Friday, October 2, 2009

Biblical commmentaries just wear me out!

John 2:1 - 4:26

In the year long journey through the Bible this morning's reading is like a shopping cart overflowing with goodies. A lot of them are familiar goodies and a lot of them LOOK familiar but reveal greater "goodiness" upon further reflection.

Try to get to that extra goodiness through reading biblical commentary though and you'll find yourself drained.

Take the interaction between Jesus and Mary in John 2:3-5, where she tells him that the wine is gone. Jesus answers:
"Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come."
Read the commentaries on this and they'll explain why he is NOT being rude, that "His time" refers to his public display of power or of his messiah-ship, that he is rebuking Mary for meddling, and that this is NOT proof of the Catholic view of Mary as an intercessor.


What I want to know is...if this is NOT his time why does he do the miracle anyway?
Does this passage indicate that it is possible that our requests to God MAY result in His changing His original plan? This would seem to jibe with what we saw back in the Old Testament where prayer caused God to relent or change plans.
Is this an indication that our relationship with Him is much more organic and fluid than what we typically think?
I don't know...but it sure seems a more lively conversation than whether or not this passage confirms certain catholic theologies!

Then there is this tidbit:
John 3:14
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life."

The context of the Moses story in Numbers 21 is that the people grumbled against God, He sent snakes amongst them, they cried out, God told Moses to make a brass snake on a pole and to "lift it up" so that whoever looked at it would be saved.

The commentators on Jesus reference to this story point straight to the cross.
But Jesus has just been talking about the fact that He has come "from heaven".
Isn't it more likely that He is referring to his ascension? Is it not possible that while the cross IS centrally important it looses it's importance without the resurrection and ascension?

Maybe I am way off base...but it starts to feel a little too well packaged when I read some of these guys. Maybe I've been thinking outside the box so long I've lost my way back to it.
Is that such a bad thing?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Running almost barefoot

Last night I took my first experimental run in Vibram Five Fingers.

To set the stage a bit my run training has been terrible this summer, (in part due to an injury in the spring). Despite running in several sprint triathlons my run is about where you'd expect it to be after 3 to 6 months off. That being said a 5K is readily doable, if not in an impressive time at least in an almost reasonable time.

If you've not seen nor heard of Vibram Five Fingers you can see a picture of them on the website above or here: -

They are basically like wearing gloves on your feet. The soles are of a relatively tough yet flexible kind of rubber that makes it feel like you're barefoot but with feet toughened by years of BEING barefoot.

Our run starts though some neighborhood streets before getting to a dirt/gravel trail. I was expecting that running on cement might be the tough part but it really didn't feel all that different. (my buddy did say I was a lot louder...meaning my feet were flapping on the pavement!) That first half mile or so really just felt like an experiment...what is it like to run in these?

Once we got onto the trail things were even easier. These shoes are REALLY light so you hardly feel them and the soles protect your feet while at the same time letting you feel the difference in the terrain beneath you. It might be too graphic a description but it is almost like running in bare feet with really built up callouses across the entire bottom of your foot.

I made it though about the first mile to mile and a half running then started to alternate between running a block and walking a block. Somewhere about halfway through mile two I started to feel it in my calves and a little on the balls of my feet. They'll tell you that you need to re-strengthen you feet before taking on long distances in these and that your calves will need some work too and they aren't kidding.

The final block or so I was still able to really lengthen out my stride...which I normally can't do...and it even felt more "normal" to be running that way. I normally "feel" a run in my hamstrings and core first...this was definitely different.

In the final analysis I think I'll be working more and more with these. My calves are achy today but not any worse than I would expect to feel after a couple weeks of no running.

On the upside these shoes are way comfortable. My experience in this first go was that my running stride wants to move towards a more natural gate than when I am in traditional running shoes. I tended to want to stride out and even sprint, probably just because it felt like being in bare feet. I didn't feel any pain from stepping on anything but I could feel the differences in ground surface...which was kind of cool.

