28 January 2013

01.28.13 - We are better off

Who is your favorite person in Old Testament?  And have you ever imagined you have a better relationship with God than they enjoyed? 

The questions came up in our small group last night as part of a book study we are doing (more to come later on the book...)  But we tend to look at the Old Testament greats as spiritual giants.  The 'Hall of Faith' in Hebrews 11 calls out many of biggies.  They are indeed great.  Their faith unrivaled.  Tucked into chapter 11 are two huge verses that often skipped right over.  Or we don't pause to grasp how huge the message is that they carry...

13 "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth..." 

39 "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect."

Despite all of what is listed in chapter 11, not one of them had what we have.  Jesus in us.  Jesus through us.  God IN us.  The Holy Spirit daily as our step-by-step Counselor.  Advocate.  It was always His plan all along.  Something better.

Those who are in Christ… pause and ponder this a moment.  How greater our love... how greater our faith...  how greater our freedom should we truly grasp what we have on this side of the cross.  A whole new way given to us.  Not a different God, a different way. 

Those who may not be in Christ… all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  We were all dead in our transgressions and dead in the law at one point.  God has provided something better on this side of His Son Jesus’ cross.  Today is the day of salvation.  

24 December 2012

12.24.12 - Church favoritism

I could very easily get in the flesh here and potentially ruin my witness.  But the text in the first half of James 2 gets me worked up.  I admit it.  It always has.  It hits home and gets a bit personal for me.  Ephesians 4:26 says to not sin in your anger.  I'll do my best not to.

First and foremost, I have to remind myself that I cannot add to or inspire God's Word any more than He has or will do through his Holy Spirit.  It stands alone and is truly "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

Speak, Word of God, speak...


My two cents here - and I'll  go toe to toe with anyone reading and willing to do so - but I believe this to be a massive issue in the American church today.  Perhaps one of the biggest, as so much flows downhill within the body from this core issue.  I've seen this partiality in action.  I've helped build churches and served on well-intentioned leadership teams that have been blind to this partiality.  I will refrain from incriminating and disgusting examples.  (Stop, Ryan.  Listen to your words above.)

Lord, forgive us.  Forgive me.  For building organizations that cater to the consuming masses and not the poor and hungry.  For building palaces that are unwelcoming to the unwelcomed.  For not listening to the heart cry to engage the least of them.  For showing little mercy and much judgement (verse 13).

23 December 2012

12.23.12 - Religiosity warning

Lots of religiosity warnings throughout the scriptures.  The second half of James 1 offers some of that.  I suppose if you are not a 'religious' person, you can disregard.  The rest of us can take heed (in other words, anyone who claims Christ could probably listen here.  I'm first in line.)

First major point from verses 19-20...  God's righteousness does not grow from human anger.  I repeat, God's righteousness does not grow from human anger.  Probably should add that God's righteousness does not grow from human anger.  Again?

Verses 21-25, when we 'get it', we will cast out sin, receive the word and become doers of the word.  Not just hearers., but doers.  We will not soon forget what we look like in a mirror as we would forget the calling that God's word has on our lives.  Kind of humorous analogy actually.

The hammer drops in 26 & 27.  I ran through this exercise on my own.  Perhaps you could give it a try.  Fill in the blank with all of the stuff you hear, have been 'taught' or expected of you:  "Pure and undefiled religion in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit's opinion is ___________."

Attending church every Sunday?  Dressing well when attending?  Giving more than the next person?  Praying incessantly?  Memorizing the whole Bible?  Serving on every committee at church?  Achieving top leadership status?  Sharing your religious opinions with co-workers, neighbors and friends?  Voting for the 'right' guy and the 'right' side of issues?

No on all accounts.  Sobering is the answer in verse 27.  Even more sobering is it's lack of implementation in the church today.  But that shouldn't stop a one of us, right?


22 December 2012

12.22.12 - Being tested

When I am under pressure, I want relief.  When tested, I just want to be done.  Endurance racing mirrors so many facets of life.  And when racing, when the trials come - the pain and suffering - I want to quit.  Literally (see Pinhoti 100 post.)  And to say I am generally happy amidst any trial would be less than true.

This is not God's plan or approach for our testing and trials.  When they  undoubtedly come (if they don't, we have to ask ourselves, are we actually IN the faith?)  James 1 offers hope and a game plan...

Be joyful in them, verse 2.  They are necessary to build endurance and create a perfect result, verses 3-4.  They are necessary to build our faith, verses 6-8.  They impart humility, verses 9-11.  They lead to a blessing, verse 12.

