Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Discount Store Ironman

The morning that I was supposed to do my ironman found me limping around a large discount store. About the time that I should be stepping out of the water from the 2.4 mile swim, I was stepping around boxes in the crowded, narrow aisles. Discount store life was going on unaware and unconcerned that there was an ironman in progress. I felt out of place, like I was outside looking in to the store and me in it. Outside looking in; feeling that I don’t belong: a feeling that the struggle, the challenge, my passion left me behind to mindless drift life away in a large discount store. In the midst of the crowd and the noise, I felt alone.

Discount store life might be great stuff for many. The thrill of finding a bargain, the aisle fellowship with part time friends and complete strangers; a community of like-minded. I certainly understand that. In principle it might not be much different than the sense of community sometimes felt in a crowd pre or post event. Discount store life is a little easier though. You don’t have to train, or get in shape for it. Consequently, there are lots of different shapes and sizes that might make discount store life entertaining on a day other than the day of my ironman.

Thoughts drifted again to the event. About right then I might be about to begin the bike portion of the ironman. I could almost feel the wind in my face and push of the pedals, the yells from the crowds. Instead I was trying to get to the check-out line so I could get out of there. What am I doing here?

The crowd got worse and I felt claustrophobic. Finally, I asked my wife if she could check out. I just had to get out of there. She understood. The knee hurt from all the standing around, as I hobbled across the parking lot to find my vehicle. I didn't feel ashamed I wasn't there. I couldn’t have done the events anyway. I knew that. But, being in a large discount store buried in crowd of unlike people, at the very time my passion was going on without me: that just seemed like piling on. Enough.

There has to be something in this besides my regrets, some a lesson God wanted me to learn from all this. And I knew. The answer is: I really have no choice. There is no going backwards. Painful knee or not, there is nothing to do but keep after it, keep being me. To me, discount story life is a sort of personal hell, where I would go, who I might be if I give up ; where I go if I fail to respond to this calling within. For me there are no bargains in any store. The best deals are found - for me, in living out the passion God has placed within me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lost Passion ??

Last night was toss and turn, trying to deal with the pain in my left knee. Walking was difficult after getting out of bed. The ironman is just days away. Yet, there is no remorse. And it makes me wonder. Am I losing my passion for this sport? Am I finally agreeing to be old as often suggested I should? Is it time to start acting my age - and do old things?

Let's look at the evidence. Bad knee and all, I did over 200 miles on the bike last week not fast enough, but I did them. I run even if it hurts; not far, but I run. I am picking out races to go to, as if I had good sense; as if I had two good legs. I train somehow almost every day, even when it hurts; like today. When I get up from this computer I intend to go limp around on a sweaty little so-called run. It seems I am just not ready to give those pictures up that I have of myself in my mind. Yes, I want to be an ironman: I am an ironman but just haven't proven it yet. I think it was Vince Lombardi that said his time never lost a game; they just ran out of time - Today, I still have the passion, and time hasn't been called - but more importantly: God hasn't said quit yet.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bogged Down

"Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you," were the words of Satchel Paige. Such is life. The photo on this page is of a portion of my dry pond bed in 2011. As long as one would step quickly and lightly, and kept moving, the bed could be traversed. However, if one stood still too long, the thin surface would give way. The feet and legs would sink into a couple feet of black mud. The going would get slow, very tough, and nasty. You can't go too far like that. You can't go far in life, bogged down.
After almost two weeks of limited training, I seem a little bogged down - like the mud is sucking at my ankles. More and more each day passing, I want to get on top again; to step lightly again, and cross this bad patch more quickly. I think God is shaping me still for something besides being stuck in the mud. I think that is always the case. And little by little, day by day, I feel the spirit building again for stepping quick and light again, moving on with the journey.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Inside Empty

Sometimes the journey seems to grind to a halt. Is it really then? After a week and a half of almost no training a lot of stuff got healed, but left it left the inside empty. Is it a journey if all you are doing is wandering? Without a beginning, a plan, or a destination, is motion and travel, by itself, a journey?

The word "journey," to me, conjures up much more. It is purposeful travel, often with hindrances and obstacles to be overcome along the way. "Journey" suggest a quest, a theme. It is to enliven. Thoreau wrote that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." My opinion: that might be because "the mass of men" are not on a true journey.

