Archives For March 2010

On the eve of big events, I tend to have strange dreams. Last night wasn’t exactly the eve of a big event, rather it was the eve-eve. Tomorrow I run in my first half-marathon. I’m pretty nervous. I just want to finish! Anyway, you probably would rather hear about my dream than my nerves.

It started out with me running down a grassy hill in some small town somewhere (partially reminiscent of Grove City, PA) in jeans, a t-shirt, and canvas slip-ons. I was running to get to the start of the half-marathon and I was late. The race had already started. I passed a wooden sign that said “Marathon Start” and started frantically looking around for the “Half-Marathon Start” wooden sign. As I approached it I realized that I was missing something.

My signed release waiver and a car battery, both items I should have turned in at the pre-race expo. So, I ran through the streets of this strangely deserted town trying to find my car. On the way I ran past a security officer with a couple German Shepherd guard dogs. Across the street there was another guard, also with dogs. They were chatting and seemed rather oblivious of my plight.

The guard on my side of the street made eye contact with me as one of his dogs ran toward me. I didn’t slow down. I was certain that the dogs were on leashes or that he would call the dog back. He didn’t. Instead the dog jumped up and sunk his teeth into my right forearm. It really hurt! I wrenched his mouth open, staring incredulously at his master who nonchalantly continued his conversation. The dog then sunk his teeth into my right thigh. Again, I used my hands to pry his mouth open. This time I held onto his snout and used it to fling him away from me. I took off running across the street and then jumped down an embankment into a stream, thinking that if I did that the dog couldn’t follow me.

Still bewildered by the whole dog thing, I found myself running through a field full of parked cars. placed next to most of the cars were car batteries of different sizes and shapes. “Clearly”, I thought, “they’re not collecting those car batteries like they said they would. That’s good since I forgot mine.” Then I was at my car. I opened up the rear door and grabbed my release waiver, turning toward the start line on a course that would give me a wide berth around those dogs.

Then I remembered I still hadn’t changed into running clothes. I ran back to my car, climbed into the back of it and fumbled around with my clothes until I emerged quaffed in proper attire. Waiver in hand I began running down a dirt road to the empty start line. I heard a vehicle rumbling up the road behind me. I turned and looked over my shoulder and it was a pickup truck with a bed full of tired looking runners, all standing and trying to keep their balance as the truck bounced over the uneven road, kicking up clouds of dust in its wake. The driver leaned out and barked, “Up in the back, slow poke. Course is closed.”

THE END

That doesn’t exactly give me warm fuzzies for my race tomorrow. I hope there are no dogs.

I’m one week away from running my first half-marathon. What seemed like a really good idea back in December is now looking pretty foolish. Why? Mostly because I haven’t been able to put in near enough training to finish at a pace even close to what I was hoping for. There are a lot of reasons for this, most of them can probably be chalked up to the timing of the race, some of them to my own lack of experience as a runner.

First off, my training has been interrupted numerous times by weather. It was probably an unwise decision to pick a big race like this that would require all my training to be done in the winter. But who knew that this winter would have the most snow accumulation in this area since they started keeping records? Sheesh. I did finally break down and get a membership to a no-frills gym so I could at least get on a treadmill. But treadmill running is different from street running. It just is. If this race had been in October instead of March, maybe the weather would have played nicer.

Secondly, I’ve been hampered by a nagging, recurring injury that I came to understand is Illiotibial Band Syndrome. It presents as a pain in the outside of one or both knees, usually showing up when you’re about 2 miles into a run. The only thing that will make it go away is to stop running. The pain also recurs when walking down steps. It is caused by a big cluster of fibers snapping across the outside of the knee. I learned some stretches that help to delay the onset, and some deep tissue massages that will help to limber up the area. But, once it strikes, it can take a couple of days before you can run again.  Like most runners I tried to “make up” missed training sessions by adding lost miles into future runs. Big mistake. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, doing so will increase IT band flare ups.

I was also out of commission for a couple of weeks because I had a wicked sinus infection. All the while the calendar steadily marches on toward the race. With each passing day comes more and more frustration and more and more questions. I ended up throwing out any time goals I had. “Just finish” became the new goal. For a while I thought that one was going to have to go as well. The race is almost here. It’s already paid for. I’m going to start it. How I finish will largely be a byproduct of the time and effort put in leading up to race day and my constitution on the day of the race.

