Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Bridges

We were neighbors making no attempt to be friends. Our mutual lack of concern for the other and a small patch of woods separated us. Plus, there is a branch and an old fence in those woods which delineated our property line. Often, I heard him working on his place. He surely heard me on mine. We waved if we passed each other on the road, but we didn't even know each other's name.

One day we both happened to be close to our property line and we carried on a short conversation through the woods, each other barely visible to the other. On another occasion, it was easier to talk to him after I trimmed away a few bushes. As the "neighborship" grew, more and more bushes came down and the view of my neighbor became clearer. Finally, I pushed down the old fence and cleared a path. Now, all we had to do was jump the branch to come talk to one another. Then, one day, my neighbor built a bridge over the branch. Now, there is a trail worn smooth by our friendship.
It happened a little at a time: clearing the brush, pushing down the fence, building the bridge. A line from a song written by Gloria Gaither says, "Fear builds walls instead of bridges." Life, it seems, is a lot about cutting away the underbrush of our fears, pushing down the fences of prior notions and visionless expectations, and building a bridge to a better life; a better me.

Christmas, "Joy to the World--," a Son is sent- a bridge is built between God and man. May this year the path between us be worn smooth by the tracks of our relationship.
Merry Christmas and God bless you. !

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010-It Was a Very Good Year

It all started with rotator cuff surgery and the doctor telling me that I had let it go so long, the tear so complete, that surgery might not take, or it might not hold. I prayed about it, began to walk briskly for up to an hour and half on a regular basis, and rode my indoor bike trainer regularly. I just felt like God wasn't through with me doing this stuff- no, not just yet. I healed really well and my range of motion came back quickly. My doctor was very happy with my progress, but not as happy and thankful as I was. He released me forty days from surgery. Two weeks later I did the Athens triathlon in Athens, Texas, a short triathlon of 300 yard pool swim, 15 mile bike and 5K run. I surprised myself at the ease at which I could do it and was even more surprised when I was 1st in my age group--the first time ever. God is good.

Just short of two months later, I did the CB & I Triathlon in the Woodlands, Texas (500 yard swim-15 mile bike-5K run). My time was about the same as previous years, which was pretty encouraging. But, more encouraging was that, in addition to my wife, my daughter, my son and his wife and my two grandchildren were there. That was absolutely great. No, award this time but the family being there was award enough- God is good.

A couple weeks later I did the Kona East Side Triathlon in Baytown, Texas. It was hot and muggy and I was the oldest finisher there. No one besides me were in my age group, so they aged me down to the age group below where I got 2ND place. The shoulder was holding up really well with all the swimming-God is good.

I trained through the summer and in September went to the Rose City Triathlon, in Tyler, Texas. This was the best and most participant-minded, event I have been to this year. Competition was tough at this event, even in the geriatric age groups, as I barely managed a 3rd place. We had a great time at this one-God is good.

A week later I did a 62 mile bike event (The Raven Ride) out of Huntsville, Texas. This turned out really well and I was feeling like I was about to be in shape for the half ironman distance event November 7th. In October I did a half marathon (The Huntsville Half) out of Huntsville, Texas. I used this event as sort of a trial for the half marathon run on the half ironman. Everything seemed to be working out just fine.
And, the best part, my son, a friend, my wife and grandchildren were there to cheer me. - God is good.

Finally, that day arrived when I began and finished a half ironman distance event-Ironstar, Montgomery, Texas. For a while I had to remind myself that I had actually done the half ironman distance. It is, and was, a dream come true, especially when I think that I started the year with my arm in a sling, a pain pump strapped to my waist, and sleeping in a recliner. During that time, I would sometimes rub my hands over my bike's handlebars or the tubing, and dream of that great feeling of having a good year. My prayers were answered. I had my good year; I have that great feeling and - God is good.



























Thursday, December 16, 2010

Photo Inspiration


That morning it was all about that first step. The half ironman distance was waiting for me, and I am not ashamed to admit, I was a little scared when I looked out at that cold sunrise on the lake, on the swim course. We were staying on the seventeenth floor of the hotel on the lakeside and I could see all I wanted to be afraid of from my balcony.

Of all the race photos for this entire year of events, this photo is my favorite (and I am not even in it). The dawn was absolutely beautiful but I knew that water was cold, the course was the longest I had ever attempted, and in moments I would be down there in it. To me, the picture says "I faced my fears and began."

So, in these days of lesser training, no event scheduled, and no training plan, I have this picture on my desktop. It serves as photo inspiration that on that morning I overcame and the "overcomer" still lives inside waiting, for me to go down the elevator, get in the cold water and let the Miles of the Journey begin again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beginning to Begin Again

Today was special. After lead-legged, sporadic training, I broke into the clear, like a half back getting through the line into the open field. Riding my old bike with its new frame felt natural and easy. I seemed to be rolling rather than pushing. The legs didn't falter and the cadence remained steady-in my zone again and it felt like coming home. Yeah, there are the holidays to come, but I know that today, I have begun to begin again. The beginning is a small light in the distance right now, but I just know God will grow the glow...Thank God for all He has brought me through and brought me to: more miles of journey. There is a special feeling in my heart of one who truly feels blessed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"----Still Behind Him Pushing As Hard as I Can"

My brother-in-law was appreciative of my running the half ironman distance event for him. In fact, he seemed to be inspired by it at the time. But cancer can wear one down, and I could only hope that some part of that inspiration would remain in him to help carry him through this ordeal.

Now, he is deep into his race, the battle is raging as he endures chemo and radiation regularly. His weight is falling off terribly. His voice is weak and he can't talk long or often on the phone.

My wife talked to to him a couple nights ago for a few moments and in that weak voice he said, "Tell Marvin I am still behind him, pushing as hard as I can." It makes me get misty just thinking about it. At the same time...he is providing inspiration to me to continue on myself. How can I slack up or back off, with that man saying, "I'm still behind him, pushing as hard as I can"?

I would suppose the completion of such events makes a statement, serves as a witness for persistence, endurance, willingness to tolerate pain for a finish, and an indomitable will. And, a deeper appreciation and realization of that witness, will get me out of the house to try to deserve to have someone still behind me, pushing as hard as they can.

Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.
Heb 12:1

Friday, December 3, 2010

Today, I Chose Hope

Revisited the movie "Shawshank Redemption" last night. I like the line, "either get busy living or get busy dying." At my age and as much time as I have to spend visiting the nursing home, I can see this thought played out. Daily, I think, we make that choice to fear to hope, or to embrace hope in the face of all that might oppress us, and get busy living.

Sun is out...warming some...a run-yes, then about a 3 hour bike ride. Just writing it down makes me grin: Today, I chose hope.

The bravest thing you can do in this life is to have hope

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"When My Trophy At Last I Lay Down"


First place in my age group-sounds really awesome, but not in the face of the truth. Truth: I was the only one in my age group. In fact, I was the oldest finisher in the half ironman distance event. So why do I post my photo holding my trophy on this blog? Because it means a lot to me. It means I have been blessed above measure to be able to do this stuff. It means my prayers were answered that I would finish my 1st half ironman distance event standing up. It means it is the first time I have taken myself that far and that long. But it also means that my effort that day pales in comparison to the course my brother-in-law, John Lee, has to run in his battle with brain and lung cancer.


I did this race for him-in his honor-to give hope, to show love, and share inspiration. My wife is making a quilt for him containing the patches with his photo on them that I wore during the event. Thanks to the race director, http://www.out-loud.org/ironstar_triathlon.htm John is getting a race shirt. And, John will get my trophy as sort of a symbol of my hope, that he be first place in his race against cancer. But it was nice to have the trophy if only for a little while, even if I didn't beat anyone in my age group except my lesser self.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Restless Warrior"

Care must be exercised that I don't get bored with myself-almost three weeks of minimal training, attending to business, living the role others might expect, and just generally "being good."

The "restless warrior" is simmering down there somewhere in my psyche. Sometimes I wish I could tolerate a little more domestication but most times---naw!- don't think so. No way I understand it all and don't need to, but this Thanksgiving I am so thankful for that feeling of being alive that being restless gives me.

