Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Build the Base

When it comes to training, a runner is a lot like a tree.  A tree wishing to grow taller must first grow its roots and its trunk strong before stretching its limbs into the sky. Today marked my first interval workout in over 6 weeks.  It has been six weeks of base training, long runs, and recovery runs with nothing exciting, other than the love of just running.  These weeks may have been boring to me, but they were exactly what I needed.  I had grown as tall as I could with my racing and needed to come back to the roots; I needed to rebuild a stronger base before I could embark on my next journey of serious training and hopefully racing.  Six weeks I rebuilt the body from the ground up to a point where I was strong aerobically and had the general strength under wraps.  Now, it is time to reach into the sky and go for new training, racing, and hopefully glory that I can give to God.

The metaphor of the tree growing its roots stronger in comparison to a runner building his base also applies to another situation.  Go and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28: 19-20.  I read "Follow Me" by David Platt this summer, and it made me think more about making disciples and how important it is.  Then, this fall my friend Janean asked me to join a group of friends in reading "Multiply" by Francis Chan.  Both of these books talk about going out and making disciples, spreading the word, and sharing the love of Christ with others.  The questions that I have asked myself many times are whether I am strong enough to go out and make disciples, do I know enough, and am I ready for such a command.  The answer I found is, "Yes," but it hasn’t always been, "Yes."  I first had to work on my roots, I had to build my strength up before I reached out. 
So here I am, typing with tightness in my legs that burns yet feels truly refreshing.  Only one interval in the books, but I am on my way.  I put in the time to build my roots, and now I am aching to go faster.  With interval training back in the plan, I also must be looking to race.  Hard work without direction is simply pointless so I have narrowed down my plan to 1 or 2 races in early December that could be anywhere from 3K through 13.1.  Depending on how the next week of training goes, I will determine how long or short of a race to aim for. 

Running without direction is the same as discipling without direction.  I can run around until I am blue in the face, screaming of God's love, but that will not lead people to Christ, or at least not in a very effective manner.  When I meet someone who is struggling or does not even have a relationship with Christ, I must have direction.  Letting them know of God's love, patience, and forgiveness is essential, but doing so in an organized fashion will have greater results.  A story out of order will make no sense to my friend who is intrigued by the story of God.  Having a base and having a direction will allow me to be the disciple Christ called me to be, just as having the base and the direction will allow me to be the runner that God has called me to be.   

The seasons are changing, and so are our lives, but God's Love is not changing.  May a change in the season spark a change in you, but for the change to last, for success to come, don't forget to build your base.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Relationship

Success as a runner is dependent on many things; however, after reading Miler by Steve Scott, I am reminded that the relationship between a coach and his athlete is vital.  The relationship of a coach to an athlete has my mind buzzing, thinking of what I tell my athletes, and how important it is to trust the coach.  I recently was speaking with a few of my athletes when an analogy came to mind.
The conversation was about workouts and what I thought was working and what will continue to work.  I asked my athlete if he had a girlfriend and if she was the most beautiful woman and smartest woman in the world.  He, of course, answered that she was not the most beautiful or the smartest.  Don’t worry!  I am not picking on my athlete's girlfriend; I am simply getting to my point.  I then stated that I am not the smartest or even the most experienced coach in the world, but for some reason he chose to run for me, just like he chose to date his girlfriend.  I followed up with how well would this relationship between you and your girlfriend work if there was not trust.  What if one of them was giving it their all, while the other one simply did what was easy or convenient.  Without trust, commitment, and respect, a relationship between a couple or a coach and an athlete will be doomed to failure.  An athlete who does only half of the workouts according to plan will go nowhere, and if the athlete tries to do the coach's workouts plus extra workouts, he will soon be injured or his times will be slower.  You may not always understand your coach or your significant other, but if you want the relationship to work, you must trust them and go forward even when times are hard.     

When I look at myself, I think of my relationship with Christ.  God gives me a play book, and he gives me pastors and friends for encouragement, a lot like a track team.  It's not always easy to see the big picture, and I quite often end up astray.  This makes me think of how frequently God refers to me and to his followers as sheep.  Growing up in the country, I never wanted anything to do with sheep as they are, in my opinion, the dumbest of all farm animals.  Is this why God refers to us as sheep and Him as a Shepherd?  This actually sounds quite possible, as we are often doing stupid things that we later realize are far from what is best for us.  In no way would I call my athletes dumb farm animals, but they, just like me, sometimes walk away from what is best because they want to get results quicker or even a completely different result.  Sometimes then, God, our Shepherd, must step in and lead us back to what is right, just like a coach leading an athlete back to what is best.