On the downside I did stub my toe once or twice which resulted in pretty easily wearing a hole in the lightweight nylon upper on the shoe. Now, had I caught my foot like that in regular shoes I might have stumbled rather than just folding over one, good on the injury side...but poking a hole in the top of my shoe that easily is a bit of a bummer.

If you're thinking you want to try these let me strongly recommend trying on at least two or three different sizes. You'll most naturally be focused on how they feel on your toes when you first out them on due, in large part, to the fact that it takes some work to get your toes lined up right. Even though I did try on two sizes I wound up with probably one size too big because of this. The import thing to check is how far back your heel is seated in the shoe. Seating your heel back correctly after you get them on will adjust how well your toes match against the other end. Don't trust that the guy in the shoe store will know this!

In all? I like 'em. I'll run more in them and probably get a second, better fit pair. (Unfortunately you really can't return these after about the first wearing.)

If you like being bare foot then I really recommend giving these a try!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Old Testament


For those on the journey of reading through the Bible chronologically this year we've made it through the Old Testament this past weekend!

It has been interesting to read this as a continuous story once again. Each time I do different themes seem to emerge. I think I caught a different glimpse this time than I have in times past.

It is becoming more and more popular these days to hear people referring to the Bible as irrelevant, as a book written to specific people groups thousands of years ago with no practical purpose today other than perhaps a quaint set of moral guidelines. Interestingly enough the stories in the Old Testament seem to revolve around a similar theme.

The nation of Israel was lead out of Egypt on a journey complete with an amazing set of miracles proving that God was indeed with them and fully in charge. God gave Moses His laws on the mountain...the equivalent of the Bible for His people...and, as the story goes, they rebelled.

Read through any of the prophets, through Chronicles and Kings and you'll see a constant combat between those who think that God's laws are no longer relevant, hence they turn to other gods, and those who seek to reestablish the law that was delivered to Moses. Nearly every one of the prophets calls the people to "remember" what God has done. There really isn't any "new" teaching once the law is given, no changes in policy or procedure, no additional requirements, just a call to go back to following it.

In fact it seems to me that almost the entire old testament, after the giving of the law, is the story of God's call to His people to return to Him. Sometimes they do and there is peace, sometimes they partially do, more often they don't until they are finally exiled.

At the end of the story of the Old testament they are back in Jerusalem and again they are called by godly leaders to remember, repent, and return to the Lord...and His word.

Amongst all the crazy genealogies, the complex and detailed laws, the long lists, the poetic flair of the minor prophets, there is a single thread that is constant throughout:

Remember who I AM.
Repent of your forgetfulness.
Return to Me.

A simple message and one we shake our head at when we heard it over and over again through nine months of reading through the Old Testament.

But clearly a message that echoes through the ages and needs to be heard even more loudly today.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fall Frenzy Triathlon: Are you kidding me?!?

Parker Colorado: Fall Frenzy Sprint Triathlon: September 13, 2009

My goal for this race was to try to beat 90 minutes for the 500M swim, 11 Mile bike, and 5K run.
I had run the same race back in 2006 so I was somewhat familiar with the course.

The morning started out windy and cold. Cold is bad, wind is worse. I got myself situated in the transition area by about 7:15 and with a 10:30 pool start I had time to walk the run course and check it out.

We wound up getting into the pool a little ahead of schedule. This was by far my best swim experience of the season. I opted to go in the third position in our lane, two ahead of me, two behind. The two guys ahead of me were pretty quick and pulled away slowly while the two behind me were rather slower than I was and fell back. That left me with a pretty open stretch in which to swim. I had estimated my swim time at 9:30 and came in at almost exactly that. I exited the pool feeling great and had a pretty good spring in my step as a jogged the 100+ yards to the transition area.

I got to my bike at the same time as a woman who was sharing the bike rack with me was getting back from the ride. We had discussed earlier whether it was cold enough to switch to a long sleeve shirt for the bike leg so I asked her opinion as we were both changing shoes. She said the wind had been bad and that yes, it was probably a good way to go. Fortunately I had guessed that would be the case and my long sleeve shirt was the one I had handy. I pulled it on, started reaching for my helmet and suddenly realized I had put it on backwards! Growling in frustration I quick pulled it back over my head, got it sorted right way round, donned my glasses and helmet and headed out. The whole mini-fiasco probably cost me all of 7 or 8 seconds...10 biggie.

