Sunday, August 6, 2017

Again

Again into the fray. Again the huge time, energy, and resource commitment; again, I have begun training for Ironman Texas.

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/texas.aspx#/axzz4p0XzVylq

It has been over three months since I participated in this event(I finished the swim and bike). But strangely, I don't have that "unfinished business" vendetta thing. It is more like a "peaceful, easy feeling" when I consider my last ironman attempt. Ihttps://milesofthejourney.blogspot.com/2017/05/a-day-unlike-any-other-day-rest-of-story.htmlf I am good with it so why go at it again, then. As strange as it might seem, I am at peace about this so it is tempting to stop right here and be content to savor that wonderful experience.

However, something different happened at that ironman effort a little over three months ago. I guess I didn't realize the amount of ego I had involved until I lost a healthy portion of it. This ironman thing has taken me down and has taken me up to a whole new platform and perspective that I can't really put into words.

Perhaps it was somewhere out there on that windy bike course of Ironman Texas, when I was stopped, exhausted, in pain, leaning over my handlebars in prayer. Perhaps it was the pervasive love and support I received from friends and family. Perhaps it was the intimate feeling of God being with me? Perhaps I lost something I did not need and received something I don't want to live without? Perhaps there is more? So, bring on the quest - Again.




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Somebody Is Watching

The doldrums: "a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression." I was there. Nobody knew. I went three days without any training for the first time in several years. I prayed. The doldrums continued. I became more concerned about my motivation to endure than my physical ability to do so. Oh sure, it is hot, humid, and lots going on with regular life. There was lots to take my focus away but I have faced those demons before and gotten back up and gone on. This time was really tough. I didn't share this with anyone except God. Who else could help?

Then one day without provocation, an old friend sent me a message of hope and inspiration; a reminder that God is in this and God is with me. I am not really sure what or how he might have known about my ironman training, but it was obvious from the message that he had been watching me and my journey, perhaps for hope and inspiration of his own.

A day or so later my daughter wrote that she had been running and had gotten up to four miles. Shortly thereafter, my son asked me when ironman training would officially begin. A relative who had just got through open heart surgery wanted to know all about my training and racing plans. He seemed inspired by it all. Then he remarked about some detail from a story from a book I have written. I was surprised that someone had read my little book and more surprised that someone could remember something from it. Somebody has been watching me. I guess I had thought I had been doing all this in a dark closet. I had been watched all along. I was convicted and a little bit ashamed.

God has granted me health and vitality beyond normal years. May I use those gifts to provide hope and inspiration, to show God in human effort and commitment. God has sent others to lift me up out of my doldrums. So, I sense He sends me to "run the race that is set before me." Yes, Somebody is watching. It is God.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Right Kind of Crazy Stuff

There is a peace this morning. The answer came; the decision made then acted upon: I AM IN !
IRONMAN TEXAS APRIL 28TH, 2018

http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/texas.aspx#/axzz48IRjLSXJ

The event is ten months away and it is presumptuous to think at this age I will live that long, much less be able to do an ironman event. Of course it's insane but I have my excuses all laid out along with my "things to do" lists and training plan. And they are: I am old, senile, overcome with dementia, and deluded due to lack of oxygen to the brain. It's not my fault I do crazy stuff, you see.

And I have this crazy notion that God is in this with me; approves and smiles at upon it. Yeah, crazy stuff going on, this believing. Why would I think God has anything to do with this just because I have prayed fervently several times a day about it: just because I fasted and prayed about all this. This may no prove anything except the obvious(as previously) stated: senile, dementia, delusion.

However, this morning I am at peace about this decision and I am peace with God. Perhaps the right kind of crazy stuff really isn't all that bad.



Friday, June 23, 2017

I Am Afraid

Decision time comes in about three days. I am afraid. Yes, I am afraid; afraid of the level of commitment required; the amount of fatigue to endure; the pain, the discomfort. I am afraid. I am afraid that I can't sustain the season and consequently, will have to admit that I am getting too old. I am afraid of what I would have to put my loved ones through yet again. And, I am afraid that if I do make it to the starting line that my performance may even be worse than the year before. Here again, I would have to admit I need to find more sedentary pursuits and start checking out the price of rocking chairs.

