Three lonely hours for Water (stories from the Loneliman 38.3): BIKE

Loneliman 38.3First off, the Loneliman 38.3 wasn’t so lonely! It began as an idea to celebrate 38 years, take the place of a cancelled local triathlon race in training effort, and especially incite a cause for celebration: CLEAN WATER! While solo wearing bib #1 for the “race,” the whole family was a solid support crew, the children in Africa were on my mind — in their loneliness fetching unclean water — and the thoughts, words, prayers and donations of so many truly caused me to swimbikerun faster.

Together we have provided life-saving water for 78 kids in Africa!
Together we have provided life-saving water for 78 kids in Africa! (Give water for life!)

Loneliman was a success because you gave!

My race time doesn’t matter as much as the funds raised for World Vision water projects. Be the end of the weekend we had reached $3,917, which provides life-saving clean water for 78 more children in Africa! 

Now we’re fast approaching our initial goal of providing water for 100 children in Africa. 

Here’s my recap with stories about what transpired as I perspired.

After swimming a mile, I headed out to bike 31.1 miles.  

Hills & Rain

The first transition went slower than envisioned, with the car back up at the road. Kids had a dozen questions about why such and such was needed (brought extra layers in case it was cold), and by the time I headed out to bike 31.1 miles they were in the car ready for the heat to be on. They had adventures for the supposed ninety minutes before arriving home by the time I did.

NutritionChose to go without any music or ear input for the bike ride. It takes discipline to stay focused yet drift into “the zone” and endure with delight. There were stretches where my bike cadence and speed were optimal; and then the last twenty miles especially were hilly and hit me hard. Race day was nine days into a forty-day fast from many foods (no meat, dairy, animal products, processed foods or grains). That may sound like a diet or a cleanse, but our purpose is more spiritual and soul-care than physical body-focused (see The Jesus Fast). Yet those dimensions are linked, and I’ve lost a few happy pounds, since I really like sweet-and-salty snack foods; so going without has been good for my soul and good-hard on my body.

Only food provisions during the race were what you see here » Picky Bars, Run Gum, plus Nuun hydration and a bit of Gatorade. I cannot recommend Picky Bars (#lifepoints) and Run Gum (#getrungum) more highly. These are training essentials for me, and local Oregon businesses.

Hills Are Good For You!

100 million in 2 decadesUp those hills, about 2,000′ of climbing is when my body missed animal protein and fats. Plus had been traveling to higher elevation earlier in the week, mixed with a week of not much cycling … that 31.1 miles went by much slower than imagined! I did have protein and carbs in the form of real-food Picky Bars (“built to fuel” 4:1 ratio), and some Nuun hydration and sips of watered-down Gatorade. Windy day, lots of climbing and a tweaked back made for a good dose of endurance. Today I write these words as a better man because all these safe challenges as good for building endurance. The things beyond our control were not meant to be obsessed about.

Grateful for clean water to guzzle while I train!

Every sip reminds me of those who must go without. 

Did you know that new access to clean water is saving lives? Especially among the youngest and poorest: almost 100 children under age five have been saved in the past two decades! 

Yep, in the last 20 years, nearly 100 million children under the age of 5 have been saved from death caused by unsafe drinking water. These are the numbers — the lives and people — worth celebrating! At this rate we could see an end to the global water crisis in our lifetime.

Total bike time: 1:54:40 for 31.1 miles. Reached second transition at 32.1 miles of the 38.3 in 2:31:07, so three hours was now out of reach. Wanted a solid effort on the run before calling it a day.

Last two miles on the bike were in a downpour as the heavens opened up with hail and rain came down with a vengeance. The wind finally subsided which made it more fun, and bike brakes were not prepared for stopping in that weather. Finished up the bike leg, and the kids were having a total blast outside in this downpour. Yes!

Loneliman Ride

Loneliman 38.3 race time estimations

Water is Life

This Spring I spoke to two high school classes about the world water crisis. Mentioned the statistics above, which are hopeful, and many others that were downright discouraging. Reality is harsh.

