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Saturday, August 29, 2015

The First Lie

No one is going to know...

Halfway into my 20x400 speed drills, the thought entered my mind.  It was in the back of my mind as I finished the 8th 400m loop, and so my 9th loop had become slower.  My initial goal was to keep each 400m loop at under 1:20, which would be a sub 5:20 mile pace, and it would be very challenging.  After focusing on the 24 hour races, I lost a good bit of speed and needed to catch up with one of my Cross Country runners before October.

After each 400m lap, I would take a break to get back to about 90% as I was working on my top speed, and then go again.  At first, it was a little bit uncomfortable, but definitely doable, but after the second mile was over, my legs felt a little harder, and mentally, I wasn't feeling that good.

Then the voice came into my head.  

No one is going to know if I stop now.  I'd still get a good workout from just getting in 10 laps.  It's good enough.

The greatest discourager, the greatest enemy is usually ourselves, and at this time, I was convincing myself that what I had done was good enough... which was actually true.  Doing the 10 laps will make me faster, and technically, it was good enough.  After a 3 mile warm up and 2.5 miles of speed drills, it was good enough... 

At that moment, I was at a crossroad.  I could choose the easy way out, get some of the benefits and get out feeling pretty good about the workout... or I could choose to continue on and push myself hard and get myself to a point of near exhaustion.

We often come to the crossroads when things get tough.  Good enough is the enemy of greatness, and most people are okay with being good enough.

But there was one problem.  It started with a lie.  Somebody does know if I stopped halfway.  I would know.  If I accept my current status and walk through the door of 'good enough,' I would become a good enough runner, a good enough person.  However, my standards are different.  I know I can be good enough.  I know that it is easy to be good enough, or to be pretty good, but I also know that my goal isn't to become good enough, but to be the best I can be, and in stopping half way, I let that go.

The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.
-John Wooden

I don't wake up every morning ready to go pound out miles.  I don't go to every speed drill ready to take on the world.  I don't have anyone around me that forces me to do these things, to encourage me to push on... and it gets tough.  I know the workouts will be grueling, and nobody really WANTS to be exhausted... but I WANTED to become better, to become the best, and that meant that I needed to overcome the thoughts in my head and push forward.

After the thought came into my head, I shook that away.  I decided to raise the bar, raise my standard.  Instead of going for a sub 1:20, I would go for a sub 1:15, pushing a sub 5:00 mile for the last 2.5 miles.  I pushed on, I tired, but I thrived at every lap, pushing my limits aside and creating new ones.  I pushed hard, and as the laps I had to do went down, I became faster and faster, finishing the last 400m at a 1:08.  My legs were shot, and I was tired... but I was also satisfied.  I had battled my inner demons and won.  The 3 mile cooldown was nothing because I didn't have to run fast.

I'm a fighter, and though I may not win every fight, I will continue to struggle as I progress.  There will be mental walls, physical walls, emotional walls... but as long as I continue to struggle, I come closer to achieving my goal... as long as I don't give up on myself, there will always be that chance that I can make it to the end.

Today, I pushed aside the lie as I pushed myself.  I finished the 20x400 with an average of 1:14, a big step closer.  As I win these battles, I solidify my character, as I solidify my character, I become stronger, and as I become stronger, I come closer to achieving my goal.

Keep your heart in the game and your eyes on the prize.
-Nathania Gutierrez

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Am I Useless?

"I don't feel like I should come back here anymore, I just feel like I'm so useless.  I can't do anything, and I don't want to be a burden to anyone..."

A lonely older lady sat crying at the foyer, explaining to the greeter and I about how she no longer felt that she could do anything to help aid the church.  She felt that though her heart was there, her body could not keep up and so she felt she could not do anything.

Sometimes, life hits you hard.  It slams you down and you feel that nothing you could do you begin to doubt yourself.  You feel that any action you do is worthless.  You become... useless.

My heart went out to this lady and the greeter and I both hugged her as we talked and listened to what she had to say.  It was really sad for me to hear that she was so willing to do so many things yet she felt shackled and unable to do so much.  She wanted a way to go out and be a part of the congregation and do something... but her own body prevented her from being able to take hold of that...

Some races, I hit a wall and I can't overcome it.  The last race, I was in so much stomach pain that I could not make the full 12 hours and had to drop down to a 6 hour race, and that hurt a lot.  I felt useless, all that hard work... worthless.

If the moment we find our purpose is the moment we start living, then the moment we lose our purpose... it must be the moment we start dying.  When something happens which causes us to lose our purpose, we begin to feel useless.  What we once did is no longer important, and what we can do now is meaningless.

Doubt can be good when one overcomes it, but when it overcomes you, your burden becomes massive.  When you see that all your efforts are in vain, that what you do will not bear fruit, the hope seeps out and you're down.  You feel as if nothing can bring you up.

But there is hope.

