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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Balance-not something you find…it is something you make.

This year represented my 4th opportunity to compete in a World Championship level event in Duathlon.  Since there is no Intergalactic Championship to take part in, this year’s race in British Columbia, Canada represented the end of the road for competitive Duathlon in 2017.  Nothing bigger than a World Championship…at least, not yet.

World Championships are always memorable.  The Parade of Nations makes you feel like an Olympian, albeit with only half the number of countries represented.  Putting on the National Team uniform and knowing you represent the USA for all to see is humbling yet empowering to the spirit of adventure that lives in all of us.  The overwhelming sense of funk that all athletes exude when their race is over and they socialize with other athletes is the source of great olfactory assault, yet mildly reaffirming that you just finished something that is difficult and special.

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Running with Mike and Rob

 

The best part of the 2017 World Championship was getting along with other TeamUSA athletes.  Run 1 turned into a fun run with my friends Mike and Rob. We ran side by side for the first 5k, averaging about a 6 ½ minute mile and we all reached the transition point within 10 seconds of one another.  We talked to each other, often, keeping each other encouraged.  Rob said that our banter was the only thing that kept him going during those first 40 minutes of tough running.  The bike was super-fast, as the terrain was flat.  Run 2 was more of run 1, and I hit the finish line, setting a personal best for that distance, despite a few cramps.

 

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3 athletes and the coach from Liberty University

I got to meet some great people and connect with some old friends.  I traded clothing with a Team South Africa athlete, and I got to meet the coach of Liberty University Triathlon and connect him with my youngest son.  Can’t tell you how proud it would make me feel to have both of my sons attend Liberty!  Rob and I attended an essential oils party with a couple of girls on TeamUSA, Melissa and Kerry.  We laughed so hard that it hurt!  Lastly, getting to experience the solar eclipse, minutes after crossing the finish line is an event I don’t ever see replicating.

Each year’s World Championship has had a unique focus in my memory.  Year one, the top of mind item was trying to reconcile my desire to compete with a lack of training due to injury.  Year two, I was overwhelmed by the distance and effort required to complete Powerman Zofingen and was grateful to finish the race.  Year three challenged me in that I was trying to become a better Ultra Marathoner while simultaneously getting stronger on the bike.  This year, I attempted to have a greater balance of training, life and work, with Spirit a part of every task.

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Kerry and Melissa-too much fun.

After all, balance isn’t something you find.  It is something you create.

This year started with a far-fetched goal of competing and finishing the Badwater Cape Fear Ultramarathon in early March.  I hyper-exceeded goals there, coming in near the top in the standings, both for age and for overall.  The end of the year includes 3 Ultra Marathons in a 7-week window, including one in Nepal to raise money for school building and another with our scout troop to help boys develop into men.  Although neither event has happened yet, I am sure that joy will come while running with Nepali natives and with our scout troop.  Both events shall be my “highs” of 2017 with regards to fitness.

After all, seeking fitness for fitness sake is selfish.  Using fitness to build the Temple of God while helping others hits at the core value of the human experience.

It is my heart’s desire that each of your reading this, regardless of where you are in your fitness journey take a few moments to answer the question, “how can I use my fitness achievements to help others?”  No matter how many medals I hang on my wall, none of them are worth as much to me as the smile I see when I help another athlete achieve something new.

That is the balance that I want all of us to create.  That is the selfish application of fitness that can make you happy.  Give it away, and you will have more wealth in your heart than you can imagine.

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Before the Start of the Badwater.  Seems so long ago!

My bike now sits in the basement, with only a day or so a week of riding happening between now and the winter.  My running shoes are now my weapon of choice, and the finish line now has images of people I am running for, not of places to see and things to accumulate.  Follow the story on http://thenepalproject.org for ongoing updates of the impact of the Annapurna100 on the people of Nepal.

Because She Can’t

Athletes often get special treatment, paid to do what they love and show off their successes in front of a crowd that they would not otherwise have access to.  Athletes get to embrace glory and keep ornaments from their events like the starry dome that they think surrounds them.  Even those athletes who demonstrate unsportsmanlike behavior get accolades and affirmation from the audience they are meant to inspire.

