Thursday, December 29, 2011

Let This Be the Year

For better or worse, this will be a different year. Will this year be the year I finally do my Ironman? Or, is this the year I have to quit triathlons altogether? Is this the year?

Is this the year I get on top of self-indulgent habits? Or, is this the year I just cave in completely to creature comforts? Is this the year I get on top of my anger, guilt, and pride to become more fully who God would have me be? Is this the year?

Is this the year I become more sure of myself and what I stand for that I can be more accepting of others? Is this the year I can love my fellow man more fully despite our differences? Let this be the year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Bridges-a Repost

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 names.
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 through the brush. On another occasion, we found it easier to talk 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- the brush has been cleared, the fence torn down, and the Bridge has been built between God and man. May this year the path between us, be worn smooth by the tracks of our relationship.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Choosing to Believe Eagles

The buzzards waiting on the post tops, wings spread, were just waiting for me to fall over and die, I suppose. Yeah, I was really running that slowly. They must have been thinking that there is no hope for this old geezer. When he falls; it's chow time. Of course, I don't know what buzzards are thinking, really. But, as miserable as I felt on this run, it was easy to imagine a buzzard inner dialogue of that nature.

But, it was all in fun, toying with my vivid imagination. There is hope even for the slowest runner or the poorest soul. It is the Christmas season wherein we celebrate the birth of the Child of Hope. From His own humble beginnings, He changed everything. So, I chose to live with this Hope no matter how slow and painful my pace. I choose to believe those were really eagles watching me, to catch me should I fall. I choose to believe Christmas.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:31






















































































































































































































































































































































Monday, December 19, 2011

Sort of Lost Myself

It was great that yet another bike ride caused no problems. Back at the truck, loading my bike, I was just beside myself with praise and thanks to God for extending my lease for a few more rides.

In all my joy, I drove off and left the front wheel of my bike on the side of the rode. It was just such a great moment, I sort of lost myself, I guess. When I realized it, went back; the wheel was gone. It will cost close to one hundred and fifty dollars to replace what I had been so careless with.

That same day, my son and his family came over, and we had a great time together. The grandchildren, the fire down at the pond, the love we share, left a warm feeling from it all.

Upon leaving, my son said he was sorry that I had lost my bike wheel. Somehow, at that moment, that loss seemed to pale in comparison to what I had. I told him that I can replace the wheel eventually, but my family are all well and happy. We are all here now. These are the things that cannot be repeated or replaced-ever.

As they drove away in the dark, I found myself again overcome with praise and thanks to God. In that joy, I sort of lost myself again.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is This Going to Last?

Am I going to have to give up bike riding? That was, and is my fear after experiencing urinary pain after bike rides. It got pretty bad but before submitting to a urologist, I laid off the bike rides for two weeks. All went well.

Now I have bought a split-nose bike seat that is supposed to be specially designed to help with such problems, but I was afraid to try it out. What if I can't ride the bike anymore? I love my bike rides. What if I will be spending some pleasant afternoons in the urologist's waiting room rather than out on the open road on my bike? I just didn't want to know. But this is life and I just couldn't stay there.

An hour later I got off my split nose bike seat and prepared myself to know. It went well, thank God. Is this going to last? I hope so, but today, this day, I can ride my bike; soak it up, drink it in, revel in it. Oh yes, this day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Impress Her Quickly

My granddaughter nestled her head into my shoulder and went to sleep. It was comforting to think that my shoulder was a place of security; safe to yield to the vulnerability of sleep.
Oh, how I wish I could provide her that security from all she must encounter. How I would like to be there to hold her when the pains she must face bear down upon her.
But, I won’t be here for her. The trust she has for me will be betrayed by my absence - a life apart from her in the future. My age tells me that I probably won’t be around to see her graduate from high school. Time is short. I must impress her quickly. Quickly, I must try to leave some good of myself with her: something that she can use when the pains and disappointments come, and I won’t be there. Quickly, I must impress upon her with the active lifestyle, the continuous journey of personal and spiritual growth, and the faith for dependence upon God, through Jesus Christ.
Wake now, my child. I must impress you quickly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another Year Spent. Did I Spend It Wisely?

Another birthday passed a couple days ago, and birthdays alway bring an evaluation. Another year spent. Did I spend it wisely? What did I waste? Where did I grow? God, how did I do?

The number of these birthday things keep piling up and it is hard to tell how many more of these I will get to evaluate. So, time is of the essence and I can't afford to make too many poor decisions about the use of life force. I can't waste my punches. Funny thing though, as life becomes more intense in the allocation of time and force, it seems to have slowed down. Birthday upon birthday, I seem to be doing more of what is most meaningful and truly important. I still do a lot of things, but am less in a stress about it, less being chased about by life.

With each birthday I hope to be able to look back and see a wiser allocation of myself from the previous birthday. And when the birthday evaluations, and all else on this earth are over for me, I can have my final evaluation: Lord, how did I do?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ageless Truth

Truth doesn’t age. The years have taught that there is really nothing new out there. Stick around long enough and you will see that truth again. Out on the roads, in our training, I do not discover a new truth. It has already been created and discovered by countless generations before me. What I discover is that ageless truth within the aging self; a that already was, that lay latent within awaiting discovery. It is as if I arrive at a place, and first think it new, but a strange feeling suggests, I have really been there all the time.

All truly wise thoughts have been thought already, thousands of times but to truly make them ours, we must think them over again, honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
Johann Goethe

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Fix Me, Fix Me!"

It is so easy and obvious to see the faults in others. The wrongness of the behavior of others is so glaringly apparent, like the blinking off and on of Christmas lights, begging the opportunist critic; “fix me, fix me!” And as long as working on other people is a full time job, there is just not the time or the demand to work on oneself.

In doing endurance sports I have always hoped that I was an inspiration for others to emulate. But, the thought crossed my mind the other day, as to whether I want to be an inspiration, or do I want to inspire. I had often thought they were the same thing but is being an inspiration really about me? Is it about me being something to be admired, or about others being inspired?

As a triathlete in my mid/ late sixties, do I really like it when others applaud my performance because I can feel like a tough old bird for my age? Or, do I do it so others might be inspired to challenge their own perceived age and physical limitations, regardless of the credits given?

Upon examining true motives I have often found myself prideful-pounding on my chest like some geriatric Tarzan. There is a scripture which says something to the effect, “Search me O God and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23) That is a scary proposition. It would be a lot easier and less painful to work on the faults of someone else. But, I have found that my greatest times of personal and spiritual growth occurs, after I have sincerely asked God to “fix me, fix me!” When I am more nearly "fixed" perhaps others will be inspired?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Almost There

That left arm is hard to train. There is a part of each swimming session dedicated to getting the left arm to do what the right one does with the same ease of motion. Sometimes the left is tamed quickly-though never as perfect as the right- and sometimes the left resists training for a long time.

When my son was in baseball, I had neck bone spurs which diminished the strength in my right arm considerably. Knowing boys and baseball come along, pass by, and the time is gone, I did not want to miss that opportunity. So, I tried to tame the left arm to throw the baseball. Then I worked on throwing a football. I got where I could do it OK, but never like the way the right arm could do it.

Sometimes it seems like that in training and in life, I find myself trying to tame one side of me to be more like the right. I know what the right feels like, but that other side of me needs constant attention and training. And, there are good days, but these are days when I only come close to getting that errant side to be like the Right. The miles of this journey continue on.

After about a mile swimming today, I had brought the left arm into the rhythm and, I was in that "sweet spot" so long sought. With the almost balanced stroke, I closed my eyes and reveled in the closeness of the rhythm of both sides. For a few moments, I was almost there.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holding Position/Defending Hope

I ate too much! I ate too badly. Didn't train. It was cold out. We had company. I was a little tired. My knees hurt some. And, the fire is warm, the couch is soft and bottom line: I am lazy.

And passion for goals, passion for growth, is eroded away by a stream of tempting creature comforts. It is war with the natural man; the man, who would eat himself into illness, sit himself until muscles atrophy, dull himself to lack of self-respect. God calls us out from the natural man, to be all we were created to be, to say no to the beginnings of erosion that would destroy our bodies and the hope that He placed within us.