Our society is often driven by a "get rich quick" mentality, and people want success overnight.  However, developing a relationship with Christ and developing as a runner both take time.  Some of the most successful runners have had quite different training plans, but almost all had great coaches who they trusted, and that is the element that is key.  Also, some of the most famous characters in the Bible had to do some crazy things and trust that what God was telling them was going to work.  The relationship of trusting in one another is the backbone of successful coaching and the backbone of faith. 

To sum things up, if you want success, you must trust, you must put forth effort, and you must do your very best every day.  A relationship with a coach, Christ, or even your significant other will never work if you are not both pursuing the same goal in a manner that balances the scales.  Whatever the situation, a successful relationship must be one in which both parties are giving equally, and both are seeking to better the other. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

KWU XC Camp 2013

Two years ago I embarked on a journey to Salina, KS, to become the Head XC and Track Coach.  I honestly had no idea of what to expect.  Looking back, I remember then looking at two individuals who raced that first XC meet with me as their coach in Nebraska, one girl and one guy, standing on a line next to 20 or more teams.  They seemed alone, having only a coach to cheer them on and themselves to trust.  I would have been scared, but I knew there was something special about them; they both knew Christ.  As the season continued and more runners joined our team, we began to build a family.  Last year I took a small but mighty group of runners to Colorado to build and instill the values I wanted to see in them each and every day.  I wanted them to know that hiking Pikes Peak would teach them something about themselves, making them aware of an inner courage and strength they never knew they had. 

This fall there will be 20 distance runners at KWU, walking around the campus and getting an education.  While some may not see this is a large team, I look at it as a huge team.  The numbers have grown, and so have the bonds of family.  After arriving back in Salina yesterday from my 2nd team camp in Colorado with the XC team, I could not be happier or more excited.  It is already clear that I have some very talented and truly awesome young runners.  The journey that they all began this week will have many ups and down, good times and bad. 
 I have no doubt that God has brought me to Salina to be a leader for these young men and women.  Even though some of them may not be religious, I do pray that my faith, love, and caring will be contagious.  God can do amazing things through people, and what better way would there be to reach young men and women fresh out of high school.  The journey is not just for the runners but for me as well, for me to share God's love, to share my passion for running, and to share the love that my amazing parents, coaches, and friends have given me as a runner. 
 I wish the best of luck to each runner who is embarking on their cross country season.  I pray that you will have a coach who cares the way mine did.  In no way will I be a perfect coach, the same way I am not a perfect human being, but I will not give up, and I will trust in the Lord to give me strength and direction.  Good Luck and GO COYOTES!

Monday, July 15, 2013

My Boulder Peak 2013

Today was my 6th trip to the Boulder Peak 5i50 Triathlon but more importantly was the first time I had been to Boulder Reservoir since I left in an ambulance last year after the Half Ironman.  After racking my bike and doing a nice warm up run to shake things out, I went to the spot where I had left my wetsuit and goggles.  However, when I returned from the run my new red TYR Nest Pro goggles were stolen.  I had allowed myself 25 minutes to get my wet suit on and do a short swim before the race.  Instead of sticking to plan, I ran to transition to see if I had somehow left them there or if they were in the lost and found.  After every option had been explored, I had to buy a pair from Runners Roost and then ran to the start without even touching the water.  A quick hand shake from Beth O’Brien helped me to relax, but I knew having new goggles could be a problem. 

The men’s elite wave went off very first and I managed a nice 400 meters before the strap loosened, and I was swimming with the lake in my goggles.  I stopped and tried to reposition them but that lasted another 200 meters before I gave up and just swam semi blind.  (NOTE: Stick with TYR goggles because Blue Seventy Goggles are not compatible for me.)  This, of course, killed my swim, as I was constantly correcting my direction and feeling aggravated at the situation I was in.

When I made it out of the water, I couldn’t have been more excited and took off on the bike like I had nothing to lose.  So far back that I had plenty of people to chase down as I went on to my best time on this course.  I averaged over 22 mph and with the Old Stage Road climb in elevation in there, I was pleased.  The last time I raced here I had wrecked and ran into severe dehydration problems on the run so I was sure to drink plenty of my energy drink and water.  This came back to bite me in the run with a nice side stitch, but there was no doubt I was hydrated.    

