Monday, December 31, 2012

The Long Run of a Life Lived for Christ

It's the last day of the year and people all around the world are expecting the turning of the earth to reveal something new. Something that the 364 days before it didn't have time to show them. Sorry to disappoint, but it's not that simple.

In the beatitudes, Christ tells us that the poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned will one day inherit a kingdom, be satisfied, laugh, and receive a great reward in heaven. All that is the long term. As a mortal on this earth, lack of means, food, love and acceptance are all very hard things to bear. In the near term, those things hurt. Just like running. 

The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. -

Long distance running is a game of pain and patience. In the near term, each step offers no more instant reward than the last and is often no more comfortable than the last. No one step truly makes a difference in the near term.What matters in the long term is all of the steps taken over time - the long, drawn out haul down the road, track or trail.What matters is having the patience to push through any near term pain because of the promised benefit after a long period of toil. Just like faith.

Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light. - John Milton

For Christians and runners especially, the best things in life don't come around in a snap. Running and grace both require patience. 

So in this new year, try to think about changing yourself over the long haul. Try taking some of the painful steps that will pay off in the long run. And, just because I love the sport, try lacing up and hitting the road.

Tailwinds in 2013!

Monday, December 10, 2012

God as a coach - A failed experiment?

Back in August, I wrote a post about Ryan Hall's performance in the 2012 Olympic marathon and what it meant in light of his special training method. At the time, Ryan was practicing faith based coaching; where a runner relies on his or her God to direct their physical training.

As you might have seen, Ryan recently announced that he will begin training under a new, mortal, flesh and blood coach. Ryan's new coach, Renato Canova, seems quite impressive, and I am certainly a fan of his rumored emphasis on hill work.

Although this isn't the first time Ryan has trained under a human coach, I'm excited to see what Canova brings out in him. I can't help but wonder, however, how Ryan will adjust to this change in his professional running life. Here's some of what he had to say about the change:

While this is certainly a new chapter in my career I don't feel like it's a huge departure from how I have operated in the past- MSN Innovation For Endurance - 

Not a huge departure? Ryan used to be solely coached by God and now has a human coach? How is that not a big departure. Doesn't this mean he has given up on God to direct his running? Doesn't this mean that God failed Ryan as a coach? No, I don't think that's what this means at all.

I believe Proverbs 3:6 can be of good use here. The passage says "in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." If we are to truly enjoy life to the fullest as only God can provide, we must allow Him control over all aspects of our lives. I believe that is what Ryan Hall was doing when he placed his professional life fully in God's control. How did that work out? In terms of Olympic victories, not so great. But, what about spiritual victories? How can anyone but Ryan himself judge how many spiritual victories were won during this period of his life?

Maybe that was the whole point of his faith-based coaching experience? Maybe God wanted to train Ryan's faith instead of his running. Maybe now that Ryan's faith has been strengthened to the level God desired, God has put a fantastic running coach in Ryan's path so that his running can reach the highest of levels.

This is what I like to call "the head fake" - where someone asks you to do one thing in order to teach you something else. By submitting his running to God, Ryan probably learned volumes about faith and God's provision. One would have assumed that by submitting his running to God, He would have blessed Ryan's running. That just isn't God's style. He isn't that predictable.

So, before we all start cynically quipping "Ha, that God-coached thing sure didn't work very well did it?", we should ask ourselves, did we really expect God to train Ryan Hall in running when He had the perfect chance to train him in matters of Godliness?"

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Running Training - Starting a Run-Streak

A friend of mine challenged me to start a #RunStreak - an unbroken number of days where one runs a certain amount. We have self-selected 1 mile to be our minimum daily quota. I've made it 1 week so far, but it hasn't been easy. Cold mornings are never fun.

I've been running for over 10 years and logged countless hours on the road. If pressed to answer, I'd say I've unknowingly achieved a run streak of 1 month or so. Having never set a goal to run every day, it's never been important to me. 

This challenge did get me thinking about a few things. First, who is really good at running every day?

Apparently avid runner Mark Covert has this thing down, and I mean to the ground. Answer 1  - check!

Another question this challenge brought up was about the value of running every day. What good could 1 mile do? If I've just finished a hard set of intervals the day before and my legs are totally shot, why lace up for such a pointless jog?

