Still making strides

It’s been a little while since I posted about my adventures in running, or much of anything personal, really. It’s funny how writing stays on the list of things I need to do, and yet… it seems like the closest I get is posting pictures on other social media.

So… what’s happened on the road since February? Let’s see…

There was the visit to the podiatrist to figure out why my left foot wasn’t happy in any of my shoes. Turns out that tendinitis and bursitis (which aren’t supposed to be visible on xrays, in case you wondered) are hard to get rid of when you stubbornly keep running through the pain.

And the opportunity to hire an excellent coach who could help me think through workouts while resting said foot… because I had a half-marathon, some 5Ks, a 10K and my first actual for-real Sprint Triathlon to be ready for.

All that means I’ve been swimming and running, and trying to get used to being on a bike for more than a couple miles at a time. And getting used to doing more than one of those things in a row. I’ve started doing spin classes, since I don’t have any real hills to train on near me. And I’ve been doing strength and balance training, so that I can be more efficient in all three disciplines.

If that sounds like a lot of work, you’re not wrong. It’s called “working out” for a reason. But it’s also a lot of fun. Most days. It’s oddly fun to challenge myself to get faster or stronger than yesterday. And it was incredible fun to climb onto my new bike, pump the legs that had endured spin classes and robo-bike programs, and actually crank up some wicked hills last Saturday.

There is nothing like completing that swim-bike-run combination to make you feel like a Bad. Ass. It is the hardest fun I’ve had in a long time. That explains why “I’ll try a triathlon” turned into “I can fit another one in this summer” and “Wait, they’re going to do one at the Daytona Speedway? I’m in.”

And frustrating days like Monday happen. Getting stronger and faster means doing pace-related workouts. To plan those, my coach and I need to know my “go hard but don’t puke” mile time.  The best way to get one of those is on a track. So I jogged over to the high school in our neighborhood to get it done.

I had no idea until I stepped out into that middle lane, just how much baggage I still carried with me. It was like my whole non-running life came back to haunt me… I was back in elementary school, struggling to finish the run portion of the President’s Physical Fitness challenge.  Then crossing the line well after all my middle school friends were headed to the dressing room. And then feeling like a total fraud as a college athlete who couldn’t break the 9-minute mile requirement.

And now, here I was, voluntarily on a track at 8am. Old enough to know better, and I had even paid someone to tell me to get out there. For just a moment, I hesitated.  Was I really ready to go around those ovals and risk feeling that inadequate again?  If I have learned nothing in the last couple years, it’s this: The only way out is through.

Funny thing is, the first lap seemed to be over really quickly, and I felt good. The track felt shorter than any I’d run on before, but it was a for-real quarter mile loop. The second and third laps were a little harder, so I shifted to sprinting straights and going easier on the curves… and there I was, sprinting the last straight to finish the mile strong.

Due to technical glitches with my watch, I don’t know what my time actually was- but I’m pretty it was closer to 9 minutes than I’ve ever been.  Bonus: No puke.

Going home?  That mile was craptacular, for a variety of reasons. But after I posted about how ugly it was, I realized that running home at all was a victory of sorts. After all, by then, I was only carrying a water bottle. That big doggie bag of emotional leftovers stayed at the track.

I’ll never have a classic runner’s physique, nor do I pedal with a sleek biker’s silhouette. I’ve got broad shoulders, but probably wouldn’t be mistaken for a swimmer . But I am a triathlete now, which is “something” as a friend commented on one of my pics from Saturday. When I joked about not knowing what, he spoke truth. “Whatever it is, it’s good and it’s strong.” I think I’ll take that and run with it.

Sprint Triathlon #2 in the books!
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PresbyNerds Assemble!!!

Usually, I type up my posts at the keyboard of my trusty MacBook, sitting at my desk or kitchen table. Maybe at a local coffee purveyor with decent beans and good WiFi.