Racing 2:14.23 on this course is my all time fastest here, and by breaking 2:15, I can race elite for another year.  It's encouraging that under poor circumstances I am getting better and can improve.  With a sub par swim, a decent bike, and a run that was pedestrian compared to what I am capable of without a side stitch, I was disappointed.  My dad was quick to remind me that I didn't end up in the hospital, I did not flat, and I was healthy.  Being healthy is the most exciting thing because the future is bright when one is healthy, and under better conditions I should be able to fly.  It is hard to say where I will be a year from now, but if I can spend a full year training and not spend five months injured, I should be exactly where I need to be.  I have a free entry into the HY-VEE 5i50 USA Championship in September, but due to coaching commitments, I may not be able to race there.  I plan on racing the Grand Prix 10K in Colorado Springs this Saturday and will decide after that.

I am so thankful for Jim Halberg and his coaching and cooking, to my parents who drove up to support me, and to all my friends who raced today.   It's so easy to get down when things don’t go the way we planned.  I don’t like to think that it's bad luck, but instead, it is God teaching me patience, trust, and finding new ways to remind me how dependent I am on Him for strength.  I may not have had my goggles, or swam the way I had wanted, but in the grand scheme of things, I would say I am very lucky.  God is Good.      

2:14.23 (S28:42, T1:52, B1:05.05, T:44, R:38)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

L2L Triathlon

My 6th Loveland Lake 2 Lake Triathlon was truly one of my favorite races.  Although the swim course includes a 400m run to transition from the lake, and the bike course is truly difficult with over 700ft of elevation gain in the first 15 miles, I can't help but love the atmosphere of it all.  I had no idea if two months of total training would have me ready or 3 weeks at elevation would have me acclimated, but I knew I would have fun.  The race started off well with my fastest swim split in 6 years of racing L2L which had me excited for the bike.  However, excitement was quickly replaced by exhaustion.  The high elevation mixed with the steady climb to Horse Tooth Reservoir had my legs burning, and if it weren't for the wind, I would have been  really hot.  Riding through the canyons, I was whipped right and left by the winds.  I decided that I need to buy a new rear wheel because I cannot handle the wind very well with the solid disc wheel and my Specialized Shiv.   The disc wheel will be reserved for flat, non-windy courses from now on.  My bike split was one of my slowest ever on the course, and while I would like to blame it all on elevation gain and wind, I simply am still gaining confidence back from two wrecks last summer. 

On to the run!  This course is one of my favorites because I love the concrete and asphalt; there is something about the way my Brooks T7's feel as I push off on the smooth ground and the power I feel finishing on light feet.  What made it even better than normal were two high fives, one from my long time friend Scott Dahlberg who was running a relay and to another friend Beth O'Brien.  The high five seems like such an insignificant touch, yet the energy packed in one when you have been competing for hours gives hope and encouragement to fight through the walls.  When all was said and done, I ended up with my 2nd fastest time on the course, with my fastest swim and run split ever recorded in Loveland, and it was good enough for 4th place in the professional triathlete division.

This summer is one that is different than any other.  I do not have a set plan of workouts for the summer.  Instead, I am going week by week, seeing how I feel.  Spending more time taking in the beauty of Colorado even if it means a little slower on a bike ride or on the run.  Remembering and taking in the love of it all is what drives me and I couldn't be happier here in Colorado surrounded by the beauty God has so graciously given with some of the finest people that anyone could ask for.  My next race is unknown as I continue to just roll with the punches.  As always I appreciate your support and prayers.         
   2:30.10 (Swim 28:22, T:55, Bike 1:23.4, T2 :30, Run 36:42)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Be A Mental Warrior