Then an important differentiation in verses 13-18...  God tests.  Satan tempts.  God cannot tempt.  Trials build up.  Temptations tear down.  Trials lead to life.  Temptations lead to sin, which leads to death.  Trials are birthed out of our love and dependence on Him.  Temptations are birthed out of the lust and enticements of our hearts.  In the end, they are both His to overcome.

Father, may we welcome the trials and testings in our lives.  And see them as a necessary means to grow and perfect our faith.  Give us grace and courage to defeat the enticements of our hearts that lead to death.  We fully trust the work you are finishing in our lives.


05 December 2012

12.5.12 - Narrow (red letters)

I’ve always been familiar with and often heard tossed around the second part of John 10:10, but not sure that I’d ever really dug into all of the context before and after it (coincidentally, it’s today’s verse of the day on biblegateway.com.) 

You may be familiar…  “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Absolutely Jesus did exactly that, no questions asked.  And while this verse is often used as a loving, universal catch-all, the irony in the surrounding verses is in the narrow analogy.  The one gate.  The only gate.  Jesus describes and owns a singular sacrificial system, states he is the only way to abundant life now and everlasting, and calls anything otherwise murderous and destructive thievery.  So shocking and offensive was this narrow message that in the remaining versus of chapter 10, he is dubbed a demon, insane, worthy of stoning, a blasphemer, and sought for arrest.

He did come to give life and abundantly.  A loving, kind, gracious Savior “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  But there is only one gate.  And it is narrow.  “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  (Matthew 7:14).

03 December 2012

12.3.12 - Guarding the heart

The instruction in Proverbs 4 is priceless.  Verse 23 grabbed my attention this morning…  "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life."  Which would also mean that from it can flow death.  Our words, our actions or lack thereof, our motives, our lethargy, can all bring death to ourselves, our walk with God, and to others.  We must protect our hearts that they may truly do the function they were intended to – give life.  Through the gospel.  Through wisdom and fear of the Lord.  Through the love and grace of Jesus.  

Let us protect our hearts from anything that would lead us or others to death.  By attention to His Word, not losing sight on Him, and fixing our gaze straight ahead, let our hearts be flowing springs of life.

28 November 2012

11.28.12 - Citizenship?

Reflecting this morning on Jesus' prayer in John 17.  Reflecting on one of the subjects of his petition -  us.  Here is what he describes:

A people who are not just hearers, but keepers of God's word...  A people who recognize the only source of eternal life...  A people who have changed their citizenship from this world to another...  A people so tied to God's word they are hated by this world (so much so they require protection from this world...)  A sent people, carrying the gospel into the world.

His prayer is assumptive.  If we are truly in Him, then this is what it looks like.  For all of us.  All starting with his Word, imparted in us through Jesus himself.

A song by Caedmon's Call a few years back captures the struggle within these versus. One I relate to.  You may as well.

There's tarnish on the golden rule
And I wanna jump from this ship of fools
Show me a place where hope is young
And a people who aren't afraid to love

This world has nothing for me and this world has everything
All that I could want and nothing that I need

This world is making me drunk on the spirits of fear.
So when he says who will go, I am nowhere near.

And the least of these look like criminals to me
So I leave Christ on the street

This world has held my hand and has led me into intolerance
But now I'm waking up, but now I'm breaking up
But now I'm making up for lost time

26 November 2012

11.26.12 - Bon Jovi

Last week I was in the car, the radio tuned to some local station. I found myself singing along to a Bon Jovi song. ‘Living on a Prayer’ if I’m not mistaken. I was peeling off lyrics as if I was front and center at Madison Square Garden with Richie Sambora at my side. Then, it occurred to me…

How do I even know this song? How do I know these lyrics? I’m not a Bon Jovi fan. Nor ever have been. I’ve never owned an album. I never had a stone-washed jean jacket or attempted to create a perfectly coiffed, feathered mane of hair (I did a lot of other ridiculous things to my hair.)

For some crazy reason, this scenario last week came to mind as I was in Psalm 119 this morning. Versus 9 thru 16. I have no desire to store up these lyrics. Declare them with my mouth. Not forget them. Yet, I’ve done just the opposite. Sometimes intentionally and other times by lazily allowing it. Things other than the God’s word, commandments, statutes, rules, precepts have occupied far too much landscape in my mind over the years. Dare I say, in my heart.

I wonder what Bon Jovi thinks about Jesus? Or if anyone has ever shared the gospel with him?

Father in Heaven, with my whole heart may I seek you. Let me not wander from your commandments. May I stored up your word in my heart that I may not sin against you. And that your Word is more common and recallable than a Bon Jovi song I could care less about.


