Showing posts with label Running. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Running. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Largest Christian athletics group chooses “Best Season Yet” as newest official resource

Since 1954, FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) has challenged athletes and coaches to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA annually reaches about two million people on every level—professional, college, high school, junior high and youth. FCA staff is 1100 strong in local offices
across the country.

FCA is committed to building up, training, and sending out coaches and athletes to minister for Christ. Without doubt, coaches are some of the most influential people today. Hundreds of thousands of young athletes will be impacted for Christ as we encourage, equip, and empower their coaches.

The newest resource officially promoted by FCA is the book, “Best Season Yet: 12 Weeks to Train,” in both coach’s and athlete’s editions. The author, Rebekah Trittipoe, writes authentically as a life-long athlete, adventurer, and coach.

Best Season Yet: 12 Weeks to Train is a 12-week guide geared towards coaches and their team, guiding them to embrace their talents and discover a purpose aside from winning and losing. Themes in the book include: commitment, submission, goal setting, pain and suffering, and pursuing excellence. The study provides opportunities to discuss and journal ways to apply the lessons learned to their lives. Each chapter has supplemental material, instructions for a team activity that aligns with the week’s theme, and suggestions on how to close the meeting. The book is formatted into five easy-to-read stories that make it easy to complete in a Monday-through-Friday school setting. FCA Vice President of Field Ministry, Jimmy Page says, “Find a game plan to keep the “main thing the main thing.” This book is about more than great performance; it’s about encouraging others to be great people- fulfilling their God-given purpose for life! “ “Best Season Yet” is available to order from Amazon,, Barnes & Noble, and

For more complete information about these books, click here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

666 miles of Hell(gate)

"Last verse, same as the first." In same ways, yes. My last race was the same as my first: I started. I finished. But in many ways, there's no comparison. It took ten finishes and 666 miles  of the devilish Hellgate 100K race to figure it out.

The brainchild of Dr. David Horton, the Hellgate 100k+ (actually 66.6 miles) always begins at one minute after midnight on the second Saturday of December. The race has garnered a near cult-following, many hopeful entrants turned away. Those rewarded a cherished spot must earn Horton's approval as a worthy candidate. It is he who judges an applicant's toughness and ability to cover the rocky, mountainous real estate between the start and finish lines. But even so, the chosen few are never guaranteed a finish. What they are promised is a night and a day of unpredictable weather, trail conditions, and a barrage of self-doubt somewhere along the forest path.

I was forty-five when I sold my soul to the trail devils. Now, at fifty-six, I know them all by name. Cold, Dark, and Windy are three of the brothers. Then there is Roaring River, Icy Boulders, Slippery Slopes, and Hidden Rocks. That last one is the son of Leaves-a-Plenty, who is assigned the task of hiding ankle-wrenching rocks from view. But the family is large. Snow and Sleet are the cold-blooded cousins of Pouring Rain. Long Climb and Never-Ending taunt each runner with alternating messages of "You can do this. No you can't." But this year, the real fiend was Sleepy, a close relative to Dopey and Nod-off-again.

I came into this race greatly under-trained, confidence waning. I even wrote about it beforehand, hoping to conjure up the courage and resolve to take on the devilish imps along the trail. I knew what the race held and, for mere mortals such as myself, the cut-offs would not be my friends. But still, I felt compelled to out run the Devil himself if necessary. Though the race T quipped "We don't HAVE to run Hellgate. We GET to run Hellgate," I had no choice. I HAD to do it. My tenth finish was in sight and it was this year or never. I failed the finish once. I could not fail again.

Photo by John Price
Though I've had trouble staying awake before, little did I know that the evil sleep devils would find me so soon--and so often--once the host of runners took off into the night. It was not long after the knee-deep stream crossing that the need for zzzzzzzzz's hit. Counting steps occupied my mind and held them at bay. But the higher and longer I climbed, the more weeble-woobley I became as my eyelids closed off the environment around me.

Grateful to finally gain the gap at Petite's, I woke to a rocky downhill, grateful to be feeling the ground under my feet. I felt alive and free. As long as I ran, the darts thrown by the Sleepy devil missed the mark. I was alert to the sleet falling around me, the flow of the trail, and the slight breeze coming through naked limbs. But alas, a descent and trail section gave way to another long uphill. The darts once again found their mark.

