Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Beginning to End of the Miles of the Journey?

A new life and eventually a new lifestyle was launched on this Thanksgiving Day in 1982.

In the Beginning

Several times when I was young I came close to dying from asthma, pneumonia, or the medication itself. Many times I really wondered if I was going to be able to take that next breath. In those days treatment options were quite limited. Consequently, prolonged bouts with this stuff seemed to keep me in an emaciated physical state. At age fourteen I weighed just seventy-eight pounds and was four foot, eleven inches tall. There were many nights in my life spent sitting up in bed just trying to breathe. My back grew bowed and one side of my chest protruded out much farther than the other. I looked deformed and I guess I was. For me, playing sports was quite limited. I was always the last one chosen for a team.

After adulthood and years of treatment, my health improved somewhat. Eventually, I grew out of my deformed chest; but still, I was occasionally besieged by bouts of severe asthma attacks. It seemed that being an asthmatic was my lot in life, my own piece of hell, a curse from which I would not be set free.

Thanksgiving morning, 1982 found me once again suffering from an asthma attack. Having been up most of the night trying to breathe, I was a man much out of sorts. Somehow though, on this one day in time, a whole lifetime of frustration seemed to culminate right then and there on that Thanksgiving morning. I was just fed up. I was just angry—very angry. For some reason, I just wanted to run. Absurd as that reasoning might sound, I just wanted to make my lungs suffer, to strike back at something, at anything. “Enough is enough!!” I thought. If I were going to be gasping, struggling for breath, and wheezing, well by golly, I might as well have a good reason for it. I was going to run! What was I thinking? It was crazy, I know. Could be I was just a little bit over the edge at the time?

I had no shoes to run in so I laced up my hunting boots and started a slow jog down the dirt road in front of my house. I was going to run the quarter mile to the end of that road if it killed me. It very nearly did. In fact, after only a few moments, after less than a hundred yards, I was bent over with my hands on my knees, seriously struggling for air. Asthma had beaten me again, I thought, as I walked slowly and dejectedly back to the house. Surprisingly though, sometime later after I had fully recovered, it seemed that I could breathe a little better than before. And some of that anger—no, a lot of that anger—was still in there bubbling, simmering around inside. I would have another go at it the next morning. This wasn’t over.

The next morning I got a little farther down the road than the day before, but it was still a suffocating experience. Beaten again. But, I had gone a few feet farther. It wasn’t much farther but there was some small satisfaction in it. Afterwards, I again found I could breathe a little better than before my run. The next morning and the next and the next found me making similar attempts and being met with similar defeats. But, with each effort I was getting a little farther down the road. Anger had matured into firm resolution. My mind and spirit now had “missile locked” on someday getting all the way down that road, the whole quarter mile. Finally, one day I just hung on, suffocated more than I ever thought I could, and made the whole quarter of a mile. No, it wasn’t an Olympic finish. No bands were playing. No crowds were cheering. No one cared, but I knew. It was just my own ecstatic experience, a private victory on a little dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

No stopping me now; I had tasted it. My asthma was getting better almost daily. Finally, one morning I ran all the way back to the house—a half mile. I was elated! Then the day came when I ran a whole mile. Like a prisoner breaking out of his jail cell, breathing fresh air for the first time in a very long time, there was no containing me. I was out of control and still am, I hope. Thank God!! I traded my hunting boots for slip-on deck shoes and, when my long runs got to around three or four miles, I finally bought real running shoes.

The rest of the story is about longer runs: 5Ks, 10Ks, Half Marathons and, in 1987, my first marathon. Sometimes, even now, having completed over thirty marathons and many triathlons, it is still hard to fully comprehend. To think that I did all that, yet knowing all the time I am really nothing special, just a no talent, ordinary person who hung on. I am so grateful! I feel so blessed!! May I never lose that childlike wonderment at all this. May I never forget that first frustrating Thanksgiving morning in 1982. But even more importantly, may I never forget to give God the thanks, that I can run!! From the book, I HEAR FOOTSTEPS, by Marvin Dittfurth

I did run: 32 marathons and countless miles in training. In this year of 2015 I ran 890 miles, swam 75 miles, and biked over 7100 miles - slightly more than across the United States and back again. In adding it all up once I found I had ran aroung the world a couple times. I have had a good run of it in life.