"It filled him with a great unrest and strange desires. It caused him to feel a vague, sweet gladness, and he was aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not what." ~Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgivng-Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day 1982, I tried unsuccessfully to run a quarter of a mile. But, that effort began this marvelous journey. It is always been about expanding limits. Tomorrow morning, to help maintain that perspective of gratitude, I will probably run that same quarter mile course that I couldn't complete twenty-eight years ago. I can do with absent-minded ease at age sixty-six, what I could not do with herculean effort at age thirty-nine. Is this stuff great or what?

I am so thankful to God, that I found this course, embarked on this journey. For all those times over all these years, I have been poured out to be reformed and renewed, I give thanks to God. The miles of the journey have truly been a blessing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gosh, That Was Great!

That half ironman distance triathlon had some problems. There were some glitches. I could write a piece on all that could have been improved, but I won't. When I reflect upon the totality of the whole experience, I cannot but say, "Gosh, that was great!" All the negatives seem to have drifted off behind of the remaining cloud of euphoria, which colors my memory, and shapes my spirit.

There is a lesson there for me as well. Perhaps, I could be a little bit more understanding of the imperfections in other people and in myself. Life is not a perfect event. Perhaps, there should be more room made for acceptance, forgiveness, and mercy? And so, when it comes my time for my event on earth to end - when I reflect upon the totality of life's experience - I might better to be able to have that singular thought I have about the half ironman: Gosh, that was great!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Loving Something

Once I worked with a man who did rodeo. He was as avid about it as I was endurance sports. We were so different, yet so much the same. One day we were telling each other about our events and he said, "Marvin, everybody needs to love to do something."

Surrounded by all we might fear, encumbered by a myriad of responsibilities, being passionate about something, doing something we love, gives us another vantage point. It gives us perspective from which to ascertain the true value or actual seriousness of lives too often motivated by what goes, boo! Too often, living in a rut of doing what is expected, all we can see is the sides of the rut. Doing something we love gives us a peek over the edge of the rut, to glimpse that bright and beautiful world that is possible for all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In the End Is a Beginning

All the accolades for the half ironman distance finish have been much appreciated. Thoughts of the effort make me smile, and give me added assurance for the future, but they are slowly being put away, like clothes and equipment after an event.

I will wear this gem forever in my heart, but something seems to say it is time for an ending and a beginning. So this person, sculpted somewhat by the experience of the training and the event, leaves the banquet table for new worlds to shape and be shaped by. Life, after all, is a journey.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

There's Beauty in the Beast

The half ironman distance was going to be a beast. I knew that going in.

But race morning dawned most beautiful as seen from my seventeenth floor balconey. There was my swim course, shrouded in beautiful shapes and colors indescribable and transient, giving dawn to my own hopes and aspirations.

I have never heard the national anthem sang more beautifully or a pre-race prayer taken so to my heart: beautiful!

There was beauty in the energy and committment of the young boys who were assigned to help us out of our wetsuits. There was beauty in the cheerfulness and helpfulness of the volunteers: the lady who held my bike out on the course so I could go to the port-a-john, the eager aid station workers, the young female volunteer on the run course, shouting encouragement with the same vigor after several hours: beautiful.

Then there was my own efffort, and the cause (my brother-in-law) for which I know I did my best. This photo of the stained, salty back of my shirt was sent to my brother-in-law. He will get the race shirt and my 1st place age group trophy. And hopes are, that he is lifted up, feels truly honored, and somehow this all might positively impact the way he faces his future. Indeed, that would be beautiful.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Put Your Face Into It and Move On

Lessons from the half ironman distance experience:

I hated that we were going to have to swim in cold water-never liked a wetsuit: they always feel so constricting. In the weeks preceding the event, I got in my wetsuit several times and swam in my pond. The water was cold. At first I dreaded the cold ice water face wash so much that I would find almost any stall to postphone getting with it.

Event morning was cold. The practice swim verified that the water was cold. But something was different: this was not another training day in my pond...today was the day.

The whistle blew, we ran into the water as I waved to my wife. Somehow I knew that it would be OK. Somehow I knew the cold water didn't matter-I was in. I was all prayed up, mentally, spiritually ready to take whatever the day brought. The water got a little deeper and I put my face into it and swam. It was cold but I was warmed to the occasion.

There are scary times in life when we have a choice whether to procrastinate and postphone facing our fears or to just have wade off into water, put our face into it and move on.

It wasn't just the cold water that I feared in this event. There was the hilly bike ride I was afraid of using up too much of my energy and legs on. There was the run that I had no idea about how I would feel going thirteen miles off the bike. But it was the day, and thank God for the strength to just put my face into it and move on to the finish line.

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius,power,and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stay Down !

My favorite scene in Rocky is in the late rounds when he is hit with a vicious uppercut that knocks Rocky stupid. He is floundering around on the floor trying to find the ropes to pull himself off the floor. The opponent is raising his arms, signifying that this should do it. He will win. But Rocky is still trying to pull himself off the floor while everyone in his corner is yelling at him to stay down, stay down!

Last year, I trained hard, but my Mother's health and hospitalizations forced me to cancel my half ironman attempt. Not until January did her situation level off and then I had to have rotator cuff surgery. What next? I processed thoughts of forgetting the whole thing and just become like any other man my age. Take it easy now. Stay down!

Recovering from the shoulder operation, I walked briskly in my woods daily, arm in a sling. Sometimes though, during these brisk walks, the breathing became a little heavier, sweat formed on my brow, and I found my heart reaching for the ropes to pull myself up, to fight again, though the world seem to be saying, "stay down."

Eight months of training later, a half ironman distance triathlon has been completed and there such peace. Getting up off the canvas was worth it. And, I doubt it would feel this great or mean this much to me, if I had not been sorely tempted to "stay down."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Humble

It is still with me ! I can't believe I feel so good and I have to wonder: did I just get beat up one day or has that one day changed me? If indeed, I have been changed, was it for better or worse? For me, this good post event feeling is different and hard to fathom, much less explain.

Today, in trying to express this to my wife, she said she thought I felt humble. Humble. That pretty much says it. Humble to the distance covered and that one like myself could do that. Humble to the support and concern received from all those I didn't even think were paying attention to my training or my effort. Humble to the quality of participants I swam, biked and ran with. Humble, and grateful to God for the storms He has brought me through, that I might more fully appreciate and revel in this one day. Humble - at the closeness I feel with God. Humble: and changed for the better-yes, very good day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Peaceful, Easy Feeling"

I did it ! After years of goal postponements, the day would yield to either the day of my dreams or the day of my nightmares. It became the day of my dreams. No great earthshaking performance - just a plodding, purposeful effort with missile-lock on the finish.

My effort was in honor of my brother-in-law, John, who is running his race against brain and lung cancer. His photo was on my back; his plight was in my heart. When things got a little rough, I thought of him; the radiation and chemo, and I knew I didn't have it all that bad. Just keep moving forward.

He was pleased with my performance and so was I. Now, the day after, I have a grin on that just won't seem to go away. I have that "peaceful, easy feeling" of one who has been blessed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

It Comes Down to This

It comes down to this. Today, my last post before the event, my last mile in this journey. Am I afraid of failing at this? Do I fear I will crash and burn somewhere out there? Of course. Do I fear not finishing for my brother-in-law, John, who I am doing this event in honor of?

But I fear not trying more - leaving a challenge unanswered and a dream unlived. For those moments in time, the event will be life. And the fear puts a grin on, and I thank God for this opportunity. I could be in the hospital like John, facing many more awful trials than just one day of swim/bike/run. God willing, I will recover in a few days, but his race, his trials will go on and on.

So while the day is in me and my light still burns, God let me do this well for one whose day is shorter and whose light is dim. Amen

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is There Any Tread Left on My Tires?

In the beginning: resolve, inspiration, motivation and hope. Now as it winds down to a couple days, what remains? After all the miles of the journey is there any tread left on my tires? Are they prepared better or worse for the remaining miles of the journey of life?

It will be interesting and illuminating when it is all over to find what was lost and what was gained. Like the title of George Sheehan's book asks: Did I Win? There is one thing I know: there has been a change. I would like to believe the change is growth; growth nurtured by risings and fallings, watered by hope and fed by faith.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dedicating My Best

The rash that was on his head has spread to his body to include the inside of his mouth. That was the report from a call just moments ago. My brother-in-law is fighting cancer ( brain, lung) and this is probably side effects from the radiation.

This Sunday I am dedicating my half ironman distance performance to him. His picture will be worn during the event while I keep him in my heart, wishing in some way, to share my health and vitality with him.

