Monday, November 21, 2016

DIZZY FIFTIES 50K Race Report (2016)

Gregg Gelmis: We Run Huntsville
The 13th Annual Dizzy Fifties 50K, 40 & 50 Mile Race was sunny, breezy and colorful.

My first race since dropping at mile 87 of the Georgia Jewel 100, my main goals for the DF50K were to finish under 7 hours and make my latest race a finish instead of a DNF.

I took two months off from racing to recover and create a break between my running seasons of 2016 and 2017.

Fall of the year begins a new season for me mentally, since it's the best time of year to run in my view. 

By the time January rolls around, we're 3/4 of the way done with the Grand Slam and three months into the cold weather, so it's hard for me to think emotionally that January is the beginning of a new running year except for annual scheduling purposes.

Start/Finish Pavilion (G. Gelmis)
I get to the top of Monte Sano Mountain a little before 6 a.m. and ease into a parking spot on the side of the road next to the start/finish pavilion. Everything is going smoothly until I start removing my run backpack and bag chairs out of our CRV.  

I did not feel rushed, but I parked on a slant, so I'm trying to hold the heavy, rear swinging door open while I gather things and it puts a small strain on my back. 

"Why did I park on this slant?!" I should have relaxed and moved the car down a little to the flat, but Nooooo... I fight it and show that gravel bank who's boss for about a second and a half. I move away from the door, set some things down and take a deep breath.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Race Report: GEORGIA JEWEL 100 (DNF, 87 Miles)

Bitter & Sweet at the same time.
Bitter-sweet to title this post.

I did not finish what I started, nor get my coveted buckle, but it's hard to feel down about the hardest thing you've ever done. 

I ran 87 miles in 26 hours and 45 minutes on the Pinhoti Trail in my home state of Georgia. The high temperature was 91 degrees.

Congratulations to the finishers of the 2016 Georgia Jewel 100 mile footrace.

All six of them: a 75% Did-Not-Finish (DNF) rate. It was that hard. 

While running to the 51.8 mile turnaround,  I was greeted by the eventual 100 mile winner, Steven Carr (Huntsville, AL), making his way back.

Keown Falls Observation Deck
He said: "I'm spent..." And he still had a 45 mile night-time wilderness run ahead of him.

The Georgia Jewel 100, 50 & 35 mile races occurred the same weekend as IRONMAN Chattanooga which was 30 minutes to the north.

That event had a 25% DNF rate and a 15% DNS rate.

Over 1,100 people who signed up did not reach the finish line. I can relate.

As Georgia Jewel 50 MILE finisher Udo Bill Wooten said, "You can't spell Pinhoti without the word hot!"

Sixty-one runners finished the 50 miler. Ninety-one signed up. A 33% DNF/DNS rate.

The 35 mile race had a 26% unfinished business rate.

In spite of the heat and the toll that it took upon us, The 2016 Georgia Jewel was an awesome event.

Monday, September 5, 2016

TUPELO MARATHON 2016 Race Report

Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!
Skull and Crossbones Medal.

Long sleeve tie-dyed, winter shirt.

5 a.m. start-time on Labor Day Weekend.

Air-conditioned finish line inside arena.

Dressing room showers & free BBQ.

These amenities await the finisher of the Tupelo Marathon. 

Not to mention an annual dose of running on the hallowed ground where the King of Rock n' Roll was born.  

I left Madison, Alabama @ 1:16 p.m. on Labor Day Saturday headed to Trails & Treads for packet pick-up between 1 and 5 p.m. CDT. 

Minor details can become major details when living in the Central Time Zone and close to the Eastern Time Zone running in Chattanooga or Atlanta as we did last week. Two to three hour drives quickly become 3-4 hour drives on the face of a clock and can make the difference between a relaxed, leisurely start or a panic filled drive. 

The Heart of Rock n' Roll is in Tupelo
I wouldn't have to worry about a time change this week like last week. Or about running until 3 a.m. in the morning. Or sleeping on gravel for two hours afterward. Or running in the dark. At least not running in the dark for very long.

