Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thankful for the Chance to Fail

For me, a continued state of mindless mediocrity is a living hell. Of course, what might be exciting and challenging for me might be pretty boring to lots of folks. This is to say, I know I don't have all the answers, the perfect life, the only right and true way to live. But I do know what is right for me. I just know there is more to all this than performing life's chores and responsibilities in a prompt, timely manner; to always be the good soldier in this campaign called life. The "restless warrior" down there, yearns for more, and I guess that is where endurance sports helps fill the void. Sometimes I think I have let myself get too tame. Over the years I have had some great adventures, done all kinds of somewhat risky, crazy things and I have written about them. When I go back to read or edit these pieces - yet again - I get the urge to take it outside once more; to get that picture back. I really like that person that was a little crazy sometimes. A line from my personal mission statement reads: The life God has chosen me to live is to be an adventure. I know that is true as surely as I know I am here. Yeah, I think I am ready for the season. My first triathlon is May 7Th, and I have already decided to line up in the middle of the front of my swim wave: knock it about a bit. I have already decided to bust my lungs for a bike PR on this fast course where I set my previous PR. And if I take a beating on the swim and blow up on the bike course, I will be so thankful for that chance to fail. And if I succeed? Ah, I am smiling already.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hammering Under Water

There was no other way to do it. The pier I had built needed cross-bracing. Start the nail with little strokes, keep the rhythm. The water is sloshing obscuring visibility; I am hammering by faith, not by sight. Just keep to the program, and before long came the solid feeling of the nail being driven home. There are lots of lessons in that, especially as I pursue a training regimen to brace up my fitness, to steady my pier for hard weather, the tough events. But, life itself is like that too. Hammering under water, believing in the dark, gives exercise to our faith in ourselves, our program, and in God.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The "Direction of My Dreams"

The hills on the bike course; the hills in life can beat us up mentally, before we are even close to being whipped. Yesterday, biking uphill and into the wind, I decided to analyze how I ride hills. Sure, I have read everything I could find about how to ride hills, before I went out and did it my way anyway. Sometimes the same hills seem hard and sometimes easier. What's the difference? There are lots of variables to consider but in my amateurish research with a sample of one, I came to this conclusion: it is about where I are looking. Sounds too simple, doesn't it? When I look far up the hill and as I pedal, I can be intimidated by the length and steepness. Intimidation says, you are already tired; the hill goes on forever, and gets even steeper. You are toast. When I look at the next 10-20 yards as I pedal, I only see what is under my control at the moment. Sure, I can go that far, at least. The hill doesn't look that steep. My legs are feeling fine. I can do this. Of course, I can't ride bikes and go through life with blinders on. I have to stay on the road and go the right direction. But, I don't have to climb the part of the hill I haven't' arrived at yet. There will be a moment for that. I only have to go the right direction: the direction of my course; the "direction of my dreams" which was determined before this ride began. And so I live this day, knowing that I am pedaling on, climbing, this hill called life. And the "direction of my dreams" is vested in riding God's course for my life, this day; and this day: I am feeling fine; I can do this. --"if one advances confidently in the direction his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Ironman

It scares me to think about attempting an ironman distance event. I am sure it is a little scary to everyone who attempts it. Sometimes, when I get all beat down by training that doesn't even approximate ironman distance event training, I wonder: can I do this? In that moment of weakness, excuses pour out from me like spilled jelly beans. And so my fears and I go through a vasillilation process of "to do" or "not to do."

Just about the time, I am happily deluded, Just about the time I think I am about ready to scrap this alleged nonsense of ironman, I see the cap my wife has on the wall. Big, bold letters are printed upon it that say, "Marvin, My Ironman." Like the old Kenny Rodgers song, "She believes in me." And she believes in me when I don't even believe in myself. When I can't see myself finishing an ironman, she believes and sees.

And God believes in me.
"Marvin, My Ironman."
"I'm not that good. I have no talent. I get so tired. I just don't have it."
"Marvin, my ironman."

Looking at that cap my wife made, I realize I have to try. I must honor her and I must honor God, for their belief in me, for making me dream dreams larger than myself, for giving me the courage to try to achieve them.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Somber Hill

I love coming down that hill on my bike and I love to do hill repeats on this curving three-quarter mile incline. Today, I found out a friend of mine was killed on that road: got off the road in a turn, over-corrected and rolled the vehicle. He was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle.

I didn't know where on this road he had had this accident, so I took the course slowly around the turns, trying to identify some sign of the aftermath of the wreck. There it was at my hill. The spray paint was still there on the grass, on the pavement, telling the sad story of my friend's last moments on this earth. And there was one spot circled in orange spray paint, that may have been where his body had been.

My hill is littered with markings of orange spray paint, but even after it is gone, I doubt I will ever traverse this hill without thinking of my friend. He had come a long way back to be the person he was. I taught him in Sunday School and he became so good as a student, I let him teach.

Remembering the last time I saw him: I was running by his house, and he was out working with his tractor. He stopped. We talked. When I began to leave he asked me how far I had come. I told him. He said, "Marvin, I believe you are the toughest man I know." I laughed.

Times like today, standing over my bike, looking at the footprints of his death on the road, I really don't feel all that tough.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nothing Was Impossible: A Tribute

No one could get me more angry than he could. I once jumped off the roof of a house I was working on to confront him about something he said. He could drive me that far. We were so different in so many ways, and yet, in certain central areas, we are much the same. Only some one that I loved so much could make me jump off a building. Today, is my Father's birthday. He has been gone for over twenty six years and I still miss him.