Today, I am using my thumbs and my iPhone, sitting at gate 126 with 100 or so folks waiting at an almost-ungodly hour for our flight.

Not that I mind (much), given the ultimate destination of today’s adventures in air travel: Saint Louis, the site of this year’s PC(USA) General Assembly.

Presbyterians and others who will serve as commissioners, advisory delegates, staff and support – and more than a few folks who are just there to observe- are doing the same travel dance all across the country.

Why? Because this is how we church. This is how we find, in our imperfect but faithful way, the next steps for our denomination. We gather to make decisions on the issues facing the church in today’s world. So we meet in committees, we pray, we talk, we worship, we argue a bit (or a lot), we pray some more, we gather as a whole, rinse, repeat… and eventually we vote.

All of that trusting that the Holy Spirit is in our midst, our words, our thoughts and our votes. That we can, when gathered as a body, hear God’s voice in the voices of one another.

I love that. In the same way I love watching leaders do this same hard beautiful work for a congregation or the presbytery. It is holy magic.

I also love these too rare chances to just hang out with the PresbyNerds I know from seminary, conferences and online communities. We are scattered all over most of the time… but for these handful of days, we assemble and reconnect. This, too, is holy magic.

At least a couple of times this week, I will post more, here or as a guest writer elsewhere (I’ll link back!). Meanwhile, prayers for safe travel, clear thinking, a loving heart, and at least a little rest would be much appreciated!

Adventures in Gooberdom

Some days, I feel like I have it pretty much together.  Some days, I know that is not but a delusion.   Some days, I am pretty sure I need a minder.  Yesterday was one.

Even 3 months in, I am learning about being a contact lens wearer. Like last week, I had my first experience of thinking my right lens had fallen out, only to discover that “eyelash” that was bothering me was actually the missing lens.  It had just crawled up into the corner of my eyelid and tucked itself annoyingly away.

Yesterday, though… totally user error.  I knew it was time to switch to the next pair, so I thought I’d pop in the old ones for a quick jog then wear my specs the rest of the day.

Did my run.
Took my shower.
Came downstairs and thought…
It’s bright enough outside I’ll want my shades. I’ll just swap out the contacts.

So, I popped out the old right one, popped in the new one, and blinked as it settled into place. Then I marveled, as I always do, at the magic of being able to see clearly again.

I popped out the right one, popped in the new one, and blinked.
And couldn’t see for crap.

So I pulled it back out, rinsed it, checked to make sure it wasn’t inside out, and popped it back in.   Nope. Still blurry.

Then I thought… that feels awfully thick.  Did I??? 
So, I again pulled out the new contact, and sure enough there was the old one, still on my eyeball.

Yep.  Some days…

I Want to See

This winter, the Narrative Lectionary took us through the story of Jesus’ ministry as told by John.  There are many ways that this particular gospel can be problematic, but even still… the writing style and imagery resonates deeply with the poet in me.

This time through, I was struck by the use of vision – clear, obscured, regained, and lacking – as a metaphor for faith.  I suspect not in some small part because I was literally struggling to see for several weeks.

I turned 40 while working full time as a communications specialist and doing seminary online.  That meant I spent most of my life staring at a screen or books or paper.  And it was the year I started doing that yo-yo thing with items covered in small print to find the “sweet spot” to let me read.  It was not a huge surprise my annual eye exam that year resulted in bifocals.

I’m used to the dance now, after 12 years of adjusting prescriptions and getting new frames as insurance allows… but this year, the timing went sideways.  I ordered a new set of specs, planning to use the current pair as the backup.  And within 48 hours the old pair broke.  Irreparably. And the only option in the house was 2 prescriptions old.

I could “see” well enough to drive safely and read in small stretches.  But I had nothing for sunglasses, which made running/biking even less comfortable and safe.  With a couple weeks wait left on the glasses, I thought to myself… maybe contacts and a pair of shades? One appointment later, I was attempting to train my eyes to see with 1 near and 1 far lens.