24 November 2012

11.24.12 - Investing

If we make no investments in our retirement, we can expect there to be nothing there when we need it.

If we make no investments in our family, we can expect there to be nothing to fall back on when times are tough and challenging.

If we make no investments in our training, we can expect there to be no fitness to tap into when the race gets difficult.

"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11

Another way of putting it, I’ve banked/saved your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t let sin bankrupt me.

If we make no investments in the Word, we can expect to fall - and quickly - when trial and temptation strike. 

Friends, let's make an investment today.


23 November 2012

11.23.12 - Who is my enemy?

Each day brings a new set of battles. Struggles. Temptations. These words connote that there is then in fact, an enemy. So who is it? Is it your spouse? Your child(ren)? Co-worker? Neighbor? Friend? Acquaintance? God? You? All of the above?

To fight the enemy, you have to know who it is and how to fight it. I give way too little credence to the enemy. There is a correct answer, by the way. And there is someone I bet who knows it. Her name is Lisa. She is a friend of a friend. Full time occupation is wife and mother to ten children. Her other occupation - a sidewalk counselor. She regularly visits abortion facilities and pleads on behalf of the unborn. Here is her literal account from last Tuesday as she interacted with those passing in and out of the facility…

"They threatened to murder my children in front of me before killing me. They told me they enjoy killing their babies and want to kill mine. Then another man here says he's seen Satan and is fully intent on enjoying the murder of his baby. I am talking today of SPECIFIC INSTANCES. And sadly MANY do not see what we see and hear what we hear here. Many women know and actually embrace their child's murder."

An extreme example? Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." The Message translation calls this battle "…for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels."

Still extreme? But surely there's a different enemy in my day to day battles? No, Ryan. No, friends. That's it.

But as always, hope. Comfort. And a battle plan. Right there, wrapped about verse 12 is the answer in verses 10-11, 13-18. The whole armor of God… Belt of truth… Breastplate of righteousness… Readiness given by the gospel… Shield of faith… Helmet of salvation… Sword of the Spirit.

Let's fight, friends. But know who we are fighting and how to win!


11.22.12 - Thank you for the cross

I woke up early with food and thanks on the mind. So much to give thanks for. My mind and heart went to the last supper. The account (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13…) 

"When it was time, He sat down, all the apostles with Him, and said, 'You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.'

Taking bread, He blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory. He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.'"

Thank You for the cross Lord
Thank You for the price You paid
Bearing all my sin and shame
In love You came
And gave amazing grace - Hillsong

The ultimate sacrifice. The ultimate gift. From it, all praise and blessings flow. May you and yours embrace this as we celebrate today.

11.21.12 - Homecoming

A friend's status/post I read and commented on yesterday led be back to two of the most amazing (and my favorite) stories in the Scriptures… One is the thief hanging on the cross (I wrote a bit on it in a posted around the time of Christopher Hitchens' death. Perhaps more on that later.) The other is the prodigal son out of Luke 15. If I may ask, please, go to it and read it. Luke 15:11-32. Lots of online options if you don't have a Bible handy. Here, if you'd like:http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15&version=ESV

Jesus speaking of the prodigal there in verse 21… "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'"

Now soak in the father's response in verses 22-24… "bring the best robe, ring on his hand, shoes on feet, kill the fattened calf, CELEBRATE, my son was dead, now alive… lost, now found." And then the older brother's response in verses 25-30, and the father's to him thru 32…

Friends, where are we today? A prodigal that needs to return home? An older brother that is seething in anger, resentment, and entitlement? A father that needs to welcome a prodigal home?

Let's come home. As stated in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His grace is all we need. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

11.20.12 - Prone to wander

Some of the most honest lyrics ever to be penned were in 1757 by 22 year old Robert Robinson in the classic hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"... 'Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;'

I hear you, Bob. That's me. Like every day sometimes. Some of you may relate. Prone to turn from God and choose self, sin, insert blank (there are options, for me at least.)  God knows we will do this. Just like he watched the Israelites wander. This is recounted in 1Corinthians 10. In verse 12, He tells us to 'Be careful. Your self confidence is useless. You are capable of jacking it up as bad as the Israelites did.' But then in verse 13, hope. 'When the temptation comes (and it will come) it will be a temptation common to man. Nothing new under the sun. And it's not beyond what you can handle. And… I'll give you a way out, so that you can endure."

I wander more than I'd like to admit. I'm hopeful today because of these verses. I pray you are as well.

11.19.12 - Do I love Him?

