Day at the Office

Day at the Office
All Terrain Vehicle
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. - Phillppians 3:14

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Realistic Christmas Letter 2012


Well…you didn’t get a letter last year did you?…and I bet you kneeled down and thanked the Lord that you didn’t have to read the goings on with the Elliott Family 2011…frankly I didn’t want to read that either…and remember, I lived it….at least most of it…Keep in mind I wasn’t the one pregnant…so I didn’t have to live that part of it…  Bren got pregnant, we had a boy on Dec 22…three days earlier my mom broke her hip in my house… and all the kids  got  tattoos…ok that part was a lie.  Bren got a tattoo…ok …that was lie also. But my wife has asked for me to write a letter….and I guess you want details…so here we go…where do I begin?

2011…Where the heck do I begin…First…one early 5:30 morning I come in from working out and look at my phone…there was an email from Oprah…”Congratulations Dave, You have won tickets to a show taping.”  Yep…Bren had already been to one taping…and asked that I put in tickets to another taping…and I WON…I had never been so disappointed that I won.  The rules are that you can take anyone...but the person who won has to go and with ID…so here I am on the hook to go to OPRAH…I would much rather get a tattoo burned off with a torch…but I love my honey…and off we go to Chicago in FREAKING FEBRUARY 2011.  Heck…we can’t even catch a game at Wrigley field.  All in all, we laughed a lot and had a great little trip to the Windy City. 

In May…uh…on Mother’s Day , I was scheduled to go with a group of friends to run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim…43 miles total…down from the South Rim…up to the North Rim…And then turn around and come back…15 to 20 hours.  Well,  5 days before we leave, I get carted off to the ER with a bacterial virus in the small intestine…and all the kitchen passes I got for going to Oprah went to the ER Doctor…along with a large amount of cash.

In April 2011 we learned that Bren was pregnant with number 4…do I need to explain how that happened? …ok…well hear it goes…just kidding...I ain’t writing “50 Shades of Gray” or whatever…Where was I?...oh…ok…she got pregnant….To be really frank, it was a very stressful pregnancy….It was a tough time.  The baby was due around Christmas (remember 2011…now you see why you didn’t get a letter)…so my mother agreed to move in for a couple of months…spend Christmas and help out with the baby. She wasn’t in our house 15 minutes before she slipped on the marble floor in our foyer…the rain outside caused that floor to be slick as ice…and now I have 6 paramedics and a mom with a broken hip in my house.  She had surgery the next evening…and the baby was born 2 days later…at another hospital…uh, 45 minutes away.  I remember sitting on my couch one evening by myself…exhausted…beaten from the year…and just thinking…Christmas…”and you shall call Him Emmanuel, ‘God With Us’ “…and how I needed to know that right then.

We never found out the sex of the baby till birth, and we were all pleasantly surprised that it was a boy!…and when Luke found out he had a little brother, we could have taken all his Christmas gifts back…he was so excited.  Macy and Hope were excited too…and now it all fell into place…two boys and two girls.

Moving on to 2012…
Luke is now in 6th grade…he is doing really well…in the band…playing the trumpet…played baseball too...catcher and centerfield.  He crossed over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in January 2012…and has done extremely well, making the rank of Second Class in 9 months…and loving every bit of it.   He is active in the Junction 56 preteen program at Church…and now I am learning he has girls that text him…and call him…and wait…I am not ready for this. 
Macy is 9…going on 29…joking…but not really….she just finished her 5th season playing softball for the “Speedy Hamsters” where she plays catcher…is in School Choir…and Girl Scouts…and doing incredibly well with all her endeavors.  Sometimes we go on Daddy – Daughter dates…and I just love to hang out with her…she is bright…funny…mature…and just sitting and talking is a great time for both. ..AND SHE LOVES DUCK DYNASTY…heck the whole family loves that show. 

Hope…of which I call “The Edge”…because that is where she likes to live…is now 6…is in Girl Scouts…and plays Soccer…Goalie.  At this age the coach liked to rotate the players around to the different positions…till last year…when half way through the season…she told him, “Don’t pull me! The Goal is mine!”  She is sarcastic, funny, and competitive.   She keeps us laughing… 


Kyle Ryan Elliott (named for Kyle Field where the Aggies play…and Ryan…for Nolan Ryan….)  And what a blessing…I have tied his right arm behind his back….to force him to be a left handed pitcher…that’s another lie…but I wouldn’t complain if he is left handed.  He is one laid back kid…and he laughs a lot…and his brother and sisters adore him. 

Bren somehow keeps it all together…my gosh…I don’t understand how she does that….dinners…chauffer …homework teacher…and the love of my life…this year things are so much better…we went to Pine Cove Family Camp in August 2012…all of us…and things just seem to fit right into place…like someone had a master plan all along. 

As for me…I am going on 11 years as a straight commission salesman with Timberlake & Dickson…I am still doing the endurance athlete thing…100 miles on the bike…miles of running…but really loving the bike…Still playing ball with the kids…active with the Scouts….still doing Magic…kinda…writing a book…at this rate I may finish when I am 90…. 

So we close another couple of years…and time marches on….things change…but in this Holiday Season, we bow and worship the One that does not change, the One that remains steadfast, the One that is the Rock.  Merry Christmas to you and yours. 