While the new glasses were on backorder, (way more than 2 weeks- a whole other story),  I went through 2 versions of contacts and loaner glasses, always slightly blurry… never quite right.  I could see the world, but it was never quite as it should be.  As I knew it could be.

I’ve had my new glasses for a week now.  I still can’t quite get past the fact that I can see effortlessly at every distance…  And my finalized contact lenses even make it possible for me to see clearly when I am in the shower or swimming (with goggles).

I know… there are many people for whom my options are impossible. Either their vision is beyond correction or their circumstances keep options like glasses and contacts out of reach.

Like them – even if temporarily – I longed to be made whole again in this one particular way.  I just wanted to see.  I’d have been more than happy to let some wandering rabbi take a stab at healing my astigmatism.

So much, though, of what John wanted us to see in those accounts was about that deeper seeing.  The kind of seeing that happens as we open our hearts to an encounter with the God.

The kind of seeing which makes it impossible to look at the world the same way as before.

The kind of seeing that cuts right through the layers of bullshit and fakery the world encourages us to wear to the very core of the person, to the childlike heart of the person.

The kind of seeing that allows us to know and be known, by the one who knew us first and loves us best.  And the ones who love us here and now.

I can see now, and for that I give thanks.   But Lord, I still want to see.

I Am (Not)

Our reading today jumps forward by a good bit from our stopping point last week. It is still late on Thursday evening, but a lot has happened.

I could catch us up, but I’d like to let someone else tell the story this morning.  A few of the details come from Luke’s version, but much of what you’ll hear also appears in John’s gospel from end of chapter 13 to the start of 18, which is where we’ll pick up.

Check out the first 1:45 of this video from the Skit Guys now…This is a preview version you can purchase to download.  We’ll watch more later

And so here we are.  John 18:starting at verse 12 (NRSV)

12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.

17 The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”

18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.

20 Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

23 Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”

24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said, “I am not.”

26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”

27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

This is not a great night for Peter.  And it doesn’t look good for Jesus, either.  

What started as an intimate dinner with friends, including Jesus remarkable show of love in washing their feet, has turned into a more public drama involving police and swords and arrests

I want to back up to some of the events in the garden that our Peter described for us… just to catch a couple of details.

He referred to Jesus praying alone… that would be the portion of John that scholars have called Jesus’ priestly prayer. It is among the most beautiful and intricate passages of John’s writing. In it, Jesus implores God to unite and empower the disciples, and not just the twelve, but the generations who would follow… all the way to us.

Jesus prayed for this unity and power, not so that his followers might fight against something… but so that we might love one another and the world, just as Jesus has done.

After he prays alone, Jesus and his disciples go to another garden, this one across the Kidron valley. They find themselves staring down Judas and the soldiers and police he has brought, along with the temple leaders.They have come armed and ready to arrest Jesus.

Jesus knew what what coming. And he walked right up to them.
And he asked, Who are you looking for?

John 18:5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Jesus replied, “I am he.”

Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,”  they stepped back and fell to the ground.

7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.”

I am he…

While the NRSV does a good job here of bringing an ancient Greek text into proper English, grammatically speaking… we lose something important.

In truth, when Jesus answered,  He said, “I AM.”
I am.

John has been using this construct throughout the gospel to help us hold onto the truth of Jesus’ identity.  Both his identity as a fully human Jewish man and as fully divine.

When he answers with “I am” Jesus isn’t simply affirming that he is the one who answers to the name of Jesus and comes from Nazareth.

Jesus is once again claiming his identity as the One from Heaven, God with Us.

As I shared with some of you at our first Wednesday Evening Lent gathering, I am is in fact God’s name.  If we go back to Exodus… back to the moment when Moses meets God, we see Moses encountering a bush that is burning but not being consumed.  

During this interaction, God calls Moses to his work as the liberator of the Hebrew people. Moses is skeptical, but it even as it becomes clear that he will not be declining this call, who is doing the calling is unclear.

