“...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." - Hebrews 12:1
Running With Endurance
The horn went off. For the first 200 meters I was out in front. I partook of the serene open water, untouched by any other swimmers, then the chaos began, elbows in my face, heels in my ribs, hands pushing my legs down, yup you guessed it, I got swallowed up and sucked into the pack. As I lifted my head up to spot the buoys I could see that I was only finger tips away from breaking free from the pack but they seemed to keep it that way till about the 550 meter mark. Then the chaos ended. I got into form, turned on my kick and began to play catch up with the lead swimmers. I kicked it in hard, I kept it classy and finished the swim strong. Then, I had the grand opportunity to participate in the longest transitions ever, I took me 2 minutes and 43 seconds to complete transition one when normally I am under 40 seconds. For some reason the race directors thought it would be best if the designed the course with a 900 meter run after the swim and before they bike, it burned so good!
Off onto the three loop bike course where I continued to play catch up. It was wet, slippery and technical, twenty people were hospitalized for broken bones. At every turn I could feel my tires skipping along the wet street, just on the verge of slipping out underneath me. I began to pass other racers one by one. Then course went silent. I could not see another person for about 300 meters. It was at this point I figured I had caught everyone in my wave. I glanced back and I had two sneaking up on my wheel. One from Canada and one from Great Britain, then they passed me. As I started the third and final loop I passed the Canadian and the Brit. The Canadian responded and went with me and we dropped the Brit. We dismounted off the bike and went into another 900 meter transition, then into a 5k run, the Canadian and I, shoulder to shoulder. I immediately through a serge in and pulled away, hoping to catch the last of the leaders. For sixteen minutes and twenty four seconds I was chasing the leaders but what I did not realize was that, I was leader.
After two loops through the park I brought it in, I came down the final stretch and finished with a huge smile and a fist pump. Relived and excited because I knew I had a great race, no crashes, no injuries, no bee stings and no flat tires, but still not sure that I had won. As I walked over to the finishing area I only saw about fifteen athletes, all of whom were in one of the waves that started before me. As I doubled check all of their race bibs it dawned on me, I just won the World Championship Title for the 20-24 age group.
With only a day of recovery I get to do it all over again on Sunday but this time for the Olympic Distance (1,500 meter swim, 40 kilometer bike, 10 kilometer run). The Olympic Distance is exactly twice the sprint and this time around it is going to be hard and take a whole lot of endurance.
A Spiritual Thought or Two Running the Race with Endurance
Let us run with endurance. What is needed is endurance, both to finish my race on Sunday but also to finish what I have begun in Jesus Christ. God has set before me two races. A physical race and a spiritual one. I must run them both. They will involve effort, commitment, discipline and a whole lot of pain. Being passive never runs a race. God wants us to run the race, and finish it right, with joy and zeal but we cannot do it alone. We need His help.
Endurance is needed to run that race. It is a determination which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected. In Hebrews 12:1-2 the author, alluded to the idea that the Christian's faith is like a race, an endurance race, one in which there is not a single winner but rather everyone who finishes is a winner and all racers should race with a kind of steady determination that refuses to be deflected.
"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us..." Hebrews 12:1
Laying Aside Weight
One comical moment came in 2011 after I had just won the Santa Barbara Triathlon for the first time. I was cleaning up my transition area after the race and I overheard two guys talking as they passed behind me. The first guy said to his buddy, “That is the kid who won the race.” Astonish his buddy replied, “But he’s fat.” I just grinned.
As an endurance athlete many would never realize that I struggle with my weight. My struggles with weight are not in the realm of obesity nor are due to self-image but rather unnecessary weight that slows me down from a lack of discipline. For an triathlete my height, age and level of racing in which I compete, I should be at least 10-15 pounds lighter, I know exactly where it was coming from, cheese-on-everything and home grown avocados that I like to eat.
One study had shown that one pound of unused body weight can add two seconds per mile. In a ten kilometer race, ten to fifteen pounds of unused body weight is the equivalent of adding two to three minutes in a ten kilometer race, astonishing, I know! My goal this year has been to try to cut down at least ten pounds and make it down to the low one-hundred and sixties. Five days before leaving for London I weighed in at one-hundred and sixty-two, which is the lightest I can ever remember being. It has made a huge difference and I have been having incredible track workouts. I know I am not going to run a sub 30 minute 10k after a bike and a swim but I know I am faster because of the weight I dropped.
For eight years I rode “Old Yeller” a yellow 2002 aluminum framed road bike with aluminum wheels in all of my triathlons. This year I upgraded to all carbon fiber and an aero helmet. It was this year at the Ventura Triathlon when I retired Old Yeller from racing, a bitter sweet moment in my life. I knew my new bike would cut some time, I did not realize it would be three and a half minutes and that I would have the second fastest bike split of the day. With all the weight dropped there was a price to pay and it came out of my wallet. Cutting weight and upgrading my equipment has allowed me to “run the race with endurance” more effectively. A Spiritual Thought or Two Laying Aside Hindrances and Sin
As I endeavor to overcome the many discouragements and obstacles in my life I know that perseverance builds character and I am learning key elements that translate over into my spiritual race in which life eternal with God is the prize.
