Friday, April 21, 2017

Boston, When heartbreak hit before Heartbreak Hill.

Accidents happen every day. I accidentally missed my turn, or I accidentally spilled my coffee.  However running accidents are quite different. One does not accidentally run a marathon any more often then someone accidentally runs a lifetime best. Those are not accidents but accomplishments. I also have yet to hear of someone who accidentally lost 25lbs. If you or I want to accomplish something worth being proud of it is going to take time, dedication, hard work, and patience.  

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is no accident either. I am very fortunate to have over a decade of competitive running under my belt that helped me to easily hit the time and do so without being injured. The stress of wondering if I am in or running multiple races to hit the time I was able to forgo. God had a different plan for me. My road to qualify was quite easy with a 2:36 qualifying time but the road from Hopkinton to Boston for me was quite the opposite.
There were no accidents in my preparation for the 121st Boston Marathon. I knew when it was, how many weeks I had to prepare, and was able to even look over past training plans I have used for other runners to help me prepare. My friends who have ran Boston and other marathons also helped me in my planning so that I could have a smooth training cycle and what I hoped would be a fast and exciting Boston Marathon. This would be my first marathon that I spent adequate time training and putting in the long runs over 20 miles and had some of the highest volume weeks that I had ever ran. I was set up for what on paper should have been a low 2:30's marathon.  

Arriving in Boston with my mom and brother for support I was filled with excitement. The Boston Marathon is one of the largest marathons in the world and famous for the crowds who line the 26.2 miles. On ever street corner I saw the familiar faces of runners who were obviously in town for the same reason as I. 32,000+ athletes do not accidentally sign show up for this race it is an event that is on bucket lists for countless runners. While in town I managed to see the Boston Red Sox win, went to the most exciting race expo I have ever seen, and saw countless historic buildings that make Boston the city that it is. The Boston Marathon is a point to point race and with that comes a long bus ride to the start line. I could write for pages on all that goes into those hours that lead up to the marathon but for your sake I will skip ahead.  

At the start I was able to find a familiar face in my friend Stephen who had helped me so much in preparation. Although the temperature was already 25 degrees higher than forecasted, I was quite relaxed as I began the journey back to Boston. The course starts out down hill with unbelievable crowds on both sides making you feel like you are standing next to Taylor Swift in a parade. They cheered and cheered and I reminded myself to be patient, dont accidentally throw down a 5 flat mile right off the bat. It felt like a recovery run as I went through the first 10K in 35 minutes. I would take a water to drink and grab 2-3 more cups to douse myself with to help keep cool. Despite my efforts the lack of shade and burning hot blacktop was taking its toll. I felt like I was in a sauna as the slight tail wind did nothing for cooling and the sweat was dripping off my face. As I reached the Wellesley tunnel I still felt strong with my legs but was suffocating with the heat. My time had remained well under 6minute pace and I knew that this was a pace I could sustain. Sixteen miles in and I still felt strong yet had a nauseous feeling creeping in. It wasnt much longer and I knew I had to vomit. Throwing up my gels and what water I hadnt sweated out I knew I was in trouble. Telling myself to relax and ease off the pace a little I lasted another mile or so and was throwing up again. Now I knew the tank was empty and I had no chance of holding water down. A volunteer handed me a bottle of water which helped because I could continually drink without being in an aid station but I was becoming dizzy and dazed. Now at 20 miles in my friend Nick ran by with encouragement but despite wanting to go faster I knew it was now a race to survive and not for time. I felt like I was crying but no tears came down my face as trudged through the hills. This was not the Boston I had expected but I reminded myself to be strong and thought of all of the people who were watching my updates online. I wanted to be done so I could tell my family I was ok. Finally I made the last turn onto Boylston St. and could see the finish. The energy was amazing yet I couldn't care less. All I wanted to do was finish and finish I did. Crossing the line I crumbled to the ground and was grabbed by medics who hauled me to the medical building. Dozing in and out of contagiousness I had flashbacks to my heat stroke almost four years ago in Boulder Community Hospital. They warned me that I would always struggle with the heat in the future and they weren't lying. The medics took my temperature in a way I did not enjoy and informed me I had a temperature of over 100 degrees. With ice packed around me an IV in my arm I slowly returned to normal. After a long time there I met my mom and brother and hugged and cried as I was heartbroken. This was not how it was supposed to go, this was not the Boston Marathon I had dreamed of. Back in the hotel I could not believe the number of messages, texts, and calls I received from friends giving kind words and encouragement. I was reminded that I finished the Boston Marathon on a brutally hot day. My time despite being nearly 30minutes slower than my qualifier I had still managed to requalify for next year. There are so many things to be thankful for and although I will not return next year I would be I will have another date with Heartbreak Hill and next time I will not be heartbroken when I get there. Thank you to all my amazing family and friends and for all the kind words. Accidentally or not I learned a lot about being Boston Strong and how blessed I truly am.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The forgotten Bible verse

