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.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hope Merchant

Today, I did the Kona Eastside triathlon in Baytown, Texas. Although I was 2nd in my age group, I did have a good swim, and did really well fighting off the headwind on the bike. But, the run told me that I have lots of work to do before I take on that half ironman I am planning for October. My plan is to walk the aid stations on the half. So today I did that. It worked well, and I finished well, but the run still seemed hard.

I can remember when running came easy. Now it seems to be such an effort. At the age of 66, am I too old for this? There were only about 4-5 people over 60 doing this event. Perhaps I am trying too hard to hang on to something that has already escaped me. Perhaps, it would be wise to follow those my age who have already let go? These were the thoughts as I muddled through the run. I prayed. If nothing else, being on a downhill slide with my running ability has brought me to prayer more often; brought me closer to God.

Then a man about twenty years younger passed me and said, "You're my new hero."

"I'm your new hero? Why?"

"I tried to stay with you on the bike, but I just couldn't do it. You kicked my butt on the bike. You're my new hero."


As he eased on ahead of me, I thought that perhaps, moments like this are a reason to do this stuff. How many times in life do we get the chance to inspire someone? How many times can we be someones hero, an agent of hope for someone looking down the road of their own aging ahead, when their run doesn't come easy anymore.

Perhaps, even in my old age inability, I can still be a hope merchant.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Just a Parking Lot

It's just a parking lot but in the dark, waiting for bike inspection and body marking, it is the place you want to be. Although there is plenty of time, there is still a sense of urgency to get your transition set up.

In the half light of the dawn and the day's hopes and aspirations, you converse easily with those racked near you. People you most often don't get the names of; people you will probably never see again, yet, in the beginning the chatter and camaraderie with these like souls have a calming effect. Then you walk the "swim in", "the bike out", the "bike in", and "run out" portals of the fencing. Within this surrounding barricade are rows of racks of many, many dollars worth of bikes. The ground is littered with equipment and the spirit of the moment is laden with the hopes and fears of those getting ready there. But, it's only a parking lot.

It's the place you have to leave hoping you are set up right for a good transition; a place you run to on bare feet, dripping water from the swim and trying to remember the marker you had to find your bike. It is the small little piece of real estate you hurriedly try to use and leave, pushing your bike to the bike mount line. After the bike ride,it is the place where through which you run with your bike, trying to find where your transition space was. It is the area where you hurriedly try to rack your bike, get your running gear and leave as quickly as possible. But it is only a parking lot.

After the race, the festive atmosphere, the awards ceremony, it the area they are starting to take down; the area you walk through in a state of fatigue and post-race euphoria, talking and saying good bye to friends. Your transition space is a state of disarray but what it all represents make you pause a moment before you take your old friend off the rack, and leave this area that is being destroyed all around you. But, it is just a parking lot.

In a short time the wind from the water will blow peaceful across this place taking with it all that has been there. After all it is just a parking lot.

But, you will take a piece of those moments spent there with you. What you did then and there is forever part of what you are now. Maybe it wasn't just a parking lot.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hand to the Plow and Not Looking Back

Today, I was making rows with my pushplow to plant peas in one of my gardens. The first row had a high meander factor, you might say and I had to go back and get it straightened out. The next rows, I did what I always do but had forgotten: I found a point at the end of the row as my goal. By staying focused on that point, the plow is pushed straight. No looking back.

For me, training is like that. I do best when I just set my goals, and just do it. When I stop and think beforehand too much, I can be deterred from the straight path. My race schedule is set for this year. I am committed to the straight row to finishing a half ironman distance event in October this year. No need to look back. Just train. Follow the plan.

After gardening chores were done I went in and signed up for the next event on my schedule.

"-----no man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ride It On Down: Climb Back Out

Trying to climb out of this training hole I seem to be in has been tough but I think I am on to something. Last year on the bike at the Couples Triathlon near Austin, Texas, I was really on a good roll. The big, bad hill they nicknamed "Quadzilla" had been overcome and I was close to finishing the bike and going strong. Excited about it all, I took the last corner too tight. My tire dropped off the jagged pavement edge and I found myself quickly heading down the ravine on the edge of the road. Two choices presented themselves immediately: lay the bike down, take the cuts, bumps and bruises or just ride it on down into the ravine. I chose to ride. It was a rough ride but at the bottom, I was able to stop, dismount, and climb back out.

In my present training I think I have slowed and dismounted at the bottom of my ravine, and have started climbing back out. It just feels like that.

