Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Chasing spring, spying summer

In years past, I tended to stay away from races in the winter, with only a few minor exceptions. I’m not a huge fan of running in deep snow or any kind of ice. If that’s your thing, fantastic. Not me. However, as 2018 came to a close and I began to lay out my plan for racing in 2019, I placed 2 races in the winter season. Both races were of the 50K variety, with one being flat (200’ of gain) and the other being anything but flat (6,000’ of gain). Following those races, I placed my first 100K (ever) at the end of April, in hopes that old man winter would be dead and gone by then.

Fortunately, the snow was long gone by the end of April and I was able to (mostly) enjoy my foray into running 60 miles at once. I could have done without the wind that day, but we powered through. Following that race, I stared hard at the calendar, as it would be 2-1/2 months before my next big race. Fortunately, there is much good that comes in these middle spaces for me. This past weekend, just 2 weeks removed from my 100K, my wife and I split a half marathon together as a race, taking 3rd among teams doing the “relay”. It was fun to see her do so well at just over a 10K distance, with no pain, and smiling at the end. We left there and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast together.

On the first weekend of June, we will get to run together again on a 6 person relay team, all in the name of fun, as the total race distance is only 54 miles, and we will be with friends. The following weekend, our eldest will graduate from high school and a great horde will descend upon our home for a great weekend of celebrating.

As I begin to ratchet my mileage back up, heading further into spring, I am reminded that I am very fortunate to have the support I have. This running community is something I deeply cherish, but more importantly is the team I have at home. My mental state is typically quite good when I am running and maintaining high mileage, but part of that mental state is knowing that I am well taken care of. I can see ahead to the summer and there are 2 major races coming, both being my golden rings for the year. I have high expectations for both, but before getting there, I have to train my socks off. It is humbling to know that the rails are secure beneath me as I carry on.

Run on, friends.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Post flu, finding dirt and testing new things

Week before last, I was coming out of my recovery week, following my most recent race. Typically, I like to kick the mileage down to the high 30’s or low 40’s, depending on how I’m feeling. My recovery week ended up being nearly 49 not the normal, but I was feeling great! Which is perhaps how I came down with the flu.

As I tripped into the week of the 11th, I went from feeling strong and ready to feeling weak and miserable. I took 3 days off in hopes of letting it pass and ran an easy 6 on the mill (read as dreadmill). Sadly, the idea of “burning” the sickness out by way of running hard was not as easy as I had hoped. Over the next 3 days, I did 11, then a double of 6 and 11, then finally another 11, to finish with 45 miles for the week. All this on a week that I felt should have been closer to 60. I get it, rest and recovery are critical, but when the brain pushes and the heart craves, the body relents, even when it screams stop.

The week of the 18th started with renewed hope. I got some intervals and stair work in, then a solid mid-tempo mill run, then a fairly crazy run in foot deep snow that required some crazy, high-knee work, but left me muddy all over. YESSSS!!

After a tough lunch run, which included some nasty 25 mph head winds and rain, I had hopes for a Saturday run on dirt. For those who haven’t had the joy of being buried by the snow this winter, let me just say that I have been aching to feel dirt under my feet for far too long. I took the advice of a fellow runner and friend and went east where I was told they had trails again. I showed up at the Barnes Butte (Prineville, OR) trail head just before 9am to meet my buddy. As we headed out, there was almost immediately the presence of ice and snow in the shadows of some nearby trees. But I had anticipated that and figured I would just get in 10-12 and be happy with whatever, expecting to traipse through a fair amount of snow. I had no idea how wrong I would be.

As we headed into the woods, it wasn’t long before we were climbing, which is kind of one my favorite things. I expected snow. There wasn’t any. We kept going up. There must be some at the top, I thought. I was wrong again. It wasn’t until we drifted off the north face of our climb before we found ourselves bounding through some 7-10” deep white stuff, but it didn’t last long. About a mile later we turned up another hill, heading south and east. There was a solid dirt trail the entire way. And soon, it was gone. We crested that hill and came upon glorious, sweet, beautiful, snow-free single track. My heart did a little jumping jack. My feet did a little dance. We moved on. For the next 6 miles we ran on nothing but dirt. Without snow. With no ice. Where rocks were visible. And it was amazing.

