Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"For I know my plans for you..."

Today was... how do you say... "not a good day." Then I went for a run. It was supposed to be 3 miles -- it ended up being 3 hours. I guess I had a few things to work out. When I started I had the weight of the world on my shoulders, and could feel it in every step. I was tired a mile in; with every stride I was convinced that my knee would finally pop or explode or detach. Can I really run a marathon? Is my body trained enough to do this? What happens if I have to quit halfway through?

I was the Chicken Little of the world tonight and I was sure the sky would be falling in a moment. I worried for friends, family, coworkers and myself. No topic was too small. It was more than thinking but less than praying: mostly just complaining I guess. Tossing out question after question in my head. But the weirdest thing happened during my run: I got a response. Not like audible voice, but a real response in a tone that I don't speak to myself in, and thoughts I don't think, and answers I didn't have.

Your identity is not tied to your job.

And that was something I needed to hear. It continued, and I'll paraphrase.

Your identity is not tied to your job, or what you do, or what you think defines you. Not your ideas, your plans, or your future. You are not the miles you run or your fundraising goal, or the books you read, the car you drive or the clothes you wear. You are not your friends. You're not what you did Friday night or Sunday morning. You are not defined by who you dated, the regrets you have, or what anyone thinks of you. You are my child.

And that's not a line that usually comes up in dialogue with myself.

I'm 5 miles away from home and choked up with a huge lump in my throat because it feels like somebody pretty important is whispering beautiful (liberating) truth into my mind. And the truth is the last week or so I've felt like a child, just sort of wandering through this new "real life" thing and looking for something to cling to. "A God sized hole..."

Does it matter if I keep running?
(laughter) No, not really.

Can I turn around now?

If I keep running can You help?
Of course.

I tried to check my pace on my watch, but realized I must have bumped the stop button a few miles back. The numbers were the same as last time I checked, fourty minutes ago.


My stride got a little lighter, and it felt like less was riding on me than when I started. I was at liberty to let go - to look at God's creation, the moon reflecting off the lake through the trees.

I ran like a child: aimlessly and only until I got tired. And when I did, I didn't hesitate to turn around and go home. My best guess is that I went about 16 miles, but I don't know and don't really care.

Today was a great day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Less than a month until the marathon...

Here’s an e-mail from Nick that made my day:

"… but guess what. im running the grand rapids half marathon. i'm inspired. your videos inspired me. i want to join team world vision. help me. i want to break 2 hours."

Years ago, I saw a doctor’s business card that said “blessed to be a blessing.” That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately as part of Team World Vision. The best part has been seeing other friends get involved, and see our hearts have been changed. Justin, Nick and I are not “runners,” but for the first time in ever, we’re excited to run.

Today Michael, Brasser, David and I are going to talk about the Grand Rapids Marathon and Riverbank Run. How awesome would it be if David and some of the other "Lost Boys" joined Team World Vision!? I think the 2009 Riverbank run could be a big event for us, (and not just because I love GR!)

"oo yeah and i heard were getting back tattoos. when, because i'm in."

(Mom, you don’t read this thing do you?)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

a letter to her, a letter to him.

to the girl who (literally) took my breath away at the nike 10k-

Hi again. It's been two days since we ran into each other at the race.  Some might say it was destiny; I think it was a complete accident.  But I wanted to write you.

When we met, I was foolishly trying to keep up with my better looking, tougher friend Brasser. He was setting a blazing 7:20 mile pace, and I was struggling. It was only about 1.2 miles into the race when Brasser and I came around the corner and  I saw you. I guess you were struggling too. Perhaps, like me, you started with a pace that was just too fast to hold.  No shame there, I respect that. I had the exact style on Sunday.

Brasser was sprinting through the mass of people, I was desperately trying to keep up, you were getting tired. I think your friend might have been pacing too fast for you and that's why you were upset, which (trust me) I can totally relate to. And just after Brasser passed you, and I approached, we had our moment.

We didn't get to talk about whether or not you had run in a race before. This was only my second. I'm just starting to get the race-thing and the pace-thing figured out. But because of our close moment together, I feel that I can speak open and honestly with you.

