Monday, December 14, 2009

Fishing at Mallard Pointe

Found this picture and it just made me happy. Love that lake and those kids.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Meditation

Christmas is coming and if one knows his or her Bible well, the fourth gospels' contribution to the story is not so much narrative as it is poetic. The Book of John does not give the play-by-play events in the manger, but I think John is reflecting on the whole inbreaking event that comes to fruition that early morning which we celebrate on December 25. What happens that day in Bethlehem is the full realization of what it is to be human.

Saint John begins as Genesis begins, "In the beginning," so time really matters, as it always does. At a particular place and time, in the beginning, even if we cannot pinpoint that particular date on a calendar, was the Creator and his Son, here known as the Word. They were together, molding and shaping our world into being. Laying down the rebarb in the concrete so we would have a solid foundation. We would be a humanity in a world of great fortitude. We could weather many storms as our narrative lays out. We could, with God's help, persevere catastrophic natural and social disasters.

But it is my belief that the world came to know fuller what it is to be human when Jesus came. Too often we think of Jesus as divine and separate, and he is all of those things lifted up--King and Saviour and many more descriptions. But Jesus gives us the working definition and understanding of what it is to be human. It is him. It is his body. It is his way of being in the world. It is his way of dealing with friends and enemies. It is his humble walk upon the land. It is his prayer practices. It is his calm in the face of danger. It is his strength when made weak in the face of death. It is his absolute confidence that he would be raised to new life to return to the beginning and the end where He and his Father both created the world and brought this project to completion.

Too many people hold up the way of Jesus as something for Jesus and not for them. Thank God I don't have to be like him. But that's a copout. We know we are not him in fullness, but we are to be like him in all ways imaginable. That is why we partake of his body and blood. He asks us to do as he does in the world. Love our neighbor. Find our worst enemies and imagine a way to make friends. Take up the cross rather than a sword when conflict arises when we presume that we might be able to end violence by being a part of it. Jesus gave us a roadmap and simple directions. Follow me. Do as I do. Don't sell yourself short thinking that only I, the Christ, am capable of doing these things. You are a part of me now and we will do it together as part of the same Body.

Babies teach us that we do not belong to ourselves. They are need freaks. Beautifully, they let us know that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. Individualism is a pretty useless term when it comes to infants. Babies are not independent and it turns out neither are the adults that surround them. Maybe this is part of the reminder of Christmas morning. We don't know much of the story from the time of Jesus' birth until he shows up in the Temple with his parents roughly a decade later, but here's some of how it goes. Mary and Joseph were blessed and burdened to be yoked to him in those years. To care for him, feed him, protect him. That's what it means to be part of the same Body.

The other night about an hour after bedtime my two year old got stuck in the bottom of his sleeping bag. I knew the cry was different, more troubled than usual. Would be have gotten out on his own? I don't know. But when I retrieved him and calmed him down and sang him back to sleep, I was reminded that we are a part of one another. By God's grace we have been grafted together and all the years that this little boy lives, I'll come if he needs me.

Jesus needs us to follow better than we usually do. We may think he is this independent saviour of the universe and solely ascended to the right hand of the Father looking down on us chastisingly. But he is right here, limping with us, crying with us. His body is not whole if we abuse our own and others. He will wait, but we want to get on with healthful living now. Obey his commands. You'll hear them, involuntarily if you habitualize them enough. The best responses of the body are the involuntary responses. I don't have to think my heart into beating. My brain and ticker work that out without any decision on my part. We are seeking habits with Jesus that make the relationship move closer and closer to involuntary responses. Imagine yourself alveoli of the lungs. Breath in and out and listen as the dance carries on day after day and night after night. And trust that God, through the miracle of Resurrection, keeps lungs breathing and hearts pumping even after death. It may be bodily different than that after death, but the bind of the Body cannot be broken. Jesus has made promises to be with us always. On a day that you forget it, open a Bible and read the last sentences in Matthew's Gospel.

For me, some of the toughest work comes in forgiving those who see him differently than I do. Who understand war as part of what he wants. On my better days, their contribution, though different than mine, is all part of God's amazing imagination. He sets up relationships of conflict so that we can be reconciled. What a beautiful and creative way to have different body parts learn to work in concert. Isn't God cool? Know that you are part of God's body today and every day. As Matthew begins my favorite biblical sentence, "REMEMBER."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Go Marathoners

I'm totally pumped up about running. All morning, reports have been coming in about terrific performances by friends at marathons all over the South.

My wife, Kristen, broke four hours (3:58) at Charlotte. She had a goal. She went out and knocked it out. Check.

Jason ran 2:47 at Kiawah. No surprise to me. He's a machine and showing signs of the old days which means fast running in 2010 coming out of Bull City Running Company. Hopefully, I can sneak into his slipstream and draft.

Brendan ran 3:07 at Kiawah. Sweet Boston qualifier.

Topo ran 2:59 at Huntsville, Alabama. What a great performance.

Tic ran 3:01. Disappointing, if I had to guess that it wasn't about 90 seconds faster, but it's still sub seven's and he's still going to run a sub three. Maybe he and I need to put a January race on the calendar and go knock it out.

Jordan hopped in the Charlotte Marathon, and what the heck, won it. 2:29. He's the new Karhu/Craft rep. and we went for a run last week. Great guy and I look forward to future runs in Charlotte or Durham.

Congrats to all who have endured the Trials of Miles, as Quentin Cassidy would say.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

November Blues

Ben Harper is playing on the radio. He always reminds me of Bob Marley. At first I thought I was to be buoyed by Redemption Song, but then the melody slipped me into a more melancholy gutter with "I'm gonna burn one down." I don't want to burn one down. I don't want marajuana in my body or even alcohol. I have not smoked in decades. I have not had a drink in more than two years. I'd like all drugs out of my system that ruminate inside my abdomen--Levaquin, Tylenol, Naproxen, Gyacin, Ibuprofen. They all make me feel groggy. I was sweating on a crisp fall morning, clearly my body trying to break another low grade fever associated with this raging bacteria which resides inside my skull.

But after the perfect biscuit, herbs and rich with flour, egg scrambled just right, and bacon overflowing, dipped in Texas Pete, and a little more coffee I emerge from the doldrums. It's not class IV rapids, but it's moving swiftly. Less rocks to dodge, more downstream V's. A deep breath, reinforcing that it was a good idea to go home and irrigate for a second time since waking three hours ago. I have a love/hate relationship with the saline rinse, and the netti pot, and the standard clear bottle. They help me in an eco friendly less invasive sort of way. But every time the contents of my nose come streaming down into the shower or the sink I am reminded of how diseased I am. How much ugliness lives inside my sinus passages. I was healthy for a long stretch this Fall. Did I get cocky? Do I not deserve healthy months? I hear people say I haven't been sick in years. How I envy them? I'm downright jealous. Sins--I know and I am dealt a punishment.

I am in a constant war with George. We bicker. I can do better. Stop berating him. He is a little boy. Lots of energy. Described as wonderful and charming by most who know him. I could do better by him. I know he misses his mother and I am no substitute. I don't do things like she does and I feel it.

I am angry with Patrick, the military, our country for how it romanticizes war, this one in Afghanistan. Is Patrick's homecoming such a great event? He took a job and a season of it has come to an end. Why do we drop everything and treat soldiers like gods? They have made choices. Choices to pick up weapons and put themselves and others in harms way.

Note, late 2017. I wrote this original draft in November 2009. It is difficult to read, particularly the last paragraph. I wish I had been more mature at the time, more generous with my brother-in-law Patrick as a soldier, more generous with all who serve. But, I felt the way I felt. War is Hell as Sherman once said. I don't really know that first hand, but I believe the thousands who have agreed with the sentiment.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for 10 mile time trail--ATT

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for 10 mile time trail--ATT

Great workout this morning. Legs felt fresh after 15 on the trails yesterday. Hope to run well for a half marathon in Concord, NC two weeks from today.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Run Slow, Run Fast...Just Run!

Haile Gebrselassie poses for a picture with dressed up runners before the start of the 35th Berlin marathon in 2008 (AP Photo). Shortly after this photo was taken "Geb" would go on to set the world record in the marathon. He ran 2 hours 3 minutes and 59 seconds. He does not look bothered by the runners who seemingly have nothing in common with him. I imagine Geb being put at ease by not thinking about the 4:40 miles he would need to clip off a few minutes later. He may even be such a wise ambassador of the sport that he knew how to ham it up with the entry paying customers who help raise money for him to make a living as an elite distance runner.