The greeter and I and a few more people came together to lift her up.  We encouraged, we motivated.  We smiled and we hugged.  Her eyes, once wet with tears now were sparkling as her face was smiling.

It's the people around you that God provides that lifts you up when you're down.

A friend is what the heart needs all the time.
-Henry Van Dyke

Usually, in the morning, I am leading Sunday School, but this morning, there just happened to be no teenagers and so I sat and talked with the greeter and this responsibility came up... There is no such thing as coincidence or fate.  Just blessings.

We are meant to be a blessing to those around us.  A light in the darkness, a helping hand in times of need.  We look to help those in need, and be there for them.

Whether it be a race or life, it's the people you let lift you up that gives you the strength to find that hope... and with hope comes faith, and faith, belief, and belief... life.

I talked to her about how she felt and asked her if there was anything she could do, and to that she replied, "Prayer."  Her heart was in the right place, her beliefs were in the right place.  Despite what was going on, she still loved everyone and had a heart for those around her.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
-I Peter 4:8

Love truly gives meaning, and when there is a family that gives love and continues that, and as Charles Dickens says, "no one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else."  The path she chose right now is to pray, to give her heart, to share her story, and though it may not have been the path she originally was on, for now, she's decided to walk this path and live.


One of the worst experiences an individual can have is failure.

It can come in many forms... from break ups to races, broken promises to broken dreams.

The more you invest in something, the more it hurts.  This goes with people you've let into your lives, the races you choose to run, the promises you may have made with someone else, or the dreams that now seem impossible.  It hurts because you gave so much time, so much energy, so much... everything, and it seemed like nothing came out of it.

Imagine a relationship you were pursuing.  Day after day, you would do your best, caring about the other person, helping the other person in need, sacrificing as much as you can for the other individual, getting closer and closer to the other.  Investing your time, investing... your life so that the other person can be happy.  At one point, you feel as if the hard work is paying off and you're a lot closer with girl you're pursuing and you're spurred to continue on and go after her to only be let down in a single day... it only takes a single day for her to decide that you weren't the individual she was looking for...  All that hard work, everything you invested in her... gone...

Or perhaps it was a race you were running, one that you've trained for so fervently, pushing hard day after day, night after night, making sure that you were in the best shape of your life.  You put in hours upon hours each day to mold yourself into the person you desired to be, an individual that would be able to win this race!  You come to the race as prepared as you can be and all of a sudden, in the first mile, you twist your ankle.  You can't go onward... All that effort, all that training, your hopes... crushed...

That's how I feel sometimes, when things like that happen... crushed.  I put in so much work, it appeared that the direction I was going was the right way... but somehow, I failed.

and because I failed, now I feel like a failure...

But it doesn't have to end that way.

It doesn't mean that I'm a failure.

Though my heart may be in pain, my mind struggles to bring the body back up and force it to submit and understand that there will be another girl.  There will be another race.  There will be another chance.  A time for you to rise.  It doesn't have to end this way.

But sometimes, I feel like giving up.  In the moment, I'm asking myself, "What's the use of trying if I'm going to end up failing again?"  Why should I invest in something that probably will not bear any fruit?

When something you invested in ends up failing, you want to give up.  You don't want to try anymore.  You don't want to trust yourself, or anyone else anymore...

But there's a part of you that still has hope.

In the moment, hopelessness and despair may surround you, but within, there is always that 'hope'.  It's what keeps us moving onward, despite the events that may have crushed our spirit.  So now, I must reach for that hope, and hold desperately onto it.

As I cling, I feel a little better.  Just a little bit.

I hold on because maybe, just maybe, I can rise back up again.  Maybe... I might be able to succeed in round 2, or whatever round it is.  Maybe, just maybe...

So though you may feel like you're on the ground...  you may have invested too much into something that brought you to your knees... have faith.

"I will try one hundred times to get up, and if I fail one hundred time.  If I fail and I give up, will I ever get up?  No!  If I fail I'll try again, and again and again.  But I want to tell you it's not the end."

-Nick Vujicic

So knowing that, I know it's not the end.  My heart will have to take time to heal, but I will continue on.  For after hope comes faith, and with faith action, and with action, another opportunity will arise.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Most Important Thing

I've been having a tough time sleeping today because there's a lot going on in my mind.  A friend of mine recently lost her sister, who left behind a husband and three children.  Meanwhile, up until I learned what had happened, I was selfishly complaining about my life problems.  The thing is, when I heard what had happened, everything changed.  Death changes things.  It changes what was once important to something so trivial, and makes something once so trivial into something important.

No one on his deathbed ever said, I wish I had spent more time on my business.
-Paul Tsongas

I've seen parents let their children suffer without knowing because they spend so much time trying to provide a good place for them, they don't build a proper relationship with them.  I've seen husbands wasting their lives on video games and neglect their wives.  I've seen girlfriends work hard towards their personal goals, that it drives a wedge between them and their boyfriends, and they don't know why...