I told him that if I fail, please know that I will have done my best. Surely, it is true that in giving our best, succeed of fail, we will be blessed through it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Have Been Blessed

The curtain comes up in just a few days...So far, no surprises. I am tired but getting rested; sore in a couple spots but getting better. Been here before.

Over these miles of the journey, I have been through much; many ups and downs, many illuminating, inspiring instances. I wouldn't trade a thing.

A man at my church, waiting for his cancer prognosis, smiled at me and said, "I have had a good life. Never had all I wanted but always had all I needed. I have been blessed."

That is pretty close to how I feel. God has given me this journey, revealed His hand in and through that journey. No matter what happens: I have been blessed.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Incredible

Incredible, I am so tired! Day off today but feel like I am bonking at mile 20 of a marathon. Fatigue has caught me from behind with all this training and brought me down hard. And, in less than a week, I will be doing a half IM distance event? Incredible!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Leave a Path

There is an old road here by my place that is still being used. It is unknown who opened it, or why, but the path has remained.

Last Saturday I was doing a half marathon and I saw my wife, son, and two very young grand daughters cheering for me on the corner. I danced a little to the music that was playing nearby, and they danced to it too. As I passed their corner and strode up the big hill, my youngest grand daughter said, "I want to run with Pop-Pop." *(that's what they call me for some reason)

It made me smile. They have seen me do a triathlon and  have seen me  leave out  on several bike events.  Now they have seen me run.  I like to think that I am  introducing them early to this splendid lifestyle. I like to think that  their lives will be enriched by the early influences of this old geezer; not just in what I say but in plodding to do my best. I hope they notice that and take it deep.  Perhaps, I will leave a path.

Update:  Seven years later now, my granddaughter is riding mountain bikes.  We talked about her riding and training.  She said, "I want to be like you."  I am so blessed.

What remains is not about what you picked, but what you planted.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It Will Be Well

I finished a half-marathon today. No special performance; no sprints to the finish; no award; just a journeyman effort: a dressed rehearsal for the run for my half-ironman distance event in two weeks.

This was the Huntsville Half, held each year in October on the hills of Huntsville, Texas. Over the years, I have done many half marathons and this is the toughest: double loop with one hill after another. The dead-give-away is that it is put on by the Seven Hills Running club...duh ! Do you reckon the course will be hilly?

This was my test, the end of the more intensive training, and the beginning of my taper to event. Soon, very soon, it will be show time! And, in this beginning, I realize that there is not much more I can do to improve my chances on race day except avoid messing up and doing something stupid. Now I have to have faith in my months of training, get in the water on race morning and go. Scary? Yes, it will be scary...but like the song says, "when it's scary don't look down." And, I won't. But I will look up, pray, offer myself and my training effort to God. Once that's setttled, there will be peace and it will be well.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Run on the Wild Side

It was good to hear that coyote howl across the field in the dark before dawn. It seems that every so often, trappers are hired to thin the coyote population. Several months can pass sometimes without hearing that lonesome howl.

The distant yard-dogs yapped discordantly compared to the smooth calling of the coyote. Being about half wild and half nutz myself, I just let out a howl. The coyote answered and I howled again. Two coyotes answered. I howled again and now coyotes were answering all around. Great! And, I left them to talk among themselves, and went for my run. I had no idea the area had so many coyotes. And, I was glad; I was encouraged.

Perhaps, within me, previously unknown, are as many efforts, as much passion akin to wildness as I found to be coyotes in the darkness. Perhaps, I should become a little wild sometimes, and defiantly howl out of my darkness, until day dawns finding me running anew with a bolder spirit. Do I want to be a fenced-in, yapping dog, or a howling coyote, free upon the earth.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why I Tri - The Rose City Triathlon

Why I Tri - The Rose City Triathlon, Tyler, Texas




Early event morning before daylight, the transition area is quiet and subdued in contrast to what will come with the dawn. Volunteers and participants are becoming awake and getting everything ready. Talk between strangers seems to come easy and natural-the world should flow so well. Illuminated out of the dark backdrop of morning mistiness, the start/finish/transition areas stand like a beacon in the night. Body marking, chip pickup, laying out our transition: anticipating what will be needed in times to come. There is a subdued excitement to it all; the anticipation, the uncertainty, the hopes.
Across the lake the first hints of dawn glow softly. In short moments, the eastern sky becomes a pink and orange beauty, giving a dim light, raising hopes, and indulging doubts-the event will soon begin.


Now, the worry. Am I ready? Do I need to go to the bathroom one more time? Are my swim goggles too tight? Is my bike in the right gear to begin the ride? Should I take in a few more calories right now? Should I check my transition one more time?

In a group now, walking to the swim start; more light conversation with strangers. We are all a bit nervous. The national anthem, and afterward it is announced that there are only minutes to start of the first swim wave. Pulses quicken. Quiet moments are about to end. The morning stillness, the mirror of pink dawn on the water will soon be shattered by the thrashing of many hands and feet.

The horn sounds and now we all know: there is no turning back now. After the first swim wave leaves, the next wave of swimmers move forward and enter the water. Then it is our turn; our wave. Goggles in place, a prayer in the last quietness for a while, and the horn sounds again: it begins. Face in the water, someones hands are hitting my calves, an elbow jams into my hip. I kick something or someone. Head in the water trying to gain speed and then I find myself beginning to swim over someone. Roll to the side and wish I could say I was sorry, but I can't tell who or where it was. A hand is in my face and my face goes back into the water, digging stronger strokes to try to clear myself from the crowd. After a few moments there is only someone touching my feet now and then; probably drafting off me. That's fine. Not much traffic now. A sighting shows, however, that I have drifted wide, out of the mainstream of swimmers. Back into the fray, but it is not as crowded as before. I began to race someone beside me. He is a good swimmer, but eventually, he fades. This is fun. A female swimmer, stroking at twice the rate as mine, goes my me like I am towing an anchor. You go girl !

The water is cool, friendly, and I am swimming well, loving the experience, hating for it to end. Ahead swimmers are beginning to wade ashore. A few more good strokes and my hands graze the lake bottom; time to stand up. Up I come, and for the first moments there is a sort of dizziness. Helpful volunteers help get me from the lake and onto the stairs. The crowd is yelling. Everyone is clapping, shouting encouragement. What great moments!
Then comes the run to the transition area on legs that only moments ago were swimming. Where is my bike? Ah, yes, I remember. There! Glad I brought that extra towel to dry off my feet and get that grass off too. Shoes, helmet,race number,sunglasses,pull the bike from the rack, and run with it to the mounting line.
The crowd is shouting encouragement as the first pedal strokes are made. The wind feels cool on my damp skin, faster, faster, making the wind grow stronger; that feeling of being alive. Riders are passing me, but I know some will come back to me on the hills. The body is in its rhythm; a small rise, a slight downhill, and the speed increases. A screaming downhill with a little turn at the bottom. Some fear seasons the excitement. Oh, the grinding hills on this course! Love it! I pass a few people, though it seems I am barely moving. Tuck and coast. Wow! What a ride down that hill! Watch that turn at the bottom. You are going pretty fast for this. Steady, hold your line. Don't weaken-don't fear. Sometimes, the good roll from a downhill carries me over the next hill. What a great experience!
The crowd, I can hear them. Nearing the end of the bike leg, a few more riders are passed and I am stopping at the dismount line. Run the bike in, rack it. Helmet off, turn the race number around to the front. Put on my cap. Pick up my handheld water bottle, off to the run exit.

On the course, just trying to settle in, find my stride and maintain; nice and easy here. Ah, the rhythm is there, that's nice. This really feels OK. Pick up the pace just a bit, and again. This is the hardest pace I can hold, for now. I'll stay here. It is humid and sweat is pouring out of me. A turn-around, and we head back to the transition area. With that, I can feel the pace begin to quicken, almost as if it is out of my control. The finish line is visible, the crowd's wonderful noise comes to me. As much as possible, the hammer is down. The finish line banner - it seems as if I am flying - raised arms - thanks and praise - step onto the timing mat - I did it ! Praise God, I did it!

A helpful volunteer takes the timing chip off my leg. A finisher's medal is placed around my neck. I smile and look for a place to sit down. By the lakeside, gathering myself; I offer another prayer of gratitude, then head to the post-race refreshments area under a large tent.

