Sunday, December 30, 2012

"The Long Snapper", by Jeffrey Marx

In the coming year, 2013, I've committed to read much more than what I have in the past.  

And that takes time, which I generally tend to have.  And, of course, I'll have even more once Waverly is off to college.  So instead of waiting, I got the 2013 quest started a few days early.

I received a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble for Christmas from my cousin and his wife and I set off to pick up two books.  The first of which is Jeffrey Marx's "The Long Snapper".

The book is about Brian Kinchen, a 38-year-old long snapper who has been out of professional football for three years and is teaching seventh grade at Baton Rouge, Louisiana's Parkview Baptist.  He gets a call from Scott Pioli, a friend who is the general manager of the New England Patriots.

They want him to come and tryout after their regular long snapper is injured with two weeks left in the 2003 regular season.

However, he fears having to relive the disappointment of being rejected for a younger player as he had experienced his last couple of years as he had originally exited his long career in the National Football League (NFL).

Instead, the Patriots choose him among four who were brought in for a tryout and the book takes the reader game-by-game through the end of the regular season, the playoffs and all the way to the Super Bowl, which was played here in Houston.

It is a well-written, well-crafted and heartwarming story by Marx, who was given incredible access by Kinchen, his wife and former players and coaches.

As a Christian, it reminds me of Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding."

In addition, it's a lesson that we should never give up hope on God.

For more on Brian Kinchen, who is now the head football coach of Ascension Christian High School in Gonzales, Louisiana, please visit

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spring, Texas; December 26, 2012

Waverly got me a desk calendar for Christmas from Tony Dungy titled "Quiet Strength:  The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life".

First of all, I'm proud that she not only paid attention enough to know that I had a devotional titled, "Uncommon Life", by Dungy, but that she also bought it with her own money from babysitting this past summer.

As you can imagine, I'm pretty proud of her.

Just after opening that gift, she made her Dad cry with a homemade 2013 calendar that was made up of shots from her Senior pictures - and a few select ones that she and her Mom or that I had taken.

So today's first entry from Dungy's daily "daybrightener" is this:

"We have to be careful that we don't let the pursuit of life's goals, no matter how important they seem, cause us to lose sight of our purpose."

That purpose, of course, for a Christian is to ensure that we win as many souls to Jesus Christ.

I've written on this blog earlier that with at least one individual, and perhaps more, that I may have lost that opportunity.  Only God knows that for sure.

The only thing that I can do is to not make the same potentially eternal mistakes around the lives of others.

I would like to think that I have this - above - covered fairly well.

I was just talking with a friend of mine at the track earlier this evening that I don't have anything that would be considered a "life goal".  I'm signed up for a long-distance running race, but if I don't complete I won't be completely devastated and think that my life is less than complete because I didn't.

To me, I said while running another friend later in the session, my number one desire is that Waverly is positioned as well as possible to lead as happy and as complete of a life as possible.

I pray for her as much as I can, but also I'm confident that she continually seeks God's will in her life on a regular basis.  And I would like to think that I can see the evidence of that desire of her heart in how she lives her life.

She's a blessing to everyone around her, including those who despise me.

They have been known to recommend her to a race director for her to sing the National Anthem at their race.

But the bottom line is that our focus should be on eternity, which in our day-to-day life can be a challenge when we make choices that take us away from God's love for us.

Therefore, I'll continue to hope and pray that my "life's goals" are consistent with an approach that is eternal in nature.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Life At The End Of An IV Bag - College Station, TX; December 9, 2012

I finished my 47th marathon today - in 50 starts (Surfside, Odessa and Louisville, KY), but it didn't come without some drama afterward.

It was very humid today.  In mile two, while running was Tracy Raborn, we saw a bank clock that said 77 degrees.  And this was at 7:20 a.m. or so.  I was very thankful today for overcast skies and cool winds.

I dispel a lot of fluid when I run a race and even though, at times, I carry a water bottle (like I did today), I can never seem to get enough to ward off cramping on a day like today.  (And, no, I didn't bring my salt tablets, which I did use for Rocky Raccoon 100 this past February.)

I didn't start doing the "marathon math" - how many miles I have left times 16 minutes per mile and what will my finish time be - until mile 13 today, but I delayed putting it into action until mile 20.