But, I am more afraid of giving up before I am finished and what it would do to me. I am afraid that I won't cope well with lesser challenges and a more mediocre lifestyle. I have been to the mountain, and it might be hard now to live in the valleys.

So, amidst hopes and fears I count the costs like the disciples of Jesus did before assuming a life of sacrifice.

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first , and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Luke 14:28


So, I have counted the cost and prayed enough to know God is with me: now, then, and forevermore, and I am not afraid.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Questions

Two weeks until registration opens for Ironman Texas 2108. Do I really want to go to that level of effort and commitment again? Is the going up really worth the coming down this time? Did I do enough last time to scratch that itch? Do I feel God wants me to do more on the ironman playing field or on another?

The training and the motivation doesn't seem to be there: perpetually fatigued, slow to get to workouts, a sort of athletic apathy. Sure there are moments that light me up when I hear about ironman, but they are not sustained moments and ironman training is about sustaining.

And, I wonder if the beauty of that wonderful experience at Ironman Texas this year has set the standard so high that I would be sure to be disappointed by a renewed effort? Would the beauty of that experience be tarnished by reaching for more and messing up the image and feeling I have about 2017? Now it seems I have so many questions about something I thought I was sure about. Am I done here? Is it time to just do small events, or get involved in some areas of service that I have not explored?

The brain seems perpetually clouded with fatigue, so much so that I don't trust any decision right now. So, once again, there is nothing to do but pray; leave it God to decide and trust the results to Him. Perhaps that is where He has been pushing me to all along? Is that so bad?

PS: Starting tomorrow morning I am doing 24 hours of fasting and prayer.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Uncover and Discover

Over three weeks since my ironman effort and my knee is finally healed. I would like to think it healed to stronger than it was before. I would like to think that I have recovered to more than I was before. I think its true.

A line from a song says, "And something's lost and something's gained in living every day." The ironman experience was "living' in high definition. And, something is changed: me. Another saying goes that a rubber band stretched to its limit never goes back to its original shape. I have been tried; I have been stretched. I can't go back. I have tasted the calling; reveled in the gift, seen places inside; rooms laid dusty and vacant until now.

I have always been intrigued by the thought that the possibility to have cell phones has always been with us, even back when Indians were sending up smoke signals, or even as far back as when cave men were writing on cave walls. The potential for cell phones has always been with us. We just had to uncover and discover it.

On a personal level who knows what potential lies within us? Who knows what we are capable of if can summon the strength and courage to uncover and discover. I ask God, "Should I do another ironman?" From my reading of His word and my own relationship with Him, I sense His answer: "Why not? I have placed the potential within you. Have the strength and courage to step out in faith and uncover and discover yet again."

Monday, May 1, 2017

A DAY UNLIKE ANY OTHER DAY - The Rest of the Story

My bum left knee and other personal issues have stopped me several times from getting to the Ironman Texas starting line several times. This time, this year, things seemed to be different. My hopeful spirit was enriched by all the interest and support shown by my family and friends. I was humbled almost to tears by the outpouring of all their love and concern.

The night before the event was awful. Did I sleep at all? Not sure. However, the prospect of the biggest athletic event of my 73 year old life lay before me, and morning found me purposeful, intent, mentally alert; ready for one of the greatest experiences of my life. It would be all of that and more.

Can you believe that my nephew and niece would fly down for Spokane, Washington to be there for this event? My goodness! And my wife can’t be thanked enough for the way she always made a way for me through this journey of many years. So many times she has been my go-to girl; the selfless, “wind beneath my wings.” If I needed a reason to do this it would be to reward her for all the love and support she has shown me through it all. However, she has back and hip problems and can’t walk very far without undue pain. She would have wanted so much to be at the start but it wasn’t to be. However, my sister volunteered to be my ironsherpa for race day. God bless her, she had already traveled over two hundred miles to get to the event,and then got up at 3:00 AM to meet me to help with race morning.

