"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Is Where the Cowboy ....

.... ‘Runs’ Away (my apologies to Mr. Strait).

Post #369, the final one.

Over the past seven years, Running With Horses has provided one heck of a creative outlet and accountability space. I have met many of you through this site, and been encouraged by many more. I have learned, laughed, and cried, while sharing experiences for which I’m hopeful you learned, laughed, and maybe cried, as well.

But as I begin my year-long countdown to the dawn of a sixth decade, I am realizing that it should be every bit as unique and adventurous as the fifth one has been. One launched from atop Half Dome and marked by marathons, run clubs, and a good measure of spiritual growth.

I’m not quite certain what that means or what it will look like, but I’m open to the change and hopeful it will involve old faces, new faces, and inspiring places.

So, the RWH blog will be put to pasture, but as long as the domain stays live, may you be encouraged by the archives and reminded of the call for life at its fullest (John 10:10).

See you out there, and blog, or no blog, may we never actually stop running with horses!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

So, I've Made Some Bad Decisions ...

... and now I’m paying the price.

For the past 8-10 years, I have used both prescription strength and over-the-counter doses of ibuprofen on a daily basis. Some days only 400 mg, most days 800 mg or more. What began out of necessity for recovering from a back injury, somehow turned into a preventative for potential pain. In my mind, when I heard “a baby aspirin a day keeps the heart doctor away,” I applied the same principle to Advil and Indomethacin.

As many of you have already guessed, my stomach has been baking for several years now. And I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that the cause of recently discovered internal bleeding, stomach pain, and progressively worse, round-the-clock heartburn is, as my new best friend and digestive health doctor puts it, the result of long term NSAID (non-steroidal aniti-inflamatory drugs) use / abuse.

The reason I’m sharing this with a RWH post is to provide both a warning and an apology.

First, the apology.

Over the past decade, I have nonchalantly thrown out the following advice to hundreds of runners:

You know, ninety percent of running related pain can be taken care of with ice and ibuprofen. I take them before long runs and whenever I feel aches coming on. A medical m&m. Blah, blah, blah.

I sincerely apologize for making light of what seemingly can result in long-term consequences which are far more worse than the original issue. Obviously, I will be modifying this advice moving forward. There is a place and a time for the use of NSAIDs, but it is not everyplace, every time.

As to the warning, I am not one to share intensely gross medical images publicly. And as much as the endoscopy pictures might most effectively drive this message home, you are not interested in seeing yours truly from the inside out.

That said, by using the mac color matching tool, I created the following chart from my actual images. It shows the normal color of what my esophagus looks like currently (which is also how the other sections in the digestive system should appear if healthy), while the circle on the right reflects the reality of a daily Advil.

The best way to describe how it feels (and actually what is going on in there), is that I have an internal sunburn, from the entirety of the stomach lining through the upper section of the small intestine. Fortunately, with some medication, and by remaining well clear of NSAIDs, there is repair and relief on the way. But it might take a little time and we're hopeful there is no permanent damage elsewhere.

Through this experience, I have realized how resilient, yet fragile, our bodies can be. It has reminded me to be more vigilant about what goes in it, so that it remains mostly resilient and less fragile. In a similar way, I have abused caffeine. So along with cutting out ibuprofen, I have also been caffeine-free for the past eight days. And guess what? I’m sleeping better and having some really good training runs - go figure. Duh, is right!

This Public Service Announcement has been brought to you by a very unwise non-nutritionalist.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Pain in the ___

When it comes to running-related injuries, I have been extremely fortunate. Logging serious mileage over the past ten years,  I have yet to experience any major setback, much less an injury serious enough to give cause for reevaluating the long-term, life-long plan.

Sure, an ache and a pain here and there, some ice and a little ibuprofen now and again, a sore muscle and a tweaked ankle maybe once in a while, but that’s truly the extent of it. Over 6,000 miles and this ol’ “Body by Krispy Kreme” has been running strong. Blessed, indeed.

Until ...

This past spring has been a season for building base mileage - gradually and according to the plan. However, in early May, I started experiencing a sharp, bruise-like sensation, smack-dab in the middle of my left gluteus maximus. The pain initially began several miles into the long runs, but after a few weeks it started creeping into the shorter ones as well. Even at night, it had become a real bother as I was settling into bed.

Having considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable of all things running, I'll admit that I was clueless; all I could think was, “What in the runner’s world universe is going on here?!” I had no idea this type of pain, in this particular location, was even possible. Was it serious, or would it simply go away? Should I run through it, or hold off a few weeks? Would a massage help, but even if it would, isn’t it kinda creepy to ask someone to rub back there for half an hour? What to do?