Rest is critical - no getting around it. It is one of the silent events in every sport. Like its brother nutrition, if you ignore it for long enough you either bonk hard or get hurt. 

But is 1 little mile going to kill my rest? Not in this bloggers opinion. So, is there something larger going on here? 

Aristotle once said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit". Devotion, determination and discipline are what's being trained with that extra 1 mile. The "get out of bed" muscle inside your brain needs to be trained just like your quads do.

(To continue playing devil's advocate) But shouldn't you save that mental strength building to get you through your toughest workouts?

Which side will I end up on...we'll see.

Post your thoughts on my Twitter feed @paceandfaith .  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Race Day Gone Wrong

Very few people would be upset if they were told they didn't have to swim/bike/run 70.3 miles in the 100+ degree heat. I happen to be one of those people who would be, and was, upset.


 My first 1/2 Ironman was supposed to be held in the metropolitan Muncie, IN last July. The summer was already pretty hot and a heat wave was baking the better part of the country. My wife and I drove up to the expo the day before and never saw the thermometer drop below 100. Shortly after arriving at the convention center I found out that the race had been shortened to an Olympic-esk length (1 mi swim, 30 mi bike, 6.2 mi run) because of the heat. To save you from a really long rant, I'll just say there were many bummed out triathletes, and I was one of them."They've got heat in Kona, you know! Lava fields anybody?" - that's the kind of vitriolic taunts I wanted to shout at the race director.

My mood dropped faster than a tap dancer on ice. All of my motivation was lost, and any sense of calm I had fostered in the days prior went out the window. Try as I might, I couldn't get over it. Then things got a little worse. I found out that I left my helmet and bike pump at home. "Hello breakdown. I think we've met before".

Enter my Godly wife. Sitting on the sofa in our hotel room she put her arms around me and talked me through what I soon saw to be the lesson God had in store for me the whole time. She asked why I was so upset, and I explained that I had told so many people I was going to do a half-ironman, and now I wasn't allowed to. I had promised myself that I was going to finish this thing, and through no fault of my own, I had to break that promise. Slowly but surely she worked me towards the true source of my rage - PRIDE.

 I was afraid what other people, including myself, were going to say when I didn't finish a half-ironman. I was afraid of how I would feel. I was angry about not getting to do what I wanted to do. None of that had anything to do with God's intentions for the day. I and the world were the focus. Not God. Issue identified.

I started off race morning by listening to David Crowder's After All. One of my favorite lines says "Oh I've dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars But they're never bright enough after all...You are Holy". I tearfully prayed for God to do what He needed to do throughout the race.

I started the race off with a strong swim, kept it steady of the bike and used my extra strength on the run to come in with a respectable 2 hr 29 min finish. (The pro's had a nice race of their own.) My real story, and my final lesson, was out on the swim.

After making the first of two turns, the swim course put the races parallel to the sunrise, so if you breathed on your right side you got a face full of rays. As I made the turn the sun's light was a reminder of the previous day's lesson. God's majesty is brighter than a billion stars and just staring into a single star had enough power to turn my head the other way. What could I hope to do to brighten a billion times that with a simple race regardless of the distance?

So what great glory did God achieve in that shorter than expected race? I don't know for sure, but all I can say is that my thoughts during the race were totally on Him, and that wouldn't have been the case if nothing had changed from my initial plan. That alone makes it worth it. That alone brings God more glory than any number of miles ever could.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm in Love with a Triathlete

This is going to be one of my shortest post ever, but I had to share this.

My lovely wife probably could have written something similar to this, so I had to swallow my pride and just laugh. Enjoy this little piece of triathlete humor from 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Lean Training Plan

Dear Readers,
 Here's a little bit about me (Phillip Martin ). I work at an industrial design-build construction company and moderate a manufacturing news website that we created to help our manufacturing customers find information about their market. One of my duties as webmaster is to procure featured articles for publication on the site. Many of these articles focus on the topic of lean manufacturing.

Lean is a giant term that can be used to describe a process of doing or making something that is undertaken with a specific emphasis on the elimination of waste in order to maximize benefit. This really got started with Toyota and their Toyota Production System and has a myriad of special terms to make it sound extra fancy.

