Plans Are Awesome…If You Do Something With Them

Before my first 100 mile race attempt I meticulously wrote down my nutrition plan.  It had everything in it, what mile and aid station to eat, what to eat and how much liquid to drink so that I wouldn’t have to keep all those thoughts in my brain while at the same time running 100 miles.  My wife, as my crew chief, had mapped out all the aid stations along with approximations of what time I would arrive.  She had written what I possibly might need at each aid station and where it would be in the car.  We both had great plans to make this an epic race success.  

And then we promptly forgot everything at home!  With no written plans we left the pre-race meeting kind of discussing the what ifs and what to haves and hoping beyond hope we hadn’t forgotten anything else.  Basically we were going to wing it and hope that everything turned out well.  For the most part the first 30 or so miles went great but I had no way of knowing where I was with my nutrition and hydration plan.  My wife really had no idea what I might need as she got more tired and after my body began rejecting everything I put in it I arrived at the 50 mile turn around and all bets were off.  After about thirty minutes of painfully trying to get any kind of food to stay down I threw in the towel knowing that I could have done so much better.  The easy thing to do at this point would be to say “good attempt but maybe the shorter ultra distances are more your style”.  After all there is a lot of planning that goes into running a 100 mile race.  However, that’s not my style so we are both going to go after this again only this time we are doing something different.

See the first attempt both of us made the plans.  Sure we sought the advice of a couple of people but for the most part we did all the planning and hence all the forgetting of the plans.  As I was thinking about what had gone wrong on the race I recalled this verse, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 (Message)  As I was running one day the words “Listen for God’s voice in EVERYTHING you do, EVERYWHERE you go” thundered through my heart, my mind and my soul.

Doubt and fear are very real in all of our lives, usually we begin to doubt and fear when we have attempted something and it didn’t turn out right.  A business goes south, our dream job dries up, a relationship sours, the diet plan causes us to gain weight, trying to stop drinking doesn’t work…I could go on and on and on.  As I have begun to think over the times when I have attempted something big and failed and how the doubt and fear becomes like a cloud always hovering over me I begin to see the times when I have planned out the details on my own, set about a task list and then dug into the chores of doing.  Many times I make out meticulous plans and then forget where in the world I put the plans and then just kind of wing it, somehow hoping it will all come back to me magically in the moment.

However as I began to think about this whole listening for His voice in everything I do and everywhere I go I am filled with the most inexplicable peace I could ever imagine.  The great thing is that I am like way more of you than you think.  I’m not some super guru who can sell you the magic elixir of success but I can tell you that there is a peace out there as you set out on your plans.  See when we listen for His voice in everything we do and everywhere we go suddenly the path is made clear.  It’s not straight by any means but it becomes clear.  We are able to keep track of the details better, the nutrition and hydration we need comes to mind quicker and our crew keeping us running is able to follow our lead a bit better.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to write the details AND remember to bring them with you but maybe you don’t have to try to do everything all on your own trusting in your experiences and your memory.  Maybe as you plan you can begin to listen for that still, small voice that wants to calm your doubts and fears and fill you with an everlasting peace.

Beyond Your Limits

When my body starts to whine and complain on a training run this is the point where I know it’s time to make a decision.  Recently I was out running trails and I had done a lot of uphill and my quads and glutes were screaming in agony.  I came to a point in the trail where I could take a right turn and in three to four miles be back at my car where I could put the screaming hounds to bed and drive home satisfied with a pretty good run.  Taking the left turn would add a lot more miles to the run and add a couple more uphill sections.  As I came up to the point where I had to make the decision everything within me kept saying “you’ve done enough”, “this was a good run”, “save some for next week”.  I literally began to step off to the right when something within my spirit screamed “STOP!  Go left!”  After about a mile or so I began to doubt the wisdom of my decision as I faced a hellacious uphill.  I began to doubt whether I could do the extra miles and I seriously began to doubt whether I had what it took to become more than a back of the pack runner.  And then suddenly it was as if the wind stopped blowing, the hill flattened out and something I could never even attempt to explain in mere words happened.  I’m not sure what this phenomena was but suddenly I began to believe in who I’m becoming not who I’ve been.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:13 (NIV).  It is not about who we have been in the past but who we are becoming in the future and the present.  I have done some amazing things in my past, accomplished significant goals and overcome huge obstacles.  If I dwell in the past though I am going to miss the incredible future that is already opening up before me.  Doubt has this way of being able to sneak in under our defense radar and totally obliterating who we could become if we were to push beyond our limits, the limits that are self-set by our inability to picture the future person we are becoming.  It doesn’t matter if you have already succeeded way beyond what you thought you could do or whether up to this point life has dealt you a bunch of lemon seeds without even being able to enjoy the taste of the lemon.  What is past is past, it’s only there to serve as a guide to the future.

