Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Test Is A Chance To Grow

The sweat forms on your brow, anxiety sets in as the professor hands out the test.  You have spent weeks in the classroom listening, nodding as it all seemed to make sense.  But now you are being tested, and your true knowledge is about to be revealed. 

For years you have gone to church with Mom and Dad, said amen’s, and sang songs praising God.  Will you be the only one who wants to keep your faith in college, will it be as easy as confessing your faith in a pew surrounded by fellow believers, or will it be harder?  The real world is harsh and your faith will be tested.  This is what your pastor has been preaching about all your life, it is time to test your faith.     

Months and even years can go by of running mile after mile, day after day.  For most athletes, conference is the biggest meet of the year, the chance to qualify to extend the season and show their hard work has been worth it.  Any runner can brag about splits in workouts, but it's what happens in the race that counts. All those miles come down to just one race.

The professor does not see a test as punishment, but instead a reward for growth, proof that the students are learning and ready for bigger things.

As much as a pastor enjoys being with his congregation, he will truly smile to see them out in the world spreading the good news in the midst of adversity. 

A coach knows that it is in the race that his runners will either succeed and reach their goals, or if not, that they will learn from falling short. 

1 Peter 1: 6-7
6 In all this you greatly rejoice,though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

It's easy to brag about how smart we are, but until we are tested we really do not know our potential.  If at the first chance of temptation you cave to peer pressure, how strong is your faith?  One can lead every workout, but until the athlete leads his team in a race, what has he accomplished?  The journey will not always be easy, but it's not supposed to be easy.  Throughout the Bible, God tests his followers again and again.  Before moving forward one must first be tested and pass.  Stop looking for cheat sheets, short cuts, other Christians to lead you, or excuses for a bad race.  When you fail, you will grow and be more prepared to take the test again, and when you succeed the hard work and failures will be worth it.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Maple Leaf

As I pulled into Baldwin City many years ago, I had many things rolling through my mind.  What will Coach Kindler think of me?  Does he see me as a serious candidate for the graduate assistant position, or will he see me as an overly confident college runner?  When I arrived at his office and sat down, we talked for a while about training ideas, my goals, my faith, and simply joked about running.  After the meeting and seeing campus along with many athletes, I knew that the position was exactly what I was looking for, an opportunity to get my foot in the door with coaching while getting my master’s degree.

A few years later I once again was nervous making the journey to Baldwin City.  The Maple Leaf Invitational has special meaning to me.  It is a course I coached a conference championship team on, a course I painted a few too many times, rolling hills that I ran way too many times, and a place of memory.  The memories of Coach Kindler, the man who opened the door for me as a coach, have flooded my mind since his passing and even more so with a trip back to Baker. 

I knew the day would be hard emotionally, but what I wasn’t expecting to see was a full grown deer darting out in front of the team van causing us to hit the deer.  The fear of a car accident while driving your team is one of the greatest fears a coach can have, and living it was not fun.  Luckily, we were able to pull over, and no one was injured or even too shaken up from the accident.  I put as many of the runners in the second van to get them to the meet, and the rest of us waited patiently for the police and a replacement van to be sent by Kansas Wesleyan University.  It wasn’t long, and we were on our way; this took away the hour or so of time that I would have had to get my team ready, but also the time for me to get emotional seeing the Kindler family and countless athletes who came back to race for the alumni team.
When we finally arrived at the meet, there were but a few minutes until the start of the first race.  I said a quick prayer with my ladies’ team and watched them take off in the race, hoping they had properly warmed up.  I, on the other hand, was racing in the men’s race for the Baker Alumni team, a race I had planned to win in honor of Coach Kindler and all he had done for me.  I normally don’t race in meets in which my team at Kansas Wesleyan is racing, but I wanted to toe the line with past athletes and show my support.  Being part of the alumni team was very exciting for me, sharing the starting box and the excitement before the gun is a feeling that I had almost forgotten but truly enjoyed.  With no warm up I contemplated not even racing, but being part of the alumni team kept the drive high even if I knew my results might not be up to par.  I knew that Coach Kindler was watching and would want me to race regardless of the warm up and to do my best.  So, race I did and still managed a close 3rd place finish with 10 college teams racing. I was happy with the result.
Emotionally it was hard to coach and to race on that day because of the dramatic impact Coach Kindler had made on me.  I learned so much from him and owe him a lot because he really opened so many doors for me in the coaching world.  He was a great coach, one I learned a great deal from and will miss.  The awards on his walls speak of his amazing coaching success, but what many don’t know is what an impact he had on his runners and the people around him with their faith.  Zach invited me to his men’s group and was always working to be a strong Christian husband, father, coach, and friend.  Getting up at 5 a.m. to make the men’s group was not easy, but he challenged me, and I knew I would really grow from this opportunity.  After seeing such a great turn out and being reminded of all he did for his athletes, it made me think of my relationship with my athletes.  
I recently read a quote by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who said, “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.”  As I let this quote sink in, I had many thoughts rolling through my head as I really enjoyed the quote.  While working for Coach Kindler, I learned to work 24 hours a day.  Many times I felt as though he was pushing me too hard, having me do too much for an assistant coach and getting way too little sleep.  Little did I know he was simply preparing me to be a head coach; he knew my potential and pushed me, so he was preparing me to win.  After leaving Baker, it took me two years of recruiting to build a solid program and to win my first title at KWU, also being named the KCAC Women’s Cross Country coach of the year very quickly.  Whether it is my coaching, running, or my faith, I am constantly on the move and always trying to improve.  There might not be someone working 24 hours to take what I have, beat me at what I do, but there will always be evil at work trying to pull me off track.  That is why focusing on one’s faith 24 hours a day is so important.  Your competitors may rest, but the devil won’t. 