One item of lean that I've become particularly interested in from an endurance perspective is PDCA - Plan Do Check Act.

The expanded steps for PDCA have been described as follows:
  1. Decide what's important
  2. Set Goals
  3. Organize
  4. Execute Your Plan
  5. Innovate As You Go
  6. Step Back and Learn
  7. Repeat

If you have ever (successfully) undertaken an endurance race, you know all about planning. You understand that it's more than just your body that gets you from the start to the finish. There was a training plan put in place months before you got to the start line that will get you through the race.

Due to my recent exposure to lean, I've started asking myself how would a Lean Guru plan for a distance race? This is what I came up with
  1. Decide what's important - Goal Time? Win Age Group? Stay Injury Free? Don't Puke?
  2. Set Goals - These goals have to enforce the important factors identified. (ex - Injury prevention might mean setting a goal of taking 1 day of active rest or complete rest a week)
  3. Organize - What materials do you need to make this happen? Got a faster bike split in mind? New tires and an aero helmet might be a good investment. What's your schedule going to be like? How are you going to "do life" and train?
  4. Execute Your Plan - Train - actually follow your predetermined plan.
  5. Innovate As You Go - You made the plan, so you can change the plan if it's bogus. Intervals always give you knee pain? Lay off. Having trouble staying hydrated? Try a new fuel system.
  6. Step Back and Learn - After the race is done, take a look back at your training log and see what actually happened. What workouts were you likely to skip? Where there any training sessions that were always followed by nagging pain? 
  7. Repeat - Come back next time smarter and faster.
Hopefully this little plan helps someone as they plan their next event. 


Monday, October 15, 2012

Love to Tri? Try to Love

The mother of all triathlons was last weekend and boy what a show! Kona nerds certainly got several surprises (I certainly didn't think Macca would be DNF). Men's winner Pete Jacobs put on a good show all the way through and deserved his win 100%.

In his post-race interview, Jacobs talked about one of the most important keys to his winning the race. Was it his sleek bike? No. The blistering intervals he did during training? Nope. The invisible dolphin he rode during the swim? Almost but not really. Love? You bet!

The Bible has tons to say about love. God sacrificed His son Jesus for love of His own creation. The disciples gave up their entire lives due to their love for Christ. Followers of Christ should give 10% (or more) of their income to His church because they love Him. The list goes on and on, but the Bible doesn't exactly talk about how love would help you face down a pack of hungry Ironman triathletes at the end of a marathon. So what's up with love?

Anyone who believes in God must agree that God is powerful. You don't create the universe without power. If we can also agree that God is love, then we can assume that their is power in love. By acting out of love we are acting in accordance with God's will. As the Bible tells us, those who are outside of God's will don't tend to make it very far, so love is in our best interest. To boot, Paul, John, George and Ringo also thought love was pretty important.

The power of positive thinking and positive visualization are nothing new in sports. By harnessing love rather than rage or hate (Ex -You gotta get mad to win!) during a race you not only save yourself the mental energy of thinking negative thoughts, but you also tap into something more spiritually powerful and ultimately more pleasing all around.

Unless you plan on making triathlon your job, your main goal is probably to have fun and enjoy yourself. Who's ever said "Let's get up really early, put on weird clothes, go run for a few hours and spend the entire time thinking negative thoughts - it'll be fun!"? That outlook certainly doesn't appeal to me, and I doubt it does to you either.

Want to have the best shot at winning your next race and maybe enjoying life a bit more altogether? Try love on for size. It's Christ tested, God approved.

I don't mean to speak for Pete Jacobs at all in writing this. I have no reason to believe his comments were motivated by faith. This is my attempt to use his popular comments as a jumping off point for my own discussion.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Running to a God Place in Times of Challenge

Below are nothing but the thoughts of a runner/tri'er who, when facing a recent challenge, thought up something he found insightful. This someone happens to be Phillip James Martin (writer of this blog and the sentence you just read). The thoughts are as follows:

If God is taking me some place unknown, then it must be a good place. He might not make it an easy place, but it will be a place made for my holiness.

Don't be scared when He decides to move you. He doesn't give great walls or giant warriors to those without the strength to bring them down.