All night I fought off sleep, albeit not very successfully. Even the landscape now white from sleet-turned snow could not hold my attention. Though hard to explain, the desire to curl up in a little slumbering ball was overwhelming. I fought with all my might to stay upright, singing, shouting, slapping myself, asking myself questions. But before I could answer, I would fall into another micro-sleep, oddly aware of only my slowed pace and weaving steps.

Photo by Cristen Coleman

I ate, drank, took caffeine, and pulled out every trick in my ultra bag. It was hard to imagine how I could possibly finish the race if I could never wake up. Relieved to hit the first cutoff  ahead of time, I chatted with another runner up the next hill, managing to stay coherent. Through the darkened woods I ran, encouraged by legs that responded to the task.

Dawn was breaking by the next aid station. After refueling, the task was to climb another mountain road. Surely, eating, drinking, and talking to people should revive me. But like clockwork, that (and every extended climb up through fifty-two miles) brought on more sleep-hiking. My brain screamed "Noooooooo!" but my head shut down. This was going to be tough.

Miraculously, and despite snow, sleet, freezing rain, and a soaking wet rain, the padding on the cut-off time increased. I knew I could finish if I kept on moving. I knew I HAD to finish. The finish was demanded by not only my desire to bag number ten but by the story I could tell my team. The thought of admitting defeat to these young people was unconscionable. What would an unnecessary failure tell them about suffering, perseverance, and enduring unfortunate circumstances? I needed to walk into Monday's practice so I could testify that success is achieved by overcoming one obstacle at a time, even if that obstacle is the next faltering step.

I did okay. I ran across the painted line on the grass, delighted to see my husband standing there to greet me. Crossing that orange mark removed the huge burden of this particular finish. Sure, I was tired of running and weary of breathing. My time was not speedy but it was not my worst. My legs were okay, nothing was really wrong, and a hot shower was imminent. Relieved, the realization of completing the task began to sink in. My string of Hellgates had come to an end.

Many have told me I'll be back next year. No, I don't think so. Really. I am content to give my slot to another runner who wants to outwit and outlast the woodland devils. However, might I consider a do-over in four years when I am sixty? Hum...maybe.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Before the gates of hell open

It seemed like a good idea eleven years ago. A killer race with a midnight start. Unpredictable weather. Wet feet in the opening miles. Ice. Snow. Howling wind. Off camber, leaf-covered and rocky trail. Sections of the course that seem endless. Miles-long climbs. Technical descents. What's not to love--or hate?

I'm a sucker for such things. When David Horton, also known as King DHo, came up with this cockamamie idea, I signed on. Since then, it's been a running battle in the truest sense. Every year, it's been hard. Other years, even harder. And now, I suspect, this year just may be the hardest.

I failed once half-way through. I bailed when I couldn't breath and hands turned blue, and not from the cold. I still regret the decision to quit. But that's another story. This year the race taunts me with a ten-year finisher award. Only a handful of men have nabbed the honor. Now, it's my turn.

But I am not fully confident. I suppose one is not supposed to admit that out loud. But let's look at the facts. I teach and coach. At my desk by 6 a.m. and home (on good days) a dozen hours later hardly allows time to do much of anything but grab a quick meal, lay out clothes for the next day, and fall into bed for a short night's sleep. Saturdays are filled with all-day coaching responsibilities. Scratch the fun weekend group runs of yesteryear that built as much camaraderie as stamina. I manage to run nearly every workout with my team of high school distance runners, but if specificity is key to training, then that can hardly be considered ultra-worthy.

The forecast for this year calls for cold, miserable rain. No. Let me restate that. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 30s with liquid precipitation for at least portions of the race. "Miserable" is what I perceive that combination will be.

The cut-offs for this race are tight, even tighter than my hamstrings may be partway through the race. And I run slow and hike a lot. Though I hate to use the age card, being three years from my sixth decade doesn't exactly keep the accelerator mashed to the floor.

But I HAVE to finish these 66.6 miles. I HAVE to get #10 in the books. Then, and only then, can I erase this ludicrous event from future calenders. I'll be a year older next year and it will certainly not get any easier. It HAS to be this year.

