2013

Posted: January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

I usually don’t blog. And I hardly ever make New Year’s resolutions. I see these resolutions as public declarations of things at which I plan to fail, as though making the resolution dooms my ability to achieve what;ever the particular goal might be. But here are my resolutions for this year, nonetheless:

  • Run again — I havent run consistently since the end of 2011; 2012 was the start of grad school, and I just felt like I couldn’t keep up with the workload and the training. After two semesters, the last one being very challenging and ridiculously stressful (mostly self-induced, but that’s another story), I have come to the conclusion that running is critical for my mental well-being. So, I want to train back toward half marathon shape over the next 4 or so months.
  • Diet — This one is motivated partially by the weight I’ve put on since I stopped running and partially by my desire to walk with Sara through an eating regimen for once. This particular regimen is initially 6 weeks, mostly vegan. I am (in the first day) already battling the desire to give it up and throw off dietary restraint once again. This one will be tough, but I hope to stick it out.
  • Career — If all goes according to plan, I should graduate with my MBA in December. Struggling with identifying next steps related to career, but hopeful that God will reveal the next step at the right time. I have a definite sense of pull toward social enterprise and an equally strong sense that the skills I’m getting from this education need to be used to serve others…but that’s it. It’s scary, frankly, but God has been so faithful in taking care of us each step of the way so far.
  • Stress — This season of life has been significantly stressful. Part of what I’m learning in this process is that much of distress (unhealthy stress) is rooted in perspective and priorities. I really hope that in 2013, I will come back to viewing grad school as an amazing gift and opportunity, but that my concern over grades and meeting deadlines will not take greater weight than my concern to love Sara and the boys and the people God places in our paths, well.

So that’s what I’m aiming for in 2013; by God’s grace, I hope to accomplish these things. I wanted to get it written down somewhere…Family, if you’re reading this, you’ll notice that I made no resolutions related to blogging; this could be my only post for 2013.

So I recently heard about this site called Blogging for Books. I heard that they send free review copies of books to bloggers who’ll commit to reviewing the book (on their blogs, at an online retailer and at the Blogging for Books site) within a month. I love books, and I love things that are free, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Sure enough, after selecting my first book from a list of several options, I received Out of a Far Country a few days later in the mail. And below, you’ll find my first book review:

Out of a Far Country is an autobiographical account, co-authored by mother and son, Angela and Christopher Yuan, in which they each recount their journeys from self-reliance and brokenness to hope and wholeness.  I had heard the Yuans interviewed on Moody Radio this fall, and because of the grace and truth conveyed by each of them in this interview, I was intrigued to read their story. While this book is being marketed as a book about homosexuality (it begins with Chris coming out to his parents), the central theme of this book is not about heterosexuality vs. homosexuality – Central to Christopher and Angela’s story is the theme of the grace of God in Jesus Christ that pursues each of us and can capture our hearts and transform our lives.

I was especially impressed with Angela’s story; she was successful but empty on the inside. Her marriage to Christopher’s father was lifeless and bitter. As a traditional, Chinese mom whose sense of identity relied upon the societal status of her children, she was devastated with the revelation of  her son’s sexual orientation. In the hopelessness she felt, she read a booklet given to her by a chaplain as she planned to take her own life:

It was a Christian booklet, but for the first time I didn’t want to avoid it simply for that reason. I was captivated by every word. The booklet explained that God loves everyone – even homosexuals-because of who they are, not what they do….It spoke about death, that death was the result of our brokenness, our failures, our imperfections. Instead of our dying, Christ died for us so that we wouldn’t have to die…Then I read a statement that seemed to pierce my deadened heart. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Nothing? You mean God loves…even me?…Then I heard a still, small voice that said, “You belong to me.”

All my life I wanted to belong…He knew my deepest need, and he spoke the words I longed to hear. Those four words were a healing balm to my shattered heart. I had not been seeking God, but I was found by him.

Angela goes on to be transformed by the love of God. I was so impressed and challenged by her devotion to prayer and by the faithful love and support she and her husband went on to show to Christopher, even as his life spun out of control (getting kicked out of dentistry school, becoming a huge circuit party promoter, going to prison for dealing drugs, etc.). I love that she focused on loving her son and sharing God’s word with him while praying earnestly and faithfully, behind the scenes  for God’s transforming work in this son’s life.