The bike ride start out blazing. I was feeling good and the up hills were fewer than the down hills on the start of the course. There are two nasty hills in the middle to last section of the course and these turned straight into a nasty headwind. On the first I gritted it out, getting way further into my granny gears than I had wanted to but managing it ok. The second, and steeper, hill comes right after a sharp right hand turn that forces you to lose almost all your momentum from the previous downhill. I blew my shift here and by halfway up it I was struggling. For a brief moment I thought I would actually lose enough momentum to have to stop and walk. It's funny the sort of internal dialogue you have with yourself at that point:
"This is nasty. I need to walk it for a second."
"Hey man, I'm losing pace and may fall over any second."
The louder voice won.
I kept pedaling and finished in a decent time.

I got into T2 and prepared for the dreaded run.

Due to an ankle injury back in May I haven't been able to do many training runs this truth probably only five or six all told since June. I glanced at my watch as I was leaving transition and saw that I had probably somewhere around 30-35 minutes to get the run finished if I wanted to break the 90 minute mark.

The run course passes right by the finish line on the way out, people headed in both directions and a LOT of spectators watching for their friends to finish. As I came through the first corner there a toddler, young enough to be still wobbly on his feet, staggered out right in front of me. I had seen him coming, thanks to the preparedness training of all those drivers ed films back in high school, and decelerated into an exaggerated slow motion spin around the kid all the while slowly saying "Ooooohhhhhh Nnnoooooooo!!!" This got a chuckle from the crowd. A few seconds down but good fun to be had and it helped the kid's mom not feel so bad that her child had gotten in the way.

The run itself was a nightmare. I knew that I had managed to run without walking at all in 2006 but my training had been much better then. I also knew I could run/walk at something around an 11 minute/mile pace which was going to make it pretty close if I was to break 90 minutes. The course is 1.5 miles or so out and them about the same coming back. I was definitely stronger on the way back in, my watch spurring me on, but at my best I was still barely shuffling along like some ancient Chinese aristocrat at the end of a bad meal.

With about 50 yards to go you come to a steep uphill dirt back that climbs about 10-15 yards...steep enough the only a few people manage to run up it...most walk, leaning far forward.
I got to the top and had another conversation with myself:
"Dude, stop and catch your breath."
"Ok, walk slow then"
"you WIMP...GO,GO,GO"

I managed to lurch into a shambling jog, gasping around the corner and through the finish line. I glanced at my watch and knew it would be close.

An hour or so later...

My glasses are still in my car so my wife is running her finger down the results list. I'm feeling pretty good that my name appears in top half of all finishers. She finds my names, traces across and then turns to look at me with a bit of a look...almost as though she has just smelled something nasty.
"Do you really want to know?", she asks.
"Crud....yes", I grunted.
"1 hour, 30 minutes, and 5 seconds."
I said something that rhymes with trap, is brown, and means the same thing as a word for the sound made by a large bell...followed by:
"Are you kidding me?"

Put your shirt on right the first time, juke past the kid instead of clowning, don't converse with yourself just run to the finish, to one less deep breath at the edge of the pool...ANYTHING gets you back five or six seconds.


Fall Frenzy Triathlon: Last of the season?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rattlesnake Triathlon - part 2

If you've read the previous post you know that I floundered my way through my first open water swim and wobbled into the transition area at something less than a sauntering stroll of a pace.

My head and vision were starting to clear as I plunked myself down to get on my shoes. The bike is usually my strongest leg...I'm typically in the top third of all participants pace wise on the this is where I usually can make up some time. But I forgot one of the key training lessons of triathlon: "Live in the moment". I was definitely NOT in the moment as I rode out onto the course. I was still flabbergasted over the swim.

The Rattlesnake bike course is VERY hilly with a net rise in elevation of over 750 ft. That means you do get some downhills but they all seem to slope in to the middle of the course so that you up to the turn around and up to the finish. I spent most of the bike leg trying to keep the contents of my stomach inside of me. I wound up with a decent time but my pace was about what I would normally do just riding around town.

