Step Three – To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

Yeah I stole that one from some movie that is like world-famous and I’m hoping I don’t get sued for using it.  I thought about this one time when I was running a familiar trail up Tongue River Canyon outside Dayton WY and I got to this milestone rock (we all call it Karen’s Rock after the founder of the Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail Run) and I thought I heard this waterfall off to my left or south of me.  Of course with my hearing it could have been west, north, east or south, you can never really tell for certain with hearing loss.  Anyway I was going to go up to the top of the ridge which was about another 5 miles and then turn around and kick the downhill in the rear when I suddenly just stopped and said to myself “Boldly go where no man has gone before”.  It’s not like nobody else has ever wandered off in search of this waterfall but I wanted to go exploring so I did.  I began bushwhacking my way south and still hadn’t come up on the waterfall that I knew I was hearing so kept going.  I ended up in the most incredible place I had ever seen.  It was a canyon and there were multiple waterfalls coming down as the river tumbled down into my very familiar Tongue River Canyon.  As I stood there just soaking up the beauty I thought what a joy it is to get off the beaten path and discover such incredible beauty.

We can do this in our every day life also.  For instance I try to constantly think outside the box at work.  Instead of concentrating on all the books I have read about growing territory and profitability and leadership I try to think about each individual project I am working on, each individual customer, each cost center and each employee as if I am approaching them for the very first time and not just apply all the time-worn solutions to every challenge that is facing me.  “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:19.  To boldly go where no man has gone before means that you absorb all the wisdom of those who have gone before you but you look for the new thing, the new path and you apply that wisdom in a new way instead of the tried and true way.

Living an ultra life means that as you run your own race you apply the wisdom from others but look for the new path.

Step Two – Stop Trying to Please Others

I grew up in a house where peace meant saying and doing what you thought your parents wanted to hear and see from you.  I have experienced many managers throughout my working career who believed peace came from expecting you to speak and act like you thought they wanted to hear.  What this produces is people who are constantly trying to figure out how to please the person in charge so they can live in peace.  What that produces is people who are constantly embroiled in never really knowing what is the right thing to say or do.  I remember when I was training for my first marathon – The Marine Corps Marathon – and a young Marine and I decided to train together.  I really took it seriously and was laser like focused on sticking to the daily training plan.  He liked beer and checking out girls.  So we tried to get together at least twice a week to run and when we did he was always lagging a bit behind and would blame it on his shoes, a pulled muscle or whatever he thought I wanted to hear.  All I really wanted was that he get serious about training and put his best efforts forward but he was much like me in that he was trying so hard to please everybody around him that he couldn’t really look into the real him and just be himself with no thought of who he thought I wanted him to be.

This is something that plagues us all because we are part of a system that rewards good behavior that is determined by being who the person handing out the rewards wants you to be.  Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”  If you’re still looking for a reason to stop trying to please others and get off this insane treadmill of trying to be what some “other” person wants you to be step back and realize one thing.  You were uniquely formed and set apart long before your mom and dad even started dating.  That means that the Creator of the universe was thinking about your unique qualities, characteristics and behavior long before you even started running around this incredible world.  So why are you wasting so much time trying to fit into what some “other” person wants to form you to be so you can be rewarded with a pay raise, a better grade in a classroom or simply peace at home?  Why not begin to act on that unique person you are and be wildly successful at being you?

Living an ultra life means you do not have to please anybody to run your own race, it means discovering the real you and then being that person.

Step One – Take the Mask Off

You have to know who you are and what you’re capable of.  In running this means learning your pace and learning how far you can push before your body breaks down.  There is a fine line between pushing too much and not pushing enough.  If you push yourself too hard your body can break down and injuries begin to pile up.  If you don’t push yourself enough, you may finish races but you will always wonder what you left on the course and how much faster you could have finished.

