Serious as a heart attack

As an athlete, I feel that I am on a journey to find ways to get better and more efficient in my training and my racing.  A clean eating and structured exercise regimen have afforded me a life where I am faster and leaner since turning 50 than I thought possible.  I feel that the mandate to “live long as prosper” from Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame has come true for me.  The onus is on me to maintain and pass along what I learn along this path.

I get and keep confidence to continue progressing by reviewing the positive aspects that science and experience teaches:  lean endurance athletes are at a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.  Yet, like a normal person, I know that there are some documented risks and side effects and consequences with my regimen.  Until this weekend, those risks got nearly none of my attention.

This weekend was the National Championships in Duathlon, in Greenville, SC.  I will soon forget the competition, but I won’t forget my friend Ed’s heart attack on race day.

One of my sons watching the race noticed Ed holding his chest on run 1 on Saturday morning.  When I passed Ed on run 2, he looked like he was in bad shape, as his eyes were rolling in his head.  After the race was over and I was talking with friends and family during recovering, my cell phone rang.  Megan from medical at USA Triathlon told me that after Ed crossed the finish line, he had been taken by ambulance to the hospital and he had told her to contact me as his emergency contact.  I met up with Megan, gathered his stuff, and created a plan to go to the hospital to see him.  I spoke with his wife on the phone, assuring her that he was in good hands.  She was in TX, and we were in SC, so she started making plans to get to here as soon as she could.

When I reached the hospital, Ed looked like a Christmas tree, with tubes, screens and lights surrounding him.  Ed had a heart attack during the race but pushed through to the finish line, as he really wanted to wear the TeamUSA logo and compete internationally next year.  Indeed, within a few minutes of arriving, he asked if I knew his time and I he made the cut.  The doctors put a stint in his heart to release the blockage via an artery in his groin immediately upon arrival in the hospital, and the darn thing wasn’t even a few hours old when I walked in.  Didn’t matter to him.  “Was I fast enough to make it?” was all that he wanted to share.

“Ed, you just hard a heart attack!  Let’s see you on the path to recovery, first!” was what came out of my mouth.  What I wanted to say was something like, “are you flipping serious?  Like, serious as a heart attack?  You could have died, Dude!”  In this one rare instance, going way out of character, I chose not to speak what was on my mind.

As an endurance athlete, I “know” just like everyone else “knows” that there is some peer reviewed research and anecdotal evidence out there that conclude excessive endurance exercise can be bad.  In one peer reviewed paper, the effects of long term endurance exercise cause a, “pathologic structural remodeling of the heart and large arteries.”  Indeed, the story of the first marathon ends with the original runner, Pheidippides, dying upon completion of the event.  The author of the book, “The Complete Book of Running,” died of a heart attack while running at age 52, and a 55-year-old mountain biker died 1 mile from the finish line of a race that he had already completed 18 times.  Until this weekend, I glazed over those events, dwelling on it long enough only to say, “not me.”  Ed was the same way.

I met Ed racing at Powerman Zofingen years ago.  Ed is short and stocky, but he has a motor that never stops.  He was always quick to say, “go USA,” when we passed each other during the race, and he is known by many for saying encouraging words to those whom he competes with, regardless of their citizenship.  He is a consummate sportsman.  He is one of those guys whom I nearly always beat but feel no shame in losing to.  Ed and his wife support my school building efforts via The Nepal Project, and they are “givers” down to their cores.  I was fearful that he was about to give his life.

I had a lot of reasons to complain about my National Championship.  Since February, I have been fighting a strain in my quads that has made it difficult to push at either the intensity or the duration I needed to reach to be competitive.  During the first race, I lost one of my cycling shoes in transition, and it took assistance from two of the refs before I found it.  My chain came off as soon as I finally got on my bike, and my rear brake rubbed throughout.  Yet, compared to Ed, I had an uneventful race.