We walked to transition and I left her to go inside to put nutrition on my bike and inflate my tires. The front of the entrance to the transition area was very crowded. Trying to work my way through the crowd, I could not see my feet. One foot caught an unseen curb and in a moment, I was landing hard on my bad knee on the pavement. Bike bottles scattered all around, but nice folks helped me up and gather my bottles. Was I hurt? Not sure. Yeah, it seemed to have made the knee hurt somewhat when I planted it. What was that sticky stuff I was smearing on my bike pump? Was that blood? Were my hands bleeding?

Quickly into transition, I took care of business, went out, found my sister, and we briskly walked to the swim start – about a mile. There we dropped off the special needs bags and I got bodymarked, then stood in a long line for a potty stop. Swim start was crowded, noisy, and, for me, it was hard to tell what the announcer was saying. It was all going by so fast. On the way to line up, we stopped and talked to a long time volunteer and thanked her. Then, I came upon one of my Facebook friends I had wanted to meet – a very nice gentleman facing his own ironman challenge that day. We talked to him a bit.

When I look around it seemed there were only people in wetsuits waiting to swim. I did hear the announcer say something about nonwetsuit swimmers better get in the water. Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I made my way through the large wetsuit crowd. Finally at the front, I found that I was one of only two nonwetsuit people left to go. Quickly, in the water, adjust the goggles, and I am swimming.

The whole morning had been sort of a blur with no time to think through the situation or even to be nervous. Now, about 500 yards into the swim, it came to me: I am in an ironman swim. My dream: I had imagined this many times over the last years. And for years and months, day after day, I had done the training, the race preparation, and this time, yes, this time, Praise God, I had made the start. I was really doing an ironman swim. I got all warm and fuzzy about that. Although, at the time, I was getting pummeled by the wetsuits swimmers who had caught me, and crowded me in. It was Ok. It seemed where I was and what I was doing trumped almost everything else.
On the swim, I got a good line - I thought – and got into a good rhythm - I thought. There were no serious incidents, and like I had heard, the ironman swim is probably the best part of the day. The swim course was monitored by kayaks better than any open water swim I had ever been in. Way to go, guys.

The swim seemed to take longer than I thought it should – not sure why. I had heard that the canal portion was choppy and crowded and nasty and all that. I found none of that. With the spectators on the bank and knowing I was almost done, the canal was the best section of the swim for me. When I got on the steps to get out of the water, a volunteer grabbed both arms and pulled. I can’t say enough good about the competence, energy, and willingness to help of all the volunteers I experienced at this event.

For some reason, I was sort of dizzy, and had to be careful making my way to the transition tent. Volunteers were great there too, as I turned on my Beacon tracker, put Vaseline on my feet, got ready and left the tent where I was covered up with volunteers putting sunscreen on me. How great. I got to my bike and there to the side of the transition was my family. I didn’t recognize them in the distance without my glasses, but I could hear them calling my name. That was some kind of great. Then as I lead my bike out of the transition area, I was cheered on by the volunteer after volunteer Thanks all of you. What a great day. I wasn’t dizzy anymore.

My bike moved nicely on the smooth roads. I am accustomed to fresh chipseal, so this road surface was a real treat. I felt strong and had to hold myself back. Then it came to me again: I am on an ironman bike ride; can you believe this? Another dream. Blessing upon blessing. The wind wasn't bad, but it was in my face going out on the two loop bike course. And the day was made more special when the bike course went through my old neighborhood where I was raised. It passed right by the high school I graduated from many, many, many years ago. Arriving again at the beginning, and it was good.

Somewhere near the turnaround, a cool front came in; the wind switched directions and I found myself still pedaling into a head wind. The wind seemed to get stronger by the moment. I switched to the small front chain ring on my bike - easier to pedal but much higher cadence. Shortly after that both legs cramped: hamstrings and quads. As best I could, I tried to shake the legs out one at a time. It helped a little. I guess my legs were just not accustomed to a high spin. At the next aid station I got off the bike to settle my legs down and use the porta-potty. Not good; it was quite painful to urinate. I had had this problem in training for a while and had switched to a special saddle. Today the special saddle wasn’t so special. The worst part was that the painful urination experience had made my entire bottom quite tender. Sitting on my saddle was painful now. I stood up and pedaled as much as I could. But, I knew I was using up a lots of energy doing that, especially into that strong headwind.

