Monday, July 25, 2016

Weekend Report; July 25, 2016

People around me joke (or at least the ones that are willing to share), "Where will Jon end up next?"

I know.  It seems like I'm always on the go.  I can assure you that I don't sit down well.

There are some reasons why I have a lot of time on my hands, other than with Waverly spending the last three school years in Virginia (with a fourth fast approaching), but they're not for publication.

I feel, though, as if I'd be wasting the time I've been given if I sat around and did nothing.

I also suppose these notions have been exacerbated by the passing of my sister, Holly, two years ago.

I guess I'm coming face to face with my own mortality.

And, honestly, it is scary.

Not in the sense that I don't know where my soul will go for eternity - as that's been settled, but just that at some point in time, you won't see the next day.

Through the heartaches and all that life can be sometimes, I still don't ever want that day to come.

I enjoy the most of what life has to offer.  And even though I'm an introvert, I enjoy interacting with all of those I choose and the majority of everybody else I suppose.

I say "majority" because I'm not sure how much I enjoy those who just decide to go 85 on the freeway and come up behind you because they think the road is theirs alone.

I headed north Friday evening to run a 5K race (Up And Away 5K produced by the Longview Running Club) Saturday morning on and near the grounds of the East Texas Regional Airport in Longview.

To me, life is about experiencing new things.

I had wanted to run this race a year ago, but when I came out of my hotel room in Marshall that morning I had a flat tire.

And talking with one runner, I'm glad that things - for me - got delayed a year because the course the year before was simply running along the far right-hand line of a busy two-lane road.

The race started on the grounds of the Airport just outside the LeTourneau University hangar.  (Like Liberty, they have a school of Aeronautics.)

It ended up being a complete, out-and-back course that took us onto a small portion of one of the taxiways and then on to a road that led off the airport grounds to a public road.

Looks like I went 15:42.34 out to the turnaround and then  4:38.26 to the two-mile marker for a total of 20:20.60.  But I'm thinking that the marking might have been suspect.

Followed that with 11:55.54 for the last 1.1 for a total of 32:16.14 -- 15:42.34 out and 16:33.80 back.

During that last mile, I actually stopped and walked to talk to a couple of fellow runners so I could have been under 32.

I went back to the hotel to shower after having breakfast at Corner Bakery Cafe - a new place for me to eat at -- and mapped out my path to get to Waco.

I had heard that the traffic was bad around the south loop of Tyler so I decided to follow state Highway 31 to and around Kilgore.

Stopped in Leverett's Chapel because I thought they had played 6-man football, but when I saw the field I could definitely tell it was an 11-man field.

The road didn't take me directly to New London, but knowing about the 1937 gas explosion that killed more than 300 I had to go there since I was close.

I saw the Memorial in the middle of State Highway 42 that was adjacent to incredibly new, modern West Rusk High School with a really nice football stadium, Bruce Bradshaw Stadium.

From there, I stopped in Overton, but not Arp.  Troup, Jacksonville at the Tomato Bowl (which I had never laid eyes on before) and then Westwood High School outside of Palestine, which now had field turf.

I made a couple of stops for Texas Historical Commission signs on the way to Fairfield, but stopped just once more in Teague before making it into Waco.

Dinner at Jason's Deli and a 4 a.m. wakeup call to be able to help out RunFAR at the TriWaco Triathlon, held near the banks of the Brazos River and finishing at the Waco Suspension Bridge.

Owner Raul Najera really didn't need much of my help, so I ended up helping clear the area in front of the finish line to give athletes a straight shot to sprint across the bridge and not be impeded by spectators.

Didn't know it at the time, but the announcer was the voice of the Baylor Bears, John Morris.

Really nice guy and in fact, a class act, as he didn't say a word about broadcasting for the Bears.

Most would have scoffed at me, even though I do a lot of race announcing.

I did what I would have done for anybody and that is help him to be able to be heard.

There were four speakers close to transition.  They were positioned so that everyone could hear when transition was closed, when the pre-race briefing started and where and so on.

John did an incredible job of clearly communicating all of that.  Things went incredibly smooth and a very good public address announcer can lead to that happening.

After the race started, John, though, was announcing off the reader mat from behind the finish line.

So I had one of Raul's staff turn the speakers in such a way so the athletes could better hear their names being announced by John as they finished.

I think it turned out well.

I left at about 9:30 a.m. to go to church at Greater Waco Baptist Church, which was located on the east side of Waco - along Loop 340.

It is a member church of Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI), the organization that North Park Baptist Church affiliates with too.

In fact, there's at least one missionary family - the Reaps - who both churches support.  When Pastor McKelroy introduced himself and welcomed me to the service - as it was easy to see that I had never been there before, he said that he went to Phillipines once a year to visit the Reaps.

It was a great service and it felt very home to me because for many years North Park Baptist was much the same with our founding Pastor, John Gross.

That's not to say that there's anything wrong with how North Park is today or that Greater Waco is set back in time.  Neither.  It is just that if you're in (or were in) a BBFI church, you'd know and understand.

We actually sang three songs from the hymnal, which used to be a staple in North Park for many, many years.

Made the drive home and after resting a little bit, Waverly and I went to eat at some place new in The Woodlands, Grub Burger Bar.  It was pretty good.  Got the Ghost burger and took the jalapeno head on.  That was a mistake -- and it took a good bit of Dr. Pepper to put the fire out.

What's up next weekend?  Not sure, but there'll definitely be a plan.  It is already in the works.