So how am I going to get it done when the odds are stacked against me?
1) Change my attitude from one of pessimism and fear to optimism and anticipation.
2) Call on twenty years of ultra experience to get me through the miles.
3) Remember conquering previous challenges even when the odds were not in my favor.
4) Embrace the fact that wicked weather will make the journey's completion that much sweeter.
5) Run when I should run. Walk when I should walk.
6) 17 or 18 hours is short in the context of a lifetime. Commit to suffer that long if necessary.
7) Keep moving.
8) Know that it doesn't always get worse.
9) Keep my mind alert. Plan my next book (or at least blog post). Solve a few problems.
10) If #9 turns out to be a fail, go brain-dead but keep on going.

Here begins the mental transformation. Stay tuned for the rest of the story, coming to you sometime after the race this Saturday and at a point when cognition is possible once the brain cells are once again viable. . . which could be close to never.
Interested in other Hellgate stories from the last couple of years?

2012  Just One More Day: Journey to Hellgate and Beyond
2011  The dark Side of the Hellgate Moon
2010  Hellgate: Take 8
2009  Hellacious Hellgate

Roanoke Times Interactive Web Story  featuring video, interviews and race information

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

A late practice scheduled for my distance runners at the indoor track left me with about an hour to get in a run of my own. I almost felt guilty sneaking away toward "the mountain." I looked forward to trail time with me, myself, and I.

But getting to "the mountain" requires a trek up the steep incline of Candler's Mountain Road. Since it takes awhile for me to get the blood pumping and breathing sounding something less than a coal-fired freight train on its last run, I tried to find my rhythm by distracting myself with the view. Well, not that there was much of one. Crossing the concrete bridge suspended above Route 460 is hardly the epitome of a glorious vista. To the left of the oncoming lane (and the space through which I travel) is a fair share of gravel, bits of broken glass, remnants of prior vehicular collisions, crushed pens, an occasional coin, and a broken piece of a smashed brake light, among other things. But a Hoka? I wasn't expecting that.

For the non-runner, Hokas are gaining ever-increasing attention. Manufactured in France, these running shoes look almost clown-like. The platform above the sole is thick, and made with squishy, marshmallow-like material. The wearer gains at least two-inches in stature, a particularly delightful outcome for short people who wish to be tall. This Hoka characteristic earns incredulous stares from people who can only relate to the disco-inspired platform shoes of  yesteryear. But in addition to the conversion into a taller frame, the Hoka sports an equally attractive wide-bodied base for the purpose of stability. It all works together to deliver an incredibly soft, comfortable ride (for miles on end) while maintaining a nimble feel. But unfortunately, the price of these shoes rivals its girth. At $180 retail, only a serious runner with orthopedically-challenged feet makes such an investment.

So you can imagine my surprised delight to find a Hoka on the bridge. Not two Hokas, as in a right and a left. Nope. Just one. The left. How does this happen? How does one lose just a single shoe? Was there a de-shoed runner roaming the mountain trails, looking for his shoe-gone-missing? Or had someone chucked it out the window of their car for some inexplicable reason?

I looked over the edge and onto the highway, the right-footed companion shoe no where to be found. I checked the weeds after the bridge, on both sides of the road, and further up the hill. Nothing. Not another Hoka was in sight, assuming you disregard the perfectly good pair on my own two feet. I carefully placed the found shoe on the guard rail and contemplated the strange find as I clicked off the miles.

After years of running, I knew what I had to do. Special finds must be carried back home. I've carried home wrenches, hammers, money (of course), sweatshirts, belts, antlers, bungee cords, and the majority of an intact deer skeleton. Therefore, and in the interest of tradition, there was no question that this lost soul (pun intended) of a shoe was coming with me.

Arriving at its new destination, I snapped the picture that would grace the pages of Facebook. "My best running find in a long time: One perfectly good HOKA. Great for any one-legged runner!" read my post. Soon, numerous comments piled up faster than Speedy Gonzales can run. The best response came from one of my brothers. Dan wrote, "Give it to the waitress at IHOP!!!!!!!!!!" I laughed. Hard.