Well, a few more weeks of trying to run through it, and no luck. A few weeks off, and still no luck. Just as I was feeling more than a little concerned, a breakthrough. A little research, some light rehab, and an attempt at intelligent training runs, and I have found that there just might be a happy ending (pun intended) after all.

My new best friend!
In short, and hopefully this is helpful to others, I discovered that several types of gluteus muscle injuries are common in aging distance runners who refuse to stretch - voilà, thats me! So, this past week I started stretching, and consciously pulling back on pace. Even better, I discovered the YMCA's Glute Extension equipment. Yep, Ive been extending my glute. And guess what, it feels really good! (hey, we all have our guilty pleasures). 

Ultimately, I'm hopeful this is just another lesson learned in the journey of lessons learned, and the remainder of the summer will be relatively pain-free. But regardless, it is certainly a reminder that we don’t take each morning for granted (there will be a day that I can’t run, but it’s not today), and that the lack of total body conditioning, can be a real pain in the ..... 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

We Run With Grace

With each new RFG group, I like to stress the importance of running with purpose - being alert, trusting the plan, showing kindness, expressing gratitude, and perhaps most importantly, extending grace; grace to other runners and to all who cross our training path.

In a busy, bitter, and self-centered world, extending grace to others is one of the least expected responses. It doesn't come easily nor naturally. But running with grace tells others that "it's okay, I forgive you, you didn't mean to do what you just did, I understand, I don't hold it against you, I hope you have a great run anyway." It's the opportunity to demonstrate that our PR (personal record) race time is not so important that it comes at the expense of someone else. That no training run is so critical that a person in need cannot count on us to stop and assist. That a wave and a smile doesn't cost me anything, and it might just be the encouragement that you and I both need right now.

Ultimately, as believers, when we extend grace (defined as unmerited favor; receiving something that is not earned), we have the opportunity to model, in just a small way, the gift of grace extended to us through God's plan of redemption and salvation. As we read in Ephesians, "it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast." God, through his gift of grace, provides unmerited favor to us, not because we deserve it, but because he loves us.

So, the next time that driver cuts you off, or that slower runner asks you to hang back with them for a mile, or you observe someone obviously struggling, or, or, or ... extend grace, not because they deserve it, but because you love them. Pretty simple, never easy.

NOTE: The subject of grace came to mind while reading "This Day in Christian History.” The event, in AD 417 (some 1,600 years ago), was Pope Innocent's condemnation of Pelagius.

The full article is here: Pope Innocent Condemns Pelagius but in short, Pelagius, a British monk, had been teaching that man's nature was essentially good, and by way of achieving that “goodness," the grace of God, and the act of Christ, was not necessary. Pelagius saw the cross as a moral example and not an atonement of sin. Christian orthodoxy, based on biblical truth, and protected by godly leaders (Augustine for one), saw this heresy for what it was, and the Church excommunicated Pelagius.

The bottom line: Grace is always necessary and is always available to receive and extend.

Isn't history just almost as fun and fulfilling as running! Enjoy.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Running With "Iron Horses"

I am almost forty-nine years old. I have never ridden a train (amusement parks, zoos, and rollerskating rinks do not count). Trains have never figured into my transportation plans. Never.

Until today ...

In what was a last-minute decision, involving a complicated series of travel details, I found myself surfing the net, racking my brain, and weighing options (aka, evaluating just how cheap I could be).

I'm not exactly sure why the thought came to mind, but after hours of despair (aka, nothing was especially cheap), the Amtrak idea surfaced. Keep in mind, at this point, I had no clue as to whether trains even passed through North Carolina, much less if any stopped in the Triad and could get me to New York without too much hassle. So many questions, so little time.

Long story short, I write this post from aboard the Crescent Line, Train #20, somewhere between Trenton and Newark, New Jersey. I just might have found my new favorite mode of travel!

The clock is correct - Good Morning G'boro
Like a kid at Christmas, I sprang from bed to be the first passenger in the Greensboro terminal this morning for the 3:44 train (yeah, that's right, 3:44 a.m. But what an awesome sleep till sunrise). By 1:30 in the afternoon, I will be climbing off at Penn Station and will have had a day of great scenery - old depots, small towns, major cities, mountain views - with time to read, write, and relax; all for about the price of gas and tolls to drive.

Even better, there is something that has resonated with me about the train, particularly as a distance runner. I've realized that you just can't help but slow down and enjoy the steady pace of the trip. The train, much like how I feel on a hill, or in the later miles of a good hard training run, just keeps chugging along, head-down focused, but yet not so fast or focused, that the journey is completely missed.