When we got back to the trail head, we both remarked how we had perhaps taken our trails for granted, ever since losing them to old man winter. This year, the snow came hard and fast, and covered everything with at least 2 feet of it, all within 24 hours. The treadmill became necessary and the flu became OK, because where was I going to run anyway?!

Saturday was the reset my heart and soul needed. It also provided me an opportunity to test new things, namely shoes and a neat new vest. I’ll post gear reviews soon for both, so stay tuned.

Tonight will be the cap to my week, finishing over 60 for the first time in a month. The flu seems to be mostly gone, although my voice is still suspect. The dirt is reappearing in most of my favorite haunts, and soon, all remnants of snow will be gone, for now.

Run on.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Moving in new directions requires change. For most of us, we regard change as scary and recognize how we will have to adapt to whatever the change is. Adjusting to change is prickly and it hurts. Things are no longer as they were.

As we age, we experience new things. We all change to some degree or another. Some of us choose to remain a certain way, based on our thoughts, our actions, our opinions, our decisions, our speech, our behaviors, and so on. Depending on your sphere of influence, you may remain the same because those around you remain the same. This happens in tight knit cultures and communities. In more open societies, where parents move around and kids are forced to make changes to their surroundings, their friends, their schools, their very way of lives, we see how change affects those thoughts, actions, opinions, decisions, and so on.

An outside influence can be very powerful for most people and is often the primary reason why change happens, even when we might not want it. When a job change happens unexpectedly, for whatever reason, it brings a change to the people you have around you. You begin to hear different voices, who have different opinions and live differently than the host of people you were surrounded by in your last job. The same can be said when you move, or change schools, or churches.

Another shift happens when you choose to make a major life change, such as quitting a harmful addiction. You may find yourself around a new group of people because you can’t be around those who fed your addiction. This is a part of the recovery process and is typically very healthy for maintaining the change you are making. But this also comes with its bevy of issues, because this new set of people also have their own behaviors and opinions and such. Their speech patterns and characteristics are different than what you have been used to so you must adapt. But you must also make new choices about what you choose to see, what you allow yourself to be controlled by, how you react, and so forth.

When I was younger, I remember reading a series of books that were known as “choose your own adventure”. The series was fascinating because throughout the book there were points where you had to make a choice that was to affect the outcome of the story. I loved this concept and read as many of the books as I could get my hands on. I even remember wanting to write my own! The idea hearkens from our own lives, where we have a set of choices to make each day. Those choices determine an outcome, and sometimes it’s not good. Each of us has made a bad choice or two, and had to live with the consequences. As we go through life, and change becomes a part of who we are and what we face, we must also recognize our own culpability in the change that takes place. The choices we make affect the changes that often occur. The choices of others have an affect on us, and likewise, the choices we make have an affect on others. This will always be true. We call this the ripple effect.

Currently, I am witnessing the outcome of decisions I have made in the past year. My decision to walk away from being a pastor is still being felt and it is having an impact on others. The decision to move towards being a competitive ultra runner is having a massive impact on others. The changes that are being wrought through these decisions are bringing change for people around me, not just me. These changes are not always easy to deal with and are often regarded as inconvenient and difficult. I am being impacted by those who desire certain things and decisions from me, regardless of my opinions. Each new place I walk into has new faces with new agendas and perspectives, it can all be very overwhelming. And yet through all of this, I am learning.

One thing for certain is people have weird expectations. I chose to use the word weird because I’m also trying not to piss everyone off. But in all honesty, the expectations of others often bring chaos to a situation when none was warranted. If you are a parent and you have an expectation that your child will wipe his butt after going to the bathroom, you probably have a right to be a little angry about massive skid stains when it’s time to do laundry. That might be a graphic example but I like to make it obvious. There are a lot of people in my life who, for whatever reason, have decided that they have some reasonable right to expect me to be something they want. If I had not witnessed it so glaringly in this last year it would be pure speculation, but this is blatant, much like my example above, and stinks just as much. Expectations are not always bad, but they tend to be best served when they are broadcast and everyone knows what they are. Instead, there are those who harbor expectations without sharing them and then decide you need to know them after you’ve made a decision that does not align with their irrationality. Once again, this stinks.

