Many things are transpiring in the Sweet household, however only those having to do with running will be revealed today.
Part of why I have not been writting much as of late is because I've registered to run The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k trail race in Madison, WI on September 17th! I've been working and training like there's no tomorrow. It's been over a year since I've been this excited about a race. My trail miles have really ramped up as of late, and this past Saturday I got 17 miles in just under 3 hours. I was surprised at how strong I felt, and could have gone for longer.Living in East Central Illinois does present some challenges in regards to trails, as there are a select few to choose from. I've sort of pieced together a loop that I run regularly out at Kickapoo State Park in Danville, IL which ranges from 4.75-5.25 miles (depending on if I add a small section or not). There are other, longer trails but I've chosen this because it presents the most singletrack mileage, and in my opinion, the most scenic route in the area.
As amazing as the run was for me Saturday, what transpired after was even more memorable. I took 15 minutes to sit in the river that runs through the park, and happened to look to my right to see 2 adult deer and 1 baby deer cross the river, nose around a little, and then cross the river again.
This is what I love most about trail running, the opportunity to see the land as it was created to be (somewhat). I love interacting with nature this way (however, I hate the constant barrage of spiderwebs). There's very few actions that give me more pleasure (spending time with family and friends excluded), and help me to focus on God. I think many times it's simply because there is nothing to distract me. I do carry my cell phone with me, and many times my FLIP camcorder and iPod for photos. But rarely do I take them out because I just want to enjoy being in the moment, just me, myself, sometimes a good friend, nature, and God.
As I was following a huge ultramarathon this weekend called the Western States 100, I ready a tweet on some female runners encountering a bear on the trail. While nothing remotely dangerous compared to that is seen at Kickapoo, I do love seeing deer and the occasional fox. The deer usually just stare as I run by, not really sure what to think (either that or they are severely unimpressed by my running ability).
This has really lit a fire with my training. I've found that I can train relatively strong for awhile without any race in mind, but eventually I need some sort of goal to work towards. And I think I've found that to be true of my relationship with God. Things go just fine for awhile, but then I lose focus. I lack direction. And everything begins to fall apart. What I constantly need, is to have in mind how I want my relationship with God to grow. One year I spent time focused on reading/studying on prayer. Last year I was focused on missions and walking out my faith/trust in God. This year it seems to be learning to be content no matter my circumstance.
This race is going to be more than just a race for me. It was a wondeful Father's Day gift from my wife first and foremost. I'll have the chance to travel to Wisconsin with 2 very good friends of mine, and we will camp out overnight. It will be a chance to spend some much needed, extended time in nature, God's creation, with some awesome followers of Jesus. The scenery will be great, the fellowship one of a kind, and God's presence will take the cake.
Well, it's time to tend to the laundry. Got some running clothes that need to be prepared for my training run on the trails of Kickapoo tomorrow.....