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


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.