Dave, Bren, Luke, Macy, Hope, and Kyle Elliott 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I have loved the study of the Sparta Culture…and the 300 Spartans that fought to the death at Thermopylae…annihilating the tens of thousands of King Xerxes’ illustrious army.  I have read Steven Pressfield’s account of the battle in the “Gates of Fire”… now required reading for all U.S Marines. 
And thus, a company has marketed a series of races around this Spartan Warrior Ethos…an adventure race with full body fitness in mind… the Spartan Motto: Return with your shield;  or on it.  Legend has that the mother of the Spartan warrior uttered these words to her son when she presented him the elements for battle.

In late August after Hotter N Hell 100 mile cycling event, my work out partners, Michael, Amber and myself discussed this Spartan Beast race.  We talked about how it was 13+ miles long…that there would be 30 obstacles…that it would take place in early December when the weather would be unpredictable.   We agreed to do it as a team...and thus the training began.  The details of the obstacles are not given…the race organizers want the element of surprise.  But what is known is  that not only do you need the stamina and endurance to run 13 miles across brutal terrain…but enough core and upper body strength to negotiate the unknown surprises. 
So the training commenced…building up the run on the weekend…some cardio during the week…and heavy weights…5 sets of 5 reps to failure…all muscle groups…chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs…I remember getting up from the leg press…after 50 total reps of 350 lbs…and uttering to Amber, “I can’t walk.”  It was her leading the way in the weight room…incredible strength.  We did core…we did pull ups…we used kettle bells…we did bricks…run a mile…then 4 heavy weight exercises to build strength and endurance…we did “Crossfit” work outs every Wednesday…heavy weights done quickly with no recovery…station after station for an hour.  Since Marine boot camp, I had not been in this good of overall fitness.  On problem though…somewhere along the way I had hurt my lift side…I think it happened when I was bear crawling while lifting two 35 lbs dumb bells…moving the 70 lbs across the floor…near the rib cage…maybe an oblique muscle…it  seemed not to be too bad…but I could feel it.

Michael, Amber and I were driven by our buddy Don “the Sherpa” to Granbury early on Saturday morning…a 2 hour jaunt from where we live…for our 8:30 AM Start.  

Blessed with mild weather….upper 50’s to lower 60’s….we line up to toe the line I look around and notice that nearly every participant seemed to be ½ our age.  They start each heat with 300 runners…symbolizing the 300 at Thermopylae.  As we are ready to go…they tell us that the Spartan Beast is the hardest race they allow people to sign up for (they offer 2 shorter races…and one Death race that is by invitation only.)  They went on to say that this terrain and distance provided the most difficult Beast of the year as well….Oh Joy!
The race is off…300 hundred of us run through Greek Columns and smoke.  I mentioned that there are 30 obstacles…and about ½ mile into it they wasted no time in getting you wet and muddy…into a series of trenches with water and mud mounds to scramble  up and over.   There were 8 foot walls to bound over…barbed wire to crawl under….mud included…50 yards of it all the while they spray you with a fire hose.  As soon as you seem to dry out…more water and mud…streams to cross that are chest deep.  The first 4 miles focused on a Rusty Crown hill…straight up…straight down…one point carrying a 30 lb sand bag…it seemed straight up…maybe a 45% grade…and I slipped and caught myself…and at that point I felt something tear loose on my left side where the oblique injury had occurred. Back down the hill with the sand bag.  I knew that this was going to hurt in the morning…every time I would engage the core muscles when running, I would feel pains shoot up and down my side….and I thought….these next 9 miles aren’t going to be pretty…mile 5…fill a five gallon bucket of sand…carry up the hill….back down…and dump it.  Because of the pain, I could hardly lift it up over the wall to dump out the sand…only with Amber and Michael’s help. We pressed on…at this point I noticed Amber was struggling with her breathing…her asthma was acting up before we started this race.  The chilled wet conditions…her cough was getting worse…she no longer could talk…and I envisioned her being carted off in an ambulance…we still had over 2 1/3 hours left.  Part of being a team is recognizing when someone is in trouble…mainly because people that partake in this stuff are tough and too hardheaded to quit…most will continue until they literally kill themselves.  At mile 8, I suggested that she be done.  Amber is as tough as they come…she doesn’t know “quit”…she is intense, strong, and determined.  We had crawled through some really dark holes in endurance cycling together and I knew it would not sit well with her.  After a brief discussion, she reluctantly agreed. 

Michael and I press on…and the next obstacle …a 100 yard swim in 54 degree water.  Michael is a swimmer…and me…well…I got across but it wasn’t pretty.  Now I had a different problem… about 10 minutes after the swim….Michael was shivering uncontrollable…his lips were purple…and the preliminary symptoms of hypothermia were showing.  We come up to the next obstacle… a rope traverse…over more water…and Michael wasn’t looking any better.  He looked at me and stuttered through shivering lips…I really don’t want to get in the water again.  I said, “Michael, go take the 30 burpee penalty for not successful completing and obstacle and maybe that will start to warm you up.”  I missed ringing the bell on the rope traverse by about 10 feet…so I got wet AND had to do 30 burpees. (all of us had to do the burpees  only  a hand full of times for failing proper negotiation of the obstacle...most obstacles were successfully completed)  We started down the road again and I noticed that Michael’s condition was improving…and he seemed to be doing better.  I didn’t tell him how close I was to calling Medics over and having him withdraw from the race.