My father recently passed along a bronze medal he earned at an event during the 1930s down to my son, sharing his moment of glory when he was a young athlete, with vision and mission in his heart.  My son kept that medal in his drawer, along with some other mementos from his family that he treasures.  It has a meaning beyond the effort that happened on that day that contains an intangible effect from being a part of a special moment.  My father’s worth was tested that day, and he grew up that day.  And, yes, the outcome is important, as our current culture of participation trophies and “every kid gets equal playing time,” will be our doom.

I argue that our spirit needs more than fun times, medals and glory to justify all the training and nutrition needed to run and bike at threshold.  I need a sustainable and humility based answer.  I must perform during training and on race day with others in mind, if I am to make a difference.

In my heart and soul, I know that taking care of my body is Worship.  A vocalist who writes and performs music has to determine if the focus is the crowd or their Creator.  I, too, must be aware of why I am putting on my uniform when those special days arrive.  A long time ago, I determined that if my answer to “why am I doing this” included phrases like, “get a bigger trophy” and “get my name in the paper” I have missed the point of why I am on this Earth.

11 WaterfallOur time on this Earth is weaved in series of relationships, like a Escher painting.  Before I do a “world championship” level event, I pick an individual to race “with me” who won’t be standing next to me at the starting line.  Sometimes, I know who it is for when I sign up a year in advance; other times, like this time, I didn’t know who it I was for until a few weeks before the starting gun.

This race, I dedicated to Betty Gaetan, my mother in law.  She has always been one of my biggest supporters and has told stories of my athletic “glory” to people whom I will likely never meet.  She is a groupie who happens to really love me.  Since July, she has been experiencing medical problems, and she still has another surgery in her near future.  Not only could she not perform the events that take place in a 55km duathlon, she can’t even come see me, either.

When I called her to tell her that I was going to push at this year’s World Championship for her, she was happy.  What I have not yet told, or anyone for that matter, is how she was there with me, on race day.

When the gun sounded, three of us on TeamUSA ran together for the first 10k, all finishing a few seconds apart.  We all ran quickly and were proud of our numbers, but what made the moment special is that none of us could have ran at that pace, for that long, without each other.  Thanks to Mike and Rob, for helping keep the pace.  Special thanks to Betty, for being there in spirit.  My friends saw us as a group of three.  In reality, I carried Betty with me.

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Lake Okanagan

Most of the bike ride take place on the shore of Lake Okanagan in central British Columbia.  Turning around at the checkpoint to begin this last leg back to transition, I set a visual focus on a Danish competitor in front of me, and I decided to chase him down and pass him.  It was an exhilarating feeling to run my power up to 300 watts and leave it there, to make my pass.  Once I got by him, I powered down to a more human number and looked at the beauty of the lake and how majestic it is.  My heart rate was holding at 150 and my body was in sync with what I was asking it to do.  I was purring on the bike saddle, and I had Betty’s spirit with me.  A few minutes later, the Dane passed me, looked over, and nodded his head, acknowledging that we were “game on” and would be passing each other for the rest of the race.  He tucked in front of me and ran his effort levels up, trying to hold me back.  No joy for him!  For the next 15 minutes, we passed each other two more times before racking our bikes and putting on running shoes.  I raced and paced that Dane, because Betty couldn’t.

When there was only 500 meters left till the finish line, I was greeted by a TeamUSA representative who handed me a US flag and cheered me on.  I upped my pace to nearly a 5:30 mile and held it all the way to the finish line.  As I approached the finish, the announcer called my name, and I held the flag high, thinking about Betty, knowing she couldn’t do that.

I did that race with her, for her.  And, the next time I see her, I am giving her that flag as a token on that day.  It isn’t the flag that will weave us together, but it does give us a token of our event, just like my father’s bronze medal is a token that my son treasures.

Although I don’t know what that flag will mean to her, it will mean more to me, as I am the one who gets to give it away.

Because she can’t.

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Betty Gaetan and my son, Michael, after a football game in 2011

Windshield vs. rear view mirror

 

rear-view-mirror

After getting an inspired message at a men’s group meeting this week, I came home and measured the size of the windshield in a car.  I then compared it to the corresponding rear view mirror in the car.

The front window average 54” across and 36” top to bottom. That is a total surface area of 1944 square inches.  The rear-view mirror measured 9” by 3”, a total of 27 square inches of mirror.

To put into perspective, only 1.3% of the total area to stare at is for looking backwards.  The remaining 98.7% of space in front of me is meant to see forward.

The forward direction represents where we should be looking nearly all the time.  That is why it represents such a large portion of the field of view.

This applies to nutrition and fitness.