Christopher’s story is a parallel example of how God seeks us and finds us, even when we aren’t looking for Him. As a reader, I was especially grateful for the way Christopher didn’t pull any punches in sharing his story as it related to his sexual orientation, his party lifestyle, or his experiences as a drug user and distributor. No sugar-coating or “churchy” white-washing here. He was straight up and real, which really made it possible to empathize/sympathize with him as the narrator while giving me an appreciation for the fact that no life, no heart is unreachable to God. Additionally, in all I’ve read and heard discussed in Christian and secular circles around the topic of homosexuality, I really think Christopher’s perspective on the topic, as shared toward the story’s end, is the most solid. But I won’t share that here…Instead, I’ll recommend that you pick up  Out of a Far Country and experience Angela and Christopher’s stories for yourself.

You can download Chapter 1 here.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

So, I left off at the start line. Things were going well so far this time. Oh, I forgot to mention that I went ahead and taped “DAN” on my Team World Vision jersey to assist spectators in cheering me on by name.

I brought my headphones up through my shirt and then tucked them under my bib so they’d be accessible when I needed them later. I soaked in the National Anthem, and the race was started.

As Vic and I waited for the 15,000 or so people ahead of us to get moving I sang along to Springsteen’s Born to Run blasting over the PA system (Well, at the “Tramps like us, Baby we were born to ruuuun” part, anyway).  I was psyched and ready to run!

We started to move from a slow walk to a jog as Van Halen’s Right Now began to play. Forgot about that song, I thought, Need to add that to the playlist. Then the line, “One step ahead, one step behind…Now you gotta run to get even” sort of stressed me out. Nevermind.

Within 8 or 9 minutes, we reached the start line and started to run. I set my watch to only display my time and dutifully pressed “Start” as I crossed the line. (I’ve added a photo of the great Nike Pace Team mile split times tattoo. This is what I relied on to track my progress toward my 4 hour goal.)

Last year, I remember crossing the start line and feeling like I was setting out too fast. This year, it was just the opposite. The sheer number of people around me made it pretty impossible to go too fast; in fact, I think the first couple miles went a little slower than my target.

My strategy was to stay ahead of the mile times listed on my tattoo. I wanted to average a 9 minute mile for the first half and then be able to slow it back to a 9:11 or so on the back half.

I remember within the first couple miles, maybe been the first mile, when the course took us under a building downtown, how muggy it felt in that enclosed space. I remember being surprised within the first few miles that my back was already wet with sweat.

I read somewhere a few days before the race that you should hydrate every 15 minutes and add carbs every 45, so I just grabbed a water at every aid station and ate a Gu packet every 5 miles.

Vic and I were slightly off of the 9 minute pace after the first couple miles, so we picked up the pace a little bit as the crowd thinned enough to accommodate a little more moving around. I was having fun, but this was work, and I could feel it.

For the first 6 miles or so, it was so fun having people say , “Go Dan” as I ran by. It was really encouraging. I said “Thank you” to these people because I truly appreciated the support, I was feeling good, and I had the energy. Vic thought I was famous. The running was going well. The Team World Vision Cheer Zone (or whatever they called it) at the Moody Bible Institute campus was awesome. I have to say it felt great to be a part of such a big, well-recognized team.

Then there’s the Moody Church near LaSalle and North. I love that they send their congregation out onto the street to cheer runners on. So cool.The run to the North side was going well. It felt good to speed up a little.

Somewhere around the 6th mile, we passed my friend Tim. I asked how he was doing and he seemed to be feeling good. I sort of felt bad seeing him running on his own while Vic and I ran past him, but I figured he was running a pace with which he was comfortable and I had my eyes set on that 4 hour finish.

After running north to Addison, the course turns west and then south onto Broadway. I noticed at an aid station around here that I was starting to have to work harder to catch back up with Vic after grabbing water. I reminded him that I didn’t want to slow him down and that he should feel free to run ahead if he had it.

After one of the aid stations on the north side, I spilled water on the front of my shirt. I didn’t realize it, but people were no longer saying “Go Dan!”  As I was making my way south down Broadway, I looked down at my shirt; now it just said “A.”

We made the eastbound turn onto North Avenue (Pretty sure this is where we saw Elvis on a stage singing a gospel song) and then south again onto Wells. After this turn was an aid station, and this (somewhere between 10 and 11 miles) was when my legs started to feel tired (already).  Vic started to get further and further ahead of me, and I didn’t have a burst of speed to catch back up with him after this aid station. This was where it started to get difficult.

