Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ironman Victories

According to the 2009 Ironman World Championship race coverage, Elizabeth Thompson had previously suffered a stroke and had to essentially learn to walk again. There she was, lining up for one of the toughest one day events there is. She had come so far already. And I like what she said about the upcoming day. Essentially she said that if she makes the starting line; that will be a victory. If she makes the swim cut-off; that will be a victory and if she makes the bike cut-off; that will be a victory. But, if she completes the entire race it would be a victory unimaginable.

I feel the same. After years of failing at this, just to make it halfway healthy to the starting line of Ironman Texas, would be a victory. Each portion of the event I might complete will be my own personal victory. So, I take the race apart to put goals, challenges, and rewards along the way. And that Elizabeth Thompson perspective produces more of that "peaceful easy feeling" that I have seemed to be carrying into my workouts. And, prayerfully, I will be able to carry that into race day; to accept myself; to be defined by my effort, not necessarily the outcome.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Terminator Triathlete II

Over the years I have had more than my share of event disappointments and sometimes I get mentally a little beat-up about it for a while. What comes to mind is the picture of the terminator robot in the movie "Terminator" -I don't remember which one-. He gets blown up, burned up, shot up, mashed, melted, and mutilated, but somehow his pieces find each other, and the terminator puts himself back together again.

So, here I go again not knowing how this is all going to work out. Like in a "Rocky" movie the fighter Clubber Lang is asked about predictions for the fight. He responded: "pain." Maybe I am a little too comfortable and complacent? Maybe it is time to be blown up or mashed, but the terminator triathlete is beginning to find the pieces and come back together. Getting beat up and getting back together is the only talent I even remotely have. And God is in the re-creation business, so I get lots of help finding and putting my pieces back together.

Today I think I am almost together - except for a few loose screws. "I'll be baaack."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Active Recovery: The Lesson in the Tree

The tree was rotten and kept dropping limbs that impeded mowing. It looked sturdy enough still but my son climbed an extension ladder and threw a logging chain around it about half way up. We hooked two logging chains together and to the tractor. One light pull and the tree collapsed, breaking in pieces. What once had seemed so strong and immovable had succumbed to a pull at the right place and persistence to see the work through. Now there is smooth earth where the tree once stood and soon we will plant spinach on the good soil there.

Strange day off from training: active recovery I suppose. But, the lesson of the tree is the lesson of the quest: Sometimes we believe the tree cannot be moved; cannot be changed, but through the right pull at the right place, plus patient persistence, obstacles can fall, and our goals be met, and our lives bear fruit in due season.

For pulling my stongholds down, the right pull at the right place, is imbedded in my relationship with God. When I am close; when I am letting His power work through me, my rotten trees fall before me. Tomorrow another training day, and through the Power within me, another chance to down the obstacles between who I am now, and who God would have me be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chunk Rocks

There must have been twenty-five dogs in that pack, all sizes, all breeds. Over twenty years ago, I was on a hot fifteen mile run, coming back from my turnaround on an isolated stretch of country road. As I entered a straight portion of the little road I saw the dogs about two hundred yards ahead. I stopped. They looked at me. I looked at them. After several moments of this, they attacked, some barking, some had a low growl, but all were coming directly for me.

There were no large trees nearby to climb; no houses to retreat to; no way I could outrun those dogs. . I remember in that instant, I had a flashback to the old John Wayne movie, “True Grit.” In that movie several outlaws on horseback were facing Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) across a beautiful meadow. Though outmanned, outgunned, Rooster charged across the meadow, shooting away at the outlaws.

Yeah, there was no way around this confrontation. After quickly gathering an armload of broken pieces of asphalt from the edge of the old road , I charged the oncoming pack, chunking rocks and hollering insults. They were stunned. As my projectiles began to landed closer, as this crazy human got closer to them, they lost their nerve. They stopped abruptly and hastily retreated, tails between their legs: some yelping even though they had not been hit. The crowd of dogs dispersed in all directions. Three of four of the larger dogs remained beside the road , but on the other side of the bar ditch. As I ran by they made no move on me at all. One just let out a weak, muffled “whoof.” Then they set off to chase a nearby horse.

Live is like that sometimes. Sometimes obstacles, roadblocks, and enemies come at you like a pack of dogs on a lonely road. Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a tree to climb or any escape other than frontal confrontation. In these moments, I think we decide who we are, and who we are going to be.