God uses catastrophic events like this to get our attention.  When I arrived in the hospital room Ed quickly became teary eyed, as I was the first person from his previous life to see and talk to him since his life changing event.  I tried to joke with him, telling him that this was most certainly a consequence of voting for Trump.  His chuckle and subsequent cough brought a smile to both of our faces.  The world will only see the bad and perceive that events like heart attacks are random acts we can’t yet fully predict, like Earthquakes and girls and guys who break up with each other over text message.

We know that mortality catches all of us and it is highly unlikely that anyone racing this weekend will be remembered for their athletic prowess 50 years from now.  Yet, it is the power of our relationships that evoke change.  I held Ed’s hand and told him that good would come of this, I sensed a connection that would outlast this moment, in this place, surrounded by the power of science that often isolates us from our Creator.

The next day, I decided not to compete.  I told everyone that I had an achy knee (true) and that I can’t stand riding at 20+ mph in the cold (also true).  The missing part of my story was the impact that spending time Ed had on my psyche.  I did not fear a heart attack.  It was my lack of drive to compete that kept me on the sidelines. Instead, I stood on the run section of the course with my sons, cheering on my friends and encouraging them…for Ed.  That is what he would have done, had he been allowed to leave the hospital.  I watched Marcus, Rob, Randy, Mike L, Kristen and bunch of folks whom I normally compete against give it their best when their best mattered.  Yes, it was cold and I wished I was racing, but I knew I did the right thing.

When we got back home Sunday afternoon, we unpacked our gear and put everything away.  I repaired a piece of power equipment and raked our long gravel driveway, to get the pot holes out of it, and reviewed the final numbers on this year’s tax return.   After dinner, I sat on the couch and watched TV, when I got a long text from Ed.  He was beside himself with joy.  His son who had had been estranged from him for years gave him a call.  He son felt something on his heart, and he decided to call his dad and talk.  The two of them spoke on the phone, and Ed was overjoyed to tears.  Oddly enough, on Day 2, Ed was already grateful for his heart attack.

It is with both joy and satisfaction that I am passing on my TeamUSA status for 2019 and letting my slot on the team hopefully roll down to Ed.  For any of you ahead of Ed in the 50 to 54-year-old age category who considering passing on competing in Spain next year, the one who will be getting your slot will make you proud.  He will make us all proud.

Ed shared last night that his heart scans showed no damage to the heart muscle.  Ed’s wife called me.  She said he wanted to go out for a run.

When I was creating my training schedule months ago, I had put in a week off as a transition cycle before I begin building for Worlds in Denmark this July.  Before this weekend, I hesitated thinking if that was a good idea or not.  No doubt, I will take this week off from running and cycling and be grateful that I am doing so by choice and not by mandate.

Cheers to Ed and all the good that comes from a heart attack.

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Thoughts from a friend

At the core of goal setting is a deep dive into your definition of what it means to make an impact with your time and resources while you are on the Earth.  Yet, goals are viewed as an end, not a means.  Too bad that isn’t true.

To many, the goal is the end.  Google “goal setting,” and it is likely that you end up on a page that lists out specific goals, with lots of stories about the people and how they achieved them.  You’ve seen the lists.  They include items like:

  • Achieve a physical milestone-lift such and such a weight, run a distance, etc.
  • Go to the Super Bowl/World Series/Master’s, etc.
  • Have a certain number of people follow you/like you/provide dopamine hits to your brain to justify the effort put into your social presence
  • Be a guest star on Oprah (yes, I read online that someone really has that as their goal)

It takes no effort at all to realize that the act of stating your goals exposes how shallow and self-centered we humans are when it comes to defining the value of goals.

After all, the true definition of the value of a human is the impact that they make in the lives of others, one decision at a time.

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Moments before puking

One of my best friends recently resigned from a job to take a new, lesser paying job, so he would have time to execute on what he thinks is his life purpose.  My friend is an engaging teacher, who loves to share his understanding of Biblical passages and blend them with anecdotal stories from the real world.

My friend’s tools include his understanding of ancient Greek and a cumulative total of the all the mornings he has spent listening to and reading the Bible.  My friend also adds to his exposure on the topic by listening to podcasts, both related and unrelated, while working out.  He immerses himself in scripture, as a discipline, like I do with running, cycling and strength training.