Being over weight is not a sin and I am not trying to make that parallel. I understand that genetics play a huge role in our weight. All of our bodies have a programed body weight which come from our progenitors and this programed body weight is in our genetics, please do not misunderstand me.
There are things that may not be sin “every weight” but are merely hindrances that can keep us from running effectively the race God has for us. Our choices are not always between right and wrong, but sometimes between something that may hinder us and something that may not. I know that there is plenty that hinders me from running my spiritual race with endurance. Then there are sins, sins that easily ensnare all Christians and I am sure it is different for everyone. Easily ensnares is translated from a difficult ancient Greek word (euperistaton), which can be translated four ways: “easily avoided,” “admired,” “ensnaring,” or “dangerous.” Some sins can be easily avoided, for what ever reason, they are not. Some sins are admired, yet must be laid aside. Some sins are ensnaring and thus especially harmful. And some sins are more dangerous than others are. I am encouraged in Hebrews to lay them all aside.
To often I find myself being ensnared by sin in my spiritual life and doing things that I do not want to do and not doing things that I want to do. It is so easy to get angry and so hard to return a put down with love. Why is that? It is so easy to be selfish and keep blessings for myself rather than share those blessings with others. Why is that? It is so easy for me elevate things above God, including myself. Why is that? It is so easy to be prideful and stubborn and resist God in my heart. Why is that? I am reminded of the Apostle Paul and his struggles when he was inspired to write Romans 7:15-25, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord ! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
I am a sinner saved by God’s grace, His unmerited favor and love, and I await the victory of laying aside the sins that so easily slow me down in my spiritual life. I understand it is an active involvement by letting God mold and change my heart through the life and work of Jesus Christ.
After dwelling on the verse “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles us.” I think there is a lesson to be experienced soon and many more to come. I know I have learned an equivalent lesson in a the temporal sense with my training, that cutting weight is important, takes discipline, a lifestyle change and there is a price to pay but the benefit is that I am no long weighed down and hindered.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” Hebrews 12:1
Faith In The Right Direction Can Yield Great Blessings
On May 6th, 1954 Roger Ballister did the undoable, broke the four-minute-mile barrier that had plagued track runners for decades and since then over a thousand runners have broken the four-minute-mile including 5 high schoolers. It is becoming more and more common and in 1997 Daniel Komen broke eight minutes for two miles. This is an average pace of two sub four-minute-miles back to back, that is some serious foot speed. Roger Ballister stood as a testimony that running sub four minutes in the mile was possible. Now the thousands of athletes who have accomplished this fleet serve as witnesses to the future generations as well. Commitment, discipline and endurance pointed in the right direction can yield great blessings. I raced my last race before London this past Sunday. At this point I cannot get any fitter, all I can do is just maintain. The five-hundred yard swim, six mile bike ride, and a two mile run is my favorite course to race because there is only one way to race it, “Fly and Die!” Sunday morning my four-minute-mile barrier was thirty-five minutes, a goal that I had set 2 years prior. In the history of the Santa Barbara Triathlon no one has ever done it, gone sub thirty-five. The closest was by Mike Smith in 2005 with a time of 35:03. In 2011, when I raced this course last, I finished with a time of 35:26 and since that day I have wanted to go sub thirty-five. I never go into a race thinking I am going to win and Sunday was no exception. I was nervous, very nervous, and for two reasons. 1) I was not sure if I could break thirty-five minutes. 2) My good friend and training partner, Jason, was racing along side me and I new he was there to race and race hard, if not win. As nerves began to build and doubts of not being fit enough began to flow through my mind. There was one principle that I leaned upon, Faith. Believing and trusting in my training, remembering all the moments that I have pressed through the grueling time trials, gut wrenching intervals and the volume of work that I have put in these past 9 months; thousands of yards of swimming, hundreds of miles running, thousands of miles cycling and my top finishes against some very accomplished athletes. When it comes to Triathlon, faith in myself and faith in my training is imperative. More often then not I tend to drift in the direction of doubt. I tend to doubt the abilities that God has gifted me with and mentally defeat myself because I see other competitors that look leaner, fitter and tougher. Why? I do not have an answer. I do not know where it comes from but doubt is always lingering. Having faith seems to take me to the proper mindset and bring tranquility to my anxious nerves. I have learned that faith in the right direction can go a long way. With Jason along side me and faith in my training, we both were able to break the thirty-five-minute barrier and we pushed each other all the way to the finish line. Relieved and only a few strides ahead, I was able to finish in a time of 34:22, a new course record. On Sunday, with the clock against me, my good friend and opponent on my heals, faith in myself and in my training was a good thing and yielded a great accomplishment but faith in a certain someone is far better. A Spiritual Thought or Two The Great Cloud of Witnesses and The Hall of Faith In a similar fashion there have been many who have exhibited great strides of faith. To the