I'm not saying providing for a family is a bad thing. I'm not saying that video games are an abomination.  I'm not saying that working towards your personal goals is a lousy choice.

What I'm saying is that there's more to life than that.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.
-Mark 12:30-31

Nowhere in the Bible does it say to love God, follow your passion, THEN love your neighbor.  It says simply to love God, and then love your neighbor.

Simply put, our lives are all about relationships.  Everything else comes after that.  Looking back through history, it's evident that we have always lived in a community.  Sure, here and there, there will be the occasional hermits, but the majority of the human race have lived TOGETHER.

Yet in society now, we have found various ways to pull ourselves apart, creating a gap in our hearts.  When a gap occurs, our natural reaction is to fill it... with what?  Whatever we can get our hands on!  Sometimes, society tells us to follow our dreams and that will fill your heart!  Perhaps it's a sport or hobby!  It could be a game!  Maybe it's about self development instead!

And we miss our very own purpose.

We choose to elevate ourselves and find a place where we can belong, and in doing so we push away the very people that we could impact.  We choose to follow a dream where we accomplish many things, and when we arrive at the top, we find it very lonesome.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.
-Dalai Lama

We are all born with a selfish tendency, thinking about what we can do to serve ourselves, and in serving ourselves, we turn a blind eye to others, and end up hurting them.  I've seen other people in pain because they have opened their hearts to another but after doing so get hurt because the other individual prioritized something else over their relationship... but the same individual who was hurt would also accidentally hurt another because of another similar situation.

We live in a world where we prioritize ourselves over others, and in doing that, we end up hurting those around us... and showing those around us that that is the way of the world.

So it's time we change that.  It's time we understand that we must not look at the fault that may lie in another, but instead, look within.  Look at ourselves.

I've often looked outward at how I feel people have treated me, and in focusing on the fault of others, I've found that I've begun to ignore my own faults (Matthew 7:3 anyone?).  Here am I complaining about how another person has hurt my feelings... only to realize that I too am at fault with another.

So we must start from within.

Oftentimes, I have told my Cross Country runners that running is not the most important thing to me.  I continue and tell them that running is merely my tool to share with others and to encourage others... that the most important thing in my life is my relationships with the people around me.

Some of you may understand the amount of training it takes to get to the point of running 100 miles in the mountains... but if you don't... it's a lot of training.  Haha.  It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of discipline to get to that point.  Running a few thousand miles, it takes up a lot of your time.  So one time when I was training for Leadville 100, 3 weeks before the race, I learned that my father had a stroke.  I didn't hesitate at all, bought a plane ticket, flew down to Japan, did not run at all for a whole month and spent day after day in the hospital.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what was truly important to me.  It was my father.

Don't let life blind you with what you may perceive as important.  Don't find out too late, like a few do, when you realize the importance of something after it's gone.  Life isn't about you.  The most important thing is living out your purpose, glorifying God and building a relationship with Him, and with the people around you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


It takes a lot of effort to create a ceramic masterpiece.  The time it takes to create such a beauty is tremendous, especially if you have to consider the training the ceramist had to undergo in order to get to the level of calling it a masterpiece.  However, sometimes, accidents happen where the ceramics get broken, instantly causing what was once costly into a bunch of worthless little pieces.

The same goes for trust.  As we take time with one another to build that relationship and trust, it takes a whole lot of effort to assemble that magnificent amount of trust... but once that trust breaks down, we are back to square one, and this time, it becomes a lot harder to move forward.  We can't find that strength to continue... what was once a great and beautiful thing is now gone, and we're not sure we can put the pieces back together again to what it once was before.

Sometimes, when I have a bad race, I feel like that.  I feel like all that hard work was for naught, and that I completely wasted my time with my training.  I trusted in the training and then something came along and pulled the rug out from under me.  All that effort, gone.

Building up from such a mental breakdown is hard... but it comes down on what you truly trust.  If you trust that what you did, the training that you put yourself in, you can bring it back up, you can use the remnants from the training and build yourself into an even stronger character.  The result... an even faster runner than I was before the race.  The thing is, despite the things that may happen to bring you down, the training you've entrusted yourself into, the meaning behind the training still holds certainty, and you can create something even better from it.

In our relationships, we may lose the trust we once had, but when we get down to the bare bones of the situation, you still can find a way to repair even the most difficult situations.  Sometimes, it takes another friend to help you see the way, sometimes, divine intervention where you suddenly feel at peace on the situation when God's blessed you that tranquility you needed to put the pieces back together.

In Japan, when a beautiful ceramic is broken, it can go through a process called kintsugi, where the broken ceramic is pieced together and glued together with a beautiful gold resin, forming an even more beautiful piece of work.

Ceramics can be rebuilt... so can trust.  Trust in the fundamentals, the basics, and form an even more beautiful piece, and treasure it.  Don't let go, because what you may think is irreparable can turn into something much more beautiful, and the dirty cracks may transform into the highlight.