Who could have predicted that a Groundhog Day-like occurrence would happen again on my way down the mountain the next day? But sure enough, there it was. A single left shoe in the middle of that bridge. This time it was a kid-sized black Nike shoe. Perfectly good. Hardly worn. Really? What is up with losing shoes on this Lynchburg bridge? But, yes. I picked that one up as well and carried it home. I can hardly wait for the next shoe to drop.

Which reminds me: Remember these expressions?
"The shoe is on the other foot."
"If the shoe fits, wear it."
"As comfortable as an old shoe."
"Wouldn't want to be in someone else's shoes."

Shoes seem to give us perspective. Look at a woman's closet and it will tell you something about her lifestyle. Put me in the stiletto heels found in that closet and watch me topple over. I have no earthly idea how the dancers on Dancing with the Stars can leap and twirl in those potentially ankle-busting contraptions. After a day of teaching, even a low heeled shoe makes me yearn for my flats, or better yet, my Hokas. But I wonder what a non-runner might feel in my strange-looking trainers.

What do my shoes say about me? Where do my shoes take me? Are my shoes involved in doing good--or evil? Do I dare slip on another's shoes to know where they go and how they feel? If I did, I just might have more compassion and greater understanding. I might even give them my shoes when theirs' are worn and tired. For if my shoes can bring good news and offer peace, I will rejoice.

So yes, drop another shoe and let me walk with you.

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7)


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Once a Masochist, always a masochist

I took a little jog in the woods about two weeks ago. It started before first light and ended within an hour of the sun's final shine. Yep. That's a long time. But why? Was something/someone chasing me? No. Was I getting paid to do this? Unfortunately not. Did I lose a bet? Hardly.

About twenty years ago, David Horton said to me, "Betcha can't run fifty miles." I proved him wrong after he goaded me with his snide remark. I ran that distance for the first time in 1994 and came in second place for the women. Since then, I placed first, claimed a bunch more seconds, a third, and then stopped counting positions when I ran out of wiggly little tootsies to help me count. One year I left town on race day so I wouldn't be tempted to run on still-recovering feet and ankles post surgery. Twice I ran the whole course but as a sweeper, picking up streamers marking the way, and keeping an eye on the folks at the end of the long train winding it's way through the forest. Two other times I began the race but did not finish it, done in by a strange anomaly of not being able to breath, hands and feet turning Smurf-like blue. That was disappointing.

In the "old days," I approached the start line of most my races, including this race, the Mountain Masochist Fifty Mile Run (MMTR), with miles of tough training tucked under my hydration belt. Confident  I could trust my training, I was able to push the envelope. Sometimes it resulted in a great race. Other times, the price of racing hard sent my quads quivering, shins shouting, and lungs lifting gasps and groans into the air. Still, the end result was usually pretty decent. I raced often, was recognized when I walked into a room, and bore the weight of performance expectations from myself as much as others. For many years, that combination of circumstances earned me the privilege to wear a sponsor's name or two across my chest and on my feet.

Oh, how things change.

When I arrived at the start line this year, it was after soundly sleeping through the night. Nary a thought of break-neck racing or anticipation of a personal best interrupted my deep sleep. That was novel. It's not that I had miles in the bank or was coming off a full racing schedule that had whipped me into a fine piece of trail-racing flesh. Nope. None of that. My miles were low, restricted to running workouts with my cross country team, save a rare long run now and again. And in the crowded room at the pre-race dinner the night before, only the  seasoned (read that, old) runners recognized me. I was invisible in a sea of young, eager faces. My time in the spotlight had come and gone. I had entered a different phase of life-a much slower one, at that- and it was okay. Actually, more than okay.

I went into the race with fifteen finishes. I told myself last year that fifteen was a perfectly good number. Stop while I was ahead. No other woman had that many finishes. (I liked that.) But the thought of going for twenty completions made me cough up the money and drop a check and registration info into the mail. If I ran five in a row, including this year, I would complete the task at age 61. Oh, boy. It sure doesn't get easier from year to year. On top of that, the course revisions and additions makes the course about thirty minutes longer for us mere mortals. But the die had been cast. It was sixteen or bust. I had to run this one on experience and smarts. I made a pact with my soul to be patient, take things as they come, and enjoy the journey.