More running…more obstacles…rope climbs…flipping tractor tires …farmers walk with 100 pound concrete blocks …more 8 foot walls to scale over…wadding through watered trenches…relentless…and with each obstacle my side screamed to quit…NO MAS!…I remember at one point looking  at Michael and asking, “Have you ever had to dig this deep?”  He replied, “I don’t think so.”  “Isn’t it AWESOME!” I exclaimed.  I meant it too.  I don’t know if he agreed as he looked at me like I had lost it.   On we continued…more water…more mud…jump over the fire…face the Spartan Warriors with Pugil sticks at the finish line.  I was spent completely…bruised…battered…We were Done!

Pound for pound…mile for mile….this was the most brutal of a race I had ever done.
Now I had another issue…somehow I needed to pull my body together for the next day.  Five days early I had received a call asking if I could fill in to run the first 5 mile leg of the Dallas Marathon Relay.  I replied sure…it’s only 5 miles.  What I didn’t take into account was how beat up I would be from the Spartan Beast…and I definitely didn’t count on my rib/oblique’s having such acute pain.  At 5:30 Sunday morning, I find myself up and getting ready for the Marathon Relay.  I ran it…nothing epic…shuffling as fast as I could with shallow breathing (breathing deep hurt too much)…honestly I was physically and emotionally spent…so when I handed off…at the 5 mile marker 49:37…I just kneeled and prayed…for healing…for being blessed to do this stuff…and now off to make a ginger bread house with my daughter…that is good start to recovery.  And So WE PRESS ON!
 cleaned up and going home

P.S.  My 11 year old son Luke, performed his first Repel this past weekend…a 125 foot drop off of an abandoned grain silo…at night...In the dark.  Looks like he is well on his way to being “High Speed”…which makes me happy happy happy!  

All pics courtesy of Don Westbrook and Spartan Racing

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Brutallity of Parenting...and the Ultimate Too

Parenting is tough….there…I said it…sometimes tough crosses over to brutal…at least for the parent and especially when you see your kid suffering through some growing pains of life.

My oldest son had a tough 4th grade year.  Where friends he had from his kindergarten years turned on him…where being “giving a hard time” became bullying.  We navigated those murky waters together. I told him about times when it happened to me as a kid…we talked about qualities of a true friend….and people in general.  I told him that although, right at this moment, it seems really really dark…that you will come through this a better person…you will know who your real friends are….and you will learn more about people that will serve you well in life….and you will look back on this as only a small hiccup of life.

We talked about what the Bible said about such incidents....and then I shared with him one of my favorite poems….IF…by Rudyard Kipling. 
That was over 2 years ago. 

This school year, He came to me and said that he had to memorize a poem in School…that it had to be between 10 to 20 lines long.  He went on to say that he selected “IF”.  I responded, “The poem was a lot longer than 20 lines”…and “Why did you select that one?” “Dad,” he responded, “When you shared that with me, it meant the world….I will always remember that!”
These days are much better...and that is the ebb and flows here on earth.
Yep…parenting can be tough…but the rewards are the ultimate, causing the bleakness of the task to fade into the twilight of life.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!
Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Three weeks ago I went with my son and his Scout Troop on a campout to Caprock Canyon…right on the edge of the Great Plains of Texas where Chief Quanah Parker once wreaked havoc.  On Saturday afternoon the Troop would take about a 7.5 mile hike in through the canyon.  I was going to get my running in by running ahead about ½ mile and then circling back to the troop and then do it all over again. 
The first 3 miles of the hike were benign…but after that the terrain turned brutal….like we ascended 1000 feet in 2/10 mile….I would go up and down back to the troop and then back up…this allowed for me to get my heart rate up to about 180 beat per minute while working climbing muscles.  When all was done with the hike I had only gone about 11 miles…the last ½ mile carrying a boy on my back who had twisted his ankle.  We get back to camp, and it looked like everybody was beat…but Doug had brought his mountain bike and I just couldn’t let it go unridden for the weekend…so I don my cycling shoes and went for a 45 minute trail ride before dinner.

We had dinner…all was good…and then as the night commenced I bed down on the ground.  The next morning my right hip was in pain with another pain shooting down my leg…hamstring and then calf.  Wow…this ain’t good.  I do a self diagnosis…piriformis syndrome…inflammation of small muscle in the hip region adjacent to the sciatic nerve.  BINGO!   
My bud Jennifer Kimble recommends that I go to her Chiropractor who practices Active Release Technique (ACT).  I know kinda what that is (dealing with the soft tissue)…am a bit skeptical…but I think what the heck…it can’t hurt…I can hardly walk…and I still have to get back to training…cause the Spartan Beast in a freaking month. 
Long story short…I go…he works on me for 30 minutes…I bout came off the table from the pain…I was sweating…it was rough…and the next day….WOW…less pain…like LOT LESS PAIN…and it progressively gets better. 
Here we are…a week later…and I am nearly a 100%...and through all that I only missed one workout.  This morning was Crossfit…and other than being all sorts of intense goodness for an hour…no pain in the hip. PRESS ON!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Post Mortem on a Season

Top of the 11th inning of game six in the 2011 World Series and Josh Hamilton approaches the plate.  He is injured, pulled obliques…and then it happens…Hollywood couldn’t write it any better.  Josh hits a home run.  I sat in my living room and just knew that it was Destiny.   The champagne had been chilled…and high ranking members had been ushered down to  field…for it was bottom of the 11th and the Rangers only had 1 out to go before being crowned world champions.  Actually they only had 1 strike to go…and the St Louis Cardinals would have none of it…and then go on and win game 7…and the world series.  It took me weeks before I didn’t think about that series on a day to day basis.  I am only a fan...and I would wonder….how would I deal with this if I were a player???
In April 2012, the Rangers seemed to have put all that behind them…as they took out of the gate as Team on a Mission…6 ½ games in first place with a record 17 and 6.  At the end of May the entire MLB community wanted to crown Hamilton as a TRIPLE CROWN WINNER!  People in the “BASEBALL KNOW’ were categorizing this team as the best in baseball…and some even said a top team in “history.”

