Category Archives: Endurance Athletics

Ironman Syria

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This is Abdullah.  Last week he and his family were squeezed in a small rubber dinghy with other refugees attempting to escape from war-torn Syria.  When the raft capsized, he swam for three hours in the rough Mediterranean Sea attempting to keep his wife and two sons alive.  Abdullah was the only one to survive.

Last year I swam 2.4 miles in a smooth channel off the Ohio River surrounded by canoes and paddle boards to ensure my safety.  I am an Ironman.


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This is Delshad.  He and his family rode in the hull of a truck for over six hours with one-hundred other refugees.  After several hours his three year old daughter fell unconscious from the intense heat and lack of air.

Last year I road 112 miles on a fancy road bike through the beautiful Kentuckian countryside loaded down with as much cold water as I could carry.  I am an Ironman.


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This is Salah.  He is one of the thousands of Syrian refugees currently making the over 150 mile trek by foot from Budapest into Austria.   He wonders why those that he meets on his journey treat him like an animal.

Last year I ran 26.2 miles through Louisville while hundreds of volunteers cheered me on and provided me with food and water.  I am an Ironman.


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For over 12 months I’ve put off the task of writing about Ironman Louisville hoping that I’d eventually see the significance of this particular experience in my life.  I’m by no means trying to downplay the challenge or accomplishment of finishing an Ironman—it was one of the best experiences of my life in part because of how challenging it was.

However, I left my home knowing that I’d return the next day to the comforts of my full refrigerator and soft bed.  These refugees leave their homes, uncertain of where they will sleep each night as bombs blow up their houses and schools.

But I am the one called an Ironman.  Sometimes it helps to put things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Verso l’alto,

triathletewithacollar


Biking for Babies 2014

fullThanks to the prayers and generosity of so many people, Biking for Babies was a huge success this year!  My team rode nearly 1,200 miles in 9 days from St. Augustine, FL to Chicago.  All three teams made it safely from their places of departure (St. Augustine, New Orleans, and Dallas) to Chicago and somehow arrived within 15 minutes of each other.  Along the way we managed to raise over $85,000 (and counting) for pregnancy centers around the country.  Even more significant than the money, we were able to raise awareness and support for organizations that cherish life in each of the communities we rode through.

My team definitely had some struggles throughout our journey – thunderstorms, flat tires, traffic, injuries, long days, and terribly short nights – but it really is the difficulty of the endeavor that excites and encourages those we meet along the way.  I was amazed by the incredible generosity we were shown by friends and strangers alike.  I encourage you to check out some of the videos we made summarizing each day of our ride, and consider donating to help support our mission if you haven’t already.

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I also learned a lot about my own weaknesses throughout the ride.  Perhaps the most rewarding part of any sort of trial is that it brings out the best and the worst in each of us.  It became evident during these 9 days that there are many ways that I can mature in character and in faith.  I am extremely thankful for these insights into the ways that I can continue to grow closer to God and to my brothers and sisters in this world.

Verso l’alto,

triathletewithacollar


Biking for Babies

This summer I will be biking over 1200 miles from St. Augustine, FL to Chicago in order to raise money for crisis pregnancy centers throughout the country.  Please consider donating and sharing our mission with your friends.

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The Ultimate Endurance Challenge

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Over the last several years I’ve raced countless triathlons, run an ultra-marathon, climbed mountains, biked across the country, and hiked long days through rain and snow. All of these were great tests of endurance—tests of the mind and the will just as much as the body. However, one challenge stands out over all of these as being the most difficult and the most rewarding test of endurance in my life. The ultimate endurance challenge is prayer.

Now before you roll your eyes and go back to browsing Facebook, hear me out for a second. I’ve devoted thousands of hours of the last several years of my life to my training and to my prayer, and while I’m certainly no expert in either, one thing I can tell you is how much they have in common. I learn more about training from my prayer and more about prayer from my training.

It’s 5:50 and the alarm goes off. I peep my head out from under the covers for just long enough to feel the cold air hit my face and to hear the rain pattering on the window. Guess what I don’t really don’t want to do? Go for the grueling 20 mile run. 30 minutes later I’m flying down the trails, splashing through the puddles and having a great time. In training, sometimes the hardest part is convincing myself to get started. This is where the real test takes place: can I convince myself to commit to that 20 mile run? Likewise, can I convince myself to commit to my prayer for the day? Usually the hardest part is getting started.