Mid-week runs are “base runs” for a reason. Base runs help you find your “sweet spot” so you can begin to push just enough on each consecutive run. Training is a balancing act which requires you to be brutally honest with yourself in assessing whether you coasted through a run, pushed it through a run or pressed yourself into injury.

In our lives being brutally honest with ourselves is also important.  I call it taking the mask off.  We all wear masks.  These masks deny who we really are and delay our ability to accept ourselves as we are.  You must build your base, remove the mask and begin to live the you that you were created to be.  To do this is going to take the very same step as building your base in running – you must be brutally honest with yourself and begin to ask some basic questions of yourself.  Who are you in your unguarded moments?  In other words you’re by yourself, you don’t have to pretend to be strong for everybody, no need to post a selfie on Facebook and who are you in this moment?  When you’re just chilling out with friends what do you like to do?  Are you the talker, the listener, the one with the jokes, the one who drinks too much, the one who sits by themselves, the one in control and planning everything?  Answering these questions goes a long way towards finding out who you are but it isn’t like a day process, this is going to take some time so be patient with yourself and find your rhythm, your true rhythm.  Once you find this person you will be well on your way to running your own race with perseverance.

Living an ultra life is setting aside the mask and revealing the real you to yourself.

Run Your Own Race

One of the very first things you learn when you enter a race is that you have to run your own race.  Most people learn this the hard way and I am no different.  There I was lined up for my first 5K all ready to go and scared out of my wits.  This may be hard to picture but I was the tallest and perhaps roundest runner I could see anywhere – 245 odd pounds of rolling muscle, somewhere under all that baby fat, and with my Kangoo boots giving me an extra 5” I looked tall.  I knew better than to go to the front of the pack as that was where all the real “runners” were.  I was intimidated as all get out because everywhere I looked there were all these athletic looking people – long legs, narrow waists, no apparent fat anywhere – and I was not at all like them.  So the gun went off and we took off.  In the back of my mind as we hit the half mile mark I’m thinking “this is not going to turn out well” as I was booking along with kind of the front of the middle pack.  And then the wheels fell off.  Just as I got to the first mile I had to pull off to the side as I felt like I was going to barf, my whole body ached and I honestly believed I was having a heart attack.  I did finish the race but I learned a valuable lesson that day.  You have to run your own race and you can’t focus on the other racers around you because they have to race their own race also.

Imagine if there was a way to learn this early on in life also.  Hebrews 12:1 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  I spent so much of my early life trying to please other people and fit in that it got to a point where I didn’t even know who I was and it was a hard process with lots of ups and downs to get back to running my own race.  And that my friends is what that verse from Hebrews means.  We are all hindered by the things that aren’t getting us any closer to who we were designed to be.  The challenge is that we keep wearing those things, the habits and thoughts that entangle and hinder us.  In order to run the race marked out for us we must throw these things off and begin to run the race marked out for us with perseverance.

In the next ten posts I am going to detail ten steps to beginning this new year by getting on track to run your own race and not deviating so you can truly live an ultra life.

The Meaning of Living an Ultra Life

In January 2010 I was 260 pounds and I was a mess not only physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Exercise to me was getting out of the golf cart to go hit my next ball and even that was done with lots of huffing and puffing.  On the outside I probably looked pretty successful as I was closing lots of good sales on my job but at night my wife and I were downing a bottle of wine a night and drifting away from each other.  Spiritually I went to a really good church and went through the motions so it mainly looked like I was engaged but I was angry with God and didn’t want anything to do with Him.  As is fairly obvious I was going nowhere fast.

Then one day I made a choice and that choice was to take back my life.  I joined a gym with my wife and we went through a ten week boot camp where we changed our eating habits and sweated off some pounds.  I began to feel alive again.  That November I started running, sort of.  I ran in Kangoo boots and looked a lot like an overweight Tigger but I was running.  In December I completed my first 5K and in January I signed up for my first marathon and life began to change.  Running is a large part of what it took to rescue my life and it continues to this day and I am convinced that other people can live this life also.