So, during this holiday season, with the "rockets red glare" of tempting unhealthy foods all around us, and the "bombs bursting in air" of all the excuses not to train, not to exercise, may I hold position and defend my hope.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks For the Life That Found Me

Endurance sports began for me 29 years ago-Thanksgiving Day. About that time also, my faith life began. I became a Christian. There have been no regrets about either, except that I wished I had found both earlier in life. Wow! What a great run at this I have had. That Thanksgiving morning in 1982, I could not even jog a quarter mile. I haven't forgotten to give thanks. So on this Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for the Life that found me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful

You bet, I am thankful. No kidding. Grateful won't cover it. I stand in awe and amazed, and so thankful to God for what I can do, and for what I can do, does to me. What I can do adds so much peace, so much joy, so much hope to life.

And sleep is deep and restoring. There is nothing left at night to fret about what happened, what's going to happen, what might have been. I am dead in sleep and "the rough places have been made smooth." Things don't seem so serious after sleep like that. Besides, another day training awaits discovery.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wouldn't Miss This Misery for the World

It's true. I have finally completed a full week of ironman training and only missed one workout-a 2000 yard swim. This is the first ordered week after four of just scrambling to get at least some workouts in, here and there.

Ate lunch after my long run, laid down and just died. Woke up several times but just couldn't get up. It was as if something was holding me down. I went back to sleep. And this is just the beginning. This is only about 17 hours of training this week. When in full swing, I can imagine that all I will be doing is training, eating, and crashing. Do I really want to do this?

And miss this fight? And miss the chance to see if I really have what it takes? And miss the growth opportunity that will most assuredly occur both on a personal and spiritual level? No way...wouldn't miss this misery for the world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Learning to Walk the Rail

She was teeter-tottery when first put on the porch rail. Looking toward the next porch post, she took a hesitant step on that four to five feet balance journey.

I was holding my grandaughter all the time and there was no way she could fall but not fully aware of that fact, she was doubtful. Her muscles were tight and tense, and she lacked control at first. Step after step, her boldness grew; her muscles relaxed, the steps became sure until she reached the post, turned around with a smile and said, "again."

Even geriatric grownup athletes are not immune from first doubtful steps as we walk our own porch rails of life. And we can walk them surer, steadier, if we are not tensed in fear of failure; fear of falling. After all, I cannot truly fall and I cannot truly fail because my Father is holding me closer than I can realize.

So, let today's training begin. Let me walk the rail, ah yes, "again."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The No - Talent Triathlete

I have often prayed, "Lord, why didn’t You give me any gifts? Why didn’t You make me any good at this?"

It is unbelieveable how little natural talent I have to be a triathlete. Progress is made only through just pushing clumsily through. I never was any good as a runner either. One leg is crooked, and my running style is that of a cow running. I have seen runners and triathletes who have that fluid, effortless motion, and I ask, "What happened to me when talent was being passed out?" So, lacking talent, I have to work harder, and I feel blessed and immensely thankful for any little blessing I get in that effort.

It is almost as if God answers my prayer with, "No, I didn't make you talented. But through your lack of talent, you have become more humble. You are more use to Me humble, than talented."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting to a Good Place

The ride was not fun at all, at first. This was going to be my longest ride in a couple of months, and just minutes into it, I didn't feel all that powerful. Rhythm wasn't good. The little rises in the course seemed much steeper than I knew they really were. What is happening to me!

I had driven several miles to bike this course, and that alone had me vested in this effort. Did I drive this far to get to a good place and then ride a couple miles and quit? Surely not. What is happening to me!

Riding on, the south wind was strong in my face with the worst hills coming up. "These bad boys are going to kill me," I remember thinking. But - the first one didn't blow me up, nor the second. Five major hills and five major victories. Then, time to do the loop again. I felt good, and smiled at the strength I had discovered in these old legs. The wind was gusting harder in my face on the second loop, but the legs were there. Soon I was back at the place where I had parked my truck. A very good ride; a good route. I had found a good place. And, through the miles, into the wind, and over the hills, I had gotten to a good place within myself. Thanks God.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Feeling Like An Anomaly

The older I get, the more I see that many of my friends have health problems or some sort of disabling condition. Life can be simply a matter of survival. Any physical capability at all you might be an anomaly. There are times when I feel like an anomaly simply because I feel good.

And the anomaly status separates me from a lot of people my age. Sometimes it is hard to find common ground in my age group out in the world. I am not going to start getting sick before my time in order to fit in nicely with my crowd. No, it gets lonesome when most of your longtime friends are ill or dead but until my own number comes up, I think I will stick with this anomaly thing. It is a gift to be handled carefully and prayerfully. While it lasts, I think I will concentrate on not taking my own health for granted; concentrate on being humble and appreciative; loving hard, praising God for the health and capability that I am enjoying at this moment in time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Do I Dare Start Again? Of course.

To answer my own question: yes, I am starting again. Tomorrow, I hope to take my training from "ho-hum" to "all right!" It is probably not a good idea, but I just want to see what will come at me in the next episode of the continuing saga called "trying to train for an ironman." Seriously, not starting again is seldom a good choice. There is no other good alternative.

I can still remember that feeling of that only marathon I didn't finish; that somber crowd on the "wimp bus" that took us to the finish; the finishers who had overcame where I had quit: not a good feeling at all. Don't want that feeling back. At that time, I would have rather to have crawled all the way to that finish line than to have dared to go on.

To take the question apart: I will "dare," and I will "start again." I know how I think: the question was probably posed to renew my affirmation; an affirmation of faith. I will dare and leave the results to God.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Do I Dare Start Again?

Signing up for the ironman was like calling in artillery fire on my own position. It is a month now since I signed up and stuff started falling out of the trees. It has been a regular disaster derby in my life since signing up. What's up ! I had prayed about this before signing up. Seemed like it was OK. Seemed like the right thing to do, though not necessarily practical. Was the answer to my prayer, "No Way!" and I just wasn't listening?

My wife is finally over her pneumonia and I am over my URI. I will take my broken bike to the shop Monday, and my dog bite is not infected and healing well. Do I dare start again?

Friday, November 4, 2011

"Frittered Away"

Those four-letter words: "just" and "only", can spell the death of discipline. They are so, so tempting in their smallness. Surely, someone who has trained for something for years, could easily overcome these little guys. But every year, and almost every day, this battle must be fought. After all, it is "just" one workout,"only" one day, "just" a piece of cake.

Thoreau wrote that "our lives are frittered away by detail." "Frittered" is a good word for caving in to the "justs" and "onlys" of life. It is a good word for the small beginnings of erosion of purpose.

However, without the sneaky resistance that "just" and "only" provides, what would be the value of overcoming, of seeing the training,and the race to the end. So too with life. Life is a hilly course full of "justs" and "onlys" that must be recognized if progress is to be measured by the number of temptations that have been overcome.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Living Up to the Big Shadow

Dawn shining from the east cast my shadow completely across the road and a good distance into the field on the other side of the road. Wow! How big I can look in the right light. I am huge, a giant!

Perhaps I was looking at my shadow when I signed up for this ironman event. Perhaps, in the light of that sign-up day, I believed the shadow rather than the reality. The reality? I could just be in way over my head.

Now the shadows have shortened and actual size doesn't feel so bold in this light. Truth about oneself and ones capabilies must be addressed. And so I shall. Now we play hardball. The large shadows are gone, but there yet remains a faith that what God brought me to, He will see me through. And if I fail, I will have had the joy and the challenge and thank God for the experience. And oh, if I succeed, I will thank God for the blessing of living up to the shadow He has cast of me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saving the Worst for Last


Really beat me up. Sure there were lots of hills on this half-marathon, but I have done them before, done this event serveral times before. This time, I feel post-marathon. I seldom get sore but the last twenty four hours have caught me up on sore. What is wrong here? Yes, I have not been getting a lot sleep. Yes, this was my longest run all year. Yes, I am fighting a URI but that doesn't seem like enough to break me down like this.

I will have to find out. Just got to know. Am I fading into the sunset or just having an off day yesterday. I guess everyone has these "am I over-the-hill" moments, but I don't particularily enjoy them.

It was my worst half-marathon ever and when I crossed the finish line, I just didn't feel good about my effort. From finishing, I just walked on to my vehicle and went home. Oh, word is that I was third in my age group, but I was last in my own mind.

December 11th I have another half-marathon scheduled http://bcsmarathon.com/, and I just can't wait to get out there on that course. I pray to God that I have not saved the worst until last, and I have a few more good efforts in me "before I take up the rocking chair."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Close to the Ditch

It seems to be coming apart. Ever since signing up for Ironman Texas, it seems like I have incurred the wrath of God. The schedule this week is in disarray and I feel like I am coming down with something myself. What a rotten way to start!

