my search to understand the bigger picture

Sunday, September 18, 2011

TNF Endurance Challenge, Madison, WI 50k

Josh and Robbie having some God time around the campfire Friday morning. Fire had pretty much gone out by this point.

Hidden from view is Robbie violently attacking a defenseless piece of wood. It never stood a chance. We were able to gather so much wood we didn't have to buy any the entire weekend.

What I was to wear and carry the morning of the race.

A few miles into the race. This is what much of the first third of the race looked like scenery-wise.

Just another part of the trail.

Looking uphill.

I loved running through this forest filled with tall trees like these.

Much of the middle third of the race was run through prairie such as this. It was pretty, but I could have done with a few less miles of this.

However, it was fun to be able to see other runners for quite a ways.

Still in good spirits towards the end.

I had an absolutely amazing experience this past weekend at The North Face Endurance Challenge in Madison, Wisconsin. I was just joined two great friends, Josh Hoerman and Robbie Watson. This weekend was a dream 4+ years in the making for me. I've dreamed of doing this race ever since it's inception, and it finally came to pass.

We left early afternoon Thursday and got to our campsite around dinner time. It was a perfect night for camping, as the temperatures crept to a chilly 33 degrees by midnight. We enjoyed a roaring fire for many hours, and rarely have cheese dogs and brats tasted so good. We slept in Friday morning, and then feasted on a large breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and coffee. Of course, we got a fire going again too until we were warmed up. We just kind of sat around lazily and enjoyed each other's company, stopping for about half an hour so we could each read our own Bibles.

Eventually we made our way into Brookfield to pick up my race day packet, and also found a store for some much desired cheese curds. And then it began to rain. It rained and rained and rained. The forecast called for 20% chance. but it continued to rain, driving us into the comforts of the tent. It finally began to let up, just in time for us to head back to town for a race panel with professional North Face athletes Dean Karnazes and Tim Twietmeyer. I didn't really hear anything new, but it was still great to see these two legends in person. It was interesting to hear Tim speak on the topic of getting enough rest, not very common among runners. We all know the importance, but I'm not sure how many actually put this into practice very well.

With our firewood being wet, we turned to the wonders of Chipotle for dinner. While it was subpar for our tastes, it was still better than many alternatives. By the time we made it back to camp, Robbie was able to get a fire going so we enjoyed that for a few more hours before heading to bed.

I was actually amazed at how well I slept both nights. This played a HUGE role in how my race played out Saturday morning. I had no plans of running well. My goal was simply to finish under 8 hours and just enjoy myself. I wasn't sure if I had quite put in enough training, and while I did probably half of my miles on trails, wasn't sure how those would compare to the trails in Wisconsin. Plus, I had scratched my foot pretty good Wednesday night, and it was still quite sore.

The weather was crisp Saturday morning, and the rain the day before actually helped firm up some of the horse trails where sand was found. These was a mist over the fields as we walked to the starting area. I can't say enough about how important it was to have Josh and Robbie there. The support they provided was invaluable!

Well, we finally got under way, and I remember during the first mile thinking how shocked I was at how slowly the leaders were going. I tried extremely hard to take it easy at the start. The goal was to conserve as much energy at the start as possible so that I didn't have to limp in at the end of the race. I kept a pretty conservative pace heading into the first aid station. Again, it was so great to see the friendly faces of Josh and Robbie.

Aid station volunteers are the greatest! They make you feel like a million bucks; like they are there JUST for you. But, there's something about having people there that actually know you that just boosts your spirits even more. That's what Josh and Robbie did. I made it clear that I had no problems with them doing their own thing during the race, since neither are runners. But they are amazing friends!

After chatting with them, I darted off to cover another 5 miles or so before seeing them again. These trails were a mixture of single track and horse trails with sand, but came and went pretty quickly. At this aid station I stopped and chatted with the boys some more. I was very happy with how I was feeling at this point, and had kept my pace the same thus far. An interesting side note was what I was craving for food at the aid stations. In the past, boiled salted potatoes has been my go to, with a little fruit as well. But on this day, I was craving Mountain Dew, Coke, and orange slices. That's what I stuck with. I tried a few potatoes but it just wasn't doing much. I partook of a few gels, but only maybe 4. Pop, oranges, and electrolyte drink was the token of the day.

Up to this point I hadn't really spoken with too many people. I was just enjoying the scenery. At the beginning I spoke with 1 gentleman who had run Comrades Marathon in South Africa the same year I had. And I had run behind the same group of runners for a few miles, but really had been silent. But during this middle third of the race I struck up conversations with two gentlemen, Mike and Brent. Mike had done some crewing of other runners in 100 mile races, and decided to give it his own go at a trail ultra. He was having some knee issues, but was giving it his all which was commendable. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to pray for his knee until after I eventually left him behind. I'm a work in progress.