When you suddenly stopped in the middle of the road and swung your hands and elbows backwards in frustration, I was caught off guard.  Your left elbow drove hard into my right lung. I still am not sure I understand the timing and motives of your actions.  I don't know you very well, but I can honestly say I didn't expect it from you.  I'll be honest: I was hurt by your decision. I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do at a race, but I want you to know that I was caught off guard.  Perhaps if you're going to make a pattern out of suddenly stopping in the middle of a race and brandishing your elbows, you should have the courtesy to let the next guy know.

I don't need an explanation; from the moment you took my breath away I think you had the very best intentions.  I wish you the best with your next race and everything in your future. And seriously, join Team World Vision.  It won't be awkward if we see each other again.

the guy you elbowed in the gut.

Faster Brasser,

I'll admit.  You won fair and square.  I underestimated your ability to run stupid fast for two miles and ditch me.  You pulled some Beijing Olympics marathon style stuff out there:  I thought I could pace faster and make up time at the end, but you finished strong.  You ran a 52:24 10k, four minutes and twenty-five seconds faster than me.  It's not quite "five minutes faster" like you've been announcing to the world via text, cellphone, facebook and local media outlets, but I know you've always been a fan of rounding up.  Either way, I'm impressed.  I thought I could pull a 55 minutes 10k and beat you, but you really proved you could persevere out there.

Nothing proves that you wanted this more than the fact that you threw up three times during the 10k.  

wait, check that.

The only thing that demonstrates how serious you were is the fact that you ran past the port-o-potties and urinated yourself in the last mile of the race.

Some people, those with less commitment, would think:  "If I win this race but sacrifice some of my dignity, do I still come out ahead?"  But not you Brasser.  You puked, peed, and nearly passed out on the way to a well deserved win.  And then (and only after I hugged you at the finish line) you boasted about all your extra circular accomplishments during the race.

and, haha, I completely respect that.  

THANK YOU Katelyn, Beth, Katie K and Katie S for coming out to cheer!

CONGRATS to Brasser, Aileen, Jill, Val, and Nick (who completed his first ever race)!  I had a BLAST with you all this weekend, and I can't wait to watch you guys run for Team World Vision in the Grand Rapids half-marathon!

"Seriously bro, no one is looking at your pants.  You can't even tell."

to donate to clean water projects in Africa on behalf of Brasser visit
because, seriously, this guy is committed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A note to Brasser: Bring it

On Sunday, five friends from college and I will run the Nike 10k Human Race. I thought it would be a nice, friendly, perhaps even encouraging way to spend Labor Day weekend. We'd run together, keep the same pace and cross the finish line smiling in one big group.

But nooooo. Not Brasser.

Brasser tells me last night over the phone that this is, in fact, a race. "Well, yes" I try to explain, "It's called a race and all, but most people just like together and have fun and…"

He cuts me off. "It's a race. I'm going to run as fast as I can."

"Ok, but do you want to run together with the group for the first 5k, then we can see how we feel? And go from there?"

No. He says he wants to run by himself, and I'm starting to get a bit annoyed. My competitive Vermeulen genes activate.

"Fine then" I say "I'm going to draft off your pace for the first 9k's then pass you on the last one."

He says "Yeah? My training is going pretty good. I'm feeling pretty good."

"What pace are you going to run at?"

He won't tell me.

It's got to be just under 10 minute miles. We've run together before, and I remember him saying something about a sub 60 minute 10k. It's a respectable pace, a step up from my 2:17 half marathon. Suddenly, I'm no longer just a dude who sometimes jogs. I'm not "just trying to cross the finish line" or "only doing this to help out kids in Africa."

I need to beat Justin Brasser.

Tonight, five days from the Nike race, my training took a twist. Normally I'm not anal about my times, but I envisioned Brasser in Grand Rapids running up and down stairs looking like a dutch Rocky Balboa, and I decided I needed to run a 10k in under an hour.

Noble to Grand, Grand to Ashland. North on Ashland from 500N, past Division, over the bridge, past Diversy to Wellington, 3000N. Touch the street sign, turn south, run home. I had calculated it to almost exactly 10K. I strapped on my oversized chunky silver watch (Yes, I really need to get a running watch) adjusted the hands to 12:00 exactly, and took off.

The first 5k's felt good. They felt fast. When I made it to the turnaround, the watch hands were at :27. Perfect. Keep pushing it. Beat (invisible-dutch-Rocky-Balboa) Brasser every single step.