Life is like that sometimes. The Bible says, "In the world you shall have tribulations----" It doesn't say you "might" or that it is a "possibility," it says "you shall." So, like in the last miles of the marathon, I just try to keep moving forward, knowing as long as I do that, I will not be yet defeated, and each step forward takes me closer to the finish.

"All of life runs unsettlingly close to the ditch."
Joseph M. Stowell
"The Upward, Inward Look," Decision Magazine 1/09

Monday, October 17, 2011

No Regrets Left on the Course

It would be so easy to stay here; to make another pot of coffee and watch the dawn beautify the morning. Ah, such peace ! But, it is week two of my ironman training and I want to be out on the road at first light. So, I sacrifice the stillness of this dawn toward a day several months from now. And, like the saying goes,"The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare." Every morning is part of the finishing process of this ironman. Every decision to overcome inactivity for the greater purpose, is another step in the direction of the finish line.

So,another week begins. Like life itself, I try not to leave any regrets on this course, this path, this opportunity, this journey God has blessed me with.

Friday, October 14, 2011

1st Week-IM Training - Is This Real?

Is this all there is? Seems like I didn't train hard enough this week. Tomorrow, I have a 10 mile run and then Sunday off...and the first week of Ironman training will be done.

This was a trial balloon week in which I wanted to see what I could do and then be more specific in fine tuning my schedule. Results: I am in much better shape than I thought. I feel great! This can't be ironman training! It's all a dream. I remember that in the middle of doing my half-ironman, I thought that this is all a dream. I couldn't be doing a half-ironman. Could I? Will I ever grow up? After 10 years of triathlon, new ventures in it make me like a kid in a toy store. If I don't quit endurance sports, I will probably never grow up. I still stand amazed, astonished, and grateful to God, that I can try to do this.

"You were made and set here to give voice to the expression of your astonishment at the possibilities within you."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ironman-You Can Quit Anytime You Like

You quit anytime you like. That is truth about this business. And, the day, the commitment made is really like the gun going off to begin the event. Now within the weeks and months of training is the option: You can quit anytime you like. There will be plenty of tempting opportunities.

This first week of training it seems like the devil is throwing the book at me. And those nights I wake up and recall, "my goodness, what were you thinking in signing up for an ironman?"

Overcoming all this may be part of the process. Oh,it can't be put on the training schedule like the swim, bike, run, but perhaps overcoming to train, overcoming to pursue a worthy goal is really the most lasting, the most high leverage benefit of the ironman process. Perhaps, this is an object lesson in sifting out the good elements in life, to focus on the best things to be done with our effort, with our life.

I'm still standing...off on my morning run...praise God !

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ironman Training Day 1 - Clearing a Path

One thing after another for my first day of training for my ironman. My bike computer wouldn't work. The rear brake on my bike was dragging. Right in the middle of my ride, I must have passed a kidney stone or something: painful, painful experience. Then, I got a phone call that I couldn't follow up on, but had to stop and try. However, I got a 31 mile bike followed by a 2 mile run and it went great.

My Father and I once cleared a trail by hand,through about a mile of thick underbrush to make a path for the future. That was hard pushing through the underbrush like that. Ironman training will be hard work too, getting through the underbrush that is normal life. Perhaps, I will leave a path?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Try and Fail or Fail By Not Trying

I don't intend to fail. But, if I do, it will be while trying. When the day's sun has set upon this capability to try, I will know, I did not waste it.

Tomorrow my ironman training begins with a 30 mile bike and a 2 mile brick run. My schedule is made. My wife is pouring over nutrition options and plans. She is in full support and for that, I thank God. She doesn't understand all this, but neither do I. She says that I have to try.
There is no other good choice. The "alternative is gloomy."

Off to church to finish getting all prayed up; tomorrow, give it to God and "run the race that is set before me."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Waiting on the Rhythm - Ironman Training

Maybe it is age but it takes a while for the rhythm to come with my swimming. Today, the third day of my Ironman venture, I swam 2000 yards. That is less than half of the Ironman distance but I felt good. In fact, I finished more refreshed than when I began. But the realization keeps returning to me how swimming is such a skill sport. There is a fluidity of motion that is sometimes hard to achieve for me until later in the swim. Then, it all just seems to come together; natural.

In all my triathlons, I have always left the water refreshed, energized, and sometimes smiling; ready to bike. That is my ironman goal for the swim next May in TheWoodlands, Texas. http://ironmantexas.com/ I am so blessed.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Athlete's Heart

Prior to registering for Ironman Texas http://ironmantexas.com/ , I went to the doctor for a regular check up, but I scheduled in the "big question" too. Results of the check up were good.

"One more thing, doctor. I am thinking and praying about doing a full ironman event. My check up was good but what about doing an ironman. The doctor smiled, shook his head, and scheduled me for more tests. After all that, he came back to me with an even bigger smile.

"You have an athlete's heart. Go on. Do it !"

That night I registered, and began making plans and dreaming dreams ever since. An electric excitement has pervaded those first view days. It was scary, but so much fun; so exciting ! God has truly blessed me with an athlete's heart in many ways. But, I knew that already. Now to go and do it: go and use it. Let it be my gift, my burden, my blessing to live life as one with an athlete's heart.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Breaking New Ground-Ironman Journey Day One

It is 24 hours now since I signed up for my first ironman. The fear has been replaced by a sort of stupor. Maybe tonight I will get some sleep. When I get some rest, reality will have to be dealt with. The 2.4 mile swim: I have never swam that far before. The 112 mile bike: I have never ridden that far before. This is really stretching me out here; breaking new ground. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I remember many years ago when we cleared off underbrush here for a garden on my place and turned up the soil. The feeling of taming new ground, the smell of the fresh earth ready for planting and growing. For sure, I will never be quite the same again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Walk On Water

Can I really do this? An ironman? Sounds surreal to think that I just registered for the 2012 Memorial Herman Ironman Texas to be held May 19th. So much to think about. I have been praying over this decision for two days off and on. It is getting late for me, but I am not sure I can sleep yet tonight. Well, here I am Lord, signed up, feeling inadequate, and a little overwhelmed, stepping out of the boat to try to walk on water.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Awake to the Moment

The moment escaped. I had been waiting at a crossing to photograph my son as he competed in a mountain bike race. It was all planned out: when he hit this spot, click! Picture taken.

Here he came, entered the click zone, got it! I thought. Later, I was to find out that I barely got his backside in the picture before he disappeared down the trail. At the finish line, using the same theory, I got my action shot, but later found out that he had passed through so quickly, that all I had was a photo of my own shadow on the pavement.

The camera was sort of slow to respond, I suppose. In that second in which it was deciding to take the photo, the photo op was gone. I should have anticipated that.

Life is like that too. It comes at you sometimes with blazing speed with limited opportunities. Action must be taken quickly, decisively, or life will leave you with a half empty picture or one of a shadow of yourself that has missed the passion and joy offered momentarily by life but has passed quickly before you and is gone. There may not be a next time to be truly awake, to be ready for rich moments in life.

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aides, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep."
Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hot in Texas

Training in this heat is getting pretty old. It is supposed to be officially autumn but it was a 104 degrees one day this week. It is 86 right now, mid-morrning. Rain? What's that? The geography of this area will change significantly if all the trees that have turned brown, really do die. This area could be a rolling prairie next year, a rolling desert the next.

It is so hot in Texas that the birds use pot holders to pull worms out of the ground. Potatoes cook underground and all you have to do to have lunch is to add the salt and pepper. The cows are giving evaporated milk and the trees are whistling for the dogs. I heard a neighbor praying, "I wish it would rain, not for me, but for my 7 year old. He's never seen it."

Oh well. Better get on out there on the road and train before it gets much hotter. Asphalt does have a liquid state.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What to Do With Old and Fat Photos

I look old and fat. Recently, it has been hard to find a photo taken of me doing a triathlon in which I don't look old and fat. Must be the angle or perhaps the lighting, or perhaps it is that I am old and fat. Notice I don't even look like I am running, but seem to be trying to hurry to medication dispensing time at a nursing home. Yeah, no matter how pictures are taken lately, I look old and fat.

But, who could know that from inside I see something completely different. From inside I see myself as young and thinner. It is always sort of a shock to see my pictures. Who is that? Oh, that is me? Boy, talk about self-delusion. Inside there is this young guy on young legs springing across the course. Inside there is someone who is fit and capable of going the distance. If the truth were told, I think I feel better in my late 60s than when I was in my 20s. Back then, there were late nights, drinking, and bad foods. I feel much more healthy now.