Food, drink, and great spirit abound there and the volunteers are so friendly and helpful. Where do they find these people? Eat until I am full and then the awards ceremony. In the middle of the awards ceremony, the announcer asks everyone to show appreciation to the volunteers. We clap, and clap, and clap; then, we stand and continue to clap for many moments: the loudest and longest applause of the entire ceremony justifiably goes to the volunteers.


My name is called. I get on the podium with my award and photos were taken. What a day! As we load up the bike, saying goodbyes, readying for the trip home, there is an emptiness within. I seem to be empty of malice, anger, and all the mental meanness that is sometimes humanity; that can too often, be me. I felt whole. And so, as long as life lets me, I will return for more of that emptiness through which I can be more truly filled.





















































































































































































e

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Seize the Day

Morning broke fresh with promise. The fruits of this day are there for my enjoyment. Or, are they? Once sun has dried the dew, and the shadows of morning have disappeared, light will reveal that, indeed, this is my day, but it must be captured and secured; it must be seized. There will be competing influences, demands of others, attitude downers and a host of "good" things I could do with my day that dawned so beautifully.

The impulse is to meander around my place here and just bask in it all. But, there will be plenty of basking time later, I suppose. Several of my family and friends are fighting battles with cancer, heart disease, respiratory distress, and all manner of disabilities. Yet, for me, today dawned healthy and capable; I am in training for an event coming very soon. I have been blessed with this day, this opportunity, to use it well. In the end, the only one who can take it from me or make me live it unwisely is myself.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Waiting at the Wall

I was 57 when I taught myself to swim (the crawl). Oh, I could muddle around and stay afloat but locomotion wasn't part of the picture. After watching some swim training videos and every good swimmer at any pool I was at, I became a decent swimmer.

Today, I went to the pool but I noticed that I no longer look for those to imitate. I just started swimming. A lady got in the lane next to me and seemed to be timing off me. She also seemed to be a little faster than me. I reasoned that she was the better swimmer; she will push me too far past myself and it would be better to wait on the wall when I get there and let her go on.

There was a moment of choice at the wall and, thankfully, I took the harder path. Pushing off the wall, I continued to swim with this lady. Sure I pushed a little but the strokes started coming. The rhythm was not as hurried and frantic as I thought it would be. I was moving well.

Then I realized that I had put almost half a pool length on the other swimmer. That wonderful rhythm, that power in the pull, was still there and I remember being thankful for that lady in the next lane.

The swimmer I almost stopped for because of my supposed inferiority, was lapped five times in 2000 yards. I had the best swim that I can remember.

Do you suppose that is the way it is with life. Do you suppose we limit ourselves with our fearful self-perceptions. This day, these moments, these choices will not last for us forever. Why wait at the wall, giving in to fearful self perceptions? Why not push on, step out, dream bigger, expect more, aim higher? Why not make the choice to take the risk of losing. Is that really a risk? Waiting at the wall is losing already.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Faith

It never fails to amaze me how I can feel so depleted and emptied like I feel now and later rise to another great workout. There are so many "walk of faith" analogies in endurance sports. If I believed the present, I wouldn't believe I could get out of bed for the rest of the day. But I don't believe the present. I believe the promise. I believe in new life again - both physically, personally, and most especially spiritually.

Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Friday, October 1, 2010

Scared in a Good Way

My main event is just a little over a month away. It scares me; scares me in good way I suppose. Just thinking about it heightens my senses. I catch my breath. So great to be caught up in this, to have a goal, a passion this deep.

It will hurt at some point and I catch myself wondering how I will stand in against that time. I have been there before many times and in the end found myself smiling. Still there is an element of fear; a tidbit of doubt, and I am glad this still does this to me.

The training is down to a few weeks. Soon it will be over and I will miss it. Over the months it has been a friend that daily, has shown me direction and discipline. Am I really ready for that friend to leave? However, there are so many projects that have been waiting on me: projects I have put off until "after this is over." Now I consider: do I really want it to be over?

Yes, there will probably be a period of ordinary activities with lesser time for swun/bike/run. But my guess is, that time will be short. Even at this age, I am essentially a child with a short attention span for what does not scare me a little or makes me catch my breath.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today

Things seems like they are piling on as the event draws nearer. This week one family member had a light operation, another was diagnosed with a brain tumor and will be operated on tomorrow, My wife set up a test to see if her cancer is back. Another more distant family member had his funeral today. Time to take heart. Time to strengthen the resolve, to stand firm in the Faith. And in experiencing that Faith, and standing in that Faith, see the blessing it is to have the health, the will and opportunity to do the training and be this person---today.

Tomorrow, I will go out for my long ride of the week. God willing, the strength will be in my legs, the wind will flutter in my face. Somewhere among the miles, I will thank God for this life; today.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Invincible Hope

Early morning, breaking dawn and it is the first cool spell of the season. After so many sweat dripping training episodes, finally the heat is about to abate. In the stillness, looking out over my place, large trees cast shadows in half light, stars twinkle like diamonds in the dark blue sky. A rooster crows in the distance. Change is happening again. Change, always constant, greets this morning. And, I greet the morning with a hope that is always constant, even though that hope is sometimes subdued by momentary difficulties. Hope springs eternal, bobs to the top like a fishing bobber pulled under; pulled down but not destroyed, given new life to rise again.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not This Time


I was ready. Though I didn't sleep that well, I woke with a good attitude that seemed to set the tone and tempo for the whole day. No doubt I was feeling up for this sprint triathlon (650 meter swim-14.5 mile bike-5k run). I was talking to everyone I met. In those predawn hours getting ready to race, I seemed to have an exuberance that left folks smiling when I left them-or maybe they were just glad to be rid of me and my malarkey. It was like a runner's high but before the race.

The flag, the national anthem played on a trumpet, hands to hearts, the dawn rising over the lake; an event in the offing. I felt so blessed to be there and for the health to participate.

The swim went well. Easy does it. There was just enough contact with other swimmers to keep it interesting. Strokes came easy and smooth. When I found myself alongside another swimmer, I always pulled a little harder to swim faster and leave them behind me. I was pumped. However, I had no bubbly illusions as to my placing in the overall event. I know the truth and I am good with that.

My main bike has a broken frame and I had to use my old back up bike. However, we seemed to do well on the hills which came frequently. I wanted to be on the lookout for a hill on the return that is especially steep. Last year on this course, I had to get off and walk my bike there. There were some screaming downhills and some quad straining uphills but I love courses like that. On the way out I took note of the bad hill in order to be in the right gear for it this time. Coming back, hill after hill, then I saw what I thought was my marker for the killer hill. Must be in better shape. That hill was hard but not all that bad. The wicked witch is dead. But, oh no, just ahead was the real killer hill. My speed dropped like a rock and I found myself standing, barely able to turn the pedals. Maybe I should get off and push the bike, I thought. If I go any slower, I reasoned, I might fall over. I wondered could I keep this grinding up. Maybe I should get off the bike after all?

My race was there. My race was then. No, not this time, I resolved. I am in this; no getting off the bike. Not this time. And at that moment, I managed a smile, through gritting teeth. Sometimes a smile can take you places your body doesn't think it can go. The hill was mine!!

I was rocking and rolling then, passing riders coming into T-2. The run felt good and I set myself on an a decent pace for me. I still felt strong. The humidity was visible. One young man was throwing up on the side of the road. Some people were walking but I felt strong. I even passed a few runners; something that doesn't happen that much anymore for me. A couple people that passed me told me I was an inspiration. They couldn't believe, I suppose, that it took them this long in this event to pass a dinosaur.


The finish line banner in view, I quickened my pace and finished strong, with a big smile. Sometimes I can barely drag myself in to finish but not this time. No, not this time. I felt so blessed. This was truly a great day; one to thank God for.

http://rosecitytri.com/

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Settling for Less

At my age I cannot help but sometimes think about the end of this life on earth. Increasingly, I want good answers to questions as I see the time draw nearer.

Did I settle? Did I settle for “close enough?” Could I have done more, been more, praised more, wept more, helped more, pushed more,reached more, risked more? Will I find at the end of it all, my life has been a half-eaten piece of fruit, enough, but not quite filling or fulfilling. Will I notice an absence of that feeling full feeling? Did I pour my life into the course set upon and not turned aside to lesser ends? Did I quit at mile twenty-three of the marathon? Did I leave my best finish still smoldering within me, never fanned to flame as life passes beyond opportunity?

