Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Very Model of a Modern Music Syllabus

Remember the Modern Major General from Pirates of Penzance?

And now, thanks to Nancy, here's one of the best takes on that I've ever seen:

I clearly remember dropping a college class or two with that kind of syllabus!

Integrity, Part V: A Viet Nam Story for the West Point Cadets

At the end of his speech to the West Point cadets, Elder Holland told this story that happened to a friend of his, a story about how to keep going to do what you know is right, even when it’s very hard. 

What or whom do you look to for help when it's hard to do what you need to be doing?

“In November 1966, I had been in the combat zone of Vietnam for nearly ten months. I was an infantry platoon leader. I had experienced much of the perils, the trials, the moment-to-moment anxiety of combat. Our battalion had just returned to our base camp for some ‘R and R’. after several weeks in the jungles and rice paddies. It was a Saturday night. Having taken our first showers in a very long time, we were sitting around on our bunks cleaning our rifles and listening to music on the Armed Forces Radio Network.

"Suddenly, an urgent message crackled over our battalion radio network. A sister battalion in our brigade—still in the jungle—was being overrun by a much larger enemy force. We were needed. We had to go, right then, to the rescue.
“It is very hard to adequately describe the icy feelings that clutched at my heart in that moment.

“How I would have liked more time, to rest, to prepare. But there was no time. I only could grab my helmet, my rifle, give some terse orders to my men and move out. But one thing I could do was to utter a silent prayer in my heart. And as I did, there came to my mind—literally—a ‘still, small voice.’ The voice repeated the words to a passage of scripture that I had memorized as a missionary. Words that have become my very favorite in all scripture: ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy paths’ (Proverbs 3:5–6). As those words came to mind, peace filled my heart. The foreboding retreated.

“. . . We remained in the jungle on that operation for many weeks following that night-time SOS message. Finally, it was the very last day of the operation. I was riding in an armored personnel carrier through a lightly forested area of jungle. Suddenly, an enormous explosion beneath the vehicle literally lifted it off the ground.  Enemy soldiers nearby had detonated a huge landmine. The engine was blown out. The tracks and all the road wheels were blown off. Everyone inside, including me, was wounded. But no one died.
“And in that moment, there again came to my mind that same still voice and that some passage of scripture. 

‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy paths.’”
Elder Holland concluded:
"In that spirit I say what One said whose path surely was divinely directed. Said Jesus of Nazareth:

“'These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world'” (John 16:33).

“'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid'” (John 14:27).

"On a day of prayer I pray that God will bless you always, in the name of Him who was the personification of integrity and who declared peace and good cheer to us all, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Integrity, Part IV: What Happened to Ling?

Now, let’s go back to Ling. Think of what he did.
Ling put his empty pot on the floor amidst beautiful plants and flowers of all shapes and sizes. When the emperor arrived, Ling tried to hide in the back of the room. But the emperor spotted Ling—empty pot and all. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front, where the leader said, “Behold your new emperor!”
To a now very quiet audience, the older man said, “One year ago today I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which would not grow. Yet all of you, except one, have brought me magnificent trees and plants and flowers. 

"Obviously, when you found that the seed I gave you would not grow, you substituted another. Apparently only one young man among you had the integrity to abide by the rules I gave you. I can trust him to take my place and lead my people.”
So now let’s think of ourselves and how we can have this integrity. 
Besides looking up to heroes, which I do all the time, it helps to look for the truth, be ready to examine myself to see how I'm doing. I think of a fisherman checking his nets every day and repairing them where they’re torn.  For our lives, the repair process is called repentance. 

Don’t be discouraged. Everyone has weaknesses. Think of what God said to Moroni: “Because thou hast seen thy weaknessthou shalt be made strong." (verse 27).

But wishing for strength won’t make us strong. Ittakes faith (see all of Ether 12) and hard work to build integrity. As my trainer Derek says, "Get rid of that wishbone and get some backbone!"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Another Hero: Andre Kajlich

Since I started last month preparing for the upcoming Aluminum Man Triathlon, I've been gathering information to help me as a swimmer and runner, which are the sports I've been adding to the cycling I started doing in January.

In the Camas Public Library yesterday I found the most inspiring story I've read or heard in a long time in the August 2013 issue of "Runner's World":

"Andre Kajlich Is Tougher Than You (He Might Be Happier, Too," the story of a man who after losing both legs  has gone on to become the USA Paratriathlete of the Year.