The struggle becomes more than real when relationships are tarnished in the process. What was something that could be counted on becomes something that is suspect, because privately held agendas are dangerous. And while change is difficult for some, it is extremely difficult for those who place hidden agendas and purpose upon certain individuals, only to realize that a person is not a commodity and is subject to change. One thing I am learning through this is who to trust and who to respect as a threat to my well-being. There are lots of well-meaning people out there who seem to want the best for you, but when you zig instead of zag, you must realize that your decision may have an insane impact upon them. Without question, this all brings up the necessity of communication, both spoken and written. Yet isn’t that a shame? It seems shameful to me that we can no longer trust someone because of their expectations of us, even if we simply tell them our plans. A true friend will support you in your plans and warn you if they seem crazy. But a true friend will not get upset at you because you didn’t do what they wanted you to do for yourself. That might seem like a real tongue twister, but it’s true.

In a deeper search for who I am, I have recently discovered some new things about myself. I have been sharing them with a few select individuals. In some cases, I have found unlimited support, but in others I have found disappointment; not for what I am doing, but for what I am not doing, which is what they would have me do. That hurts. A lot. But I’m still learning.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reflecting on 50

The number “fifty”, and therefore the word itself, has many connotations. If asked to list out prominent associations with the number 50, one might think of the golden wedding anniversary, which is indeed significant. Another representation of 50 may be in percentages, which is to say that 50 is half of something. There are many significant ways we use 50/50 as a ratio all the time. As you read this, you have certainly come up with other examples of how the number 50 can be seen as a popular number. For me, it has special meaning for a variety of reasons. Let me explain.

As aforementioned, 50 years of marriage is one way we are familiar with this number. Both sets of my grandparents were married for more than 50 years. One set made it 68 before my grandfather, on my mother’s side, passed. For me, marriage is a big deal. Enough so that I am convinced that God is calling my wife and I to serve married couples as long as we live. I will be 78 years old when my wife and I celebrate 50. I am looking forward to the next 30 years, and more, with my bride.

Long before 50 years of marriage becomes a reality for me, there are a couple of other significant mentions of this well loved number. This past summer has seen the completion of two 50K trail-running races. After having failed in 2 previous attempts back in 2014 to run this distance, I not only succeeded for the first time in July, but finished my second just 7 weeks after the first. Both of those accomplishments felt good, because I have begun to get a hold of what God has given me regarding this talent to run long distances.

After completing these two races, I began to set my sights on another 50, but this time a 50 miler, not a 50K. In the world of ultra-running, this is the next logical step forward. Running 50 miles is beyond imaginable for many, but for me it is just a stepping stone on my way to going longer. My first 50 miler is in my backyard, literally. I will have the pleasure of racing 50 miles up at Smith Rock, among friends and family. It is something I am looking forward to with much excitement.

50 as a number is certainly significant in regards to running, but it is also occupying a small piece of my brain in one other area, and that is age. I am just 20 months shy of turning the silver corner, and with it, allowing contemplation to play its part. Many people say that age is just a number and I am hardly one to argue. Others say that you are only as old as you feel. Depending on the day and the amount of miles I have run, there are some days I feel like 20 and others I feel like 80, but I am blessed beyond measure for the ability to even think about what I can do at my age, when so many others cannot.

The implications of 50 have never meant that much to me until this year, when suddenly I became aware of it like never before. Like the distance, I don’t dread the age, but look forward to it, recognizing it is one more thing to accept and embrace. If running 50 miles is as easy as I think it is, turning 50 should be a piece of cake.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

2 guys...walking home

Today we are going to walk through an amazing piece of Scripture. We will be working through Luke 14:13-35, learning about 2 guys who had their lives flipped upside down, then back over, then upside down again. Sound anything like your life sometimes?!