I'm confident these two clowns did not come within an hour of Geb's finishing time, but all three pictured are smiling and look as if nothing can disrupt their great morning. These clowns are every bit as much runners as Haile Gebrselassie.

I was inspired to dig up the picture above thanks to a NY Times article about slower runners somehow making the marathon less than it once was.

Quite an outpouring of support for all marathoners has ensued online and I immediately recalled the wide-smiling fastest runner on the planet with arms around two mortals. The elitest and arrogant comments in the NY Times article seem to claim that to run and walk over the course of 26.2 miles or to simply run slowly is somehow of less worth than those type A folks like myself who rarely smile and count every second until the finish line is crossed. The first thing to remember is that there is always somebody faster than you, so watch what you say. I'm okay locally, but regionally and nationally, I get smoked in every race I enter and so will you--on some playing field, someday. Fast is a subjective term and hardly the point of what makes a runner.

Moreover, I'm envious of those who are unmarried to their watches or less married. I never think of runners with slower paces as somehow less connected to the tag "runner" than I am. Whenever I make a running acquaintance, be it at a race or a customer that I am helping find a shoe that fits, and they say some version of, "well, I'm slow, not like you," I never let it go. I always take issue with such remarks. While I can self-depricate with the best of them, there is no room for thinking that pace is what determines the merit of each of us a runner. If you are out there for the love of the sport, for any of it's varied merits, YOU ARE A RUNNER.

Who cares if marathon times have slacked over the last few decades as measured by the median recreational runner. Childhood and adult obesity statistics are reaching alarming numbers and they won't decrease if the goal of the running community is to recreate a time when less people ran faster. We need more people to run as part of lifestyle values centered on activity and healthy living. Do you have any idea how many more calories are burned in a four hour marathon effort versus Geb's nearly two hour world record mark? That's right, about twice as many, and that's from a humanities guy. But even I can handle multiples of two. In 1999 Khalid Khannouchi remarked after setting the then world record at the Chicago Marathon that the real heroes were the folks out there for five and six hours. They had much bigger concerns in terms of stamina and hydration than he did in just over two hours.

Running snobs beware. We are looking out for you and we hope that slower times don't find their way to you, but they will. I guess as age and speed loss catches up with you, you will have to take up competitive remote controlling, because according to your arrogance, you will no longer be running in a truly pristine fashion. I hope you will change your tune and keep running in healthy form and if need be, a slow and steady pace.

How many miles can you run until you drop dead?

miles i can run
Created by - best treadmill reviews

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good Compulsions

The world is leery of concepts such as compulsion and addiction with good reason. Compulsive and addictive behaviors can be the habits of drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. While there are negative choices that can be compulsively lived out day after day, such as skipping sleep, beating a child, lying to every person encountered, perhaps we are too quick to assume that something compulsive is always a bad thing. Instead there are bad compulsions, but not all compulsions are bad. What we can safely say is that there are bad choices, made once, made over and over, but not all compulsions are fraught with bad intentions or outcomes. A world mired with fear, guilt, and anxiety often leaves us more comfortable with notions of playing it safe as characterized by such sayings as all things in moderation. If this saying were the final say so on how to live life the world would have never seen a single genius. Jesus was compulsive in loving the world. Beethoven was compulsively practicing the piano. Gandhi compulsively resisted non-violently. Einstein compulsively tinkered with numbers and ideas related to the universe.

The nun compulsively prays on behalf of the rest of the world. She does not pray in moderation. She prays without ceasing.

Consider the things you love most. Do them and do them well. Do them over and over until they are as much a habit and a requirement as it is a habit for your lungs to take oxygen from the air you breath. Walk wisely with your compulsions so that you can walk again tomorrow and walk better tomorrow. Learn from the times when you pushed too hard and were made lame the next day. Reflect on your compulsions to determine if they are still good choices. Seek wise counsel from others who have gone before you and wisely learned how to manage similar compulsions. But don’t fear the threshold and the risks associated with peeking over to the other side. On the other side of the apparent boundary waters are genius, fulfillment, ingenuity, creativity.

I guess that for me these compulsions manifest themselves in running and writing. I have moments of lassitude and lacks in confidence, but I come back again and again because I can do no other.

Rainer Maria Rilke writes in Letters to a Young Poet, p.18.

Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge a testimony to it.

Rilke describes his urge to write. The positive compulsion of your choice can be inserted into the structure of Rilke's description. I think "Pre" pictured below characterized running like Rilke describes writing, even after falling just shy of the podium at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Stained-Glass Justice

Amos 5:23-24, The Message,
When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.

Amos 5:23-24, NRSV,
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

In Holy Scripture and in the climate of today’s world is there a more loaded term than “justice?” Most think of punitive measures and punishment and retribution. At the least, justice is what is fair, right?
God’s justice is different. God’s justice is found in the faithfulness of a people who trust that God alone will get it right. That won’t always mean fair. God builds up the lowly. The Creator lowers the rich. He is not interested in fair—not on the world’s terms.
My friend Meredith has stain-glassed justice to look like:

For me, Meredith has captured God’s justice. This blue is so beautiful, a hue that could only come as part of God’s beautiful created order. It’s even perfect where this glass is hung with the green tree filling in the clear spaces and creating a border outside the border. But look fairly at this glass. It’s not just easy to behold. The waves are not just peaceful and calm. They are as tumultuous as the storm that laid siege to the Egyptians when the water walls broke over them. Look inside the wave, the pipeline has a storm inside of it. There is the beating water of a rainstorm. Scientists explain storms inside storms—the layered affect of a hurricane. I bet the glass has a textured feel as those bubbled rain drops come up off the main surface of the clear glass. These drops would hurt the skin, leaving marks. They are so big and falling so hard.

This is the image of God’s justice?

Rivers and oceans of justice come with a price. God’s price. God’s tears shed as the many drops in a rainstorm.
So the writer, the prophet Amos, does not want to hear the noise, the cacophony, of the world’s songs anymore. Are you ready for God’s song? It’s not just a warm blanket, a nuzzling puppy. It is also a storm of such force and strength to knock you down—a storm that lowers mountains and shifts valleys. God’s storm is so powerful that rocks are heated to lava in the blink of an eye, oozing and forming and filling spaces and voids that men said could never be filled. Lava filling wounds that men said could never be cauterized. God’s justice will come by the bucket-fulls, by the plane-fulls, by the ocean-fulls, by the solar system-fulls. Do you really want justice—the kind of righteous justice that God offers?

I’m afraid…and yet…I lay in waiting.

Waiting at the foot of cross, because I don’t know where else I would wait. I have no other story. Some days I’d like a “Co-Exist” story where every story imaginable were accommodated or a story where I was the author pulling the puppet strings, but this is not my story. I just lay in waiting at the foot of a cross--a beachfront stilt as this wave of justice pours over me in a hurricane come ashore. He punishes me for iniquities. He blesses me for goodness I do not deserve. He thanks me for showing mercy to the stranger when naively I was so stupid I did not even mean to help the stranger in my midst. He raises me up at my lowest mark. He snuffs me out just when I was riding atop this wave of justice in a standup kayak of arrogance that deceived me into thinking that I would never again feel the flesh ripping affects of the coral reef just below the surface.

Why God? Why must I ride the wave in limbo? Why must I never feel real blessed assurance? Whenever I claim total optimistic assurance, I know it’s a deception. You have not given me unfettered access, not yet, if ever. Always in the shadow of the cross and then back in the sun and then back in shadows. Won’t you leave me be? Let me alone so I could just be.

It seems you never will. Always laying claims on me that I am not worthy of. You never seem to misplace the baggage claim. You’ll wait forever as luggage passes by, waiting only for me. You don’t need to go to customer service. You flew the plane and unloaded the baggage and I’m the only piece you seem to care for. Yet, you have equal time for all the others, but it does not seem that way to me. I feel trapped in a beautiful and exhausting sequel to Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t want to eat them, just let me be. But God won’t—always hovering and watching and caring.

Go and buy something from Meredith at:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Risking Pain-Filled Humility

It's about 20 weeks after Pentecost, the birthday of the church, but I figure any day is a good day to write about life in relationship to the church's birthday. This story began on Pentecost 2009, back in May...

I heard recently, from a man who pours out his wisdom by the bucket-fulls, “God calls us into the pain of the people – to identify with it and if necessary to take it on. Great leaders are willing to enter into the pain of their people” (John Perkins speaking on 6/4/09 at Duke Summer Institute).