So me and my non-sponsored self (unless you count the label on the inside of my shorts that says "Wash in cold water") started down the road. I listened to those chatting, to advice being given. Secretly, I laughed at some. I liked the way the darkness hid me despite the thundering herd that surrounded me.

I splashed across the creek, and chugged my way up the first mountain, finding pleasure in counting steps when the way got steep. Run fifty. Walk fifty. I felt calm.

And then I began to sing.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name.
(10,000 reasons)

Up and up I climbed, singing, even if under muffled breath. The sky promised to break it's hold on the darkness within minutes. I sang the first verse, a most perfect verse.

 The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name.

Once on the single track trail, my steps felt light and free. The day had overcome the night and I was running free. Free to be me. Free to be who God intended me to be. A runner who felt God's pleasure, watching leaves float through the air and catching glimpses of distant peaks through the nearly-bare branches. Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Indeed, let me be singing when the evening comes.

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

I did not float through the whole race. Onlookers may have called it more of a waddle, shuffle, or something kin to a slog. I had to deal with cramping in a calf and twinges in a hamstring. I had to remind myself to be patient. Just keep moving. But as the miles piled up, my goal remained: Keep signing. Be sure to sing when the evening comes. 

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore

With six or seven miles to go, my legs felt new. I'm not sure why, but they responded to my request to run faster. There was little protest when passing landmarks that, in past years, made me wince and wish for the end. Down off the mountain I ran, closer and closer to the finish. Even the final road section could not stifle the song.

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name.

I was singing when the evening came.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Find the door

Doors are underrated and unappreciated. Just think. When was the last time you thanked God for a door? Probably never, huh?

Consider the door. Some are grand and elaborate. When traveling through Europe, magnificent,
massive cathedral doors are surpassed only by what is found beyond. But those are the exception rather than the rule. Many common everyday doors are non-descript hinged slabs of wood or metal. Some have big windows, little windows, or may be completely see through. Doors can be gleaming and clean, others worn and warped. Brown, black, red, yellow, blue, purple, chartreuse. You name it: you can find a door of any color.

Regardless of size, color, or material, all doors have one thing in common: They are in the context of a wall. Doors provide a necessary passageway through a solid obstacle. No door means no entry, no way to get to the other side. If we try to smash our way through the wall, we come away bruised, bleeding, and battered. We need the door.

So here's the rub. What happens when we "hit the wall"? Is it the end of our journey? We've all been there. An athlete may "hit the wall" when blood sugar drops or muscle glycogen hits all-time lows. A writer "hits the wall" when words won't flow. A working mom "hits the wall" when she tries to do it all.

But in this case, consider the runner. Walls may have been made with runners in mind. Bodies are stretched to the limit. Breathing is labored. Legs feel log-like. Arms go numb and the mind gets confused. Boom! He hits the wall running full-on, knocked backwards from the sudden impact. The runner struggles to his feet and lurches awkwardly forward. Boom! He hits the wall again. This time regaining his feet is more difficult. He knows The Wall is a bad place to be; it is a place of pain and excruciating fatigue. But what choice does the runner have? He submits to The Wall. He concedes defeat. He shuffles off, head hung low, waiting for another day. A better day.

Or does he? Is there another choice?

Yes. Find the door.

Pushing through that door is scary, terrifying even. The runner has no idea what lays beyond. He has never been on the other side. The door has no window to the future; just a promise of the unknown. Arms outstretched, his fingers reach for the door. His mind races. He's never been so close. Should he push it gently and sneak a peak through the open crack?

No! He has finally found the illusive door many seek but few find. He must fling it open for all it's worth. He must commit to see what the other side holds. He must go boldly and without fear for that door is the gateway to making the impossible possible.

My dear team, as you hit the wall, look for the door. Burst through that door with all the power you can muster. The other side is full of promise. The other side is where you drop the weight of previous limits.

Find The Door. Embrace The Door.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beautiful feet?

Tres' foot
Seriously? Calling this foot beautiful is like calling an elephant petite. This thing with five toes pointing the way is swollen, hairy, and sports colors an artist would covet. The only good thing is that it's probably been soaked and thus, has been de-stinkified. But still, it's hardly comparable to a sunset laden in hues of orange and yellow and brilliant gold while viewed from lofty mountain peaks.