Why in John 21 did Jesus have to ask Peter three times if he loved Him? The same reason He has to ask me every day. Because despite my claims of loving Him, I don't do what He asked me to do. Jesus has looked us each in the eye and said, 'If you love Me, you'll feed My sheep. You'll shepherd my flock.' Simple as that, Ryan. Simple as that, friends. If we've seen His eyes, we will do.

11.18.12 - New in Christ. Completely.

Powerful words this morning from 2 Corinthians 5... "new creation... reconciled to Himself... ambassadors for Christ... the righteousness of God in Him." Friend, is this me? Is this you? 

Or are we the opposite of the above... "old self/the same... in disagreement with Him... enemy of Christ... unrighteousness apart from God..." 

If we are truly in Him, let us live so. Anew. Reconciled. Ambassadors. Righteous. That old self? We shouldn't even know where to find him/her!

11.17.12 - To fear or not to fear

"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them... O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want... Come, you children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord..." Psalm 34:7,9,11

"The fear of the Lord IS the beginning of knowledge!" (Prov 1:7) But the countless times I've been the second part of that verse - "the fool that despises wisdom and instruction." Choosing sin, laziness, selfishness over a healthy fear of the Lord. May we all... may I... fear Him today and walk in His path of righteousness!

10 November 2012

11.03 & 04.12 - Pinhoti 100 - Heflin to Sylacauga, AL

I knew at several points during the Pinhoti 100, I was going to have to pick up the pen again.

I sort of lost my race recap mojo in 2010 & 2011. I had been posting pretty regularly on my blog site, including pictures and whatnot, and just sort of lost the passion for it. Somewhat because I felt I was saying some of the same things over and over again and it was a bit stale. Somewhat because I’m a middle of the pack age grouper that was questioning myself and if I really had anything of value to put out there. So I stopped. Then Pinhoti happened. And there were things I wanted to say. And some things I needed to say.

Let’s go straight to the things that need to be said…

Many of you know how this deal works. You set the stage about the race. Then the blow-by-blow details. Then the lessons learned, acknowledgements, etc. In the case of Pinhoti, only one thing really matters. The acknowledgements. ‘The Whos’. The rest of the details I likened to something between a twenty-seven and a half hour Stanley Kubrick film and a purest form of euphoria. None of which matters in the slightest or ever would have come to fruition without ‘The Whos’.

Nate Hearns and Scott Harber… There is a fourth. Matt Miller. But we’ll get to him in a minute. We had many talks prior to Pinhoti about our race plan and approach. We had no idea what would actually happen or how it would unfold. Unfortunately, my race was in jeopardy in the bus on the ride to the start line in Heflin, AL. The last seven miles in a school bus on a very choppy service road had me chewing on Tums like Smarties and contemplating opening the bus window and hanging my head out to relieve myself. And the meltdown kept on from here.

Over the course of the 100 miles, I believe I legitimately quit five times. I insisted (sometime angrily) that Nate and Scott go on. And they simply would not leave me. They both selflessly sacrificed to pull me along that trail. Sometimes literally. Pushing me out of aid stations. Pulling me up and out of chairs I was trying to sleep in. And as the race progressed, it simply came to this – I couldn’t leave them. It wasn’t an option. For any of us. We had to finish. And it had to be together. No questions asked.

After the fact we came to realize two things – Had we broken up and gone solo at any point, our chances of finishing were slim. For me, the chances were nil. We also had no idea the significance of three people toeing the line of a 100 miler together, staying together and crossing together. Apparently this is practically unheard of. Odd thing for us, we couldn’t imagine it any other way.

The bond I’ve had with these two friends was strong before the race. I’d venture to say it’s now unbreakable. The Message translation of Ecclesiastes 4:12 can’t say it better…

“By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Amen.

Allyson Werner, Morgan Hearns and Anne Harber… The wives. The crew. In addition to months of support leading up to the race, our wives followed us to the unmolested single-track trails of the Talladega National Forest to take on crew duties. We would quickly learn how absolutely critical this role was. Much more so than we could have imagined going into the race.

Anne, along with their two boys, Riley and Ethan, took the day shift. Basically the aid stations up to mile 41. They yelled. They cheered. They encouraged. At mile 41, I will be forever indebted to Anne for doing one of the most simple (and gross) things one could ask of someone else – help removing a sock. We had crossed a somewhat deep stream some 10-15 miles earlier. My feet were toast. Socks still wet and covered in junk from the trail. I grabbed a chair at the 41 aid station and proceeded to try and remove my socks. Compression socks at that. I got one, but the other I simply could not. Every time I bent over, my IT band would lock up so bad it would throw me back into the chair. I called on Anne, and not only did she get the sock off but she proceeded to dig her thumb and finger into my hip and help relieve the pressure on my IT band. Had it not been for her, I may not have left the 41 station. I was done. I think for the third time at this point. She then proceeded to hand me her phone. It was Allyson. I don’t remember the conversation. It doesn’t matter. I had new life. And new reason to get to mile 55 where she would be waiting.