I, like countless young Americans, have tattooed the famous Bible verse of Philippians 4:13 on my body. Even non-believers are familiar with the verse. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Of course, this verse is taken too often to mean that God will help me to run a sub four minute mile based off will, or that I will land a career bringing home six figure income without ever working a day in my life. This famous verse is the verse that gives the false assumption that God is a genie,  not the Lord of all creation. I do not see God sitting in heaven waiting for someone to read this verse, and then dropping cash and success on that person. Knowing that I have this verse tattooed on my body, I find myself seeing it on countless others, and I always try to ask when I notice it what their thoughts are on Philippians 4:10-12, focusing primarily on 4:12. Shockingly, I have yet to meet a person who has 4:13 on them who can recite 4:12; this makes me aware there is a problem. Philippians 4:12 is the forgotten verse that shows that any verse out of context can not only lead us astray but can also set us up for failure. 
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." After reading this verse, I am not saying I am free from wanting more or praying for more, or even worse, believing I deserve more. Paul when he wrote this verse was starving in a jail cell and yet was not concerned with his chains or lack of food but instead found comfort in knowing that Christ is enough.  
After leaving Kansas and moving back to Colorado, I took a leap of faith that God would provide for me. This sometimes in my delusions meant a great coaching career or financially successful business career and moving into a big house near my favorite trails and parks. This has, however, yet to happen. God has not forsaken me, but instead has been reinforcing the most forgotten Bible verse. Being content does not mean I will be content after I get the great career or house or whatever worldly possession I dream of. It comes from being content renting a room from a friend and working two part time jobs, and if need be a third. Being content as Paul was, is not something that comes easy. Paul himself says he has "learned" the meaning. Like anything, it takes time and will not come easy. So, the next time you or I think, I need to move to Denver or to another state, or that God is holding out on us, perhaps He is not telling us to quit working or believing,  but simply to be content. To be happy and count our blessings instead of looking over the fence at the greener grass that someone else has. Having something we don't yet possess will not bring us contentment, only trusting God with all our lives will do that, and in turn we will be content and will rejoice as Paul did in whatever we have.  
Take heart for God has not forgotten us nor does he want us to give up on our dreams or goals. He wants us to be content as we live each day to spread His word across the land and to use the gifts He has so generously given.   

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What’s with all the noise?

It is no secret I have always thrived on movement.  From childhood until now I have lived to run, bike, or do anything that kept me on the go.  Sitting in class going through school was torture for me, as I think more clearly and am calmer with movement.  This movement has also become an important piece of my faith. 
Coming to God in prayer seems simple: you pray for your relative with cancer, you pray for grandpa who is sick and throw in a thank you for the blessings that God has given you.  This, however, I do not see as enough.  One must have a relationship with God.  He is not some distant friend who you share the basics with and then depart.  God should be with you in the deepest of ways, and there should be a closeness to you with no secrets hidden.  
So, what does all the noise have to do with prayer, one may ask?  I personally respond better in prayer and feel closer, more vulnerable, more clear in my prayer without the distractions.  I still can have great conversations with God at stoplights or even in bed before falling asleep, but there is a stillness, a peace that comes from praying without the noise, without the distractions.  For this reason, escaping to the mountains for hiking, running, or cycling has always resulted in some of my greatest spiritual eye opening prayers with God.  Movement is not the problem; it is the noise, the to-do lists, the opportunities to check my phone, or worry about everyone else’s problems along with mine.  I can be vulnerable and really dive into my faith, my problems, my struggles, and feel direction in my heart after doing so.  While being vulnerable, I can admit my flaws and admit that the struggle I may be going through was my own doing and that I should fix the problem I created.  But I could really use God's help or direction in how to get out of the mess I created.  Now, just because I enjoy escaping to the wilderness or a workout to get deep in prayer does not mean one cannot be as successful in their own home.  I have heard from several friends that they feel so at peace in their own homes or with their significant other that they can pray the deepest of prayers with them and in their home.  I hope some day that I can find such a woman and create such a home.  I have a hard time believing it will be quite the same as my prayers that I have prayed in the mountains, but if that day comes, I will welcome it.
So, my advice to you is to find your place of comfort.  It does not have to be the mountains or in movement, but having a place of security where you can pray and truly open up to God is vital for the growth of your spiritual health and relationship.  If you have a place, then I encourage you to go a step further and find someone you feel comfortable with so your prayers can be shared and amplified, as the power of prayer works.  Cut out the ear buds, the cell phones, and anyone that does not help you grow or allow you to be close to God.  Get rid of all the noise, and fill yourself with the peace that comes from deep and honest prayer. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Journey Continues