So what do I believe? Do I believe the pictures or do I believe my delusion? Shucks, I'll take a good delusion any time over any old photo. I guess I like who I think I am, however misguided that could be. And perhaps the best way to avoid aging up and getting fat is to not believe the photos and believe the scales, the capabilities, the smile inside. Yeah, the smile inside; I am going for what I feel inside. In a Rocky movie, Rocky was being taken to the hospital after a bruising brawl. A reporter asked Rocky if he thought he had any brain damage. Rocky answered, "I don't see any." Old and fat? No, I don't see any.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beaten By the Best-Rose City Race Report

It was sort of like going on a new job: my first triathlon of the year. It didn't feel like I was prepared: no swimming in three weeks, minimal bike and run the past week, and all day, many days previous to event, working in 100 + degree heat on my tractor.

If this had not been such a top flight, quality event in the past, I might have opted out. At the end of the day, I was so glad I had not. Again, this was a quality, well-run event, that I am so glad I did not miss.
http://rosecitytri.com/

Everything went smoothly race morning. We began on top of the dam on Lake Tyler. Old friends from previous years were there to add to it all. The swim went really well. Doubtful, I could have done any better had I been swimming every day. It had been so long since I swam, it was like visiting old friends too. Reach, down, pull, follow-through, ah ! this is good stuff. Now I can see I am passing people. The swim support in kayaks were plentiful, well-placed, and competent.

Transition was good. Our places had our names on them and we didn't seem crowded at all. The bike course; oh I just love this rolling bike course. The road crew were on the job and doing it well. Coming back there is one short but steep hill. It has given me trouble in the past. The first time I did this event, it was raining, and I got caught in the wrong gear, and ended up having to walk the bike up the hill. Last year was a struggle to avoid that repeat. This year, I was on and in the right gear, yes ! As I was turning the cranks coming over the last of the incline, I thought, "you ain't so bad, you ain't so bad." Can you imagine a grown man and grandfather having these childish thoughts? But, I am not ashamed yet.

Off the bike onto the run. I do feel good. Just love this run course too. There is so many opportunities to see all the other runners. Coming into finish, there was my wife behind the tape to slap my hand. I stuck my hand out and another spectator slapped it. What a great finish!

Myself and some other finishers waited for the last bike to come to the transition area, so we could take our bike and gear to our vehicles. Here he came-running, carrying his bike on his shoulders. I don't know how far he had to carry that bike but it was a ways. Needless to say, this man got a big round of applause from all of us. What guts to do this, knowing that the best he could hope for was to finish last. Undeterred the man, transitioned and went on out to the run. That is the spirit we all admire. What we came to see. What we came to be. Finally, the man finished the 3 mile run to another round of applause. He was tired, but standing tall.

Food was plentiful for everybody and was very good. There were even volunteers there to take the dirty dishes and bring drinks. All of this was under a very large tent with a stage up front for the awards ceremony.

This was the Southwest Regional Championship and I knew there would be some of the best older guys there to give me a good whuppin. Most of these events I have gone to, I am the oldest one there and win a trophy by default. Not today. I was 4th in my age group; no trophy, no award. I had been beaten by the best and that was OK.

Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Years of Triathlon-Earning the Numbers

It was my 36th triathlon and my 10 year triathlon anniversary. Doesn't seem that long but this past weekend, this triathlon I did, marked a decade of triathlon. I still stand amazed that I can do this. Back when I was a runner, I would see these folks in magazines, with their body markings on their lean, fit bodies. Yeah, wouldn't it be great to be one of those, I thought.

Ten years ago at that first event, there was a certain pride just getting body marked. Now I am one of those, I thought. But I knew I had to earn the numbers. With limited training and experience in swim/bike, I had my reservations and some fears. But, I got all prayed up, got in the water; let the race begin. Time to earn the numbers.

Over this past decade I have had some great disappointments, some greater exhilarations, spent thousands of dollars to arrive at this past weekend, a man bettered by earning those body markings.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Truly Blessed

Well I did get beaten but not too badly. In fact, this is my third year to do this course and I set my own personal record for it. But, like I stated in an earlier post, this was a regional championship and there would be old guys there that are really good. I was 4th.

Yeah beaten, but it was one of those efforts that I always hope for: strength, power, and enthusiasm at the end of the swim, strength and skill for the hills on the bike, and a cadence on the run that just kept getting quicker. My goodness I had a good race; for me, that is. It is really what I hoped for. Oh sure, I would have liked to place within this highly competent field, but I didn't. But I did have a great time, gave a great effort and life today was full and rich. Though I had been beaten, there is a joy from my doing my best and that effort being found worthy. I am truly blessed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Joy of Getting Beaten Badly

Finally, I am preparing to leave for a triathlon. http://rosecitytri.com/ It is a regional championship and my geriatric age group will be populated with some folks that have trained and were good to begin with. My tractor work for the past couple of weeks has precluded any swimming. My bike mileage hasn't been too bad but not too good either...Running: well, let's not discuss that. But the worst thing that can happen barring a disaster, is that I will have a good time getting beaten badly. God is good.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Teaching of the Miles

A nice fallish morning for a 10 mile run though I really didn't feel quite up to it. But, once out there, with the pavement moving beneath my feet, the cool breeze blowing on my face, running got easier. Funny how this pace years ago would have been an awful day, but today, after 28 years of running, I just feel blessed that my knees are good, my heart is strong, and I can still do this. Maybe I have ran around the world several times only to find contentment in myself. It was there all the time waiting for me to peel away the ego, the pride, the comparative struggles, and discover what I already possessed.

Oh, I still keep records and I do love to do well in events, but my focus has changed to a different type of pursuit of excellence: to be the best me, however slow and cumbersome that might seem. Oh perhaps this is just a form of resignation, but then again, it could be the onset of a form of wisdom, a lesson plan written by God and taught by the miles themselves

Friday, September 2, 2011

Somebody's Watching

"You make that look so easy."  I was drying off after a 2000 yard swim at the indoor pool, when this man about my age came up to me.  It took me by surprise.  "You really do.  You make that look so easy, and I know it can't be that easy.  You hardly splash much water at all. Are you a competitive swimmer?"

I told him that is was not even close to being a competitive swimmer but he was impressed by what I would have termed a pretty sorry workout.  Truth is:  I had not swam in two weeks.  Truth is:  my form was awful until the last 500 yards or so.  Truth is:  I didn't think I  looked good swimming  at all.  Truth is:  I have never thought of myself as a good swimmer compared to other triathletes

What surprised me is that somebody was watching.  And I wonder how often people are watching that we don't know about?  How many times have we inspired others who see us on the roads, in the pool, paying our dues for fitness and a healthy lifestyle. 

And so it was inspirational for me, an old duffer, almost 68 years old, to be complimented on my swimming.  But the real compliment is that there was somebody watching.  More than simply doing my laps and completing my workout, I have been watched and they have been inspired.  At times, this training business is so  solitary,it seems, but I contend the influence left on those who may be watching, is not completely lost.  Our training, our lifestyle is simply more than the sum of its parts.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Building An Ark



Two days now I have not trained at all. That is right. I have not swam, biked or ran at all. Two to three more weeks of this and I may be almost cured of this endurance sports malady and well on my way to normalhood. Probably not.


We are in the middle of the worst drought I have experienced, and my pond starting drying up on the shallow end. What a great time to clean out the sediment and make the pond deeper, even extend the length of the swim I can do when we get rain and it fills up. So, for the past two days, I have been on my tractor digging out the old pond bottom. It has been hot and dirty work but by dedicating these two days soley to this project, it is done. Come on rain.


Yes, it will rain again, though sometimes it seems hard to believe. In my faith life, I have learned that that which seems hard to believe, but you know is true, must be accepted through faith. So, like Noah, building an ark when there is no sign of rain, I blade the dusty earth out of this hole, believing that one day, in this hole, I will be swimming in water neck deep.







In the meantime, I have built a hungry to get out on the road. My bike seems to cry, "take me, take me." My legs seem to want to run across parking lots, rather than walk to my vehicle. How would that look, now? So I guess normalhood is out for me. I am doomed to a life with my hair on fire. My ark is awaiting rain in my pasture. Tomorrow-training again. Thank you God!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Morning Will Come

Early morning before daylight, not a bad time. It is only 74 degrees. Imagine that. That is practically a cold spell here. Training is not all that bad but not all that good either. For the moment, the zeal has sort of been taken out of it for a lot of reasons. But, I feel, no, I know that there is a time of "hair on fire" training and racing in my future. I know it, just as surely as I know there will be cool mornings and rain again, as surely as I know there will be new life from the brown parched earth. The brown parched me will grow green again, thank God, and I am grateful already. Morning will come.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Am I Going to Let It Have My Day?

