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How’s Your Serve?

Today was crazy busy. I tagged along with the boys early this morning on an informal mini triathlon with our local tri club. It was super fun and relaxed and so enjoyable to race it together with my sons. That was the “fun” part of the day. The rest of it was spent prepping everything for tomorrow’s big Ironman race simulation. I was fetching ice, bottled water, bike chain cleaner, marking paint and more. The boys and I marked the run course through the neighborhoods and the key turns at the midway point of the bike. I set up the transition areas and scoped out the swim start again. Finally after all that, I pulled my personal gear together and now I’m hitting the hay.

I’m tired, but at peace. As I prepare to close my eyes, I realize I’ve spent most of the day serving others. And I’m fulfilled by that. While it was sometimes stressful trying to transform my driveway into a triathlon transition area, the day was enjoyable. I was focused. Life was in it. It was a good day.

How’s your serve?

Old-running-shoes

The Second Lap

The shoes in the image above are mine. I’ve run more than 1800 miles in them over the last three years. I’ve learned much on the journey. My skill as a runner has increased significantly. But there is still room for improvement. My Ironman training regimen is designed to help me finish stronger than I start. The workouts tend to have tougher components toward the end. Such was the case Sunday afternoon. I was scheduled for a two hour run. The first hour was to be run as a warm up with low intensity just to get good and tired. The second hour was split into three, twenty minute intervals at race pace (or faster) intensity. I started at 1:30 PM in the afternoon on a mid-80’s degree day to simulate the race day run timing. The Texas humidity made sure I was warm right from the start.

I kept my pace measured and easy as I clicked through the first hour, marked off by my regular refueling every fifteen minutes. Then came the work. I laid out my run to have more hills in the second hour. That’s how the course is in Chattanooga in September. Just as I hit the first twenty minute interval, I was heading up one of the steeper hills of the day.

When you’ve been moving at a slow and steady pace for an hour, your body adjusts and kicking it up to a fast gear pushes everything out of whack for a bit until your body acclimatizes to the new pace. But I held it; I hit my pace goals during all three intervals. My software tells me my fastest kilometer of the day was my last one. I was speeding up as I finished! Yes! Real progress! But that second hour, that second lap was tough and demanding on my body and concentration.

Now that I look back on it, the first year after Kristi died was all about survival. I was thrilled just to get to this date last year. So much change. So much hurt. So much adjustment. I wasn’t sure I could do it. But I made it. We made it. Together and smiling! I knew we would be OK.

But as this second year without Kristi has drawn to a close, I realize that it has been much like the second lap of my run. This year wasn’t just about going through the motions just to make it to a certain date on calendar. This year was about making real progress toward thriving again. And we have. But it has been hard. The pace has picked up and life is churning onward. We’ve had to adjust to the new pace and the reality of the new normal has settled in. This isn’t a sprint. Its about endurance. However the path to thriving again is in moving forward, not back. I know it. Its exciting to have progress. But there’s a price to pay. I’m willing to pay it. My goal is not survival. My aim is to thrive!

Happy Birthday

I was surprised this evening as we celebrated my birthday quietly at my parents’ house. A knock on the door and a friend from church delivered this birthday cake for me. His daughter,

IMG_9050who had made it, delivered it with him. What a delightful surprise! Its the Ironman logo. What you can’t see is that on the right edge of the cake it says “Ironman” and on the other it says “Chattanooga”. How cool is that?

Friends and family carry you along the way on this journey of life. I know so many have prayed for me and for our family. So many have extended themselves to care for us. This was the latest example of the Father’s love expressed through His children. I am grateful… grateful to live among such excellent people. Last year I rode up a mountain on my bike. This year I took the day off training. I’ll be back at it tomorrow, sharpening up for the big race simulation on Saturday. But today was a day to savor being alive.

While this cake is a symbol of my racing goal for the year (Chattanooga Ironman, September 27th), it also puts a stamp on what it takes to keep living, keep loving and keep laughing. It takes an iron will. I will not back down in the face of loss. Oh yes, it hurts. Oh yes it claws at me. But I will overcome. I choose faith, hope and love. These three remain. They are the fertile soil that produces joy.

 

To Move Forward

In the finish chute at the Pflugerville TriI train to race. I race to move forward. Its that simple.

Life went sideways the day Kristi was diagnosed. A sideways life is out of sync. It requires WAY more effort to simply complete each day than synchronization did. After eighteen years of marriage we had our processes figured out. We moved in synchronization. Our processes and methods may not have been the most efficient and certainly not the best, but they were ingrained, they were habitual (in the best use of that word). Two parents, two mates, two lives working as one, raising four more made a lot of forward progress.