Taking the initial step into the unknown, I thought was going to be the hardest part of moving to Colorado.  For years I had felt pulled home, closer to family and to the state that I love.  I had known that coming home was the right decision, but knowing the right decision and going through with it are not always a simultaneous act.  I have heard story after story from so many friends, even my closest of friends who are in a tough situation or situation that is far more drastic than just feeling called home.  Yet they struggle to go through with it.  Why is it so hard to take the step that you know is the right one?  Maybe it is leaving some place, some career, or someone who is holding you back or simply not the right place, career, or person to be sharing your life with?

In the book of Matthew after Christ is seen by his disciples walking on water, they question whether it is really their leader.  After they are sure it is Him, Peter asks to join Jesus on the water and walks out to him.  Despite the fear we all have in making a tough decision, Peter too had fear, but seeing Jesus standing firm on the sea he asked to join Him and began walking on water as Jesus was.  The initial courage, perhaps like jumping out of a plane, is easier than the courage it takes to stay committed once one is in free fall. 

So, what happens after you have made the decision and taken the first step, to get out of the boat and walk on the water with Christ?  Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who keeps the faith, and everything goes according to plan and works out.  But maybe you are like me, struggling in Colorado to still find my way.  While I still stand behind the decision, it does not mean the struggle is not real.  Sinking at times I am reminded by Peter that my eyes must stay fixed on Christ.  In Matthew 14, we are reminded that Christ is here for us and that we should not be afraid to follow our heart.  Second, that when He says to "Come," we need to act and know that He will be with us through the entire journey.  Finally, that if we begin to struggle or sink that we must hold to our faith.  Christ asked, "Why did you doubt?" and in our struggles we must not doubt.  Standing firm in our faith and trusting in Him to our path that He has laid in front of us may be difficult, but refusing to act and follow our hearts will only separate us from Him. 

My advice to you is to first listen to God and trust your heart.  Once you have made the decision, do not hesitate; there is rarely a good time for a tough decision, so acting will begin the tough process but bring happiness all the sooner.  Finally, if things do not go according to plan, do not turn and try to swim back to the boat, for Christ is closer than the boat, and keeping your eyes and heart fixed on Him trusting in your decision and faith in God will deliver you from the sea and to your dreams.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Goodbye KWU

 After seven years of coaching college and four years as an athlete, I have seen countless coaches in many sports come and go.  I even have my own experience leaving Baker University as a graduate assistant.  It seems that even a scheduled departure from a university is met with sadness and even sometimes hostility and anger.  When I left Baker, the majority of my athletes were very understanding that I was not offered a full time position and had no choice but depart.  So, I began a new chapter at Kansas Wesleyan University with one athlete.  Despite the dismal program I inherited, I knew I was doing what I had to do and more importantly what I wanted to do.   Each year I worked hard to recruit athletes, helping them grow as student athletes and young adults.  Currently with signings and returning athletes I have grown the program from 1 athlete to over 40 athletes.  I arrived with no uniforms, hurdles, or even a track. While at KWU, I feverishly spent more of my time calling alumni and writing letters to get our new facility built.  I also was the first coach in school history to coach both a men's and women's team to the national championship in cross country.  My years here at KWU have held some unforgettable moments that I will always remember.