I was at 3:54:59 through mile 20, which isn't too bad.  (Four hours is 12 minutes per mile.)

So I purposedly walked a lot in the last six miles and tried to run where I could.  One thing that has changed over the last year or so, in preparing for Rocky, is that I don't let the walking get me down and discouraged. Because I know that if I can finish the 100-miler, there's going to be times that I'm walking.

Therefore, I was singularly focused in putting another finish in the books, thankful to have the ability, resources, freedom and time to be able to run a marathon on short notice.  I know that it isn't the wisest thing to do, but I ran this marathon today solely to be around a very positive group of people.

When I finish out of state, I think I've mentioned before that I finish with the "Hook 'Em Horns" sign, even though my favorite teams are usually whoever plays Texas, A&M and Notre Dame.  Today, though, I thought that I would have a little fun by coming in with the University of Houston handsign and "gig" the Aggie fans about the Cougars hand-delivering their new coach for this football season, Kevin Sumlin.

I tossed my water bottle before entering the wide chute and was coming in strong when I felt like I was shot by a sniper -- cramping in the calves of both of my legs.

It was right before the reader mat and two members of the Scott and White Medical Team came rushing towards me.  (I learned later that this had been a common scene all morning as they treated more than 150 runners.)

Once I was OK, I was determined to run across the line with the Eat 'Em Up, Coogs sign.  Someone put a medal around my neck, the Medical Team got my shirt and off we went to find a bed.

They took me to a back set of beds behind the big white tent.  A team of physicians and nurses worked to stretch my calves while they doused me with cold towels and brought me some Gatorade.  This went on for about 10-15 minutes.  When I thought that I might be able to get up, spasms shattered my left leg and left me screaming.

The next 20 minutes or so was an experience I hope that I don't have to relive.  They brought over a massage therapist after I had rolled to my stomach.  While she was desperately trying to loosen things up, it hurt very badly.  I was screaming and writhing in pain.

Poor Tammy Ninke of Bill's Volte Endurance Training group had come over to check on me, while everyone was waiting on Mary Carter to finish her first marathon, and see how I was doing and she got to see me in my worst state.  Hopefully I haven't scarred her for life.  :)

After this had gone on for awhile, and they got my legs stable, it was determined that they should go in and get me some IV fluids.  All I was trying to do was to avoid a trip to the hospital and a potential outpatient observation or inpatient stay.

The Scott & White Medical Team was incredible in their professionalism, kindness, compassion and genuine concern for my well-being.  I think it is a challenge that we all face in our day-to-day lives to treat people that we've never come in contact with before better than anybody else.

They couldn't find a vein on my right arm and moved to my left to get it in place and get an IV started.  They continued to place cold towels on my legs.

After about 10 minutes, the saline solution caused me to shiver - and literally chatter my teeth - and they brought towels out to get me warm.  They had me drink as much as I was able to and one medical professional asked for me to deep breathe in as much as I could to get more oxygen into my bloodstream.

I was concerned that while this was going on that my legs remained tense and that the cycle of spasms would continue because I couldn't relax.  So as they started a second IV, I started to move my legs as much as I could without triggering another attack.

During all of this I joked with a professional or two that my male ego was in the process of being shattered, but it was really that I felt so helpless in being in this situation.

I'm man enough to say that I cried a little bit.

The last time this had happened was last June in Kona.  It was the first time that I had ever been in the medical tent after a race.  It was at the beginning of our vacation and it scared me to have put Waverly into that situation while we were so far from home.

Thank goodness, I also had Steve and Paula Boone from Humble and Angela Tortorice from Dallas who were there to be able to support me too.

Today, without Waverly being there with me (as she was in church where she's supposed to be), I was so very appreciative of my best friend (besides Waverly), Bill Dwyer, and another great friend, Leanne Rosser, for coming in and checking on me to make sure that I was OK.

They went and got me food as my appetite started to come around and then waited to help to make sure that I would be able to get to my vehicle.

I'm very thankful for the people that I have in my life who are willing to give of themselves when there is nothing for them to necessarily get out of it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Houston - Spring, Texas; October 10, 2012

"Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated." Acts 15:37-39

I've been on both ends of this situation.

I've done something, out of my own hurt, that caused someone to say, "We're not compatible as friends," and they moved on.