Someday I hope to have hundreds of athletes who have great memories of me, athletes who I helped to come closer to Christ and to hit their potential both academically and athletically.  Coach Zach Kindler may not have had the longest of journeys here on earth, but he sure had an important one.  He was truly a mentor and friend to me, and I miss him.  I will remember him, and honor him in my faith, my coaching, and my running, and hopefully I will make an impact as great as he has made on so many individuals.     
I owe a special thank you to those who reached out to me, giving me a shoulder to lean on when I needed it.  I did my best to be a strong leader for my past and present athletes, but even the strongest of Christian men need the support of friends.  God provided so many wonderful people to be there for me and support me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The most important things in life are not things.

 Before 5:30 a.m. I was on my way to the 5i50 Boulder Peak Triathlon at Boulder Reservoir.  On the morning of a race, I am always filled with all sorts of emotions, so I was doing my best to stay relaxed listening to some music on the radio when the morning host brought up a quote that I had heard many years ago.  It stuck with me this morning.  “The most important things in life are not things.” 

As I looked around at the amazing bikes, the expensive aerodynamic helmets, and all the other gadgets and equipment that make triathlon so exciting, I couldn’t help but think about that quote.  I walked to the body marking line and noticed an older gentleman getting marked whose age looked more like a race number than an age, and that someone is someone who makes triathlons great.  It's not the bikes or wetsuits; it’s the people.  There are very few sports where the elite athletes compete side by side with the age group athletes, and that is something important, as it is a family event.  The idea of triathlon is to push one's physical, emotional, mental, and perhaps spiritual limits to the test.  Each one of those characteristics I tested today, which I take pride in.  Not the things used in a triathlon, but instead the concept of triathlon is what keeps bringing me back. 

If you are unfamiliar with my racing tactics, I like to start each triathlon by digging myself a huge hole in the swim portion which gives everyone a head start.  It happens every time, despite my fluctuation in swim training, so I am starting to think that this may just be the way it is.  After getting to the beach and making it to my bike, I couldn’t wait to get started.  Midway through the bike portion of the race, I came across my longtime friend Jim Halberg who was yelling at me to get in a bigger gear and get rolling.  This little push reminded me to have courage and push my limits which I did en route to my fastest bike split average ever at Boulder.  Off the bike, I had exciting feelings flying through me.  As I took off up the first hill, I thought once again, "This high, this excitement is what triathlon is."  The run is always fun for me because I get to fly by those larger swimmers or the cyclists who can hammer it while biking.  Passing them right and left, even seeing some walking really helps build my confidence as I go.  The dirt trails of the course do not bode well for fast times, but compared to my competition, I flew as I clocked the 4th fastest run. 