But there are literally tens of millions of people with the focus and dedication of my friend.  Those efforts don’t separate him from people like you and me.  But his life experiences do.

You see, his wife left him 7 years ago, using only a hand-written note to announce her departure.  Then, she convinced their two children to have nothing to do with him.  He has been intentionally separated from his children, grandchildren and their livelihood, based only on the words of a single, mentally ill woman.  He is recently recovering from a heart attack that he knows, deep down, was preventable.  My friend was given a 3rd chance.

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My friend, at Tengboche, on the way to Everest Base Camp

When I think about what persecution means, the visualization I get includes my friend.

Yet, with all that noise, the inner voice telling him, “you need to teach,” has been loud and is only getting louder.  His choice to take less money to have more time shows his courage to follow his heart and his intuition.  Best of all, My friend remarried, and his new wife supports him completely.    My friend had to experience pain and manage it, in ways that I can only imagine.

No pain, no gain.  You have heard that before.  What is missing in that phrase is whose pain and whose gain are we talking about.   My friend has taken his personal pain and is making it into our gain.  I look forward to hearing his latest teachings.

Sharing what you have learned from your pain is, after all, how you make an impact on humanity.

What pain have you experienced that you can share?

We are all listening.

Race reports and Waffle House

This entire blog was a discovery and a commitment that the things that pass through my mind as I train for and reflect upon big-deal events shouldn’t be kept to myself and the family and friends close enough to hear my stories.  Sharing here refines me as a person as I transcribe them, and it keeps me humble.

The concept of a race report has evolved.  If you google “triathlon race reports,” you can find lots of places where folks dump their “Here is what I did.  Here is what happened.  Here is what I learned.” commentary.  These writings now are a mini-part of history, and based on feedback I have received over the years, they make a difference to you.

Alex Gaura at the end of a 50K Ultra marathon
Father and Son at the finish line of a 50K race

Media tries to pull competition reports out of athletes during post event interviews, often before the athlete has processed what happened.  When the camera is running, the athlete defaults to a script of, “we played a great team today,” or “We were able to maintain our focus,” comments, knowing good and well that whatever they say would be held against them.  Truth be told, the athletes themselves have yet to formulate a coherent thought about what just happened.  How can they?  They haven’t debriefed in a safe environment with their peers and coaches.

When I watch my TV interview after my first World Championships, I see that I had no idea what I was saying.  The only thing I remember was committing to return one day, with my wife in tow, as I know she would love Portugal and Spain.  Hopefully, I will be able to honor that promise in 2019.

 

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Being Silly at the start of the National Championship

My race reports started when I got to participate on stages that I never dreamed of being allowed to stand on.  The primary reason I put them to pen was to address the fact that I was telling different parts of the same story to many different people.  And, my propensity to let my 2-foot-long fish to grow into a 3-foot-long fish by the end of the story’s third telling gets royally squashed when I put the details to pen.

A short and sweet race report often happens to my wife via text message after the event.  “Race is over.  Alex and/or I won our age groups.  Going to Waffle house.”  Sometimes, it takes the social form of a post on FB or Instagram.  I like stupid poses the best-reflects my own blend of silliness and discipline.  See above.

And yes, we really like Waffle House.  And yes, we know that you just fired us.

However, it is over that meal at Waffle House when we discover what happened and what we can perhaps do differently next time, to get better.  Amazing thing how such low-quality food cooked behind the counter can really change our thinking.  I’ll take another hot tea, please.

Why I do this?

I get asked, just like you do, ¨what did you do last weekend?”

As an endurance athlete at heart, my one sentence answers of distances traveled on bike and on foot can be viewed as prideful boasting or attempts to make a point.  Indeed, many people don’t know what to do with my answers and often respond with something that parallels, “that sounds uncomfortable,” or “why would anyone ever do that?”  Since I have had a couple of those responses in the last few months, I am writing this blog.  You see, my answers are a part of my faith.