John 10:10 “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows.” (Amplified)  Many of us allow the thief to break into our lives and steal, kill and destroy and I want to emphasize the fact that this passage is about our lives, it isn’t about our homes or cars or businesses.  The thief loves to destroy lives, to take lives apart and cause people to live a life of just getting by.  Why is it so many bury themselves in TV programs, romance novels, working long hours, drinking and even hiding behind a religious veil?  Because it doesn’t take any effort to not live a full or abundant life.  Choosing to live a full, abundant life means you and I have to step out of the comfortable and begin to climb some mountains so that we can fully grasp the life that Jesus has for us.

When Jesus said he came that we may have and enjoy life and have it in abundance He was saying that a life that is full is a life where we can set aside the distractions that keep us from living that life and really begin to live.  For me the way that I began challenging myself to go further and harder at life was to abandon the short races and go after races that challenge me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  I knew I could go marathon distance and felt elated so it got me wondering how far I could go.  So In January 2014 a mere four years after being 260 pounds I decided that I would get my weight down to 185 (I was 200 pounds at the time) and for my 50th birthday I would run 50 miles supported by my forever girlfriend and fantastic best friend.  And I completed it in about fourteen hours and was elated and hooked.  Ultra marathons became my new challenge and living an ultra life became my new motto.

An ultra life is simply a life lived to the full, a life of abundance and enjoyment.  Living an ultra life is an opportunity to take part in the best that life has to offer us.  It is an opportunity to take back what the thief wanted to steal from you.  Living an ultra life is an opportunity to get your life back and isn’t that worth it?  Come with me as we take back life and live it to the full.  It is going to be an awesome adventure!

Me Versus Me

I have always been a very competitive person, often to my detriment as I thought I needed  to beat the snot out of everybody standing in my way to victory, whatever that particular victory was at the time.  So when I saw this shirt with an iconic logo on the front and the words “Me Versus Me” on the back after about a year of running I had to buy it.  Running began to change me, not just the rotund mound of fun I had been, but also the ultra competitive person I had been.  Hearing things like “way to go”, “keep on going”, “you got this” from fellow competitors who were urging me on instead of trying to trip me was almost mind-boggling to me but I was really starting to love it because it was showing me just what this t-shirt was saying, running is about me versus me.  Me pushing me to run longer, run faster, train harder, eat better – me versus me, the new me versus the old me, the active me versus the lazy me, the compassionate me versus the beat you into the dust me – and I was really starting to like the new me.

“…..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….”  In Hebrews we see the Jesus follower life pictured as a long distance race.  We can’t drop out of the race but it’s not a life exemplified by how hard we beat somebody, but by how hard we train our body, our mind and our spirit to run the race of life.  At the finish people will look back and see not the “check you into the boards” ultra ass but the person who encouraged them to pursue their dreams and then ran with them every step of the way to the finish line of life.  If I can train my body to run 50 miles in half a day surely I can take that same mindset and train myself that in my business I am not competing against the competitor down the road to put him out of business but competing against myself to constantly provide better service, better products and better prices.  In my marriage I am not competing against my wife to see who is smarter or works harder but to be her help-mate and encouragement, to find ways to draw her to her dreams also.  We can apply me versus me to every aspect of our life because it forces us to look into our own lives and find ways to improve instead of constantly finding ways to criticize outside our lives.

Living an ultra life means that me versus me becomes more than a slogan but becomes the cornerstone of constantly striving for improvement.

Coming Back

I had ear surgery last month. It was to remove a bone-eating cyst that was chomping on my hearing bones, but I almost cancelled it when the surgeon told me I had to take six weeks off running. I was like, “SIX weeks? I’ll die!!!!!” I knew it was for my own good.  I sort of do like hearing other people when they talk, instead of constantly saying “Huh? Speak up!” Unfortunately, this didn’t make taking the time off any easier.