When the race was over there is a sense of achievement.  It's not a finisher medal that gives value to the race; it’s the feeling of doing something with your day that most could not do in their life.  I ended up finishing 14th in the Men's Elite division which should qualify me for the Hy-Vee 5i50 US Championship.  Depending on my team's schedule this fall will determine if I can race, but it is still a nice accomplishment after such a dreadful swim. 

I understand many who read this blog are not triathletes, or even runners, but I would encourage you to slow things down.  Many of you are athletes still in college who I coach or know.  I am not telling you not to focus on getting that diploma.  Graduating is very important, but look around at what really matters.  Fill your life with people who want to enrich your life, and do your best to do the same for others.  This may involve sacrificing some of the “things” that we pursue, but look to bring value to your life in whatever direction you may be heading, and there will be a sense of satisfaction that will last longer and bring more happiness than anything else ever can.        

July 13th 2014 (1500swim, 27mile Bike, 10K Run) Boulder Peak
2:19:58. (Swim 28:50, T1 1:58, Bike 1:10.28, T2 :59, Run 37:41) 14th Elite

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Round Up 12K

Yesterday I raced the Summer Round Up 12K in Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs.  This was not my typical triathlon race or even a fast road race, but a very hard single track trail race with difficult hills and terrain.  After the race, I was not happy at all with my performance.  I placed 6th and had pretty much fallen apart for miles 5-6.  Seeing other friends do so well while I was struggling was not easy to accept, and on top of the race, I have just been drained emotionally lately.  Later on in the day after spending some much needed time at home on Bailey Ranch, I realized I was being too hard on myself.

Just the other day I saw a video of a friend’s child who took their first step.  To me the baby stumbled to the ground and really didn’t walk at all, but I suppose from a parent’s standpoint this was a huge step, regardless of how small it may seem to outsiders.  This got me thinking about how hard I have been on myself.  Whatever happened to the days when we celebrated small victories?  In any great story, the final product of success is not achieved without many small steps.  Instead of beating myself up for losing in a trail race to some of the top runners in Colorado and also a few Africans, I should be celebrating that I won my age group and that I ran a competitive trail race while I have not been training for such a race at all.  Instead of looking for how I have come up short, I need to be looking for how I succeeded.  Is this not how God looks at us?  We fall short nonstop by our standards, but as long as we accept our failures and have goals and continue to better ourselves, God looks at us like a parent watching their child take their first step.  He celebrates our small steps because he knows what we are capable of.  If we would do the same with ourselves and the people around us, just think of how much better we would be.  Yesterday’s race may not have been graceful like a baby’s first steps, but I had the courage to race, the courage to try as a child does.  In life if there is something you want to accomplish, a place you want to be, or a person you want to be with, you must have the courage to try.  You might fall after one step, but you will be closer after that fall than you were before.  After several falls, you will eventually get the goal, to the place you want to be, or with the person you want to be with.  Failure is somewhat an endearing quality when it is partnered with passion and courage.  Relish the small steps that bring you closer to the end goal of your dreams. 

The race yesterday was well organized and a lot of fun.  I was able to see many friends and to compete in my favorite city with Pikes Peak in the back ground.  It may not have been the perfect race, but it was a success.    

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Rough Start

Crescent Moon Triathlon. June 7th, 2014

Sea kayaks are seaworthy small boats with a covered deck. The importance of such a vessel I had yet to truly appreciate until today. 

This morning I made the drive to Aurora CO for the Crescent Moon Triathlon.  With cloudy skies and a cool wind I knew as I entered the 59degree reservoir that today would not be an easy day for me. The start is always a restless time, moving for position in the water knowing that in just seconds complete chaos will ensue. If too much bumping or shoving happens in running races they start the race over however in a triathlon it's all fair. Today I took the full blunt of the heel of a competitor. Not 200m into the race this heel struck the side of my face causing me to bite my tongue. Instead of staying relaxed I completely lost focus and felt like I was about to drown. I never thought I would need a kayak or a boat or help but today I was humbled. Hugging the kayak, spitting blood and wondering what to do I finally relaxed and worked up the courage to continue. 

Out of the water and on the bike I was still battling a headache and was flat out delirious. I battled the cross wind on the out and back course and did my best to make up the lost time but knew it was not going to be easy. As I hopped off my bike I realized my chain was on my lower chainring. I have no idea if it was like that the entire time or just as I dismounted but regardless I survived and was ready to run.