So he says to God…   

Exodus 3:13 … “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”
He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.

I am

For all generations, this is my name.

Now, when he says “I am” Jesus knows that the Pharisees and Chief Priests will hear and know exactly what he is saying.
Jesus is claiming his identity.
His true name.
For all generations.
This generation.

“I am.”  

One of the signs we skipped in this winter’s reading of John is back in chapter 6, when the storm is raging and the disciples look out to see Jesus walking on the water.

He says to them, “don’t be afraid…  Then our English translations give us, “It is I” or more colloquially “It is me”

But the Greek… you know what it says?
Yeah…
I AM

There are moments in his teaching that Jesus adds a descriptor to the end…
I am the Light of the World
I am the Gate
I am the Good Shepherd.
I am the Resurrection and the Life

Each of those teachings reveals an important aspect of God’s character, of God’s care for humankind and the world.

But some moments, Jesus isn’t teaching, he is showing.
He is being.
He is displaying the fullness of God

Look… listen… believe…

I am.
God is here.
In me.

And in this fullness, he invites us – humankind  – to be in relationship with God

Jesus invites his followers to know the power of God
But also to experience all the love, grace and hope God offers
To hear the shepherd calling our names
And to respond whole-heartedly.

This is why Jesus washed the feet of his disciples
Why he broke bread with them
Why he prayed for them with such passion and compassion
And now, here he was… being the good shepherd,
ready and willing to lay down his life for his sheep

All of them.
Including Judas. Who had gone very far astray
And Peter… Oh, Peter.
Peter who among the 12 was most clearly all in.  100%
Even if he didn’t 100% understand what that 100% was supposed to look like

We see this when he cries out “Wash all of me… not just my feet”
When he falls asleep on prayer watch duty
And becomes overly zealous with the sword

In these situations and more, we can see that he’s trying awfully hard to live into this new calling.  But not quite getting there. After all, he was a fisherman, not a Bible scholar.
But he stuck with it.
Stuck with Jesus, who kept trying to teach him.

And then, in the courtyard… it happens.
Not once, not twice, but three times.
Peter denies knowing Jesus.  

He doesn’t deny Jesus identity as Lord and Messiah.
No.  Peter is denying his own identity.
Like walking away from his place at the table, he denies being a follower.

On the very night that Jesus has prayed for his followers to bear witness to his teachings and to abide – to remain – in relationship with God…
Peter has the chance to bear witness, To say “Yes, I am a follower of Jesus…”
But he says “I am not.”

It would be easy to make light, to pretend that we would stand firm, unlike wishy-washy, all-in then all-out Peter. But truly… are we so different?

It’s hard for me to think so when we consider honestly the fully human way that Peter responds to the events of this awful awful night…

That’s why I like this video so much.  Peter isn’t the punch line to a joke. He is a complicated human facing a difficult situation. Just like we do, so many days in our lives.

Let’s watch how our actor brings Peter’s denial to life (you can scroll back up to the video again.  You can stop at about 3:34 when he describes the rooster crowing)

How did this happen? Possibly the most passionate follower of Jesus
Reduced to “I am not”

Well, it’s actually quite normal for a human to choose comfort and safety.
Jesus walked straight into a situation where being true to his identity would lead to death.
Peter followed him. 

They each would face points of decision…. stay the course or preserve your life?
When I look at the choices Jesus made and compare them to Peter…
The words “God is God and I am not” come to mind.

I mean, if we look honestly into our hearts, do we have the courage to do any different? We are fully human, too.  It’s hard for me to sit in judgment over Peter.

But I do I wonder what a faith-filled Peter might have encountered.

What if Peter had said “I am” to the woman at the gate?

Yes, she might have denied him entry. Or taken him directly to the authorities… But she might have had other questions. Questions about what it might be like to follow this Jesus who seemed to honor women.