The sun set somewhere between miles 41 and 55. We made our way through the darkness and emerged from the hole in the woods into the party scene known as the mile 55 aid station where I was anxious to collapse into Allyson’s arms and hand in my bib. I did just that, fell into her arms. But she and the others were having none of the quitting stuff. She and Morgan had laid out a very comfortable blanket in the parking lot and a literal spread of caloric bliss. I was struggling to put anything in my mouth at this point. Nate and Scott, not so much. They ate plenty for me. Dozing in and out of consciousness, I recall the conversation including the girl’s gymnastics results, our friend Matt Miller pulling out at mile 30, and food. All I wanted was to stay on that blanket. Forever. I wish there was more to it, but Allyson and Morgan both in their own ways looked at me and said something that included ‘Get up. You are going to do this. You are staying with these guys. Stopping is not an option.’ And so, it wasn’t. I stood. I moved. Allyson’s hope and expectation moved me forward.

We repeated this routine… miles 60, 65, 69. Then, it was into the abyss known as miles 69-85 (insert reference to a Kubrick film.) A couple of things got me through, but the main one was simply knowing Allyson was waiting for me. And that she and Morgan expected me to be there with Nate and Scott. I had to stop half way up Horn Mountain around mile 73 and puke for several minutes. I stood there bent over, then was moved by the thought… ‘Ok.. Now go. Allyson is waiting.’ So I went.

And there she was. Mile 85, then 90, 95, and of course at the finish line. She and Morgan had navigated through the night on literally a few hours of sleep providing not just food and supplies, but her. That is what did it. Just her. Being there, telling me I could and not giving me an option otherwise. Without her and the support of Morgan, I would still be laying face down in some remote parking lot of the mile 55 aid station. My love and gratitude is beyond words.

Matt Miller… Killah Millah. The unsung hero of the race. It can easily be argued that Matt is responsible for this ultra madness. He was the seasoned ultra veteran and ultimately the one who identified Pinhoti and moved us toward it. For as long as we’ve known Matt, it’s no secret that his kryptonite is heat. So when we saw in the days leading up to Pinhoti that Saturday was calling for a high in the low 80’s, we knew there could be problems. And unfortunately there were. Matt left the mile 28 aid station and shortly after the body simply broke down. The vomiting wouldn’t stop. Things weren’t working. Versus pressing ahead to the 35 stop and then up the climb of Cheaha, he turned around and back tracked the couple of miles back to 28. A decision that was difficult to say the least, but the right one.

The girls heard Matt had DNF’d and as stated prior had passed along that news to us at the 55 aid station. But we had no other details. As Nate, Scott and I emerged from the dark into the mile 60 aid station, I thought I had in fact begun to loose what was left of my mind. There he was. In the literal middle of nowhere. Matthew D. Miller. Trying to gather my wits and comprehend what was going on, Matt proceeded to explain that the folks running the mile 60 aid station were the same folks that manned the 28 station. When he had returned to 28 to DNF, they nursed him back to life and then he was along for the ride.

What I observed at 60 and the remaining aid stations was one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever been a part of. I’m sitting here in tears even as I type this. I saw a guy who could have easily packed it in. Went back to the hotel and slept. Perhaps sulked, loaded the car and went home. Instead, he came back from the dead and made a decision to help get us to the line. He greeted us with open arms. He scrambled for food and drinks. He spoke encouragement. Not just for us, but for all of the runners. The girls said he owned the stations when he was there. In additional to all of the pressure above, now there was Matt. I wasn’t going to let him down. He stayed to see us – all three of us together – finish. I had no option but to do my part. I was going to finish for Matt. He’d earned that.

As far as the actual race details? Inconsequential really the more I wrote the above. We finished 100 miles in 27 hours, 22 minutes. 63rd, 64th and 65th out of 108 finishers (197 people started the race.)  For me, a song can often sum it up far better than I can. And in this case, it happens to be Rob Base from 1988. I only regret I didn’t have more energy at the finish line to throw some moves (with the white guy, squinty eyed, bottom-lip overbite, of course.)

