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).

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.