Brent has run 4 of the 6 Endurance Challenge stops, and is a doctor from Boise, Idaho. His wife was there as well, running the marathon. He was there just to have fun, and as part of rehad on his foot. He had unknowingly broken his foot during indoor soccer season this winter, and had still run The North Face event in New York earlier this year. He ran that on a broken foot. AMAZING! Trail runners are some of the toughest people I have ever met!

These two guys helped me get through this middle third of the race, and by the time I saw Josh and Robbie around the mile 22 aid station, I was shocked at how good I was still feeling. At this point, I realized that I was going to easily beat 8 hours, and my best guess was that I'd come in somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30. Surely I would begin to slow down at some point. But, for the most part, the only times I spent walking was during uphill portions of trail.

The miles continued to click off with ease. I even called Emily (my wife) and the girls somewhere around mile 24 or 25, and just chatted on the cell phone while I ran. 6:15 was really beginning to look like a possibility, especially considering I still felt amazingly strong. I can't remember exactly when, but somewhere between mile 27 and mile 28 I began to think I might have a chance of breaking 6 hours. The only way I had thought this would happen before the race was if EVERYTHING went right. I didn't even really allow myself to daydream about this.

At mile 28 I finally hit somewhat of a low point, and decided it was finally time for a little mood music. So I put on the ipod, and cranked out some P.O.D., Hillsong United, and Seventh Day Slumber. THIS DID THE TRICK! My next mile went pretty well, and so I texted Emily to ask her to pray for me, as I was going to push to break 6 hours. I had 2 miles left and about 24 minutes. And, wouldn't you know it, the text wouldn't go through. And the next moment I found a huge hill to climb. So I figured that was it.

By the time I got to the top of the hill, I thought I might as well try to get as close to 6 hours as possible, and then a text came through from Emily encouraging me to forget about what how my body was feeling. And that was all I needed! I kicked it into high gear, and a few moments later came upon a long stretch of downhill. I knew once I got to the bottom of that I had about a mile of road left until the finish line, and I just might be able to do it.

Well, I did break 6 hours, coming in at 5:57:21! Never have I had a race go well. I almost always going out too fast at the start, and crash at the end. But on this day, I never really felt weak at all. In fact, I almost felt like I got stronger as the race went on, as my last mile ended up being my fastest of the day!

This was an amazing experience for me, capped by an amazing race! This entire weekend was all I could have dreamt it would be. I can't say thank you enought to my wife, Emily, for okaying the trip, and to my wonderful friends Josh and Robbie, for coming along and spending the weekend camping with me. Couldn't have spent it with two better friends!

As I type this, I'm not really sure what's next running wise for me. I know I'd love to head up to Chicago in a few weeks to run with my Team World Vision friends, as they are doing a 100 miler in conjunction with the Chicago Marathon. The 4 of them are trying to raise up 400 child sponsors for children in Africa through World Vision. They will run 73.8 miles through the night, and finish the last 26.2 with the Chicago Marathon. I'd love to run through part of the night with them, but we will see. I also know of a trail 50k in December in Indiana, that I'd love to try. Other than that, who knows. There's a 30 miler in March in the area. I'll just have to keep my eyes open and do some research.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

For Someone Out There......

For some reason, Psalm 32:7 came to mind yesterday while driving into work. Just the reference. So when I got to church I looked it up, but still didn't make much sense to me at that moment. Many times, I might get some sense of a passage I might need to check out, and then it provides me with exactly what I needed at that moment.

This was different.

It almost felt like this was for someone else.

But I never really felt moved to share it with anyone yesterday. It did, however, open my eyes to possibilities while I was out doing some last minute shopping for my trip this weekend. Because of this awareness, I was able to invite someone to church this weekend, a worker in one of the stores. We had a great little conversation that didn't last long, but ended with us exchanging names and hand shakes, and well wishes.

This is not something I'd normally have done in the past. Not because it's not important, but because I wouldn't have thought to do so. That's why I love the church I attend and work at. People there challenge me all the time. Challenge me to let my faith be something that blesses others, and is not just held tightly to make my life better.

So, the highlight of my day yesterday was my conversation with that woman in the store, and inviting her to church. And yet, I still had not shared this verse. So I post it here today, in the hopes that someone in the vast scope of the internet universe may find this and receive something.

Psalm 32:7
"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."