06 February 2010

09.13.09 - Club Wars Intl. Tri @ White Lake

1500 meter swim, 28 mile bike, 10K run

This race wasn’t even close to the edges of the radar at the beginning of the season. However in August, Benji and Hope Jones, NCTS managers for Setup Events, contacted Nick to see if FCA Endurance would be willing and able to come up to White Lake and help work a race with them. We had been working all season long building rapport and a presence with FCA-E and the Setup folks. At first, they were hesitant. But once they saw our huddle’s effort and the value we could bring to them, especially on the novice races, we ended up getting the call like this one.

We had copied the SC huddle by introducing to NCTS the ‘novice table.’ This is a table at the end of the packet pickup line that is to answer any questions any of the athletes may have. Most of these come from the folks that have never raced before or newer to the sport. It has been a hit. Well the call came because this 9/12-9/13 weekend, there was a Saturday all women’s Dash for Divas race. This was going to be 500+ women who for the most part had never done a triathlon. Or it had been a while since they had. So needless to say, the table would be handy.

In return for us helping, Benji offered us one of the cabins at the FFA Campground where the event was held (and also the site for the spring half Ironmans and sprint races) and race entries for Nick and I in the Club Wars International distance race the following day. With these factors in the mix, this was going to be a family ‘camping’ weekend. Allyson and the girls were excited. Allyson and I were a little leery about the whole cabin thing. We’re not really the sleep outside types.

We had a great trip up to White Lake on Friday. Packet pickup was about to be in full swing when we arrived. We first check into our cabin and first assessment was not as bad as I had expected. Cement floor, walls half way up, then screens the remainder of the way. 8 steel frame bunks with a ‘mattress’ on each. And a big ol’ picnic table in the middle. This was what will call ‘glamping’ – or glamorous camping (friend of mine gave that to me on Facebook. Which yes, we also had internet access the whole time.)

Packet pickup was an absolute blast. Working with novice racers is the best. And women are much more laid back and fun about the whole thing. Nick and answered some interesting questions over the next few hours while Allyson and the girls played around on the FHA campsite and in the water. White Lake itself is the huge draw to the area. It is an oval about 6 miles or so around. It is spring fed and pretty much 8 feet deep at its deepest point. You can walk from the shore out nearly 200 yards in some places and be no more than shoulder deep. And you can see the bottom always. The girls think it is the Caribbean.

The next day we worked the race, helped where needed, worked in some swimming with the girls, tested out the ol’ wetsuit (which I had not been in for a while) played some putt putt golf then joined up with our friend James Ruth for a little spin around the race course. And boy did we spin it. We got in a pace line, rode the full 28 miles in about the same time we each raced it the next day. Probably not the best move, but we had a blast riding. Went out and grabbed dinner that night at a local yocal restaurant, then back to the room… err, cabin.

The race itself was a hit. It was a smaller field (couple hundred folks maybe?) and the weather was perfect. Cool fall morning, but certainly not cold. My goals for the race were: Swim – Steady. Good sighting. Push a little but not too much. Bike – Practice for B2B race in 1.5 months. 22 mph avg and 95 rpm’s and hold it. Run – Just run. This was the first race, actually one of the first times on the road at all, running since wrestling with the plantar issue. I was considering a swim/bike/park right up until the day before the race. I decided to go for it and go easy.

The swim was sort of Ironman style – all men at one time versus the usual wave start by age group. I found a groove early on and it was pretty smooth sailing. Not my best swim as a percentile of the field, but not bad either. Came out of the water 10th heading to the bike. My man James Phelps, I mean James Ruth, smoked ‘em with a great swim split. Transition was uneventful and it was out onto the flatlands of Bladen Country, NC. Again, we’d ridden the course the day before so there weren’t any big surprises. Early on I was able to hold the pace and rpm’s I was shooting for. And in fact finished the bike at 22.5 mph and 97 rpms, so right where I wanted to be. Passed a couple of folks on the bike. Got passed by Nick ‘Cancellara’ White who was in great bike shape and zipped by me at some point.

Felt great about the bike and got off feeling good. I got turned around in the TA and the volunteer staff was a little thin for the race. Wasn’t sure where the TA exit/run start was. You would think having done this before and working the race the day before I would know this. Finally got out on the road and the run was feeling great. But I was resolved not to push it. About a mile in I got passed very fast by Tom Crichton, one of the Setup Events employees. He was in my age group and I let him go. No way I was keeping up with him. Then a couple of miles in, came up on Nick. I started running with him and talking a bit. We settled into a great pace. I kept looking back to see if anyone was coming. Nothing. No one. So just kept running.