I came in to transition glad to know I had only a 5k left to go. Of course, the run is usually what I am worst at...

With one seriously bad knee and a long recovery time after my race back in June I hadn't been able to do any run training for nearly two months. My plan going in to this run was to keep a brisk walking pace...which for me is between an 11 and 12 minute mile...and jog a bit on the downhills. The plan seemed to work ok on the outbound part of the run. Sure I was being regularly passed by people but I was passing occasionally too. At the 1.5 mile turn around point I was feeling like maybe I hadn't pushed myself hard enough...then I started thing about the swim AGAIN and had to work on stomach content maintenance for a few hundred yards.

With about a half mile to go I came up on the two ladies from CWW triathlon club with whom I had shared bike rack in the transition area. This normally would have felt pretty good since they started in the water at least 15 - 20 minutes ahead of me...but they had both run the olympic distance tri the day before. I thanked them for waiting for me and told them they could go ahead and finish if they liked. We wound up jockeying back and forth...them passing me when I walked me getting them back when I jogged...until I heard them coming up behind me one last time with an intent to run through the finish.

Up until that moment I was pretty sure I was wiped out enough the my male ego had sunk to the bottom of the lake somewhere. Apparently it found me out at the end of the run course and I managed to run through the last quarter mile..."run" being a very relative term at that point.

At the end of the day my time was a 1:37:53...not impressive by any stretch but not one to complain about really. My pace for the swim and run were close to what I had hoped for even if the bike was a little slow. But I DID learn a crucial lesson or two:

1. Don't try something entirely new for the first time in competition.
Open water swimming + wet suit combined for a harrowing mental experience
2. "Live in the moment" means forgetting what you just did and focusing on what you're doing.
That would have helped in both the bike AND run.
3. "Live in the moment" also means focusing your mind on truth.
I knew what to do but let my mind wander to "oh my gosh's" and "what if's"

Yes, I will try an open water swim tri again someday.
Somehow though I think those three lessons apply beyond just doing triathlons.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rattlesnake Triathlon - A first tri at open water

I had read, several times, that doing an open water swim in a triathlon was much different than doing a pool swim. Going into today I had never done an open water tri...though I had done a couple with pool swims. Now, I've swam in rivers, lakes, even in the ocean quite a bit...but I was NOT ready for THIS.

We entered the water in a time trial start, 5 seconds between each person, which is designed to avoid the chaos of a mass shotgun start. Instantly I recognized that all of the usual proprioceptive ques that help me keep a steady pace in the pool were gone. Within the first fifty meters I was thrashing. My heart rate was way up, I couldn't go more than a handful of strokes without peeking up to see if I was on a good line. I was worried about running into was horrible.

Truth be known I can do 500 meters in a pool with relative ease at a decent pace but by the time we got out to the 250 meter mark and made the turn for shore I was worried I might not make it. There are kayaks along the the way that you can grab on to if you are in a bad enough way and as long as you don't propel yourself forward there is no penalty...but I did NOT want to be that guy.

With 50 meters to go I had a couple guys pass me and ask if I was ok. I was kicking along on my back trying to catch my breath. I pushed myself to roll back over and dug in hard for about 30 meters and finally found lake bottom. I managed to get my feet under me and dragged myself onto the beach only to find that I was staggering like late night drunk. I couldn't keep anything like a straight line, my eyes were doing weird focus things, I felt overwhelming panic and relief all at the same time and knew I still had to bike 12 miles and run a 5K.

Normaly I can get a good jog on after the swim but this was a lurching survival walk. I stumbled past the people who were there to help us out of our wetsuits knowing that if I lay down to let them pull it off my legs I wouldn't be able to get back up. I CLEARLY remember the small, rational, analytical part of my brain chipping in with, "Ok, that was ridiculous. You could have died. We're never doing THAT again."

My transition time, which doesn't start until AFTER you stagger in to the transition area, was close to two minutes longer than my normal...only 1/3 of the race down and I was spent.

to be continued...