It was so aggravating. Last time out my bike computer acted up giving me inaccurate information on how far and how fast I had been. After working on the computer, I thought it would be fine. Wrong. Ten miles out and my speed shows zero. Ah ! I just wanted to crush it but settled on just going back to the truck, pack up and just go on home-just skip the rest of the ride.

But a revelation came to me as I neared the truck, as I neared decision time. Am I going to let technology have my day? Am I going to let that little piece of equipment have the joy of riding today? My bike is working fine. My legs feel good. There is no reason I cannot complete this ride except that I am yielded it up to my own frustration. I could estimate the speed and distance. Is pinpoint accuracy so important that I wouldn't ride without it? How silly I have become, I thought.

It was actually fun riding without a working bike computer. Sometimes it would come on and say something like forty three miles per hour when I was cranking up a hill-probably in single digit speed. In fact, there was a freedom in riding without the numbers. It was a great ride, made better in knowing that in pushing on past my own frustration to complete it, I had pushed myself past my usual impatient self, and deliberately gone on to enjoy the road before me.

"Let us spend one day as deliberately as nature, and not be thrown off the track by ever nutshell and mosquito's wing on the rails."

Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Legacy God Would Be Proud Of

I have been beat down a few times. This is apparent as indicated from all the photos of me during and especially immediately following events. My face just screams torn down, washed out, hurting bad.

For some time now, I have been making a book on all the triathlons I have done-sort of a photo book with race reports. When I get it all together, I will get a few copies printed to give away. The idea came from the movie "The Notebook." In that movie one of the lead characters made a book to be read to her when she couldn't remember how the romance with her husband had gone.

When I can't do this anymore, when I can't fully recall all the splendid times, the exhilarating experiences, and yes, the times I have been broken down, and finished anyway. I can remember and relish who I was and who I always will be.

And too, I can leave these experiences for my children and my grandchildren-a legacy, yes a legacy "others might feel lead to emulate and God will be proud of."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dry Ponds Don't Lie

It just looks ravaged. The drought is worsening and my pond is drawing down. All sorts of limbs and other debris are showing up that was never known to be there. The mud of the exposed bottom is deep with years of sediment. Whatever happened to that smooth, glassy surfaced pond that revealed nothing of the truth about itself.

However, it is a good time to clean out the debris and dig out the sediment with the tractor. The drying up, the drought can have its benefits and so can the dry times in our training, in our lives. Sometimes a drying up is the only way I ever get to the bottom of the truth about myself. And, I have found that getting to that truth is the first step out of the mire, the sediment habit has created in life. It seems I have reviewed this lesson in every injury, every setback, every loss, and every dry patch in my training.

It is a lot of work to clean this pond bottom out but I know this pond and my own life can only be cleaner, purer, and hard bottomed but by constant renewal.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Facing the Start

Hopes and fears abounded as we have faced the start


In all these starts, I look around and think how detached and confident everyone looks, while I go over all the plans and worries I have about the water, the ride, the run. They all look like they have it all down.


But most of the time when I talk to these fine people, I find they are just as concerned, just as worried as I, perhaps in many cases more. One young man I once struck up a conversation with revealed it was his first triathlon, and he wasn't that good of a swimmer. He was a little scared. Another I talked to was concerned about swimming in the waves. Another was fearful that he would panic when the water vegetation got on him. Another was afraid that the two hundred pound aligator gar someone had seen, would cause him some problems. Yeah, we are all quite human, facing our own demons, as we look out upon the water we are soon to enter: overcoming. Overcoming evolving into self-discovery, through mastery of our fears.

What would life be if we had not courage to attempt anything?


Vincent Van Gogh


"When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting"



Doris Bown Heritage, 5-time World Cross Country Champion



Monday, August 8, 2011

Believing in the Moment

Last week I got thrashed real good. Last night, I was about ready to trash the season and take up cooler, more comforable pursuits. Couldn't seem to get cool, even in an air conditioned room, until finally an ice pack was placed on my head and neck. Enough! I thought at that moment. Right then I believed that moment. I believed my fatigue was here to stay, I believed that I should stop this nonsense and do something else. After all, we are in a heat wave. It is ninety-four degrees with a heat index of a hundred and six at nine oclock in the evening. The moment says this is bigger and badder than I am: do something else cool!

Sluggishly I began my five mile run this morning. The heat came, the sweat came in buckets, but the new moment in me persisted. And I chose to believe in that moment, in that version of me, in all God had put in me.

There was no sparkling revelation in this new moment, only a knowing that seemed to run like a river current beneath all the moments good and bad. Back at the house, I signed up for two sprint triathlons and a seventy-five mile bike event, and booked reservations; quietly affirming my belief, not in the moment, but in the Knowing beneath it all.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Heat Wave Teachers

It had not meant that much before. But, today that cold sports drink was heaven on earth. Heat wave and unbearably hot, except with plenty of fluids. However, there never seems to be enough. Lately, I have been using my truck as an aid station, equip with an ice chest full of ice cold sports drinks and water. Yes, water-even water (my own well water)- has such a wonderful cold, soothing taste on these severely hot days. Gained is a greater insight, appreciation and thankfulness of all I have. Thank God I do have something to drink in this heat. Perhaps, the tougher times can be some of the best teachers of all

Sunday, July 31, 2011

That Is How Winning Is Done

If I do this right, I will see dawn every morning on the road this week. Keeping training volume up in this heat is a real challenge.

It is miserably hot here in Texas and the best time to train is early. No sign of cooling or rain in sight. My pond is drying up. In over forty years, it hasn't come close to drying up, this year, it is likely to happen. Trees are dying, turning brown everywhere here. There are some grand old oaks going under that have survived many other droughts-not this one. We haven't had substantial rain here in over a year.

Many have prayed for rain but God has answered "not yet." I don't pretend to understand or to know the answers, but I know that life is a journey, and this drought is yet another mile of that journey. And I know, as I have been taught by the discipline of endurance sports, that finish lines are reached and droughts are outlasted by steadily moving forward; each day, each hour; put the foot down and keep moving forward. I like the line from the movie, "Rocky Balboa." Rocky says, "It isn't how hard you can hit. It is how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done."

On down this road are my hopes and dreams, the realization of the person God has called me to be. Tomorrow morning, I will be out on this road; one foot ahead of the other, moving forward. That is how winning is done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Season-Testing the Training

This ought to be in "whisper print," but now that a week of lesser training, and the subsequent recovery has come, the training seems a little easier. Oh, it is not easy by any stretch. It is still hot and humid. While certainly no speed has been gained, a certain resilience and a greater confidence has been achieved. Counting hours and miles, this is my best training year ever. There are no nagging injuries or illness at this time. Beyond these hot sizzling roads, there will be events where I will try this new fitness on. I am so grateful to God for letting me have this health, this fitness, this season. So here is where I plan to go with this, should I survive the heat and humidity for another 45 days or so, and God be willing.

Rose City Triathlon (Sept 17): A sprint with a 650 yard swim, 15 mile bike and 3 mile run. (Tyler, Texas) Great little event -this year it is the USAT Regional Championship. There will be some great elder athletes in my age group. I will probably get beaten up pretty bad here but love it.
http://rosecitytri.com/

Ft Hood Bike Race (Sept 24-25) : This will be new territory for me: a two day bike race on a very hilly course. Should get beaten up here too. My son is doing this with me. That is good because he can drive what is left of me home.

Huntsville Half Marathon (Oct 22): I have done this one for several years now. Hills, lots of them. This is a great confidence builder for a half-ironman distance run.
http://www.7hills.us/documents/HVHalfRaceInfo2011WebSitePDF.pdf

Oil Man Texas Triathlon (Nov 6), Montgomery, Texas:
This is my main event, the one my training plan is built for, pointing to. It is a half-ironman distance event. Did this one last year and my plan and prayer is that my increased fitness will result in a better finishing time. But, mainly, I am looking toward having a good time with the experience.
http://www.out-loud.org/ironstar_triathlon.htm

Bryan/College Station Inaugural Marathon (Dec 11):
God willing this will cap a great season, a sort of personal victory lap around Bryan/College Station, Texas. I have done 32 marathons but none in the last decade. Secretly though, I will be trying the legs for the distance, looking toward a full ironman.
https://bcsmarathon.webconnex.com/registration

Friday, July 22, 2011

Line in the Sand-The Tractor Time Trial

The The tractor seemed to be accelerating when it came upon me making my turnaround on the bike. I could hear it coming on behind me. It was moving rapidly for a tractor; too much speed for me, no better than I feel, I thought.