Even though, I wasn't given any more than two texts to explain myself.

I tried to apologize four and a half months later - after seeing them at a race on Thanksgiving Day -- after they asked me not to contact them anymore (and not thinking about the implications of that) and they claimed that they filed a stalking and harassment claim against me with the County Sheriff's Office.

At the same time, there have been things that I haven't agreed with, but I've not separated myself from my friends.

However, I've removed myself from various situations so that I wouldn't be a stumbling block.

Tony Dungy, in today's entry, "Free to Disagree", of his "Uncommon Life: Daily Challenge" book asked, "When you disagree with a coworker or friend or spouse or pastor, how do you handle it? With grace and understanding or with anger and bitterness? Do you force that person to accept your way? .... And your witness may be impacted too; others may see you or Jesus in a different light if you can't handle conflict."

In the first situation, I realize that my witness with that individual is likely damaged forever regardless of who is right or wrong. (In that situation, a friend of that individual gossiped things to me which caused me a certain amount of hurt.) I have to hope and pray that the other Christians in that person's life will one day to be able to be sure that they've accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

In the latter situation, that happened as late as earlier on the evening of October 10.

It was a situation that I was having an issue with, but I didn't want to be a distraction to a cause that is going to do, I believe, a great thing in the lives of others.

And the situation is eternally insignificant, but I'm still working through being friends with people who are friends with someone who caused so much pain in my life the last year and a half.

I'm getting better at it, but if there's a possibility that I wouldn't handle a situation in which I might not be able to control my emotions - or, in this specific case, if I was phony around somebody that I had an issue with, then I would be completely in the wrong.

So am I handling conflict in my life well enough?

I don't know. I guess only time will really tell, but I have to have my emotions under control with Waverly being in her last year at home before going off to college.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Houston - Spring, Texas; October 9, 2012

I got off the beaten path, didn't I? Wow. I have some catching up to do.

I met a new friend last Sunday afternoon and after reading their blog (that they haven't updated since about the same time), I was motivated to get back to the task of writing out some of the things that are or have been going on in my life.

Today's entry of "Uncommon Life: Daily Challenge" speaks to a topic of "More Valuable Than A Picasso", but the uncommon key is: "What do you consider of eternal significance in your life?"

To me, the bottom line is one's salvation.

And then, on, October 9th, I went to bed. I got up, this morning, October 10th, and re-read part of the entry that Dungy wrote -- and realized that it was very similar to what Pastor Randy Harp at North Park Baptist Church had to say on Sunday.

Dungy was writing that "society places value on objects, on wealth, on the size of our houstses, and on the number of cars in our garage. Society emphasizes things like resumes, trophies, awards, and winning simply for the sake of winning."

He added, "Society has inverted the things it considers valuable with what God intended for us to place first, the ones He says should guide our lives."

I would agree with that. I've met a lot of people who are like this.

But Bro. Harp, in speaking about being part of a community and why some people aren't, asked, "How many people, in their last moments of life, ask for others to bring all the awards, trophies and things that they accumulated here on Earth to their bedside?"

The answer, of course, is probably no one. They ask for their family and friends to be close by when they pass.

Dungy wrote, "And so our calendars are often empty of time with our families. But whom will you call to your bedside in your last hours of life -- your banker or your stockbroker? Or your loved ones?"

That answer is painfully clear.

A friend of mine stated in a Facebook comment, "Wait until she finds out what a big deal YOU are."

The individual that said that I consider to be a good friend, who I do some race announcing for a race or two of theirs, and I know exactly what vein she was saying it in, but really I just want to try and be a big deal for God, if I can.

My daughter already is. And for that I'm so very thankful for.

Hopefully I have some time left to catch up. Or, at least, that is what I strive to be able to do.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Houston - Spring, Texas; August 21, 2012

Today's entry was titled, "The Power of Your Platform".

"The power of your platform is greater than you think," said Tony Dungy, in today's entry in his "Uncommon Life:  Daily Challenge" book.  "You have an opportunity to influence people for good.  Teachers and coaches may have a more obvious role in motivating their students and players, but everyone can exercise influence in someone else's life.

"And you need to allow yourself to be influenced positively by others.  Everyone needs to be aware of their platforms and the power that they hold."

I read today's entry before I left for work this morning.