The run course was a upside down lollipop in direction on trails around aurora reservoir. I decided to not go crazy and just ran 6:10 pace and ended up closing the 10K in 38:03. From the time I exited the water in 102nd place to when I crossed the finish line in 15th I had made up a lot of time and places but nowhere near what I had hoped. 

My race reports the past couple years have been plagued with bad luck. From wrecks, heat 
exhaustion, flat tires, and today's swim I can't help but feel like I have the worst luck. As a coach I do all I can to convince my athletes they can work their way out of slumps. That bad luck almost always comes to the ill prepared. Taking the same advice is getting very hard after several years of the same pattern. What lies ahead is uncertain but with prayers and hard work I believe I will work my way through this and come out the other side with a COMPLETE race of success. 

Swim 31:04, T1 :76, Bike 1:12.08, T2 :51, Run 38:03. 2:23.24

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Two Questions

Newton’s Third Law of physics states that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This, of course, applies to science which in turn means it applies to life.  If a person wants success in life, one first must be willing to put forth the effort to cause a reaction.  Doing so may not always be easy, but with the right motivation it is definitely possible.
So, today at practice I took my team into a classroom and gave them a pen and paper.  Next, I asked them to answer two questions.  First, I asked, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?”  I instructed them to put some thought into this, considering what might be the drive or motivation to start their day.  The second question I asked them, “What is YOUR definition of success?”
I get out of bed every morning, and more often than not it is to do my first workout of the day.  But, why do I work out?  Because I have athletic goals and other life goals that I believe working out will lead me closer to achieving.  I have been posting my goals since I was in high school.  I believe having a direction is vital.
If I gave two of my athletes a map of a cross country course, I am confident they could find their way around the course even if it is not marked, completing a 5K.  On the other hand, if I told two other athletes to run a 5K on a blank course without a map or GPS, they would have no idea and only by luck would they stand a chance of achieving the goal of knowing where to go.  A goal is a map, a direction to where you are trying to get.  As a coach, I see athletes who succeed and others who do not.  The number of athletes who struggled and did not have success almost always had the necessary talent yet lacked the direction, the focus, or the plan to achieve success.  “Success is the completion of one's goals and is a never ending process where one must continually be setting new goals and moving forward.”  This is what I wrote when I asked myself the second question.
Watch the news for 15 minutes, and there will be a story of rags to riches or vice versa.  In today's society, we are money hungry and consumed by what financial security can bring us.  However, success should not be pinned to a dollar amount, but instead it should mean achieving one's goals.  The fifth grade teacher who stays late to help a student with the basics of math and sees success will be as happy as someone who finishes their first marathon that they set out to do.
After reading through the answers given by my athletes, I was encouraged.  Their responses, of course, reflected that they have individual goals as I had hoped, and that each new day provides new opportunities or is a day closer to reaching their goals.  However, I couldn't help but think how many times it seems that some of my athletes have gotten up and not felt this motivation or drive.  If they would just have these questions answered and then write out clearly defined goals in plain sight, they might be more driven to succeed.  Newton's law might also apply to the force pushing you back into bed.  This is the moment when one has to work up the courage to meet this action with an equal reaction and get going.  So when you are looking to accomplish more you must be willing to put in more effort, as a larger reaction only comes as a result of a larger action. 

As with many of my posts, I challenge you to answer these two fundamental questions and to use your answers as a map to achieve what it is that you have been sent here to achieve.  I am 100% confident that God has put me here and you here as well for a reason.  It's time to stop putting off life and time to strive to achieve success.

Monday, March 17, 2014

1500m of Faith on Cracked Ribs

It's been nearly five years since I last raced a 1500m race.  Even more surprising might be that one of my greatest days was that day.  It was a perfect day on my home track at the conference meet.  Bringing home the conference title and going out on top seemed like the perfect way to cap my collegiate running career.  Since that day, I have raced countless races from a 3K to a marathon, but I have not touched the 1500m.  Why would I?  I had a perfect race and have a perfect memory that would be very hard to beat; however, I recently decided it was time to take the 1500m out of the closet and play with it again.   

