Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Fear Strikes Out"

>Fear Strikes Out is a book by Jimmy Piersall, a baseball player plagued by his own set of challenges. But, I like the title as it exemplifies my own battle with ironman. Confession time: I am relatively healthy, everything seems to be working out and the event is getting closer: I am scared to death. There it is; I am scared. It's out. Now to deal with it. Quiet moments I have to deal with all the negatives: number one is that I am too old for this. Number two is I have a gimp left knee that could go bad. Number three is that I can't be sure I can keep going for seventeen hours. Yes, it's scary and I am too old to have to face this crisis down, right? For goodness sake here, next year - if I live that long - I will be racing in yet another age group: as a 75 year old. Isn't 32 marathons and 50 triathlons enough? Where is that rocking chair anyway?

Now that women and wild parties are out, and I can't afford to be a heavy drinker on a fixed income, letting go of my grip and getting old are my greatest temptations. I want to at times. I really do. But, when I visualize that life without fear and challenge, I find myself shaking my head side to side as if my heart has already said "no!" Fear strikes out remember? The other life seems a sort of death, like walking back to the dugout after watching three strikes without swinging, and the umpire has called me "out." "Face your fears and live your dreams," are the words of Jon Blais. So, I must continue to resist the temptation to cave to my fears and have my life die before my body does. I must resist the temptation to die before my time. If I let myself believe all this old age stuff, it will come true. My theory is to make advanced age prove itself: don't give up anything; make it come and take it. I won't be caught with the bat on my shoulder with a good pitch crossing the plate. If I strike out it will not be because of fear, but because I swung and missed.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Years; Getting Up One More Time

New Years Eve: I have failed at getting to the start of the ironman many times yet as listen to the fireworks out there in the night, I yet have hope, and I yet have the will to keep trying. God just won't let me quit and somehow, I still find it inside to keep training: to keep hoping. I get older and older and fail and fail, yet, in the I somehow still hope. That Hope is more than I could muster on my own. I like that quote: "The miracle is not that I finished but that I had the courage to begin." So this New Years Eve I am thankful and feel blessed that I have been given the courage to begin and begin again and begin again, and again. Tonight I am thankful that God pushed me with hope to simply have the courage, the will, the hope, to just get up one more time. In the process doubt and fear had to be dealt with and overcome. And all the arguments for mindless moderation must be argued down. To me sometimes seems that the world would level us all off into clones of one another. And if we are not "acting our age," or following some less courageous predetermined pattern, it is as if a violation of the natural order has been committed.

So my resolution is to be myself. To hope where there doesn't seem to be a reason to; to keep getting up to reach for more. Who knows. I might just inspire someone else to step outside the preordained prescription for their lives. You never know who is watching or reading this post; someone waiting for inspiration; waiting to see if I will get up yet one more time than I get knocked down, and finish the "race set before me."

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Cable in the Dirt

At first the thought was sort of frightening. Then fear evolved into something else, and I knew I must do it. Almost three months ago I had gotten off my bike to relieve myself and fell crossing a cable across a dirt road. The fall broke my hand and I had not biked outside until today. I had driven by this spot several times in my automobile to see the cable across the road that had taken me down. I must climb over that cable. This was stupid. Why? I just need to do this. Crazy, but there is something in the back of my mind that says fears should be faced; and if possible, overcome. Yeah, I know. It doesn't make sense.

Up ahead I could see where the little road entered the road I was on, and there was a slight quickening of the pulse. I will not fall this time. Yeah, let's do this. However, when I stopped my bike and successful got off, I could see there was no cable across the little road anymore. It had been there just days before; what? Just like before I pushed my bike to the dreaded spot. There lying impotent in the dirt across the little road, was the cable that had disabled me. There was no barrier to cross. It had been laid down for me. I didn't have to reach down and overcome the trepidation of crossing the cable safely; the cable had already been taken down. It was as if God was clearing my path; making my way for me. I know I read a lot into this but couldn't help thinking that maybe this time, maybe this time, I will be at the starting line for my ironman. After all my failures,perhaps, God is making a way for even me. Yes, even me, this no talent ancient.