Feet of the unknown
So, how about these feet, the owner of which shall remain nameless for obvious  reasons of privacy and protection from epic embarrassment. The bony, veined, crooked and calloused pedestals have been through the ringer, leaving more than a few toenails behind, some of which have never been seen again. Nine fractures, seven incisions, six screws. Too many miles to count--or at least recall. Nope. Not very beautiful (unless you happen to be an amputee willing to settle for anything).

But I'll tell you what is beautiful. It's the feet attached to the legs of my runners. Why? You might predict (quite accurately) that some of their feet have a good case of the uglies as well. However, that's of little import. What makes them so attractive is they carry their owners to live out a principle:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 
(Isaiah 52:7)

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10: 14-15)

Last Friday my team once again headed for the hills--literally. It was to be a short but intense workout with multiple repeats up and down a particularly difficult incline. As is the usual case, the faster runners surged ahead with the less experienced and slower runners struggling from behind. "As soon as you finish your workout, you can head back down the mountain," I offered, knowing that most wanted to shower and eat before enjoying the first offering of Friday night football.

But something happened. As the lead runners descended the hill for the last time, none left the day's arena. They began to cheer for the slower runners as they continued to confront the unyielding mountain. As I was finishing my own last round trip, I saw Phillip, a senior leader, running shoulder to shoulder with a lagging runner. That was his sixth trip up the hill. Once at the bottom and amidst shouts of encouragement for the finishing runner, he joined up with yet another team member and led her up the hill. He matched the girl step for step all the way to the top--again-- and for the seventh time. It's not that he wasn't tired after his hard effort on the first five. He simply saw the need to deliver good tidings in person.

As Phillip brought the last runner to the finish, high fives abounded and smiles flashed all around. As a coach, I was amazed. Not a single person left early though they were permitted to do so. They stuck around until the last person completed the workout. Then they ran as a happy but tired pack back down the mountain. Together. As one. Like people who really, truly care about each other. But as their coach, I can assure you this is not an uncommon event. For the runners on the Liberty Christian Academy cross country team, this is their everyday. It's who they are. It's what they do.

Sometimes their dog-tired, worn and wonderful, fast (and slow) feet run silent and deep. No need for loud and obnoxious. But other times, like a stampeding herd of buffalo, their feet stomp out the message: "Good news! Great tidings! Our God reigns!"

May these words of my mouth [the path of our feet] and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalms 19:14).



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

LCA XC goes into the wild

What was I thinking?

It began as a simple idea: take a bunch of teenagers camping and running in the mountains. But most things that seem simple are about as easy as getting a put-it-together-yourself floor lamp back into the complex maze of cardboard and Styrofoam. Something normally gets broken or left out, neither of which would be a good thing as far as this little adventure goes. It would be extremely bad form to lose, break, or render useless any member of the team.

But the kids (defined heretofore as the Liberty Christian Academy cross country team) showed enough interest that left me with no recourse but to plan, prepare, and pray for the best. So it was set. August 5 and 6. When it was all said and done, nineteen kids signed on the dotted line. A few of my  runners didn't take the bait; didn't drink the Kool-Aid of how fun it would be to run about seventeen miles and summit three mountain tops all in a matter of one afternoon, evening, and then next morning. Their loss.

I figured I would be the only running adult. But who could I con into driving, sleeping on the ground, and cooking over ground-hugging grates? Hum. This might be tough. But sure enough, three dads stepped up and grabbed the golden ring. My young and currently injured assistant coach also made the trip as well as a twenty-something cousin of one of the girls. So, okay. I think I had the adult to kid ratio at an acceptable level.

"Coach," someone asked, "Are we going to do any team building activities."

I smiled before replying, "Yep. Go ahead and set up your tent." I was right. It was team-biuilding as well as highly entertaining.

With a show of hands, most of the kids had never run seventeen miles in a short period of time, even if divided into three different runs. And yet, they excitedly followed me across the parking lot and into the woods for the first assault on Harkening Hill and a slight detour to old Johnson's farm. We laughed, climbed huge rocks, and took breaks in the guise of photo ops along the way. The run was fun and relatively easy running for the back half of the miles. Hence, by the time we got to camp and were met with the smell of charcoal-cooked hamburgers, everyone had miles of smiles plastered on their face. Mountain #1. Check.