When we seek to change to healthier eating patterns, nearly all of our efforts should be focused on what is ahead of us-the next meal or snack, the next day, etc.  Too often we find ourselves consumed by thoughts about what certain foods from the past we are craving, instead of being focused on the task at hand.

Nats3With athletics, it is important to review efforts from the past.  But once we have reviewed those lessons, discussed and learned from them, we must move forward with the next workout/training cycle to get better at our craft.

This last weekend, and Duathlon Nationals, my bike broke on the 2nd climb up a mountain.  I was stuck in 15th gear for the entire climb….my cadence during that climb was 31 rpm.  That hurts!  Might as well have pushed a wheel barrow up that mountain.  Fortunately, when I crested at the top of the climb, I jumped off my bike and successfully fixed the issue before getting on my bike and descending back to transition.  My placement in the race dropped a couple of spaces since last year, but it was still a good day, and I earned a TeamUSA slot for 2018.

Nats7My son saw a young man in front of him fall.  His emotional response to the accident caused him to forget to take off his helmet.  He did run 2 wearing his helmet.  That cost him a few seconds, but he also did well enough to finish in the top 6 and get a TeamUSA slot for the Sprint distance.

The windshield for both of us is large now.  Alex begins Cross Country season, and will not see nor wear a cycling helmet until the fall, at our next race.  I have ITU Worlds in Penticton in 8 weeks, and my focus is on preparing for an even greater challenge than Nationals.

We have no time for the rear view mirror.

Rednecks and Cherries…they have a lot in common!

During my stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I lived in a remote village in the Kingdom of Nepal.  Sure, the scenery of the surrounding Himalaya was great, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as the people whom I lived with for 2 years.  I remember how some villagers would put fresh manure in their wounds, claiming that it helped to stop the spread of pain.  Two weeks later, when they still had festering wounds and were confronted (by me!) about how stupid that cow-shit-on-a-cut idea really was, they said that it was part of the process called life.  It was a rite of passage to be able to live through the cut and the corresponding recovery.  Lastly, they just got used to it.

Sure, they didn’t know any differently, as science was not a mainstream idea used in decision making, as it is in the West.  That said, it pointed out some fundamental flaws that all of us have when it comes to enduring something that hurts us.  It is called Redneck Thinking (with Capital Letters).

  • We believe that the way we have been doing things is an effective way. It may or may not be the best way, but it is a safe way, because we survived it.
  • When confronted with better ways, we will occasionally change. Most of the time, though, we don’t.
  • When our ways cause us to suffer, we look to make sense of it all, saying that it is good for us…we say that it builds character and toughness.
  • Here is the real kicker. The older we get, the more we fall victim to the “old ways work, why change it?” sort of thinking.
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Redneck dogs even have fewer teeth that regular ones…

No place does this happen more that during conversations with people who are interesting and show leadership.  I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “this is a great recipe.  You ought to try it!”  I agree with them, both in heart and in mind.  The conversation ends, often with a recipe in my inbox, only to sit there until I delete the idea.  I redneck it.

I KNOW that if I had just cooked it and tried it, there is a good chance that the dish would have likely to make it to our dinner table repeatedly.  I KNOW that I would be better off for trying something new.  But, more often than not, I don’t.

Truth is, we are all rednecks.  We generally do what we did the last time, even if it wasn’t that great of an idea.  What really seals the deal with our hard-earned title of redneck is how we view our poor results as “part of life.”

As an athlete, this is measurably true!  Often, I reject good ideas backed with good science.  Yet, this last weekend, I went out on a limb and tried a new idea to address an anticipated pain from an upcoming event.

Last weekend’s event was a 103-mile bike ride up Mt. Mitchell, NC.  The ride is much like a day in the Pyrenees in France, with a bit more climbing.  Like most bike rides that include both more volume and more intensity that I am used to, the expectation was that I would be both tired before I was done and I would HURT the day (or two) following the event.

Science has a name for this hurt phenomena-Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.  You know what it is-that feeling you get the first time you play basketball as the start of a new season that makes you think that in the two days afterwards it would have been more pleasant to have been hit by a truck.

Part of the dread of DOMS is knowing that it is coming.  Knowing that you will be hurting the next day.  It is not just a physical phenomenon; it is also mental.  Knowing that what you are about to do is going to hurt will prevent people from trying.