While I’d told myself that I’d have to wait until the halfway point before listening to my running playlist, I decided I needed the extra, mental assistance at Mile 11. I untangled my earbuds from my race bib and discovered that one of them somehow tore apart (wires exposed and such). I’d be limited to one earbud, but I turned on the tunes, nonetheless.

I knew my family & friends crew was a couple miles ahead, and I pushed ahead in an attempt to reach them and the  halfway point in under 2 hours.

 

 

Between recap posts…

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

So, two weeks ago, I ran my second marathon. Tomorrow, I plan to lace my running shoes on to start running again; I really wanted to get this post done before I ended my post-marathon hiatus from running, and in true procrastinator form, I ended up waiting until now to get this done.

Which isn’t a bad thing. My perspective on the race and on running, in general has swayed from various extremes in the days following this year’s Chicago Marathon. Having a couple weeks to sort through the desire to give up running for good to seriously considering a November marathon and then settling somewhere back in the middle before making my thoughts public has probably been a good thing.

And so, I’m thinking this post will take on two parts: 1 – Recap- I’ll just run you through the experience of my second marathon. (We’ll probably have to walk a little in the later miles.) 2 – Reflect — I’ll share what I consider to be my key life lesson(s) learned from this experience.

And so, the recap, including some of the highlights leading up to the race:

The expo. I love the pre-race expo at McCormick Place. I love the hype. I love the anticipation. I love the free samples🙂 From last year’s experience, my boys love going to the expo, too. And so, we went down early Friday afternoon, picked up my bib, goodie bag, and shirt and made a few loops through the expo hall.

A couple expo highlights: 1) I signed up for a pace team (mostly so I could get the mile split-times tattoo); I didn’t do this last year and I knew this tattoo would be much more reliable than my gps watch had been in my first marathon.

2) I saw Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes. He was making an appearance at the Volkswagen booth. People were lining up for a chance to meet him. I just stole a pic with my phone. (His documentary where he runs 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days in each of the 50 states is worth watching!)

3) The coolest part of the expo was when Gabe insisted that we wait in line at the Hall Steps Foundation booth so he could ask Ryan Hall to sign his cast. (I ran with this foundation for my first marathon last year and through it came to really admire the faith of Ryan and his wife, Sara, also a world-class runner). So we waited in line and, sure enough, Gabe got his cast autographed by Ryan.

I think I could have hung out at the expo all afternoon, just soaking in the pre-marathon excitement (and free samples), but the boys were ready to hit the road, so we made our way back to the car. On our way out, Gabe said,” Bye, expo. See you next year!” And like that, a tradition has been established.

Race day. I set my alarm for 4am. In the weeks leading up to the race, I had a recurring nightmare where I overslept on race morning and arrived at the start line too late. This wasn’t actually a problem in real life. As is common, I would figure, for most marathoners, the night before the big day does not provide for very restful sleep. I woke up ready to go at midnight but was able to sneak in a few more hours of anxious sleep until I woke up at 3:45 and decided to get moving.

The Green Line started at 5:30, so my friend, Vic, who was running his first marathon, met me at my house at 5:15 and we walked to catch the first train downtown. I wore a track jacket, but it was probably already 60 degrees outside, so I think I stuffed it into my backpack pretty early on.

I wasn’t nervous this year as I had been last year; this year was a lot more about feeling excited. I had trained faithfully through the summer, only missing two runs, and I knew what to expect with the course. Mentally, my strategy was to just take it all in, to enjoy the experience. Instead of focusing on how far I was from the finish line throughout the course, my mantra would be “This moment is a gift.” I even planned to run at least the first half without listening to my music, opting to listen to the cheering crowds and enjoying the mismatched patches of music that would be playing as I ran through various neighborhoods.

I wrote “Order my steps” on my (4th) pair of Asics 2150’s, along with “Psalm 37:23-24” which says,

23 The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Leading up to and through this marathon, my family and I are in the midst of a season of transition. My biggest fear in this transition, which is mostly related to taking steps toward change in my career, is that I’d be taking steps out of fear or out of my own rashness rather than out of God’s wisdom and desire for our lives. And so, when I wrote “Order my steps” on my shoes, it was really to reflect my prayer for this season of our lives.

But I digress.