In the interlude between runs and after bellies had been satisfied, Dr. David Horton challenged the group with stories of record-setting runs, suffering and satisfaction, and the challenge of doing more than you think you can. As normal, the more he talked, the more the kids realized they were in the presence of someone very special.
Though all good things must come to an end, something else must follow. And what followed was a twilight hike to Buzzards Roost and Sharp Top Mountain. The sun set as we watched it's descent before running down the long and twisting road, a safer return trip than the rugged trail we climbed. Though hesitant at first, the group turned off their headlights, allowing their eyes to adjust to the darkness. They were amazed at how easy it was to define the road's surface. What the girls soon discovered, however, was their vision was not acute enough to pick up the guys hiding in the shadows. Time after time, screams rose into the night air as the girls startled at the bodies jumping out at them. Despite that, no one suffered a heart attack and all arrived back at camp, pleased with their nighttime run. Mountain # 2. Check.

I discovered that kids like to talk, cackle and squak- a lot - whether it be around the campfire or tucked inside their tents! From all the noisy bus rides, I should have expected as much. It was a fine line to walk between acting like a wicked witch and a permissive do-anything-you want mama. I certainly didn't want to have the park ranger come calling to chastise us. But never fear. They finally ran out of energy and drifted off to sleep, dreaming, I'm quite sure, of the adventures that awaited them come morning.

Well, maybe not, if their demeanor upon waking was any indication. As a group, they don't seem to be morning people. It took some effort to rouse the campers, especially the girls. But one by one, they staggered to the food table, tentatively chewed on Pop-Tarts, bananas and peanut butter. "We're leaving in 15." Nothing. No movement.

"We're leaving in 10." More dilly-dallying.

"We're leaving in 5." They hardly looked up.

"We're leaving now. Shoes on!" Shoes afoot, the group took off for the 2.7 miles up the Blue Ridge Parkway, made the equally long climb to the summit, enjoyed more rocks (yes, a common theme for the trip), before descending a technical, rocky trail. It was a long morning, legs were getting weary, and most realized they needed calories. Nevertheless, all made it back to camp in one piece, proud of their accomplishments.

Thanks, LCA runners (and parents) for trusting me. Thank you for loving adventure. Thank you for believing in doing more than you thought possible. Thank you for treating each other with love and respect. Thank you for making coaching a pleasure.

I love you, LCA XC.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coming soon: FREE copies of BEST SEASON YET


The following days have been set to offer you a free Kindle copy of "Best Season Yet: 12 Weeks to Train."
Even if you don;t have a Kindle, just download the free Kindle app for your Android or PC and presto, you have a new book to read!

Please Tweet, email, and Facebook about these free offerings!

Coach's Edition: May 24, June 1, June 8
Athlete's Edition: May 26, May 29, June 2, June 7

To claim your free copy, please visit Amazon and select the book.
Happy reading!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Lioness

Rebekah with Micah Brickhill
Every so often, an athlete comes along who defies the odds. She is focused and driven. She exceeds expectations. And she takes it all in stride.

Micah Brickhill won three state titles yesterday in the VISAA (Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association). Last week she qualified for Nationals by running a blazing 2:12 for 800 meters. A few weeks ago, she entered a college meet and won the 800, defeating the Big South 1600 meter champion. A month or two before that, she signed her letter of intent to run for the University of Virginia this fall. And prior to that, in fact, a few  years prior, Coach Ramsey Moore suggested to the young athlete that one day she could be a champion. She believed it and then lived to become it.

I met Micah three years ago when I began coaching the distance runners at LCA. I was not her primary coach but I was drawn to the blond-headed girl who ran with her french braid cascading down her back. She was special. Perhaps I saw a little of myself in her. Or more honestly, maybe it was that I wondered what I might have become if I had pursued the option to run at Villanova. But whatever it was, I felt attached to her, perhaps a kindred spirit to her insatiable desire for excellence.

I watched Micah hone her fitness and skill as a mid-distance runner. But I also witnessed this athlete reach the pinnacle of scholarship and service with an uncommon sincerity and humbleness. Clear-minded and committed to pursuing her passion for sport, academics, and practical Christianity, Micah touches all she contacts, including me.