My greatest fear is not death, but in failing to live out the blessings God has bestowed upon me and dying before my time with life left within me, because I settled for less.

"Choose not to settle. Pursue your God-given goals, knowing it's never too late to accomplish everything God has placed in your heart."


































Thursday, September 9, 2010

Within

Where does it come from to get this tired old body out of the recliner and on the road? Why leave so many other things undone to go ride a bike? Why trade ease, comfort, and indulgence for more effort? Why? And for sure at the end of it all is even more fatigue, endured for a cause few care about besides myself. Why?
There are no immediate rewards; no parade; no cheering section; just my own willingness to take on the long hot road for a cause I can't completely explain to myself.

As I write this I am so tired that I only hope this make sense. Gotta go. I have a two hour bike now and down deep something Within knows why. Even in this haze of fatigue my foggy brain says in spite of this apparent senselessness, this still makes sense. So, out the door I follow; believing and trusting the Within.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A "Foolish Consistency?"


OK, I am not consistent in this ! Just changed plans and my event for the weekend of Sept 18-19. Going to the Rose City Triathlon in Tyler, Texas http://rosecitytri.com/. Did this one last year and it was pouring rain the whole time. The year before I signed up for it but a hurricane came in. Something exciting about this event. Last year this course handed me my hat. My brakes didn't hold well on the downhills on the bike course. In a pouring rain, the almost uncontrolled downhills made me hold on tight and pray a lot.

The event I had originally planned on obviously didn't inspire me. After signing up for the Tyler event, getting a room, my teeth are on edge to race. I am pumped! Sometimes you just know when it is right not to be consistent.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Getting the Wobble Out

A great 3 hr 20 minute bike ride! Weather was wonderful. The hills were challenging. The downhills: exhilarating. But I missed my main bike. The back up bike I am riding is a little small for me and just doesn't have the good stuff like my main bike. When I stand up to peddle on my back up bike, it is not as stable and it wobbles some. Even sitting, it doesn't track like my main bike. I had a good ride but I wonder how much I lost due to these wobbles and little direction changes?

Isn't life like that too? Training? The straighter and surer you push toward a goal, the more efficient and faster it is to get there. "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line."

Perhaps I should true my wheels just a bit and take some of the wobble out of training and out of life?

The crime which bankrupts men and nations is that of turning aside from one’s main purpose to serve a job here and there---Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Still Crazy After All These Years"

I wear bike gloves on both the bike and run legs of triathlons, even the sprints. Yeah, a little crazy, maybe. Some say you lose time on the bike due to the gloves but no faster than I am going, it is not that big of a consideration. It is said that wind drag increases with increase in speed....I'm not stupid. I know how to keep wind drag down: don't go so fast.

This got started way back when in a sprint, I just simply forgot to take off my bike gloves in transition. As I was running out on the course, I hit a speed bump with my foot and down I went. I caught myself with my hands and the gloves got ripped up pretty good but my hands were not seriously injured. From then on I have worn my bike gloves on the run.

When you get this old, you can get away with doing all kinds of weird things and lay it off on senility. Life at this age, is most often liberating and downright fun

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflections on the Endurance Sport Lifestyle

For almost 28 years now, I have been doing some kind of endurance sport...starting slowly, building year by year, adding more and more into my life. As I add more of this life into my life, other stuff has to go. In the giving up, there is an awareness gained about one's life as to who and what is truly important.

Even on my worst days, I have never regreted being a part of all this. What I do regret is that I did not get in on this at an earlier age. According to some demographics put out by USAT,the average age of triathletes is 38. I didn't start even a modest running program until I was 37.

However, even with a late start,I can see that I have not just grown older; I have grown. And the real beauty for me is that this lifestyle integrates so well with my faith life that sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

These "Miles of the Journey" have not worked out exactly like I planned. My training plan has been revised three times. Events have been added and others cancelled. There were unforeseen medical distractions. There is a broken bike, tires that separated on me for no reason, my favorite long bike route made difficult with increasing traffic and so on. Even my goal half ironman distance event has been changed. It is as if my best efforts to control get thrown back at me.

John Steinbeck wrote in Travels With Charlie, something to the effect that you don't take a trip. The trip takes you. And I believe it. Wouldn't it be dull if it all went as planned? Managing the unpredictable, the unplanned and to keep moving forward, is a valuable skill for overcoming in endurance sports and in life itself.

Who doesn't like to play in the big waves; walk boldly out into the surf, to be taken asunder, carried along, to rise, stand, and with a smile, walk into the waves yet again. Thank God for the challenge of the waves: the unpredictable and all we can't control.

A journey is like marriage.
The certain way to be
wrong is to think you
control it.
- John Steinbeck

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"--the Beasts of the Wild Shall Be Lead by a Child"

My 2 year old granddaughter fell down. Before she could start crying good, I picked her up, dusted her off and took her to the back of my truck to see my bike. My plans had been to do long bike adventure. For some reason, she always likes for me to show her my bike and today was no exception. A I talked to her about how great a bike it was, she pointed at the bike and said something unintelligible. Of course, I agreed.

As she continued to point to the bike, I went over its many salient features. In doing so, I noticed, what appeared to be a crack in my seat tube, just below the seat post collar. Naw, couldn't be! Feeling of it, putting a fingernail in the crack brought me to the conclusion: it was a crack, a serious crack, one that could have caused me serious harm if worsened out on the road...say on a 60 mile bike ride like I had planned.

Explaining all about my bike with my granddaughter had forced me to inspect my bike more cloely. And, possible harm might have been averted through a child's curiosity about her grand father and his old bike.

Sometimes I think God sends us angels and sometimes, I think they are the children in our lives.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cockle-Doodle-Doo

Before daylight-early morning, multiple loop run done by moonlight and flashlight. Quiet, unbelievably quiet, no vehicles at all, full moon shining on the hayfield like it would an ocean. The only sound was my friend's roosters. Each time I ran by his house and turned my flashlight on, it looked like first light to them, I guess and they set off to crowing. I don't know where he got these roosters or what he had been feeding them but they sounded bad, each uniquely bad in some way. All had a scratchy, crackling, raspy sound though-fingernails scraping across a blackboard.

The last time I went by his house and the roosters set off their noisey barrage, I saw a light come on in the house. As I was leaving, driving by his house, my friend was already up working in his garden. No doubt, the boy couldn't sleep and thought he might as well get up and do something besides lay there and listen to a bunch of raspy roosters.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Facing the Waves


I am dreading this long run in the morning. It is not "if" it will beat me up but "how much?" Another fear to overcome on this journey.

But, the miles behind me have left experiences to foster courage for today, for tomorrow.

One particular memory takes me to an early morning before daylight, the morning of the event. The hotel lights shown that the American flag was flapping vigorously in the wind. Oh no ! What about those waves on the lake?

When we arrived at the race site it was still dark. In the blackness, I could hear waves rolling into shore. Oh my! Can I swim in choppy water? How bad will it be? Surely, we won't go out if is too bad. Am I going to drown?

When daylight came there was but one thing to do: get in the water. My practice swim revealed that I could indeed swim with some chop on the water. It was not as bad as it sounded or as foreboding as I had imagined in the dark. In fact, the practice swim was downright fun.

Tonight, I am playing my rough swim card; not believing what I might dread and fear in the night but strip myself of negative predictions and sleep well to wake and embark into the morning, to partake of beauty, and have fun reveling in health and blessed opportunity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Different Me

There was vigor in my training today that had not been there recently. Same heat, same distances, same course; different me. And ultimately, when I flesh out all the spin I put on my own self-perception, I find that I thankfully have been training in many areas to nurture a different me. A different me, who has truly trained to the best of his ability; no excuses. A different me that can peacefully accept that my best may no longer be what it once could have been. A different me that is more tolerant, forgiving, caring, patient, and loving. A different me that can truly give thanks to God for any difference I might have made on this earth. In all areas of life, God willing, tomorrow I will keep training toward that different me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hope in the Heat

Tough training week coming up; very hot, very humid. The cattle are in the ponds cooling off. The stray cat is panting in the heat. The pool water at the health club was just a little over 90 the other day...yes, these are the "dog days."