The season carried on…the Rangers win/loss ratio came back to earth.  But through all that…something had changed.  The team’s at bats seemed to be “sub quality” at bats.  They didn’t work the pitchers count…there seemed to be no patience at that plate…just get up and try to hit the first pitch out of the yard.  Josh seemed to be the ring leader of the group.  There was no grinding out runs…stealing aggressively waned.  The end of season attempted steals show as much…50 less attempt at stealing as last year.  By September the team looked like that they were not having fun…the at bats continued to degenerate….the pitching was hit and miss.  There were injuries to the pitching staff that kept the rotation in flux.  The Texas Rangers were going through the motions….with no emotion.
Then…midway through September, Josh had health issues…flew home…ran test…and  we were told that he had drank to many “Red Bulls” and it dried out his cornea.  He returned to the team….and yet there was still no fire with this team.  That was it…no fire…the Rangers seemed wound tighter than a tick.  For the past two years it was evident…and we were told that this team had that rare and awesome locker room chemistry.  IT WAS GONE.  And WHY???  Was it because we weren’t winning…was it something to do with Josh…his free agency…and his seemingly apathetic attitude.
I have heard all my life in athletics that it is hard to beat a mediocre team two times in a row…and nearly impossible to be a good team two straight.  Yet in the last series of the season, the Oakland A’s beat what some baseball insiders deemed as the best team in baseball…THREE…3…..III….straight times.  All the Rangers had to do to win the division was win ONE….1…..I….game.  Worse….the Ranger hitting problems continued…and  after Josh missed a routine fly ball and looked apathetic in chasing it down, the fire begin to build about him, his free agency and the club house.  I thought that Josh could not have looked more relieved when the “Play In Wild Card Game” was over.

Post mortem has continued.  We learned very little from the end of the year press conference with JD, Wash…and Nolan.  Some want to blame Wash for over playing his players…much of this team is over 30…the number where physical decline commences…did we not rest our players enough…has the Team’s two post season runs taken its toll.  I don’t think so….I have never heard of the Yankees complain about how going to all those World Series just wore them out.
The mind is a strange thing.  The fragile Psyche…we herald the MLB players as super human…but they are not…they are human.  As the team closed the season out…did they reflect back to the pressure of the post season…the memories of coming within one strike away to only choke away a Championship?  Was the scab ripped off of the fresh wound of failing on the biggest stage…and the pressure of the lime light causing the team to pucker up…did they subliminally psychologically sabotage themselves?  Who knows…but it is as good as an explanation as anything else.  I know one thing…Once you have the sweet taste of the celebratory post season champagne, the beer being sipped on the couch is not near what it once was.

Monday, September 24, 2012


I am the type to have that carrot out front…that goal to obtain.  It keeps me training...let me rephrase…it keeps me training hard.
I had a fairly good performance at Hotter N Hell...we rode well.  But what is next?  What am I going to do with myself.
Then the two I train with put this on my Radar…The Spartan Beast!
Races with obstacles have become the fad…the warrior dash…the mud run…there are several of them.  The obstacles have always intrigued me….but he distances were never more than a 5K (3.1 miles)…or maybe 5 miles if you were lucky.
But the Spartan Beast…well that is 13+ miles of tender love and care…25 obstacles…expected to take around 3 ½ to 4 hours…Watch the video for an idea of what the race is about..
So on December 8th…let’s commence to suffering…

The training is different….a blend of upper body strength…and endurance…they say climbing will serve you well….stay tuned…I have already paid the fee….now time to pay the dues. J

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hotter N Hell - 2012...maybe Winder N Hell...

Amber, Me, Michael...- Pre Race

Somebody ask me, “What is the hardest part about the Hotter N Hell 100 miler?” 
I respond, “The first 10 miles.” 
“WHAT? WHY? You are fresh…How can it be hard the first 10 miles?” They exclaim. 
“Because you have 14,000 cyclists amped up on adrenaline thinking they are on TEAM RADIOSHACK riding into Paris on the last day of the Tour de France.” I reply.  “Then add those 14,000 cyclist dodging dropped water bottles and you have a white knuckle ride of epic proportions. “ 
But let us not get too far ahead of ourselves. 
I make the pilgrimage to Wichita Falls on Friday evening to meet up with Team Legacy…and at about 7:00 PM… 15 team members or so gather and eat the carbo loading spaghetti dinner at the at the downtown convention center.  It is always so good to catch up with these guys…Jackie, Amy, Jason, Jim, Ken…Karl the Camel, Tony…Lots of laughing…lots of ribbing…and all of these guys can flat out ride.  After dinner many of us head over to the downtown Y where for $20, they give you an opportunity to sleep with 400 of your best friends…a couple of them with sleep apnea.  It’s all part of the HHH adventure….I had the lovely experience of the two guys next to me deciding to pack up at 3:00AM…you might as well have driven a Moving Van through Racquetball court number 3….and thus at 4:50AM deciding I might as well get up.  REALLY?  A 3:00 AM wakeup?  The @#$@ Race doesn’t start till 7:05AM…I can move an entire USMC Battalion out in 30 minutes….and these two knuckleheads want to get up at 3:00AM?  But let me add this for all you peeps wanting endurance race tips.  The sleep (or lack thereof) you get the night before a race doesn’t matter and will not affect your race performance.  Focus on the sleep and rest the week leading up to the event.