My own sense of Christian leadership is that it hurts to enter into the pain of a people, and it is also a great joy to be a part of the ongoing work of the church. At The Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we worship in a sort of in-between times. Hopefully, all churches plow and harvest in this season knowing that Jesus has been fully revealed in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and yet, the same churches are mysteriously aware that there is still something left to come. If there were not something else, then I believe pain would not feature so prominently within the fields of our lives. Humility in the face of pain is one area of human farming where the church has featured prominently, because where folks are humble, suffering is sure to be found.

During my time at The Church of the Holy Family as staff, lay member, and now ordained clergy (in another tradition, so still essentially lay in an Episcopal world), I have seen much work in the fields of humility. Some of what I love about Holy Family is that we do not fit neatly into boxes for others or our own descriptive purposes. We look liberal and conservative, orthodox and progressive, and many striations and variations in-between. I feel simultaneously insider and outsider, and over the years I have become less clear about who I am theologically, and spiritually. Such ambiguity may unnerve former professors, mentors, even my own family, yet I suspect that I am not the only baptized member there who thinks Holy Family is dually contributing to his own salvation and failure. I have shared in the failures of other members and the community at-large and seen these failures be to the glory of God. My time at Holy Family appears to be shaping me for confusion, not wanting to live in any one theological, political, or spiritual box. Can we be a people without simplistic answers to difficult questions? That’s a rhetorical question, loaded to the brim, but it has an affirmative answer for me. I no longer seek success, merely faithfulness. Those who yearn for faithfulness over and above success can rest assured their commitment to humility will be tested.

While this tends to contribute to my lack of classical success in jobs as of late, I believe such complexity can be to the glory of God. Others will not agree with me, believing that all should be tidied up where religious and vocational matters are concerned, yet God’s kingdom is rarely so tidy. It is a kingdom told in parables. It is a kingdom told in such statements as “those who are last shall be first” or “blessed are the meek.” Jesus never came pronouncing simplicity. His rule today is filled with a faithful commitment to mystery. Allegiance to mystery leaves more up to God then would make us the most comfortable. It also means that we will succeed on God’s timetable not our own.

One of the ways through last-ness and meek-ness might be to embrace these conditions rather than disdain them. To draw upon Dr. Perkins again, entering into the pain of a people is to first, be last among them, to be the humblest in their midst. To come last in the race will involve pain, humility, even embarrassment. Perhaps the church’s call is to be less triumphal than is typically our M.O. Instead we are to be a people more accepting of conditions of seeming failure. For what seems to be a failure is akin to God’s seeming failure—death on a cross. If we believe that God remains faithful to us, then it is all being worked out. It’s all good.

Though we are reminded that faithfully pronouncing, “it’s all good,” is not without pain. I have seen such digging in the realm of humility and pain at Holy Family. We were mixed on the ordination of a homosexual bishop. We were mixed on the ordination of a female presiding bishop and some are even mixed on the at-large ordination of women. Yet, we stay together. We weather the floods as Episcopalians within a complex Anglican Communion. This lack of shared vision does not always lead to increased tithing, and we deceive ourselves if we sense that giving is down only due to the recession. This parish was led by a rector/pastor so gifted it is almost laughable, yet we are far from meeting our budgetary needs. That tension exemplifies humility. I believe we live faithfully in-between the times primarily through shared food at the altar nearly every time we gather. Further, we practice acts as a weekly commitment to a penitential order including a kneeled prayer including the Ten Commandments. This penitential order has been practiced for eight years, since the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. Cases could be made for many other worship commitments that are adhered to by Holy Family and its’ members—foot washing, anointing, etc. Through each of these acts we hurt individually and collectively with one another and the world. My hope is that we enter into this place of pain humbly, and in turn we celebrate joyfully as participants in God’s Kingdom.

The image of fire is the prevelant image at Pentecost thanks to the story from Acts, chapter two. This is an image filled with light, pain, fear, hope, reinvention. It's a mixed bag, paradoxical, like the church.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Somehow, cyclocross is pulling at my heartstrings. I don't know why. I have never even sat on a cyclocross bike, but I want one and I want to race it in the mud. I want a wet fall day in NC, about 45 degrees and sunny. I could even stand to race in the snow. I think I could be good at a discipline that requrires a little bit of running with a bike.
It looks fun. Who cares if I am good at it.
Maybe next fall--2010. By then, I might get a bike and race like the wind.
All I had to do was get a fixey and now I have the bug. I want to race with gears, and in duathlons, and triathlons, and on a mountain bike for some long stage races with G4. And I want to race off-road on a cyclocross bike.
The last weekend in October, Curtis and I are going to go watch some races in Cary and/or Raleigh. I'll see what that does to me.
*Photo from Cannondale Website

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lake Crabtree KIT Adventure Race

Yesterday George IV and I were in a adventure race together. We were in a canoe for a few minutes and then we ran fast. We popped a balloon. We ran up a trail. We did three bumpy laps on a bike around cones, or rather, George rode and I ran in front, alongside, and behind him. Then we ran down hill as George kept saying a motivating mantra to himself, “come on bud.” I guess maybe I was saying that to him, but I am not sure. He was really into the event and doing his best. He was doing a terrific job and I was certainly proud papa. We arrived at the big field out by the lake and George was three for three at throwing baseballs at a target. Then we did a short three-legged race and we were done. It was a great afternoon. Our time was 20:44. I think we might have been on the podium, but we did not wait to find out.

Later found out that we were fifth out of 17 finishers. Wow, there are some fast 5-7 year olds. George had clearly never felt breathing quite like that. I could tell it was a shock to the system, but he seemed to enjoy it. I was telling Marmot about the race today, and I said, thinking of George, “Welcome to a whole new lifestyle!” These endurance races will in fact, change your life. I remember when they changed mine some three decades ago.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ironman Comeback

This is not my Ironman report. I'm no Ironman triathlete. I don't even like to swim competitively, but I do respect those who think 2.4 miles in open water is just the easy part of the three-fold day of working out. I might try some Duathlon (run-bike-run) this winter, but that's another story for another day. This report is written by my good friend Brett Rumble. Read it for an honest and not terribly optimistic stance on meeting some goals and falling short on others.

Brett wrote:
It’s been 6 years since my last Ironman. After a long series of injuries, I honestly never thought I would stand at the starting line of an Ironman again. Since the day I signed up nearly a year before, my primary goal was only to make it to the starting line. But on Sunday, there I found myself, knee deep (pun intended) in the waters of Okanagan Lake in Penticton, British Columbia for Ironman Canada 2009.

The day began routinely: up at 4 to eat and finalize packing, a short walk from the hotel down to the transition area around 5:30, body marking, pumping up bike tires, dropping off special needs bags, checking transition bags, putting on the wetsuit, and a warm up swim. Just another day at the office.

An Ironman swim start is a spectacle to watch. 2800 athletes plunging into the water at the same time. Thousands colored swim caps poke out of the water accented by black neoprene clad arms churning the calm, early morning water frothy. In the mix, however, it feels like trying to swim in a washing machine. As the starting gun went off, I started on the inside of the pack a few rows back. After 50 yards of stumbling over rocks in ankle deep water, I dove in and took my first strokes heading straight for the first buoy in relatively clear water. It was the only clear water I would see all day. After passing the first buoy, it felt like the entire field converged on me.

No Hitting, but Shoving Is Encouraged

As the field closed in on me from every direction, I tried to settle into a rhythm. However, it felt like I was the only person swimming in line with the course buoys and I had to keep looking up to check my line while repeatedly banging elbows, hands and shoulders with the other swimmers. After about 600 meters, I somehow managed to drift from the right side of the field into the middle. Boxed in by roughly 600 swimmers in a 10 square foot radius, I checked my heart rate and tried to be patient while glancing longingly with every breath at the clear water to my right. Eventually, I found my way back to the right of the field. Unfortunately, it was so far right there were no other swimmers around to draft. A woman settled in behind me, politely tapping my feet with her every stroke as she drafted me.

We converged on the first turn of the U-shaped course and things got crowded again. I was able to temporarily forget the traffic jam when I spotted 2 scuba divers floating calmly 10 feet below with ringside seats for the fight at the surface, ready to step in if something went awry. Despite the shepherding scuba eyes below, I shoved my way through the two turns and headed back towards shore.