Heat can be more than just a physically debilitating factor. It can weaken and destroy resolve as well. Out there training, the body can be drained down by the heat with resolve bleeding out along with the volumes of sweat.

Today, the world of heat and humidity will take the index into triple digits. God help me to have steadfast resolve, anchored in the assurance-blessed assurance-that better weather, a better day will surely come. This is my story this Sunday night, tomorrow, and for all eternity. Hope: even in the heat. Thanks God.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Transition Week

This is my transition week. Training has been cut back some this week before I launch onto three weeks of harder training. Amazing how tired I was. It was as if I had artificially suspended myself against fatigue. Now it is payback and the body has demanded restoration.

But transition weeks, for me, have all the passion of "kissing your sister." I feel as though I am idling at a red light in heavy traffic. One more day of this...and it is a day off of all things. Who designed this silly schedule anyway? Oh, yeah! Now I remember: I did. Funny how rest (transition weeks)can improve your memory.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Following the Fire

Well, I am in. Signed up for my half ironman distance triathlon this afternoon. No one(other than my wife) would know or care whether I do this or not. It makes no difference in the cosmic scheme of things. In five years, no one will remember the winner, much less some old geezer struggling to finish at the back of the pack. Looking at it like that, it appears as a meaningless, inconsequential endeavor.

But,it is not. I feel there is more to life and to sport, than being remembered. It is an expression, in a large part, of who I am. If I didn't do triathlons, I would do something else that would evoke that same expression from me. I know. Triathlon is not the first passion I have through which I could that expression. Of course, I am hopelessly enamored with this lifestyle: bitten and smitten, not easily converted to a mentality of resignation. Is there really any other choice but to follow my truest self, even if it leads me over a cliff? It is almost like, now that I know, I am both blesed and burdened to kindle that fire within me and to follow its warmth and its light.

"One cannot consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."Helen Keller

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rematch

Perhaps I am starting to get into it, feel the cooler weather coming, sense the fitness increasing, the gleam of hope in my eyes. It is about time to sign up for my goal event: http://www.out-loud.org/ironstar_triathlon.htm

When I attempted this one in younger days, I was not in nearly as good of shape as now. I was scared but excited; if that makes sense. And though, I failed at this, it was a good experience.

I was happy about the start..foggy morning... touch and go whether they would let us go out. Mostly I was happy because the water was warm enough whereas I didn't have to wear a wetsuit.


Oh, the start! I can remember thinking, "Oh my goodness, I really am in a half ironman distance triathlon. Help me here God." I can remember getting sort of a cramp in my left hamstring as I made the turn toward shore. And there was deep mud at the exit, but the eager, helpful volunteers helped me out of the mud and onto the bank. Now, I was on fire; the swim was done!



The bike: my goodness, I was excited, just really into it, despite the fact that my gears weren't working properly. Somehow, I couldn't get out of the big ring in the front or the small ring in the back. After stopping a couple times to work on it, I decided to do single speed for the rest of the course. It was working, and I passed a lot of people. In fact, I passed everyone I could see. When I didn't see anyone ahead for many minutes I began to wonder and when I pulled up in a small town that wasn't on the course map, I knew I was lost.

The town drive-in grocery was full of local folks having their morning coffee and talking about things. I gave them something to talk about, going in there to use the phone in my spandex, with numbers all over my body and a big number on my belt. But all were friendly and very helpful...while waiting for my wife to come pick me up, we had a few laughs at my predicament.


Sorry about the photo quality but these were the days before we had a digital camera.
It was great to revisit this experience and I thank God for it. Now, I know the course.(sorry it doesn't include that little store). Now I am better prepared. Now, it's time for a rematch.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saving the World

It was near the end of a good 3 hour bike ride today and I was pulling up to a major intersection. I had looked back just moments before and saw no vehicles, but now I heard the telltale blaring of a 18 wheeler behind me. He was coming hard and there was a stop sign and cross traffic. Maybe his brakes are out and he was trying to warn me that he couldn't stop? I considered getting on the other side of the road but there was oncoming traffic. He got right behind me and laid down on the horn. Who knows what is going on in this driver's head? Maybe he is on something and having hallucinations? Maybe he has a serious, life saving deadline to deliver his cargo; like a major store being out of birdseed or something? Who knows but that the fate of the world depended on him delivering his world-saving cargo? Why else would he be driving in the crisis mode?

I just didn't know what he wanted me to do except disappear before his eyes and be out of the way. My "disappear" button was broken however, so I jumped off the bike, put it on my shoulder and ran down into the ditch and up the other side into the field. As he turned the corner, I made a pleading, palms up gesture to ask, "OK, is that enough. Do you feel better now?"

Probably, this was a good thing. I made some poor soul happy today by letting him win this one. And he probably got where he was going and saved the world as we know it. It was a great bike too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Digging Deep

HOT !
Even the early morning run got me soaked, followed by a 50 minute swim in my pond. Even that water was hot on top, unlike the pool water which is hot top to bottom. Then a bike ride. By then it was even hotter and I had to start digging a little deeper. Workout time in, I thought, "Why not just push on through and do more."

Then the little wise man on my shoulder shouted louder than the little idiot on the other shoulder, "NO"!!

It is not gut-check time; no time to go any deeper into yourself. This is not race day. Digging down, tearing down to the point of requiring tons of recovery, should be reserved for the race effort. And what might such an effort do to my ability to train the next few days.

Racked the bike in the truck feeling satisfied with the decision and looking forward to my three hour bike ride tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Wilson" Is Alive and Well


She doesn't cut me any slack. My wife listens patiently to all my noise about how I want to do this event, that event, train thus and so, and when the time comes that I really act on something, she jumps right in with support. She has my recovery drinks ready when I drive up from a hard run or bike. She is my backup should I break down on one of my training efforts. She even sets her alarm to get up with me on my pre-dawn training efforts.

Sometimes I wish she wasn't so supportive. Her support seems to often create a debt to her that drives me from the secure, excuse-rich shadows, into the glaring spotlight of personal responsibility. And, she can make me laugh at myself, my bold pronouncements, and my oft inflated self-image. She can bring me down to where and who I really am.

Today, I came to the table to get my usual delicious, healthful breakfast, and the girl had the food arranged in this "Wilson" picture. Sure I have a hard training day, but the take-home message I got was: Look at "Wilson" and don't take yourself too seriously today. Maybe the real "Wilson" is a sort of self-portrait: A swollen head full of air with long hair sticking up. OK, I will work on the swelled head, and I am off to get a haircut.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Three months to go until the big one. Got the final part of my plan laid out and it is not going to be easy. But what worthwhile is easy? Within that schedule are a few events like a bike tour, a half marathon and possibly a triathlon. The triathlon: To stay or to go; that is the question. I have done this one five times and it was my first triathlon many years ago. Memories? History? Nostalgia? You bet. But, perhaps it is time to let all that go and move on? But first a review:

Early morning, clear water, a good practice swim done, feel good; really alive.



The swim start !! I am in it ! A few elbows, kicks, someone grabbing my ankle: Yes !



Now, it's really getting good ! Out of the swim. Gosh, this is great!


Is there anything better than being older and still being able to play and have toys and go bike riding in the Hill Country of Texas.




The Run: The mistakes, the cost of early exhuburance demands payment now. It is warmer, harder but I wouldn't be anywhere else.



The Finish !! Another validation and celebration of the efficacy of training and the lifestyle itself.



To continue the review: Remember that smile on my face as I went to the transition area to get my bike? Remember being caught up in that moment and for a brief episode, that is all there was, and it was enough.

YES! I should I go back: Not just for the history, the nostalga, but to reclaim and proclaim that better part of myself, to sing the sweet and inspirational song of today.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Broken Down: Lost and Found

My son's back wheel began to have a wobble- a spoke. I went on to get the truck to pick him up while he walked his bike. Within thirty feet of walking, he found an expensive cell phone on the side of the road. He called the last number called. The phone belonged to a serious diabetic and it was connected with his alert or alarm system or something like that. My son took the phone to him later this day. Considering all the miles whe travelled, if it had not been for trouble at that particular spot, the phone would probably never have been found.

But the best part was that my son said it was good he had the bad s spoke and had to stop because through that, a greater good was served for someone. I am not that good to raise a son like that. Thank you God.