At the core of the question, “what did you do with your free time?” lies the fundamental assumption that we all are striving for either more comfort or to maintain the joy that which we have found.  When they hear 100 miles of cycling or 50 miles of running, there is an unspoken conclusion that these events were NOT comfortable.  Some normal people  conclude that these events are a form of lunacy and create an outcome opposite of what would have happened if I had stayed with family at home.  Dead wrong.

I have not built my definition of comfort on those worldly premises.  Comfort is not a big house or an ever growing 401(k).  Comfort is not safe physical spaces filled with people you love and wholove you back.  As a Christian, I have a promise that following Christ will not be “comfortable” in the world’s definition.  Indeed, Christ tells us that the act of following him will result in suffering, and sacrifice is an inseparable part of Christian identity.

I find “comfort” when I am stripped down to raw emotion, unfettered with my thoughts or current events.  When my spirit and emotions are rubbed down to their barest of levels, I get insight into my own identity that doesn’t happen if I am going out to eat with family or working on yard projects.  In my Christianity, this is called faith “like a child,” because it is unencumbered by the world’s opinion.  I intentionally push myself to places that require heroic effort to reach.  Women with children understand this journey.  Women are quick and confident when they share how becoming a mother changed them more than any other life event.  I have spoken to female endurance athletes who say the act of childbirth has much in common with endurance racing.   The act of completing these tasks is cleansing and full of renewal.  Unfortunately, more people see endurance racing like going to funeral rather than childbirth.

Like all endurance athletes, though, there is baggage associated with these extremes.  There always is a “what’s next,” side to conversation with family, friends and peers, and it is nearly always assumed that there is a next one on the list. My wife is sure that I will never have enough of a challenge.  She hears me say, ¨”I will NEVER run the Badwater 135,” and hears, “maybe he will one day.”  It disturbs her.  She gets upset that I will get hurt.  She fears having a disabled husband who could have prevented the entire incident if he had just a bit more self-control.

Like most wives, she is right.  But there is more to it.

For those of you who seek traditionally defined comfort, you are normal.  But, do you really think that leaving behind an untested, well-preserved body is how God made you, or were his parables in the bible attempts at humor?

God tells a story in the book of Matthew called the parable of the talents.  In this story, talents are coins, but meant to serve as an analogy for God given gifts. In the story, a master entrusts each of three different servants with a fixed amount of coins.  Two of the servants invest their talents and yield a return.  When the master returns and seeks accountability for the gifts, they show what they did with their talents.  They are well received and respected by their master.  However, one servant fears failure and the risk associated with a bad outcome. He chooses not to use his talent but instead hides them awaiting his master’s return.

These talents are symbolic of the gifts that God gives us, and our bodies are one of them.  Using your body as God intended includes sacrifice and risking the unknown.  The obesity rate in our country shows how far Christian sacrifice has been replaced with Worldly comfort for modern Christians.  Using your body as it is intended to be used means that you must risk the unknown, and sometimes, that includes suffering.  In addition to the childbirth analogy, the adage quoted in nearly every gym of “no pain, no gain,” is an indication that in the world of fitness, suffering is a pre-requisite to achieving growth.

I cannot find comfort by hiding my gift under the rock of safety.  My faith calls me to find comfort in expanding my talents, and this necessarily includes using my body.

Risk aversion as a Christian is also problematic.  If we look at the servant who took no risk, the master responds to him, calling him, “lazy and evil.”  I have no interest in hearing that label applied to me on judgement day, considering who will be speaking it.  Just like sacrifice and suffering, help minimize the risk of heart disease and diabetes, I have the ability to control the outcome by saying, “yes,” when others say, “no,” and “no,” when others say, “yes.”

I want to die knowing I challenged the shallow definition of comfort and took my commitment to my faith as intended.  Last year, I feared both the Badwater Cape Fear and the Annapurna 100 Ultra Marathons.  This year, I am doing two World Championships with my son watching me.  Yes, I am scared, but that is a part of the reason I am doing it.

There is not enough space to write about the importance of asking what scares you and how it is impacting your choices to play it safe. The enemy wants you to play it safe.  The enemy is looking forward to you putting your “you” under a rock and awaiting Jesus to return in glory.  I, for one, am not going to listen to the enemy in this matter.