After reading it, I took the time to leave my daughter a note of encouragement on the refrigerator door.  (She was still sleeping.  The last week for awhile that she gets to sleep in before school starts next week.)

I just wanted her to be assured of how much I believed in her, but also to remind her that she had the opportunity to be an influence in the lives of her friends.

In my job, I also have - on occasion - the opportunity to mentor younger workers.  And I don't even feel as if I'm 45, but in all reality I've been in the work force for 28 years.  Therefore, I hope that I have a little bit to offer.

My advice to a 24-year-old recently was that they needed to look for another role that maximized their potential while, of course, still ensuring that they were gainfully employed.  At that young age, it is beneficial to be doing something that adds skills to their "tool chest", as we sometimes like to say.

The other times that we can be an influence is when people come to us to seek answers to solutions or to seek our assistance in collaborating to move some project or cause forward.

In those cases, it is like Dungy said, " need to allow yourself to be influenced positively by others."

Just the fact that somebody takes the time to ask you or me for our opinion or input is not only a sign of respect but also one of encouragement and renewal of our spirit for the belief that they have placed in us.

Good stuff.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Houston - Spring, Texas; August 20, 2012

As the morning bleeds into Monday, August 20, I realize that I've failed to keep up with the goal that I had to write every day while working my way through Tony Dungy's "Uncommon Life:  Daily Challenge".

The title of the devotional is "Prayer Warriors".  I know a few of these people.  It is something that I admit that I am not.  If I can stay focused and pray for more than five minutes, that is a huge accomplishment for me.

Recently, I think I mentioned that I needed prayer and I reached out to a fellow athlete to help me deal with some anger that I harbored.

The verse at the top of the devotional for today is this:  "You have been deceived by your own pride. . . . You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.  You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune.  You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble." ~ Obdiah 1:3, 12.

Dungy wrote, "It's easy to rejoice in the misfortune of someone who has wronged us.  Praying for and blessing those who persecute us, as we're called to do in Matthew 5:44 and Romans 12:14, certainly aren't the natural responses."

Indeed, they're not. 

And I did not rejoice in another's misfortune.  In fact, I was asked to help.  I responded and was very honored to do so, and still to this day am (and hopefully always will be).

There was separate hurt that another, though, opened the door to that troubled me.  It caused me to feel taken for granted and taken advantage of.

Dungy also added, "But we've got to work hard to see that the people we disagree with have the same good qualities we do."

Actually, that is something that I've never doubted.  Problem is that I was never allowed to learn what those really were or are.  I wanted to.  I politely waited my time in trying to find out for myself, but I never experienced them.

He also stated that "In his twenty-one-verse book in the middle of the Bible, the prophet Obadiah clearly proclaims that even if we feel the situation warrants it, God does not want us to relish the misfortune of others."

And again, I didn't.  I prayed to God and asked for him to bless that individual in the decisions that they needed to make in their life.

And since a situation caused for me to lose my ability to witness to them, I also prayed for somebody else, who lived their faith consistently and in action for that person to see, to be made available to be a witness of God's love to them.

Even I never understood why I seemed to be the one that the person called out to or upon.

Dungy's "Uncommon Key" states this:  "Are there people you aren't getting along with today?  Is there something specific you can do to soften your heart toward them and then pray -- meaningfully -- for them?"

The obivous answer to both questions, for most everybody, is "Yes".

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Houston - Spring, Texas; August 1, 2012

I'm learning a day is what you make of it.

I'm learning that I need to express myself to be happy.

I'm learning that I can allow situations in my past to totally torpedo the good things in my life that make me happy.

I am going through some adjustments in my employment that are challenging. I'm gainfully employed and very thankful for that, but the changes are really testing me.

The last couple of days have been. I had chalked it up to "post vacation malaise", but it is more than that and I know what it is.

There is some deep-seated anger in my life.

Tonight was track night. I almost didn't go. That anger almost kept me from a number of very, very good hours.

Before I set foot on the track, I spoke to my sister, whose business is speaking with a race that I have some involvement with, about that potential opportunity. It was a great conversation.

I saw one person that is local that I don't get to see often. Just the day before I had received an e-mail from them and we had a chance to talk - and laugh - about some of those things shared in that communication. Direct, yet unexpected feedback.