Jesus did say… Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

What if Peter had said “I am” to the slaves and police warming themselves at around the fire?

Sure, they might have sent him away or hauled him inside to the men that owned or paid them…But they might have had questions about this Jesus who talked about setting captives free

Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

What if Peter had said “I am” to the man who had seen him while he was brandishing the sword in the garden? Sure, the man might have come at him with his own weapon. But he had seen Jesus heal the man’s ear… Don’t you think he would have questions?

Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

Peter had heard Jesus teaching.  He had stories to tell, lessons to share.
What if he had chosen to bear witness to all of it?
I wonder.

It is absolutely true that God is God, and I am not…
And I don’t know what it is like to face the trials Jesus did.
Or even the fear that Peter faced in this moment.

So I am not going to stand here and pretend for one moment that I know what I would do. But here’s what I do know.

I know God.
And I know what God has done for me.
I know how my relationship with Jesus the Christ has shaped my life
I know how much the words of Jesus challenge me
To be a more generous, kind and honest human
To seek justice for people I don’t even know
To be an advocate for those whose voices are silenced.
To love all people -in word and action.

And I know all of this because of Sunday School teachers and ministers
Because of seminary professors
Because of people who don’t believe or trust what the church and churchy people have to say these days
And because of members of this congregation,
all of whom asked and continue to ask me questions that helped form my faith…
and help me to remember what I have heard and read
and challenge me to bear witness to my identity as a follower of Jesus.
Even if it means going back to read what Jesus said, again and again

I suspect you could make a similar list of people who have loved you, taught you, challenged you.

Here’s a question to consider in the coming days…
If someone were to ask if you were a follower of Jesus what would you say?

Now I’m not talking about someone asking if you know who Jesus is… whether or not you think you’re going to heaven or if you’ve been “born again”

I’m talking about someone watching you, listening to you…
watching and listening to us as a church, the Body of Christ in this age.

I’m talking about the person who knows that Jesus said…They will know you are my followers by your love.

Maybe they wouldn’t realize that it came from John’s gospel. From his teaching after he washed the disciples’ feet when he said…  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What would you say?
And if they ask us just by watching…
Are we followers of Jesus?

Yes, please…

…which is the filtered version of “Oh, hell yes!”

… which is the opposite of what I said just 4 months ago.

Back in October, as Halloween approached, conversations turned toward costumes. The PresbApopkaterians would again be hosting a booth at the city’s “Hometown Halloween” celebration in the park. It’s a great way to be a visible presence to 1000 or so families every year.

Last year, I ran out of time and scribbled “Error 404: Costume Not Found” on a t-shirt. It was clever and nerdy, but not worthy of a reprise.

Knowing my affinity for a certain Amazon from the DC Comics Universe, lots of folks asked I’d be figuring out a Wonder Woman costume.

I opted instead to honor another fandom by being the TARDIS. True Doctor Who fans know that even a onesie is sexy when it’s the TARDIS. And it’s come in handy on cold January nights

Then one of my RevGal colleagues (and all-around amazing human) Marci posted about her experience being Wonder Woman at her church’s Trunk or Treat event. Her honesty allowed me to be fully honest with myself.

I wasn’t being practical when I opted for a onesie. I was afraid.

Afraid of what others might say about me, and worse yet… to me… if I were to dress as Wonder Woman.

I could hear remarks about how I am too old, and too big for something so revealing.

That I have too many wobbly bits around the middle and thighs and too much floppy action in my arms.

It’s the same fear that has haunted me since elementary school, when I was teased for trying to look like a girl when everyone was used to seeing me in tomboy clothes and sports equipment. And it wasn’t just the kids at school, Family and adult friends would pile on, unaware of how much it hurt.

To this day, I have to fight through 40 years worth of insecurities to try on a dress for special occasions. And once bought, to get it out of the closet and wear it in public.

