Tag Archives: goals

Eyes on the Prize

quote-3

I love me a new year, but I like it better one week in.

The starting gun fires, the race commences, and some yahoos foolishly sprint to the lead for a brief moment until reality reminds them that they are in over their heads and they fade into oblivion. That is when the race really begins. Once the crowd thins and the race gets real, the true competitors search for their pace and ask themselves important questions about their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. That is what happens about one week into a brand new year, and I want to be a true competitor in this race called life.

So here we go.

I want to look deep into my soul this year. Will I avoid the unsettling quiet required to explore the frightening corners of my own heart?

I want to spend myself on others this year. Will I allow fear, pride, and privilege to keep me away from confronting the injustice in my own community?

I want to remember important stories from the past this year. Will I let the sirens pull me mindlessly forward and forget the treasures found in old experiences?

I want to push my boundaries this year so that I grow. Will I permit the deception of comfort and routine lull me into complacency, or will I have the courage required to test uncharted waters?

I know the right answers to all of these questions, but the breathless pace and the long road ahead demand that I maintain focus, avoid distraction, and keep my eyes on the prize.

It is time to settle in and do the work.

Advertisements

#MyMile

19275276_10154444289351784_2410358217710841199_nStrava is the self-described “social network for athletes.” I accepted Brad’s invitation to join anyway. Strava challenged its users to go for a personal record (“PR” in runner lingo) in June in The Strava Mile. For some reason I accepted that invitation, too.

We jogged a warmup mile to the Pepperdine track last Thursday morning for this midlife crisis, er, I mean, historic event only to discover college basketball, soccer, and cross country athletes there in early morning workouts. They must have been entertained to see two middle-aged men take turns laboring at (our) top speed around the track to see how fast we could run a solitary mile. Will Ferrell and David Spade will play us in the movie.

I think we impressed ourselves if no one else. That was true for me since my regular exercise routine never includes speed work and because Michael Dukakis was running for president the last time I ran a competitive mile. It got me to wondering what an old man could really do if he was committed to a solid workout plan?

So I consulted my good friend, Google, and discovered John Trautmann. John was an elite college athlete and a 1992 Olympian who like most young adults gave up exercising, got a job that paid actual money, and started eating a lot of doughnuts. He added sixty-five pounds of Krispy Kreme by the age of forty and then decided that he preferred being in shape. So he went to work and at age forty-six (my age now) established the world record in the mile for the 45-49 age group by running an astonishing 4:12.33. 

Okay, that’s not going to happen for me. But it did happen, and that fact alone is crazy inspirational.

What needs changing in your life? And what are you waiting for?

This Could Be Our Year

After some time apart, which we both agreed was a good idea, Football Season has come back into my life.  We are both excited.

My team of choice hails from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and is known as the Razorbacks, or more colloquially, “the Hogs.”  Well, team of “choice” is probably wrong: the Razorbacks are mine as my alma mater and as a natural born citizen of the State of Arkansas.  I bleed Razorback red.  (Sure, everyone bleeds that color; I’m just proud of it.)

This could be our year.  Okay, we all know that it’s not going to be our year.  We are (generously) picked in the middle of the pack in just our half of the conference.  Five of our twelve games are against preseason ranked teams—and we are unranked.  And I should admit that it has never been our year, at least not since 1964, which was the year the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty.

But watch out Louisiana Tech!  Razorback Stadium will be rocking on Saturday afternoon, decked out in blazing red and calling the Hogs, and Razorback Nation including fans from Fayetteville to transplants in of all places Malibu, California, will tune in and dream that somehow, against all odds, this turns out to be our year.  Knowing that it won’t.

So what exact flavor of stupidity is this sport?  It seems to be an annual recipe for national depression redeemed only in part by a shared hatred of Alabama.  Oh, but it is not.  Most definitely not.  No, in the pursuit of the lofty prize that only one (darn Alabama) will receive, we will experience the most amazing moments.  Guaranteed.  Every year.  I have never experienced a Razorback national championship football season, but I was there for the Miracle on Markham in 2002.  I was there in 2007 when we took down top-ranked LSU in Death Valley in multiple overtimes.  What memories!

