Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fountain of Youth Found

This past weekend they had the first official opening of the lake jump at the Griffen Bike Park.  It was also just a couple of days before my 58th birthday so I was thinking birthday present to self.  However, the day was one of endless rain showers so I pretty much talked myself out of it.  Just then I got a text from Mike telling me he was getting ready to go.  Well, can’t say no to that so to the park we went.

You would think a group of hard-core mountain bikers would be in line for the jump, but not so much.  It was kids, early twenty somethings, and a couple of middle age types with life jackets on and in line for the jump.  Lots of people there to watch as well.  Mike and I both surveyed the jump, watched a few other brave souls go before we got a life jacket, and got the courage up to join in.  They had bikes strapped with “noodle floats” attached so you just had to fetch the next one out of the lake and get in line.

videoI walked the bike up the hill and asked the first guy I saw what the trick was to making the jump without doing anything horrible to oneself.  His answer was to just relax, keep the knees and arms bent and just push the bike away at the top of the ascent. 

Now inline I see a kid maybe 12 years old behind me.  Asked him if he had ever done this, his answer was a flat no.  Told him me neither. At this point I and the 12 year old were clearly equals.  Feeling every bit like a 12 year old rookie I have to admit I was nervous.  No other cycling experience I’ve had prepared me for this.  Soon I received the go ahead to proceed down the hill toward the ramp.  Keep saying to myself on the way down I can’t believe I’m doing this …

Well I hit the ramp at decent speed, went up the ramp and proceeded to get maybe 15 feet into the air before pushing the bike down and flying over the top of it and into the water.  Wow, that was actually not the terrifying ordeal I thought it might be.  It was actually really fun. 

Concerned you’re growing old, well if you want to be 12 again, I know just the place.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Your Value as a Human Being

Your Value as a Human Being

Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

The Body

We indeed are made of the common earth elements (the dust of the Earth):

65% Oxygen
18% Carbon
10% Hydrogen
3% Nitrogen
1.5% Calcium
1% Phosphorous
0.35% Potassium
0.25% Sulfur
0.15% Sodium
0.15% Chlorine
0.05% Magnesium
0.0004% Iron
0.00004% Iodine

Total worth about $4.50

The Mind

Yet on closer examination just looking at the human brain which contains 100 billion neurons, each with about 10,000 synapses.  It has been estimated that the brain of a three-year-old child has about 1 quadrillion synapses.  

In fact if you considered all complexity within multiple, interconnected systems that are within your makeup, you are beyond imagination.

God turned common dust into the most complex system on earth.  

The Spirit

The spirit/conscience/soul within you which came from the very essence of God as mentioned in Genesis 2:7 is then of eternal value.  

The Bottom Line

If you are concerned about your self-worth, you shouldn’t be.  You are worth more than you can possibly imagine.  God may have started you from the dust of the Earth, but he form you into something that has incredible, and eternal value. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Being Gracious in Defeat

Going into the 31st annual Terre Haute Triathlon I had a single goal of winning my age-group (55-59).  Bottom line, I didn’t win it, or get second, but got a close 3rd.  I’ve had plenty of experience in regional and national level events to know I’m by no means an elite triathlete.  So you would think I would take 3rd place easily.  Ah, not so.  In a lot of ways I felt like all was lost.  Why?  I guess I haven’t defeated the pride issue just yet.

Had the good opportunity to talk with the Robert Smrekar who did win my age group just after the race.  Seemed like a really nice guy, and if I had to lose it didn’t seem so bad to lose to him.  Yet the next day I was thinking about how to go just that much faster to not let it happen again.  I’m still debating in my mind if that is a good thing or not.

As a person who doesn’t like to sit still, loves a challenge, and exercise this sport was made for me.  I’m not a talented swimmer, but have a reasonable amount of talent for cycling and running.  That combined I’ve spent 27 years competing in these crazy events.  It is a really good feeling to be fit to go out and race.  That enough is a reason to stay with it.  Yet the down side it thinking you are somehow more elite than the next guy. 

The take away, it’s good to be humble and enjoy the fine company of fellow triathletes.  Lots of nice people in this sport.  Also, good to be gracious in defeat even if you are plotting and scheming to win the next time …

Monday, March 21, 2016

ISU Visits the Country of Panama

A group of  16 students and 2 chaperons from ISU spent a week in Panama as an Alternative Spring Break (ASB).  ASB offers students a chance to spend spring break doing service projects.  