I was hoping the field would thin out on the return trip, but to my dismay, I found myself continuing to fend off errant swimmers. At the same time, I found myself fighting my wetsuit. It felt too short in the torso and was compressing my back, which was starting to lock up. Moreover, I couldn’t find any fluidity in my stroke. So, I lumbered through my strokes, checked my heart rate which was hovering comfortably around 130, fought off a few more swimmers, and counted the minutes until I could get to shore and out of the wetsuit.

I hit shore around 1:08—a little slower than I wanted but still under the 1:10 goal I had set. And with an average heart rate of 131, I wasn’t feeling too bad. I dodged my way through the masses like a pinball, had my wetsuit stripped off by the volunteers, grabbed my transition bag (helmet, shoes, food), unracked my bike and was on my way.

The Long and Winding Road

The crowds lining the street in town were huge and loud. I settled in and forced myself to be patient and take the first 20 minutes of the ride comfortably as other riders sped past. I cruised out of town along the shores of Skaha Lake and I slowly found a rhythm. The golden rule on the bike at Canada is to not go too hard the first 40 miles, which are flat and fast and can lull unsuspecting riders into overexerting prior the serious hills that start around 45 miles. I sat in comfortably and cruised towards the impending 6 mile climb up Richter Pass. I passed the time drinking water, popping my requisite 5 salt tablets an hour, and ogling the expensive bikes of slower swimmers as they breezed by. I passed the 40 mile mark in 1:54 and waited for the boom to drop.

I made the right hand turn and began the climb up Richter, shifting immediately into my granny gear and starting to spin as I quickly found a good climbing rhythm. I spun easy for the first part of the climb. As I neared the top, the throngs of cheering spectators increased and so did my pace as I got caught up in the excitement. I careened past a cheering spectator clad in a Tigger outfit and I smiled as I breezed by other riders struggling up the climb.

I crested Richter a little winded but feeling pretty good, took two pedal strokes ,and immediately found myself going 35 miles an hour as I barreled down the harrowing 2 mile descent. Before long I was tearing down the hill at 40 miles an hour, clenching my teeth and the handlebars with a death grip too scared to notice the other riders plummeting by.

I made it down safely and began the section of course affectionately referred to as the “7 rollers.” As I coursed through the rollers, two things became abundantly clear: I climb better than I do descend. Up the climbs, I would cruise past packs of riders, only to have them pass me as I white-knuckled the descents. Getting passed going downhill was a little disheartening and I drifted into a bit of complacency as the middle miles of the bike ticked by. But, I checked my progress after three and half hours and pleasantly found I had 70 miles down, an average of 20 mph. Spirits renewed, I floated through the out and back section and headed towards the final climb up Yellow Lake.

While Richter is the steeper climb of the two, Yellow Lake is harder as it comes 90 miles into the bike. I, however, felt effortless up the climb. The climb was littered with spectators and I caught a glimpse of Erin early on the climb. We exchanged a few words and I cruised on up the climb past Superman and two women dressed as Wonder Woman. I summited Yellow Lake and started the 10 mile descent back into town clinging to my bike at 40 miles an hour. Back in town, I finished off the 112 mile ride with a total bike split of 5:59, an average pace of 18.7 mph, and an average heart rate of 128. I handed my bike off to a willing volunteer and meandered into the changing tent.

What Is Called Resignation Is Confirmed Desperation

As I was putting on my running shoes, I found I wasn’t in any particular hurry to head out onto the run course. Nonetheless, gel in hand, I headed out on course. I ran through the first mile and checked my pace: 9:27. Not bad, but I could already feel something wasn’t right. I managed to get out of town and away from the crowds before I sheepishly stopped to walk. My legs felt fine, but nausea was setting in and I was feeling a little light headed. I collected my thoughts and started the all too familiar tug of war between my stomach and my pace. I was able to run the majority of the first 10 miles, walking the aid stations while taking in just enough water and salt tablets to stave off any gastrointestinal fireworks.

Around 10 miles, I knew the wheels were going to come off—it was just a matter of time. The thought of ingesting anything was repulsive and I was starting to get chills, despite the 85 degree temperature—a classic sign of dehydration. On top of it all, the smoke from the forest fires in the area had settled into a dull haze over the course and that, combined with the dry air, caused my nose to start bleeding slowly. I watched an ambulance roar by with siren blaring on its way to pull an unfortunate athlete off the course. I sniffled back blood, trying to avoid any attention that might resign me to a similar fate and counted the miles until the turn around. I hit the turn at 2:24 and managed to run/walk to 15 miles, with more walking than running unfortunately. From 15 to 20, running (and that term is used very loosely here) became the exception rather than the rule as I stared at the ground in solemn misery.

The run course of an Ironman can be a lonely place at times like that. The silence is deafening. All conversation among athletes has dissipated. The only sound to be heard was the scraping of my shoes on pavement over the tapping of other athletes’ running shoes. The lonely clapping of the smattering of spectators left on the course mixes with the occasional calls of aid station volunteers offering water. Amidst the silence, I clumped along with resignation while the clock slipped away with the daylight.

Coming Home

Whether I was smelling the barn or feeling a little better, I think my pace lifted a little the last 4 miles. Although I had resigned myself to finishing outside my goal, I felt obligated to do as little walking in town where there were more spectators. Around 2 miles to go, I finally gave in to my stomach and gave up any hope of taking any more gel, throwing away the food and salt pills I was unable to eat. I shuffled to the last mile marker, took a walk break and prepared myself for to try to run the last mile. Over the last mile, the streets were line two and three people deep with spectators cheering wildly. Nonetheless, I managed to pick Erin out of the crowd as I trudged my way towards the finish.

Perhaps in a show of embarrassed defiance, I managed to catch the runner in front of me just before the line. But at that point, it mattered little to me. I had such high hopes for this race and to succumb to a nutritional issue (again) was disappointing—and it showed as I crossed the finish line. No raised arms. No smile. No sore legs. Just a flick of the wrist to stop my watch and to end my day.

When the smoke cleared from my 5:17 run (again, using that term loosely), my final time was 12:39. My average heart rate on the run was 110 and for the whole race, 120. I burned 6721 calories.

I have to admit that for most of the year prior to the race, in the back of my mind I kept waiting for an injury to prevent me from doing the race as it had over the past 6 years. But it didn’t. In fact, my training went very well. In that sense, I did achieve my original goal: making to the starting line. I do take some solace in that fact. And I don’t completely overlook the fact that I finished. But at some point, the races become more than just finishing. In that sense, as I walked away from the finish line, my resignation resonates louder than my accomplishment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Standing in the Need of Healing

Earlier this week I saw Lydia at the library and the chance encounter filled my heart with prayer for her and for missing some students from my past. She had been such a a good friend—more than a parent. I offered some help, but I knew from her responses and that she was not ready for that and I did not press.

It was the longest I have held someone in a hug for a long, long time. When we separated she was filled with tears. I imagine she was embarrassed, but just as much tired, longing for purchase on her life. For the chance to start over, but in no way sure how to find a way to start over. In fact, I don’t think she was embarrassed.

She seemed to see an old friend, someone to trust. Someone who could love her for what she was and I tried, with very few words, almost none, to convey the hope that where she currently finds herself is fleeting and will pass.

I had not seen her in 15 months. I had only heard rumors of addiction to crack. She looked tired, but okay,, somehow a little better than how I imagine crack addiction looks. It was mid-week, mid-morning. Perhaps the setting offered a reprieve from the worst of it, but really, I don't have a clue about the look and feel of such habits.

I believe that in the friendship we shared there is saving. Her daughter is growing up motherless. What must she be feeling after 15 adolescent months without a mom? She is athletic, this child, growing up without the maternal wisdom that only Lydia possesses.

Lydia needs purchase on the world. She said, “Some of us have a hard time sleeping in the bed we have made.” How true. What’s the solution? Is there one?

I pray TROSA upon Lydia. I believe they can help her. I believe that TROSA can save her life. I felt saved by TROSA when I was there. I miss my brief time there, though not a resident, I felt like TROSA on James Street was a community of honesty, discipline, and accountability.

I told Lydia, “You know it seems like some people have it all together, but they don’t. They are struggling on the inside. Taking life one day at a time.”

Of course, on some level, I meant me. And she knew it. I know she did by the tears that welled up in her blood-shot eyes, the eyes of too many sleepless nights, too many parties that brought no real joy. Eyes that felt needed for the first time in a long time. I needed her as a friend. I made myself vulnerable to her because I knew it would do her good as well as me. When we share stories with one another, real stories of pain and joy, we can be made whole.