In a few hours I leave for Wisconsin, to fulfill a dream I've long held of running The North Face Endurance Challenge up there. I'm so excited to spend a couple of days with some great friends, whom I don't see nearly as often as I should anymore. What could be better than camping, friends, and trail running long distances with a newly cut foot that's bleeding through my bandaids as I speak?



Yeah, last night I was moving the dishwasher, and cut my foot. I was/am pissed, but the show must go on. I've got 2 days for it to heal, plus multiple bandages, wraps, duct tape, and grit. This will not slow me down nor keep me from this dream.

But if you think of it, throw up a prayer for some quick healing please! Ha ha, in reality, I have to laugh at this situation. Gotta love it.

Gonna be an amazing weekend. Only thing missing is my family. But hey, at least I have them to come home to!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Should Have Done More

All day, I've been thinking on and off about a situation that happened at church this morning. This video kind of brought some things to light to me tonight.

I was getting ready to leave church this morning, and apparently a gentleman had wandered in off the street in search of some food. Another staff person had spoken to him and wasn't sure what exactly to tell him, so they approached me to see what I thought. My first thought was maybe I'd get him a donut or something from our cafe area. The line had to be 30 people deep.

I fought back thoughts of "This isn't my problem. I've got groceries to get. I haven't eaten yet today. I want to get home." Then I remember our church was hosting an event for people new to the church where we offer them free pizza as they get the chance to meet some of our staff and learn more about the church. So I suggested to our staff person that they could mention to the gentleman he could have some pizza if he sat through the session.

As I drove away from the church I felt ashamed. I wanted to drive back to the church, just walk in and grab a few slices of pizza, and sit down with the man. But I didn't. I wanted to find him and take him somewhere else for some food, and just spend time with him. But I didn't.

Deep down, honestly, I didn't want to be bothered with other people's problems. I didn't want to be inconvenienced with his situation. I didn't want to deal with helping the staff person figuring this out. I didn't want to deal with anyone.

I had my own issues going on, and I wanted to wallow in self-pity without having to focus on someone else for once. And then I felt shame. Deep shame. I almost felt Jesus' heart sink just a little.

I call myself a Christian, and serve on the staff of a church. I claim to love people, and care about the poor. I talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

I'm a hypocrite. Holy Spirit, please give me another chance. Please forgive me. Help me to be better. Help me to care.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Part Insanity, Part Genius!

The title is the quote from the end of the video you just watched. I've watched this a couple of times now, and every time I was left with this sense of "that's how I want to live my life for Christ". I want to live with recklous abandon for Him.

I want to go for it all, knowing that you never really achieve great things without taking great risk. My heart wants to go after something with absolutely EVERYTHING I've got, holding nothing back, no excuses left!

And yet, to be honest, I'm not sure I've ever attacked anything in my life in this manner.

Most things I go about doing with a sense of hesitation, holding back something. I suppose the fear is that nothing I do will ever quite be good enough, so the thinking is why pour 100% into something if it's not going to be good enough. This has proven to be a difficult challenge to overcome throughout the years.

Yet, there is something deep inside of me that longs for more. Almost that longs to fail in such an incredible way because I absolutely went for it all. Have I done some incredible things in my life? Yeah, I think so. Raising over 30 child sponsorships for my race in South Africa last year certainly ranks up there. Raising my two daughters to love Jesus and the 2 children we sponsor is pretty good as well. Loving my wife and still being married after 8+ years is definitely something to feel good about.

And yet, if I'm honest, I've held back in each area. Why? Simple.


Fear that my efforts won't be good enough.

Fear that I won't be good enough.

And that's why I hold back from God. Fear that He will find me to not be good enough.

Ladies and gentleman, this is what we call a LIE.

Because of what Jesus has done for me, God the Father WILL find me to be enough. I will bring Him pleasure. He will find delight in my, and in a relationship with me! So how do I combat that; how do we combat this together?

We fight back.

WE FIGHT BACK! We try something that we would never think we could pull off. Now, I'm not talking about being reckless or foolish. But I think we all have something that we'd love to be able to pull off, and yet fear holds us back. I might be talking about something personal yet meaningless like bungee jumping. I might be talking about something like offering to pray for my best friend who's going through a divorce right now. I might be talking about giving up cable to sponsor another child in another part of the world. I might be talking about putting down the computer and playing with my children. I might be talking about planning a romantic date night for my wife without the kids. I might be talking about walking up to a person in Walmart who I don't know but sense God asking me to pray for.

It doesn't really matter what I'm talking about. What matters is stepping out. Here's your permission, GO AHEAD AND TAKE A RISK! I journaled the other day that I want to be rich in life experiences, not material possessions. Boy, that one sure hurt. There's nothing more I'd like than to have an unlimited budget for toys. And yet, at the end of the day, what I remember most are experiences I've had, not things I've wasted money on.