What follows is more notes from the trip rather than a story, but if your curious about Panama, or an Alternative Spring Break trip you might find it interesting:

We stayed in a guest house in Paraiso owned by a nonprofit Christian organization.  They work with SCORE Missions all the time.  Had a nice upstairs we stayed at with bunk beds on each end, and a common area in the middle.  Food was served downstairs just below I another common area with a kitchen.  Another group from a church was there, but maybe 8 or so.

David, Mariaanella Bueno, and their boys Danny and Ezekiel were out hosts/tour guides for the trip.  Both from Uruguay, and had worked there with SCORE for around 6 years.  David was a professional soccer player before becoming a missionary with SCORE.  

Roomed with Tyler with just a 1 bunk room.  Girls stayed in separate rooms down the hall or the other side of the living room.

Day 1: After we arrived in Panama we went to Gamboa village to teach English.  Got to buy a wood hand carved toucan from the village.  Very nice people and the kids loved to play.  This was in the afternoon on the day we arrived.  BTW got to see a black and neon yellow colored toucan fly by the house in the morning.

Day 2: Panama Canal boat ride to Monkey Island.  Followed a container ship out, and plenty to be seen.  Saw several going through the canal.  Got to feed a monkey out of my hand.  Heard Howler monkeys in another area close by.  Popular tourist thing.  Monkeys were wild and came when they wanted to.  Very gentle. Then back to Gamboa to paint bathrooms.  Directly off the Panama Canal.  Super-hot and thirst.  Will bring water with me from now on.      Bought a skirt for Sherrie like the women wear.  In the afternoon we went in to the old part of the city and did some tourist type stuff and shopping.  Highlight was a Freeza (strawberry) smoothie in a nice place.

Day 3: Las Margeritas to build benches, dig drainage ditch, play with kids, and give away stuff.  They fed us a rice dish with tomato and cucumber.  Poor village out a good ways, but not tribal.  Kind of like a vacation bible school.  Hot and sweaty but good work.

Day 4: Tobago Island.  45 minute boat ride from Panama City.  Island was very scenic but the beach was kind of dirty.  Charged for everything.  Not the way to do things.  Got in some good swimming, hiked the mountain with Tyler, Emily, Marylyn.  Super-hot and dry.  Good views.  Most got a good sunburn here since we were there for most of the day.  All kinds of container ships out in the gulf here.

Day 5: Chagres River to Waterfall, food give away, tribal dance and story:

Tribes in the river areas are much the same, with wooden boats with outboard motors and not much in the way of clothes, live on fish and plantains.  Some are Christian, but many are not.  Very interesting and welcoming people.  The crafts they sell are priced on 1 dollar per days’ work, so 25 item took 25 days to make.  They served fish they caught and plantains.  Played around I the waterfall and had a nice talk with David.  Bought some metal bands and fabric bands.  The guys from the tribe wore large silver bands. Some kids got temporary tattoos.  A standard tribal thing.  $3-10 dollars.

Day 6: Mountain school to teach English and give away stuff.  Feed us breakfast like the kids, strawberry, pineapple drink and corn roll fried with some hotdog slices. Play baseball and freebie.  Worked with elementary, middle school then high school last.  Did a song with the elementary kids. Played baseball with middle school Played dodgeball last.  Met two ladies working with the Peace Core here.  One was a 2014 grad from IU.  Other was from North Carolina.  They signed up for 27 mouths. Lunch was a rice dish with coleslaw and a bit of tuna mixed in.  Lots of laughs with the kids on the bus this day.  They taught me more Spanish than I taught them English.

Side notes:
Learning to play Kemps (card game) was really fun.
David and Mariaanella Bueno are the best!
ASB students rock!
Panama Canal was a 10 minute walk away.
Got to run twice down to the soccer field and back.  3 miles trashed me with the humidity.
Nice to have meals with the people from Panama that we served.  
Also some physical labor on this trip was good to do. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Beach, My Mother In-Law and Smokey the Cat

So we decide to go on vacation to the beach with my wife’s family including my mother in-law who doesn’t like the beach.  One particularly beautiful beach day my mother in-law decided she wants everyone to go shop for antiques.  I don’t like antiques.  I’m told me I need to leave the beach right this minute and go spend it in at the antique shop a two hour drive away.

Walk into the large antique shop just livid that I’m missing my swim and spending it here.  I lean up against a table, knock over an oil lamp and accidentally set the store on fire.  The place is full of smoke and everyone runs out.  They had a sleeping cat appropriately named Smokey that comes running out last with his hair half singed off.  