After this time of inactivity, I can feel this indescribable need. And I wonder do others feel that need to go on with their journey? Do others sometimes get that same empty inside feeling that I have with aimless living? Then again, maybe it is me. After thirty one plus years of endurance sports, have I seen too much to be satisfied with being a good husband, father, grandfather, citizen? These are all good things and the world needs these roles to be filled, no doubt. But there is more, I have known it. And, as for me, life is not to be lived in circles. Circles leave me inside empty.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Revelation of Reality and Acceptance

Another morning of tentatively getting out of bed and trying not to fall. My left leg; knee, hamstring, calf just want to buckle in pain with me. It takes some stretching to get moving to the bathroom. This has been going on for a while in silence. It was my plan not to give air to the pain, and perhaps it would eventually go away. A foolish notion, I know. But, the idea of an ironman is a foolish notion to begin with, and what is one more foolish notion? This was not meant for me and I can accept that. I think I have been preparing for that acceptance for several weeks now: with every painful planting of my foot.

Plus, the last minute bike course situation has only ushered that acceptance along; made it easier. Speaking only for myself, there is something lost, when this close to race day, there is only silence as to what the bike course will be or whether there will be an event at all. There has always been something special about ironman, an aura to it, a wrongly given status of semi-holy. For me, ironman came crashing to earth: feet of clay like everything else except God Himself. I put ironman in the clouds; on a pedestal. Now it is resting on the same turf we all walk upon; where I should have placed it all along.

But, even without that revelation, I cannot finish that ironman without seriously, perhaps permanently, injuring myself. That is a fact. So I have to face down both the revelation of ironman reality and the reality of my own physical limitations. This ironman is over for me, regardless, but I don't regret a thing. I poured the training on after medications I was taking almost got my ironman back around Christmas. There is a peace knowing I gave it my best and gave this one to God, but He starting closing doors. That's OK. "Nevertheless, not my will by Thine be done." Now to getting healed and enjoying the prospect of the next adventure with myself that God might put me into.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Incredible Power of Recovery

A half mile into the swim and I bonked: just had nothing to go on; felt anemic, weak, and terribly fatigued. Over the decades there have been many times on runs, and bikes, when I just didn't have it to go on. It is a scary shutdown making one realize how vulnerable we are, how human after all. Yes, I have spent some time, humbly sitting on the side of the road waiting, hoping, to get my stuff back. This is the first time I had sat in the pool and waiting and hoped - new experience, even at my advanced age. Twenty minutes or so passed with me enjoyed the quiet, soothing water surrounding my body - I was the only one in the pool. Little by little, I could feel I was coming to myself again. Why not try again? Why not keep moving? Why not complete the course?
It began and at the end of the all, I found that I had swam another mile.

Amazing how I can recover. Amazing how, when all looks like weakness and fatigue, given time and rest, I can find the strength to go on. And, in that process I grow stronger. As I grow stronger it gets easier to not believe the moment, and have faith in the incredible power of recovery, of renewal.

So too, I can be renewed no matter how many times I have failed, and failed myself, or failed God. "Failure isn't final with the Father" and no matter: there is forgiveness and restoration built in by God to fix my spiritual bonk at the foot of the Cross.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Other Side of Wisdom

Woke up to a beautiful morning here in the country, and in the "sound of silence" I prayed for wisdom. It seems that the prayers for a sign, a hint, an intimation of what I should do have lead me, not to the solution, but to the right request. This is the last day to drop out of Ironman Texas and get any of the entry returned. I need the ability to make a wise choice: I need wisdom. And so I prayed.

Limping to the bathroom on my bad knee should have told me it was wise to drop this whole thing. Remembering my pathetic running pace should have evoked a wise decision to quit. Considering the expense of this most likely failed venture should have added wisdom enough to back off from all this. No, really, I think the odds are very long that I will finish within the time cut off for the event. The 70-74 year age group results are littered with participants my age who didn't make the cut. Is it wise to go through all this; put my family through all of this to only add my name to the list of those my age who did not make it? Wisdom would seem to say let this go.

So I go to this computer to officially ask for a partial refund of my entry, and I just can't do it. That is not wise -at first I thought - then I pondered if I might be accessing a greater, God-given wisdom, than the practical and logical can afford. And, my fears run rampant about the pain to be borne and the probable failure of it all - yet, I can't withdraw. It doesn't seem wise.

So wisdom has become to take this as far as I am carried. There is some rough training to be done yet. My first goal is to just make it to the starting line; to step out into the water for the swim, like Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on water to Jesus. And if I finish the swim on time; finish the bike on time, get through all the highs and lows in between, I will be so thankful. On the dreaded run, however far I get before being taken off the course will be a blessing. At the end of that day, my hope is to have stepped out in faith, run the race set before me, looking to God for strength, and did the best I could, for Him. That sounds wise to me. I think my prayer for wisdom this morning has been answered.

Use me God, show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for purpose greater than myself.
Martin Luther King