She can get clean. I know it.

When she came near me, I was reading, Surprised by Hope, a defense of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Because of the resurrection, Lydia can be made whole.

At least, she can struggle more successfully.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Standing at the shore

This photo depicts Rodney, Julian and I standing at the shores of the Red Sea. Julian is in the place of Moses about to part the waters. Katherine Smith had us pose for this picture as we walked back from the garden to the main part of camp at Chestnut Ridge during Duke Youth Academy, July 2009. We had been picking weeds in the garden on an abnormally cool July day. Only Julian could pick up a stick on a casual hike and feign a likeness to Charlton Heston in The 10 Commandments.

These two are hilarious. Rodney was new to DYA this year, but immediately found his way among staff and students as the great youth minister that he is. Julian and I spend the bulk of DYA laughing uncontrollably and trying to stay out of trouble. I am happy to count both of these men among my friends and I hope to work with each of them again soon.


Goats and Blackberries

berries bloom but three weeks a year
rest of the time, 49 weeks,
by my count
nothing but a nuisance
most the time

sure, everybody loves the sweet nectar
nectar from the gods
Is it worth it?

Don’t ask the eaters, the pickers, the bakers, or the tourists
What do they know?

ask the goats
they eat up vines of nuisance
‘spect they like 'em more 'an we like the berries

I’m just sayin’

*Check out NPR story, August 20, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reflections on Eagle's Nest Camp, Session IV 2009

Ah...inspiration, it comes and goes like the wind. I can barely write during the summer. My brain seems to swell and more parts than I would like sweat even in air conditioned places in the Piedmont of North Carolina. But inspiration finds me as it always did after time at Eagle's Nest.

I had not been to Eagle's Nest Camp, as a staff member, in 14 years. That's twice the time of my marriage. It's working on two decades ago. The changes were wonderfully minimal as I knew they would be. The rhododendron smelled of decaying and rotting wood, as only rhodo does, and I miss it already. It's a smell unique to certain places in the Southern Appalachian Mountains and if you never smelt it--sorry. It filled my nostrils in the dampness that was my lodging--Cabin Nine. I had lived in all of the other boys' cabins, but Cabin Nine, and now, I found myself there in the dampest of the damp as counselor and parent to my oldest child, George, age five and three quarters, as he is so quick to clarify by way of a mixed numeral.

Friday, I taught canoeing on the Headwaters of the French Broad River, Rosman, NC, as the middle of three generations of heads of the paddling program. Here I was a "Linney" situated in the middle of a "Waite-Kucera" mother and son teaching team. We had eight campers with us, but I am sure they had no sense that the combined paddling experience of their three instructors was upwards of 75 years and yet no one of these instructors was over the age of 50. All three of us were homegrown, taught first on a lake in the Little River Valley between Brevard and Hendersonville and then each of us sent from the lake to learn among moving waters at the Green, the Tuck, the Nantahala, the Chattooga, and many more rivers in the Southeast and beyond. I had not been in an open canoe in several years, yet the muscle memory was of a skill that will not be soon forgotten as I knew it would not be.

Throughout the week, on that same lake, "Love," I taught my son the first skills necessary to becoming a whitewater paddler. "Love" is the third pond as it is known in the trifecta of first "Faith" and then "Hope," as they were dug out years ago from the direction of Indian Village towards Hart and Everett Roads and the Little River. It is in the waters of the Little River where the waters of these lakes find rest until they move down toward the French Broad which flows and flows until finally the Atlantic, no, the Mississippi, because the French Broad is so old it cuts through the Continental Divide and flows West all the way to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. This is a sign of a river so old that it carved out the land before the mountains rose. My son learned a little of the Draw, and Pry, the Forward and the Reverse strokes, but will he come to know where the rivers meet? They meet in the hearts of those who love them. Those who think that water is a place where peace can overcome violence. Where dreams come true. Where skills are learned and harnessed. Where artistic motions can move bodies which move ancient shaped crafts across lakes and streams and ponds and rivers.

I love Eagle's Nest Camp. I hope I get to return their soon.

P.S. If you do not know David Whyte, and his book of poems, "Where Many Rivers Meet," try it.

*Photos by Cain Cox.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Race Report: Mount Washington Road Race

June 20, 2009

The top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire was beautiful. It was an eight mile race, all uphill, and after about five miles in the fog and mist, we ascended above the clouds and the sun was shining bright. I did not run very well because of a nasty cold/virus that has compromised my voice and lungs, but Saturday morning was great nonetheless. I could have done without the 1800 miles of driving in three days, but at least now I can say I have been to New Hampshire!

I ran 1:23 which was eight minutes slower than I had hoped. Was it the viral bug? Was it the traveling? Who knows, and I don't really care, and I mean that in the good care-free sort of way. I was happy with my performance. Between mile one and two I considered dropping and heading for home, but I had driven 900 miles to be there, and so I toughed it out as best I could. I took a walk break of one minute at each mile marker. It helped me to survive and on this particular day, it was my fastest way up the hill. The winning time was 59 minutes. I ran nearly three minutes per mile slower than the winner, which is a true lesson in humility. I watched the leaders take off up the first hill and wondered if I had ever run even once in my life prior to this moment as I watched amazing hill climbers ascend ahead of me. I finished in the 72nd spot out of 917 finishers. I had hoped to finish in the top 50 and I believe that was a realistic goal as well as the 1:15 time goal.

I don't think I will go back to try again. I was reminded that I do not like to travel far for races. I don't need to run a marathon on the Great Wall of China. I don't need to race in Antarctica. I'm happy for others to do so, but I am a North Carolinian and I belong here, on these trails and roads.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Clothed in New Garments

April 13, 2009
Monday in Easter Week,
Church of the Holy Family
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Pray with me.
Let these words be to your glory. Amen.

I am preaching from the baptismal font and the Tenth Station…
Time is different today. The air is different.
I feel like I can take a fuller breath. Soak in God’s created order.
The colors are a bit brighter.
The tastes are a bit sweeter.

For six Fridays in a row, it did not feel like a deeper breath, a richer hue, or a taste that I might seek again and again. I told time in a mournful and lamenting way. For many of those Fridays, I gathered here and prepared for Christ’s death.

The other night, Lent culminated for me in the Garden of Gethsemane, holding Vigil with the sacrament while we watched over our Lord between Maundy Thursday and the service on Good Friday. I was thinking how difficult it is to plan for an Easter sermon in the midst of lament, sorrow and death. It pulls the soul in two directions, but such is the way God would have us be pulled. Remembering sorrows and never forgetting, yet always living Resurrection.

At the tenth station, Jesus was stripped of the clothes that he wore: from Stations.
And they divided his garments among them by casting lots. This was to fulfill the scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.” (from The Way of the Cross).

He was humiliated. Made naked.
If I were preaching naked, you would all be embarrassed for me—for my inability to know better. Adam and Eve, they knew to cover themselves, but not Jesus.

No, he comes naked before us to fulfill the righteousness that he promised since the beginning of time.

It’s not shameful that he was made to strip. Nope, it is one more beautiful irony dramatized by the very God whom we call Jesus on his way through the Cross, into the tomb, resurrected yesterday, and ascended to the right hand of God.

How you say? What’s ironic about the humiliation of our Lord being stripped of his garments?

The irony is that when we baptize new believers, they come naked, pure—for a moment free from sin, as they die to their old way of life and are born all new in Christ Jesus.

I love it. I’ll never walk over this stone the same way again. I’ll never forget that Jesus’ humiliation is my redemption. Jesus’ uncloaking is my very salvation. He washes me daily in the blood of his cross and at the tenth station he took off the rag which would become the very bathing cloth which scrubs each and every one of us.

You are washed and I am washed by the blood of a Lamb who loves us so much that no human words will ever do this love justice.

We know it in baptism, and we know in it these words:
To fulfill all righteousness, Jesus is subjected to the humiliation of nakedness. His tormentors cannot know, however, that in removing his earthly clothes, they are preparing him for his glorification, his heavenly triumph, and an everlasting exaltation (from Meditations on the Stations of the Cross, Belmont Abbey College, Dr. Ron Thomas).