Reading Marci’s words left me a little pissed. Here I was with the opportunity to embody the strength and confidence gained by pushing this old body far enough and fast enough to finish 2 half-marathons. And I whiffed it.

So… when my friend Mel once again invited me to come to New Orleans for Mardis Gras, and upped the ante by telling me about the nerdiest parade of the season. And then said I could walk with the All Wonder Woman sub-Krewe.

There was but one answer: Yes, please.

Actually it was, “oh hell yes!”

I paid my dues and made my throws and booked my tickets… and took a deep breath when I found my costume online.

Complete your order? Yes, please!

I gotta say, my brain and heart are holding in tension all the joy and fear and excitement and vulnerability of walking around with bare shoulders, a fitted top and a short flappy skirt.

At a time when so many of our shared stories as women are connected to abuse and pain, I love that we can also say “me, too!” with a smile

…when she says, “I waited so long to see her on the big screen”

Me, too

…when she says, “I don’t always wear a tiara, but for Wonder Woman, oh yeah.”

Me, too.

… when they say, “I am Wonder Woman.”

Oh, hell yes, we are.

Want a ride in that invisible jet?

She thought she might could…

It seems that if you run my social media posts through the standard marketing algorithms, you end up targeting a woman who supports other women, does road races, and is likely to consider items with snarky, pithy or motivational sayings.  Which means I get a lot of ads for t-shirts, wall art and jewelry with a particular saying:

She believed she could, so she did

 

I have several friends, in fact, who own the t-shirt.  And they hashtag all kinds of accomplishments, large and small, with #shebelieved.  Which is great, for them.

I just am not that woman. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever actually done anything remotely hard because I actually believed I could.  Especially not at that “go-no go” moment when the  attempt is public and real and all the “holy shit, who thought this was a good idea” chemicals start raging.

Nope.  I want the  wall art or bracelet or t-shirt that says

She thought she might could, so she gave it a try.

I mean, I can’t be the only woman who would buy it. There have to be a lot more of us out there who hesitate than who just “believe,” right?  Women who question ourselves and our preparation.  Women who still go for it – all in – but are as ready to deal with the consequences of failure as we are to celebrate every success we are fighting like hell to achieve.

I thought I might could stand in a pulpit and make sense of the scriptures for a congregation, so I gave it a try.  Several hundred tries later, I am beginning to believe that the folks who affirmed that suspicion and have encouraged me to press on just might be right.

I thought I might could finish a half-marathon, so I gave it a try.  Fully prepared to get swept by the team that closes a course, I finished strong.  Smack in the middle of the pack. Turns out that yeah,  I could!

And then I thought, I might could do it faster…

And somewhere along the way, I thought I might could mix some running into the walking.  So I gave that a try.  I never imagined, much less believed that I would run 75% of my next half.  But the idea that I might could… that was enough to make me try.

Pretty sure this is what God sees in me, too.  There are so many ways I’ve had to wade into faith, especially when the “just because” of childhood beliefs got strolled away.  Trying out areas of trust, taking risks on mystery, making space for grace that would solidify, eventually.

I might could believe that love and grace are real
I might could believe that I am enough
I might could trust the people I love to your care

It’s a start, that seed of hope.
Not full-blown belief.
But enough to make me try.
Every morning.

A handful of things

It really stinks sometimes, being the kind of person who needs lots of words to find her way to the thing she wants to say.  I mean, most days, I don’t get around to that kind of writing because I’m busy getting announcements and sermons and newsletter articles and emails and other time-sensitive stuff out the door.

So, rather than wait for the “Now I can get that whole post out of my head” moment, here are some things I am thinking about, experiencing and… now… sharing.

I was alone on eclipse day, staring up at the sun with my safety glasses on, thrilled to be able to see even the 80-whatver percent coverage we got. I finally hunted someone down so that we could “wow!” at it together as we shared the specs.  A couple of days later, I was driving across town, listening to the RadioLab podcast that had audio recordings of people as totality occurred.  And I realized just how much we need events like this to connect us to one another in moments of awe.  I literally wept as these people I didn’t know described an event I couldn’t see… because they were so overcome by what they saw that you could hear it in their voices. Young and old, all over the country.  Awe is contagious and evocative.