And I thanked God for the cable in the dirt; thanked God that I had come through the injury intact; thanked God for the opportunity, the thrill, the adventure, and the opportunity to serve Him in my journey. But, even in my gratefulness, I became aware that the cable was not removed from my path, but it was just much lower now, there in the dirt. It can easily be raised again. I can be injured by this or any other cable thrown across my journey. But, the cable in the dirt tells me that God is with me, and I must continue to nurture and maintain a grateful heart to begin and finish my journey for Him: Ironman Texas.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Birthday Grip on Life

Tomorrow is my birthday. Last year at this time ironman training was skidding from slow to stop. It was a tough time. Back pain, muscle and joint pains in various places made me unable to train without the session being a suffer-fest. But my greatest concern was that I might soon be physically disabled. A few weeks with very light or no training had no effect. The pain was awful. It was a somber birthday and Christmas. Finally on January the 5th, I agreed to go to the doctor.

An X-ray of my back revealed that I had the back of a twenty five year old, but blood tests revealed that the statins I had been taking were having huge side effects. The doctor had another kind of statin he thought I should try that might not have as bad of side effects as the one I had been on. I considered it, then gave the pills back to him and went on a plant based eating plan. After a week or so off the medication, I could tell the pains were lessening. Hope began to creep in. Could I still train for Ironman Texas, even yet? I had had so much down time; missed so many workouts. But, why not at least try? What was there to lose that I haven't felt the loss for already? Sure, this was too much too soon, but six months or a year from then would I regret pushing hard and failing or would I regret more that I settled for less and played it safe? What would God want me to do with this renewed grip on life? No brainer: I tried. I piled on the training volume. The scary back pains subsided. Yeah, I was pushing the limit, but I was out there, alive, not disabled, only beat up from the training. Eventually, my old injured knee began to feel the strain of the too rapidly increase training volume. And, in spite of all I could do, the ramped up volume took me down. My bad knee took me as far as it could; until I could barely walk. However, when it was all over, I still had the smile. I had had my time.

Now a year later, no meds, plant based eating and my blood numbers are good without any medication. I am running and biking without pain. I am recovering faster from hard workouts better than ever. And, I am entered in Ironman Texas 2017. I have my grip on life back, and I can only thank you God. So, whatever happens with Ironman Texas; as far as I take it, all the struggle, all the pain, all the success, all the glory is for God. Take me out of the loop Lord; this journey is just for you.

Below is last year's birthday post -

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hardships With Gratefulness

Hardships with Gratefulness; seems a contradiction. This holiday season is the first since the loss of my Mother: a hardship. Dig deep within and find the gratefulness for having her her for so many holiday seasons; grateful for the love and warmth she brought to the room I made for her in my life; grateful that I could love so deeply hurt so much, and from all this feeling alive: alive in God.

Hardships with Gratefulness in the ironman quest; seems a contradiction as well. Grateful for the deep fatigue which means I have empowered purpose, that I have purpose; grateful for the setbacks, and failures, which have made me more humble, yet grateful for the great workouts which fuel hope and confidence; Grateful to know that the ability for a no-talent such as myself would never have been possible without being given the strength to endure from above. My prayer is to keep moving forward with gratefulness to the honor and glory of God.

Draw from Him the strength to endure. No one has the ability within himself to endure hardships with gratefulness. Only by relying on the Lord can believers go through adversity with an appreciative heart.

Now, think about that circumstance you would like changed, and with a new mindset, offer this prayer to God: "Lord, I accept this situation as coming from You. In faith and trust, I place myself under Your loving authority, and draw from You the strength I need to endure with gratitude."

Charles Stanley

There is a testimony behind the storm you are going through.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day - In the Beginning

Thanksgiving 2016: Bittersweet. First holiday without my mother. We always took her Thanksgiving lunch to the nursing home and she so appreciated the meal and the company. Now, that is not needed anymore and there seems a hole that I can't seem to fill.

But, there is another first on Thanksgiving. Thirty four years ago today, I began my endurance sports journey. I tried to run. It marked a new beginning much like holidays without parents does. But, the running, the biking, and swimming bear no pain of remembrance; only joy. Those memories bring a smile, even now, to these old lips. I was blessed to have parents that I loved so much and I have been blessed by thirty four years of a wonderful life in endurance sports. Thanksgiving ... I am giving thanks to God for it all.