Today we are clothed in a white robe and cuddled by the Shepherd who will always come and find us. Today we are far from lost, we are found, naked and proud to be found and worthy of a white robe. It has gold lace and it is made of a linen so fine, it is on the one hand see-through, and on the other so thick and warm, it might have a thread count of a million. Can you feel it, can you smell it, can you soak in its hue, yet only for a moment because the light is so dazzling white as to blind you? I’m risking blindness, today and all of my days. Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shoe Review--Saucony Xodus

Last week I wear tested the Saucony ProGrid™ Xodus for Bull City Running Company. Jason Page (owner of Bull City Running Company) and I both wear a Men's 10.5 so we are going to be able to give some good feedback by trading back and forth some shoes. This is a neutral trail runner. When I first pulled it out of the box, I thought, This is a pretty stiff Vibram sole. This might be more than I want in a trail runner now that I have gotten accostomed to more flexible low-profile shoes.

But I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Xodus on a very diverse six mile loop run near Mason Farm and the Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill that included roads, crossing a calf-deep stream, technical single track trails, and lots of steep up and down hills.

The neutral shoe felt fine on the roads which is not true of many high performance trail runners. It's not too aggressive on the lug patterns because that will sometimes make a trail shoe pretty awkward for road running. I wouldn't run more than five miles in the Xodus on roads, but for short distances it works well.

It drained well after getting soaked. I didn't even think of the stream crossing after a few minutes.

The Xodus performed well laterally on the trails, providing both stability and flexibility. Even with what looks like a fairly built up sole and mid-sole, I felt surprisingly low to the ground and very secure in the heel cup. This is an absolute necessity for a technical trail shoe.

It was light enough to not feel clunky on the climbs and the ARCH-LOCK really helped to hold my foot in place on the downhills.

The toe box on the Xodus could be a little bit bigger and those with really wide fore-foots may need another shoe. But I tend to like a lot of room in the front of a shoe, and I found this one to provide just enough room.

I liked this shoe so much that I am going to seriously consider the Saucony Progrid Echelon as a road trainer because it also has the ARCH-LOCK and appears to be a similar last.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I've written about this cat before, but he continues to inspire me. Raphael Saadiq is a true artist with a wide range of influences that culminate in a hearkening back to Motown and the smooth vocals of Eddie Kendriks, The Temptations lead tenor during their prime (1965-71). Each performed track is a little different than when I have heard it the previous time, and distinctly different from the cut versions on the album, "The Way I See It." The Q and A at the end of this performance for Google is particularly telling of this man's gifts and vision for music and art.

Particularly useful during the season of Lent, where the Church prepares to both mourn and celebrate simultaneously, was a line to introduce one of this artist's best songs of the performance. Saadiq introduces "Big Easy" at the 20:00 mark and says of this upbeat testimony to Hurricane Katrina victims, that the thing about folks in New Orleans is that when they mourn, they celebrate. Say what you will about New Orleans and Bourbon street, but we culturally begin Lent there with Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday. It is a feast before a fast to mimic Jesus' fast in the desert to prepare for his death and celebration. Listen to this song and ask God, "Tell me what's goin' wrong?" But, don't leave it there, after naming what's wrong in the world, ask God, "What's comin' that's alright!" Lent is not solely about Lament, but a call to "Get Ready," as Eddie Kendricks wailed about 40 years ago.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Umstead Marathon Race Report (3/7/09)

In the weeks leading up to the Umstead Marathon, I was doubtful. I second guessed my health, my interest in running a marathon, my egos ability to withstand another poor marathon effort. As I was bemoaning my track record with marathons, my wife reminded me that my last marathon was the Black Mountain Marathon in 2006 where I finished 4th in 3:32. That marked a very good run on a very mountainous course. My memory was more negative, forgetting the good and reliving the bad, October 2005, Chicago Marathon where my hopes were so set on breaking three hours on a fast road course. Instead I dropped out at mile 19, defeated and broken in body and spirit, happy only to see the faces of my wife and newborn Kathryn who was then only three months old, and made the trip with mom and dad.

Where I have failed to some extent at road marathons, I have faired better on trails. My first successful day running a trail marathon was 1999 in Breckenridge, Colorado. High above 10,000 feet I ran what was called a marathon, the Crest Mountain Marathon (24.5 miles) in 4 hrs 15 minutes. I remember a banjo player at about 18 miles into the race who plukced for the runners with what to me was a hearkening back to Appalachia. I felt at home in the Rockies and scampered down the mountain, near Peak 7 of the 10 mile range that connects Breckenridge to Frisco, Colorado (where I met Sallie the wonder dog). That was a great day, yet I was slow to be fully converted. Still, the heart of trail runner who could do with less and less road running and racing was beginning to beat louder and slower. The following years brought squandered efforts on the roads when it came time to race the marathon. Someday, I’ll realize those dreams, or maybe not.

The day of Umstead arrived and pain had gone away from my legs in the week before. I was prioritizing a Lenten fast over the marathon, no question that it is more important, but I suspended my fasting routine on the Saturday morning of the race. If I was going to run 26 miles, I did need to eat breakfast and take more than water throughout the race.

It felt like summer by the time of the 9am start. Everyone seemed to wonder why we were starting so late, but it is still officially wintertime and even in Carolina it could have just as easily been below freezing. I ran early on the Wednesday morning before, and the weather channel announced that it was 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Water was nowhere to be found on MLK Parkway, even the bog like creek near Durham Public Works and Kroger could have doubled as an ice skating rink. Seventy six hours later at the start of a marathon and it must have already been in the mid 60s on the way to the high 70s. The temperature was just another reason to go out very conservatively with my friends Quincey and Ronnie. The other reason for a patient strategy was the undulations that would come in the middle and late miles of this tour of Umstead State Park. The three of us chatted away the early miles which was kind of fun. I never do this. I subdue my normally extroverted self in races. I am always running at a pace where talking is the last thing I would want to do. Conversation really did pass the time. It probably annoyed other runners around us, but their choice to run nearby. The three of us were probably around 15th place after three miles of running. We were way behind the leader and he looked strong at a turnaround at two miles. We passed some runners on the single track and the three of us were working well together.

I didn't really pick it up until I saw 3rd and 4th place on the way up from Corkscrew Hill (mile 9-10) and one of them pulled me along to a couple of 6:30 miles. He got in a hurry when he heard me coming and we put in a substantial surge from the roughly 7:15 pace we had been running. Ronnie and Quincey were not going with me as I picked it up and I was thinking I needed to go ahead and start picking off a few runners if I wanted a chance at seeing the guys in first and second place later in the race. I pulled away from Ben from Florida about mile 13 and later passed the 2nd place runner at about mile 21 after two great cheering encounters with my friends Tweak and Knocker and their kids. I even got some high fives from at least two of the little ones when I passed by the first time at about mile 12. This really gave me a boost.

All through the really nasty hills on the backside of the park I was feeling really good (miles 11-20), but as the third hour of running commenced there was no escaping the heat. At every aid station I would drink Gatorade and or water. I would dump water over my head and face, but it was just hot, hot, hot. My legs were slowly starting to cramp. I tried to really stretch my legs out going down toward the lake and the bottom of Corkscrew Hill, because I knew that hill was going to take a toll on my pacing. I kept it going up Corkscrew, counting five miles to go, four miles to go. As I approached the 22 mile aid station there was George IV on the right with a cup of Gatorade. He had mastered the hand off of liquids as well as any adult volunteer. I tried not to cry, either from fatigue or the sheer joy of having my son hand me a drink that I so desperately needed. Kathryn and William were in the stroller to the left, smiling and cheering. I knew I had to keep moving, or the temptation to stop and embrace my loved ones would be too much. I walked while I drank and then I got moving, down Wheel Fell Off Hill. This is an appropriate name. The race leader looked like his wheels were falling off and he was totally dominating the field, probably ten minutes ahead of me at that point. We passed each other on his way back up the hill and when he did not utter a “good job” or “keep going” I knew it was because this hill left no opportunity for extra expenditures of oxygen.

Coming back up Wheel Fell Off Hill on Cedar Ridge (mile 22-23) I was in a death march, but it was still running. Ben from Florida was not more than a couple of minutes behind and moving faster than me, I was certain. I had 2.5 miles to get to the finish line. Would I come second or third? Doubt and worry was creeping in. Oh, how I wanted to stop, but the fastest way to stop the pain was to get to the finish line sooner rather than later. I took two walk breaks up the inclines in mile 24 and 25. Each time was disciplined to a count of 50 and then back to running. It felt like the fastest way to get to the finish, but I knew third place was on his way.