New scenario now: I’ve been out biking all day, I’m running low on food and water, but I planned to stay out for another hour. Do I call it a day and head home early, or to I stick to my original plan and push through that last hour of riding? In training it can be easy to cut workouts short when things are not going well. These are the times that it’s important to remember what it is that I’ve committed to do and to stick to the original plan no matter how much I feel like stopping early. Likewise in my prayer, when I feel tired, distracted, or bored, I must stick to my initial plan knowing that God cherishes my commitment out of love of Him more than my ability or skill. Often the most difficult moments of training are the most rewarding, and so too for time devoted to God in prayer.

One last scenario: I’ve been training for a big race for months and I go out for a run during which everything goes wrong. I get back to realize I averaged a minute per mile slower than I had intended. Maybe all this training I’ve been doing is futile. I’ve put in the training but I’m not seeing the results I’ve hoped for—maybe I should just take some time off and forget about this race. The times when I can’t feel the benefits of my training are often the times that I’m making the most improvement. If I stay devoted to my training, no matter how difficult the fruits of my work are to see, I’ll continue to improve and be prepared come race morning. Likewise when my prayer feels dry and distracted, when after months of dedication I don’t feel any closer to God, and when I begin to question whether prayer itself is pointless, these are the times that God is working silently within me to draw me closer to Him.

My training molds my heart to more effectively receive oxygen to be spread throughout my body. My prayer molds my heart to more effectively receive God’s love to be spread throughout the world.

Each day is the race, prayer is the training, and heaven is the prize. This is the most important race you will ever run. Shouldn’t you train hard and often? Shouldn’t you do everything in your power to win the prize?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” – 1 Cor 9:24-25

Verso l’alto,

triathletewithacollar


Hypothermia and Frostbite on the Appalachian Trail

When I was planning a week long backpacking trip I was hoping for an epic adventure, and boy did I get one.  This trip had it all: rain, sleet, hail and snow; sweating and shivering; friends and wild animals; and of course some beautiful mountain views.

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My two friends and I started at the Nantahala Outdoors Center in North Carolina and hiked for 6 days down to Dick’s Creek in northern Georgia.  We knew to be ready for anything because the weather in the mountains at this time of year is unpredictable.  We brought plenty of food knowing that in the very worst case we could bunker down in a shelter for a day or two in case of a freak snowstorm.

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The first 4 days went by fairly smoothly.  The weather was cold, but definitely bearable at night and comfortable during the day.  We followed the trail along ridges and up and over peaks soaking in the glory of all of God’s creation.  Each night we stayed in shelters along the trail where we enjoyed relaxing and visiting with one another after a long day of hiking.

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Starting on the 5th day things started to get a little interesting.  We awoke to a downpour of rain which would continue for the entire day.  No big deal though – we had come prepared knowing that this was likely to happen.  We finished the days hike and climbed into our sleeping bags to warm up for the night.  We began trying to dry some of our equipment, but it was too wet to make a fire and with all the moisture in the air nothing seemed to be drying.  That’s when all the rain began to turn into snow.  Again, no big deal – we had come prepared.

I woke up around 2 a.m. really cold; the temperature had dropped into the single digits, and there was an inch of snow that had blown into the shelter covering everything.  It wasn’t long before the others were awake as well.  We considered going ahead and packing up knowing that we’d be much warmer hiking than laying around not sleeping but decided against trying to hike in the dark and snow.

Finally at around 6 we decided to start getting packed up to leave.  Knowing it’d be a cold morning we had decided the night before to pack up quickly and worry about eating and finding water once we had warmed up a little.  As soon as we got out of our sleeping bags we realized the flaw in our plan.  With all the moisture in the air from the day before and the frigid temperature throughout the night, everything was frozen.  We couldn’t stuff our frozen equipment into our frozen bags, and we couldn’t even get our shoes on because they were frozen solid!

This is when things began to get interesting; the thirty minutes we had planned to spend packing turned into an hour and a half of stumbling around trying to thaw things out enough to stuff into our bags.  We managed to get one of our camping stoves lit to try and thaw out some of our equipment.