Hebrew-Christians plagued by religious persecution, the writer of Hebrews encourages these doubting Christians with the characters of the “Hall of Faith” found in Hebrews chapter eleven. Together as a whole, each of these iconic characters serve as a great cloud of witnesses just like the thousands of sub four-minute-mile runners to the future generations of runners. Like a beautiful tapestry, its threads woven together, the “great cloud of witnesses” found in Hebrews the twelfth chapter and verse one is intertwined with the Great Hall of Faith found in Hebrews eleven. The Hall of Faith describes some of the many Biblical icons who have demonstrated great strides of faith in the midst of difficult circumstances. These remarkable men and women stories stand out to encourage and challenge our faith. From Abel offering up a better sacrifice, his first fruits to God, to Noah building the Ark in the midst of great opposition. Its hard to imagine the faith that Noah had in God while building a giant boat. I often look at some of these characters as ultra holy, far beyond reach and far better than myself when it comes to trusting God and exercising faith. A closer examination reveals that the lives of these men and women did not always exhibit great faith, conversely, some of their actions could have landed them into the “Hall of Shame.” Abraham and Sara did not trust that God would bring them a son but instead Abraham took Hagar, his made servant, and birthed Ismael. Noah had a weakness for wine. He became drunk and passed out in his tent, making himself an embarrassment to his sons and Moses doubted God because of his own personal inadequacies. These men and women are just like myself today faced with difficult circumstances in life but called to trust God. In the midst of doubt I am called to have great strides of faith just like the iconic characters of the Hall of Faith. The doubts I am alluding to do not pertain to triathlons but rather living a godly life. To often I doubt God’s promises in scripture when I should trust in them because He has shown to be faithful to the generations past. The great thing about having faith is that it does not involve trusting or believing in myself but rather trusting in someone who is far better, Jesus Christ and he proved it with his resurrection. When it comes to living a godly life even when circumstances might dictate another direction I am reminded of the “great cloud of witnesses” and the great strides of faith they exhibited. Five-thousand years of Jewish history has shown that God’s way is the better way and when we doubt God we miss out on the amazing things that he has for us. Faith in the right direction can yield great blessings.
In the Beginning to the Present In the beginning, at the age of 14, sitting on the steps of Reality Church, waiting for service to start I noticed runners in weird one piece outfits jetting by. I walked over and asked the next person what it was he was doing. Out of breath he shouted, “The Carp Triathlon!” I walked back over to the cool shaded steps and pondered the innocent word “Triathlon” in my mind. Within minutes I committed for following year. A year later I would soon realize that there is nothing innocent about a Triathlon and nine years after my first race I would have never imagined I would be where I am at today, a maturing believer in Christ training up to twenty-five hours a week of hard, grueling but exhilarating exercise. Thanks be to God I am three weeks out from one of the most prestigious races of my Triathlon career, the 2013 International Triathlon Union Age Group World Championships in London, England, and I am more nervous and excited than ever. It was just a little over a year ago in June of 2012 when my chances for qualifying for London were injured away when I had to turn down my slot for the 2012 Age Group National Championships in August, due to a knee injury. Struck down but not destroyed I did one of the hardest things to do as an athlete, take time off. Thanks to the guys at Prevail Conditioning I found my self ready to start training again. As January rolled around I put things back into gear slowly until early March, when I received an email explaining that I was in the runnings for a slot in the 2013 ITU Age Group World Championships. A little bit of God’s sovereignty can go a long way, two weeks after receiving the email I was in and had a spot secured for London. With only a week and a half until my taper I am so grateful to have made it this far. I have had so much support from my community, family and my unbelievable friends who have all contributed in helping me raise $4,000. Thank you all! A Spiritual Thought or Two God has gifted every Christian with talents for the furtherance of his Kingdom. Some of these giftings are for personal growth towards God, some are for the growth of others and some times it is both but at the end of the day God should get the Glory for them. Some Christians have many gifts from art to specific musical abilities. I am very confident in saying that I am not gifted musically, I know from experience. I believe the sport of Triathlon is one of the giftings God has given me. I am well aware the no man knows what the future holds and that every great athlete is just an injury away from the end of their athletic career. This could be temporary or a long term gifting but for the time being God has allowed it and I am going to press onward with it. Give or take away I will still praise Him! My faith and athletic endeavors have opened the doors to many priceless lessons and spiritual truths that I could have not learned anywhere else. Through my understanding of the Bible and my experience in the sport of Triathlon, God has shown me a very important lesson, that there is a race going on, but this race is not one of athletic endeavors but rather a spiritual journey in which God is the ultimate prize and every Christian should run their spiritual race with endurance. In Hebrews, the twelfth chapter, the author alludes to this race and the Hebrew-Christians are encouraged to “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."