But, it is easy to forget all we have overcome when we see the next pack of dogs coming at us. Endurance athletes are somewhat defined by all we have overcome. And I try hard not to forget that. Even with my age-effected, memory, I should not forget times like finishing a marathon with blood squishing in each shoe . Or, the many night runs alone out here in the country, shining a flashlight at regular intervals to see the snakes on the road. Or, how I got pretty good at chunking rocks and killing Copperheads stretched out across my running path. I didn’t quit running because there were dog packs. I didn’t quit night running because of snakes on the road. I chunked rocks.

The other day, spokes on my new bike came loose: chunk a rock; move on. The new running shoes jam my toes, there is pain, chunk a rock; move on. It is pouring rain, visibility limited on my long bike. Chunk a rock; move on. Now that my training is probably more serious than it ever has been, I must remember: I am an endurance athlete. Things will come against me out there. It happens to everyone who risks and pursues. Into every life some rain must fall; sometimes it pours. And far back as the time of Shakespeare: “To be or not to be. That is the question. Whether to tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles.” For my money, it is take up arms: chunk rocks.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Test

Things starting coming apart race week and seemed to continue right on through the event. The first thought was that this is a sign that I am not supposed to do this. But I can’t remember every feeling good about following and obeying those alleged “not suppose to do this” signs . Doing the “safe,right and judicious thing” was always followed by an empty echo feeling - a sort loss of self respect for not pushing long enough; not trying hard enough; listening to the “can’t” and “shouldn’t” voices instead of believing more.

The temptation to use difficulties for an excuse came swarming at me, it seemed. Early in the week my shifter to the rear cog set stopped working. Luckily, the front shifter still worked so I at least had two gears to go with. For a couple of rides I made do my two speed bike. Then, that front shifter started throwing my chain off. This got scary a few times and at the very least it messed up my momentum, not to mention greasing up my hands from the chain work. My white bar tape began to look real nasty. So, I took my 11 year old bike off my indoor trainer and did a couple rides to make sure it was a viable option. Not sure about that viable option thing. The headset was in bad shape . The bike was sketchy to steer. Which ever way I turned the handlebar, it wanted to stay there.

I can do this. After all, the bike leg on the event is only fourteen miles. Additionally, the bike is pretty small for me. Without the stability of it being on a trainer, getting a water bottle out of the bottle rack while dealing with that unstable front end was risky business. But again, I only had fourteen miles that I had to go.

Traffic in and around the big city was horrendous, especially for someone living in the country where a traffic jam is five cars waiting for a red light. It seemed we stopped on the freeway about every mile. Then the traffic would clear, and we would go another mile before we came to stopped traffic again. People were changing lanes, making quick stops, cutting us off, and generally driving aggressively. Stress levels were peaked. Finally, after many more stops on the freeway, we came to our exit. We turned onto a street where we went from traffic light to traffic light with traffic backed up. Finally, we arrived at the hotel and the venue. I was pretty well spazzed out; not the way I like to be the day before an event.

The rest of the afternoon I lay in the hotel bed, starring at mind-numbing TV. I realized, I guess, it could be worse. There are worse things than heavy traffic on the way to a triathlon. I could be sentenced to a life of forced viewing of daytime television. That would be much worse. Naw,! Not so bad, fighting traffic and doing triathlons. The pressure started coming off and I started preparing for the event. Fitful sleep and awake at four AM. My swim wave didn’t started until 7:54 AM but ----. Got there early to set up for transition and all the other stuff. Wait, wait. It is already hot. Barely daylight and sweat is already dripping off my nose --drink, drink.

We congregated at the end of a pier which was obviously a shoring bird roosting area. Puddles of white poo were everywhere on the pier. Footing could be slippery in most spots; not the place to sit down to wait for my wave to start. Standing and waiting were the order of the day. I started to go for a practice swim, but something smelled wrong about the water. No sense getting in that stuff until I had to.

Finally, it was our turn to get in the water. I eased off the pier but my head still went under the water: YUK!The water smelled nasty, like pollution or worse. Other participants were affected as well. One hoped he wouldn’t get sea sick from the smell. Another hoped no one would light a match for fear the water would catch on fire. Seems like forever we tread water waiting to start. Finally, we were off. I couldn’t bring myself to put my whole face into that water, so I swam with my head sticking up for the most part. No problem sighting in this swim. But, despite my poor body position in the water, I was hammering this swim - I wanted out of this stinky stuff. At the end of the swim we had to climb straight up on 8-10 foot ladders to get out of the water. Thank God, I was out. But my tri suit smelled like that water later in the day, the more I sweat.