Below is an excerpt from my book, "I Hear Footsteps," accounting that groundbreaking Thanksgiving so many years ago.

Prologue: In the Beginning

Several times when I was young I came close to dying from asthma, pneumonia, or the medication itself. Many times I really wondered if I was going to be able to take that next breath. In those days treatment options were quite limited. Consequently, prolonged bouts with this stuff seemed to keep me in an emaciated physical state. At age fourteen I weighed just seventy-eight pounds and was four foot, eleven inches tall. There were many nights in my life spent sitting up in bed just trying to breathe. My back grew bowed and one side of my chest protruded out much farther than the other. I looked deformed and I guess I was. For me, playing sports was quite limited. I was always the last one chosen for a team.

After adulthood and years of treatment, my health improved somewhat. Eventually, I grew out of my deformed chest; but still, I was occasionally besieged by bouts of severe asthma attacks. It seemed that being an asthmatic was my lot in life, my own piece of hell, a curse from which I would not be set free.

Thanksgiving morning, 1982 found me once again suffering from an asthma attack. Having been up most of the night trying to breathe, I was a man much out of sorts. Somehow though, on this one day in time, a whole lifetime of frustration seemed to culminate right then and there on that Thanksgiving morning. I was just fed up. I was just angry—very angry. For some reason, I just wanted to run. Absurd as that reasoning might sound, I just wanted to make my lungs suffer, to strike back at something, at anything. “Enough is enough!!” I thought. If I were going to be gasping, struggling for breath, and wheezing, well by golly, I might as well have a good reason for it. I was going to run! What was I thinking? It was crazy, I know. Could be I was just a little bit over the edge at the time?

I had no shoes to run in so I laced up my hunting boots and started a slow jog down the dirt road in front of my house. I was going to run the quarter mile to the end of that road if it killed me. It very nearly did. In fact, after only a few moments, after less than a hundred yards, I was bent over with my hands on my knees, seriously struggling for air. Asthma had beaten me again, I thought, as I walked slowly and dejectedly back to the house. Surprisingly though, sometime later after I had fully recovered, it seemed that I could breathe a little better than before. And some of that anger—no, a lot of that anger—was still in there bubbling, simmering around inside. I would have another go at it the next morning. This wasn’t over.

The next morning I got a little farther down the road than the day before, but it was still a suffocating experience. Beaten again. But, I had gone a few feet farther. It wasn’t much farther but there was some small satisfaction in it. Afterwards, I again found I could breathe a little better than before my run. The next morning and the next and the next found me making similar attempts and being met with similar defeats. But, with each effort I was getting a little farther down the road. Anger had matured into firm resolution. My mind and spirit now had “missile locked” on someday getting all the way down that road, the whole quarter mile. Finally, one day I just hung on, suffocated more than I ever thought I could, and made the whole quarter of a mile. No, it wasn’t an Olympic finish. No bands were playing. No crowds were cheering. No one cared, but I knew. It was just my own ecstatic experience, a private victory on a little dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

No stopping me now; I had tasted it. My asthma was getting better almost daily. Finally, one morning I ran all the way back to the house—a half mile. I was elated! Then the day came when I ran a whole mile. Like a prisoner breaking out of his jail cell, breathing fresh air for the first time in a very long time, there was no containing me. I was out of control and still am, I hope. Thank God!! I traded my hunting boots for slip-on deck shoes and, when my long runs got to around three or four miles, I finally bought real running shoes.

The rest of the story is about longer runs: 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and, in 1987, my first marathon. Sometimes, even now, having completed over thirty marathons and many triathlons, it is still hard to fully comprehend. To think that I did all that, yet knowing all the time I am really nothing special, just a no talent, ordinary person who hung on. I am so grateful! I feel so blessed!! May I never lose that childlike wonderment at all this. May I never forget that first frustrating Thanksgiving morning in 1982. But even more importantly, may I never forget to give God the thanks, that I can run!!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Moments: Fix It

Moments: Fix It: Visits to my aged mother are tough duty now. One factor is that it drives me out of feel-good, rah, rah and forces me to confront the truth... (more below)