children, lepers - many of whom simply try to make it from each day of the next. What do they have to live for? What is their purpose? What makes them wake up in the morning?

One of the biggest things I took away from the stories shared in the film is how special life is. Having suffered from depression, there were several times in my life where I was unable to see this, and I still find myself searching for my own purpose. Through these stories, you are reminded of a more primitive purpose that many of us forget - that every day and every life is special, and as long as there is life, there is a life worth living. So many of the people featured have nothing - no home, no families, many with diseases or deformities, and have been all but thrust out of society - yet they believe that every day they wake up, they have a purpose.

So many times, we get so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of each other. We get so bogged down in the day-to-day and the here-and-now that we forget the bigger picture. No life is more valuable than anyone else's. There is no better or worse, only different. We are all connected in some way. We all a story to tell. Once we remember that, the question then becomes

do you take the time to listen?

Trailer for The Human Experience
Go watch the movie now.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Golden Gallop

10K Number 2 - Golden Gallop.

The day I realized that running in Colorado is completely ridiculous.

This race was tough. Like... super tough! To the point where all the real runners finished and were commenting about how difficult the course was. It wasn't just me.


Here's what made it tough:

Tough to read, but look from miles 2-4.75. Ridiculous uphill. What you probably can't read at the bottom says this:

Start elevation: 5890' Finish elevation: 5909' High point: 6031' Low point 5753'

Gross gain: 566'

To put that in perspective, this little 6 mile race had more elevation gain than the entire STATES of Florida, Delaware, and Louisiana.

So Aside from the torture of running uphill for the majority of the race, it was still a blast! And I LOVE the 10K distance.

And I got to spend some time with my friend Carli, who is leaving for the Peace Corps soon...

Official time: 1:04:31

Hour, I'm coming for you!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Falling for Fall

The last month or two has given me a whole new appreciation for this amazing season.

It's been one for the record books.

Sure, part of it is probably because I haven't really had a fall for 2 years while living in Florida. But give me changing leaves and hot cocoa, and this guy is SOLD! Even the snow looks amazing!

When you step outside into the sun, there is a sense of rejuvenation.

As the sun sets and gives way to the night, and you bundle up in a sweatshirt, there is a cozy feeling that no matter where you are, it feels like home.

I've also discovered that being in the mountains in the fall is magical. The aspens paint the earth more colors than you can imagine, and the cool, crisp air cleanses your soul. It is truly breathtaking.

In the air, looking out at the colorful world, through each moment, and with those you spend your time with,

all you can feel in your heart is


Friday, October 28, 2011


Today, I received this email...

To have given blood, sweat, and tears for something that truly matters is something I will always cherish. I have loved seeing, in many different ways, the amazing things that Building Tomorrow does.

I am so proud to have been connected with this organization, and I am excited to see what the next 5 years holds in store for BT!

A little more than five years ago, I set out to name a vision of engaging young people in the United States in the quest to provide universal access to education to children in rural sub-Saharan Africa. For a few weeks straight, I'd keep a pen and paper next to my nightstand, writing down words and phrases that came to mind. The following morning, I'd enter them in to a URL bar, type '.org' at the end and see if anything came up., led nowhere.


With what many have described as a 'Build-a-Bear-esque" looking logo, Building Tomorrow stormed on to three college campuses that fall. Outwardly, the vision was simple-students stateside would support the construction of schools in Uganda. Inwardly, well, there was nothing. A recent college grad working where his stockpile of Lego's once stood, that was the closest I'd ever really come to building much of anything. How these schools were going to come about half a world away was really anyone's guess...

Tonight, with the help of our Honorary Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 160 guests will join us in downtown Indianapolis as we celebrate Building Tomorrow turning five years old. The journey has been an incredible one-filled with countless moments of anxiety, excitement, challenge and camaraderie. In a few short months, Building Tomorrow will open the doors to our 10th academy in Uganda, providing classroom space for over 3,000 rural students. Behind those classrooms are thousands of stateside students, from elementary school all the way through college, who've embraced the notion that social change starts with them.

On behalf of the hardest-working team you'll find anywhere, we say webale nyo, thank you very much, for carrying Building Tomorrow atop your shoulders and continuing to believe in the transformative power of education. We couldn't be any more thrilled to celebrate this awesome occasion, knowing full well the incredible work that remains ahead of us.

Good thing we're just getting started.


PS - If you'd like to make a donation in honor of our 5th birthday, please do.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Run the Rocks

This morning, I ran the Run the Rocks 5K at the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO.

Or, as is shall be called from now on: The Ouch Run, or the more daring Coloradans are Crazy Dash.