 Bunking at the Y - Court 3
So at about 6:30….most of Team Legacy gathers at the start line where the “SCORCHERS” (those anticipating riding the 100 miles in under 6 hours).  Michael and Amber met up with the rest of us as they decided to drive in from North Texas that morning…and I thought….”Well, at the time I was woken up this morning I should have driven in as well.”  But I would have missed all the camaraderie and good times with my buds…so no regrets bunking in the Y…plus they offer a post race shower.

 The Hell's Gates Scorchers looking back to Hell's Gates Keeper - Start line

It is said that it is better to be 10% undertrained rather than 5% over trained…and on that morning I felt like I was on the undertrained side.  I had trained hard…and ridden well up to the time of the race…doing back to back hard days on the weekend…but my longest ride was a 60 mile ride…make that a pretty fast and furious 60 mile ride.  Jim offers a long Saturday morning country ride leaving his place…a great place for training…for holding a pace…for some climbing at the end of the ride.  Despite the long Saturday ride followed by a Hammerfest Sunday Ride with Michael and Amber…crushing 35 miles where the heart rate is in the stratosphere…170 bpm…I wish I had ridden at least one 80 miler.  Because of family vacation, that was not to be.  I go into the race wanting to do better than last year…I overheard Amber and others saying they wanted to ride HHH in 5 hr 30 min….and I thought…ok…maybe…but I feel undertrained…this was my third HHH…and I know what to expect…and I know how bad you can hurt if you go out too fast…I know how it feels to sit on a bicycle seat for over 5 hours…I know how the legs feel at mile 90…but I might as well set the goal for 5 ½ hours.
The Star Spangle Banner is sung…the Air Force Flyover complete….immediately followed by the cannon…let the maelstrom commence.   I feel like I can handle a bike fairly well…it doesn’t make me nervous in the middle of a peloton…6” from another experienced rider…but the first 10 miles of the HHH gives me the hibby gibbies…(is that a word?) 
Team Legacy is intact as a unit….at least for the first 3 miles…ha…then things start spreading out…at mile 7 or so…a loud BANG…sounds like a pistol shot…someone nearby had a blow out…I hear Amber behind me yell…”MICHAEL! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”  I don’t dare look around….lest I face plant from a dropped water bottle.  I hear Michael exclaim, “I am good.”  Great…a quick flash back to Beauty and Beast100K ride where Michael was taken out by a cyclist making a turn in the first 3 miles. 

Things spread out…at mile 12 or so….I see a train of Legacy Cyclist…Jackie, Amy, Jim…maybe there were others…but I didn’t see who they were…I was moving well…fast…and the heart rate was in check…we have a goal…not just to finish…At mile 20 or so…I see Tony…looking strong…I know Amber is somewhere close by behind me…so I tell him to get in with us….let’s work this race together.  He responds, “I have to pee like a Russian Race Horse!”  I have no idea how the ethnic origins of a horse have to do with equine urination patterns…but I got the jest that he needed to get a bigger bladder…heck Tony…you and I were in line at the port-a -potties at the start of this race.  I respond, “Tony, just Pee on the bike.”  HE comes back, “Do I look like a Tri Guy?” (A reference to Triathletes who some have a panache for urinating without getting off the bike.)  Ok…I realize that not all of you are endurance athletes and the above statement alone grossed you out.  Just let me say that for most endurance athletes…conversations of “peeing on the Bike” don’t even move the needle on the “disgusting scale.” )
We motor on…and somewhere around the 30 mile aid station I lose Tony….but incredibly catch back up with him around mile 35…I still don’t know if he stopped to pee.  Our first aid station stop was to be at mile 40...the goal…get refueled….water bottles filled and move on!  The mile 40 aid station was chaos…a debacle…20 cyclist deep to fill water bottles…if we stay around here it will be 30 minutes of time wasted.  I have one full bottle left (carried 3 bottles total)…let’s move on to the 50 mile aid station.   So at the 50 mile marker we roll in…Amber, Ken…myself…I knew that Michael, being his first century, would dial it back after the start…so I wasn’t concerned with him.  Ken was looking for a mechanic…for some reason he couldn’t shift on the small gear cassette.  We refill…and move on …3 minutes stopped…success.

Now is a good time to point out that this wasn’t going to be a Hot Hotter N Hell…afar cry from the record setting 109F temps of the previous year…nope…not HOT…But WINDY…WINDIER THAN HELL….from mile 20…there was a constant 20mph wind gusting up to 30mph…and to the 50 mile point with only a barbed wire fence for a wind break… a cross wind blowing you all over the road.