Training had been in the fatigue pit this past week: just going through the motions with training for now. Why not slow down a little more and let him pass quickly? Why not let him get that noisy tractor on down the road, and let me go on back to drifting in body, mind, and spirit? But for some reason, I didn't.

A couple good pedal strokes and I felt the remnants of a rhythm I had almost forgotten. A few more and there is a little wind in my face. The tractor was still about forty or fifty yards back. Do I let him pass?

For some reason there seemed to be a line in the sand drawn for me this day. Do I keep downgrading my training, blamng fatigue, heat, life circumstances and all that? Or, do I put my face into the wind here? Out here on this lonely road, no one knows or cares. Basically, it is just me, the bike, the road, the tractor-and the guy on the tractor surely has no clue as to what is going on there.

The challenge comes down to this: will the will to push past myself remain only as a picture in my old scrapbook, or will it passionately step out of the pages to push me hard towards who I can be; who I am?

Down in the aerobars, moving well, the body, mind, and spirit coming alive. The tractor is not gaining. A downhill and I soar, tucked low. Gosh, this feels good ! Bottom of the hill, and I keep the tempo up. Breathing hard feels good. Moving really well.

No looking back. I don't hear the tractor now. He must have turned off on a side road. But, I don't need the tractor now. I am into it! Up a hill, another smaller one, I ride hard on my self-imposed time trial until I see my truck. I had done about four to five miles of the best riding I have done in months. Thank God for that tractor!

About five minutes later as I was getting the bike in the truck, I heard that tractor. He was still there. The tractor was back and now, so was I. As he drove by he smiled and waved. I waved and smiled at him-but I betcha my smile was bigger.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lifting Eyes Unto the Hills

Walking after two miles of a three mile run. I was done. Recent weeks have been breakthroughs in the level of training. However, while I was setting my personal training records, so has been the heat. Maybe an indoor swim would resurrect these dead bones? Nope. My planned one mile swim was cut short at a 1000 yards. No doubt, I was done, in the valley.

But, I know that when down in the valleys, be it training or in life's journey, the only Way to look from there is up. So, I look up. " I lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help." The hills seems awesome to climb, but strength to climb out will be delivered and so will I. There will come a time when my brain will not be fatigue-fried like it is now, and perhaps the blog posts then, might even make sense.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Faith for Tomorrow

Today, a 4 hour bike ride in 94 -98 degree heat with a one mile brick run thrown in at the end has done me in. The legs feel like someone has been beating on them with something. I am very, very tired. Tried to stay cool, rest and recover, but it doesn’t seem working for me. And, I have an 11 mile run to do in the morning.


How will I ever be ready for that with this wreck of a body and mind? Tonight I will go to bed very early, and the sleep will help restore me. When I get a few miles into the run, something will kick in and the energy and purpose will be there. How do I know that? Perhaps,I have faith in restorative rest. Perhaps, I have faith in myself. Most certainly, I have faith God will get me through this, fail or succeed.

I wrote the above last night. This morning I was out there very early, as I stated, aches and all. Somehow I felt restored enough to pound out my path, one foot, then another, mile after mile. It wasn't pretty, but finally it was done. Faith had provoked action and action had completed the task. Thanks God for this lesson. Thank God for this day.


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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Turnarounds

The water is deep there by that large stump protruding from the lake surface. I use it as my turnaround in swimming up and down this small lake. Sometimes, after making the turnaround, I look back. I am always amazed at how far I have swam already. Thank God for the childlike joy felt in considering that I really can swim that far; I really have come that far.

I think we all have turnarounds in our lives: times that direction and purpose began to change; times that we began to change; to almost become another person. Maybe it wasn't an immediate change but a beginning, however small, of something different, something better, more hopeful in our lives. And we look back and say "wow." Look how far I have come.

The other day, I looked at some old scrapbook photos and discovered that, indeed, I have made a turnaround back there somewhere. Look how far I've come! There is such a distance now between the man in the old photos and the man now swimming in the open waters of Endless H5ope.. Of course, I am not nearly done, not nearly there yet; so much to learn; so much to experience, but my sighting is good, and my course is true. And, He who has lead me from the old stumps of my past, will mark my course and lead me to that far shore. Meanwhile, I will swim; enjoying the water and the waves along the journey.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gratefulness

Not long ago she had a bike accident and broke her arm. Possibly, knowing how to fall well saved her from even worse injuries. This was her second broken arm in the last couple of years. She is a triathlete, a black belt, and has completed an ironman; She is an ironmom.

I was so impressed with the post today that I just have to share it. It exudes such gratefulness of the everyday blessings in her life. There is such wisdom and energy in this. And, she has signed up for another ironman event..

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Best of Times

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Meaningless Triumphs

Four AM and I just want to go back to sleep. Feet on the floor. That makes every day this week up before daylight to train. Oh why not just let this one go? And the internal dialogue: you've done so well this week with the training discipline. That 50 mile bike with a short brick run yesterday, really took what was left out of me. Surely, it won't hurt to miss a day? Keep moving forward; don't forget the flashlight.

And so it went as I began and completed another 10 mile run today. When I go to my other commitments today after my run, I probably won't even discuss what it took this morning to get out on the road and complete that run; just another meaningless triumph.

How many times over all these years have these battles been fought: some lost, some won. Most of the world will never know about my own meaningless personal triumphs in my endurance sports experience.

But, at the setting of the sun of this day well spent, I know I will find a "peaceful, easy feeling," in my heart; a slight smile will come upon me, as I still bask in the afterglow of those meaningful moments of meaningless triumphs.
I am blessed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"How Great Thou Art"

Oh that dreaded ten mile run ! Sure I got out there early, before daylight, but it wasn't long before I was soaked in sweat. There wasn't enough light yet to wear my sunglasses, and I was already dripping sweat off the bill of my cap - like rain drips off the roof of a house. This was going to be as bad as I had imagined - maybe worse.

I had brought enough liquids to put out a small fire. In fact, just getting all my bottles of fluid to the truck could count as my weight lifting workout for the day. My plan was to run three loops back to the truck. And each loop, pick up more liquid, as needed.

Not so bad. Settling in, finding the rhythm, feeling great, beginning to remember why I do this. Finally past all the fears, and apprehensions, I was into that special place where resolution rules, and patience is practiced and rewarded.

My running shoes were soaked and had begun to make a squish-squish sound with each step. The sound was annoying at first. But there was a certain rhythm to it, like the sound of the brushes on a drum. There seemed to be a tune to it - a catchy, upbeat sound. What is that song? Oh yes, I remember. In my mind I began to hear an up tempo version of "How Great Thou Art" accompanied by the squish-squish of my drummer boy feet. Over and over it played- in the heat, in the sweat, the hymn kept playing until my ten miles were completed.


It might seem strange that I didn't become all that tired or annoyed by hearing "How Great Thou Art" so many times. Perhaps it is because on this run, on this day I had lived it and knew it to be true.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Believing

This is where it is starting to get tough. Yesterday, at daylight a 6 mile run, hot humid, soaked in sweat. Back home, a cool shower, then off to the pool to complete a 3000 yard swim. Today, a three and a half hour bike followed by a brick run with heat in the nineties. Tonight, try to recover well enough for the ten mile run in the morning. It will be hot and humid. My thirst, now, can't seem to be quenched.

This is training in the Texas summer. I have been doing this for a few decades and it never gets any easier. But, like in my faith life, I look forward to a time I haven't seen yet; believing in better weather up ahead; hoping beyond hope toward the time of answered prayers and fulfilled promise.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Liking My Definition

Dog days of summer and I was not sure about the workout today. Even early, the heat and humidity combine to make for instant perspiration upon leaving the house. The schedule I have put myself on calls for a two hour bike ride with a one mile brick run after the first hour and another one mile brick run at the end of the second hour.

Who designed this schedule anyway? Oh, I did. What was I thinking?

The first thirty minutes were the worst. When my body gave up on trying to convince me to quit, I slipped into the zone again. The miles rolled by, the run was sweaty, but easy. The other hour passed with a heightened enjoyment of the ride. I really didn't want to quit. The last brick run; that dreaded last brick run, was easy and even faster than the first. Praise God ! Something good is happening to me! I felt and feel so blessed in all this.