So, today I challenge you. TAKE A RISK! Don't settle for a life of meaningless pursuits. You've only got one life to live, so GIVE IT YOUR ALL! Don't hold back, as I've done! No regrets! Sure, you'll make some mistakes along the way. But you'll learn and adapt; God will mold you, and you be the better for it.

So go ahead, take the first step, jump off that cliff, step out of that airplane, be rich in life experiences! Make a difference in someone else's life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Love this video!

I love so many of the thoughts of the different professional runners on this video. Kind of sums up most of what I love about running.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Family Fun-Labor Day 2011

We began our door by enjoying the festivities of a little kung fu fighting with a praying mantis! (that song always pops into my head when I see one of these) I think I was more enthralled than Zoey, but I enjoyed a few moments with our new found friend anyways. We were excstatic when he happily olbiged at having his picture taken!

So, we attempted to take the girls camping last night. Well, sort of.

All the spots during this weekend around the country are probably full every year. So, we decided to just do a little campout in our backyard. I put up the tent (two actually), got a fire going, and we were on a roll. It's never quite this simple when doing anything involved with children. They actually did well. The fire was the tricky part since it had rained on and off the last two days, making the wood a little wet. My first go around was unsuccessful, so I resorted to what all non-outdoorsy types resort to, GASOLINE! (much to my wife's disapproval). Thankfully, I'm blessed to have Emily around to keep me under control, so I dripped a few drops of gasoline on the wood, nowhere near enough, and it did nothing. So I dumped some more on, and nearly knocked myself over as I lit the instantaneous inferno, and all was right with the universe.


We feasted on perfectly roasted hot dogs, chips, cheese puffs, pop, and eventually moved on to the GRAND FINALE, s'mores!

This s'more was amazing, to say the least! I did in fact, only eat one of these bohemoths, but it got the ball rolling. My next s'more adventure may include pop tarts, peanut butter cups, and who knows what else I can come up with. THIS one included:

graham cracker
peanut butter
1/2 Hershey chocolate bar
chocolate brownie
1/2 Hershey chocolate bar
peanut butter
graham cracker

Oh yes, it was the SHOWSTOPPER! Once we finished with the s'mores, we attempted to put the children to bed. It's quite possible that Zoey finally fell asleep after about an hour, but no one can stand up to the best sabotage attempts of our youngest, our dear little Hadley. She just likes to mess with people. She's the ultimate prankster, even at the young age of 3. Finally, I think it was about 10:30 or so, we decided it would be best for Emily and Zoey to head inside so that they could at least get some sleep. I cuddled with Hadley and eventually we dozed off for a few hours. We finally awoke to the cool, crisp morning air, and the first words out of her mouth.........."You're the best daddy in the world!"

Music to my ears! Totally worth every second! What more could a dad ask for? We sat in the tent for a few moments before coming inside, only to find Zoey already awake. Hmmmmmm, I'm thinking the girls will definitely be put to bed early today for naps. Hopefully they behave for Emily today while I'm trail running, attempting to run off that 10 pound gigantic s'more.

So, for now, strong coffee is the order of the day. And thinking back on some great memories.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hebrews 13:5-6

"Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, 'I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,' we can boldly quote,
'God is there, ready to help; I'm fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?" -The Message

A good word for today, especially for Americans. How often am I consumed with getting the next big thing, especially when it comes to running? How easily I forget all I NEED to run is road. Technically, I don't even need shoes! But yet, I want the latest in technology, the latest fad in footwear and clothing, the latest GPS watch, etc. It gets out of control very quickly.

Why is it that I'm very good at being obsessed with getting material things, but rarely obsessed with God? Why am I not more obsessed with showing God's love to others? Why doesn't that control the majority of my thoughts?

What a sad state I live my life in all too often. My life is a living testament to the truth that we need daily renewing of our minds. I love Romans 12:2 in the King James Version.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." I love the word "renewing" here because it indicates to me a constant action. This is something that must happen regularly.

And that makes complete sense! Of course we must continually renew our minds because Satan is continually attacking us! This is no accident. Of course he wants to distract me with materialism, he wants to distract us with anything that works! Sometimes he makes life so difficult, and we begin to really focus on Jesus, then all of a sudden life takes a turn for the better, and we loose our focus. Just had a conversation today about that. WE MUST CONSISTENTLY RENEW OUR MINDS, AND KEEP OUR FOCUS ON JESUS, REGARDLESS OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES!

So, where do you stand today? Maybe, like me, you need to do a little renewing of your mind. Work with me to stop focusing on ourselves, and focus on Jesus and others.