 Flags at convention center...Welcome to least Windy Hell

Mile 90 (pic courtesy of Don Westbrook)

We had agreed to stop next at mile 70 and then ride it all the way in…to the finish…I would pay for this decision…at Mile 66…I am out of water…and the next aid station was actually mile 72…I refill…still feeling strong…but my dehydrating the last few miles would come back to pay the piper later.  Amber is feeling great…she moves up ahead…I lose sight of her…but at mile 75 I get in a 40 man peloton holding a good pace at 24mph…and we, with a tail wind, fly through the community of Burkburnett at 31mph….and then we turn….South…straight into that head wind…brutal…the peloton is moving well at a 14mph…working…but I have a problem…my legs are starting to cramp…badly…both the quads and the hamstrings…to the point that my brain can no longer admonish the legs to continue.  At mile 83 I have to get off the bike…for 6 minutes…This is killing me…back on…into the head wind…for a total of 11 miles…and then into the edges of Wichita Falls…at mile 91…more Severe leg cramps…back off the bike…for another 6 minutes…it seemed like an eternity…and then Amber flys by… were suppose to be ahead of me…she had stopped to wait…worried that something had happened…I tell her to Go…Make it happen…I am back…through Shepherd Air Base…the Airmen lining the streets…you feel like a rock star…on ward…faster now…legs are cramping….overcome the pain…18mph now…to the finish…go…go…forget the pain….stand up in saddle to succumb the cramping…DONE…5 hours 38 minutes (avg speed 18.4 mph).  With that freaking Wind…DONE!  Just short of my goal…ironically…not spent…the tank not empty…but the legs gone…If not for the 2 abridged stops…5 ½ would have been easy.  Don, (Amber’s bud) grabbed my bike…I go sit…and Karl comes over…he had ridden the whole thing without stopping…with a camelback hydration pack…NO FREAKING STOPPING for 100 miles.  He tells us that Jason had finished in sub 5 hours.  Jim had come in just ahead of us…Amber and I talked…she had completed the century in 5 hrs 33 min…if she hadn’t stopped…she would have completed in way under 5 ½…and then we start waiting on Michael…Don brings me fluids…Tony makes his way in…with the Barbaro Tandem Rocket…physically I feel great…the legs start returning…I finally decide to go get a shower and then come back and wait for Michael.  I get back to my car…check my phone…and Michael had texted me…he was out…the blowout at mile 7…he didn’t get taken off the bike…but somebody had hit his back wheel….and for the next mile he rode feeling like he had a flat…only to find out that the rim was bent.  In the chaos of the first 10 miles…in the mass sea of thousands of cyclist where keeping a team intact is a herculean task…and Michael was out…Amber and I joked with him later…the next race we each will flank him…all the way to the finish line.  I am blessed to have these two as training partners.

 At the finish - photo courtsey of Don Westbrook
Later on Team Legacy starts to make their way in one by one…Jackie and Amy stay with Ken….who only had one gear in that godforsaken wind… completed his first 100 miler.
It was an epic day…let me close with this…at the finish line I got a bit emotional.  I have always rode for Carolyn Boyd who struggled with breast cancer and Sarah Grace,  the nine year old best friend of my daughter,  fighting Leukemia.  Her Leukemia is in remission…Praise our Father.    
Two years ago Carolyn waited at the finish line with her family.  Last year I had to visit her in the hospital on route to Wichita Falls.  In October 2011, Carolyn went to be with her Lord…and so this year…I rode for her memory…when I ride the Hotter N Hell…I will always ride in memory of Carolyn.
I am blessed…with 4 great kids…and a wife who is incredible in her support… PRESS ON!

Done!!(pic courtesy of Don Westbrook)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Eyes are Dry....My Faith is Old

It was the summer of 1993.  Bren, my wife to be, was sitting in Pine Cove Summer Counselor orientation…enduring the rite of passage for any Pine Cove Counselor…the “NAME GAME.”  An event where the “chosen one” stands in front of the other staff and the questions start coming…screamed out…”most embarrassing moment?”  “Most exciting time in life?” answer…they respond with more questions…more shouting…and then…it happens…they give you a name…it’s given…not chosen…and corresponds to the answers given in the inquisition.  That NAME is forever yours…your real name will no longer be used at camp…the entire summer…the campers will never know your real name…until the very end…it is just how it is.  Her name given…Peeka Boobaka…she was called Peeka for short…she served with others…like Icy Hot…Tippa Canoe…Kansas...for 5 weeks, pouring their lives into the kids attending Pine Cove Ranch…
She knew the environment of Pine Cove…she knew what it was all about…and this past Spring came to me and said she wanted us to go to Family Camp this summer. “Fine,” I replied…whatever…we will work around my training schedule…it is 2 weeks before Hotter N Hell 100 miler.

Let me be frank with you for a moment.  Last year was a challenge for Bren and I…In April we learned we would have our 4th kid…It was a tough year…emotionally…spiritually…a year for a rocky marriage….the very thought of another in diapers.   Because the week before Christmas just isn’t busy enough…Kyle Ryan was born on December 22… and only 4 days prior, my Mom shatters her hip in the foyer of my home
The Late Christian Singer and Song writer, Keith Green summed up where I was in life at the beginning of 2012:

“My Eyes are Dry. My Faith is Old. My Heart is Hard. My prayers are cold.”

Camp Chapel
So last Sunday, August 5, we loaded up the van and made the trip 15 minutes outside of Tyler, Texas…the piney woods of East Texas…and Pine Cove – The Bluffs…family camp… Divine Providence had been set in motion.