But then there was just one. One trying to survive. One trying to keep all the old processes in motion but finding out that one cannot do what two did. One trying to keep the other going. But one ending up just trying to make it to the end of each day. One trying to keep hope alive in the other four. One trying to keep hope alive in himself. And then hope died.

One found himself adrift, floating sideways. But there was a race coming for the one. Because there was a race, one got up before the dawn to run and swim and bike. When the gun went off, one found he was racing, not to survive, but to thrive. The reality of the forward movement captured the spirit of one and rekindled hope that life could be synchronized again. Each finish line was more than just the completion of a race. It signified forward momentum.

The race demands the focus of the one be kept looking forward, to live in expectation of growth and new achievement. The race instills discipline in the one to rise and train. And one has found that in the rising, in the training, in the racing, life moves forward, not sideways. Forward movement provided a rebirth of hope. And hope does not disappoint.

I race to move forward.

 

 

Dual Roles

I thought I knew what Kristi did as a mom. Right. Now that I have been both dad AND mom for close to two years, reality has become clear. Its a ton of work. It takes everything I have. And it keeps on taking. I love it and am glad to do it, but…wow!

Chad, Kristi and children, the day after diagnosis

So on this Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for all the years my children had an amazing, capable, loving, talented, giving, tough, hard-working, thoughtful, patient and never-give-up mom. On the way to church I asked them to recount memories they had and we got some good stories.

Coming home, after lunch out with my mom and dad, everyone was in good spirits. The start of summer break has definitely improved the mood around the house. So for a short time this afternoon, I put aside the motherly worries and the fatherly concerns and just enjoyed their banter.

Later this afternoon my stomach tried to revolt on me so I spent several hours sitting in bed. I kept getting cautious knocks on the door and reticent peeks to make sure that dad/mom was ok. By late evening the nausea had passed, thankfully without anything to show for the misery, and this dad/mom was able to tuck each child in bed, pray with them and send them off to peaceful sleep.

Somebody asked me in the past week how I do it. How do I keep up with life and four children and all the activities. If I look at the whole picture, it quickly gets overwhelming. So I take it one step at a time. Its just like a long endurance race. You can’t look at a 5 hr and 45 minute race as a whole. You have to break it down: 33 minutes for swimming. Then a 3 hr bike ride. Then a two hour, 13.1 mile run, checking the pace each mile and focusing on each step, knowing that for every step taken, you’re one step closer to the end. You do what’s at hand, trusting the Father above for the strength to continue and to do it to the best of your abilities. And oh yeah… a huge shout-out to all those moms in our life who bring the touch and presence of a real mother for my children. It adds immeasurably to this dad/mom’s efforts. You’re the best!

Just a Recovery Run?

Just a Recovery Run…

My quads are sore! That was the predominant thought on my mind as my feet hit the floor at 5AM yesterday morning. It was time for my post-race recovery run. I was headed to run with the tri group. I knew I needed to do it, but it sure didn’t sound fun. My legs were sore after all from the general thrashing I gave them on Saturday during the race. Its just a recovery run I thought. No biggie. Not much to learn here. Hobble through, move on.

As we started off at a very easy pace I figured we would go for 15-20 minutes and turn around for an easy 3 to maybe 3.5 miles. Left to my own devices I would have put in two miles and called it good. But each of us had raced 70.3 miles over the weekend and we had stories to share. Trotting along at a slow gate, our breath was easy and we chatted it up. Next thing I knew it was time to turn around.

“Wait, we’re at the low water crossing?! This is 2.5 miles in. That means a five mile recovery run! I’m gonna pay for this!” We had gone much farther than I expected. I actually felt good. The longer I ran, the better I felt.

I woke up this morning and my quads were almost entirely pain free. Wow! It worked! The five miles actually paid off; they didn’t cost me!

Three years into endurance sports and I’m still learning, still growing. I’ll tuck this nugget of experience away for future post-race and heavy training session recovery. Go a little farther than you think you need. Do it with friends if possible.

Sounds like grief recovery too! The emotions and body are often frayed and worn down after a significant loss. There will be a recovery period. There needs to be a recovery period. The pace needs to be slower, and it probably needs to go longer than you thought. But you’ll survive. Yes, its painful to work those exposed nerves and broken hearts, that’s why you need a friend along for support, but there’s healing on the other side.

Its a choice. How you live each day is a choice. You don’t have to work on those broken and injured spots. But if you just bury the pain, it can’t ever come out and leave you free to live and thrive again.