That first run in 1982 was pure misery and I am glad I continued on trying to run. Today and yesterday, my short runs were just as miserable, if not more so than that first one in 1982. The pain was almost unbearable. So, is the the end, the last mile of this wonderful journey. It sure feels like the last miles I want to run. Is the journey over? Right now, it feels like that. God will sort this out over time. But, in the meantime, no running any more miles of the journey.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The New Challenge

"Inactivity is cowardice," someone wrote. Hoping, praying for healing, and trying to rest injured body parts has made me more inactive than I have been. Not being active is a new challenge for me. It feels unnatural. But, being inactive during Christmas season does give diversion to this new challenge. This is not something I can train through. It is bigger than that and will require the discipline of inactivity. But, it feels like cowardice.

And I don't want to become accustomed to this lifestyle. I have seen the physical demise of others who succumbed to the tempation of inactivity. As a prescription I would say inactivity is good in small doses and do not take any more regularly than you absolutely have to. The side effects can be quite debilitating.

So my new challenge is dealing with the small doses before it becomes cowardice.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Inspiration: Am I Really?

Over the years lots of people and triathlete participants have told me what an inspiration I am. Although, I am not sure of exactly why. Of course, the obvious: I am over 70 years old and still doing swim, bike, run. But, in my own eyes I see myself a little differently. I hurt at times. I am hurting now. I go from wondering if I can keep this up and injuries bring serious doubts. It seems my triatlon life now is a day to day waiting for the axe to fall ending all this. I am afraid to go to the doctor for a check up because at my age, he might find something.

It takes more to keep moving forward through all the pain, discomfort, and fears at this age. Although on a day to day basis I feel like a beat up old man at times, but from an overall perspective, maybe there is really a cause to say that I am an inspiration. After all, I fight these old age demons and am still standing at an age when many have relegated their passion to finding a bargain at Walmart. Inspiration? Perhaps to some, I am.

Friday, December 18, 2015

At "Nevertheless"

7000 miles on the bike was my goal for 2015. 900 miles running was the other goal for 2015. I am only 32 short on the bike and 12 short on the run and 2015 will be a success or so it would seem to be. But my New Years song might not be traditional but instead be my version of "Happy Trails to You," the old Roy Rogers song.

This back and hip pain has made me make the following resolution: complete this years goals and not do anything as far as training, until 2016. If my back and hip are still not good enough to support training, I will be moving on to something else. Still not sure what that might be but God will provide, challenge, and empower the next thing He would have me do. Of course, I would like to get well, to continue triathlon, but I am also ready to move on if that isn't in His plan for me.

My efforts lately have only been a semblance of training; half efforts which undermine my own self-respect and are a insult to the sport itself. Like that famous line from the movie SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: "get busy living or get busy dying." The verb in both those options is "get busy." And so I will. Wish me well in however this comes out. The point has been reached where I can honestly, sincerely say to God, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." Perhaps that was what He was trying to bring me to in the first place and now that I am there, it is time to move one? Whatever - I am at "nevertheless." Merry Christmas - Happy New Year

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas First

Holiday season and the weather is great. The clear blue sky, the frost on the top of the grass, the chill in the air, the fire crackling inside, and, of course, the Christmas tree, mostly decorated by my grandchildren; all of this beckons me to sit back, take it all in and enjoy. This stuff doesn't last. These moments are passing by like yesterday's parade and I need to train. It is a conflicted state. If I don't train I will miss getting into the kind of shape I want to be in to take on the new year's rigourous training for the goals that are set. If I don't take in these holiday moments, I might miss precious moments that can never be duplicated. At the end of this season do I want to be found missing something?

The yearnings may be complicated but the answer is simple and obvious: Christmas first. I can recover from diminished training but I can never recover, never bring back the moments of Christmas. So, I resolve to protect the most precious, and in doing so, possibly protect the better part of myself; that part that God can use to push me into the harder training of the coming days.

Monday, December 14, 2015


This stuff will beat you down. So much stuff hurt that I was going to cut my planned 7 mile run to 4 miles. But, I have been at this so many years, have faced this down so many times, that at 4 miles I just kept going. The trails were muddy with no way to pick up speed even if I were physically able. Nothing got any better, not even my outlook. All this pain and discomfort bodes badly for my future. What does that hold? It was not one of those excited, giddy, and inspiring accomplishments but eventually, I made the entire 7 miles. This was not a good day.