Managed to hold it together and not cry at mile 25 when the wheels really were coming off and Ben from Florida was getting closer in my rearview mirror, and there at the top of the hill were Kristen, George IV, Kathryn, and William cheering their brains out for dad. George rode his bike alongside me for almost half of mile 26 and it was, without question, the only thing that kept me from no more walk breaks and a second place finish.

I managed to sneak in for second place (3:13) and not totally blow up in the heat. It was a well executed race plan.

I sent out an abbreviated version of this race report and here are the names of friends who added their specific congratulations in the couple of days after. One of the best parts about running is that we share the stories with one another and amazingly even some non-runners seem to want to know about these stories.

The entire REI staff, Hyjak, Ram, Mike Broome, Flame, Zap, Tweety, Bobcat, Willow, Freeq, Spinz, Gumbi, XXX, Pinto, Tweak, Knocker, Weez, Zbow, Wayne Crews, Squonk, Balto, Wort, Syren, Meredith Leight, Grynz, Flush, Raven, Zu, Paul Potorti, Proulx, Haggis.

Doesn’t this list make you want a trail name? Come out and run with us—

Monk, aka George

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fly by Night

Image at:

Who remembers “Fly by Night” by RUSH? Have a listen and read along with the lyrics below.

A month or so ago I was doing a quick meander through Carolina North and I saw two deer and an owl. My fears and anxieties were set at full throttle at the sight of the owl flying away from me, leading me down the trail, soaring off into the distance. I turned the iPod off as I waited for what was a sure and stealth descent on my head. The descent did not come. The owl let me go this time. I let the fear go and savored the recognition that the forest is in control when I enter. Got to thinking about the Philosopher's Way Trail Run which will happen on May 2, 2009 on some of the same trails. Our heavy stomping will probably keep deer and owls hidden, but we might get lucky and get attacked.

I like the fourth stanza of this song in particular:
Start a new chapter
Find what Im after
Its changing every day
The change of a season
Is enough of a reason
To want to get away

Each run is a new chapter of life; a chance to get away. Seasons are changing right about now. Daylight savings time is Saturday and the twilight will push further and further out on the clock. Spring will be official March 21, by the calendar, but I think in North Carolina we can start on the 5th day of the Month.

Register soon for Philosopher's Way at:

Why try? I know why
The feeling inside me says its time I was gone
Clear head, new life ahead
Its time I was king now, not just one more pawn

Fly by night, away from here
Change my life again
Fly by night goodbye my dear
My ship isnt coming and I just cant pretend

Moon rise, thoughtful eyes
Staring back at me from the window beside
No fright or hindsight
Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Start a new chapter
Find what Im after
Its changing every day
The change of a season
Is enough of a reason
To want to get away

Quiet and pensive
My thoughts apprehensive
The hours drift away
Leaving my homeland
Playing a lone hand
My life begins today

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A plea to 44 and me

Some said your inaugural words were condescending
I say prophetic
Your words were a call to service
A call to take responsibility
Critics said there was no memorable line,
Ask not what your country...
We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.
But you encapsulated both JFK and FDR when you charged me to fight poverty
I heard you charge me to educate the poor

Who are the poor?

In my world
they are children
they are boys of color
and while everyone around me wonders when will I arrive
When will George take a Church of his own?
So I can give up teaching and learning from the least of these,
adolescent boys who the world says are more likely to obsess over Wiis and Weapons?
No, they are going to school by God and they are learning on my watch
And I'm learning from them
Soaking up all they have to teach me

Will all your political goals be achieved?
Probably not. But we can do some things—end this war and feed the poor. Yes We Can. That's a start and if it is all we do, I'd be proud of these eight years.

Will the world ever be set to rights?
Setting the world to rights is the sole role of the Chosen One and you’re not Him.
But you are both a prophet and a leader. In you I see a rare combo of a King and a Judge. Stay faithful to both of these gifts. Don't cynically become one at the expense of the other.

Stay radical. That does not mean simply stay on the Left, no, stay radical. Remain prophetic, inspire us, lead us, plea that each one of us takes action and does our part.

There’s a knock at the door of humanity right now and it feels like midnight is the hour
or even later
maybe 4am
the darkest hour
but it is always darkest before the light
As the martyr said, we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

The arc of light is bending toward and even breaking on the shores of the horizon
Towards a time when things will be better
Where the poor will have rights and food and care
Where war will be no more

And for those who said there was no line for our memories, try,
With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.

Valley Forge was a dark time, darker even than now, and they got back in the boat. They crossed over. That line reminds me of the sea that's Red. We face fears. We get back in the boat or we cross with walls of water on both sides.

Thank you Mr. President.
Written by Rev. George E. Linney, III on January 21, 2009, a day after a watershed moment in our history, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I got to thinking about Easter this morning. It's cold, and I have a cold, and Lent is almost here, but there in front of me was the loud scream of yellow Easter lilies announcing that He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed.

Did you know that He delights in you? The things that you are doing whether you know him or not, are all part of his plan for you and His plan for the world. I take comfort in moments when there is seemingly no comfort.

He delights in you. Embrace that Good News today.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Which Church Father Are You

You’re Origen!

You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Musings on the Uwharrie 20

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

Yesterday, I finished third in the Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 miler. My time was 2 hours and 51 minutes. I ran without a watch which turned out to be a great stress reliever. When we went through the eight mile aid station there was lots of jostling for position, because prior to that time we had been in a row of runners—just like a Wednesday morning run in the forest. I thought to myself, it is great that I don't know my split because I have enough to worry about right now. This line of runners included just about everyone in the top ten excluding the guy who took off before the top of the first hill. We never saw him again.

I was very nervous going into this race, thinking I would blow up as I had at Shut-in on November 1, 2008 and that generally I am just incapable of racing more than about two hours. The week before had been a little bit of an over-taper. I did not run Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. It was just one of those weeks with work and family where running was not happening. I went out Friday at about noon to Little River and ran the back half of the course with Sallie the wonder dog. I wondered, “Have I ever run before? Did I just wake up from a six-month hibernation? I think, no, I’m sure, the lower half of my body is in constant throbbing pain.” But a little hopefulness crept in, as I remembered sometimes this sort of terrible run filled with fear and self-loathing in the 24 hours before a race is the body’s way of conserving both physical and mental energy.

But I really should attend to the race. Oh what fun to go up and down the first hill without being in total kamikaze oxygen debt mode! The eight mile race, my only racing experience in these woods, is really a blur of dodging trees and trying not to land face first in a mud-bog pit. Instead, I was enjoying the morning, even taking in some views as we danced across the ridge. I was glad I had started miserably cold with no gloves and no warm hat for by the time we crested the first climb, the sun was doing its thing and it must have been nearly 50 degrees. By late morning it was pushing high 60s. I casually counted back places as we billy-goated our way up the first hill. I was in eighth. That will do for now as I have many miles to go. Over the next few miles, as we approached the first aid station, which though it seems a marathon away is probably not even five miles from the start, we stacked up single file and the banter began. I was almost at the back of the pack and I kept silent. I could see up ahead a few runners I recognized. I could hear the steady breathing of a few potential contenders on my heels. Up ahead, there was tall Tim who I had spoken to after Run at the Rock. Cid from Inside-Out was right in front of me. Keith, who I knew the best as we had raced last spring together at Owl’s Roost and Anne Springs Greenway and at the latter we had a nice time to get to know one another. Just these last two runners represented two of the top three finishers from last year’s 20 mile race, so I knew they meant business or else they would not have been back in Montgomery County on the first Saturday in February.

My race plan was pretty loose. In a perfect world I might have waited to break from this crowd of 8-10 runners until mile 14 or even later, trying to conserve and avoid a blow up. But things got to moving pretty snail like around mile six and I moved into second place in line (third place in the race) and hoped we might move things along a bit. I did not have a really great plan for what I was about to do, but it was probably motivated by one runner in the crowd who mentioned that he had run the 40 last year and gotten third. I thought to myself, I don’t want to wait around and play the stamina game with this crowd. Most of these folks are much better at long distances than I am, but maybe if I make a move they will forget about trying to race hard. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was probably just being my usual impatient self.

I also wanted to see who in this group really meant to start racing. I thought Cid would follow for sure, I didn’t know who else.

So I went through the eight mile aid station rather quickly and started to pull away. I wouldn’t call it a true surge, but a little pulse. I wanted to see who would shadow this move. I knew that whoever was still in sight as I glanced back in the next couple of miles had intentions as I did of getting on the so called podium. “We” like to call it that because it makes us feel like “we” are Olympians. I know it’s stupid, but I think it helps me run faster. Really what it means is slightly cooler pottery than the other pottery, which is also amazing and should be because just to finish this race is an outstanding accomplishment. I hope the new race directors read this and keep hiring Michael Mahan to provide the earthenware.