"One Moment in Time"

Up early for our "one moment in time," to meet my son for an early morning bike ride. Yesterday's workouts left me with a lot of residual fatigue, but I am looking forward to our journey together this morning. The passing of many years has taught me not to take these times, these moments, lightly. This day, this opportunity won't ever come back. I can't save this moment to use later, except to remember and delight in again. Sometimes I smell the coffee when I get out of bed, and some days I have the wisdom to stop, take in the aroma and all the early morning sights, sounds, and savor that moment like it might be my last morning. Trying to hold a moment makes me keenly aware of the brevity of this life's treasured moments. And I feel a certain humility and gratitude to God for these treasured moments. And,in that one moment in time, I cannot help but pray.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Finger in the Fire

Early morn before daylight, getting ready for my long run. In this heat, even early, it will hurt. Getting out there is something like sticking my finger in the fire. Why do it then? Maybe I do it partially because when I talk to those folks at my Mother's nursing home, most say they wish for something more than the usual and routine. I do it partially because I need this run to build to my half ironman. I do it mostly though, because I have promised myself. And so I am off to partake of a beautiful sunrise and face the flames. Maybe I should wear gloves?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Endangered Species

Yes, there are many endangered species in the world and once gone; gone forever. So is the spirit, the flame, the passion within us; once gone...

Looking at race results it is easy to see how the numbers in the age groups drop off as the age escalates. Wonder why that is? Is it because of injuries? Is it because of illness related to aging? Or could it be burnout; a "been there done that" perspective. Or, perhaps as we age, we began to believe and take inside, the propaganda about aging that perpetually infests our lives?

And I wonder how many don't participate, don't push anymore, don't dream anymore, simply because the fire has gone out, leaving life to fizzle like a doused campfire.

The flame of our passion is a beautiful endangered bird and must be protected. That flame; our true life can simply can get blown out like a pilot light in an oven.
rendering the finer parts of ourselves extinct.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Knees

"Marvin, the guy at the bike shop said you do those things where you swim and run and bike or something like that. "Haven't your knees ever given you trouble? You know you can ruin your knees with all that running."

"I have been doing this for about 28 years now and I have had some knee problems that I got over. But I am going on 67 years old and the knees still work. Although I am no visionary, there may be a nursing home in my future sooner than I would like. Now what am I going to need good knees for in a nursing home?"

"---I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. --"
George Bernard Shaw

Monday, July 26, 2010

Road Family

The big black dog came at me. It ran out on the road just ahead of the front wheel of my bike, looked backwards at me and barked.

"OK, OK"!

I stopped and the old friend walked over to me, tail wagging, and if dogs could smile - I swear she was smiling. I talked stuff to her in gentle tones as I stroked her graying muzzle. Talked about all the years on this road we had enjoyed, graying together. She loved it. Her owner called her to come back and it is amazing that after all the years I have stopped for this man's dog, he still doesn't get it: we are road family. And he probably doesn't realize he doesn't own all of his dog; there is a part that dog belongs to only me.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is This The End?

Doing marathons, I have hit the "wall" several times. About 3 days ago, I hit the wall at three miles on my run; not usual; not good. I was overcome with a shaky weakness; breathing didn't come easily and I just had to quit. The heat was oppressive: yes. The heat index was over 100: yes. But I have survived in conditions like this before, many times. Maybe that is the problem: the many times. Took a complete day off and feel a little better but not really that much better. Of course, I am concerned, and of course, I pray this is not for the worse. And, I can't help but wonder if this is it, the end of my athletic life. At my age, I realize that I am on borrowed time in doing stuff like this but like an eternal dreamer, I never, ever want to see it end.

So, I have no other good choice but to "walk by faith and not by sight" until I am shown. Meantime, I pray for just a few more days, weeks, months, years, of this spendid lifestyle.

5/16/15 - Now, almost 5 years later, I find my prayers answered. I have had the most volume of training in those 5 years than I had in my entire life. Five years ago, the best was yet to come. Today, I failed to start but succeeded in training for a full ironman....Now, is this the end? Probably not, God is still in it and my heart still beats warm to go on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

He'll Always Be There For You

God? Yes, of course. But, there is someone else that will always be there for you: the devil on your shoulder in the later miles. For all my events, for over a quarter of a century, this guy has always shown up. I swear he holds up signs up in the later miles that say something to the effect: you look awful, this really hurts bad, really bad, doesn't it? Go on quit. Who cares anyway? When he can't get my attention, he will whisper in my ear: You are killing yourself out here,take it easy. You have a family, you know. In the last few miles of marathons, it is sometimes hard to hear the cheers of the crowd for his screaming in my ear, "this is stupid! Quit"!

I will say this for this spokesman for personal undertow: he is faithful, but not to me, but to executing my demise. Over the years I have grown to expect his presence and prepare for his pathological input. Yes, he is faithful to his negative agenda and overcoming is a matter of executing a stronger greater faithfulness to the Spirit of yes that God has put within me. No doubt he will be at my next event.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wake Up Call

After being beat up by the heat/humidity lately, I decided to do a dawn run. As I arrived at my usual parking place, the dawn silhouetted two buzzards on an electrical pole right in front of the truck. This is where the mockingbird usually is, singing his encouragement to me when I begin my runs. Buzzards? Not a good omen.
And they started stretching and yawning like they were getting up for a big breakfast. Not good. Do I look that bad? Am I that slow? I went on and when I returned the buzzards were gone and my mockingbird was back.

Perhaps that is the essence of why I do all this in the first place. The good life must be sustained and renewed by daily making the decision to turn from the buzzards of life that would consume the spirit like so much carrion and focus on the mockingbirds that sing energy, encouragement, and life at its best.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brain Dead

Cancelled my three summer events. It is so hot and humid here that my brain feels like it has been fried. Just want to get a big bucket of crushed ice and soak it. When I get to where I can think again, I will rethink this training program. This has gone beyond heat acclimation to training in heat endurance. How much heat can I stand before I have a heat stroke? Do I really want to know that?

And important too is what it does to my mind; my thinking, my creativity, my spontaneity. I am about to go visit my Mother in the nursing home. The good thing about having heat induced "brain dead" is that it is much easier to empathize with those with varying levels of dementia.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Breaking Habit

I try so hard to cut back eating at night. In the summer it is especially difficult as it is still daylight at 8:30-9:00 PM. Activity continues later and so the temptation to eat later.

I am one who just likes to decide and do - but getting on top of this late eating thing doesn't lend itself to that process and it doesn't give up easily. Perhaps, I should overcome the habit the way it probably overcame me: a little at a time. Win some-lose, keep the pressure on until there is far more winning than losing. Sounds like training, doesn't it?

Mark Twain writes: "Old habits can't be thrown out the upstairs window. They have to be coaxed down the stairs one step at a time."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bring Me Down

Sometimes I wonder do I send too much time by myself. Today,I did almost a 4 hour bike ride; taking it to the hills, climbing those bad boys I haven't visited in a while. The long bike has been the weak leak in the "Miles of the Journey." Something always seems to happen. Last week I had a terrible time with flats. Time before an auto accident happened right behind me and I found myself doing emergency service rather than tackling the hills. Today, it all came together and it feels like I have reached the high ground; not the crest by any stretch, just some level high ground. The mindset of the solitary ride and residual euphoria are still with me and I guess it is time to come down to ordinary me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No Excuse Nutrition


There is no excuse for me not eating right on this journey. Blessed I am to have the full support of my wife in this endeavor. She doesn't just give nodding approval and assent to not make life difficult for me while I am doing this. Her support is not like some sort of peace treaty or something. No, she actively supports. I am blessed. Additionally, she is a marvelous, creative cook of which I am a regular beneficiary. Sounds like I am bragging: correct. Check out this breakfast she prepared a while back. Egg whites with spinach inside, fruit,cereal with soy milk, raisins and almonds. This happens all the time here; truly blessed and completely without nutritional excuses. Better get on out there and try to deserve the support I have been given.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Keep Moving Forward

This time of year in my part of Texas it is hot and humid. Even early, the humidity soaks and saps you quickly. The pace slows and if I let myself, I began to think this isn't doing any good. Don't believe it. It seems I have climbed back up to that level of mental discipline to just keep moving forward. It isn't about the pace, how far I am going; just keep moving forward. Just keep the legs moving, watch the form, keep moving forward. Makes me remember again the old marathon days and how I survived all those: keep moving forward.