     I am sitting here on a beautiful but chilly day in Colorado Springs.  After just one week of training, I am still excited every morning to take off and run, bike, or swim.  Since I am spending my summer in Colorado to train and race at altitude, I am finding myself with a fair amount of free time.  I fill it by resting, eating, and calling my athletes and recruits; however, lately, I have also enjoyed some time with my thoughts. 
     Today just so happens to be National Running Day.  This is a day when many will find the courage to get out of bed and run or squeeze a run in over their lunch break. 
     Motivation is such a key to success when it comes to training.  As a coach I do my very best to find new and exciting ways to motivate my runners, through words, creative workouts, and even my own training.  I have seen my fair share of great runners; some were great because God was generous with their genetics, and others were great because they wanted to be.  The famous quote, “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work” is true.  Hard work comes from determination and a bit of stubborn pride.  So, the question at hand is why do some work hard and some simply sit back and watch others succeed? 
     Training your mind is the same as training any other part of your body.  It takes repetition, time, and a lot of effort.  You weren’t born lazy; it is a habit that was by choice.  To beat laziness, to beat that instinct that tells you to give in, takes time.  I have found it is easiest to beat this instinct of weakness by surrounding yourself with those who are also motivated.  It seems so simple!  It's the same as if you wanted to quit smoking, it would be easier to be around people who don’t smoke.  If one wanted to learn French, it would be a lot easier to move to France and learn it there than to move to Mexico. 
     Some athletes have what it takes and will work hard, but at the first sign of struggle they pack it in.  They make an excuse and ride that excuse until the weather changes and a new day comes with new circumstances.  A mental warrior takes the hiccups of life with a grain of salt.  I’ve found that it is important to have short term memory and forget what you cannot control and focus on what you can.  If someone does that long enough, I have no doubt that person will be successful. 
     This attitude does not just help one in training but also in healing.  There are many runners who are frequently injured, sick, or, in other words, out of commission.  I am in no way attacking those who are truly injured, but there are many who are injured by choice.  They refuse to listen to their bodies and talk themselves into being injured or sick because the road ahead is hard.  This may be because they have been babied too long.  I do not want to rush someone back into commission, but the next time you are feeling sick, possibly hurt, or unable to train, STOP, take a few minutes and reflect.  Acknowledge that the journey ahead will be hard, remind yourself of the goals set, and then decide if you are injured or just scared.  All the coaches, friends, and family in the world cannot change your mental status the way you can.  To be healed one must emotionally or spiritually heal oneself.  The word “GO” appears in the Bible nearly 1500 times.  I dare you to read the Bible and find stories where the sick and injured are healed by staying in one place, complaining that they cannot do what they want.  When Jesus heals, he does not tell people to sit and wait.  He instructs them to GO!  John 9:11 says He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” 
      Today, tomorrow, and the day after that, get out of bed and be strong.  Be a mental warrior because life will not be easy.   The motivation to train and the mental fortitude to stay healthy can be found from within.  You may need to reinvest in your Faith, or the people around you for strength, but do not give up.  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Kansas 5i50

 Lightning and Rain mixed with a little more rain.  My first triathlon in over 9 months was not off to a good start with a lightning delay.  At 8 am, the race officials decided it was best to cancel the swim and change the race to a Time Trial bike/run only.  We would start in transition single file one after another with the bike leg.  As we took off, the rain was still coming down, and the roads were slick.  With everyone starting so close together, there was a fair share of drafting in the first five miles.  I couldn't help but pray that the rider in front of me wasn't taking a leak as the spray off his tires were splashing up on me.  I decided to stick with the disc wheel, but with slick roads and high cross winds, I ended up spending a lot of time in the drop bars and not tucked.  This said, I still averaged 21.5 mph for the 40K bike ride.  As the bike leg finished, the clouds disappeared.  
The run course was a 2 lap course that has a very long hill coming up from Clinton Lake.  This did not bode well for my time, and I couldn't figure out how I was running my 2nd and 4th mile slower than the one with the hill.  It was not until after the race that I found out the race was not 6.2 as promised but was just short of 6.4 miles.  This helped my 6:03 average to what should have been 5:51. This was great, as my right foot had been bleeding since mile 1 due to the shoes being wet already from the rain. 

When the race was over, I was very excited to have finished a race without achilles pain.  Last summer I spent my time trying to qualify for the US Championships as an Elite but couldn't quite make it.  However, today as an age grouper I managed a top 5 finish which gave me a qualification and free entry to the 2013 US 5i50 Championship.  I shouldn't have been surprised after dropping down that I would succeed, but doing so off of 35 days of training made me happy.  Now, I will get back to training and head back to Colorado in a week and decide if I want to make another run at qualifying as an Elite instead of an Age Grouper.  The future is unknown but is looking good now that I can finish pain free.  Time for solid training!   

  Even the best racing flat in the world is no match for wet feet and no socks.  #BrooksT7

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blank Page

It's time for a new chapter in the book that is my racing career.  Whether coaching or competing, I am a habitual PR (personal record) guy.  It seems only right to look at what you have done and compare yourself to the past.  I encourage my runners to always compare themselves to their past results and not to other runners.  Well, now I am going to expand upon that idea. 

A blank page is before me with the upcoming Kansas 5i50 Olympic Distance Triathlon.  My last triathlon ended with an ambulance ride because my will pushed me literally until my body gave in with a heat stroke.  After food poisoning and potentially the worst 26.2 miles I have ever raced in December, I have been battling an Achilles injury.  From early December until April 15th, I did not get in more than 15 runs total, due to the pain.  I now am on a mission to complete (that's right COMPLETE, not compete in) an Olympic distance triathlon with 35 days of training.  That is more than a five month sabbatical from racing and four months without continuous training.