I welcomed the rare 5 a.m. start, because I generally don't sleep well the night before a race, and being out of town alone, I prefer to get up super early instead of waiting around. 

The early start allows for a cooler overall run and the psychological advantage of being 10 miles into your race when the sun comes up. Since most races start at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., this unusual start time for marathons is an added bonus. 

I stayed at the Baymont Inn on North Gloster Rd. less than 3 miles from the start-finish at BancorpSouth Arena on Main Street. I would not stay there again, because there are too many other hotels close by to choose from. And at 3 a.m. there was a loud-talking couple in the hallway or in their room with the door open.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

YETI Snakebite 50K Race Report (2016)

(L-R) Liz (photo credit), Allie, Lindsey, Megan
Rick, Cary, David & Ryan
Not Pictured: 2 Cool Guys Named Martin & Spencer
A romance novel best describes my race experience:

'Boy meets race. Boy treats race with indifference. Race finds boy contemptible, boy finds race contemptible--yet they cannot seem to stay away from each other. Boy and race fight the growing attraction. Boy ends up finishing race and hugging race director.'

I now realize the following race description was open to interpretation:
"50KM races designed to help runners achieve a new distance and allow veteran runners to run a speedy time or tune up for upcoming fall events. Both races utilize a variety of relatively easy trails, including weaving single-track and broad open fields, as well as narrow trails along the Chattahoochee River. With moderate hills and trails, the course is designed for fast times and for those looking to try their first trail ultra."

Should've known better when I saw that the cutoff for a 50K was 11 hours. I think the RD went to the Lazarus Lake School of Race Directing; therefore, believe nothing you hear or read. Just show up ready to run and overcome the mental obstacles.

I'm honored to be associated with the group of finishers, winners, and overcomers in the pic above.

First Major Hill on Loop One
This race was not a "new distance" or a "speedy time" for me, but it was a "tune up for my upcoming fall event," The Georgia Jewel 100 Miler.

My Garmin Data: Yeti Snakebite 50/50

They say it's where you end up in life, not how you get there.

Okay, maybe nobody says this. In fact, I believe the opposite, but it applies to my finish of the YSB50K. I came away from this race feeling great, but that's not how I felt the first 11 miles.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

RACE REPORT: Native Jackal Trail Marathon

I ran only the last marathon
The fifth and final marathon of the Jackal Trail Marathons, near Jackson, TN, is the toughest of five marathons in five consecutive days from Saturday thru Wednesday, and it will certainly test the human heart.

I've run 20+ marathons, but yesterday's marathon was by far the hardest I've run. I've run 50Ks with more elevation gain over an hour faster. 

This marathon differed from all the rest based on one factor: HEAT. And horseflies. As if 26.53 miles is not enough, welcome to increasing heat and horseflies on every 2.65 mile loop that must be run 10 times.

One hundred and four degrees heat index by 3:13 p.m.

We started at 8:30 a.m. I finished at 4:00 p.m. 3 hours drive one way. Bananas and Ensure on the drive up. Hot wings, fries and coke on the way home. 6 hours of loud music. 7 hours & 30 minutes of testing. I passed. I resisted quitting for hours. A handful of times I thought I may get to the point of danger and quit out of fear for my health. 

It subsided. 

Photo: Karl Studtmann
I took pictures throughout the first loop when the course was shaded and spirits were high. Very few horseflies then. I took my pepper spray like I try to do now on every run. In a state park, what could happen?

Two loud-barking and charging dogs at the top of the longest hill. That's what could happen. Great! Only have to pass them 9 more times! I was ready. Each pass, I pulled out my spray and ran confidently by the house while my strength weakened in the heat of the day. 

So glad I had it.