When I hit North Ave, I realized it would be close. The watch hands ticked, my feet pounded the pavement. Three homeless guys under the 90/94 Metra bridge cheered for me. I was in the zone. I imagined Brasser 100 feet ahead of me, and turned on the heat. I'd have to pull a low nine minute mile to finish in under an hour. I felt good, I felt fast, I though I had made it.

I finished in one hour, one minute and nineteen seconds.


And then I remembered: Traffic lights! I totally got stopped at like 14 traffic lights! That's at least a minute!

Plus, I didn't actually map the course. It could have easily been 10.4K. Come to think of it, it felt .4k's long. Yeah! Subtract three minutes.


My iPod shuffle was out of battery, so I ran with my big iPod. It throws my arm cadence totally out of whack. Over an hour I say it adds… oh, 2 minutes and 31 seconds.


Why was I listening to Jason Mraz and Dave Matthews? That's the world's worst running music ever; it slowed me down four minutes or more.


I had to pause five times for wonderful walking citizens of Chicago who weren't quite sure if they were supposed to walk on the left or right side of the sidewalk.


If I ibuprofin like I did on half marathon day, I won't feel the tendonitis in my knee like I did tonight.


Carbo loading.


Gatorade stations.


Race day adrenaline.


Aerodynamic running watch.


Sub-60? Psh, Sub-40 is more like it. I'm confident if I take can hammer out all the other variables, there's a chance I'll win the entire race or set a world record or something.

Brasser, you better bring your A game.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly.

THE BAD NEWS: From a combination of over training (read: former high school athlete foolishly jumps headfirst into training, body promptly reminds him he's neglected cardiovascular fitness for past three years), awkward bone structure (read: "Your left leg is significantly longer that your right…" Doctors words, not mine) and outright stupidity ("Stretching-Smetching! I'll just get out there and run!" My opinion; Doctor disagrees, lectures) I have developed tendinitis in my right knee.

THE GOOD NEWS: Aforementioned Doctor gives a green light for the half marathon this weekend, as long as I'm not in significant pain.

MORE GOOD NEWS: Advil extra-strength is on sale at CVS.

MORE BAD NEWS: If I complete the race on Sunday at my anticipated pace, I'll finish with a slower time than Oprah did.


Price check on the Advil extra-strength-embarrassment-formula please?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ryan + the cover of Runner's World

FACT: This may or may not be the best magazine article you've ever read.

You'll be inspired.
You might finish with watery eyes. (I did.)

I'm so thankful Ryan is going to the Beijing Olympics representing three things I hold so dearly; faith, country and team.

Though I've only met them a handful of times, I count Ryan and Sara as friends; a couple whose shine the light so bright they are contagious to be around. Despite their rising fame as the power couple of running, they are entirely humble. Sara has had a desire to help people in
developing countries ever since she was a child. Ryan has been trying to make it to the Olympics since he was 14. Now, they are doing both. And though I expect him to win gold in Beijing, he will remain fulfilled without it. They have hearts of gold, a campaign for children in Zambia called "More Precious than Gold"

Ryan and Sara; It's a blessing to work and hang with you two. Thanks for all you've done already. We're praying and cheering you on!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm back.

hey friends. Fundraising letter is about to go out, so I figured I should update. Here's the skinny.

We finished the short film on July 5th, literally hours, before the film festival. Adam Jacobs was the man and showed it twice, and Ryan and Josh gave an awesome talk and answered questions about Team World Vision. Thank you everyone who helped make the short possible: Ryan and Sara, Josh, Adam at, Jill at Sharing the Victory, (cue up the Emmy music that announces my Thank You speech time is about up) and our music people; Bradley Hofbauer, Slingshot 57, So Long Forgotten, and my 7th grade girlfriend and good Chicago friend Rachele Eve.

We're going to re-edit the film with all the new Olympic Trials footage from Oregon... Ryan, Josh and Michael all told their stories so I'll replace the sketchy phone call voices and youtube quality video, but if you want to see what we put together in a week, here it is. Careful, it's loong.

So that's that for now.

The 2008 Team World Vision Chicago Marathon hit 1,002 members this week! That was one of the goals that our director Michael set last fall, so it was exciting to see. TWV has grown from nothing three years ago to one of - if not the - largest charity team at the largest marathon in the world. What a blessing to be part of...