A few days before the Mt. Mitchell ride, I heard an episode of The People’s Pharmacy, a syndicated radio show where a married couple helps take complicated medical studies and learnings and simplifies the learnings so folks like me can understand them.

This episode currently on the radio as I drove down the road was titled “What is the science behind fabulous foods for health?”  The first segment of the show was about the effects of foods on either delaying or eliminating DOMS.   The researcher being interviewed took a very complicated question and simplified it. He had heard that cherries and cherry juice (but not cherries from concentrate, mind you), could reduce if not eliminate DOMS if eaten in correct volumes, over the right period.  The science sounded solid, and he had enough unanswered questions to convince me that he was still humble enough to do more good science.

cherriesWanting to tackle my Redneck crown and take it off, I decided to try out his idea.  Cherries and cherry juice, 2 days before the event. Cherry juice the day of and 2 days after.  I hit the grocery store and bought both fresh cherries and juice.

The big day came.  103 miles of riding later, no pain.  The next day, no pain.  The following day, 80 minutes of running and still no pain.  I am currently on Day 4 after the event, I haven’t had to miss a workout.  I never felt the slightest bit of pain (although I was tired after expending 8000 calories in about 7 ½ hours). Last year, after this same event, I was fighting to reach down far enough to tie my shoes.  This AM (day 4), I woke up early and did a 10K run as if the event had never happened.

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Climbing all day hurts!

Just this AM, I thought, “what other clever ideas have I rejected that have led to a pain that I just didn’t need to experience?”  What other cherry juice alternatives are out there that could give me power, speed, endurance, flexibility and strength that I have been missing?”

The only thing that has prevented me from learning them is my addiction to redneck thinking.  I suspect that I have already either read or heard many great ideas that could help me perform at higher levels, but I have rejected them in favor of the items that I perceive as my source of comfort.

Getting used to pain is often deemed a rite of passage for an athlete.  Push through the discomfort and you get better is the mantra.  So, so glad to learn that isn’t the truth.

And one day soon, I hope to get this redneck hat off of my head!

When called to serve…

When called up to serve, one should serve, especially, when no notice is given.  Today’s blog is about one such instance.

This year, I am competing in only 4 duathlons:  1 regional, 2 national championships and one world championship.  My training and racing is split between 6 running events, 10 cycling events, scouting, running a non-profit, parenting and being a husband-not in any order.

This first duathlon of the year was the Outerbanks Duathlon, in Corolla, NC.  The thin strip of land on the Eastern edge of NC that represented our cycling and running surfaces had ocean both to our left and to our right.  Unlike most days in the Outerbanks, race day was near windless, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  The temps at race start were in the 50s, meaning fast times for all competitors.

Before these sanctioned events, there is a time for announcements, the playing and singing of the National Anthem and a prayer for the athletes.  Despite the trend of a few citizens in this country, no one took a knee in protest of anything; showing that the nation is not, in fact, falling apart with anti-American sentiment as the media depicts.  Hands on hearts and mouths singing were everywhere as we anxiously awaited the starting gun.

flagImmediately after the National Anthem, the race director lifted the microphone and said, “and now, for a moment of prayer for the athletes, here is Jeff Gaura,” and he handed me the microphone.

I had no heads up.  It would have been tempting to hesitate or even lift the mic to my mouth and say, “really, dude? Do I look like Billy Graham today?”  I most likely could have made a moment of humor out of the circumstance, but we are talking about communication with the Eternal, in public, and that would be equally inappropriate as flag burning or the like.  This moment required my best.

Although I can’t tell you exactly what I said, here is how I remember it.

“Let us be reverent and remove our hats as we pray to the Lord.  Heavenly Father, thank you for the effort from all of those who made this event happen, especially from the sponsors and volunteers.  Without their effort, we would not be able to enjoy this day as we are about to.  I want to thank you for giving us the bodies and the discipline to prepare for and perform this act of running and cycling to our utmost, as most people not just in the United States but in the world, do not have the ability to undertake and finish what we are about to do.  Regardless of the outcome, thank you for our success in the effort.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

I completed and did well in the event, having the fastest overall 2nd run and winning my age group by several minutes.  Immediately after having a quick drink at the finish line, I approached the race director and asked him what made him think to have me lead everyone in prayer.  He said he remembered watching me pray at this event last year, and he knew that I was a praying man.

You just never know who is watching you, and what they will remember.  If I am found guilty of being a praying man, I accept the label and any consequences therein attached.