In making a decision to coach at the college level I chose to forgo high salaries, enjoying weekends and holidays with friends, and even gave up most of my evenings for seven years, constantly texting and calling recruits to answer questions.  I loved what I did and as a young single man with a healthy family five hours away in Colorado it was a great time. I now have made what is potentially one of the toughest decisions I will ever make.  I am resigning as the head cross country, track and field coach at Kansas Wesleyan University. 

Automatically people assume that my resignation means I was asked to leave which is not the case. Not only did KWU want to keep me, they just offered me a raise to stay.  So, failure and salary had nothing to do with my decision.  Next, one might assume I have a coaching position lined up in Colorado, and at this time that is also not the case.  I still believe KWU is an excellent choice, as it has some of the finest coaches and professors anywhere.  My respect for my athletic director has even grown as he has stood up for me and my athletes multiple times.  I do believe that KWU is extremely top heavy with administration, but that doesn't apply to athletics or my decision.  I have arguably the strongest men and women's team I've had in my five years at KWU and know that a trip to nationals is likely for both.  Even the track only athletes will give KWU the highest placing I have ever had in track. 

Leaving is not an easy decision and has been weighing heavily on me for quite some time.  I've done my best to hide it while focusing on my athletes and growing my program.  I am not leaving for objective reasons. Instead, it is my heart pulling me home to Colorado.  My father will be 70 years old soon and has been fighting and so far beating cancer for over a year now.  This has made this past year more difficult, as time with him and family seems more precious than ever before.  I also have a love for Colorado that any who have met me would know.  It has been hard living away from the running community there, and even my best friends from college admit they are shocked that I have not moved home to look for a career there sooner.  My faith and happiness is at its strongest in Colorado.  Along with my family and friends it is where I must be.  There is never a good time to leave as a coach as each year I will have exciting young athletes that I love and care for.  I am choosing to leave now with the hope that a new coach will be blessed with a great team, and they can support each other.

I want to conclude by saying I will miss Kansas Wesleyan. I am thankful for all the support I received while there.  I love each and every one of my athletes, and none will be forgotten.  I hope in time they will understand my decision, and I pray their academic and athletic careers finish with personal bests all around. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Coaching, Running, and Church.