As Vic and I walked from the Roosevelt Green Line stop, we ran into my friend and mentor, Tim on our walk toward Charity Village and the Team World Vision tent. The three of us walked up that notorious hill at Roosevelt and Michigan Ave, past the “26 Mile” marker, past the marathon course’s last turn onto Columbus, and over into Charity Village. I hoped that the next time I went up that hill, I’d be chasing down a 4 hour finish, spent, but proud of my accomplishment and thrilled with the achievement of a goal for which I’ve striven over these past two years. But for now, we had the pre-race pep rally with Team World Vision.

There were somewhere around 1000 Team World Vision runners for this year’s Chicago Marathon. (It’s the LARGEST charity team in the race…Even got featured this year in all of the official marathon publicity.) I was so glad when I got to see Linda, one of the only other Team World Vision runners that I knew before the race. Linda volunteers at Circle as a tutor. She drives in to the west side from Naperville twice a week to help our high school kids out with math. She is such a great person.  So it really made my morning to get to see her before the start.

We had a team prayer in the tent and then went out onto a field for a team photo. And from there, we headed to the Start.

Vic is a fast runner. In fact, he qualified for a special corral for fast runners for this race. But he was feeling a little congested leading up to race day and decided to just head to the open corral with me. I welcomed the opportunity to get to run with Vic. We’d run a handful of long training runs together and he really pulled me along with his faster pace, and I welcomed the thought of this added pull and camaraderie on race day.

So we got into the open corral, found a nice spot to sit in front of the 4 hour pace group, and awaited the 7:30 start. (I took this picture while I was sitting there but decided to not take any more in order to conserve my phone’s battery.)

And that’s where I’ll have to leave off for this first post.

MBA

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

So, I’m planning to begin pursuit of my MBA in a couple months.

I am challenged to use this pursuit to not only better provide for my family, but to use it for the purposes of God’s kingdom.

I heard this story on Moody radio this morning and was encouraged.

Let’s Run Together

Posted: October 7, 2011 in 4 hours or bust

Bank of America’s theme for this year’s marathon is Let’s Run Together.

Normally, I’m pretty cynical about taglines like this, but as I’ve been thinking about life lessons I’ve learned from this year’s marathon training, I think Bank of America has it spot-on.

As someone who gets almost all of my training runs in alone, this three word phrase captures some of the main highlights of my marathon training experience.

Early this summer, instead of running a weekend run alone, I joined a group of guys at the Austin Run/Walk club for a couple laps around Columbus Park. It struck me how much easier running felt when I was running as part of a group. The camaraderie really made those laps feel more enjoyable. By running together with these guys, my running was easier for that day.

Later in the summer, as the runs were getting longer (15, 18, 20 miles), I met up with a friend, Vic, who will be running his first marathon on Sunday (and who is, quite a bit faster than me). While I enjoyed the conversation and the company on these runs, Vic’s quickness pulled me to run at a pace I otherwise would not have achieved running on my own. By running together with Vic, I built a friendship and boosted my confidence.

And then there’s “Team 700”– A group made up of Tim, a mentor of mine, another guy named Dan and myself, all working together to raise money for World Vision’s clean water projects in Africa in the process of our marathon training. This will be Tim’s 7th marathon, and he thought it would be a worthwhile goal to try to raise $7000 by getting 700 people to donate $10 each. He invited us two Dans to join him in this process. And, by God’s grace, we did it! (If you’d like to give, please go to our Team 700 page!) By running this fundraising initiative together, we got to play a part in making practical, radical life change possible for our neighbors on the other side of the world.

I remember being struck by a site in Oak Park early one morning this summer. There had been a string of storms a day or two before this particular run, and these storms must have knocked power out, just to one side of this street. As I ran up the middle of this road, I noticed a (really long) extension cord, going from inside a house on one side of the street, into the house directly across the street. One neighbor who had power was sharing their electricity with a neighbor whose power was out. I ran a half block, and then I saw another cross-street extension cord…and another…and another. By the time I reached the end of this street, I must have seen more than ten houses with extension cords running across the street into their neighbors’ houses. I was blown away by the generosity so obvious among these neighbors…These neighbors were “running” together.

And so, as I lace up and await my opportunity to cross the starting line on Sunday with 40,000 of my peers, I know that for most of us out there, we’ll be running alongside each other, but we won’t be competing against one another. We will be running together. And I’m looking forward to it!