Another thing I was glad I had by the end of the run was my frogg togg towel. Not necessarily because I could squeeze water out of it onto my head occasionally, which was helpful, but because I could swing it like a horse's tail to fight off the yellow jackets and biting flies. By the 8th loop, I really wondered if the bugs would not be the cause of me choosing to quit.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Old Testament Was Not Nailed To The Cross

A popular phrase among Christians when describing the entire Bible is that “The OT is the NT concealed, and the NT is the OT revealed.”

Acknowledging this phrase means that one admits s/he is interpreting how the NT relates to the OT.

It means in some ways the OT & NT are the same, but in other ways “the two covenants,” as they are sometimes called, are different.

10 years ago, I believed and taught the word covenant was a better translation than the word testament, but now I realize how this contributed to my legalism back then.

By legalism, I mean a sincere attempt to keep all of God's commandments, but that unintentionally obligates God to save me, because I have kept all His commandments (in the NT). I  now realize that my previous interpretation of how the OT & NT relate was that the NT was basically "Old Testament Light."

Of course, keeping "all the commandments of God" even if only in the NT, is impossible, and so must be reduced to a handful of "steps" and especially  "acts of worship" that must be repeated perfectly every Sunday.

I believe that there are two major assumptions that contribute to this way of thinking.

One is that we are "under contract" with God and the second is that The Old Testament was nailed to the cross.

The OT was not "nailed to the cross" (Col. 2:14), so that the NT could be kept the exact same way with fewer laws to keep.

What was nailed to the cross was our sins or the record of our debt of sin to God. This is what the "handwriting of ordinances" and "written code" means. These phrases do not refer to the OT.

I believe translating the word "testament" as "covenant" is one reason some believe 5 steps and 5 acts must be kept meticulously in order to sustain this forgiveness, but that this actually hinders God's grace through an attempt to keep all of God's commandments in the NT.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2016 LAKE MARTIN 100 Mile Endurance Run

"When I saw the sun rise for the second time on the same run..."

I read this statement in a race report three years ago, and it symbolized for me the magnitude of running 100 miles.


The Lake Martin 100 Mile Endurance Run was my second 100 mile finish.

My first 100 mile run (2015 Tunnel Hill) began after sunrise.

It had 2,500 feet of elevation gain, a rails-to-trails surface, and I enjoyed the company of a pacer for the last 24 miles.

This one would be different.

I signed up on January 11th; ten weeks before the race. I ran my previous 100 miler last November, rested a month, then ran the Rocket City Marathon, Recover From the Holidays 50K, and Mountain Mist 50K in December and January.

Garmin Training Runs
Building on this, my plan was to run 50 miles per week for a total of 500 miles before the race. I made it to 310 averaging 38.75 miles/week for 8 weeks and rested for two weeks.

The second part of my plan was to average 1,000 feet of gain per 10 miles of running. I averaged 910 feet.

The third part was to reach my peak in training at the Black Warrior 50K and Mount Cheaha 50K on back to back weekends one month out.

These two 50Ks have 3,000+ and 5,000+ feet of gain, respectively. When I completed them, I felt Que Sera, Sera.

My last long run was 18 miles on the northern "loop" of the Lake Martin course a week after the 50Ks and two weeks before the race.

I did not run during the two weeks leading up to the race.

Originally, I planned in my annual schedule to run the Pinhoti 100 the first weekend in November, but I forgot that is when my wife usually plays in a tennis tournament in Gulf Shores. While researching other potential races like Thunder Rock (May) and Arkansas Traveler (Oct.), it became clear that Lake Martin was the one I needed to run.

LAKE MARTIN 100 Elevation Profile
With 12,000 feet of elevation gain, I viewed it as an appropriate challenge and a gateway to the more technical trail races with higher gain that I may like to do in the future.

I could not be happier with my choice.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Does Christianity Teach Immortality of The Soul or Resurrection of The Body?

Jesus ate supper in a resurrected body
"As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, 
"Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have."
And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them" (Luke 24:36-43).
Immortality of the soul and resurrection of the body are separate historical beliefs.

Immortality of the soul is based on Plato's Greek dualism.