Okay, I know there will be bad times. Sooner or later I will be broken, weary, and cast down. And again, as in so many other times over the years, I will have to answer the question: Will I get up? Will I go on?

The answer will be part of defining myself to myself at that moment in time. May I live so in the arena of life that I like my definition.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Castles in the Air"

This run had to be early. It was barely light enough to see a snake on the path when I left the house; straining to see, stepping gingerly for the first couple of miles until full light. My wife had a dental appointment early several miles from home, and this was the only way to get this run in. Sometimes, it seems so hard to get the workouts on my schedule done.

On the last mile of the run, knowing I was putting this one in the bank, I smiled and thought, "I really want this, don't I?" This may be a small and insignificant thing in the big scheme of things, but like Martin Luther King, "I have a dream."

With that dream, there is a vision of dawn on race morning, the water, then the wind in my face on the bike course, then the applause of the spectators trying to cheer me on during the run, and finally, the sight of the finish line just ahead. I remember. I want it again. I am willing to pay the price.

And when this dream has been realized or squashed, I know there will be yet another in this life driven by dreams and dedicated to God.

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost: that is where they should be. Now, put the foundations under them."
Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Revelation in the Wildfire

The air was filled with a smokey haze. Plumes of smoke were on the horizon. Wildfires were out there. The drought, the intense heat, the strong winds, had already prepared the earth for just such an incident as this. It was blowing our way. First, we were so glad that our family was in a safe place. Then we started to pack for possible evacuation

Amazing what we packed first: Bibles, laptop (containing a lot of pictures and writings), our photo albums, my wife's sewing machine, and my bikes, then came the food, the water, bedding to possibly sleep in the vehicle with. About the time we thought we had were prepared, my wife remarked that we had not even included a change of clothes.

The fire never made it to our house, but we had been forced into the revelation of what was truly important. When the air quality was good enough, I went for a run. It felt like coming home, and I thanked God for my family, for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Believe

Woke up feeling "poured out like water." Training in the heat has taken its toll and I woke with the thought that I am too old for this: let the young folks go out and buck the wind and bear the heat. Today, I had scheduled a three and a half hour bike ride. A good day to take a day off. Yeah, sounds really good.

Somewhere between the first cup of coffee and the completion of a great breakfast, it started coming back. And, all the negatives I thought of myself began to give way to all I believe.

I believe that I should remain true to myself in all I try to accomplish.

I believe that others are watching me, supporting me, hoping for me, and I must not begin to unravel, if for no other reason than they believe in me - maybe more than I believe in myself.

I believe that deep down there is more to this old frame than I have plumbed and I believe God is leading me to it.

And I believe that the prayers I prayed before this venture, were answered "go!"

It was rough: winds 15-25 mph for three and a half hours; heat that warmed the fluids in bike bottles to the temperature of warm bath water. My thermometer in the shade read close to a hundred. I was poured out like water again but smiling, and thanking God for the will, the strength, to follow today, what I believe

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Week Two: Blessed

Consistency, momentum, building like a train leaving the station. Last week staying on track with the training plan was a real struggle. Everything wanted a piece of me. It was like trying to fight my way out of small closet full of clothes.

This week things just kept going forward and it was an almost perfect training week. I did the long swims, the long bike with a brick, another brick workout, the good runs, and today, the long run, my most formidable obstacle.

At the end of that run, I was not fried, but overcome with a thankfulness for this great day and this great week. Hands extended overhead, I prayed out on the road as I walked to cool down. Call me crazy but I would like to think I gained some competence and fitness from this tough week. However, I know that at the very least, I gained more insight into myself of things not easily discerned or expressed, and I have been closer to God through it. And, by this gain, perhaps I am a better husband, father, grandfather, child of God.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Making Peace With the Water

I was 57 years old when I began teaching myself to swim correctly. Until then I was just a water plodder, afraid to get my head in the water too much while I was swimming. Now, swimming is one of my favorite things to do. Oh, it is not so great at a 20 yard long pool, sharing a lane with a couple people, but out on the open water, maybe with a little chop on the water, swimming can really get into me. Most of the time vision is limited and there is an element of movement by feel that transcends everyday activities. When I hear folks say that the swim is the scariest portion of a triathlon, it sounds a little strange now.



My open water swims are done in this small lake at a state park. I have all the water to myself, and there is no motor boat traffic. Generally, I swim non-stop for forty minutes to an hour, swimming from one end of the lake to the other, and I never fail to leave the lake with a smile. I have made peace with the water and the water makes peace within.






Monday, June 6, 2011

Riding On to That "Sweet Spot"

The bike always seems at first as if it is going to be tough. My first thoughts usually are that the legs just don't have it today, and I should just cruise through the workout at pedestrian effort just to get it done. It happens so often that I find myself smiling at the game that I play upon myself. Gosh, I have been doing this so long, I have grown to expect internal conflict at the first of a workout.

Somewhere between "oh, this is too hard" and the end of the ride, it starts to flow. The pedal stroke is smoother, more powerful. The breathing is right, the endurance is there and I find I am soaring with the wind blowing in my face. And, I smile again, when I have re-found that "sweet spot;" when I have come back to myself, and touched the beauty; tasted the blessing that God would have for one who rides on in faith, believing that the "sweet spot" will come.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week One Done; Roadblocks Overcome

The tree had crashed right across the road, leaving a large pile of limbs blocking my truck. I was on my way out to do my long run for the week and now this. All week it seemed to be something, some roadblock of some kind that seemed to resist the training regimen. Four sets of visitors were nice but didn't help me get the training done. The long bike didn't get done due to my back tire just blowing out for no apparent reason. This first week of training was sort of like the last miles of a marathon: you're getting beat up but just keep moving forward.

The tree across the road had to be removed. So I changed into woodcutter attire, got the chainsaw and spent some time cutting wood and clearing the road. There the temptation found me: hot sweaty, dirty, a little tired, the coolest part of the day spent; the first thought was just skip this long run business. But, I didn't, thank God! Back into running attire, out to the hot road, get it done. Not pretty, not fast, but a high leverage effort in terms of personal satisfaction.

Today is my rest day and there are no demons to wrestle to get the training in. Nice. But tomorrow, week #2 begins, and there will be roadblocks to be faced, roads cleared, and temptations overcome.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rejoicing in the Heat

Mother was asked if she was glad she didn't have to go out in that heat and humidity anymore. Confined to a wheelchair ninety-seven years old confined to an assisted living facility, she has little reason to brave the heat anymore. She said no, she wasn't glad. And given ability and health, she would gladly put up with the heat, just to be doing something again.

I have ability, opportunity, health, and life, for the moment. Do I really have the luxury to take this for granted? I am 67 myself. Can I afford to stay indoors on days that might be a little warm, like an assisted living resident who has no other choice. While I still have this choice, shouldn't I exercise it to chose action, commitment, and passion for life even in the face of difficult situations? Yes, "this is the day the Lord has made," and I want to "rejoice and be glad in it," even in the heat.

Monday, May 30, 2011

One-And Counting-Beginning Again, Again

The first day of the schedule done ! That's one. It wasn't easy. We had company coming for Memorial Day. The wind was blowing 15-25 mph, and it was about 92-94 degrees on the bike. Got through number one, thank God. I think it will get easier to maintain once I get into maintaining.

There is a quote I love: "A habit is something that is too weak to be felt until it is too strong to be broken."

I am building from weakness to that strength that can't be easily broken. But it begins with one.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chase the Zebra

"Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it, chased it."
-South African Proverb-

The quote comes from a book I am reading, RUN! by Dean Karnazes. It sort of catches the spirit of where I am at in this training business. My first week of the half iron distance training plan was an absolute disaster. My lines have been overrun. My troops are in full retreat, and I would have surrendered sooner if I could have found my white flag. Even surrendering was a failure.

As I pull myself from the smoking rubble pile that was my training week, I think of ease, comfort, painless, sweatless days of no particular training plan. Further reaching from the rubble, a glimmer: maybe, just maybe. Then the realization that training and attempting my events is something I really want to do, feel led to do, even hunger to do. My spirit would starve to death without something out there to be reached only by constant effort.

I can remember the only marathon I didn't finish really well. When I went back and watched the hundreds of winners finish, I was sick at heart. Down deep I knew, I had quit before I was really beaten. It was hard to live with myself for a while.