Nearly two months ago, one of my athletes suggested running a fast 1500m at TCU as it is an early outdoor meet, and there would be great competition.  At first, I said I would run the 3K if I raced anything, but he convinced me that it would be fun to go fast again.  With that in mind, I went for it and called up the TCU coach two weeks ago.  I asked if I could race unattached this coming Friday in the 1500m and perhaps in the 3K later on in the meet.  After I was granted permission to toe the line with a bunch of college students still in their prime, I was filled with excitement.  What kind of shape am I in, how fast will they go out, and am I too old to run with these guys?  I have always loved the quote that nothing great was ever achieved without excitement, so here I am, excited and ready to see what I can do. 

The day after my phone call to TCU, I had a run in with bad luck and ended up going down in a parking lot cracking three ribs.  Was this a sign that I shouldn't be racing?  Perhaps, but I am too stubborn to call the TCU coach and tell him I need to drop out.  So, with less than two weeks until the race, I decided to ignore the doctor's orders and continued training and pushed through the pain.  It has not been easy as each step jars the ribs with a painful shock.  Lifting is out of the question, and I can't even sleep normal as I am stuck sleeping in a recliner. 

Just to make sure this coming race is even more interesting, I have been seeded with the #1 time.  So, with race day approaching, I am filled with excitement and perhaps fear.  What happens if the pain is too much to handle with the ribs, or what if two weeks of sub par training will leave me bringing up the rear?  These thoughts could keep me awake and stressing every second from now until race time, but that will do me no good.  I must have faith.

My faith is what gets me through.  My finish time is irrelevant to me.  What matters is my effort and the way in which I race.  God has given me the ability to run and run well.  It wouldn't matter what the trial is that lies ahead.  My life is filled with hurdles that must be overcome, but I do not worry because I have my faith.  Worrying is like a rocking chair, it will pass the time, but it won't get you anywhere.  One must fill themselves with faith, faith that God has a plan and that He will not lead you where you are not supposed to be.  I cannot imagine even getting out of bed without faith.  How can someone live without faith?  What is the point of even putting on your shoes?  Without faith you are alone; even surrounded by people you are alone because it is only faith that will lead past this life into something greater.  Friday afternoon when I step to the line, my mind will be filled with faith, faith that God will be with me every stride, and that with all my effort I will run the race he has put in front of me. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year 2014

It's New Year's Day, Day 1, the beginning of a new year, a fresh start, the first day of change.  In the past, I have been guilty of making lofty goals and have written many posts on what I have accomplished and what I want to achieve in the new year.  This year I am in a different mind set.  Last spring I missed 5 months of training and completely had to refocus and realign my goals, but this is how the real world works.  The new year does not ignite a spark any more than next Friday will.  It is all about decisions and sacrifice, resolutions are rarely to do less but to go into the unknown and accomplish more.  So, if today you wrote out a list of five great things you plan to achieve in 2014, I am happy for you.  My question though is how will you react when life says "NO" to what it is you are trying to do? 

In John 6, the masses grew and grew for the people wanted to see and perhaps even have a miracle performed on them.  It was not until Jesus claimed he was the living bread sent from God that the people started to leave and question Him.  When Jesus was healing the blind it was easy to believe, but when it got harder to handle what He was saying, the people left and only twelve remained.  It is simpler and easier to pursue one's goals when everything is going well, when it is early on, and when the fire still burns from that moment they decided to make the change.  But now, the tides have turned, and suddenly it is not so easy, and the world appears to be against you.  This is the point when one needs resolve, the point when one must decide whether to go with the masses and make excuses or dig deeper.  Jesus asked, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" to the twelve.  Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God." These are the words of one who is committed, one who believes.   

In 2014 you may have goals; that is the first step.  The second is your plan for when life throws a wrench into those goals.  Will you be committed as Peter was or will you flee with the masses?

The coach in me wants to help you who want to start something new this year with some advice.  Make your long term goals, but make shorter goals that in turn will lead you to the larger goals.  Also, while choosing these goals think about what these goals mean to you, because chances are there will be a bump in the road that may interfere.  It may not be a 5 month injury, but it may be weather, it may be time, or a multitude of other possibilities.  Think of what might derail you and have a plan for when things don't work out.  If you can write these goals down along with why they mean so much to you as well as your plan if things don't go according to plan, you will be prepared for the worst and have a much more successful 2014.

God has been good to me this year even in the time of injury.  I trust that 2014 will be even better.  I owe so much to my family, friends, and to my sponsors Brooks and Honey Stinger!