Here's a video of Andre talking about his accident and what he's done about it and what he's doing now. There are other great videos of Andre on YouTube, too, inspiring teenagers who have had limbs amputated, preparing for the 2014 Olympics in Brazil, and so on.

I like how he says, toward the end of the clip, "I don't allow myself to give up...I just went for it. You're always saying, you know, 'Tomorrow,' or 'Tonight,' or whatever, but just commit. Give yourself a goal and promise yourself that you're going to go through everything that you think it takes to get there."

These quotes from the "Runner's World" article are also inspiring:

I don’t spend much time thinking about the things I can’t do, but there are a few things that I miss. I can’t feel the grass under my feet.

There was a time in the hospital when I wondered if I could ever be happy again, but this sure as hell feels like the best living I’ve experienced, so I want to keep going, just keep seeking what’s around that next corner. Probably there’s some overcompensating going on.

I’m not afraid to sign up for something new and run with it.

I get to run all the time in my dreams.  It has taken the place of flying, which I dreamed about when I was younger. But my legs are never just like they were. Either I’m running on prosthetics or there’s some kind of issue with my legs, but I always run really well.

We above-the-knee guys call below-the-knee guys “Paper Cuts.” I think military guys invented that joke.

I don’t have a TV because it’s good at one thing: getting you to hang around and stare at it. I hate it for that. At my mom’s house, I’m like a moth to a zapper.

Drinking isn’t worth it. Surprisingly, I didn’t get this into my head until recently, a long time after the accident.

I quit after I got wasted on a boat and woke up not knowing what had happened. My legs were hidden in a closet and I was scared that I had jumped off the boat or something. I went off the handle —I blacked out—and was completely out of control in front of a bunch of people I really respected. It was the first time that ever happened. Once was enough.

If you have even a slightly problematic relationship with alcohol, there are better ways to make memories.

I still live like a moron all too often, as if I was blissfully ignorant of my narrow escape. I can still muster up a pretty good chill down my spine if I try to figure out how I actually survived that one.

There’s something about transitioning from dreaming to doing that forces you to let go of the dream.

Integrity, Part III: The Foundation of Character

From a talk given by Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy: "Integrity is the foundation of our character and all other virtues."

So I think of a foundation: It has to be deep and strong if it’s going to support a strong structure. I think of the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple. 
"In 1853 the Saints commenced the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. For the better part of two long, hard years the Saints dug the excavations and laid the foundation: over 8 feet deep, made of sandstone. One day the foreman came to President Brigham Young with this devastating news: there were cracks in the blocks of sandstone. Brigham Young was faced with this dilemma: (1) do the best they could to patch up the cracks and build a temple of much less weight and grandeur than anticipated or (2) rip out two years of work and replace it with a granite foundation that could support the magnificent temple God envisioned for them. Fortunately, President Young chose the latter course."
If you have integrity, you tell the truth, the whole truth, all the time --- and you don’t make up excuses. So I think of Joseph Smith, who when he was 14 years old wanted to know the truth, and when he told people he had prayed and had received a vision and an answer from God, they rejected him. Even people he thought he could trust, even some ministers, made fun of him. But he kept to the truth he knew.
"This tells us he was not perfect, but it also tells us he had nothing to hide---he was a man of integrity. What does this do for his credibility when he tells the story of the First Vision or the account of Moroni's visitations? It tells us that we can trust him, that we can believe his every word because he is, indeed, a man of integrity."
Integrity means doing what is right even if you’re afraid other people will make fun of you, or you may make them late or something. 

After reading this article in the April 2013 Ensign, I think of the pilot who had a feeling there was something wrong with his plane. Pilots get to know their aircraft, and even when they can’t see what the problem is, they can tell there is one. So he wondered, “Should I take off and get the passengers to their destination on time, or should I return to the gate?” 
“I knew returning would create a long delay. Taxiway runs are one way; I would have to wait for ground control to create a space for me to taxi against the traffic flow. Then we would have to wait for the maintenance crew to check out the plane. The delays could cause problems for the airline and for the passengers who had people to meet and connections to make. I also wondered how the maintenance department would react to my report that the plane had a problem when I had nothing to go on except a strong feeling.
“As captain of the aircraft, I was responsible for our safety, so I decided to follow my impression and return.
“The mechanic didn’t think there was anything wrong, but he looked at the steering mechanism, anyway, and then he took the plane for a test run. When he landed it, he almost lost control of the plane.