On the eve before the State meet, I thought about what Coach Moore had spoken of in the team meeting earlier in the day. "Be like a lion. Roar. Go after it. Run down the gazelle!" Then, with pen in hand, I carefully penned these words for Micah.

Dear Micah,

I love big cats, especially female cats. Sleek. Strong. Powerful. Cunning and quick. Patient and protective. Both gentle and ferocious depending on the circumstance. Smart. Calculating.

Just watch a lioness when she is hungry. She carefully scopes out her prey before lying in wait. She peers through the tall grass and analyzes every movement of her next meal. Then, just at the right moment, she begins her stalk. Slowly at first, she creeps along the ground, an unseen force moving toward her prey. Every muscle is primed for what will come. Still, the lioness is patient. Springing forward too quickly will alert whom she stalks, jeopardizing the kill and exhausting herself in the fray. But waiting too long may give the intended prey the moment she needs to escape.

Instead, the smart lioness knows the exact moment to leap forward and run down her prey. She sets her pace and times the assault at that perfect moment when the prey can no longer respond, no longer able to escape to see the next sunrise. And while the lioness is not guaranteed a meal, she eats more times than not.

As you run, think like the lioness. Be patient. Be in control. Never lose sight of the prey. Overcome her in that exact moment when she has no power to flee. Trust your disciplined instinct and savor the exquisite taste that comes with the kill. And should the prey manage to avoid your claws, retreat to reflect and train, setting your sights on the next hunt.

You have my deepest love and respect,
Coach T

Run long, run strong, my dear Micah. I will miss you next year!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Yowza! This is gonna hurt!

An Excerpt from "Best Season Yet: 12 Week to Train"

Sometimes suffering is inevitable. Sometimes it’s a choice.

Ultrarunners choose to suffer every time they step to the starting line of a long race. They know it’s going to hurt. They just don’t know how badly.

Whether it’s a race, soccer or lacrosse game, or tennis match, your all-out effort may shove you to the brink of your physical limits. Or the mental pressure may be so unsettling that your stomach revolts in violent protest: you puke. But you must press on. You must choose to suffer.

Thinking about an upcoming one hundred-mile race, the athlete knows what’s coming. In the first few hours, he’ll settle in, trying to face the long path ahead. Somewhere along the way, his foot will begin to hurt or a painful blister will develop. He’ll fight a constant battle to take in—and keep down—sufficient calories and fluid. His eyes will droop from sleep deprivation, his quads rebelling while his back throbs with pain. Yet, despite knowing what lies ahead, he will start when the gun sounds, running toward the place where the trail intersects with suffering’s lonely path.

If he knows he’s going to suffer, why does he voluntarily choose to do so? He chooses to suffer because it will be worth it in the end. Enduring indescribable fatigue and pain, he will cross the finish line, triumphant.

Think about those who chose to suffer for more noble reasons than finishing a trail race. Paul and Barnabas traveled together, preaching and teaching in Iconium. Though many Jews believed, some weren’t convinced of the gospel and rallied the Gentiles. They plotted to kill Barnabas and Paul, but undeterred, the two men simply left to preach in nearby Lystra. When they healed a lame man, the crowd misunderstood their power. Thinking they were actually the gods Zeus and Hermes, the people bowed and prepared to offer pagan sacrifices to them. Of course, Paul and Barnabas protested, proclaiming they were mere men, servants of the true God. But unbelieving Jews from Antioch and Iconium, seeking to entrap the men, rallied the crowd. Paul was dragged from the city, stoned, and left for dead.

Most people—if they survived—would take that as a sign never to return. Not Paul. He ventured back into the city, bruised and bleeding. The next day Paul and Barnabas traveled to Derbe to preach, but soon they returned to Lystra, the place of Paul’s intense suffering. They couldn’t keep a good man down.

Why? He had placed his hope in the future and in God’s coming kingdom.

Team Truth:  Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said (Acts 14: 21b-22).

Team Time: If you’re an athlete, you will suffer. Sometimes we endure suffering better if we’re not alone. How can you help your teammates endure—and embrace—inevitable suffering? Record a specific example.