Again, our sport is an analogy for our lives. The heat and humidity of "outrageous fortune" will beset us on our course through this world. "In the world you shall have tribulations." Yes, we may slow and sometimes even seem to stagger, but moving forward, forward with certainty in purpose faith in the finish we will "run the race that is set before us."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It Dawned On Me

Got out at first light for a 7 mile run; beautiful! The haze hung in a blanket cloud over the large hay meadows. Birds were chorusing all along the road as if they were cheering me on. The moon still shone from among the multiple soft colors of dawn and I had all this to myself; I felt great!

Sometimes I think we should move to the city and a more modern lifestyle; a place where I could get with running buddies and have easy access to stuff folks take for granted. Then mornings like this say I am in the right place.

Three deer stopped in the middle of the road and watched me until I got close then they eased on off the road into the woods. I only saw one vehicle on my eight mile run; saw more deer than people. Yes, I know that this has been said so many times throughout this blog but it is so abundantly true it bears repeating: I am truly blessed! Thank you God.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Pause That Refreshes

Nine days running and no time off from training. It has been a good run of it but I needed some time off. Ever felt like you just want to do something else today?

So I tied on a top-water lure and went down to my pond. In a few minutes I had caught and released 3 nice bass. Strolled back over wooded trails to my woodpile and split logs for about thirty minutes. Then, to the gardens and picked vegetables before coming to the house where I put liquid fertilizer on my lawn. Doing other things felt good, sort of like stopping at an aid station on a marathon. But, I know I can't stay there. Already I have caught myself looking at my bike wondering if I might get in a good ride this afternoon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ride of the Fathers

My son asked me what I wanted for Father's Day: a bike ride together. After church, I picked him up. There was good conversation and shared visions, remembrances and joy. Our turnaround was a bridge that we two used to use as a pit stop on our way to the country when we lived in the city. He had been just a small boy, emulating the habits of his father; a fitting Father's Day turnaround.

Now he is a Father, and he and his children are creating those moments and places that will be visited in their futures. There is a certain peaceful connectivity to it all: "The peace that passes all understanding."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeling the Freedom

The water on the small lake was packed with people in the swimming area. What to do? Head down swimming right through the melee like a race start. The sounds of squealing children and the muffled tones of adults began to ebb away leaving me with only the sounds of my own swimming. I was free in the open water of the lake. No, lane lines, no turns, just stroke in rhythm; enjoy. Seems I almost went to sleep until I looked up to see I was nearing the other side of the lake. Then turn and swim from one end of the lake to the other and back again, the water all to myself. Something brought me to and I looked at the watch to find I had swam the amount of time I had planned. Heading to the sounds of the swimming area in the distance, I turned and went up and down the lake one more time. Feeling blessed; feeling free.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Sum of the Parts


How could an event done so poorly end so well? That was my thought on finishing the Kona Eastside sprint triathlon a few weeks back. I felt so blessed in it all when I finished. Perhaps the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Not Being Taken Alive

Read this morning that we can expect a lot of hurricanes this year; doom and pestilence. Long term health care costs are going up. Better get some long term health care insurance or you will surely die. And on and on, I read about all these ominous things that will surely kill me or drive me to pitiful poverty.

I have been very poor before and lived through it well. And how many times can these things kill me? Just once. And the thing that would probably kill me first would be stress from worrying about all the things that are out to get me. Should I let the worries of tomorrow steal the life of today?

I am prepared. I have peace with God and peace with myself. I will prepare for hurricanes and other various disasters.....but for now, I have a six mile run to do. It is high humidity and increasing heat. In the afternoon, I have a bike ride to do. Life is very good in spite of its ominous side. As the saying goes, "I am being stalked by death, but it will never take me alive."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Beautifully and Wonderfully Made - Run Proud

Today on my run it was hot and humid; the prelude to a rain. Tough conditions seem to induce a defensive, survival stride from me. Today was no exception. I found myself looking down the road only a few yards ahead. My shoulders were hunched somewhat, and I was doing more of a stagger than a run. My forward lean had me not picking my feet up much, and my shoes were scuffing loudly on the hot pavement as evidence. This is how you wear shoes out quickly. I was running scared in a way.

Then I remembered reading that we are to run "proud." Square the shoulders, stand up straighter, look farther ahead, see the bigger picture; embrace a bolder promise. Scripture says we are "beautifully and wonderfully made." Come on! Believe it! Run proud! I did. My pace picked up as I now seemed to be running over the road and not on it; running proud. The run took on new life and became more than just a task to complete but a blessing to experience.

Back at the truck, I was smiling broadly, drenched in sweat,and immensely thankful. Thankful that we are not called to plod mindlessly forward, staring at our feet. We are called to dream big dreams, looking up, pushing hard in the "direction of those dreams. We are not to do our training run of life without purpose, hope, joy or vision. That would be a waste of what God has given us and what He has called us to. We are "beautifully and wonderfully made." Look up.

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. ~ Voltaire

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Curse of Multiple Laps

My half ironman event has multiple loops on the run. So, I regularly practice doing multiple loops in training and using my truck as a turnaround aid station. But it is just me out there. No one knows how many loops I planned to do. Coming back to the truck brought with it the temptation to cut the run short especially since the day was getting hotter.

I have faced this curse before. Running the San Antonio Marathon, I was sick to my stomach from something eaten the night before. The course went right by my hotel and my room was only a few feet away...Oh that urge to quit! Then once again doing the Houston Marathon it was hot and steamy and I was done. My hotel was right there just off the course at about mile 22-23. I could see the door to my room.. Oh that urge to quit!

I had planned on 3 loops today. My truck could be seen a quarter of a mile away as I finished my 2nd loop. Do I just do 2 loops and call it good enough? After all, it is terribly hot out here. I am not really going all that fast out here. What difference will it make?

To me it makes all the difference and this was the defining moment of my run and for my training today. The difference will be to know that I didn't quit though everything physical screamed stop. Temptation is like that in all of life, in our faith life.

I did not risk stopping but threw my hand-held water bottle in the back of the truck, picked up my fresh bottle from the bumper and went back out. The last loop turned out to be the best loop of the day; not because it was faster, but because of the hard won satisfaction in my heart of resisting the temptation to quit.
I had fought and bested the curse of multiple loops

Friday, June 4, 2010

Getting That Picture Back


Last year was a phenomenal training year. By this time, I was regularly doing 50-65 mile rides. This year pales in comparison to the level of fitness I had at this time. In looking back at some of last years photos, it comes to me that I want that picture back. I loaned it out to people and circumstances but now I want it back. The picture is from the Fire Ant Ride in Gatesville, Texas. It was a beast in the heat but I really did well on it. I want that picture back. I am not ready to rest on what I have done, and dwell on the "good ole days." As the song says, "These are the good ole days." Next week they are having that bike ride again and I just think I will go and take my camera. You see, I want picture back.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spectator Friendly

Where I train folks more or less accept me as the local nut that bikes or runs on their roads. After a quarter of a century of this, I sort of believe people don't see me any more. I am sort of a landmark or historical marker or something. No one knows or really cares what I am doing out there.

The other morning I really didn't want to run. The night before I let myself be lead into eating Mexican food. That morning I had the food preservative blues, feeling like I had been drugged or something.

Somehow, the will overcame. I made the drive and parked where I usually run out on a seldom traveled country road. It was hard to get myself together and I could think of all kinds of good, plausible excuses just to go on back to the house. No one would know or care.

But there was a Mockingbird on the utility pole very near the truck and he was singing his heart out. My goodness that bird was pumped up! He would sing a while then jump up, fly in a small circle, land in the same place and keep on singing but with another tune. It was like he was cheering for me, offering encouragement or something. That morning, I really needed applause from an upbeat spirit. I smiled and took off leaving my excuses and my friendly spectator behind. I am losing it, I thought. I am starting to listen to and receive inspiration from birds. Oh well.

An hour later, drenched in sweat and feeling much better than when I started, I arrived at the truck. Would you believe that bird was still there and still at it? This time, I could suppose he was cheering me in, doing those crazy loops between songs. I could not help but smile and say thanks. Now, I am a surely nuts; talking to birds!

And I thought: sometimes when the cares of life have us in a hangover like state of mind and body, we just need an upbeat spirit to help us summon the best that is still within us; summon us to believe. And sometimes it is our calling; our turn to be like that bird and bring that upbeat spirit to others as well.