How many more of these will I have? If this is an every day thing, do I want to go on doing this? Can I change and do something else. If this is all God's plan to teach me humility, I think I got it; made the honor roll, 4.0 grade point average in humility 101. Whatever, "nevertheless not my will but thine."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Day 82: No More "Days"

Early Saturday morning before daylight. My back is no better, but no worse from yesterday's 10 mile run. Sometimes I think this is how it will be; that from now on the cost in pain for physical activity has gone up quite a bit like everything else. Not sure what the training plans are today, but I will try to loosen up the back as best I can and do something. I will pay the price today and probably tomorrow, and the day after and so on - it is worth it.

So to keep this blog from degrading into "how my back feels today" posts, I am ending the "Day" format of this blog. From now on it will consist of various subjects - unrelated to my back - within the context of the "Miles of the Journey." And, I see the first hints of daylight and the journey goes on. The journey is the same, but the vehicle traveling it is a little different.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Day 81: Obedient

The back was a little better but not much. Taking it relatively easy doesn't seem to working. Perhaps, it is down to two choices: back out and give up if and when my back gets better or -- drive on and just put up with the back hurting. Then I came back to myself, realizing again Who this is for. It is His show. Let's pray.

In the early morning light, looking toward the dawn, I sought the answer: should I go or should I stay? In my humanity I had already thought I knew the answer to my prayer. Today, I wanted to quit, but God wouldn't let me. Something told me to just do the long run today, just run, just today. And I did: 10 miles very slowly and often massaging my back as I ran. It hurt some but it never got worse and I finished still able to function. I was obedient. This day I was obedient. Tomorrow I go for the long bike and for another chance to exercise not only my body but my faith as well.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Day 80: Not Alone

Beautiful falll evening in the woods here and I haven't trained yet today. It's Ok. In the last couple of days I have endured more back pain than I can remembeer; took a fall over my trainer bike this morning, and had my shifter cable snap and chain come off while riding outside. But, the fall evening is just beautiful with the sun shining through the various colored trees. Though I am concerned about the long term prospects of my back, my world is at peace.

Call it overconfidence, but I know that what I need is there. I was shown that in the power and stamina I had for the bike ride yesterday; in the way I could work outside, shoveling, driving a tractor, today. God has given me the tools to continue on this journey, to remain at peace when the wheels of life come off.

Ahead there are many concerns and who knows what will have to be faced. Whatever, I will not face them alone. There is the support of my family and love and guidance of God and where and to what He leads, I will follow His miles of the journey.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Day 79: Changing Lives

Today, after a day off - more or less -, my back isn't any better. Yesterday, I put up a new, more comfortable trainer bike as if I can have hope of using it in the future. And, I guess I do have a hope. I have wondered: if this doesnt get better, will I be beaten by it. What if there are no more mountains to climb, rivers to forge, trails to travel? Could I be content with the growth that would surely occur in adopting a less vigorous lifestyle? That would take some getting used to. I am sure I would learn a lot from something like that, but can I accept a life reduced intensity challenges? After all, I am getting up there in age. Lots of stuff hurts. I have already done a whole lot. Why not give this other lifestyle a chance? Rest, remember, and take time to enjoy the many miles already traveled. Don't think that lifestyle hasn't been seriously entertained lately, especially so every time I get up from a chair and my back kills me.

But, God set me on this course: the miles of the journey wher I am is supposed to travel from "can" to "can't". My prayers tell me I haven't reach "can't" yet. My prayers ask me, "did you think this was going to be painless and easy?" When it is time to give up and change lives, I won't wonder about it. I will be told, and I will know as surely as I know now I am supposed to continue these miles of the journey.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Day 78: Where the Grip On Life Is

This back pain is getting serious. It comes and goes, but I wish it would just go. Can't find the cause, but today I split some wood, and the pain kept getting worse. Ah, that's it; the wood splitting. No more wood splitting for a while. That seemed to make sense when I went for my hour and fifteen minute run. My back hurt like crazy to begin with then the pain got less and less the more I ran. Ah, the wood splitting: got to be it all right. Then the 1200 yard swim; good stroke; feels OK; got to be the wood splitting. But after the ride home, I could barely get out of the car. The intensity of the pain almost made me sick at my stomach No, it is not just the wood splitting, is it?
So, here it is my birthday and I am wondering what is going on with my back. This is not the birthday present I had hoped for. What now?

