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 has always been with us, but we just had to uncover and discover it.

So, I feel it is on a personal level Who knows what we are capable of if we have the strength and courage to uncover and discover. I ask God, "Should I do another ironman?" He asks me, "Why not? Do you have the courage to step out in faith and uncover and discover again, the hope I have placed within you?"

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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ironman Texas 2017 - Getting to Nevertheless

In the beginning God; and, on the first day, God created a dream. And the dream sifted and settled inside the mind, wedged its way down deep within my heart, was nurtured and grew there. The dream budded and bloomed into words: "Do An Ironman," loudly ringing in resonance to my spirit, committing my body and mind. Now years and many heartaches, setbacks, and failures later - my Miles of the Journey - the calling is satisfied.
And God smiled and said, it was good.

On the windy bike course,I was poured out like water.
I can't go on.
God is there any other way?
Can I just quit?
Can you get me out of this?
Then the thought of Jesus, the night he was betrayed, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." Yes Lord. Nevertheless.
Nevertheless became my mantra.
Both legs were cramping, shaking like Jello, and the wind was howling in my face for me to stop: nevertheless. Over eighty done and over thirty miles go. I am running on fumes: nevertheless.
This is for you God. Twelve miles to go, I stop many times, lean over my handlebars and pray. Give me strength to finish this bike course, Lord. It was harder to get going each time that I stopped, but nevertheless.

Finally, the end of the bike course, and I got to stop. But my legs wouldn't hold me up to get off the bike, and I fell hard onto the pavement. I was bleeding from my bad knee. I was limping badly. My legs hurt terribly. It was difficult to walk. Nevertheless I had done it: finished the brutal bike course with my strength already gone. It would have been great to do the run and have finished, but nevertheless, it was enough for God. Like Jesus, I could say, "It is finished." I had obeyed: I had my well-done from God.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Close to the End of the Journey

This will be the last post before Ironman Texas 2017. Tomorrow we leave for the venue. What a journey this has been. There have been so many hurdles and setbacks, I won't bother to go into all that. But, it has been one hill after another for almost 5 years now, just trying to get to the starting line of Ironman Texas. Unless something else comes out of the woodwork and goes terribly wrong, I may just line up for the swim in a little over 40 hours. It is close.

But God is close to. In fact, I think He is closer now than He has ever been. He didn't move. I made room in my own heart and mind to scoot on over closer to Him. It has made all the difference this time. And sure, I have some tenseness. Sure, I realize my knee still isn't that good, and odds are I won't make it all the way to the finish line in time. But, I am going to line up to try, and that is one huge blessing and worthwhile destination of these miles of the journey

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Looking for a Well Done From God

Ironman Texas 2017 - my best chance. After years of trying and failing to get to the starting line of Ironman Texas, I find myself a week away from going to pick up my packet for the event. And,it is less than ten days from getting in the water; beginning the event for the first time. Nothing hurts right now. No one is sick right now. I am getting rested little by little. My run of an hour and twenty minutes today was easy and painless. Am I being blessed? Even though I am several years older than when I first ventured into this failure fraught journey, I believe this year is my best chance.

Worry and fear have matured into a dulled concern. Down there somewhere I must be very scared but I don't feel it. Am I being blessed? And, although I really don't think I have a good chance of finishing within the cut-off times, at least I have some chance: a chance to venture out there; to do my best for those who stood by me through all this, and for myself. But most of all I want to do my best for God. He has been there steadying my boat through this; gave me courage and hope to get up from the canvas each time I was knocked down. Whether this ends with me broken down on the course or crossing the finish line, my dream is a "well done" from God. And if so, I will have been blessed.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

And My Flag Is Still There

"The rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag is still there." That is how Francis Scott Key could see and know that the American flag was still flying from the fort in the midst of the bombardment: by the light of rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air. He could see the country's true colors by the light of the very things sent to destroy.

Which brings me to this ironman thing. There is a bad knee that won't ever be well - sounds like popcorn popping when I run. There is an ongoing urinary problem aggravated by sitting on a bike; my bike and run times in training are pathetic: and besides all this, I am just too old for an all day and half the night event. I am outmatched, under-gunned, and very low on ammunition. A surrender flag seems appropriate.

But the fort still seems to be holding despite all odds. It's crazy, but looking through all my setbacks - though I have been bombed by ironman for years now - through it all I see by the rocket's red glare of troubles, that my flag, my hope, my dream, is still there. Put away that surrender flag; there is fight in me yet, and I still want to do battle for the Glory of God. In answer to His calling, I still want to be an ironman and my flag is still there.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Second Chance for Life

Last night I had a dream that I had been given the death penalty. It was so real. In the dream I remember that I thought, "Yeah, this is only a dream and I will wake up from this." Then another thought followed, "No, this isn't a dream. It's real. You have been given the death penalty." Like most dreams, it didn't make sense that I was convicted and sentenced for some error I had made on my taxes or something. And, I was walking around a mall waiting for the suits to get the paper organized to go on and execute me. I thought that I won't be able to run anymore; better do it now. And, I started running in the mall among the people. That felt so good so right; so sad it was the last time. And I had wished I had settled things more from a material standpoint for my wife. I wished I had said good-bye longer and better. And, there seemed to be a hypersensitivity to life. Even small things had richness and meaning. And I wished I had more days to live it out better. Then I woke up.

It is almost like a second chance; with a revised perspective, and here I am in the teeth of training for Ironman Texas. Is this something I would do if I knew I was going to get the death penalty? Absolutely. To live out a passion, purpose, plan and dream, shouldn't be taken lightly. If it beats me up, or I don't live through it, at least a big part of my life won't be left undone. The dream made me fully realize that this is life. You can't save it. You can only use it, or lose it trying to hoard it. Scripture says, "Whosoever saves his life shall lose it and whosoever loses his life for My sake, shall find it."

I have prayed and prayed about this; told God that I am scared to death; told Him about all my ailments, disabilities and injuries, and even reminded Him about my advanced age. He seemed to answer, "So, you think I don't know that: do what you are called to."

As far as the event itself, it doesn't look good, but I know I must, at least try; to line up and get in the water anyway; risk the temptation to play it safe. If I fail, I fail at a worthwhile pursuit, doing my best.