That is why I enjoy being an endurance athlete.

That is why I AM an endurance athlete.

 

Maybe

I can’t count the number of times I meet people in association with reading.  As a traveler, I am keen to see the differences of a changing geography as it passes in front of me: new mountains, beautiful blue rivers, new coastlines, etc.  Yet, a person reading a book in public seems to always get my attention.  Indeed, starting a safe conversation about the contents of a book leads me to accidental introductions.  Other readers whom I met unexpectedly often trigger my next reading project.

The unspoken story that is a part of seeing someone absorbed in a book, inspire me to do what I am doing, right now.  People love a story.  They love ideas to make them think, and they love the comfort of the idea be presented in the threat free environment of the book that they can set aside without offending anyone.

We live in a time when not offending people is perceived as nearly paramount.  It stinks that challenging people is now confused and even equated to offending them.  We are losing our culture.

Let me challenge you, though.

Maybe.

Just Maybe.

You feel an itch to write.  Yes, you love reading.  Yes, you love curling up with a book.  Yet, you KNOW that there are barriers to writing that you can’t wrap your head around.  The time required.  The focus.  The money.  Did I mention the time?

Yet, the desire, however muted, lingers.  Eines Tages.  That is a German phrase I learned in college and use when I travel in Europe.  It translates as “once upon a time,” or “maybe one of these days,” in colloquial English.  I use it when someone presents me with a call to action that currently no place in my life to fit without me changing how I spend my day.

Before I started to write, Eines Tages was my phrase to handle the thought that perhaps one day I would write, once I got around to it.   I would get around to writing that book..that blog…that story…that tale.  So I told myself.

Eines Tages.

I had an unexpected and unpredicted athletic occurrence that started this blog.  At first, writing was difficult, but I had a passion for it.  After 60+ blogs, that passion remains.  That, too, was an unexpected as the events that lead up to thoughts in training.

What do you have going on right now that has the ability to impact the future like a piece of your mind in the form of written words?  That question hit not just my heart, but it provoked action.  And you, my follower, are reading the result of that action.

Like all writers, I had to sacrifice to make writing a part of my lifestyle.  My choice isn´t for everyone.  I chose to work less.  I decided to take a smaller paycheck in order to free up the time needed to write.

As I ask the question, “What is it that I like about the writers whose work I appreciate?” Is it THEIR story, or is it how they tell it?  More often than not, I am drawn in by the story and not the words used.  Looking into a mirror, I see that with my own writing.  I like my stories more than the words I choose.   I seldom write to get out a esoteric thought.  I write to get out a story of a real event that impacted me.  My stories seems to include bikes and running shoes for odd reasons.

The ultimate “why write” resides in writer´s ability to pass meaning from our current culture to the next one.  I get a sense of responsibility when I see that my writings represent a part of our future’s history.  God knows I don’t want MSNBC or FOX News to be the main entities who detail what the next generation thinks happened in the world or what was of interest.

Go pass it on.  Go write something.  Use paper or a computer and get the idea out.  Even a rough draft can become a masterpiece.

 

Alex Gaura at the end of a 50K Ultra marathon

Jump Start on 2018

Athletically, 2017 ended on a high note. My son attempted AND completed his first Ultra Marathon, as the last race of the year.  I have so much gratitude as I review last year.

  • I didn’t get injured! Thank you, Pilates!
  • I attempted two difficult Ultra Marathons: Bad Water and Annapurna, and I was successful at both! I completed 5 Ultras in 2017-three years ago, I couldn’t run down the driveway without pain.
  • I PR’d a standard distance duathlon that just so happened to be a World Championships (WCH), after age 50! Yahoo!
  • I qualified for and signed up for a double World Championship in Denmark next year with my son. Two WCH in 2 days is exciting and requires a whole new sort of racing fitness that I have not ever tried to develop.
Alex Gaura at the end of a 50K Ultra marathon
Father and Son at the finish line of a 50K race

Success in 2018 will require a plan that addresses shortcomings and a plan to get better.