At one point we discussed water usage in our homes and I simply stated, “We use drinking water in our toilets at home, which is mind-boggling to those who don’t have any water to drink, and no toilets with plumbing!” A student sat up in his chair, leaned forward and asked, “You use drinking water in your toilet? I know we don’t at our house.”

That steered the conversation a bit as we had to come to harsh reality that yes, all this water in our toilets, and showers and faucets is drinking water, or starts as safe drinking water. It gets contaminated by us. While you wouldn’t want to drink from your toilet, the truth is that water comes from the safe place. And it’s all safe and intended for all these uses. (This is on the heels on the Flint, Michigan lead water scandal coming to light.) Imagine if you had no clean water at all. And only about five gallons of unsafe water, which you walked to get in treacherous conditions, every day, without break.

These African kids who endure are the true heroes.

Let’s provide for their futures! 

With that story musing in my mind, I headed out for a 10K run (6.2 miles), in the rain. The water made the moment so fitting for the cause.

And by now I knew we had reached the days’ goal of providing water for thirty-eight kids. I was stoked!

Quick pit stop, and up the driveway and the running was underway. Settled on a race-pace of 7:00/mi, thinking that would be a goal for the real endurance race in October (half-marathon of 13.1 miles after a 56 mile bike ride). That’s a comfortable “steady” speed pace for training runs, but usually those aren’t after two-and-a-half hours of endurance. The rolling hills took their toll, but goodies along the lonely course were helpful: dropped three bottles along the overlapping run course while finishing the bike course (!).

This is where some music was helpful, and the downpour of rain was in full effect. Aches and pains started to surface, that tweaked back didn’t feel so painful as it was stiff. Found my cadence and hit the first two miles both at precisely seven-minutes-apiece. Third mile had rolling hills before the turnaround mark at 5K. Average pace had crept up to 7:05/mi, so had some work to do!

Fourth mile was mostly uphill so found a rhythm and trudged along. Then at mile five, at a known intersection I frequent on runs, I sped up a bit. The utility poles spread aside the road provided incentive: “pick it up … you can stride past that pole.” Then a swift, short descent, and I was ready to push it! Average pace creeping down closer to seven-per-mile; let’s do this!

Hit the pedal and went for it with under a mile to go, a car came close and didn’t give much room, stepped onto the gravel shoulder, and then … BOOM … hamstring cramp stopped me in my tracks. I literally stopped. Looked down. Prayed. And lifted my feet. Keep going!

Seeing the numbers is helpful, but don’t forget that the children you run for are more than just a statistic. Listen to these voices. When we get discouraged they are what keep us going. Thank you for being a part of this team. You are doing so much more than racing.

Why do this?

When I mention training hard for running and triathlons, I get a few responses:

  • Why would you do that?
  • I could never do that!
  • I want to do that!
  • How can I do that too? 

IMAZ 70.3It’s kinda like a progression, going from dismay to curiosity to hopefully joining the mission of changing the world. You need not take a step running in order to contribute to ending the global water crisis. I know my little contribution is small, yet it’s significant. So we keep on going. I care and so I run and tri. 

Races like the Loneliman 38.3 (and later an Ironman 70.3) can shine a light on selfor … on a greater cause.

I’m convinced too many of us have too small of a vision for our lives. And while it may not matter if anyone remembers who I am after I’m gone to be with Christ, the impact of one life can have a ripple effect. This is grace-driven effort, to get caught up in the glorious work of Jesus in the world, and to set aside comforts and control for His work in people’s lives. This cause chose me, I believe, because the Father wanted me to move from apathy and self-interest to engaging with the needs of the world. I need it more than it needs me. The crisis can be averted, our apathy can be overcome! (To borrow a line from Mumford and Sons, “If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won!” Yes indeed. Have repeated that line a thousand times running and cycling up hills.)

Part of Something Bigger

There is good work being done and we can see the results! Some of the stats are astounding.

Water Progress

The clean water crisis feels overwhelming when we look at the numbers. We have no concept of 663 million. So hopefully this visual helps. The main point: we’re making progress!

In the last five years 221 million people have gained access to clean water.

That’s a 25% decrease in 5 years!

When we think of it that way, we can see that ending this crisis in our lifetime is a reality.

Give Water