We are met at the gate of the Bluffs…with overly excited college age counselors who were in desperate need for a detox from caffeine…they seemed so happy that we are there.  They make us get out of our car…leaving an idling vehicle in the middle of the road…they usher us into the Summit, a large room that would serve as chow hall, activity center, and meeting room…we register…sign up for activities…then shown to our family cabin…a counselor had already unloaded all of our bags into the room...expecting nothing in return…heck…I didn’t even know who he was.  From a world where busy schedules, self indulgence, and selfish desires are the paradigm…We were now in a world where those characteristics seemed foreign.  College age counselors begin to pour their lives into ours…with a smile…cheerful service...I look over and “Oh No,” a camp boat driver is feeding Kyle…or “Enigma” is serving our family dinner and then ever so graciously admonished me for trying to help clean up afterwards.

The days are filled with camp activities…each child will be in a very small group with others their age and lead by a Counselor, who for the next 6 days will invest their lives into our children…for 6 days our kids will go swimming, horseback riding, taking a wild ride on the banana boat…or the exhilarating excursion on the zip line.  There will be Bible Studies, silly games…crazy times…archery, bb guns…the water slide…the Blob...I would see “Snarewise” hanging out with Luke…or “Toes” leading some crazy cheer and Hope giggling….I would see “Fly” walking with Macy and both laughing.  “C-Pay” would grab Kyle and take him to Cove Kids so Bren and I could attend the morning speakers meeting…Rick and Judy Taylor…parents of 4 kids…only to learn that 3 of their children are in their 30’s.  Their oldest had drowned at the age of 5 trying to save his drowning bother.  His name was Kyle.  My wife looks at me…the healing of 2011 had begun.  The material being taught was not new to Bren and I…and frankly, that was not what was important at that moment…but the providence of God…and the birth of our 4th child, Kyle…a gift…so much joy…
Macy and "Fly"

Hope and "Toes"
“ My Eyes are Dry. My Faith is Old. My Heart is Hard. My prayers are cold …and I know how I ought to be, Alive to You…and Dead to me…”

On Monday Morning, we received a knock on the door at 6:45 a.m.  “Hubs” was there and she was to take care of our kids as Bren and I would go for a Horseback Trail ride to Breakfast…she would return on Wednesday morning to do the same so we could watch the sunrise while ripping across the water on a Wave Runner.  On Tuesday night, the staff had picnic baskets ready for Bren and I…dinner without the children…followed by a boat ride at sunset…an awe inspiring experience. 

It was a week of perfect blend…time with Bren and I alone…and time with the entire family…Wednesday…We all scampered down to the lake (minus Kyle) to ride the banana boat…a wild ride to be insured by the driver “Leggo my Eggo”  An awesome time with the family…lots of laughs…and “Leggo” and I hit it off…as well as a 42 year old guy can hit it off with a College guy…I learned on the day that we left Pine Cove, that WE were his dedicated family he prayed for all week.

Macy and "Fender Bender"

Kyle and "Dance Pants"

Kyle with "Enigma" and "C- Pay"

Macy and Hope...getting on the Zip Line

Kyle and Judy Taylor

“My Eyes are Dry. My Faith is Old. My Heart is Hard. My prayers are cold …and I know how I ought to be, Alive to You…and Dead to me.” 
“What can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine.  The oil is you, your Spirit of Love. Please wash me anew with the wine of your love.”

We are back at home…reflecting…I just heard my daughter Macy say, ”I bet they are having Ice Cream Sundaes right not!”  I have lost count how many time my two daughters have watched the DVD given to each family reviewing the week.
What I have not lost sight of is the exuberance and spirit of the college student in regards to their faith…the excitement of serving others without request or expectations of anything in return…the unselfish act of pouring their life into us and our kids…the gracious patience of “Monkey Business” and “Liberty” as they coaxed my wife to begin the decent down the zip line…the crazy skits by “Fishface” and “Dance Pants”…the daily family devotions with “Woo Woo”…”Red Beats” always making the sure the horses were saddled up and ready to go every morning….the swimming pool basketball game with “Thunder from Down Under” and letting him know that the old man still had a hook shot…;-)

The Bible Study material was not new to us…neither was the marriage couples material…Don’t get me wrong….”His Word does not return void.”  But there were other things…subtle things that I needed to see….and hear…Like the testimony of Rick and Judy losing a child, to remind me that Kyle was a gift from above….or the Camp Director, Chris “Hip Shot” Sherrod having a heart to heart talk with the fathers….and don’t forget the excitement of the college students…who were the hands and feet of Christ that week…still excited about their faith…and “Leggo” who prayed for Team Elliott…all week long… 

 “What can be done for an old heart like mine? Soften it up with oil and wine.”

And for that week…THEY…the Staff served as the Oil and Wine…

"Leggo My Eggo" and Me...

Luke and "Snare" 
Not a bicycle seat...but I had a blast...this was a Friday afternoon cattle drive.

Super Hero Night...Breakfast Boy and Wobble Woman overcome the "Evil" Badazzler

Hope hoopin it up...

Kyle and "Oh No!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When to PRESS ON!

Last night while we were warming up on a sultry, well groomed youth league park in Plano…my son, Luke and his Ranger Team were about to play the last game of the season…and RA Dickey was throwing a second 1 hitter in a row…the first time since 1988 when Dave Stieb of the Toronto Blue Jays threw two of those one hit wonders.  It should be noted that the cruel fate of baseball had both of Stieb’s back to back no hit outings being broken up with 2 outs, 2 strikes... in the ninth inning…oh the brutal reality.