No one progresses in life without a deep dive into what could be improved upon and executing on a plan to get better.  This year, I want to inject some of those philosophies into my daily plan.

To run faster, I need to incorporate not just more running, but more speedwork into my running.  Too often, I train as if the next race is a marathon, and I head out for long, slow runs.  Those long runs benefit a lot of body systems, but they aren’t enough, if the plan is to get faster.  Starting in 2018, my 10-day training cycle includes 2 speed days, up from just 1.   As I get closer to competition, I will increase that to 3 speed days.

To bike faster, I decided I needed a disk rear wheel, hopefully to grant me about 2 mph.  I am already training hard and often on the bike, and the incremental increase with additional training would require more time than I invest today.   That 2 mph may not seem like much, but it is a nearly 10% increase, and all it cost me was a pair of shoes.  Long Story-I sold a pair of shoes in 2015 for some bitcoin.  I sold the bitcoin in December 2017 and bought a Reynolds Rear disk with the proceeds.  Yes, non-criminals are making money on bitcoin, too.

My weaknesses are flexibility and late-night eating.  I am certainly doing nightly stretching, but I am also taking time during the day to do some basic stretching, as well.  As a minor change, there is a part of Pilates class when I conveniently get up to go to the bathroom, as I hate rollovers.  I have decided that I can’t become more flexible if I keep avoiding that which I do not like.  I have since committed to staying in the class during rollovers.  Sounds silly but doing what you don’t like is part of growing up.  Isn’t that what we ask of others when we expect them to change their behavior?  Can’t lead if you don’t practice what you are preaching, right?

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TRX Training at a Pilates Studio

As I have repeatedly blogged, we all need “why” behind what we are doing that isn’t about us, if it is to have an impact on others.  My wife and I are down to one kid at home, our son Alex.    Next year, the “A” event is the World Championships, followed by 3 days of serious trail running with my son in the mountains of Jotenheimen in central Norway.  That will give me a period of 7 days when I engage in 2 WCH, then run 20 miles a day for 3 consecutive days.  I am calling this my “A Week.” With this being my son’s last summer at the house before heading to college, this trip to Norway represents his high school graduation gift.  I can’t express how grateful I am that he has embraced and even helped plan the events associated with our choice to go to Norway and see the home of Thor, Odin and the like.

I put off until last that which I am the least capable of doing something about, namely, late night eating.  We eat an early dinner, then, something “happens” between dinner and bed and I get a serious case of the munchies.  Sometimes, it includes wine, and that makes this worse!  I have a couple of ideas:

  • Pre-portion out the late-night snacks, so as to prevent spontaneous binge eating.
  • Just say, “no.”
  • Give myself a couple of “free” days each week, say, on Saturday and Wednesday, when I can feel less constrained and restrain myself on the other days.

I am going with the first one…

What is you plan for 2018?  What does it look like?  Have you vetted it with someone you either trust or has shown evidence that they have overcome what you haven’t been able to?

More importantly, why are you doing it?

Good reasons, good plans, good feelings, good citizenship-they go together.  Plan 2018 before Jan1, when the rest of the world attempts this task.

 

 

 

 

2017: a Year in Review

There is both art and science to reviewing and critiquing your work.  Without question, I must (and you should, too) start with the measurable parts.  These numbers come from trainingpeaks.  If I did a some exercise and didn’t log it in trainingpeaks, it doesn’t count.

April 2014
Me and the boys…and the dog

Running : 790 miles, covered in ~124 hours.  There are some 5 minute miles in there, and some 20 minute miles.  Should finish at 850 miles, as I have one more 50K Ultra to run.

Cycling: 3050 miles, covered in 166 hours.  There are some 3 mph moments in there, as well as some 50+ mph moments.  Should finish at 3200.

Pilates and Strength Training:  49 hours, 45 minutes worth of equipment and Pilates matt classes.  This will finish at 54 hours (+/-)

Hiking with scout troop: 120 miles.  That will get another 6 to 8 miles added this weekend.  This hikes are pure fun, and I don’t include these efforts in my total time spent performance

Total investment:  ~360 hours, not counting travel time, recovery or rest.