I talked to one individual about a work situation that I experienced today to an organization that I'm working for and where they received some medical care that I knew about. This person and I haven't had a chance to speak at length in quite some time. I was appreciative of what he had to share with me.

I got to see an out of town visitor that has become a very good friend since June a year ago.

And before I left that track to have a late dinner with friends, I talked to a race director friend for about 40 minutes to discuss some things about their races.

And one of the most important things is that I asked another friend to pray for me this evening.

Not only, as believers, do we need to pray - for ourselves and others, we also need others to pray for us.

Before I left for track, I sent a text to my best friend that I would be there -- and why I would. I had told them earlier in the day that I wouldn't and to share with our out of town visitor that I would miss them this trip because of my weekend commitments.

I read today's entry in Tony Dungy's "Uncommon Life: Daily Challenge". The title was "Encouraging Intercession". The verse was as follows:

"Pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity." - I Timothy 2:1-2.

It hit me sqaure in between the eyes. I had logged on to Facebook - before I left - and the person that I knew that I was going to ask to prayer for me was already at the track because he had posted a picture. I commented that I would see him shortly.

And I spoke to him there and I shared the source of my anger, without sharing any specific identifying characteristics, and he said that he would pray the next week - and see where the Holy Spirit led.

Before I left on the flight home from Anchorage Sunday night back to Houston Intercontinental, I saw a friend had posted something and not knowing exactly what it was I sent them a text and told them that I would pray for them. And I did on the plane before we took off (because if I didn't I would be asleep soon.)

Dungy writes, "It's a good habit to put into practice. Prayerfully lift up friends, give thanks for the people in your life, and pray for leaders whether you agree with them or not. And take it a step further. Let them know that you prayed or are continuing to pray for them. What an encouragement that may bring."

I try to as much as I can; that is, pray for friends and people - and situations - that I'm aware of. I'm not very good at telling somebody that I have prayed for them. While it may be a source of encouragement, I'm more concerned about me inadvertently bragging, "Look at me and what I did for you."

It is like I told the friend who I asked to pray for me, "When I announce races (and the like), people think I do that for my edification and self-esteem." I told him, "No, I do it for theirs actually." And I have fun doing it.

That deep-seated anger has robbed me of that fun and joy too often recently -- and I need a little help overcoming it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Talkeetna, Anchorage and Seward, Alaska, June 25, 2012

When we checked into our hotel Tuesday evening, we were told on check-in that the toilet wasn't refilling as fast as it should. It worked, they said, but that for the inconvenience (it really wasn't), we were provided with two free breakfast buffet coupons.

Safe to say, we planned our day around being right there when the buffet opened at 5 a.m. to be able to safely make our way from Denali to Talkeetna in time so Waverly could go ziplining.

That's right, I said, "Waverly," and not me.

Not that I don't have a spirit of adventure, because I do, but it is something that she wanted to do when she first looked at things to do on the trip and it was also a fair trade-off for her to have an activity all by herself as she waits on me at races.

Up until the drive south, we hadn't yet seen Mount McKinley because of all of the cloud cover and bad weather. However, we were treated with numerous opportunities to see the largest mountain in North America, especially on the drive on the 14-mile spur road back north to Talkeetna.

While Waverly ziplined, which she did for the first time since youth camp the summer before in Tennessee, I got two hours of solid sleep in the car. Wonderful

She had a great time as she often does.

We almost pulled the trigger on taking a flight up near or around Mount McKinley. And while I had the money (in cash on me), it was a study on whether it provided enough meaning to us compared to the other activities that we had planned and would continue to do during the trip.

While we definitely determined it would be cool to do, it actually didn't compare to the hot air balloon ride that Waverly took when she was 10 years of age during a weekend vacation to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I worked one summer for about four months.

Needless to say, we didn't. We drove to Anchorage for lunch at The Moose's Tooth Pub & Pizzeria (some really, really good pizza), filled up with gas and then headed south on the Seward Highway towards Seward and the Kenai Penisula.

As I have stated before, we know where we need to get to - to stay for the evening - but we make things up in between. We stop at the places and things that we think are interesting and don't look back.

I thought about trying to get over to Kenai and down to Homer, but we stopped for some tourist information and I saw something that was rather unique.