What is important now is to be able to strain toward what is ahead, to press on toward the goal of becoming the most incredible person you can possibly become.  Doubt can only serve as a temporary obstacle to be overcome if you set your mind toward the future.  Think of pushing beyond your limits as a place to aspire to instead of a place you will never get.  Begin to see yourself making the left turn, the harder turn that will probably add more hills and miles and then set out on that path willing to give it everything you have.  Then when you have given it all you have push a bit beyond and then a bit more beyond and suddenly who knows what you will find.  I know on this particular day when I pushed to the top of the hill I was surprised by something I had never seen before.  At the top of the hill kind of tucked in behind a knoll was a herd of probably twenty or thirty antelope all lying down in the tall grass.  As I topped the hill and looked to my left a couple of the antelope stood up and acted like they were going to leap off up the hill beyond where I was but most of them just lay there looking at the strange dude who was all out of breath.  It is the closest I have ever come to running up on an antelope as they usually dart off at the first scent of a human.  It filled my heart with joy as I continued the run because if I had turned right and gone back to my car I would never have been blessed with the serenity and peace of these antelope just lying there watching me.  What is out there for you to experience as you push beyond your limits?

Make D.O.U.B.T. Work For You

Every time I have run the Big Horn Wild and Scenic Trail Run there have been different conditions.  Snow the first year, extreme heat the second year and mud from hell this third year.  Every time I have run this race I have begun with a niggling doubt about whether I was ready or whether I could do the distance.  The first year I ended up having to drop because I took a really bad fall and was pulled because I had concussion like symptoms.  The second year I finished the race but took nearly two hours at an aid station trying to cool down my core so I could finish the last seven miles.  This last year I was feeling fantastic until the pouring down rain at the start turned the course into a slippery mud bath.  Each time I have begun with doubt though and even though that is bad, what is worse is that I didn’t use that doubt and make it work for me instead of against me.  That is why I have come up with this acronym to wear on my sleeves this next year.

D is for Discipline.  I know that discipline is best displayed when I stick to the training plan and stick to faith.  The training plan is easy….run, run some more, work on core and balance, rinse and repeat.  The sticking to faith thing is what I am working on this year.  I’m not talking about faith in Jesus, that is actually pretty easy.  I’m talking about faith that Jesus has already accomplished more in and through me than I ever could by myself.  Discipline is merely doing what you know needs to be done each and every single moment even when it is hard or monotonous.

O is for Overcoming.  I love to follow the people who overcome great obstacles.  I don’t want to over simplify what it takes to overcome but it is best summed up this way.  If there is something keeping you from becoming the best you that you can possibly imagine you being then you need to identify what that is.  You need to search for it like you would search for a rare gem and when you find it you need to look at what is stopping you from being the best you and say “okay, you may look like a giant right now, but you’re going down”.  Then become the person you would like to be by each and every moment of each and every day approaching life as if you’re already there.

U is for Understanding.  For many years I didn’t understand why I was on this earth.  I couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to be at any given moment and for many years it crippled me.  Finally I read a verse that is kind of tucked away in the Bible and I began to pray different.  “But God didn’t give you an understanding heart or perceptive eyes or attentive ears until right now, this very day.”  Deuteronomy 29:2 (Message).  I began to pray that God would give me an understanding heart, perceptive eyes and attentive ears.  As I sought understanding God opened my eyes to see the people around me that just needed me to acknowledge their goodness.  God opened my ears so I could listen and respond to them and help them move closer to being the person that He created them to be.  As I began to pray this way I began to see that I could make doubt work for me instead of against me.

B is for Blessing.  I didn’t really understand this whole blessing thing until somebody prayed for me in my thirties.  Up until this moment I thought that blessing meant that God was going to GIVE me something, whether that be riches or fame or land or all of it.  I thought me being blessed had to do with me receiving something.  “I’ll make you a great nation and bless you.  I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing.  I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse.  All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  Genesis 12:2-3 (Message)  I didn’t notice the hook in that verse until this person prayed for me though.  See this person didn’t pray for me to be blessed, this person prayed that I would learn to BE a blessing.  That one little four word section right in the middle is what got me to changing my outlook on life “…you’ll be a blessing.”  When I run races now there is nothing I love more than to come up on somebody struggling and to encourage them to stick with it, stay with them for a while, share nutrition or water or just keep them moving one step ahead of the other.  When I failed at the 100 mile distance this last year somehow God got me to the finish line in time to see two people who were close to quitting at the 25 mile mark come across the finish line.  My body may not have made it to the finish but I know that my sticking with these two for about ten miles helped them get to the finish and realize their dream.  Be a blessing instead of just waiting for your blessing and watch God turn your doubts into victories.

T is for Thanksgiving.  Every day that I strap on my running shoes and some running clothes I get to see the man who God is making me.  So every time I step out the door to go for a run I am thankful.  I had such bad habits before I started running that I was most likely a statistic waiting to happen.  Instead somehow God put a dream in front of me.  It was a dream of one day being in good shape with a body weight that was manageable and fitness that I could do almost all of the things I could only dream of.  Over the last seven years thanksgiving has become so much more than a day to celebrate, eat and watch football.  Thanksgiving has become a lifestyle, one where every day I go out and give thanks for who He is making me.  As I give thanksgiving on a daily basis God allows my doubts to work for me.

Making your doubts work for you instead of against you means that you must embrace DOUBT in a real way, a way that says that every day I am going to be disciplined, I am going to overcome, I am going to seek understanding, I am going to be a blessing and I am going to give thanksgiving.