2017, by the Body.  I get body fat analyzed most months.  Between January and August, I watched my weight go from 173 to 176.  However, my body fat started at 11% and ended at 8%.  Even though I got bigger, I had less fat.  I started with 19 lbs. of fat and ended with 14 lbs. of fat.

By the Events:

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ON the bike, at Worlds, in Penticton, CA

Duathlons: 4  (1 local, 2 nationals, 1 world).  I love these events, but conflicts with other areas of my life prevented me from average more than one a quarter.  I am an athlete, but I am also a scoutmaster, parent, husband, church leader and president of a company.  Those all have a place, and, in general, duathlon took a back seat when compared to previous years.

Runs:  7 (4 Ultra Marathons, 2 half marathons, 1 10 miler).  At the start of the year, the idea of 4 Ultras seemed crazy and painful.  In retrospect, I learned more from doing these events than any other event this year.  They challenged me and help me understand parts of me that I used to be far from my definition of self.  OK, they can be painful….sometimes.  My greatest achievements and fulfillment came from completing Ultras this year:  Badwater and Annapurna.  Uniquely difficult (running in the sand for 34 hours vs. running in the Himalaya for a day)

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Riding through the mountains of NC.  What a blessing to live here!

Cycling Events: 8.  North Carolina is a great state to participate in organized cycling events.  We have mountain rides that challenge your climbing and descending skills, and there is very little traffic where I live, making the idea of getting on your bike and heading out for a day of riding simple and comparatively safe to my peers in Europe or other parts of the US.  Every time I get in the mountains and ride in the crisp cool air, I get a sense of gratitude that I pray I never loose.  My backyard rides to Morrow Mountain and Albemarle are as good as any that I have done in the Pyrenees…even if not as long.

By the checkbook:

Total cost:  $5114.  After sponsorship, final out of pocket was $461.  I include in my numbers gasoline, hotels, food and nutrition, cycling components, running shoes,  bike shipping costs, parking, rental cars and any food I buy at the race venues.  I use my credit card perks from frequent business spending to purchase airline tickets, so my airfare costs to travel to Bend, OR and Penticton, CA, were less than parking fees at the airport.

Many peers my age have, as their greatest non-work/family/community investment time spent watching TV.  For comparison’s sake, my DirecTV bill for the year was $1300, about triple my fitness bill.

Let me share one sentence to ground it all.

I invested, on average, less than an hour a day in my fitness.

Sure, there were several 4+ hour days, and even one that exceeded to 12 hours.  But the average investment was less than 60 minutes.

The return on investment:  I am fit.  I get all the benefits of being fit and having a broad combination of strength, power, and endurance.  I get credibility when I speak about health and fitness, as I demonstrate and practice what I preach.  I CAN act youthful, if not a bit silly, since my body let’s me.  I stay healthy.  I avoid injury that plague many my age.  I don’t have to talk about doctor visits and prescriptions when I gather with friends.  The high point of my day isn’t what I am eating for dinner.  When I get together with family and friends, I don’t have downgrade the experience to playing board games and eating together.  I can go outside and play/work/bask in God’s creation.  I can touch my toes (sort of) and can let off steam by putting on a pair of running shoes and just going.  I can eat a lot of calories without concern.

And, I have a resting heart rate of 32.  It is worth an hour a day to get all this reward.

Next Year’s plan, as it sits today, is for 5 runs (a 3 day Ultra experience and 4 others), 8 duathlons and 6 mountain rides (that cost money).  There will be some last minute additions.  The current budget for this is $7300, as it includes taking my son to Denmark, as he gets to participate in his first world championship.  I would like to see sponsorship make that go to $0.

And, I will continue to invest an hour a day and build my tall tales, places seen and races conquered, at age 52.  I hope to have another 40 years of this in me, so I can be like Sister Madonna, and just keep going.

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Sister Madonna, aka the Iron Nun, competed in and won the World Championship in Standard Duathlon in the 85+ age group.  She was a light to all of TeamUSA.