We took a short detour to go through the longest tunnel in North America - 2.5 miles long - that would take us to Whittier, the gateway to Prince William Sound. What was interesting about the tunnel is that it is used by both vehicles and trains. It was originally built for the railroad in the early 1940s, but opened to vehicular traffic in 2001.

Whitter is called the "strangest town in America" because it could seem very claustrophobic from the rest of the world. It is primarily a commercial fishing area and is used as a jump-off point for cruises to explore a number of glaciers - up to approximately 30 - in Prince William Sound. And PWS is best known as the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdex oil spill.

You could go through the tunnel at the bottom of the hour and return only at the top of the hour. The rest of the time on the clock is used for railroad traffic. So unless we went in and right back out, for $12, we were there for about an hour.

Once we were done, we drove straight to Seward, checked in to our hotel and then explored the town. Seward actually has no fast food. No McDonald's, Burger King or KFC, which actually isn't a really bad thing. There's a Safeway grocery store, three gas stations (Shell, Chevron and a local company) and a lot of local businesses. The iconic Iditarod Trail actually begins here, even though the dog race itself starts in Anchorage.

We drove around the small town and found the Mount Marathon trail. It is a point of about 3,000 feet in height that hosts a very, very difficult Fourth of July race each year. I don't think any time soon that I'll be giving up my announcing assignment on the Fourth for the Bud Heat Wave ... but maybe some time.

Today was another day where Dungy's devotional didn't necessarily have too many parallels with what we did today.

The title was "Disbanding the Me Generation" and the verse - from 2 Timothy 3:2 - was, "For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred."

I think I passed the money test (earlier)! Actually, that was an exercise in using money wisely I thought.

"We are living in a time when people refuse to see where God is directing or listen to what God is saying," Dungy also wrote. "And we perpetuate our focus on self through Facebook, Twitter, MSpace, and on our own individual blogs. They all reflect our insatiable desire to express ourselves, to tell others what we think, what we do, and where we go.

"They all highlight our desire the world to oursevles -- to lift ourselves up and to somehow feel the world's affirmation."

When I read that I'm thinking to myself, "Is that what I'm doing?"

I dialed back my thought, looking inward, and said, "No. I have people in my life who enjoy knowing some of the fun, neat things that I get to do in my life. That's all."

There have been a number of times, though, where I've examined the purpose of what I've posted before and, yes, some of them have gotten me into trouble. But instead of people trying to understand why (and what was behind it), they simply assumed it was directed at them when - in fact - it was me working through some hurts of my own that I had already worn out with a number of people.

Nonetheless, it is a good check to ensure why we are doing what we are.

So what's behind this post? I'm just trying to challenge myself, live life to its fullest, be a good father and hopefully be a little bit of who God hopes that He wants me to be.

Denali National Park, July 24, 2012

Tuesday found us spending the majority of the day inside Denali National Park as we took on two or three trails between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

We passed up taking a shuttle into the Park past Savage River (or mile 15 on the Park Road).  The time commitment that it was going to take in addition to giving up control - of going from point-to-point at our pleasure - kept us from buying shuttle tickets or a tour package.

Neither one of us is the type to spend 11 to 13 hours in a park viewing scenery.  Maybe that's a little bit of a weakness.

We were perfectly content, however, to explore the trails near the Savage River and then hike approximately 1,700 feet up Mount Healy.

Both the Savage Rock and the Mount Healy trails challenged us a little bit. 

Nonetheless, we enjoyed the time - with a little bit of a slower pace - and reminisced about the hiking that we did in Yellowstone (2007), Glacier (2010), Kona (2011) and Yosemite (2012) over the years.

Earlier that morning, I read the day's entry from the "Uncommon Life:  Daily Challenge" devotional that talked about "An Infectious Love".

Dungy's "uncommon" key was that "God's passion for you is enthusiatic and real." 

He also made reference to people that "seemed to bring a childlike passion to almost every setting they are in".

I'm not a Debbie Downer by any means, but I'm not "that" type of individual either.  I wish I was, but often times the world sees that type of person as fake.  And not genuine.  That isn’t how I would like to be perceived.

But what Dungy was pointing out is that God wants us to communicate with Him.

I did while we were out on the trials:  In thought.  I couldn’t help but think of – upon seeing more of the Earth’s natural beauty – the worship song that we sing, “Our God is an awesome God, / He reigns from heaven above / with wisdom, power, and love; / our God is an awesome God.”