Training, triathlon , and especially life puts the smack on us at times. We are presented with the choice of whether to lay it down or ride the ravine. For me, my best is usually to choose to ride, choose to be the person, the athlete God has chosen me to be.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Event Next Weekend But Don't Feel Ready

There has been so much going on that my training has had to be altered, my schedule rearranged almost daily and all kinds of improvisations made just to get some training in. And I expect to do a half ironman distance event in October? Right now that seems like a "death wish."

I don't feel ready for the event next weekend either. (600 yd swim -16 mile bike- 4 mile run.)

as the saying goes "A man is not defeated until he is defeated in spirit." So, this morning in the freshness of the morning following the rain last night, I pray for that strength, that will, that courage to overcome situations I face and to overcome myself.
Then I will get my running stuff together and get out the door for my long run this week.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Can Visit But You Can't Stay Here

Early morning, peaceful in the country, sitting in the swing welcoming the fresh day. Ah,really nice but the sun comes on up, a little warmer as time passes. I can't stay here. Life would atropy. I have a one hour run and a a two hour bike on my schedule for today. Time to get moving, to forge on forward and in the training provide contrast to the peacefulness and ease of the morning, making tomorrow at dawn even that much better.

"The woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep."
Robert Frost from the poem "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Beautiful Picture

Watching a little lady doing a puzzle, a resident of the nursing home where my Mother is, I noticed she grouped all like piece in piles or bowls and worked on one area at a time. She has put together many puzzles of beautiful pictures this way.

Triathlon training is much like that. In our attempt to make that beautiful picuture of our performance, we group our training into the areas of swim, bike, run, nutrition, transition, strength training, and try to make the beautiful race, the stellar performance from all the little pieces.

So it seems with life also. We order our lives in little groupings and tasks and live our day to day but ultimately we are looking for our beautiful picture somehow within our reach but beyond our grasp. And the joy comes in the reaching, each day perhaps putting a piece into our puzzle, ever moving toward that beautiful picture just beyond the horizon.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Race Report CB & I Triathlon

It all seemed like I wasn't supposed to do the CB & I triathlon (500m swim-15 mi bike-5k run) in Woodlands, Texas this past Saturday. Friday, it looked like we were going to have race day thunderstorms. Then, in doing a final bike check, I find a sizeable slash on my back tire. I hate to do events on untried tire changes so after changing tires, I did a quick road check Friday. I kept wondering: Ok, now what next?

Next, it was raining when I dropped my bike off late Friday at the transition area. This all did not bode well.

Next morning though, it was just steamy; no rain. Great! The swim went OK though I took a shot on the jawbone from someone's elbow but it was a glancing blow. Things were looking better. The bike was just marvelous. I held the tempo and finished in about what I did three years ago on the same course. The run told the tale of my decreased fitness. Though it wasn't too much different than my other run times, it was worse than other times on this particular course. The main difference was the extent of determination and effort it took to just do average. Clearly, my overall fitness is not where it needs be just yet.

However, in that last mile, several runners, seeing my age of 67 on the back of my calf, congratulated me as they passed. One young lady passed and said, "67 ? Mister, you rock!" Another told me, "when I grow up, I want to be you." Bottom line was though, they were passing me as lots of folks were. Guess I am not fully ready to accept elder benefits and lower expectations just yet.

It was great at the finish with my family, my grandchildren along the sidelines cheering me on, taking pictures. What a day! Thank God I have lived to experience and appreciate those wonderful moments.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Challenge and Expression

Entering the water to ready for the swim. The water is a little cold. Be ready to brace myself against that. The swim course will be crowded with lots of physical contact. The course has a lot of yellow buoys and the turnaround buoy is the same color as the rest. Be ready for all that. It is a longer than usual run to the large transition area. Be sure to remember how I plan to find my bike in all that. The bike course is flat and fast but don't go out too hard and blow up early. Should I save something for the run? Forget the run! Kill the bike and gut out the run. Be ready for that.

And so it goes, the many decisionsm in answer to the many challenges of the event become an expression of the life within me lived well. Thank God for those challenges for they carry over into challenge and expression in other areas of life and become part of the indelible fabric of whom and Whose I am.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

At the CB & I Triathlon in Woodlands, Texas this past Saturday, the thousand participants had gathered at the lake's edge for all the opening information and the race start. It was still dark with the sun coming up through the trees across the lake. The national anthem was sung as we watched the limp flag and stood hands to hearts in respect, with the sun coming up beyond the flag. It was a wonderful scene, a fitting picture of our hope embodied in the light rising out of the darkness; rising to illuminate our start, our day, our purpose and our allegiance to what we hold dear.

Have you ever had the feeling that in all the world there was not another place you would rather be? "Land of the free, and the home of the brave" Oh make that be true in me! I thanked God that I am an American.