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 makes me smile. They have seen me do a triathlon and leave on several bike events, and now they have seen me run. Perhaps, I am introducing them early to this splendid lifestyle. Perhaps, their lives will be enriched by the early influences of this old geezer, plodding to do his best. Perhaps, I will leave a path.

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.





















































































































































































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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.