Yeah, it was just a recovery run. Right.

Down The Rabbit Hole – Three Years Later

While yesterday was a day of wonderful memories, today marks three years from the day we received Kristi’s breast cancer diagnosis. I remember the phone call vividly. The solemn monotone of the doctor, the look in Kristi’s eyes, the immediate tightness in my gut. Here’s the post about that day. My first post.

I’m encouraged as I read that post that even on day one I was looking to work with my Father above to bring about good in the situation. Boy has that turned out differently than I thought, planned or desired.

I didn’t realize it then, but grief arrived that very day. I didn’t know it was grief, but it was. We were planning to go out on an anniversary dinner, eighteen years plus one day late. Since we already had the children looked after we went to dinner anyway, just so we could process the news. It was a miserable affair. Without knowing anything about how serious her fight would become, that phone call ripped joy and peace right out from under us. We sat and stared at each other, pushing our food around our plates, appetites gone. We mumbled to each other, our breath too weak to form words properly. We stared blankly at the waitress, her cheery words falling on wan smiles.

It fundamentally altered our marriage. She became the patient and I became the caregiver. All those changes brought grief. Grief of days wasted, time lost, changed roles, new responsibilities and so many more changes, little and big that are in the rabbit hole of fighting cancer.

I was determined that it wouldn’t define our relationship. We would beat it and move on. Living and loving each other more deeply for the scare she’d had. Nope. Didn’t work out that way either. And yet, by giving vent and voice to the grief over the years I’ve been able to let it flow on by. Feel it, own it, experience it and let it go. It will come again. That’s cool. I’ll dance with it again and then send it on down the line once more.

And in the letting go of grief, love remains. Life remains. Cancer hasn’t defined our relationship. We fought to make our marriage great for 19 years and three months and we succeeded. Cancer didn’t change that.

But the premature end of Kristi’s life has put a spotlight on how precious each day is that remains. My goal is still the same as it was on 18+1, three years ago today. Labor in love with my Heavenly Father to bring about all manner of good in this life.

Don’t avoid your grief. That will derail you. Meet it head-on. Let it come. Experience it. Soul-shaking sobs. Heart-rending cries. Whatever it takes. So you can let it go. So Love can remain.

“Now these three remain, Faith, Hope and Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Surprise! What I Pulled Out Completely Shocked Her!

Twenty-one years ago today I said “I Do!” It was “I Do and I will…” Forever. We both said it. We both meant it. We kept those mutual vows for nineteen years and three months until death finally did part us. But that didn’t mean it had to be a chore or boring the whole time. Far from it! I decided to get the surprises going early in our marriage and started during the reception…

It was time to throw the garter. Kristi was seated conspicuously in the middle of the guests and I knelt down in front of her and slipped my hands under her dress, found the garter and teased it off. Before I pulled my hands back out from under her dress, I stuffed the garter in the sleeve of my coat and out of the other pulled a pair of Kristi’s bright red undies I had secreted out of her honeymoon bag.

Chad Surprising Kristi at their wedding reception
Surprise! Chad pulls red panties out from under Kristi’s wedding dress instead of the garter.

The look on her face says it all. Complete shocker! It got everyone laughing and brings a smile to my face all these years later. A romantic at heart, I kept surprising her throughout our marriage to keep the fire bright and the love fresh.

May the memories of love fulfilled bring you joy today! I’m thankful for the years we shared together and the love of my children that keeps it real every day.

Celebrate life!

 

Taking Steps

As I climbed out of the pool after this morning’s training session I thought, “Man, my shoulders are worked!” On the way home I could feel the tiredness seeping into my entire body. “I shouldn’t feel this tired after 3100 yards. Fatigued yes, but tired like I want to go to sleep for hours? Nope.” 

After devouring my three-egg omelet I was still feeling as wilted as the spinach I had just cooked. Hmm. I don’t think this chest cold has truly gone away. So I called and managed to get an afternoon appointment with our family doc. He heard the wheezing in my lungs and ordered a chest X-ray to make sure I don’t have pneumonia or any pre-cursor to it.

My first triathlon of 2015 is in two and a half weeks. I need to be better by then. So I’m taking steps now to deal with this. Prayers are fully welcome!

Grief isn’t an illness or disease, but it can sure take you out of your normal routine and cause significant fatigue. To thrive again after loss, make sure to take steps now to deal with your grief. Don’t stuff it, ignore it or pretend you’re good and don’t need to grieve. Talk it out, write it out, get active! Pray. Rest. Take time to nuture your emotions and spirit. You’ll be back on your game soon enough. Give yourself time and grace.