In the book mentioned above, there is an instance where Dean is having a really rough time in an ultra event. He was stopped, on the rubble pile, so to speak, when he asked his friend and pacer, "What should I do?" His friend gave him a succinct answer, quite profound. "You have a single choice to make: you either stop or you continue." It's simple. You can either chase zebras or quit wanting to catch one. Dean went on to finish and I choose likewise. There really is no other good choice if you want to catch the zebra.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"That Our Flag Was Still There"

Probably the approach of Memorial Day got me thinking of some words of "The Star Spangled Banner." In fact, I looked up some of the details of that battle which inspired the words to the song.

The British had taken Washington D.C., burned the White House, and destroyed other government buildings. The President and government were on the run for a while. Then the British took Alexandria without a scuffle as the defenders ran off. They sacked Alexandria, and moved to take Baltimore and its port. But first, there was Fort McHenry in their way. Then for twenty-five hours, the British Navy bombarded the fort with 1500-1800 cannonballs. This bombardment was what inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the text to the song. Through the night he could see the flag still standing only by the light of the artillery assault. The fort held. The men held. The British sailed away. The tattered flag was replaced by another one - an oversized one.

What made these men stand against the momentum of defeat? I submit that the fabric of this young nation was woven under fire. And, I submit that the fabric of our own lives are woven under fire, as well. Perhaps, our own characters have been shaped and molded by what we have endured, and what we have stood for, and what we have stood against. Perhaps, endurance sports is sort off our own personal battle without bombs, wherein we place ourselves under fire, maybe only to see, and be reaffirmed "that our flag is still there."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stand Up Into the Wind

Suddenly the gust of wind rocked my bike. I had been riding into the wind and holding my own pretty well, but this wind turned up the tempo a notch. Barely moving, hunkered down, getting in a better gear, I just hoped I would not be blown over. After being sick for a couple days, I wasn't at a hundred percent, I thought. And this was my first bike ride since the food poisoning sickness. Welcome back, huh?

In the next moment I found myself standing up, facing the gusting wind head on, stepping hard on the pedals, grinding it out. There was a sort of snarl on my lips that would have revealed gritted teeth. I was standing up into the wind, standing up to the wind, standing up to all inside me and without me that would make me fearfully hunker down to difficult moments in life. I was back.

Back at the truck, the snarl was gone, replaced by a grin. I was at peace. This day, I had faced the wind and held my own. This day, I had faced myself and liked what I saw.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Take Off Your Cap First

Felt awful trying to swim. My stomach was a mess, the appetite for it was not there; glad when it was over. Went to bed. Over the next 30-36 hours I was in bed or in the bathroom: something I ate, I suppose. Chills, shaking chills, fever; I'm a mess. And this is the first week, the launch pad for my half ironman effort. Great start, huh? Doubts.

Morning woke to a newer me. There were the first stirrings of an appetite again. But what made me smile, is that I wanted to run. Yes, the appetite for food and life was being born again. I had been humbled by all this; made so vividly aware of the precariousness of life and health. Hard to imagine, that I am one bite of food away from trashing my body like I did. But, with the force-fed humility came a new appreciation of what I can still do. And, a thankfulness to God for bringing me through the illness and to this realization. The weather turned out much cooler than usual this morning, almost as if it were just for me. To my surprise, I was able to run 3 miles without a problem, despite not having any food for a few days.

What a good feeeling! A post-run prayer seemed in order, but wait: Take off your cap first.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beginning Yet Again

It begins again! Another half ironman; the schedule starts today. Six months out: 6 training blocks of 4 weeks; perfect. I love this stuff ! This time I will do in better. The mistakes from my last half ironman will be lessons to grow from, to learn from. I am smiling as I think about this. The death of the former goal, is water and fertilizer to grow this one with. Now, I want it more than ever because of what I was denied. Same venue, same course and an opportunity to accurately track how much I have improved with age and experience.

Yeah, sure. Lots can happen to derail me in six months. I am prepared for that but I am prepared to succeed as well. I am prepared and honored by God to have the opportunity to begin this day, this program, this life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chase the Man on the Bike

The little dog did his best. On my way out this little poodle-type house dog had hung tight. The little legs got him up over 20 mph: amazing! I could tell he loved the challenge. When I came back by he gave chase but all the little guy could manage was 18 mph. He'll get there. Good workout.

How many house men and women are waiting in the yard for something to get them out of the yard; off the couch, into active life. I guess we just need something that makes us want to give chase. Perhaps, we need the man on the bike to come by, a crazy idea;chasing something simply for the joy of the chase. Ah, and we keep up with the man on the bike, finally, we might just look over and see the man on the bike was ourselves.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waco Triathlon: I Am In !

When you have a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.
William James

A state of indecisiveness is an environment wherein my soul lies dormant. As winter to spring, these past few weeks has been a process of breaking the shell of the cocoon, of ending the dormancy, and greeting the light of hope before me.

In one sentence: this feels really good! Thank you God

It will be an olympic distance event and it should be hot (July 24th). http://www.ironheadrp.com/waco/index.html

Last year only one man as old as I finished this event. Maybe there were more that started who went to the hospital or just went home. I don't know. And it really doesn't matter. I am pumped, resolved, inspired, excited, and anxious. This is like the first time. My goodness, I have become a child again! Thank you God ! Again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Life Is Good, Rocks and All


Those little rocks can hurt. I had been doing almost an hour of open water swimming. What had started off tentatively, was ending in a melody. Open water swims can be like that for me and this time I really didn't want to leave the water. But, since I must, why not simulate a triathlon swim exit, and run out of the water to the transition area? Into it! Ah, those little rocks on the parking lot. Need to practice running through those too.
Courses don't always have the magic carpet from water to transition. Sometimes in triathlon and in life, we have run over the rocks. Might as well be prepared: there will be rocky exits. Stepping gingerly, navigating the pebble-strewn course, I could not but smile. Life is good; rocks and all.

















Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Important Stuff"

Yeah, this exercise, this training stuff, is such a big waste of time. Yesterday, I had to work on my old tractor. I was under that old thing for five or six hours, alternately doing isometric, half-crunches to get to those hidden, hard to reach parts. Work is done and this morning I am not sore except in the spots that bled yesterday. Many decades ago, I quit being a spring chicken and I can still do this. All that time wasted out on the roads when I could be doing "important stuff."

Age has also taught me that capability is one of the treasure in life worth preserving, worth fighting yourself for. I am no great athlete and certainly no tractor mechanic, but I have sense enough to know that movement, exercise, commitment, and consistency promote a foundational capability to all other areas of life. Yeah, training really is "important stuff."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Days in the Shade on the Side of the Road

That dog that has been on my bike and run course for years, was strangely missing for a few days. I have written about my canine friend here before. He is sort of my dog too and he seemed to be missing. A little more absenteeism and I was going to ask the residents what happened to our dog.

Out on the bike a couple days ago, I saw my old friend, not barking or charging out upon the road to demand attention, but sitting in the shade on the side of the road, wagging his tail. How strange, I thought. So, I got off the road, and gave my old friend some TLC, after which he slowly walked back to his yard. Strange again. Perhaps, he is finally too old.? He does have the gray muzzle and has been on this road for about a decade. Perhaps, he has heartworms, or something else that doesn't let him feel good?

Some days I am like that myself, though. People see me beat up, burned down, and probably wonder if I am finally too old. Do I have some disease or whatever?

But wait! Today, I rode by that house several times and each time, the dog met me with that barking, tail wagging charge, onto the road, I have grown to expect and appreciate. Each time, I stopped and gave him the TLC he was holding me up for.

Today, I had a great ride, I bore into the gusting winds, and charged the long hills, surprising even myself. And this comes following several days of lethargic training. I guess I have had my day in the shade on the side of the road as well.

Today, we are still standing, still charging, and the passion of life still courses through our veins. I know this can't last forever for us, but this day, ah! this day, we lived well.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Small Choices

The war with the self is won in the trenches. The discipline of the training is maintained by many, seemingly small, decisions: to get out on the road though it may be a little cold, to go to bed instead of watching a late night movie because you have an early training day, and so on.

I don't want to train lots of times, and I can find a thousand excuses not to. But my greatest growth has been when I made a small decision to take that first step toward training that day, and then the next. The big bang moments get de-fizzed and leave me flat, but the many seemingly colorless decisions, made consistently over time, have brought me to places I never thought I could attain.

And so, training can become a metaphor for life. We grow and journey toward becoming, through many small choices. But often, in looking back, I find that they really weren't small choices at all.