I remember that 1996 spring day, on my commute home, when cruel fate would strike… just 8 years later from when the Baseball gods wreaked havac on Stiebs back to back one hit games.  The Rangers had sign RA Dickey to the “Big Leagues” with an impressive signing bonus of $810,000.00.  For a change, the Texas Rangers were focusing on a pitching phenom…a total paradigm shift from “lets bludgeon to death the other team with big bats.”
A Rangers physician saw Dickey’s right throwing arm hanging oddly in a photo and requested further evaluation.  The evaluation completed and Dickey’s signing bonus plummeted….to $75,000.00…the reason…Dickey had no ulnar collateral ligament of elbow joint.  Doctors were bewildered of how he could even perform day to day task without enormous pain…little lone hurl an 87 mph fast ball.  He labored in the minors…made it to the majors in 2001….but his stuff wasn’t very good…and in 2006 the Rangers slotted him as the 5th hurler in the rotation only to be rocked by giving up 6 home runs in his season start.
In 2007, a guy by the name of Doug Melvin, GM for the Milwaukee Brewers signed him to the organization…Melvin should ring a bell for the Rangers fan…he was the GM for the Texas Rangers when they signed Dickey in 1996.  To cut to the chase…and to be brutally honest…Dickey’s ERA looked more like James LeBron’s rebound average than a big league pitching ERA.  He bounced around in the minors…from the Brewers…to the Mariners…then on to the Mets…
Somewhere along the way, RA Dickey learned how to throw the knuckle ball…yep…the much maligned knuckle ball.  The pitch that will give the batter fits…heck…most the time the pitcher doesn’t know where it’s going…but it seems Dickey throws it different…he actually pounds the strike zone with it…he doesn’t walk hitters with it…and here is the kicker…it can range in speed from 83 mph to 55 mph…that fact alone makes me want to write bad checks.  His ERA is now where “Holy Cow he can Pitch” ERA’s should be…teams that face the Mets now calculate out where Dickey is in the rotation and pray to the powers to be that allow the same brutal reality that faced Dickey back in 1996 to show mercy on their poor hitting souls in 2012.
This eclectic, avid reader and born again Christian is an enigmatic personality that has scores of life’s lessons wrapped up in his biography.  You never give up…you never quit…even when you labor in anonymity…you Press On despite what cruel reality comes your way...and continue to evaluate who you are…what you are…adapt…over come…and when you can’t seem to throw the fast ball to get an out…do something unorthodox…like maybe the knuckle…yeah…throw that knuckle…

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

And We Were Kids Again...

Baseball is an endurance sport…the grind of 162+ games of a full season…night after night…after night with only the occasional day off.  It is enough time for players to go in and out of slumps…sub par performances….multiple times.  The hard core fan loves it…analyzing counts on a batter…situational hitting…how to shift a defense on certain batter…how to pitch a player…the list is absolutely endless.  For the casual fan, Baseball is a sport with a slow rhythm….most of it mundane with a few moments of excitement.
You see there are games where you know something special is going to happen…remember a few years ago when the Season Home Run Record was in jeopardy…as the game approached with  the chance of Mark Mcquire rocketing past Roger Maris...the ticket prices went through the roof….the press was in full attendance.  It was the same on August 22, 1989….Nolan Ryan was scheduled to pitch…and expected to get his 5,000 strikeout…and somehow my brother had a ticket to the game.  He said that atmosphere was electric as the expectations mounted…and when the magic moment happened…the strobe lights of cameras made the old Arlington Stadium look like Club 54.

Then there are those games where something awesome may happen…but you can’t really plan for it…like a no hitter being thrown…or even more rare, the perfect game.  There have been only 19 of those in the modern era (defined from 1900)…and 21 ever in the history of Baseball.  Those games start out as normal games…but as they progress…the crowd excitement grows…the news wire picks up…and now MLB Network will cut into the game.

Last night was one of those games.  In Camden Yard, Baltimore Maryland…before only about 11,000 fans…Josh Hamilton did something that only  15 people before him have done. That’s right….there have been more perfect games thrown than what Josh did…hit 4 home runs in one game.  In fact he went 5 for 5 from the plate with 4 home runs and one double…18 bases total….more bases than Albert Pujols had in all of April.  What do Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, and Ted Williams have in common?  None of them did what Josh did last night.  It is argued that just hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in sport to accomplish.  A professional that hits 3 out of 10 times for a lifetime is considered Hall of Fame…but to take one yard….that, not only indicates hand eye coordination, but the coveted Power…and then to do it 4 out  of 5 times in a single game…there are not many words to describe that…

For the casual fan, and before of the 11,000 Baltimore fans in Camden Yard…who by the way gave Texas Ranger, Josh, a standing ovation…the standard mundane game turned into pure excitement .  For the avid fan, well….it was something special to behold…something to tell your grandkids about…something beyond the media guide stats that you pore over.  Josh said when he rounded 2nd Base on his last one and saw his teammates jumping around, it reminded him of playing Little League again…and the excitement that went with that.  That is why we love the sport so much in this country…it reminds us of childhood sandlots…and a summer afternoon with our buddies….for Baseball is an endurance sport…for over 150 years…it has endured…and last night was part of the reason why…Last night you were 12 again…and your buddy hit a bomb…and you and your teammates jumped around.