What other races are we running? In a figurative sense, what are the things that we are aspiring to attain? Have we made wise choices in aspiring those things? If we have, are we making a good faith effort to attain them in such a way that will position us to be happy, healthy, and able to enjoy them? I think that I made some unwise choices in my race selection. I made some unwise choices in training. I could choose to ignore the choices I made, keep my original pace goals, and likely end up injuring myself in the race. Instead, I’ve decided to admit that maybe I didn’t make the best decisions. Sure, some stuff was out of my control, but the whole reason I started signing up for races was to have fun! If I can’t finish happily and healthily then, for me, it’s not worth doing.

So, when next Saturday rolls around, I’ll shuffle off with thousands of other people, maybe not as fast as I’d hoped, but hopefully at a pace that allows me to take in the sights and sounds of the race and sees me safely across the finish line where I can say, “I did it.”

I was sick last week. I had the worst sinus infection I’ve ever had. I couldn’t do anything for 4 days. It’s hard to describe how incapacitated I was. I’m kinda mad that there’s not a more sinister name for a sinus infection. It just doesn’t sound that horrible. I think people who’ve never had one think it’s like having a bad stuffy nose. There should be a new name for it that  is more descriptive. Maybe “EndoViral ImmunoLambasting SupraNasal Olfactory Threat” or E.V.I.L.  S.N.O.T. for short. I’m telling you, it was horrible. I’m not pretty when I’m sick.

I don’t meant that in the “I don’t look good” sense (though that is certainly true, especially during a sinus rinse). Rather, I’m just depressing to be around when I get sick. I started feeling sorry for myself. I began looking at life and all I saw was the glass-half-empty side of things. By the time the weekend came around, I was ready to get out of the house and be around people again, even though I wasn’t feeling a whole lot better. I’m glad I did.

On Saturday morning my team held a training event for small group leaders. I’m the upfront guy for those kinds of events. During the round table discussions I had a leader come up to me and tell me that, of all the small group trainings he’s been a part of, this one was the best. He went on to say, “People who don’t come to this have no idea what they’re missing out on. This is really valuable stuff.” Now, this guy has been a small group leader for years in many different contexts. There are few things you can tell him that he hasn’t already heard. Coming from him those comments were a big deal.

Sunday after the first service I had a young man and his girlfriend grab me for a few minutes. I’d met with the young man back in the fall of last year when he needed some counseling. He was going through a rough time, living a couple hours away from here while his girlfriend lived in this area. He was finishing up school, trying to get a job transfer, not really sure about his relationship to church, and doubting whether his relationship with his girlfriend was going to survive. We talked for a while, I made some suggestions and that was the last I saw of him. They pulled me aside Sunday to tell me that he had gotten the job transfer recently, moved into the area and things between them were going great. They are regularly attending here and he’d never forgotten the conversation we’d had.

Not long after I’d parted with them, a woman that I’d never met came up to me and told me that she loves it when I get the opportunity to teach during the worship services. She said I’m a great speaker with a gentle humor that can put people at ease. She wanted to know when I’d be speaking next.

The weekend was also the weekend of our baptism services. One of the opportunities we create is for people who would like to get baptized on the spur of the moment, to come and get in the water. We offer some dry clothes for them to change into, though many of them choose to go home wet! Our baptismal pool is actually in the lobby of the church and a live video feed is displayed in the sanctuary during the baptisms. The second service was wrapping up, the senior pastor was already changing out of his wet clothes and a young man walked up wondering if it was too late to get baptized. I told him that the pastor was already getting dressed and the man replied, “Oh, ok. I’ll just do it some other time.” No way! I emptied my pockets, took off my shoes and told him that if today is his day, we’re not going to let it get away. We entered the water together and I got to baptize him. We both went home wet!

So, there I was, feeling sorry for myself, wondering if I was really in the right place at the right time doing the right thing and God strung together all those encounters. It’s been a long time since I felt such affirmation that I’m exactly where I should be. Sometimes doubting where we are and what we’re doing is a good thing. It gives God the opportunity remind us why He called us to where we are. Or maybe it gives us an opportunity to listen. Either way, doubt isn’t always a sign of weakness or faithlessness. Now, how to change my doubts that I’ll actually finish my first half-marathon in 9 days…