Resurrection of the body is based on Jesus' Jewish Christianity.

Most in Western Christianity have been taught to interpret certain passages in the NT with an assumed Greek dualism of the soul being more important than the body. This is not early Christianity. First-century Christianity involves the belief in the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul escaping it.

Why does this matter?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Faith Is Not Absolute Certainty

Greg Boyd writes,

"I contend that certainty-seeking faith tends to inflict a selective learning phobia on those who hold to it. It’s no secret that, at least in America, evangelical Christians sort of have a reputation of being narrow-minded and intolerant. Deny it though we may, research has established it."

"There are a number of plausible explanations for this, but I believe one of the main reasons has to do with the widespread assumption that a person’s faith is as strong as they are certain."

"Imagine a Christian I’ll call Bob. Like most other conservative Christians, Bob believes that he is saved by believing the doctrines that are “necessary for salvation.” And, like most others, Bob assumes that his faith is as strong as he is free of doubt."

"It’s apparent that for Christians like Bob, one’s sense of security is anchored in their level of confidence that their beliefs are correct. If Bob were to lose confidence or change his mind about any of these things, his salvation, as well as his acceptance as a fellow “saved” believer in his church, would at least be thrown into question, if not absolutely denied. Not only this, but Bob’s sense of identity, purpose, and well-being is wrapped up in his remaining convinced his beliefs are correct. With so much at stake, how open do you really think Bob would be to seriously studying books and dialoguing with people who might pose strong challenges to his core convictions? And how capable do you suppose Bob would be at objectively assessing the merits of points of view that disagree with his own, were he to somehow muster the courage to examine them? The answer, I think, is obvious."

"Not only this, but neurological studies have shown that the pleasure centers of our brain are activated whenever we encounter facts or opinions that confirm beliefs that are important to us. Conversely, they also reveal that our amygdala, which controls our “fight or flight” reflex, is activated when we initially confront facts or opinions that conflict with these beliefs. And, as we noted in the previous chapter, most of us know firsthand, to one degree or another, how painful it is to doubt beliefs that are important to us. Cognitive dissonance over important matters can be excruciating!"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Bible Does Not Interpret Itself

 "The Bible says..." "God's Teaching," etc.

Tautology is "using different words to say the same thing even if the repetition does not provide clarity."

Tautology also means "a series of self-reinforcing statements that cannot be disproved because the statements depend on the assumption that they are already correct."

Even for those who claim to use the Bible to interpret the Bible, tautology is involved because the other verses that are used are assumed to have a self-evident meaning, too.

Why is this important for Americans to understand? Because American thinking is built on "self-evident truths."

In an excerpt well worth your time found here, Richard Hughes exposes five myths America lives by. One of the five myths is the myth of "Nature's Nation." I have included a quote from Hughes below that I use to show how a part of our worldview influences our interpretation of the Bible.

I believe that the ingrained myth of Nature's Nation in American minds hinders insightful and edifying Bible study, and therefore, it hinders commanded Christian maturity (2 Pet. 3:18).

There Are 5 Major Myths
Hughes writes:
"The myth of Nature’s Nation is rooted squarely in the principles of the American Creed. The creed proclaims that among all the truths one might encounter in a lifetime, there are certain truths that are simply 'self-evident,' and require no formal proof..."
"Those truths are 'self-evident,' the creed contends, because they are rooted in 'Nature and Nature’s God' and therefore reflect the way things are meant to be.... the notion of Nature’s Nation has often annulled America’s debt to history, tradition, and culture and led Americans to believe that the contours of American civilization—the way things actually are—simply reflect 'the way things are meant to be..'"

Friday, January 15, 2016

Imagine There's No Heaven

Jesus Ate Suppers With People
This post does not address the intermediate state of Paradise, only the final destination of Christians.

It is paramount to understand the difference between our 21st century concept of Heaven and the first century (Jewish) concept of Heaven in order to interpret the NT correctly. 