He would have been great at endurance sports. Like me, he had absolutely no natural talent to do anything, but the guy could hang in there, and hang on like no one I have ever met. We did a lot of fishing, hiking and camping together. We carved the place I live on now, out of a proverbial wilderness. I smile at the adventures we had together, getting in and out of predicaments; great times. Nothing was impossible withI us, it seemed.

It was hard to know how bad he really felt because he just didn't complain that much. During his losing battle with cancer, I saw him take an incredible amount of pain. It is my regret that endurance sports did not come along for us during our time together. He would have been great at it, I know, because as I see it, my father was an Ironman.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stop Digging !

They say that the first thing you need to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. I am into my third day of no training whatsoever. It has been a while since I have been in this kind of hole. It doesn't look like it is going to get any better unless something changes; unless I stop digging. Oh, I could blame a variety of things besides myself, but I think it is time to stop blaming and digging and climb out of this hole. Is there really any other good choice? What happens if I just keep keeping on like this? Given time, this hole I am digging for myself could change my identity, my own self-image, degrade my own self-respect. I could be buried in this hole.

Multisport has been chosen as my lifestyle, and though it wears me out at times, I love all that goes with it. I am not ready to change identities. It is what I am called for and who I am called to be. So, throwing this shovel down, and climbing out of this hole into the light again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wading Ashore/Going Home

Wading ashore, I was exhilarated. The first leg of my half-ironman distance event complete; no problems. I thought of my brother-in-law, fighting cancer and thought to myself, "Johnny, I wish you could see this, feel this." The event was being done in his honor, and it just felt right to wish he were there.

Midway on the bike course on a long uphill spiral, I thought how much this part of the road was like his struggle: long, uphill, lots of turns and switchbacks. When I reached the top, I thought to myself, "This is what I want for you, brother-in-law."

Late on the bike, on a tree shrouded lane, the autumn sun shot beams through the brown tree tops down upon the road. It was beautiful, a beautiful place to be. And I wished Johnny could have been there at that moment to see, revel in the moment, and appreciate.

Despite any honoring I may have done, it made no difference to cancer. Johnny went to meet God about 10:17 AM today. But --- maybe now, Johnny CAN see and appreciate what I could not share with him? Maybe now, he can feel the exuberance of being cancer free, and wading ashore home? Maybe now, he has reached the top of the long spiral climb on his course? And, maybe now, he can feel the blessing and beauty of the tree shrouded road, and see the Son beaming through to rest upon him.

Perhaps he now sees the beauty, and feels the joy I would have liked to have shown and shared with him. It makes me smile when I think he is probably saying, "Marv, all that was really great, and really pretty. But, wait until you get here. You ain't seen nothing yet."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fluid Power

When it works right, it is like a well oiled machine, only better. When it all comes together, there is something in the fluid integration of the body, that makes me smile. It has been felt in shooting baskets, in the perfect swing of a baseball bat, the perfect golf swing.

Today, I did a 61 mile bike tour on the rolling hills in and around the national forest near Huntsville, Texas. It went really well, validated my training and peaked my motivation for more. There were times during this ride that it all seemed to flow together in the pedal stroke; it was smooth, coordinated and complete. My legs seemed to be on auto-pilot, during these times, as if it knew what to do all along, if freed to be itself. And in riding in the wind with this fluid power going for me today, I felt especially blessed, and freed. It seems sometimes that training isn't about becoming as much as it revealing what is already there.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dawning Moments

It is not going well with my brother-in-law. The cancer treatments have stopped and life is a downward horrific spiral for he and his family. Every day, it seems to be something worse.

The updates have had a sobering effect on my own life. Every day, every moment seems more precious. Petty problems get less attention. It is so much easier to forgive, pick up. and move on.

The ability to swim, bike and run seem so much more a blessing. To be torn down, worn out from a tough workout: how wonderful ! Today, this moment, I have ability, opportunity, and the good sense to realize the value of it . The moments seem to slow like the illumination of the morning; to be fully absorbed, and in the face of the end of it all, is the beauty of dawning moments taken inside: stairsteps to eternity.
"Only that day dawns but to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn."
Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, March 3, 2011

If I Want Doors To Open

"If you want your boomerang to come back, first you've got to throw it." If I want doors to open, I must first turn the doorknob.

This idea is not original with me, but a pearl gleaned from being a follower of a blog called The Doorknob Chronicles. Thank you Steven.

Getting out the door is that first step to overcoming procrastination, lack of commitment, love of creature comfort. I have found that life is nothing like going into a supermarket with automatic doors. In my own life I have found that anything truly of value comes from turning the doorknob, and opening the door for myself. Can it be said that the door to the outside of ourselves is the barrier that appears to keep us safe, but in reality keeps us hostage to our lesser selves? The door we hide behind just might be to our jail cell.

That first step outside just might challenge me to overcome; to be all God would grow me to; and it begins with turning the doorknob, and passing over the threshold of my fears and weaknesses to be brave upon the world I was created for.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Exhilarating Excess

Taken too far: legs have no snap and feel they have the strength and consistency of Jello. Fatigue slumps my shoulders, shuffles my walk, postpones my runs. Yeah, did it again: too much.

The "hair on fire" gleam in my eye eventually leads to some degree of overtraining. This week I try to get my stuff back. Invariably, when I tell folks this, they say something like, "you're not getting any younger, you know. You need to practice moderation." Right ! Whatever ! You don't have to practice moderation. To me, it is sort of a fearful gravity pulling one toward burying life to keep from losing it.

But the truth is: I had a great run of it, getting tore down; had a great time. Will I do it again? Just as soon a I get over the last time. "The going up was worth the coming down."

"Excess, upon occasion, can be exhilarating, because it prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit."

Somerset Maugham