We hit the turn around at mile 3.1 and started back. There were definitely folks behind us, but no one close or in danger of catching us. So we pressed on. I love out and back run courses because you can see everyone behind you and better yet, encourage them. High five them. This race was actually a triathlon club competition and Nick and I were racing for FCA Endurance. And in team colors. Running together and encouraging folks can be a great outreach opportunity. We had a blast cheering for the other competitors. A few high fives here and there. Good times.

We started into the home stretch last mile, and eventually the left hand turn into the campground and a few hundred yards to go. We decided to have a little fun at the finish line and ‘fight’ to keep each other from crossing first. All captured on film fortunately. Again this was a club competition so you get points for placing in your age group/division. Nick won his age group and I placed third, giving us I think 6 points, which was cool but no where close to what was need to win the overall. But still cool.

So Whats from Club Wars?

- Bike pacing is critical. Exercises like White Lake are great for testing ability to hold a pace and be disciplined to not exceed that.

- Racing is about so much more than racing. The true highlights from the actual race was the time Nick and I were able to spend together being salt and light. Making it about more than the racing. And serving the day before was a blessing as well.

- Sometimes a break from running can help!

Next up would be another international distance ‘warm up’ for Beach2Battleship Half. Heading out to Pinehurst, NC with good friend Brian Goins and a bunch of guys from the Team In Motion Tri Club. New race to the schedule. Looking forward to it.

26 December 2009

08.22.09 - Lake Norman YMCA Triathlon

750 yard swim, 13.3 mile bike, 5K run (not)

I think it was after White Lake I started with the plantar fasciitis issue. Probably from a combination of things, but nonetheless, it was with me. I struggled through the month up until Latta, sort of knowing in the back of my head I had an issue. Then by post-Latta, I was faced with the reality of having to address it. I had also started working with friend, coach and local pro, Lance Leo. I’d hooked up with him to help me better prepare for my next half and ‘A’ race in November.

I’d actually started with Lance before I had to come out with the plantar issue. The first few weeks of the schedule were not fun. Or at least the morning after any run workout was not run. Overnight, my plantar fascia would tighten up and when I woke up and tried to walk, it felt like I had a knife in the bottom of my foot and heel. I found myself hopping or scooting to the bathroom in the AM due to the pain. I love racing, but life and walking is much more important. It was time to address the problem.

Long story short, this put me out of running for 11 weeks. As a substitute, I ramped up the bike volume and was working in water running, which was very, very not fun. I also started hitting our chiro/active release doc regularly to really stretch and work out that plantar area. The combination of all these activities seemed to be helping, however I knew I had a bit of a long road ahead of me.

A couple of months into this process was the local Lake Norman Triathlon race. This would be considered the ‘home race’. Part of the NC Triathlon Series. Two day event. At the Y where we are members/regular attenders, Sela’s preschool. 3 miles from the house. Where I swim train. You get the picture. I talked with Lance about the race, my chiro and my ‘other coach’ (Allyson) and the resounding answer I got was no way. After this much hard work and healing, it did not make sense to go out and hammer this race. So I didn’t. Sort of.

The agreement was that I could do two-thirds of it. The swim and bike. No run. This also meant no barefoot 200 yard run from the water to the transition area. So the plan was go hard as I could on the swim, exit the water, walk slowly to the TA, get on the bike, go hard as I could on the bike, and park it. This was going to be tough to do, but I had coach and family eyes watching me.

I worked my way toward the front of the swim wave and the horn went off. Luckily, no traffic at all in the water. Must have found a good pocket and line, as well as got off to a fast start. I felt great on the swim. Of course there is the blinding sun that hits you on the long stretch back to the shore, but that is a LKN race norm. I came out of the water, hit the mat and my split button on the watch and gasped. 13:10! Holy cow. This same race last year was a 15:20. Two full minutes. Since I was in no hurry whatsoever to get to the bike, I stopped to high five Lance who was there at the exit. Also said hey to Allyson and the girls, and patiently made my way to the TA. Smiling, of course. I learned later that just about everyone in the field had demolished their times from last year, which meant the course was probably a tad short. However I did certainly improve, because as a percentage of the entire men’s field, the LKN swim was the best swim finish I’ve ever had.

So onto the bike… which this year was shortened by several miles due to some construction on the course. This was a quite a bummer as we train often on this course and looked forward to seeing what we can do on it. The course ended up taking us down the familiar and very, very hilly Grey Road. Since I had no run to save for, I pretty much went out and rode as fast as I could for the 13.3 miles. It was fun. And a blur. Felt like I was out there for 10 minutes. I got passed late in the ride by a couple of guys from the age group that started behind me. Other than that, it was quiet, smooth sailing. I didn’t pay any attention to stats on the bike. Just pedaled hard. I pulled in and snuck a peek at the Garmin and again was shocked. I’d improved on last year’s mph average by a mile per hour. So I was certainly pleased with that.