I had a close friend at work many years ago who would talk to me about her faith.  During breaks we would sit and talk about millions of things, but she always managed to tie our conversation to faith.  One evening on a walk, she told me about a Bible journaling activity that she did called
            In coaching I find my athletes have very different motivations and differ in their dedication.  While there may be even more than three groups, I can usually divide them up into three.  There are, of course, my athletes who regardless of talent level are always committed, putting everything they have into a workout and doing the little things to get better.  A fire or passion is apparent that drives them to go for excellence on a daily basis.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who simply show up because they signed to run.  With no passion or drive, they are only there to survive, and running feels like a job for them, not something that brings joy or fulfillment.  Luckily for me I rarely have the uncommitted runner, and if I do, it is only one or two.  Those two groups are very easy for me to coach.  You know every day what you are going to get, how hard you can push them, and what effort they will be putting forth.  The third and final group are those that ride the fence.  On beautiful weather days when things are going well, they are passionate and will dive into workouts.  On the cold days, the lonely days, when there are opportunities to come in and lift and do extra work to get ahead, they will often miss out because they are committed elsewhere, or it does not fit into their current mindset.  For years the fence riders have driven me nuts because after a great day, they will come back with a sub par day.  The fire that burnt the afternoon before has all but gone out, and I am forced to search and look for new ways to bring them back.  If I believe I have them figured out, they shock me and flip flop once again. I hadn’t understood why this group had caused me more trouble than the ones who had no motivation and just did it.  Two nights ago I was which is picking a certain SCRIPTURE and writing it down.  After reading that scripture, you write down your OBSERVATION on what is being said or the point of the verse.  This usually requires more reading to completely understand, which is where it gets fun.  After I have a grasp on what is being said, I write down the APPLICATION and how it may tie into my life or someone with whom I am close.  I follow this up with a PRAYER to finish the S.O.A.P.  The verse I was reading was Revelation 3:16. "So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth."  It was after reading this verse that I was reminded that there aren’t three groups but two.  A true Christian who has confessed his sins and is following God will not be spat out, but a faker will, one who does not truly believe and follow.  Either you are in or you are out.  That may change daily, but the ones who will be saved, just as the ones who will truly be successful in reaching their genetic potential, are in the group of the committed.  I am not saying all committed runners are committed Christians, only that one who will truly commit to success can indeed reach it, and one who truly commits to God can be saved. My last piece to this puzzle to decipher is what the committed look like.  We see churches full of people, especially around the holidays: Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter to pick the big ones.  Yet they are absent the rest of the year.  If church wasn’t so important, why go then and not at all?  The real reason is they are going for themselves and not for Christ, the one who died for their sins.  If I have a runner who only commits to working out when it works best for them or on the days that they feel good or don’t need extra sleep or perhaps their favorite football team isn’t playing, they will never be successful.  People too often miss what church is about the same way they miss what practice is about: learning, growing, and coming together.  I personally love to run alone but when I am down and out, tired and weak but know I have a teammate or a group waiting for me, I am going to suck it up and get there.  It is their strength that gets me through. 
Why would this logic not be the same with church?  “I pray on my own and feel closer to God by myself.”  I hear this a lot from young athletes.  I ask them if they have read the Bible, truly read it, cover to cover.  They, of course, say no.  I say come tell me that same statement once you have.  I have yet to have one person come back.  I know church works because of what it has done for me.  My life didn’t really pick up, and things didn’t start falling into place.  My leg wasn’t healed until I made church a priority.  My worst attendance in 4 years is 46 services out of 52.  When church became a priority so did reading my Bible, and suddenly all those things I had heard happen in the Bible started to happen. You may call it good luck.   If you are looking for a miracle or help, try looking in a church,  If you are looking to get faster, try committing to practice.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Beer Mile World Championships

For many, the Beer Mile World Championship sounds like a contradiction or something made up.  The not new, but newly popular beer mile is growing in popularity every day.  Drink a beer, run a lap, and then repeat.  This event, typically ran by college seniors after the conclusion of their college career, is now a professional sport with serious cash, endorsements, and talk show appearances on the line.  Why I believe this event is gaining such rampant publicity is because it combines drinking with a small dose of running that most Americans can relate to.  It's great to hear about this event on big radio shows, such as Bobby Bones in the morning, or top talk shows, such as Ellen.  Even better is watching top athletes try thinking it's easy only to completely fail or not finish.  Even Lunchbox, a sidekick to Bobby Bones, had a sub par attempt, just like Lance Armstrong.  I hear crazy stories of people who ran fast times only to later learn they drank low alcohol content beers or threw up, and both are against the rules.

On Tuesday, I raced in my second beer mile World Championship hosted by FloTrack in Austin.  This event is truly a first class event in every way.  The staff are spot on with great organization, management, and publicity.  I cannot adequately put into words how much fun I have had racing.  I know the question most ask is, "Why the beer mile?" or "What kind of image am I portraying to younger runners?"  My response to that is that this event isn't an event that coincides with the training cycle of a college athlete.  As a coach, I believe it would be a very bad idea for a college athlete to try and prepare for or race right as indoor season is beginning.  This is an event for post collegiate athletes who are over 21 yrs of age.  I do not drink and drive; I haven't nor would I ever drink with one of my collegiate athletes.  This is a fun event for those of age without a serious race to focus on in the near future.  The majority of the elites are training for this event as their focus and not hoping to race other big races during this time.  So, once again, I believe the beer mile should be a post college event ran for fun if one chooses to.  As for my particular race I was disappointed with my 6:30 finish time.  The provided beer was a very good tasting beer but the problem was the temperature.  I struggled drinking quickly as the ice cold beer felt like a freezing knife sliding down my throat.  The only time when one would want look warm beer would be to chug.  It cost me a good 30 seconds or I would have hit my goal of breaking 6flat.  I look forward to next year and hopefully breaking that 6min barrior!     

I want to thank all the amazing athletes I ran with and hung out with, the people of Flotrack, and my family for putting up with my never ending adventure that they cheer me through.