When a few folks caught up to me about 10 miles into the race, I didn’t freak out. I hoped they had used up a little too much energy in catching me, but by no means did I feel like I had to drop everyone then. In fact, if I got the right company maybe we could run under the delusional hope that we could reel in the leader. It seemed that somewhat seamlessly, there were only two of us after a bit. I don’t the distance of a “bit.” It is well, a “bit.”

Enter Wayne. He was on my heels and I suspected he was a little stronger than I was, but again no stress; we were still some 7-9 miles from finishing this little jaunt. Lots could happen. I think it was with Wayne that I secured third place. We shared some info, mutual friend in Haggis, and that Wayne was glad to be with a Trailhead and someone who knew the course. We zipped along and I think it was here, down along the river with its many crossings, that we separated considerably from 4th place on back.

We must have separated considerably, because at the big hill at mile 16 a pregnant full grown Kodiak hopped on for a ride. I asked if she would dismount and she would not oblige. Wayne went off on wings into the distance over the double horizon. If you ran the race, you know this hill and its double horizon. I thought to myself, oh something, I’ll be lucky to finish in the top ten. Oh great, here comes Shut-in where the next 30 finishers pass me with their pity—oh its love and concern, but its sounds like downright pitiful pity to the one who is bonking as you can hear in their voices, “I’m glad I’m not that guy.”

But I persevered and managed to finish third. I knew if I could just make it over the big hill that I could get my legs moving again on the down-hills and the flats. I know, you don’t remember any flats either. The term “flat” or “smooth terrain” has no place on this course. Instead, one assumes the role of Heidi or an extra in a Ricola commercial as he or she stumbles over boulders and roots before a descent which by now had even become depressing because the mind knows two things. We are about to cross that stupid stream again. And then, the real fun, where we get to go back up hill again. Yeah! More, More, Please!

It was a punishing quick-step to the finish. My left hip flexor pain had been present from near the start and it was spreading into my left hamstring and the bottom of my left quad. But it was just pain, no serious cramps. I kept moving--never really in the motion of walking because I knew I might not start to run again. As I slowly passed 40 mile racers they kept up words of encouragement. I wish I could have done the same, but I could not make any words. I dreamt of seeing the clearing that marks the power lines and 500 meters to go. From there I could make it, over the wooden bridge and then the wonderful sound of the cars buzzing on Highway 24. I trudged up the final incline, looking back over my shoulder and to my amazement there was no one in sight. I crossed the finish line and I felt as triumphant as if I had been the winner. Uwharrie Kim held me upright with a huge hug. Isn’t she just great?

From then on, it was all bliss. Watching my friends finish, basking in the sunlight and warmth of our best winter day yet, and nibbling and drinking as much as my stomach would allow.

Best part of the race: tiptoeing over that one log around mile 13 that most people went underneath. It was about five feet off the ground. I felt quite nimble, I must say. More importantly, it was just flat out fun. Probably not more than a thousand people on earth have a concept of what it means to break three hours at Uwharrie, yet probably more than a million, maybe five million, I don’t know, have a concept of what it means to do the same at New York, or Chicago, or Rotterdam. But none of those marathons allow the opportunity of seeing the banks of a river and a tree that has fallen across them as a balance beam.

Peace out,

*From Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jazz Tunes

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
Get Ringtones!

One last workout before Uwharrie

Weezyl and I hit the Ocho hard this afternoon. If you don't know what the Ocho is then we will show you sometime. It is a great course mapped out by a few of the Trailheads and it is approximately eight miles (hence the name Ocho and also a Dodgeball tribute as in ESPN Ocho). I've run the course a few times lately, and today was my last hard effort before the Uwharrie 20 in 12 days. Weez said it was his last workout too. I ran the course by myself very slowly once, and then met Weez at the start/finish at Unity Church.

We ran quickly in the cold rain. We took turns leading, and traded out the lead at opportune moments like the few times we hit fire roads. We are usually pretty chatty, but we kept our words to a minimum. We needed the extra oxygen flow for the selfishness of our lungs. We weren't in total oxygen debt, but we were never very far.

Here is a link to the technical aspects of the run as churned out and posted thanks to Weezyl's Garmin. Very cool. 2800 feet of elevation gain! That's pretty impressive for what I think of as a pretty flat track in Chapel Hill with an ounce of Carrboro.

I'm ready for the 20.
Weez is ready for the 40.
Uwharrie is the most fun we have all year.
Those ancient rocks nearly brings you to tears, no matter your preparation,
but it is so much fun you've just got to put it on the schedule for the first Saturday of every February from now until dust.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK's Seven Steps of Non-Violence

This morning I attended the 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast. We heard words and prayers from the Governor, a Muslim Minister, a Rabbi. We heard an introduction for the speaker by Thad Woodard, the President of the North Carolina Bankers Association. Mr. Woodard sponsored Durham Nativity School boys last year when Gen. Colin Powell spoke at the airport. Mr. Woodard also helps our rising 6th graders attend Camp Challenge in the summer before they begin studying at Durham Nativity School. Mr. Woodard told a story of segregation and health-care injustice when a black man, run over by a lawn mower and almost bleeding out from a leg injury was denied treatment at Rex Hospital in the early 1950s.

As the keynote speaker prepared to take the mic, my heart and mind were turned in the direction of economic justice. By Thursday, the 44th President will be long past the hurrah's of tomorrow's celebrations and will be knee deep in economic crisis, meeting with advisors to discuss plans and strategies. Will his new political role mean that the nations strategies cater only to the rich and the middle class, those who vote, and hold real political clout? I pray as each of you do that this President will be different than politics as usual--and I mean that both as a judgment on Democrats and Republicans of the past. Or will phrases like "Yes We Can," become living breathing embodied actions and the poor, the real poor, those who have no home and no job and no food, they will somehow have a voice. Who will speak for them? Will any of our strategies for returning to economic dominance include economic justice for those who go without food as my lunch digests? The appreciation on my home may be in the tank, but I am not going hungry.

Dr. Gregory Moss took the floor and I was ready to hear a sermon. His remarks were unsatisfying if one was really listening. They were unsatisfying not because they were poorly prepared or poorly delivered, in fact, I knew from my friend Dr. Steve Shoemaker who presided at my ordination last year that Dr. Moss was among the great ones. Instead, the pastor's remarks were unsatisfying because of the squirminess they invoked if the 1000 plus people gathered were really listening. He claimed that Violence and Poverty are in a direct relationship to one another. Reverend Moss claimed that to deny economic justice is to inflict violence. Now that is unsatisfying, because it means that I, a committed pacifist, am woven into the fabric of societal violence that denies economic justice to every brother and sister in my midst. I know this, ironically, because even now I am afforded the time and technology to type these words. I'm affluent and I must tell that truth and then turn and become a witness to sharing my resources with others.


I'll start today, by returning to the very tenants of Non-Violence laid out by Martin King.


1.Remain Calm and Gather Information:
In order to understand and articulate the issue or problem facing you, you must first research, investigate and gather vital information that will increase your understanding of the problem. Know all sides of the issue, including the other person's position.

2. Education:
It is essential to inform others about your issues. This minimizes misunderstandings, solidifies your resolve and gains you support and assistance.

3. Personal Commitment:
Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, in necessary, in your quest to solve the problem.

4. Negotiation:
Using grace, humor, intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for resolving these wrongs.
Nonviolent communication does not seek to humiliate, but to call forth the good in an opponent. Control emotional outbursts--they only compromise your strength and position.

5. Direct Action:
Used to morally force the opponent to work with you in resolving the injustices. Direct action imposes a "creative tension" into the conflict. Most people will change their behavior once they know that you are aware and determined to make things right.

6. Reconciliation:
Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent, but to seek his/her understanding. It is directed against evil systems, policies and acts, not against persons.

7. Final Preparation:
Prepare yourself to live each day using techniques of nonviolence. If ill will or physical harm confronts you, protect yourself, vacate the premises, but refrain from initiating harsh or threatening language or violent reactions. Promptly report unprovoked attacks to your parents, teachers and law enforcement authorities.
Stay Calm!

If you live in the Triangle, get to know the source of this annual celebration for Dr. King, If you think this is just a weekend for people of color, come out next year, and see if you still think so.