I was the first one packed up and began to pace around shivering as I waited for the others.  Suddenly I noticed that my stomach felt upset, so I walked out from underneath the shelter thinking maybe I was going to throw up.  After a few minutes I began to feel dizzy, so I stumbled back into the shelter to sit down for a couple of minutes while the others finished packing.  That’s when I realized I was no longer shivering; in fact, I was actually feeling a little warm.  I managed to put two and two together despite my hazy thinking and knew that something wasn’t right.  I picked up my pack and began walking briskly in circles and slowly I began shivering and thinking clearly again.

At this point I noticed that one of my other friends was finished packing and was slowly walking out of the shelter.  I asked him where he was going, and he told me that he was about to be sick and needed to step outside.  Right away I told him to pick up his pack and walk in circles like I was doing.  After a little resistance he began following me and his stomach began to feel better.  Hypothermia was setting in as soon as we finished packing because we had stopped moving as vigorously as we were before.  Luckily it was easy to reverse by staying moving.

Finally our other friend was finished packing and we headed out.  It took less than half an hour of hiking before I was completely warm and enjoying the beautiful scenery.  About three inches of snow covered everything in sight, and the mountains were so quiet and peaceful.  I wish I had taken more pictures of some of the views, but we never wanted to stop for long because it only took a matter of minutes after stopping before we’d start shivering again.

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It wasn’t until we reached the car and warmed up a little that we realized that the tips of our fingers were still numb.  I had gotten a little frostnip (a mild case of frostbite) on the tips of my fingers which is supposed to only take a couple of weeks to heal.

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Frostbite!

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A couple of weeks later

It had been an extremely exciting trip, and as we drove home we already began to talk about “what’s next.”  Thank God for the beautiful creation He has given to us to enjoy: “Dew and rain, bless the Lord.  Frost and chill, bless the Lord.  Ice and snow, bless the Lord… Mountains and hills bless the Lord.” (Daniel 3)

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Verso l’alto,

triathletewithacollar


Lookout Mountain 50 Miler

“I will run and not grow weary, for the Lord will be my strength.”

Ok, I did grow a little weary, but I finished my first ultra-marathon!  And it was an awesome experience. We arrived to the start about 45 minutes before the race, and it was cold, dark and rainy.  I had planned to start the race with William because he is a lot more experienced than I am and would be able to help me with pacing.  Unfortunately, at the starting line it was dark and everyone had on hoods so I wasn’t able to find him.  I started off conservatively; it was pouring, dark, and foggy so I wanted to be careful where I was stepping on the rocky trails.  The first 15 miles were mostly downhill, so I settled in with a group of runners and pushed through the terrible weather.

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When I hit the aid station at the bottom of the mountain (mile 15) I felt pretty good, but the next 6 miles were straight uphill.  I finally caught William around mile 17, and was glad to have someone to push me through the climb.  By the time I got to the next aid station I was feeling pretty terrible.  My legs were beginning to feel extremely heavy, and I was starting to get discouraged.  We ran through a tough section of shin-deep mud only to found out that we were off course.  Luckily one of the runners near us had run the race before and stopped us having gone only a mile or so extra.  Still, this was a psychological blow at a time when I wasn’t feeling too great to begin with.

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I struggled through the next 10 miles.  My legs felt so heavy that I couldn’t pick them up.  William was a huge help running behind me and encouraging me to keep going.  It seems like it took forever to get to the aid station at mile 34.  This was a tough section, including one part where we had to pull ourselves up a steep incline using three ropes.  It was really good to see my dad, Emily and my friend Marcus at the aid station.

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William and I started on the next 4.5 mile loop at a snails pace, but about a mile in my legs suddenly loosened up.  One second I felt I could hardly walk and the next my legs felt light as feathers.  We picked up the pace a good bit, and I was finally feeling confident that I’d be able to finish.  I still had 15 miles to go, but I was feeling good. At mile 38, Marcus joined me for the rest of the race.  We passed Lula falls for the second time, and this time I was actually feeling good enough to look up and enjoy the view.

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The last several miles were tough, but knowing I was so close helped me to push through to the end.  My goal was to finish between 8 and 10 hours, and I crossed the finish line in 8:56.  Especially considering the extremely muddy trails, I’m pleased with how I did.  I finished 18th overall and won my age group.  I am so thankful for my dad, Emily, William and Marcus for all of their help along the way.  I couldn’t have done it without them!

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Now, nearly 72 hours later, I am still extremely sore.  I’m planning to take the next several weeks off and then see how I’m feeling before I decide what’s next!