The NT does not contain abstract "eternal" truths and "principles" for "all time." The truth in the NT was recorded in specific contexts, and context determines meaning.

The first century Jews believed that "Heaven" was the Messianic Banquet, not a place where we go after the Earth is gone.

I believe that the Lord's Supper is that Banquet. I do not mean this as ushering in The Millennium, but that we are to live on earth as it is in "Heaven." What N.T. Wright calls a "now but not yet" reality that Jesus established.

Luke records,

"... When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God...'" (Luke 14:15). 


Monday, January 11, 2016

Avoid Being Institutionalized

Christians should avoid being institutionalized.

What I mean by institutionalized can be illustrated by a conversation from the movie Shawshank Redemption (edited for explicit content) between Red (Morgan Freeman) and Heywood (Michael Sadler) and Floyd (Brian Libby).

If you recall in the movie, Brooks (James Whitmore) was let out of prison, but ended up hanging himself because he could not function outside the institution of prison.

The lesson is clear: institutionalization hinders a person's ability to mature and function outside their isolated community. The only way an institutionalized person can live is on the "inside."

The conversation is set in the prison yard...
Red: "Brooks ain't no bug. He's just... He's just institutionalized."
Heywood: "Institutionalized, my $@#."

Red: "The man's been in here 50 years, Heywood. 50 years. This is all he knows. In here, he's an important man. He's an educated man. Outside, he's nothing. Just a used-up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn't get a library card if he tried. You know what I'm trying to say?"

Floyd: "Red, I do believe you're talking out of your $@#."

Red: "You believe whatever you want, Floyd. But I'm telling you, these walls are funny. First you hate 'em... then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes... you get so you depend on 'em. That's institutionalized."

HEBREWS 13:7-18 in Context

Being Questioned By Authorities
When Jesus was asked by the religious rulers,

"By what authority are you doing these things?"

In his article--Mark 11:27-33--The Question!

John Mark Hicks writes,

"Jesus does not deny he has authority. Indeed, he implicitly asserts it. Moreover, the previous day he had acted on that authority by cleansing the temple. He simply refuses to justify his authority to those who not only would not believe what he says but who are only interested in some pretense for executing him."

"Jesus exercises the authority of the kingdom of God against the authority of the temple priests and rulers who live in shocking compromise with Roman authorities."

Reading Hicks blog and watching an interview on The O' Reilly Factor discussing "corruption" and a lack of "oversight" as the main culprits for problems in our society caused me to want to examine Hebrews 13:7-18.

In conjunction with the article, the interview reminded me that "oversight" is not about controlling others as one man once told me oversight meant, but is leading by example, desiring to be involved in the lives of people where they live, caring selflessly, and having the courage to confront corruption.

The damage done by corruption among the few in the state who are in power over others, as depicted in Hicks article and O' Reilly's interview, results from the inaction of people (overseers) not wanting to be troubled for standing up to the status quo.

When those in power are challenged--they don't like it--and often seek to punish those they view as troublemakers for challenging their power. Often the powerful just want others to join them so the status quo may continue. This is certainly the easiest thing for anyone in any generation to do.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As A Man Thinks, So He Is...

“All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe...individual responsibility must be absolute. A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is. As he continues to think, so he remains.”

“A strong man cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition. It has been usual for men to think and to say, "Many men are slaves because one is an oppressor; let us hate the oppressor." Now, however, there is amongst an increasing few a tendency to reverse this judgment, and to say, "One man is an oppressor because many are slaves; let us despise the slaves."

“The truth is that oppressor and slave are co-operators in ignorance, and, while seeming to afflict each other, are in reality afflicting themselves. A perfect Knowledge perceives the action of law in the weakness of the oppressed and the misapplied power of the oppressor; a perfect Love, seeing the suffering, which both states entail, condemns neither; a perfect Compassion embraces both oppressor and oppressed. He who has conquered weakness, and has put away all selfish thoughts, belongs neither to oppressor nor oppressed. He is free.”