 


 

Yesterday, I stopped to pick up some coffee on the way to work.  A group of people walked into the shop as I was leaving and the last guy stopped to hold the door and let me out.  I said thanks, to which he replied “No problem, have a great day.”

I smiled again, “You, too,” and I walked on toward my car.  Can I just tell you how much it made my day for him to call after me, “You look beautiful today”?  Not because I had dressed up (because I hadn’t).  Not because he’d ever seen me to make a distinction about yesterday’s level of beauty (he was a total stranger).   It was just a random kindness.  The world can use more of that, for sure.


Does anyone else ever have the problem of their ears folding over in their sleep?  Clearly a side-sleeper issue, the ear between my head and pillow sometimes gets tucked in on itself and the pain will actually wake me up.  Weird.


A couple of folks lately have described me as Type A, which sits kind of funny.  I’ve never seen myself as “driven” so much as determined. That’s a good thing, mostly, since it keeps me from giving up on hard stuff (or boring stuff). But it’s got me thinking I need to explore the way my overdeveloped sense of responsibility interacts with the athlete in me who learned you “leave everything on the court”.

 


 

I have other thoughts on Harvey, the Nashville statement, and big stuff in the world, but I’m fighting my allergies and have a church newsletter to get out the door. So… this will have to do for now.

Meanwhile, what kinds of things are you thinking about these days?

Life’s a Beach, especially when you Tri

The first 5K I completed last June was part of a series of events in New Smyrna Beach put on by the “Run for  a Cause” race organizers.  Since that’s an easy trek, I don’t mind being on their mailing list…

So, about 3 weeks ago now, one of their “Come out to play” emails landed in my inbox, describing the Life’s a Beach Triathlon.  Now, I have been swimming pretty regularly since late last fall to keep from killing my feet and legs while training for half-marathons. So, I will confess to having already mused a bit about maybe someday considering the possibility of a triathlon.  But the closest thing to riding a bike I’ve done since 1998 (at the latest) is riding my motorcycle.  So, pssshhhh…

But this Life’s a Beach thing was awfully intriguing.  Just 200 meters swimming, 5 miles on a bike and 2 miles run/walk.  And on the beach. With goofy obstacles.  And prizes for costumes. And last place finishers got awards – in every division!

So.. I sent the email to my enabler, I mean sister, who said,  DO IT!

I don’t have a bike

You can borrow P’s. It’s in my garage.  Do it!

I haven’t ridden a bike in at least 2 decades.

You’ll remember how. And I’ve even got a helmet. If I weren’t headed out of town that weekend, I’d totally go with you.  You have to do it.

I’d never even watched a triathlon.  I’ve never done two of those three activities back to back, much less all three (for obvious reasons).  But I needed to do this.  Why?

Because it scared me.
Because I need to do things before I’ve overprepared for them.
Because I need to be vulnerable and open to the idea of spectacular  failure and embarrassment.

And so I did.  I signed up, knowing I had exactly 2 weeks to get ready.

I needed to get the bike, have it checked out, see if I could actually stay upright on it, then see if my legs would pump the thing for five miles.

In that same 2 weeks, I needed to see if I could go from swimming to biking and from biking to walking.  If those combos worked, I was pretty sure I could manage all three.

I got 2 or 3 rides in before the day, including a couple of combo workout attempts.  The swim-bike test turned out to include a little walking as a cool down (because jeepers the bike does funny things to your backside muscles…)

How did it go??? 