The other treat - as Waverly was ahead of me on the trail towards the top of Mount Healy – really was her having more of the childlike spirit as she was singing some of the songs from camp that even I was familiar with.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Denali National Park, July 23, 2012

We're outside Denali National Park this evening after a long day of exploration.

We travelled the Hutchinson Highway south to Paxson before coming west 130-plus miles to Cantwell across the "rugged" Denali Highway.

To be honest, we're kind of sighted out -- for the moment.

The bottom line is that this could be, dependent upon Waverly's activities next summer and beyond, the last major vacation that the two of us get to take together.

That time is priceless and is something that you don't get back.

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets." - Matthew 7:12

Tony Dungy wrote that "we often think about this verse in terms of being nice to others because we want them to treat us nicely", but he asked the question in regards to mentoring others.

He asked a couple of probing questions that I thought were interesting.

"How about honesty?" he wrote. "How about helping someone see where they need to improve by being candid and forthright about it -- rather than sugarcoating it or, worse, not pointing it out at all?"

In the news recently, we've seen the destructiveness of not pointing something out.

While I'm certainly not the perfect father, or mentor even, Waverly knows that I've never sugarcoated things with or for her. I've told her many times, and it isn't anything that is private and sharing out of school, that it is my job to tell it to her like it is.

Likewise, I'm honest with her when I discuss my dealings with others, regardless of whether I'm right or wrong. If she only hears from me when I think I'm right, she has nothing to go on in allowing herself to examine her actions and thoughts when she isn't.

I asked Waverly during our drive today across the Denali Highway if there was anything that she ever wanted to ask me, but that she was afraid to.

She didn't have anything, but I don't want her to be in a position one, five or 10 years down the road and think that she can't come to me with an issue.

And I also didn't want her to have questions about her Dad that she couldn't answer.

Plus I wanted to make sure that if I had one more test in "shooting straight" that I didn't fail.

These trips are more about what we see and the things that we do, but most about who we are and what we become from it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fairbanks, Alaska, July 22, 2012

This quote from a very good friend came to mind as I was running the 47th annual Gold Discovery Run - a 16.3-mile adventure just north of Fairbanks - in Fox, Alaska on Sunday.

I'm not the biggest fan of trail running in the world, but it can be a nice diversion from road races. My friend, Becky Spaulding, would probably like to see me do more trail races than road or at least she keeps trying to talk me in that direction.

I stated yesterday that I was going to get back into Tony Dungy's daily devotional book, "The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge".

"We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, "What amazing things the Lord has done for them." - Psalms 126:2.

Dungy's point was that "Christians can be some of the most dour people on the planet."

He added, "Times can get tough. I know; I've been there. But as followers of and believers in Jesus Christ -- if we have asked Him into our lives -- we have the joy and hope of the Lord of lords and the King of kings in our lives."

I didn't read the July 22 entry in his book until after we made it back to the hotel here in downtown Fairbanks, but I was reminded of feeling joy of doing something different and thankful that I had the opportunity and the ability to do so.

And more importantly it was a welcome respite from some negativity that I shouldn't have been embracing.

But back to running, the vacations that I take my daughter, Waverly, on always seem to be adventures and it is something that I annually look forward to.

We kind of plan on some major things that we want to do, where we want to go and then work details in between.

It seems like most major vacations have always included a race or two, and I'm thankful that Waverly lets me enjoy that opportunity.

While I was running on Sunday, I thought about all of the years and all of the places that I've had a chance to compete in over time while we've been on vacation.

Here's a little bit of a recap:

2011 - Kona Marathon

2010 - Lewis and Clark Half Marathon (Bozeman, MT) and the Bear Lake Half Marathon in Garden City, Utah plus the Altoona (PA) Summer Biathlon and the Meet the Press 5K in Washington, D.C.

2007 - Lander (WY) Half Marathon and the Leadville (CO) Heavy Half Marathon

2006 - Squamish (BC) Days 10K

2004 - Cigna Healthcare Corporate Road Race 5K in Manchester, NH.

It seems like in other years, a race has been incorporated here or there but nothing is coming to mind and Athlinks wasn't triggering anything either.