It also has me thinking back to the old song Life is Like a Mountain Railway. In all the ups and down, the twists and turns, the conductor is critical to keeping us on schedule, safe, and headed to the intended destination. The song speaks to the ups and downs of life, and the conductor we choose to take us home - a clip of Steven Curtis Chapman's version is below, have a listen. (It doesn't hurt that the third line is, "we must make this run successful."

Next stop Penn Station.

From Greensboro to ... 
the lounge car,  to ...
tracking the Crescent across Virginia, to ...
our nation's capital, to ...
the city of brotherly love, to ...
stepping right out on the street of the Big Apple, to ...
catch one more train, just in time for graduation at West Point!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On The Road Again ...

... I just can't wait to get on the road again ...

Taking in a new favorite route this past weekend - which does include a Yadkin River crossing as shown above - it dawned on me that it was officially "that" time of year!

With extended daylight, consistent temperatures, and less busyness in general, the window between Memorial Day and Labor Day has historically been my favorite and most productive time. A time of higher mileage, longer distances, and overall, more exhilarating and fulfilling runs; you know, "that" time of year.

For one, due to a more intense focus on my fall marathon, there is just no getting out of a June or July training plan start. Additionally, as someone with south-Texas roots, made tough in 100-degree football two-a-days, and employed at the local steel mill (the furnace department, no less), I actually like the heat, and try to encourage others to embrace it as well; isn’t that right RFG members? - "the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire!"

So, here's to everyone gearing up to hydrate more, sweat more, and run more. May you find open roads and sun-soaked trails.

Have a great summer of running!

 ... like a band of gypsies we go down the highway ... (Yes, Willie was on the playlist and triggered the above reflection at about mile 5 on Saturday. It might just be the ultimate running tune).

Friday, May 19, 2017

Race Day Reflections - ROCC 5K 2017

The sixth annual ROCC 5K has come and gone. This past Saturday, months of planning culminated in an event that technically took between 15 minutes - 51 seconds and 1 hour - 14 minutes - 11 seconds to complete, depending on which end of the clock you ran toward.

As I finished my post-race run, I couldn't help but think about the perspective which I am truly blessed to hold each second Saturday in May. To watch my fellow Run for God members, many of whom are running their first 5K, cross that finish line, and to assist a great team of race committee members, where serving our beneficiary and our community are equal priorities, are both great privileges that I don't take for granted.

So, given the dual views I am allowed to have, as coach and director, what did the 2017 edition of the ROCC 5K teach me? Here are a few thoughts on a few of those observations ...

* It doesn't rain on the ROCC 5K! The forecasts were not too optimistic in the days leading up to the race. However, Saturday morning was near perfect, with temperatures in the mid-50's and not a drop of moisture. I'm sure one day we might enjoy the pleasure of running in the rain, but as of yet, the Lord has provided some really wonderful mornings across these past six years, and an optimistic position, even at packet pickup when everyone says your crazy, is still the best position to take!

* The pre-race RFG Photo  remains as emotional as ever. The feelings from May 12, 2012, are never far away when we line up each year for that victory cheer. It never fails that the emotions of the past 13 weeks - the laughs, the struggles, the stories - all come out in this space. I look into the mass of color and see your faces, and BAM, all choked up. I continue to hold it in much better than year one, but just barely. I can't explain it, and I honestly never expect it, but it happens. Thank you all for believing in yourself.

* "Don't mess with success!" That's what many might say. But as one who actually kind of likes taking calculated risks, I say, "Tweak success, to remain successful!" With that philosophy in mind, we made a few slightly risky changes to the course and, by all indications, the changes worked. The track, both part-novelty and part-purposeful, along with the elimination of Sedalia Hill and a stroll past Titan Rock, all seemed to have helped spread out runners along L-C Road and flatten the course. Obviously, it is still just as fast, or faster, as our five-time champion, Justin Pfreunder, set a new course record, 15:51. Thank you to all the course support volunteers and the runners and walkers who were ready to roll with these modifications.

* Smiles are contagious. One of the key principles for our event, a principle that is modeled so well by our committee and our volunteers, is that we strive to put on a race that is best known for 'encouragement and excellence.' We believe that both of these can, and should, be the expectation. As a gauge for how we are doing, I watch faces and post-race interactions. I also like to look at the post-race photos. Each race bib represents an individual who is most likely dealing with at least one "something" that is really pretty messy. One "something" that physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, is a real stressor and challenge. But for one encouraging moment, a little "run therapy" helps to lessen that burden.

There are more thoughts, but who needs to read a novel about a 5K! For now, we close the books on the RFG Season 6 and the ROCC Crisis Control Ministry 5K. Thanks for sharing in our day.

"We should laugh, we should think, we should be moved to emotion --- that is a really great day" (Jimmy V. paraphrased).