“A close inspection revealed that the brakes had undergone improper maintenance the previous evening. Had I landed the plane after our flight, the brakes would have failed, and I would have lost control of the plane.
“I received another aircraft to pilot, and I safely delivered my passengers to their destination three hours late."
 If you have integrity, you do what’s right, even if nobody else is there to see what you’re doing. Elder Callister mentioned a talk by Elder Marion D. Hanks in which he told of the man and his small son who “stopped at an isolated cornfield on a remote country road” and eyed the delicious corn beyond the fence. The father, after looking in front of him, behind him, to the left of him, and to the right of him, “started to climb the fence” to take some ears of corn. His son looked at him and said reproachfully, “Dad, you forgot to look up.”

Next: What Happened to Ling?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Integrity, Part II: Why Some People Are Our Heroes

Before I go on with the story of Ling and the Emperor, I want to tell you about some of my heroes. 

One of my heroes is my grandmother, Marian Charlotte Hurley, who when she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Australia, lost all her friends. Her fiance said he wouldn’t marry her unless she renounced the church, and when she wouldn’t do that, he dumped her. In the Protestant church where she was a Sunday school teacher, the minister told her to never come back and advised the other members of the congregation not to speak to her any more. She wrote in her journal how hurt she was. But she had the integrity, the courage to stay true, to choose the right. 

Another hero of mine, as I've mentioned a couple of times in my Sunday school class, is Heber C. Kimball. This movie shows one reason why:

Integrity is sticking to your principles even in the face of opposition from people with authority over you.  My heroes include Daniel and his friends Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), and Abednego (Azariah), in the Old Testament. As young men taken to the court of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, they were expected to eat the food and drink the wine served to the king and his courtiers. From the New International Version (NIV) translation of the first chapter of Daniel in the Bible:

     But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.  Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel,  but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

     Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,  “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

     At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

     At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.  The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.  In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
Later, Daniel and his friends defied the orders of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius to worship them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3) but God sent an angel to protect them, and the king himself said, "“Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:28). 

Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, but he was also saved, and King Darius actually fasted and prayed for Daniel to survive: 
So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Integrity is the courage to do right and to fight for what is right. 

Captain Moroni is another one of my heroes. When he realized that his people needed to be gathered together to fight against crime and corruption in their government, he tore off a piece of his coat and made a flag out of it, and wrote on it: 

"In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”

He called this the Title of Liberty, and he put it on a pole and went throughout the kingdom gathering people to fight with him. 

Another hero has just been recognized by President Obama: This is Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter, who received the Medal of Honor for his courage in rescuing and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers at Combat Outpost Keating in the battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan in 2009. 

Sgt. Carter continued, after his service in Afghanistan, to to be a hero. In awarding the medal, President Obama said, "Ty has spoken openly, with honesty and extraordinary eloquence, about his struggle with post-traumatic stress--the flashbacks, the nightmares, the anxiety, the heartache that makes it sometimes almost impossible to get through a day."

He added, "Let me say it as clearly as I can to any of our troops or veterans who are watching and struggling. Look at this man. Look at this soldier. Look at this warrior. He's as tough as they come, and if he can find the courage and the strength to not only seek help but also to speak out about it, to take care of himself and to stay strong, then so can you."

And this is why Sgt. Carter is my hero, and all these people are my heroes: They represent the strength and courage and integrity and commitment that I must work to have for myself and my own family. They are examples, bright shining lights, that I can follow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Integrity, Part I: Ling and the Emperor

In a speech on integrity that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave to the cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2010, he told  this story, which his mother read to him when he was a little boy:
A storybook emperor called all the young people in his kingdom together one day. He said, “It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. It will be one of you. In making that selection, I am going to give each one of you a seed today. Come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed.”

A young boy named Ling was in the crowd of children. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil. He planted the seed given him. Every day he watered it and watched to see if it had grown.

After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his pot, but nothing ever grew in it.

Eventually all the others were talking about their plants. Ling was apparently the only failure. Everyone else spoke of small trees and tall plants, but he had nothing.

Finally a year went by, and all the youths brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, report how hard he had tried, and be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

I’ll tell the rest of this story later. (Or you can read it where I found it online.) 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Watching the Game

Who do you watch the Redskins game with? If you're at home, maybe with Pooper and Stinker.

Why do they have those names? Two guesses.

But which one is which?

Pooper is the white one, whose legal name (the one on his microchip) is Castle McNaughty. He was rescued by Aishah after Animal Control picked him from the street.