Peace!

What’s Your Choice?

Up early for pre-dawn training run. 5.25 miles of intervals today. That means you run fast for a bit, then slow down and recover then repeat. Interval training is part of the journey to increase your fitness and speed.

It reminds me that grief is part of the journey of life. Sometimes we move fast, sometimes we slow down and recover.

Today I ran with our club president. She’ll be racing the Ironman Chattanooga course with me in September. Its always good to train with a partner. It keeps your effort honest and provides a source of encouragement. 

The race of life doesn’t have to be run alone. Even if you’ve suffered great loss. Jesus pioneered the way into the Father’s heart, opening it wide so that you and I never have to be alone, so that we can live a life surrounded by love and sharing it with others.

Its a choice. Love is always a choice. Its a willful act to embrace another’s life, knowing that the act of engagement will require much. But Love is always a gift and that gift, when received and returned transforms both lover and beloved. What’s your choice today?

Easter In A Nutshell

“Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete”… and “this is to my Father’s glory, that you show yourselves to be my disciples.” Both these passage of scripture come from the book of John. Jesus is talking to his disciples right before he is betrayed and ultimately crucified. Of course the story doesn’t end there. He crushes death through resurrection and opens the path to his Father’s heart for all of us to enter.

I think Jesus was joyful. Everywhere he went he set people free from the death, disease and destruction. What a joyful mission! He demonstrated what life looks like when you are in close contact with God. As he prepares his dsicples for his imminent departure, he says in effect, “Look, ask for these same kinds of things. The very things that I’ve been doing, you’re going to be able to do too. Look for ways to bring life and it will bring you complete joy! It will also bring glory to Father God as well.”

Joy. What a powerful motivator. Everyone seeks joy. But Jesus says it comes as a byproduct of bringing life to others. You get it when you’re not aiming for it. You get it becuase you get to see people loved and set free through Jesus. How cool is that? Its so cool its glorious!

I break it down this way: Bring life, Revel in the glory, Find joy!

Happy Easter!

What She Said Shocked Me, What I said In Response Brought Her To Tears…

I volunteered to help with an event for my son’s class at school today. Afterwards I was visiting with another parent and she asked if I was from California. “Born in Austin, but grew up in Northern California.” I answered, wondering if she knew or cared about the difference between NorCal and SoCal.

“Me too.” She responded.

Oh, this might actually be interesting. “Where?”

When “Grass Valley” left her lips, you could have picked my mouth up off the floor. “No way!” Was all I could muster in response.

“Why?” She probed.

“I graduated from Nevada Union High.” I was grinning now. Joyfully shocked to be in the presence of someone who not only knew Grass Valley, but understood that living back on Retrac Way off Lime Kiln Road meant I lived in the sticks!

“Bear River!” She pointed to herself.

“That’s where my sister graduated! Wait, did you go to Magnolia Intermediate then?”

“Yep!”

“Unbelievable! We grew up in the same town, went to the same Jr. High and you and my sister went to the same high school and elementary school as well!”

With that exchange, we were off to the races, talking about rural, foothill life from a backwater corner of California. As we relived memories and shared how we each made it to Texas, recent history cropped up and in the rapid fire course of catching up, I told her about Kristi’s illness and subesquent death. She was stunned. Tears immediately flooded her eyes and the conversation halted abruptly until she could gather her composure. I consoled her and assured her that her emotion was appreciated in that it was heartfelt.

I didn’t realize she didn’t know our circumstance. I can’t keep track of who knows and who doesn’t anymore. But when I come across someone who doesn’t know, it of course brings it all back to the front. And there it’s stayed for the rest of the day. I left the school and went to take care of some shopping. As I slipped the key in the ignition, the thought, “She’s not here anymore.” went through my head. That’s why you’re going shopping. That’s why you were at the school this morning. That’s why your kids are in school. And so it rolls.

I remember the shock and fog of the first few months. All those thoughts cascading through my brain would threaten to overwhelm my emotional control and I’d be on the brink of shutdown. I’d clinch my eyes tightly but the tears would flow anyway. How was I going to do this? Could I do it? Training was a real salvation in those days. I could let my emotions and brain rest while I pushed my physical limits.

Today, I have to say that by the time I got into the store, I was focused on finding what I needed and getting home before the kids. Its the new normal. It still feels different, its not even a two year old normal. Every day I’m reminded of the new normal. In ways big and small. I can’t escape it. But here it is. And I realize I have license to decide what to do with this normal. Waste it with “what ifs” or “only ifs”? Or live it. The agency to act is mine. I choose life.