The smelly water was a matter for trepidation, but the bike was my greatest fear. The tires weren’t all that great. The front end was a mystery. And, who knows what will come off or come apart on a bike that old. Right away, even before I was out of transition, a brake started dragging. Stopped, fixed that. I didn’t use a bike computer because I didn’t really want my spirit threatened by knowing how slow I was going. Out of transition and on the course, I moved nicely along; doing well as long as I kept both hands on the bars and stayed alert. I only had 14 miles to do and be out of the danger zone.

About two miles in I heard a tickey-tickey sound on my bike. Maybe my race number blowing in the wind; held the number but the sound continued. Oh my, something was on my front tire. Something on my front tire was hitting my front brake every time it came around. Looked like a tack, a roofing nail- couldn’t tell. Didn’t want to stop. What would I do anyway? Pulling a nail out would deflate the tire. I had less than 12 miles to go. So I kept on. The miles keep being consumed and the noise continued, as I expected any moment for the tire to go flat. I didn’t push the pace, but kept a nice cadence, only wanting to get through with the bike ride.
Steering around corners was a little scary and I tried to set up the turns without anyone around me. When only about four miles to go, I reached for my water bottle without checking to see if anyone was coming up on me – mistake. The small bike made me double up like a pill bug to get the bottle out of the holder, and the unpredictable steering pulled me to the left. Whosh! Another bike buzzed by barely missing me. That was close. Cadence had dropped during all that, and I needed to pick it back up. So, I stood up to get the momentum going. Oops! My foot slipped off the right pedal. I wobbled around trying to keep from falling over or dragging my loose foot on the ground, and finally got my foot back on the pedal and righted myself. Scary. I have never had that happen before in thousands of miles of riding.

My nerves began to calm a bit when I saw the hotel on the race venue in the distance, and knew I could at least run the bike in from there. Life was good . The bike would soon be over. I must have been grinning from ear to ear coming into transition. In and out and on the run course. I had made it on the bike – yes! Later I found that the thing on the front wheel of my bike was only some tenacious sticky back paper – thank God.

The run was terribly hot and humid. Feeling blessed beyond measure to have gotten through the bike, I decided just to do a walk/run and not get over-heated. It was a good run. I poured cold water on myself at the aid stations, talked to the volunteers, enjoyed myself, and cruised on through the short run. I had survived the smelly water; the scary bike leg, enjoyed the run, and coming down the finishers chute I was all smiles. It was over.

My performance had not been all that awesome, except the swim, where I swam my fastest time ever for that distance - no surprise there. The bike leg was surprisingly good considering my tentative effort. And, I got first place in my age group: the only one in my age group. I think I was the oldest participant in the sprint triathlon that day.

I have been doing marathons and triathlons and such for about three decades, but even aged warriors such as I need continuing education courses on certain aspects of this lifestyle. This CEU was about keeping on. Demons will come at you - accept that, bear up, stand in, keep moving forward. Training is like that: ironman is like that: life is like that. Then too, this whole thing could also have been a small test to see if I have a few basics of what it takes to push through to an ironman. I don’t think the test was so that God would know if I can: it was so that I could know that I can. All I have to do is obey, put one foot in front of the other, stand in, and overcome the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and “run the race that is set before me” to the Glory of God.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Giving Up Giving Up

Never venture on that Ironman road again. It is over. Right. Sure. Giving it up. Last blog. Oh sure. With those kind of misrepresentations, I should go into politics, maybe. But, no. I am just a regular folk; nothing special. Not going to put a spin on it; and so I say it straight out: I lied.

Basically, I am not naturally a "giver-upper" and I knew that when I said I was giving up on ironman. Sure, I knew once the pain of personal defeat subsided that the phrases, "maybe," or "perhaps try again," would have to be dealt with if I were to be successful at giving up.

Trying my best to give up was sort of bizarre. It made me different; a different I didn't like as much; a person I didn't like as much. And, the people around me probably didn't like me that much either. Bless them for puttting up with me. Life took on the color of grayscale print. It was a deep funk trying to do something that seemed so terribly unnatural; something like amputation of a part of my spirit. I felt disabled.

And so I prayed and I prayed. Day by day it got easier. Easier to give up? No. It became easier to accept myself and all my ironman failures; to come face to face with the realization that I had been lying not just on my blog, not just to those who support me, but ultimately to myself. I had failed at ironman and now I had failed at giving up; thank God. Now, I know I have to go with who I am. There is no other good choice because I truly believe NOT giving up is God's first choice. OK, I am convicted. OK. I lied. I repent I am going to give up giving up.

Ironman Texas in 2015.

Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Moments: A Hundred Years Old

Moments: A Hundred Years Old: Ellen Dittfurth – Age 100 Born 7/18/14 – a few weeks before World War I and about six years before women had the right to vote. She was...