Stinker is the brown one, whose legal name is Dublin McFightin. He's also a rescue dog who supposedly was called "Chewie" but who has never answered to that name. Again, Aishah saved him from being euthanized by Animal Control.

(Jared is the Redskins fan. I had to ask who won the game. Hello! The Redskins won.)

Jared told me, "We spent two hours picking fleas and ticks off his skin and cutting away clumps of knotted fur, and I don't know much about dogs, but there were these two lumps, looked like embedded insects of some sort, and I couldn't get them out without cutting into the poor dog... and I didn't want to do that. Well, turns out those were just nipples. 

"Anyway, he was very patient, just leaned his head back and put up with the grooming and the washing, didn't fight or resist or even struggle through some obviously painful moments, he was a real trouper, but he spent that night shaking, not knowing where he was or what was happening to him, and I spent some time with him, bonding...I call him Stinker because he's had three baths now and he still stinks. 

"So it's Pooper and Stinker. They're very competitive and they fight over toys and attention, but Stinker thinks it's his job to teach Pooper to not play with me in an aggressive manner, and that's how most fights break out - Pooper bares his fangs at me, playfully as always, and then Stinker jumps on him. 

"So that's where we're at with these two, probably going to keep Stinker, who follows me around and puts his arm over mine when he sits next to me. Pooper is jealous, he's adjusting like a spoiled child to not being the only one and getting all the attention, but we're making sure he gets time and attention, and we hold Stinker during some play time with Pooper so he won't jump on Pooper and keep him from playing aggressively, because it's just play fighting, what Pooper and I do. 

" Stinker is very obedient, he doesn't play fight with me and he doesn't like it when Pooper does it. Me, I just wish Stinker didn't stink. We're still going to have to figure something out with that."

Monday, August 19, 2013

More Training: Aluminum Man

After the Huntsman 140, after the (apparently inevitable and should-have-been-expected) let-down feeling, I knew I had to set a new training goal, so, with suggestions from Jeff and Derek, I decided to train for a triathlon.

It would have been ideal for my first triathlon to be one of those designed specifically for beginners, but the ones within 3 hours driving distance had already taken place, so I settled for the sprint distance at the Aluminum Man Triathlon in The Dalles, Oregon, on Sept. 7.

Of course I'd been continuing spin classes and riding on the road with Jeff on Saturdays. I'd even done some jogging, and I'd already been swimming regularly at the gym. But my swimming and jogging still need a lot of work. So I've been doubling down on those while continuing with the cycling.

Mike, one of the regulars in Derek's 5:30 am spin classes and an experienced triathlete, really encouraged me about the triathlon. He's done this one three times, and he said, "It's awesome. The swim isn't in the main channel of the river, but protected, and you won't be swimming upstream much." He said the bike course is actually almost 14 miles instead of the 12 it's listed as, but it's through a series of easy hills through beautiful countryside. And he said the run is flat and easy.

He said, "You'll finish it and say, 'Was that all? What was I so worried about!'" And I really, really, really needed to hear that, having been told by a mean little man I sometimes see in the gym that I shouldn't even attempt it because it was so difficult.

I told Mike I would be asking him for more of the same reassurances every time I see him between now and Sept. 7.  (Fortunately for him, I haven't kept to that, but I will be looking to him for the same kind of support at least once or twice between now and that day.)

So, what I'm doing to train for this triathlon:

---Spin classes 3 or 4 times each week, pushing myself harder than I have in the past

---Training with Derek once each week, especially working on "bricking," cycling then running, endurance and speed, and transitions

---Riding with Jeff on weekends, usually on the Banks to Vernonia Trail

---Swimming 500 meters in the pool 2 or 3 times each week, and I'll do this more often starting this week, working on speed

---Swimming in the river---Once so far, and at least twice a week between now and the 7th

---Jogging on the Lacamas Lake trail, 2 or 3 times each week, working on distance and speed

On Saturday, Jeff drove with me to The Dalles so we could get a feel for the cycling and running portions of the triathlon. We rode the bike route together and then I jog-walked the running route. I didn't go into the water because the map didn't show where the swim would actually take place, and I think I'll be able to get just as much and just as good experience on our side of the river.

Mike was right on about the run portion, the bike route, and how beautiful it was riding through the hills around The Dalles. So I'm counting on his being right about the rest of it, and doing everything I can to get ready to succeed. Since it's my first triathlon, my goal is simply to finish, not competing against anyone, not worrying about how long it may take.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Making Decisions, Not Based on Fear

James Clear has done it again with a post that expands on what I wrote months ago about this idea Derek talked to me about: F.E.A.R. (False Expectations Appearing Real).