For the first two miles, I was thinking this was going to be my favorite race. It looped around the parking lot, and shot down the road. Nothing but winding mountain road straight downhill. As I was running down the hill at a ridiculous pace, all I could think about is how I wanted to be on a bike so I could be flying down the hill. One of those hills.

Train of thought: I am dominating this race! I am going to dominate my PR. This. Is. Awesome!

Down. Down. Down. Down.

As I kept going downhill, passing the amphitheater, dropping far below the elevation of the finish line, I had this epiphany of impending doom. I have to go up. Shit.

The last mile & a quarter was brutal. BRUTAL. 98% of the people around me had to stop and walk up this beast for a good portion of time. The other 2% wanted to. I was one of them. That amazing downhill turned into this wretched, soul crushing uphill.

Up. Up. Up.

To top it off, Red Rocks has what I have deemed "The Staircase of Death." So after killing yourself on the back half of the 5K, the finish line was at the top of the S.O.D. Ugghhh...

I honestly haven't had my butt kicked that hard since high school football workouts.

This race made me realize 2 things:
-I need to really get into trail running if I am going to be racing in Colorado.
-I am going to HURT tomorrow.

Time: Not so good.
Workout: Amazing!

What a beautiful morning in Colorado!

Monday, October 10, 2011


An unforgettable weekend getaway.

Friends. Fall. Mountains. Mormons. Football. Face Paint. Choir. Colleges. Dinosaurs.

Laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.

Top 5:

5. Reconnecting with friends - That's what this trip was all about - friends I haven't seen in a long time, even years... and spending time with people I love.

4. Fall drive through the mountains - There are few things more beautiful than driving through snow-capped mountain roads as the leaves are changing.

3. Acting like a 4 year old at Thanksgiving Point - Face painting, photo booths, digging for fossils, making magic wands, 3D movies, and exploring the museum. Side note: If a girl dressed in a cat costume tells you that something is "legit," do not trust her. It will end up being a creepy wizard doing lame magic tricks that even 4 year olds called out that they were fake. Lesson learned.

2. BYU football game w/ Team Voyles - So much laughter. In case you're curious, if you start an amazing rendition of "If you're a Cougar and know know it, clap your hands," only one person will clap.

1. Mormon Tabernacle Choir - Dream come true. You NEED to go see them perform before you die. Leave now.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I started this most recent journey at 284 pounds.


Coincidentally, this is my 50th post on this blog. Not even kidding.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Mountains Are Calling...

Every time I am in the mountains...

I feel free

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks
-John Muir

When I close my eyes I see you
No matter where I am
I can smell your perfume through these whispering pines

Sunday, September 25, 2011

10,000 Reasons To Smile

I was nervous for today.

I haven't had the time to do much running recently, even though I've been pretty active. But not what I was hoping for heading into my first 10K.

As the morning unfolded, I came up with a list.

Jeff Parker's Rules for Running a Race
1. (For the venue) If you have one speaker at the starting line, don't expect the entire crowd of thousands to hear anything the announcer says.
2. If you can not run a mile, do not start at the front of the pack. Especially when there are pacing groups.
3. Not every woman should be allowed to wear spandex shorts or pants.
4. NO man should be allowed to wear spandex shorts or pants. Or booty shorts (yes, that happened).
5. If you quickly change your path OR stop, please look behind you before you do so. You might get trampled.
6. Nobody under the age of 14 or over 60 should be allowed to run. When they beat me, I feel bad about myself.

Ok, now the race.

It. Was. Awesome!

The race started outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Broncos), went through the Pepsi Center (Nuggets/Avalanche), and through Coors Field (Rockies), looped back, and the finish line was at the 50 yard line of Mile High. The sports fan in me loved every second. The runner in me hated it. Because at the entrance to each stadium, since thousands of people were funneling through small hallways, everyone had to walk for a little bit while trying to cram into them. Those small breaks honestly added probably 6 minutes to my time. So I realized that it might not be the best race to try to set a PR or in my case, set the bar for a 10K, but as I ran through the tunnels and saw views of the stadiums that nobody else gets to see, it was all worth it.

For the majority of the race, I was fine. Good pace. Good rhythm. In the zone. I smiled as I crossed mile 5, but then I started to crash. Honestly, the last mile was the 3rd most difficult mile I have ever ran in my life (2001 when I ran my first mile at 275 lbs, 2010 when I ran my first mile at 284 lbs). Miserable... Aching... Must... Keep... Going...

As I rounded the corner of Mile High, entered the tunnel, saw the field, and more importantly- the finish line, I took off. 6.2 miles later, I crossed the finish line.

Had there not been the stalls at the stadiums, I probably would have finished somewhere in the 1:02-1:05 mark, but I have to go with when I crossed the finish line.

Official time:

Shoutout: I received this in the mail the other day from a great new friend. Thanks for the support!