I took a couple of Advils for that pain, and after a while I could sit for longer periods, but I was not sure if that dehydrated me more or not. Although I knew I was making some progress into that awful wind, the overpasses never seemed to stop coming. To make it worse, the rubber on the sole of my right shoe was starting to come loose. I ride in flat pedals for several reasons - mainly because my lower right leg is crooked. My right foot always points to the right. The shoe bottom was flapping around making it hard to keep my right foot from slipping off the pedal. How am I going to run in these shoes: barefoot maybe? Overpass after overpass, and my legs began to quiver at times like they were jello. I had to stop at the next aid station. Thank God, the volunteer held my bike as I had a hard time getting off of it without falling down. But, worse news was yet to come: I couldn’t urinate.

Back on the bike, into the wind, thinking maybe I should call this off at the turnaround. Could this be something really serious? Then after some determined pedaling, I saw the last overpass and the turnaround ahead. Decision time: Do I call it in from here? No, the wind will be at my back now. And the strong headwind coming back? I didn’t want to think about that. This was an ironman after all, wasn’t it?

With the wind at my back, I began to soar. What a great feeling! Moving so fast and enjoying it so much, I probably didn’t drink or eat enough. Almost in a moment it seemed I had made the turnaround. And coming back? Whoa, the wind was much stronger than before. The cramping in my legs returned with a vengeance. Not too many miles past the turnaround, I had to stop and massage my quivering legs. Is this quivering related to my urinary problems? All kinds of thoughts like that ran through my head. I was sort of afraid to get off my bike so I just stood over it when I stopped, rubbing my legs, then bending over the handlebars and prayed. That was ritual coming back into that fierce wind. Each time I stopped it got harder to get going again. Should I quit? No. You need to make the bike leg of this. Just make the bike.
The cramping and quivering legs continued. Finally, I came to the end of that section and the course went into a residential section: about 12 miles to go. By then I was pedaling more with my left leg – my bad knee – because of the right shoe coming apart. It was getting almost impossible to keep my foot on the pedal. The rest of course seemed a long and endless maze of pain and discomfort. I stopped a couple more times and just mostly prayed to get through the bike course. The legs felt so weak and they continued to quiver and cramp. The course seemed to go on and on. Was I ever going to make this?

Finally, I turned a corner and there it was: the bike course finish. People were on the sides of the street cheering. I was getting close and probably too anxious. Then from my left I heard, “Pop-Pop!” It was my two grandchildren, smiling and waving at their grandpa. I was over the top with emotion. Then I had to stop to dismount.

In the excitement of it all, I guess I lost my focus. Instead of waiting for someone to hold my bike while I got off, instead of planting that bad leg firmly before putting my weight on it, I tried it on my own. Mistake. The left leg and knee wouldn’t hold the weight. My knee buckled backwards then buckled beneath. I went down hard on my bad knee. I couldn’t get up on my own. Two wonderful volunteers pulled me up; another took my bike. My knee was bloody looking and it really hurt. Walking was labored and painful. I could feel the flopping sole of my shoe. My whole body felt shaky, and I wondered if my legs were going to buckle under me again. I had not been able to urinate in quite some time – that alone scared me enough. I knew, I was done.

My team was there with all the love, respect, and support, and enthusiasm one could possibly hope for. I am so truly blessed. They got me back to the hotel and had nothing but praise and admiration for me even though I had not done the run. I have done 50 triathlons and 32 marathons, but never have I had to dig so deep as I did this day to complete this bike course. Even though I didn’t get it finished, I feel at peace about this day – no regrets. I had done my best. The whole experience was humbling yet inspiring and much more than I thought it would be in so many ways. And I found that I was more than I thought I was. Deep inside I knew I would never be quite the same. And the love and support of my family was much more than I would have ever imagined it could be. This was a day of exceeded limits for good. Let me say this again: I am truly, truly blessed; blessed by the experience of living out a dream, blessed by the strength gained from an arduous experience, and blessed the love that was shown me. But more importantly: to be so richly blessed by God.