As I near the end of this six-week torture, I am already planning my come back! I will ease back into the miles, instead of piling them up the first week. Coming back from any kind of injury as a runner is always difficult because we want to do more than we probably should. But I know, if I do it smart, I will be even better at what I love doing.

Imagine if we could do the same thing in our “normal” lives, to wisely come back from our momentary setbacks, instead of letting setbacks limit our future growth. What if, instead of letting defeats, failures and setbacks define us, we began to define our setbacks as a new beginning, a comeback to a greater life?

Paul said “….be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like god in true righteousness and holiness.” Our minds are fertile territory and we are in control. Begin to take control of what you will allow your mind to dwell on. Be smart.

Living an ultra life means coming back from setbacks, better than ever.

Caution: There Will Be Switchbacks

When I was road running I never encountered one of these strange phenomena. Just as you’re kicking it down a trail, really making fantastic time, you find that some crazy person put a switchback, a 180-degree turn in the middle of the trail, and then to make it even more fun he put a whole series of these crazy turns into the trail. I never realized why these switchbacks were built into a trail until one sloppy, rainy day I missed the trail and ended up bush whacking down a mountainside. Don’t ask me why I thought it was a better idea to try to go straight down than to try to find the trail again. Perhaps it was momentary insanity. As my body slid down the side of the mountain, collecting pounds of mud, I dearly hoped there were no cliffs ahead, it suddenly dawned on me why switchbacks are built into trails. It is a way of slowing you down so that gravity doesn’t pull you straight down the side of the mountain and off a cliff.

Life has switchbacks also, these crazy 180 degree turns intended to slow you down as you plummet down the trails of life. We tend to view these switchbacks as a deterrent to us getting what we want, and we curse the people who put these into our life or are we cursing God?

“Life is not always perfect.

Like a road, it has many bends, ups and downs, but that’s its beauty.”

– Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird

If we believe only the straight road is beautiful, we will struggle with life. If we venture out into this wonderful adventure knowing there is a reason for the switchbacks, life can be better enjoyed for what it is.

Living an ultra life means that you enjoy the switchbacks, aware they are life-savers.

Daring To Dream Again

Something beautiful happened as I allowed my Father to make me a “real” runner.  He began to heal me as I went out on early morning runs with only my thoughts and muscle movement.  He began to heal me as I learned to control my negative thoughts, take them captive and make them obedient.  He began to heal me as I began to trust my forever girlfriend and allowed myself to fall in love again.  Once again I saw the visions and dreams.  He entrusted me to care for them.  I trusted Him to bring them about in His timing.

I am once again deeply in love with my forever girlfriend and believe our marriage is on a trail filled with true love – patient, kind, never boastful, proud or rude, and never-failing.  I dare to dream again and believe that my dream of being an author and speaker is possible.

Running made life possible again and it all began with one decision.  I decided to trust God that I would not make a fool out of myself if I entered a race.  I don’t know how many races I have run now – “a lot” is the closest number I can think of, but I do know that with each and every race I draw closer to becoming who He made me to be.  And that is supremely more important than a medal or finisher’s shirt at the end of the race.

Living an ultra life means living to dream again.

Why I Run

I never intended to become a runner. I just started bouncing along because I was fat and found I could “run” in Kangoo boots without pain. However, along the way I came back to life!

This is significant as my very recent past had crushed every one of my dreams out of my heart and I was dead inside.  I would never be a father.  I would never be a pastor.  I would never be a millionaire business-person retiring at 55, and I had a marriage that was only held together by obligation.  I figured I would continue to fail in life as a fat, extremely out of shape person.

Strangely, as I continued to bounce and later run, something deep and personal began to happen.  The more miles I ran, the more the gaping hole inside my heart began to fill with hope.  The more I challenged my physical body and beat it into better shape, the more I began to see possibilities in front of me.  Dreams that I thought had been waylaid by my failures began to spring up again, like the cool bubbling waters that pop up in the most unlikely places on a trail in the mountains.

Living an ultra life brings hope!