2 guys, walking home...for 5 hours.

Luke 24:13-14. 2 guys are walking home, talking as they go. A lot has happened in the past few days and this duo has seen it all. These 2 men were probably a little skeptical and may have had some doubts about what it all meant. Imagine you’ve seen a terrible car accident take place in front of you. Even if you didn’t know anyone involved, the sheer sight of tragedy can affect you in weird ways. In this situation, these two men had spent some serious time with Jesus and had witnessed His death. Even though they had heard rumblings of an empty tomb, the sheer sight of what they had seen just a few days earlier would have shaken them both.

Here’s a recap: In the last 3 days alone, they saw Jesus get crucified and die. All their friends scattered, including them, as they sought refuge from Jews who wanted them dead. These 2 were headed to Emmaus and it is believed they were on their way home. Were they escaping to safety? Were they fleeing because there were threats on their lives? Think about it, there had to have been countless questions and concerns in their minds. Can you imagine the conversation? The hushed voices that spoke with urgency and possibly fear? The furrowed brows, the looks of desperation?

2 guys, walking home, lots to talk about, lots to worry about.

Everything they had witnessed had been so dramatic, how could they not talk about it?! Further, there might have even been some conversation regarding what they were going to do if Jesus was indeed gone. What’s next?

Think about this for a moment. Try and relate to the shock and grief and confusion and crazy emotions that these 2 were going through. Before they had left on this journey they had heard that Peter, among others, had discovered the empty tomb. In fact, in verse 10 of Luke 24, it says that Mary Magdalene and other women had seen the empty tomb and had reported what they had seen to the apostles. These 2 men were apostles, so they were aware of the empty tomb. They had to have been so confused!

2 guys, walking home...hoping for hope.

And yet even with the confusion and drama of the moment, these two men headed home along this road that would take them to Emmaus. The trip took roughly 5 hours and had probably been made dozens of times by these two. They knew what they were in for. Realistically, they started their trip just after the sun came up that day. However, can you imagine a 5 hour trip made on foot? I think that’s the modern day equivalent of following your kids around Disneyland for a day.

In verse 15 it says that while these 2 were walking along, Jesus walks up and joins them on their journey. Jesus, being Jesus, gets right to the heart of the matter and boldly asks them what they are talking about. At the end of verse 17 it says that they stood still, looking sad.

2 guys, walking home...hope walks up.

Okay, so they’re walking along, Jesus walks up alongside and inserts Himself in the conversation and wants to know what’s up and these 2 guys stop walking and look at Jesus with what must have been an amazing and yet dumbfounded look (demonstrated through action). I can picture these 2 standing there with their hands in their pockets, scraping the ground with their feet, a single tear streaming down their faces, like 2 lost puppies, as they attempt to tell Jesus what happened to Jesus.

Our 2 heroes were so caught up in their own pity party, they didn’t even realize it was Jesus. Have you ever been there? Have you ever been so focused on what you were doing that you didn’t even realize the obvious? OK, show of hands, who here has hunted for their glasses only to discover they were on top of your head the whole time? Making matters worse is the person who points them out for you, as they laugh hysterically at you.
2 guys, walking home...hope is with them, even though they didn’t know it.

Fortunately, there is no written Scripture of Jesus laughing at these 2 men. Instead, they tell Jesus about Jesus and about all that had taken place over at least the past 2 years. About the crucifixion, the resurrection and about how there were those who had witnessed the empty tomb. In verses 22-24, we see the proof of the eyewitness testimony of the empty tomb and how these 2 men knew, but clearly they had massive doubt swirling inside because then Jesus hits them verse 25 and 26.

2 guys, walking home...hope builds.