Here's part of what James wrote: "5 Thoughts on Overcoming Fear and Self–Doubt":

1. Don’t pick goals where the stakes are low.
2. Nobody is rooting for you to fail.
3. Just because you don’t like where you have to start from doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get started.
4. Stop making uncertain things, certain.
5. The only real failure is not taking any action in the first place.

But read the whole post yourself, to get the whole idea. I've read it twice now and am going to read it over and over again until it sinks in.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Huntsman 140 (Again)

I just got an email message from the people at the Huntsman 140 with links to photos and videos from the 2013 Huntsman 140 bike ride, which helped me realize that I might be ready finally to write about this experience.

One of the videos is this one, which Laura put together.  I got a little teary-eyed again when I watched it just now.  Riding with Neva and Laura for those many miles was one of the great experiences of my life.

When we decided to try to ride the whole course, from Delta to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, we knew it would be hard: Laura had sustained an injury a few weeks before the ride and was scheduled to perform in a physically demanding dance recital the following weekend. I'd barely started taking spin classes at my local gym in January and hadn't ridden a real road bike on the road until just over two months before. And Neva had recovered from cancer a year earlier.

But, we reasoned:

Why would you do anything if you weren't going to try your hardest to do your best?

And, we knew:

If you don't even try to for your highest goal, then you certainly aren't going to make it.

Training for the Huntsman 140 was another one of the great experiences of my life. I discovered my trainer Derek when he was subbing for the teacher of the third spin class I'd ever taken. It was the first of those three spin classes where I felt like I was challenged and at the same time capable. I didn't know anything about him---certainly didn't know he was also a trainer and had no idea that he had trained many other people for races and bike rides and triathlons---but I went up to him after the class and told him I needed to get ready to ride 140 miles on a bike in the Utah desert in June. I asked him, "Do you think I can do it?"  He said, "Yes, you can."

And then he helped me do it. I took his spin classes at 5:30 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I trained with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays, took his killer boot camp classes once or twice a week, and worked out on my own. And on the day of the ride, he and his wife Christie texted back and forth with me to encourage me every bit of the way.

Also, I rode my bike in progressively longer and harder bike rides in May and June: Ride Around Clark County, the Banks-to-Vernonia trail, Reach the Beach, and the Pioneer Century. And Neva drove down to Utah from Wyoming one Saturday with a bike, helmet, and shoes for me, to take me on a fun and wild and crazy ride east of Salt Lake City.*

Okay, as you see in Laura's video, we didn't actually ride our bikes the full 140 miles. We chose to let ourselves be "sagged forward" 30 miles from the Elberta station to the lunch station, so our total mileage was something like 110. (Here's the map of the course.) We could have ridden those 30 ugly miles, finishing much later than we did, but we wanted to obey the rules, which said if you weren't at the lunch station by 12:30, you had to be sagged forward. And we could see the reason for all the rules of that ride: safety for us, our friends and supporters, and everyone else on the roads.

I have still not gotten over the disappointment of being sagged forward and not finishing the whole 140 miles. Yeah, I know it had to be done that way, and I know that riding from 4,500 to 6,500 feet in elevation after training at 400 to 600 feet didn't help. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know all that, and I really appreciate everyone who keeps reassuring me that it's okay. But.

But. Okay. I'm dealing with it. Life goes on, and lessons keep popping up for me. I'm training now for my first-ever triathlon, which I'll do with Cory; and I'll be joining Ride Around the Sound with Megan. Jeff finally got a decent bike for himself, and we're riding together whenever we can. I'm stronger and healthier than I've been in years. I'm motivated to accomplish other goals and start new projects.

*Oh, and here's what that asterisk is about: Neva and Laura, first. I told them while we were setting our lofty goals that I didn't want one of us to slow the others down and I would feel horrible if they felt they had to wait for me, keeping them from accomplishing their goals. But they stopped repeatedly to wait for me, until finally at the end when I begged them to keep going, so they did.

*Next, all the extended family: Ellen rode along next to us almost the whole way taking pictures. Jim and most of Jim and Ellen's kids helped at checkpoints, as did most of Neva's kids. Don and Cassie took Gabriel and Micah and Liliana to follow us and cheer us on. Nieces and nephews drove alongside us and waited for us at every rest stop and at other places, like that hill going into Eureka and like that intersection of Parkway and Foothill in SLC where I pushed so hard to make it through before cars started coming the other way that I had to stop on the other side to catch my breath.