There have been other times - such as the Philadelphia Marathon the last two years, the Alpharetta (Ga.) Marathon and the News and Sentinel Half Marathon in Parkersburg, West Virginia - where Waverly has come along for the trip. (Three out of those four have been to visit my grandparents.)

Two races this past weekend. The Alaska Men's Run in Anchorage on Saturday and the aforementioned race on Sunday.

I ran the Alaska Men's Run - a 5-miler - in a pretty good time for me, 48:12. It is a pace of 9:38/mile and just a few weeks ago, I finished a 10K in Texas City at a 10:17 pace. Yes, I know. Temperatures and humidity make a major difference, but I've been running better as a result of better and more consistent workouts.

It is very possible that the 48:12 may have even been a PR for me.

The Gold Discovery Run was tough. It had 1,648 feet of elevation gain, despite 3,198 feet of drop. Plenty of water on the course with a lot of the recent rains, especially on Saturday, that moved through the region.

It started high atop Cleary Summit and near the Fort Knox mine put. Interesting, to say the least.

Mile 1 -- 11:23.40
Mile 2 -- 12:42.72
Mile 3 -- 10:56.84
Mile 4 -- 11:37.25
Mile 5 -- 15:10.29 (included time going to "The Rock")
Mile 6 -- 13:47.87
Mile 7 -- 14:08.47
Mile 8 -- 12:12.26 (mostly downhill)
Mile 9 -- 14:08.46
Mile 10 -- 9:58.44 (definitely downhill)
Mile 11 -- 11:05.02
Mile 12 -- 13:46.60
Mile 13 -- 10:23.54
Mile 14 -- 10:54.25
Mile 15 -- 11:39.81
Mile 16 -- 12:07.43
Last .3 -- 3:59.29

Used the trail running axiom and approach of "walking the uphills and try to run everything else". Just two aid stations over the course -- one close to mile seven (7) with a cup-rationing worker and another just after mile 14.

Never saw any pre-race instruction about carrying water, but I'm glad that I carried two bottles the entire way. Of course, that is just getting ready for Rocky Raccoon in February.

The last mile was even slightly uphill and the downhills were actually punishing on the quads.

All in all, a great experience.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anchorage, Alaska, July 21, 2012

It is a little after 7 a.m. here.

Waverly and I flew in last night from Houston Intercontinental.  There's just a three-hour time difference, much different, of course, from the time change that we exprienced last summer in Hawaii.

I'm already up (Waverly has an 8 a.m. wake-up timeline) as I've signed up for the Alaska Men's Run, a 5-miler that starts at 10 a.m. from the Anchorage Football Stadium and utilizes a part of the initial section of trail for the Iditarod race held early each spring.

I wish I would have started and maintained this type of blog a long, long time ago.  Just documenting life and what's transpired over time.  I'm 45, but I've experienced a lot of incredible things in my life.  The ability to travel and open up the world to my now 17-year-old daughter is something that I've always been very grateful for and thankful of.

To be able to earn enough and make the time to show her our great country, all of its peoples and expand her mind as to what is possible in her life to come is wonderful to be able to experience.

Our vacations - or even mini-trips like a month ago in California - are typically pretty action-packed, but we'll see how this trip goes.  We have places where we need to get to, but we'll make it up in between.  Kind of like we've always done it.

Last Sunday at North Park Baptist Church, where our new pastor, Randy Harp, was preaching, his message redirected me back to the basics of our faith. 

It all starts with sin - and we're all guilty, me included.  And it should be a goal to minimize it and walk as close to God as we possibly can.

At the start of the year, I bought Tony Dungy's book, "The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge".  I started reading it on a daily basis, but like many other things in my life I let it slide.

I just read today's entry about "Discernment Instead of Judgment".  The verse included - Romans 2:1 - was as follows:

"You may think you can condem such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse!  When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things."

I'm not sure what translation this is, but I've been guilty of this and I've also been wrongly accused of doing this (i.e. "extremely judgmental").  It really isn't a place that I want to be - in either case.

I want to give as much as I can to others, and never have to have this thought cross my mind.  It is why I tend to try and stay as busy as I can to avoid falling into this trap.

I'm also continually thankful for the people that I get a chance to work with to do some neat things in the communities that I'm fortunate enough to be a part of.  More about those individuals in the days and entries to come.