Jesus may not have laughed at them but He certainly called them foolish and called their faith out on the carpet. These 2 guys were about to get the greatest history lesson of their lives, all while walking for 5 hours. Eventually, they get to where they were headed and even after being called dumb, our 2 gentlemen invited Jesus in for a meal. In verse 30, as Jesus is blessing the meal and breaking the bread to serve them, it says that their eyes are opened and they realize it was Jesus. This might be the world’s greatest AHA moment! Probably a little more special than when you reach up and grab those glasses from atop your head. You may have had an AHA moment but I’m sure you weren’t nearly as excited as these two were.

2 guys, walking home...hope arrives.

How many of us can honestly say that we recognize when God is right there with us? At moments of doubt and fear, don’t we usually turn inwards and focus on getting out of the hole we’re in? Think about it, you lose your job and what happens next? Within 5 minutes, the social media world knows everything and the “woe is me” party is on! We “travel” through life for the next several days adjusting to the new normal. Things are no longer the way they were and we immediately focus on ourselves. Why? Because it’s self-preservation! We freak out, we mope around, we complain about it, we rant a little and then we dust ourselves off and walk home!

Philippians 4:6-7 - “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

2 guys, walking doesn’t have to be this way.

These 2 guys had lost a lot and now they were walking home, not sure what to do next. Jesus walks up and immediately shakes these guys up. In fact, it’s like Lucy walking up to Charlie Brown and calling him a blockhead for doing something dumb. Jesus had spent some amazing quality time with these 2 men and now here they were, completely turned inward, focused on a life without Him. They were in fear, they were moping, they would have posted it on Facebook but, you know. The “woe is me” party was in full swing for a 5 hour walk!!

2 Timothy 1:7 - “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 guys, walking home...there is a better way!

Remember that feeling of realizing your glasses were on top of your head the whole time? Did you feel a little dumb? A little sheepish? A little embarrassed? Our eyes may have been kept from recognizing that our glasses were right there the whole time and yet it doesn’t change the fact they were there anyway, we had never lost them.

Matthew 28:20b - “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Here’s a bit of good news: We don’t know how long these 2 guys walked along before Jesus walked up but we know this, He did. And while Jesus was not immediately apparent for these 2 men to see, Jesus knew what these 2 guys needed, which was to be encouraged, educated a little, walked with, talked with and brought into a relationship. Jesus did all of this in just a few hours of walking.

Look, you and I are the 2 guys walking along the road. There are going to be times when bad things happen and we lose sight of our commission. We will get focused on the immediate and we will be fearful. In fact, we might even lose hope. Our 2 friends in Luke sure did. But here’s the beauty of it all...Jesus comes along and restores our hope. He restores our faith. He takes away our fears.

Isaiah 41:10 - “So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We are all walking home, each of us on a journey to one day dance with Jesus in heaven, singing the praises of our savior and our God forevermore!

I want all of us to consider this story for another moment. It took these two guys about 5 hours to walk to Emmaus. They were probably not in an exceptional hurry and walked as you and I might walk if were out for a hike. Now imagine you get to where you’re headed while being encouraged and educated along the way, by Jesus. Your eyes are opened to who He is. You go from being terribly depressed and edgy to enthralled and captivated and then finally you are full blown excited, ready to burst out of your own skin...what do you do?

You run back to tell the rest of your friends about what you have just seen and heard. I’m going to hazard a guess here but I think it took these 2 guys about an hour and a half to two hours to get back to Jerusalem!! They may have been motivated! But their hope had been renewed. They realized that Jesus was with them. They weren’t alone.

Joshua 1:9 - “Be strong. Be brave. Be fearless. You are never alone.”

2 guys, walking home...they were never alone.

We are not alone, even when we might think we are. Our God has promised us that He will always be with us. As we move towards a time of response, you may find yourself feeling as if you are walking this road alone. With every head bowed and every eye closed, as the worship team comes forward, if you are feeling like God is no where near you and everything good in your life has suddenly vanished; If you feel fearful, scared about what’s going to happen next and you don’t know what to do; If you felt that God was close to you but now you don’t know where He is in your life; come and find an altar. There, be renewed by the presence of a living God. Our prayer team will come and pray with you. Let us respond.