Best for last: Jeff supported and encouraged me from the very beginning of my training, while I got up at 4:30 in the morning three days a week, rode long distances on Saturdays, came home exhausted from boot camp and training sessions, and then went to Utah for the big day. And all my children donated money to help me get up to the $500 required and emailed and texted and called to help keep me going.

After the ride, Don and Cassie invited us all over to their home, which they'd barely settled into, for dinner and cake and homemade ice cream (with hand-picked raspberries!). We all got to know each other again after many years of living on opposite sides of the country and globe.

It would take pages and pages to write down the good things that happened because of the 2013 Huntsman 140, which I'm doing in my own journal (not here, so don't worry). But among those good things are these lessons I learned: Keep looking for ways to improve yourself, let yourself change, let people help you, try your hardest, and then, even if you're disappointed, go on and prepare for the next challenge.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mental Toughness and the "Marathon Monks"

Thanks, Laura, for your comment reminding me of this interesting and motivating post by James Clear.

To everyone, if you don't have time to follow the link and read the whole article, here are a few highlights:

     "The Tendai monks believe that enlightenment can be achieved during your current life, but only through extreme self–denial.
     "For the Tendai, the ultimate act of self–denial — and the route to enlightenment — is a physical challenge known as the Kaihogyo. Because of this challenge, the Tendai are often called the “Marathon Monks.”

Then James lists the requirements for these monks, which are daunting. Best of all, though, he discusses what he has learned from their story:

     ---Either something is important enough to you to complete, or it’s time to kill it. Fill your life with goals that are worth finishing and eliminate the rest.

     ---If you commit to nothing, you’re distracted by everything.

     ---It doesn't matter how long it will take you to accomplish your goal. Just get started.

In case you're wondering if this is one of those stories that somebody made up or changed or whatever, here's the link to the PBS story about the monks.  From that story:

     "One lesson of the Kaihogyo is that in order to help others, you have to first train yourself. Rhodes says that dividing the Kaihogyo's 1,000 days into 700- and 300-day phases is a way to determine how much time to devote to cultivating yourself and how much to spend to helping others. He says the 70-30 split is based on the different stages of becoming a Buddha — of which there are 10.
     "'The first seven are working for your own benefit, cultivating your own mental attitudes,' Rhodes explains.
     "'And from the seventh, eighth and ninth stages, you're not only working for yourself, but you're working for everyone else as well.'"

But just go ahead and read the article by James Clear!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Having a Sense of Purpose

I've started reading James Clear's posts  and receiving his email messages, and I'm learning a lot from him.

One thing I love is that he doesn't just ramble on about some interesting point or another, but he always points out ways you can apply useful principles to help you with your own life.

Today I read "Live Longer: What You Can Learn from Elite Athletes and Why the Japanese Never Die."

If you don't want to follow that link, here are a few highlights.

    I played baseball for 17 years. I had incredible teammates. I spent thousands of hours practicing and training. And after my senior season, I was named an ESPN Academic All–American. (Press release here.)
     It’s safe to say that being a baseball player was an important part of my identity. It gave me a sense of purpose.
     And then, one day, I graduated and my career was over.
     As soon as I finished playing, I felt lost....
     When you’re an athlete, you wake up with a sense of purpose each morning. You know what you’re working toward (a championship), you know who you’re working for (your teammates), you know why you’re training so hard (to become your best).
     I didn’t know it at the time, but having a sense of purpose — like the one I had from baseball — is critical for feeling fulfilled, happy, and healthy. As human beings we need something to direct our attention toward and something to set our sights on....People who [have] a strong sense of purpose in their lives [live] longer than those who [don’t] have a clearly defined purpose. Moreover, people who [wake] up each morning with clear goals for their life not only live longer, they also live better than their peers (higher quality of life).

How to apply this to your life? Instead of wanting to do something, and thinking about how much you want to do it, and having the best of intentions, James reminds us that purpose comes with practice.

     "Most people think they need a better plan or more resources or more experience or better advice, but really what they need is to commit to a schedule and practice. Passion, purpose, and mastery aren’t the result of inconsistent effort.
     "Pick something that seems fun or useful and start working on it. Choosing something and moving forward is more important than choosing the right thing. You can always practice something else later if this doesn’t work out.
     "Too often, we wait until we find the “right thing,” which means we end up finding nothing. Purpose comes with practice."

But read the whole article, and then start practicing! That's what I'm doing, anyway.