Picture of the cat goes viral.

Needless to say a lawsuit ensued and sure enough I go before a judge name Judy, same name as my mother in-law.  The judge, also a cat lover, sees Smokey with half his hair singed off and was equally livid.  I get one year hard labor, and it takes every dime I have to pay the damages for the antique shop.  The judge orders my gold filling removed in order to pay for the hair restoration for Smokey.

I end up in a prison busting rocks and got sore teeth from the fillings removal.  All they have for dinner is grisly pork chops.  After sucking on these pork chops for nearly a year I’m down to 99 pounds.  Wife asks for a divorce.  On the day I’m released from prison a black cat walks across my path and I nearly go into a tail spin. 

Just then I woke up in a cold sweat, shaking like a leaf.   My wife later asked me about going to the beach this summer with her family.  No mam I say, not unless you want to turn me into a pork chop sucking, divorced man with a serious weight problem.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Privilege and the Caribbean Supermarket

On the last day of a medical team trip to Mountain Top Ministries in Haiti we had the privilege of visiting a school they built near the village of Dumay.  The school itself stood out with its modern structure and brightly colored paint.  Yet it sits on the edge of a large industrial gravel pit with a serious dust problem back in the village.  Just a foot out the door of the van we were greeted by a swarm of preschoolers.  Want to feel like a rock star, come for a visit.  If only I was this popular in high school.  

The work being done here is nothing short of amazing.  These people have zero creature comforts, little to eat and numerous other problems, yet hope and joy was abundant.  Mountain Top Ministries is doing a serious good work here.

After a good 30 minutes of hugging kids we finally were freed up as the kids returned to class.  We then got the tour of the complete facility.  Several co-workers from the ISU Library, and members from our church collected some funds in advance for the library they recently finished here.  Another great privilege was meeting the two girls my sister Sandy sponsors.  You may not always get to see the investment you make here, but believe me, it feels really good to see it.

Before reloading into the van we all felt a sense of encouragement.  Just driving here had just the opposite effect so all was well with my soul as we headed back toward the mission house.

We stopped for lunch at the Caribbean Supermarket SA in Petionville.  In the states this would be nice small grocery store with a particularly good bakery.  In Haiti this is an international place of prestige.  Multiple armed guards outside made this perfectly clear.  Pizza, pastries and great food is abundant.

You could easily see we were among the privileged. Well, in the way of resources since most Haitian's couldn't afford it.  It was a nice lunch, and I appreciated it, but coming from where we were just a few miles back it seemed a bit awkward.  Not that I didn't devour the pizza put before me.

If you live in the U.S. with any sort of reasonable salary you would be among the privileged here.  Yet joy and a positive outlook is optional.  Maybe, just maybe, on the joy and hope scale those kids in the dust of Dumay have one up on us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 25 Year Journey

You're 75, had 2 bouts with cancer, been through an aortic arch aneurysm and dealing with some arthritis.  What kind of goal do you set for yourself?  If you’re Al Lucas you sign up for an Ironman, and not just any will do. You sign up for the Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii.  A legend even among hardened triathletes.  The distance: 2.4 mile ocean swim, 112 mile bike ride through the lava fields, and 26.2 mile run finishing back at the beach where it all began.

As with any great story this one begins long ago, and with a family that is deeply involved.  Al’s son Greg started this with the first entry into Ironman Hawaii in 1986.  Not long after, in 1988 Al’s daughter Julie also entered the race.  Al began racing triathlons himself at age 43 with more of a background in traditional Indiana sports like basketball and baseball. 

With the Hawaii Ironman embedded in family lore, Al made his initial attempt at the race in 1990.  Making it through the swim and bike he suffered a fate somewhat unique to Ironman competitions in a hot climate- Hyponatremia.  Basically the body loses too much sodium in the blood and can no longer move water across permeable membranes.  Thus leaving you dehydrated even when you continue to drink.  The result was passing out at mile 10 of the marathon and an emergency ride to the hospital.

To say he was extremely disappointed at not finishing the triathlon would be an understatement.  So much so that Al set up his own “Ironman” course from his house in 1992.  With a lap pool in his back yard for the 2.4 mile swim, he then plotted out a 112 mile bike course from Terre Haute to Paris, Illinois and surrounding area, then a 26.2 mile marathon course. There were no crowds, no aid stations…..only his family at various points along his course. At around 11:30 that night Al completed the entire triathlon course complete with a finish line, lights and banner.  Al’s perseverance and determination had temporarily replaced the disappointment of his 1990 Ironman problems in Hawaii.