Who knew my sister was so clever? She was totally right. I could do it.
And it was totally a blast.
And I learned a few things…

  1. Swimming in the ocean is very different from splashing around in the waves to cool off after sweating on the beach.
  2. An out & back ride on the beach includes a u-turn at the midpoint.  Turning left or right on neighborhood streets doesn’t actually prep you for a u-turn.
  3. Having a towel and plan for the transition point from swim to bike would have been helpful. Having a clue at that point would have been helpful.
  4. It’s not that painful to ask other competitors for help, especially at a not-super-competetive event, especially when they aren’t in professional-looking triathlon gear.  I’m sure those folks were friendly, too, but they were a bit intimidating…
  5. I have internalized a whole lot of fat/body-shaming BS in my lifetime… more than I even knew.  I can now believe that I am healthier and stronger than the imperfections and jiggly bits I couldn’t look past before.  No matter what anyone else sees, I can see the bad-ass muscles I’ve been building.

Here are a few pics of me on the day…

The swim portion… pretty sure I’m among the group coming back in here

Heading out of the transition area, looking as if I know how to ride…

About 90% done with the run/walk section, we had gone through some tubes and under a net.. now beneath the “sea wall”

Leaping over the beach chairs…

Limbo to the finish line? Are you kidding me?? Yeah… nope. Too tired.

This is what excited to be DONE looks like.

In case you’re curious about official race-type results:

They chip timed, but only start-finish, not splits or transitions (because it’s a beach bum thing, not a sanctioned event thing).   And the swim portion was not a precise distance because one of the buoys floated off during the second wave start and we had to guesstimate where to go.  But still… I found myself in the middle of the pack and happy to be there!

 

And so she did

This is me, standing in the finisher’s area after completing my first half-marathon.

That smile… it was absolutely fueled by adrenaline, pride, gratitude and all the “holy crap did that just happen?” that you might expect.

I have to say that the Historic Half was a great event in and of itself.  The community support was outstanding.  People were out in their yards and along the sidewalks.  One family made a BINGO (well… RUNGO) board and the kids were marking off athletes who carried flags or wore Marine Corps shirts or pushing strollers.

Other families offered watermelon and water between the official pit stops.  There were cowbells and signs and sidewalk chalk.  It was clear that they were there for the long haul, ready to support the fastest and the slowest and all of us between.

The route was challenging. I was as mentally prepared for the hills as I could be, since we drove the course on Saturday.  At least, I knew kind of what was coming. What I didn’t know was whether my legs were truly ready.  There’s only so much hill work on can do in the flat lands of Central Florida.

I blazed through the first 5K and thought, “well, I hope I didn’t just burn up my last 5K.”  When I got to the 10K mark (not quite halfway), I was still ahead of my expected pace, despite lots of rolling hills.  But I still felt really strong and was breathing well, so I figured I’d just keep adding to the cushion.

That’s pretty much the way things continued. I was paying attention to my legs and my lungs, pushed up the hills and relaxed down them, was able to chat a bit with spectators and other competitors… and then we were at the last 3.1 miles, 2 of which are mostly uphill.

I found myself powering up Hospital Hill (the infamous part of the course), past other folks who were struggling, grabbing a water at the station and taking on the last hill over a bridge into the home stretch.  And yes, there were a few tears as I entered the last .1 of the 13.1, but I totally enjoyed the moment as strangers cheered me into the finishing chute.  My intrepid sister/cheering section was right there yelling my name and reminding me to smile for the camera this time.

Not that I really NEEDED reminding.  Endorphines are good for that!

Some FAQs:

How did you feel about the race, technically? I finished about 10-15 minutes faster than my “it could happen, but not likely” goal.  My splits were pretty even, and the 5K and 10K both beat my current bests times at those distances as standalone races.   All of which makes me happy as a newbie.

 

 

Are you going to do this again? Actually, yes.  Going in, I was hedging my bets that I’d like this distance as a walker.  But I honestly think I could have done another couple of miles, which makes me think I can break three hours…

In fact… the next half-marathon on my calendar is in October, at Niagara Falls (finishes at the falls in Canada!).