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


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


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

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.