Al continued to participate in triathlons, but the idea of giving Ironman Hawaii another go was never too far away.  The challenge being to race in a World Championship event.  Qualifying with very limited spots against the best athletes from all over the world is a daunting affair.  There were, however, a few roadblocks in his quest between 1990 and 2015. In 2005 Al was diagnosed with prostate cancer which required surgery. All was well until 2008 when he was diagnosed with an aortic arch aneurysm that required immediate open heart surgery to repair- his aortic valve was also replaced.  Again all was going well with his health until March 2014 when it was discovered that the cancer had come back. This time he would have to undergo 38 radiation treatments.  This occurred in the midst of training for a race in Boulder Colorado.  Ten days after completing these treatments he completed the Boulder 70.3 Ironman.

Then in March 2015, Al received a coveted Ironman lottery entry and began preparing for his journey back to Kona. His son Greg had done this Ironman race twice [1986 and 1992], so his encouragement and experience with Al’s training and nutritional programs was very helpful. In July Al did the Muncie 70.3 Ironman and actually qualified for the 70.3 World Championships-held in Austria- but passed to continue his preparation for Hawaii. In October Al, his wife Judy and just about everyone else in the family-including grandchildren -made the trip to Kailua-Kona Hawaii.

Race morning October 10, 2015 – almost 25 years to the day since his first attempt –he was standing on the beach at the break of dawn staring down a 2.4 mile swim course in the open ocean.  Emotions for everyone are fully charged.

The Pro men are sent off with a cannon shot, then the Pro women, next all the amateur men [Al included] and finally the amateur women starting just behind.  Swimming with 2,300 triathletes with one goal in mind, 1.2 miles straight out into the ocean, make the turnaround at the big sailboat, and head back for the beach.  Al makes it out around the sailboat in good spirits.  Now with each stroke being closer to shore his confidence was strong.  One trick, he had to keep his eyes closed every time he looked down to avoid sea sickness from the waves and currents.  The time cutoff for the swim: 2 hours 20 minutes.  Al makes it back to Kailua Pier swim finish in 1 hour 55 minutes with plenty of time to spare.  The first out of the water this day was German Pro Jan Frodeno, Olympic gold medalist who would go on to win the race, and become the Ironman World Champion.

Al makes the run down the pier, grabs his bike and starts the 112 mile ride. The time cutoff for the bike is 10 hours and 30 minutes [including the swim]. The first 56 miles up Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway goes really well, averaging 19 miles per hour.  However the 18 mile climb and brutal trade winds around Hawi combined with the radiant heat of 130 degrees coming off the asphalt roads really started to take its toll.  Struggling with the heat, climbs and head winds through endless lava fields, the ride back was an intense effort.  Dropping out is not an option.  Al makes it back to the pier in 8 hours 2 minutes. His total time is 10 hours 5 minutes. Hopping off the bike and making his way through transition the legs feeling mostly like rubber. 

Last order of events, is the 26.2 mile marathon run.  At midnight the clock will strike and the race will officially end. Greeted by the heat and humidity he makes his way up Palani Hill and back out the Queen K highway undeterred. Here the push toward the finish line takes its full measure.  Beginning with a walk- jogging where he can- he averages 16 minute miles.  Darkness comes, the clock continues.  Al spends some miles with fellow triathlete Lew Hollander who is 85 and looking for his 24th Kona finish.  Lew would eventually drop out, Al kept going.  The toughest point of this race is around mile 16, the Energy Lab: dark, hot and unforgiving. Coming out of the Energy Lab 6.2 miles remain and the glow of the finish line can be seen in the distance.

At mile 24 Al is greeted by the first Kona street lights breaking the darkness.  A highlight here was the respectful fans. Inspired by watching a 75 year old complete what would seem to be an impossible task, these fans would stop and cheer him to the finish line.   At this point on the outskirts of Kona midnight struck.  While the race may have it’s time cutoff, Al was determined to make it all the way to the finish.  And finish he did.  He was greeted by the CEO of the Ironman Andrew Messick and COO of the Ironman Shane Facteau who personally handed Al his finisher shirt and medal.  No giving up, no emergency trip to the hospital. Al, surrounded by family, completed a journey he began 25 years ago.  Perseverance and determination had indeed paid off!