There is no comparison when one is starting from scratch.  I am driven by a determination to use the gifts God has given me to write a new chapter.  Often we compare ourselves to our past, but the beauty of being a Christian is that I am not who I once was.  I am a new being, and while I will not forget my past or my PR's, I am moving forward and not looking back.  It's a blank page that needs written, and the first words on the page will be from this race.  So, for those of you with an upcoming race, don't be so hard on yourself.  The variables are always changing, and so are you.  Do your very best under the circumstances given, and have no regrets.  Leave it all out there in every race and every workout, and the future chapters will be more exciting than the previous ones. 

For a coaching update, I am very proud of all my runners who had a great season despite very rough weather.  Hunter Stayton qualified for Outdoor Nationals, so once again I'll be heading to Indiana.  It's a fun time, and we may check out the Indianapolis 500 Sunday before we fly back.  After Nationals I get to move home for a few months to Colorado, and I am in definite need of mountain time.  An exciting spring is under way, and a Colorado summer is just around the bend.  

Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Looking Up

 The alarm goes off, and excitement rolls in.  A workout is about to  

 begin.  With two weeks of no training, I have gone through a roller  

 coaster of emotions.  Today is filled with excitement even  

 though a session in the weight room and a thirty minute bike are far  

 from rigorous; it is still a step. 


 It's cold in my room, and my blanket has been kicked to the floor.  I am  

 not sad though, because I have a bed and I have a blanket.  Effort is  

 required to get warm, but God has provided. 


 Out of eggs and bacon for breakfast.  The stomach growls, but no worries  

 as oatmeal and a granola bar will do.  God has provided. 


 I realize it's been several days with no word from a once best friend I  

 reached out to.  Before sadness can creep in, a text arrives from a friend who  

 just was checking in to say hello.  God has a plan. 


 As the days of injury roll on, it is easy to look to the left and say  

 why isn't my blanket on my bed.  Or perhaps to the right, thinking how  

 did I not realize to get more eggs and bacon.  One might even look down  

 when they realize their friendship is not valued equally.  However, this  

 is not how I look.  In all situations, I look UP.  The answer may not be  

 what I want, the decision may not be my first, and while I may be  

 lonely, I am not alone.  Look up, my friends, and thank God because he is  

 providing.  The answers are not at our feet or to our sides, but they  

 come from Christ. 


 With one more week of no running scheduled, I will use all my strength  

 to lift my head and look up.  For guidance, healing, and all that I  

 truly need, I  will look up! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pain is Back

A week ago I believed I was on the road to recovery.  After many failed attempts at swimming and running I will be taking the next 10 days completely off of swimming/biking/running.  For 21 days I will not run at all.  This I hope to be the cure to let my body recover and heal. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 In The Rear View Mirror

2012 is in the books, and I am looking forward to 2013.  I started off in 2012 with great ambitions of attacking my weakness in the water and the longer bike legs.  This was a great goal and one I plan to continue with in 2013 but with a different attitude.  During most of 2012, I looked at my training like a job, as though I had to attack my weaknesses every day, and by doing so, it became a job.  It wasn't long before my splits in workouts were rivaling my splits in races.  I was so tense that I began to feel like I had to make things happen.  This reckless idea most likely led to my 2 bike wrecks in the Boulder Peak and Boulder Half and might have had something to do with my stubbornness that landed me in Boulder Community Hopsital with a heat stroke and dislocated shoulder.  Looking back, the race outcomes were no where near where they should have been based on my training.  With that said, I still managed several of my best times.  In spite of the wrecks, I recorded personal best bike splits in both races, and my swims were the best I have had.  It is a shame that I had 2 wrecks in my last 2 races, or I would have had a complete season of personal bests.

Personal bests usually give a person a great feeling, but they were not ones that I enjoyed.  As I said, I had turned training and racing into my job and had lost the fun.  When coaching, I constantly tell my athletes to relax and enjoy the race.  I, however, was not taking my own advice.  All through college I prided myself in having fun.  Some of my best races were not because I was physically fit, but I was relaxed and was ready to move when the opportunity was right.  For 2013 I have a new mantra, and that is to have fun.  This is not to say that I won't train just as hard, or that I won't race with fierce competitiveness.  I will do these things but not at the expense of enjoyment.  If I stay relaxed, work hard, and keep a smile on my face, there is no doubt that 2013 will be a successful season of training and racing.  "Smile, it looks good on you," is a quote to live by.  Life is short enough without the stress of a frown.  Smile and make the most out of 2013!