Verso l’alto,

triathletewithacollar


Jesus, Mountains, and Beer

I’m finally getting around to writing about my trip to Colorado over the 4th of July weekend:

I had a day off from classes over the summer so some of my friends and I decided to head off to Colorado for some backpacking and brewery visits.  We went in with almost no plans at all; we knew we were heading to Boulder, but we had no idea where we were going to stay.  Normally I plan almost every second of every day, so it can be very freeing (and sometimes frightening) to go on vacation purposefully planning not to plan. We arrived in Boulder on Friday afternoon and headed right away to get some dinner at Twisted Pine Brewery.  We had heard of this place because of their beer called Ghost Face Killah which is made with Habanero, Jalapeno, and other peppers (don’t try it; it’s very spicy and overall just terrible).  They had a bunch of great brews, and I think my favorite was the Honey Brown Ale.

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A beautiful beer sampler from Twisted Pine Brewery in Boulder, CO

After dinner we started looking for a place to camp for the night.  I knew that Roosevelt Forest was not far from Boulder so we drove up the mountain and hiked a mile or so until we found a beautiful place to camp by a waterfall at a little over 9000 feet.

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An old sign near where we camped in Roosevelt National Forest

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Enjoying some coffee in my hammock before heading out in the morning

The next morning we decided to hike up the mountain a little ways before heading into town for Mass.  It was a truly beautiful hike up to Lost Lake where we stopped for only a short time before heading back down to the car.

Hiking to Lost Lake

Hiking to Lost Lake

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Lost Lake @ about 10,000 ft.

On our way down the mountain we stopped at the super hippie mountain town of Nederland in order to get some coffee.  Then we stopped on the side of the road to clean up a little bit in the river before heading to Mass.  We went to Mass at the University of Colorado Boulder Parish where we met the priest and a bunch of the students.  Several of the students knew a lot about hiking in the area so we picked their brains about the best places to go.  With their advice, we decided to attempt to summit Grey’s Peak the next day.

Grey’s Peak is what mountaineers call a “14er,” meaning it is over 14,000 ft. in elevation.  Grey’s peak is the 14th tallest peak in the continental US, so we knew we were in for a challenge.  Since none of us had climbing experience we didn’t know what to expect, but we figured we’d do the best we could and see if we could make it to the summit.

We arrived at the base of the mountain which was around 11,000 ft. to camp for the night.  We stayed just below the tree line, meaning that no trees could grow farther up the trail from where we were because of the high elevation.  It was a beautiful sight, and we were excited and nervous about attempting to summit the next morning.

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The view from the base of Grey’s Peak

We woke up early the next morning to start our hike.  We decided to summit Grey’s Peak and then, depending on how we were feeling at the top, to decide if we wanted to continue on to Torrey’s Peak.  It was incredible how easily I got out of breath at this elevation.  We were walking at a slow pace and I was still breathing heavily.  The first half of the trail was fairly easy, but once we were several miles into the hike it got extremely steep.  Being 4th of July weekend there were a lot of people on the trail, but not enough to slow things up too much.  I enjoyed seeing people’s reactions when they noticed I was hiking in my Chacos (apparently people don’t normally hike through the snow in sandals).

Elevation profile of the trail

Elevation profile of the trail

The last stretch up to the peak was the hardest.  We would walk for a short amount of time and then rest a little before moving on.  The summit was absolutely beautiful!  Unfortunately it was very cold (well below 0 with the wind chill) so we didn’t want to stay for long.  We met a guy who took a picture of us with his nice camera and emailed it to us once we got home.  I decided to continue on to summit Torrey’s while the others decided to head back down and wait for me.

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On the summit of Grey’s Peak

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Overall it was about a 9 mile hike and it took us over 6 hours.  The whole time I was hiking felt like a dream.  I kept thinking to myself “I can’t believe I am actually doing this!”  Part of my wonder could have been from the elevation messing with my head, but mainly I was enamored with the beauty of God’s creation.  After the hike we headed to Denver to get something to eat.  We ate at Breckenridge Brewery which had an excellent Vanilla Porter.  After dinner we visited Great Divide Brewery to pick up a growler before heading to a hotel to shower and relax for the night.  The next morning we went to Mass at the Denver Cathedral which is perhaps my favorite of all the cathedrals I’ve been to.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Denver

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Denver

After Mass we headed home.  Overall it was an incredible vacation.  Jesus, mountains, and beer: it’s hard to go wrong with that combination!

Verso l’alto,

triathletewithacollar