There is one lesson that I tried to instill in my daughters using my very best fatherly-advice voice: Have a goal in life and go for it, but don’t get too caught up in the destination.  Wonderful things happen on the journey toward our crazy dreams.

#WPS

To Race or Not to Race: That Is the Question

I am competitive.  It’s not like I hip check small children to get ahead of them in line or anything.  I prefer creating distractions so they don’t notice.

On one hand, I treasure my competitive nature.  It motivates me to get out bed each day and leads to achievements otherwise beyond imagination.  But on the other hand, it drives me a little wackadoodle.  Sometimes, staying in bed would be a nice change of pace.

My ongoing affair with running is a prime example.  After a twenty-plus year break, I started running again in 2010 and in the past six years have completed four half-marathons and a variety of shorter races—and it has been awesome.  I love the thrill of the big race where all sorts of humanity gather on a weekend morning for a good cause, and I love the battle within myself to see if the long hours of training can produce a new PR (“personal record”).

But training for those races tends to make me a little nutty.  I do, mostly, enjoy those training runs, watching my times, seeing improvement, envisioning the big race, and counting down the days, but it has a tendency to become an obsession, which is a nicer way of saying that I become a little like Yosemite Sam but only in a bad mood.  And that’s no fun.

Recently, I have enjoyed running with friends all over the map—from Paul in Kenya to Dodie and Rusty in Arkansas to all sorts of friends in California.  With no race on the calendar, I simply enjoyed the company and stories and scenery without worrying about times or mileage or anything.  And yet, signing up for a race calls me like a siren.

I’ll do it.  I know I will.  And on certain days I will regret it, most notably on race day when my lungs are burning and I open up negotiations with God.  But when it’s over, and I inhale that intoxicating sensation of accomplishment, I will be glad.

A Difficult Journey

Although less than flattering, I will tell the story.

Our business in India last week took us further away from the Delhi airport each day, culminating in a three-hour climb up a winding, dangerous, spectacular road in the Himalayas.  On this final climb, as we dodged death (and cattle) ahead of us and absorbed the awesome views on both sides of us, I developed a case of motion sickness.  Nothing too terrible, just enough to create a fuss for our hosts, which led to some rest, a nice visit from a young Indian doctor, and a bottle of Sprite.  By evening, I felt better and had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful mountain village.

At 6:30am the following morning (warning: graphic material ahead), things went south.  Literally.  I will spare the terrible details, but suffice it to say that the next couple of hours were not pretty due to the onset of a malady common to travelers in the region.  But to somehow make things worse, we were scheduled to leave that morning with the following itinerary: a three-hour drive down the mountain, followed by a seven-hour drive to Delhi; followed by a six-hour wait in the airport; followed by an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam; followed by a one-hour race across the airport; followed by a ten-hour flight to Los Angeles.

And I felt like crap, pardon the ironic word choice.

One of my colleagues provided a miracle drug to stop the I’d-rather-not-say, and we were faced with a decision on what to do with me.  As my two colleagues considered donating me to India and our host offered to call an ambulance, I declared that I had four goals: (1) get down the mountain; (2) get to the airport in Delhi; (3) get to Amsterdam; and (4) get to Los Angeles.  And that I would take them one at a time.

Well, I strapped myself in, armed with a granola bar, drugs, a bottled water, prayer, and another Sprite, and off we went after goal number one.  It did not go so well.  At one point on the journey down the mountain, we stopped for my traveling mates to have lunch.  The smell of Indian food was not my friend, and I considered jumping off the mountain but did not have enough energy, so I strapped myself back in and continued on the journey.