Have a great rest of the week.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Thoughts From Vacation; July 17, 2016

Vacations, while enjoyable to get away from day-to-day work life and most responsibilities, are also times for me to become very introspective.

I cherish these weeks over the years that I get to spend with Waverly.

They are priceless, memorable and not easily forgotten, even though, as a result of seeing so much, some of the details through the years begin to blur.

This year's vacation was put into motion before last year's was even over.

A year ago, we figured out that by getting her into the states of Michigan and Wisconsin, which we also ran races in, that it left her with three remaining:  Minnesota, North Dakota and Rhode Island.

Minneapolis-St. Paul seemed the most logical place to fly into, as I had done back in 2007 when I ran the Fargo Half Marathon and the Apple Blossom Half Marathon in ND and MN on consecutive days.

So the week was chosen, airline tickets were purchased, hotel reservations made (eight hotels in eight days in five states), races signed up for and off we went.

Well, sort of.

We experienced a delay getting out of IAH the Friday night before last as we were moved to a plane that was having mechanical issues (which turned out to be the evacuation slide on the entrance door to the plane) from a gate whose plane had not yet arrived.

Terribly frustrating and an experience that put us at our hotel in Hudson, Wisconsin, just across the state line from Minnesota, at about 3 a.m. instead of 11:30 p.m.

One thing, though, that has been a trademark in our vacations over the years has been flexibility.

If it had looked as if we might get delayed to Saturday morning, I had scouted out a reward flight into Des Moines, Iowa that would have allowed for us to make our Saturday evening race in Eldridge.

But we eventually got underway and we were thankful for paying such a price on our tickets that it allowed us to be upgraded to first class on both legs.

This allowed us to gain some much needed rest as we got up with a few hours sleep to run a race in New Richmond, Wisconsin on Saturday morning.

It is times like these that I appreciate the experience that I have gained since 1994 with all of the domestic business and personal travel that I've done.

While we're home and I'm back from a almost 4.5-mile walk on The Woodlands Waterway this evening, I know that these vacations - in their current form - will soon come to pass as Waverly begins embarking on her own professional career and personal life after graduating from Liberty University in May 2017.

We may still be able to spend time like this together, but the times may be shorter - and that's perfectly understandable and to be expected.

We're able to cover a lot of ground between the two of us and work on some things together that need dealt with.

An issue arose from school that was sprung upon her at the last minute.  It was very personally unsettling for her in that it could possibly have derailed some plans that she had been working for the last three years.

However, being there and having the time to actively engage and attack the issue and emotionally support her through the process was incredibly rewarding and satisfying.

I relate our time together each year - with the exception of 2014 when she was on the road for five weeks working Christian summer youth camps - to what our church's founding pastor Dr. John Gross shared with me many years ago.

He said that when we were able to take young people to those church youth camps in the summer that we had their attention for 168 hours.

Even if they attended Sunday School and church every single Sunday through the year, it was still 60-plus hours - minus sleep at camp - more.  It makes a difference.

And I think Waverly would tell you that our time together during these trips does the same.

We usually have one - what I would call a - dust up during the trip, but we usually come away with a deeper understanding of where each other is in their lives.

Without me putting any burdens on her, she understands what I'm going through as a middle-aged man and the pressures that I am - or place myself - under, and she usually learns even more how passionately I desire her to succeed and be a strong, successful, independent and beautiful young woman, inside and out.

There are certain ways that I challenge her - even though she challenges herself so well already - to be even more assertive in certain areas yet not take away from the Christ-like, service-minded approach she has to life.

While neither one of us are fast, we enjoy the challenges that come with running a road race and coming away with something that we can use in our day-to-day life from it.

We did five races in three states.  The first two were on the same day and the final three were on three consecutive days.

She took me down in four out of the five - coming from behind in three of them.

And we ran the fifth one - Thursday night in downtown Milwaukee under some unique conditions - together, but I get great joy continuing to see her grow and develop as a young woman and how the physical activity has helped to transform her through the years.

In some ways, the sport has transformed me too.

I went down a road that saw me put on, at times, ranging from between 80 to 100 pounds.

I probably still carry 40 more than I did in 1991, but despite that I'm thankful to continue to be in generally good health.

I also think it has turned me into more of an encourager of people than I had been in the past, even though I'm still an introvert and highly value my alone time.

One of the biggest things that we accomplished this trip, knowing the kind of ground that we chose to cover in addition to making some adjustments on the first day or two, was setting a plan to get up and to be on the road by a certain time.

In year's past, we would often - and, yes, me leading the charge - be willing to keep hitting the snooze on the alarms and not getting our day underway until late morning.

But, by doing so, we saw and experienced a lot and I even passed up going to a ball game or two during the trip.

The first plan of the trip included a Sunday afternoon independent minor league ball game in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but when we found a church we wanted to go to in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday morning that made that an unlikely occurence.

There were also some tentative plans to see games in Fargo-Moorhead and St. Paul, but exhaustion on the latter (on Saturday) and when we saw certain things on the former earlier in the week eliminated those.  But it was perfectly OK.

One evening in Bismarck, we got in a nice, late evening 40-minute walk that winded down a busy day getting there.

And the other, we experienced the benefits of excellent public transportation in Minneapolis-St. Paul to facilitate exploring St. Paul for about three hours or so that made me not even want to stop and see the beautiful stadium that the University of Minnesota would be playing in.

One thing's for sure, though, as we get ready to start a new week, we'll get to Rhode Island for her 50th state to visit - and maybe we'll figure out a way to do it together  when I'm able to run my half marathon there.

More to come, I'm sure.  Enjoy the week.