There was a very brief, hard rain shower just as I was finishing the bike. Allyson and the family were there cheering. I parked the bike and the day was over. Given the good efforts on the swim and bike made not running more palatable for sure. Until the awards ceremony, which was a bummer. It ends up that if I had just matched last year’s run split, I probably could have placed in my age group. It’s not about winning or awards. It really isn’t. But the chance to place in an NCTS race at the ‘home track’ would have been really cool, especially in the very difficult 35-39 age group. But it wasn’t meant to be. Not on this day. But no big deal.

The day was a blast. So many friends out there racing. Great to be with them and the family enjoying a near perfect day in Cornelius, NC. And probably the best moment was walking back to the car when Allyson told me she was more proud that I didn’t run than if I had and placed. That made the decision all worth it. And I would live to see the next race. And hopefully pain free.

22 December 2009

07.25.09 - Birkdale Animal Hospital Kids Triathlon

50 yard swim, 1 mile bike, .3 mile run

So at this point, Sorelle had obviously been to a few triathlons. She’s talked about wanting to do one, but Allyson and I made a firm commitment that we were not, under any circumstances, going to force her to do one. She was going to have to want to do it on her own.

Here in Huntersville, they have a summer kids triathlon series that is run by two gals we know, Kathy Goody and Sarah Matchett. It is sponsored by the Birkdale Animal Hospital and timed by Setup Events. The races are held at Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic, same place as the MAP Tri from the last two years. And the race distances vary depending on the age of the child.

Well, Sorelle decided it was time for her to take on a tri. We were excited and supportive, however a bit leery as Sorelle had one good size limiter she needed to overcome, and quickly. The bike. She had never really loved riding her bike, approaching it with fear and timidity. Now she was going to have to ride in a gaggle of 7-9 year olds for a mile in fairly tight quarters. So we headed out to the local middle school a couple of times where they have a painted blacktop running track. Perfect training ground. Sorelle worked hard and got to a point where she was comfortable. It was time to race.

We had at least two-dozen friends/families out there that we knew either racing or cheering. We also had a good crew from the tri club helping out. And needless to say, the race site was complete mayhem. Chaos. Children everywhere. Parents everywhere. Frenzy, especially in the pool area where everyone was getting ready. Once the 4-6 year olds had cleared out, they opened up the starting area to the 7-9’s. Unfortunately, the kids tri is subject to the same ‘age up’ rule as the regular races. So 6 year old Sorelle was going to be racing against a bunch of 7-9 year olds.

We went out and got her T1 area all set up and walked through her exit strategy, all of which I was fully prepared for her to forget. I did the first time I raced. Parents are not allowed to assist the 7-9’s, so she was all on her own. I dipped her in the pool so she could get used to the water. A minute or two later, she was off and did so great. So cool to see her cruising through the water. She exited the pool and did fantastic on her transition. She slipped on her shoes and had about a hundred yard run to the bike area. I don’t know what was funnier – watching the kids exit and run to the bikes or watching the masses of parents running out of the building with cameras in hand frantically chasing after their kid. Me being one of them.

Sorelle got on her bike and took off. Unfortunately, it was at about half the speed of most everyone around her. Let’s just say she rode a very careful, calculated race. She was saving up watts for the run. I was so proud of her overcoming her fear of even getting on the bike. In spite of all the kids zooming by her, she was out there giving it her best and doing something she’d never done. Couldn’t be more proud.

The bike was four laps on a walking path around a ball field. She dismounted the bike with the assistance of a bunch of my tri club buddies and took off for her quarter mile run. She took off, bonked around half way and had to slow down to catch her breath, then kicked it in for the finish. A best moment of the day was her being greeted at the finish by her little sister, who gave her a huge hug. Sela was prepping for her big kids fun run that was coming up after the tri.

To this day, she thinks she won, and that is fine by us. In many ways, she did. I love the fact that she decided to take it on herself, put in the practice and overcome some fears. Can’t ask much more than that from a 6 year old.

We then watched Sela and a crew of little ones do a 100-yard fun run starting at one corner of the ball field and ending in the finish chute. So stinkin’ cute.

There was much to celebrate. And everyone was big hungry. So we and the Guthe’s went and refueled at none other than health food heaven, Five Guys. It was bliss. And messy.