Yes. If this training business doesn't work out, I will finish writing my book a little sooner. My back hurts. There is concern. Sure there is great disappointment. There is uncertainty in my ability to do a lot of things in the future but yet, there is peace about that too. I know that I may be "cast down but not destroyed." And it is comforting that my grip on life is not dependent on my training but only upon God. How long I will be able to experience this lifestyle: I don't know. But my hold and my Hope rests not with my circumstances but upon faith in the Giver of Hope and Life Himself. The grip on life is in His hands.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Day 77: A Forward Stepping Day

After a good day of training yesterday, things don't feel that great today. So far, I have only done a short run. Woke up this morning with pain on both sides of my lower back. The run seemed to have helped that after all the stretching stuff failed. Then there is the upset stomach with the acid reflux; not pretty. Got to start watching that intake better.

It seems that I have a great day - like yesterday - and then lose focus as if I have become invincible, untouchable against all the usual evils. I get overconfident very easily, I guess, and just don't keep the discipline momentum going.

I can see this happening in all areas of life, especially our faith life. Perhaps that is why as hard as I try, my growth is in fits and starts. Sometimes one step forward, two steps back but too, I have my good days when the forward steps vastly outnumber the backward ones. As I watch the beautiful sunset from this window, I am thankful for this learning experience. And I look forward to this same sun coming up on the other side of the house in the morning. Pray that I might keep my focus toward a forward stepping day.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Day 76: Flying Lessons

Did my best 7 mile I have done in a long, long while. Then got in a quick swim of 1000 yards; really swam well: a good day. I have found that oftentimes the problem with recovery is post exercise nutrition; just not the right stuff at the right time. There is so much to get right in this. It is like the body is a finely tuned piece of equipment and the input as far as training, rest, and nutrition have a dramatic impact on its performance.

The Bible says we are "beautifully and wonderfully made" and I believe that. We have no idea the possibilities God has placed within us until we sort of get out there on free fall sometimes. Like the saying goes, "God will either catch you when you fall or he will teach you how to fly." I have been caught by God many times. Perhaps, this is the time I will fly.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Day 75: I Can't Fail

63 miles on the indoor bike and I am toast. Giving this level of fatigue with no more training than that shows I will not make it. Of course, today's training was all pedaling for hours with no coasting and no intermission but it shouldn't have killed me like this.

OK, maybe I am getting over the hill - washed up, done for, kaput, no mas. Maybe I am overreaching here? In other words, maybe at my age, I have bitten off more than I can chew? Could be, but I am not going to make that decision; God will. He got me into this and He can get me out. I will have to be shown I am to give this up. I will have to be down to my last spark of energy unless He shows me differently. Ah, that is such a relief to talk myself through that - to come to reasoning that it is not my responsibility. There is a feeling of freedom there. No matter, I can fail.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Day 74: What Sustains and Endures

1.75 mile swim today. It wasn't too bad; didn't feel that tired. Got home, laid on the couch, and woke up an hour and forty minutes later feeling like I have been on a bad drunk. How in the world can I call myself an endurance athlete when I can't go on a swim without cratering?

I can't. This afternoon it reminds me yet again that I am in way over my head. Only an act of God will get me through this training. Only the power of God can get me through this journey. Such a life lesson here. I found out today about a friend and triathlete who is battling cancer; a fine Christian man, but only the power of God can sustain him in these trials. He has been through endurance sport training like I and has learned as I keep getting reminded that, in the final analysis, only the power of God will sustain us, supporting us to endure. And in the end of this life on earth, the answer will still be the same learned in training and in training our faith through life's struggles, that only the power of God endures, now, and, praise God, forevermore.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Day 73: Well Done

Today a 40 mile trainer bike ride followed by a 3 mile brick run. Tonight, here, sitting by the fire, I feel really good and I feel really good about my chances, my training. Mountaintop stuff; watch out! This is going too good. Nothing has ever come easy for me. Why is this working out so well especially after all the abysmal failures I have had? Something is out there. It always is. But, it would be a journey worth taking if there wasn't something out there to disrupt or destroy. My quest is one day then another. Tomorrow may not work out as well, but my quest will be the same: one more step. God willing, I can keep making those one more steps until I get to that finish line. Sure I would like to hear "Marvin Dittfurth, you are an ironman," but even more I want to feel in my soul the words, "well done, my good and faithful servant."