I did survive the mountain and felt that there was hope—in fact, the lower elevation seemed to help.  On phase two of the journey—the seven-hour drive to Delhi—we stopped at a roadside convenience store where I discovered a can of plain Pringle’s and thought that God might like me again.  But alas, by the time night fell and we reached the airport, and possibly because we reached the crazy rush hour traffic of Delhi, I started to feel terrible again.  But hey, goal number two was accomplished.

The six-hour wait in the airport is not a fond memory.  On the plus side, I did eat most of a sandwich and then slept for a few hours sprawled across three plastic chairs, but by the time we boarded the flight to Amsterdam, I approached my lowest moment.  As the plane took off (thus ensuring I would reach goal number three), I longed for death once again.  I was certain that I would do ugly things in the airplane lavatory and even unfastened my seatbelt so that I could run for it—only you can’t run to the lavatory with drink carts in the aisle, and once you get there they are almost always occupied, and should a miracle occur and one be vacant I can’t fit in one anyway, much less if I am having convulsions.  And any change of clothes was packed in checked luggage.  I wished the plane would crash and somehow kill only me.

But somehow, after a few hours of misery, I improved enough for some fitful sleep, and by the time we completed my third goal I was in good enough shape to make it across the airport to board the plane to Los Angeles.

The final ten hours were not the happiest of my life, but I think you get the drift of the story by now.  I made it home after the terrible thirty-five hour journey and fully believe in miracles.

So why do I share such an embarrassing story?  I have faced a few significant challenges in my life, and there will be more for me and also for you.  When such challenges arise, and the journey ahead seems perilous and terrible with no guarantee of survival, sometimes you must set out on the journey anyway.

When such a journey is inevitable, fix your eyes on the road ahead, take it one step at a time, hope for some friends to journey with you, and just try to hold on.  You might not make it, but then again, you might.

Crazy Dreams

I almost did something insane. My wife and I are on a team headed to Kenya this summer (note: this is not the insane part) to live for a couple of weeks alongside an inspiring organization called Made in the Streets (“MITS”) that rescues street children from the Nairobi slums. Our youngest daughter is going, too, but she will spend her entire summer there as a photojournalism intern. Both my wife and daughter are in love with MITS from past trips, and I must go see for myself what has grabbed their hearts.

Still not the crazy part.

I’m a runner. Well, I’m a runner who is struggling to find motivation to keep being a runner, so I emailed Dusty, our fearless leader to Kenya, to ask what opportunities there might be to run with the Kenyans while there. Dusty had an idea or two and then suggested looking for a race in Nairobi. Well, I didn’t find a race in Nairobi, but I discovered that one of the toughest marathons in the world will occur about four hours north of Nairobi while we are there.

Now to the crazy:
1. The race is held a hundred miles from the equator, so 90+ degrees.
2. Add high humidity.
3. Add the dust from running on a dirt road.
4. Add the thin air of a 5500’ average elevation.
5. Add that I don’t have enough time to train for a normal marathon (and this would be my first).
6. Add actual lions.

Yep, actual lions. The race is held in a game preserve, and in addition to 140 armed rangers it is stated nicely under the “safety” tab on the marathon’s website, and I quote, “A helicopter and Supercub light aircraft monitor the movements of the large species during the race.”

In. Sane. Cray. Zee.

I actually came to terms with going for it—until I learned how much it would cost (and by cost, I mean financial; for some reason, the potential human cost did not deter me). Registration is $250 (steep, but okay) along with a $1,500 fundraising requirement (steep, but I would have bugged all of you for it anyway); however, it would cost $2,000+ more just to travel there and back and sleep in a tent. I’m crazy but not crazy rich.

Here’s the deal. Somewhere in the insanity I found motivation to run again. Okay, sure, the nightmares featuring lion attacks helped, but for the most part, I’m back at it again even though I am not going to run this amazing race.

I haven’t exactly identified the lesson here, but if you are in need of some motivation in some aspect of your life, you might ask someone for suggestions and be open to considering possibilities beyond your wildest dreams. It somehow got me out of bed this morning.