Fear isn't the whole story anyway. The real story isn't about those who fear, but about the ones who fear and walk into the fire anyway. It's not those who can't fail that succeed, but those who trust in Him to succeed through their failures that take the day.

It's not about the unknown, or the challenge, or the fear, but the faith it takes to walk through them all.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gluten Free Snacks for Athletes

Were you this happy
at the end of your first
 10 mile run?
My beautiful wife is a new convert to the sport of running. She completed the Peachtree 10k last year like a boss and is already moving on to the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon this month. (Some how I convinced her that a 13.1 mile run is a romantic way to spend our 1st wedding anniversary.)

Although she doesn't seem to have any weaknesses (I put Kryptonite in her coffee once - nothing!) there is one thing that can really ruin her day: gluten. Her gluten allergy forces her to be extra careful about what foods she consumes.

Sadly, the options for gluten free training snacks that offer a good balance on carbs and protein can be hard to find.

Thankfully the good people at posted this sum up of a few of the best gluten free fuel options.

I highly recommend the Pro Bars but feel free to try them all.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Step Forward or Backward - Wisdom or Faith

Let's face it, sometimes we have no idea what to do. We are confused, trapped in our own cognition, and unable to make a decision about what to do. The best advice of many of the faithful is to pray and ask God for help. As one of the faithful who has taken that advice I can say with honesty that one of two fairly obvious things will happen; God will speak or God will not speak.

In my own experience, God seems to give me more No's than Yes's. That is, when I am considering something and ask for God's help, I more often hear Him telling me No rather than Yes. This means that I know for sure what God wants me to stay out of, but what He wants me in can often remain a mystery.

What am I to do, you ask?

I think this video from Redux provides a good answer.

Ken Wytsma, Pastor of Antioch Church in Bend, OR, speaks on how we have the ability to both listen for God's direction and use our wisdom when He chooses to be silent.

This allows God to act in two ways.

1) God Speaks and You Lean on His Wisdom. This is the supernatural engaging the natural.You will know for sure what path you must walk down, and that He is leading you there, but the difficulty lies in following that calling.

2) God Does Not Speak and You "Step back into Wisdom" - In His silence, God provides you a chance to see that He has already given you everything you need to make a good decision. Will you know your decision is right once you make it? Maybe, maybe not; therein lies the difficulty of this situation. What I think God tries to teach us in these times is that He will catch you no matter what decision you make.

In both situations, faith is the key. The faith to listen and obey or the faith to trust and move forward.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Triathlon Podcast Zen-Tri Podcast Of Pace and Faith

Get Your Zen On!

I think it's always nice to admit when something has inspired you. As someone who has spent a decent amount of time in Japan, I know a thing or two about Zen. I'm not talking about the mini-rock garden on your desk, cheap flute music CD at the gas station Zen. I'm talking about za-zen, Dogen, Rinzai, etc. While it's hard to put Zen (the real kind) on a T-shirt, it is far more interesting in my opinion. But I digress.

One of the biggest inspirations for this blog was a blog/podcast series call Zen and the Art of Triathlon. The Zen-Tri Master, Coach Brett, produces both a blog and a very entertaining podcast which are both worth your time if you are interested in learning more about triathlons.

Zen-Tri materials cover everything about endurance sports:

Nutrition - Brett is a Vegan and has tons of great healthy eating tips. His nutrition advice also finds a place in my favorites list because he loves, loves, loves burritos.

Gear - I have a crush on nearly every piece of Zen Tri gear. He always uses and demo's the best stuff. Great advice. Suunto gear...Yes Please!

Training - Nearly every episode of his podcast has a training log portion where Brett basically records himself talking as he trains. These can get a little "so-so" at times (I find myself skipping to meatier sections of the episode on occasion) but there's always good for a laugh or two. He also throws out some Zen thoughts during this time, which brings me to...

Zen - While I'm not going to suggest you site his blog as a source for a philosophy paper (unless your professor is an Ironman which in that case you need to do your thesis on his site), his recurring  themes of simplicity, clam, focus and keeping things in balance are all core Zen beliefs.

Hearing about how he juggles family life, training, coaching, working and producing a blog/podcast while still staying "sane" (triathlon and sanity rarely mix) has been a real inspiration. He offers up lots of advice derived from his own experience that has served me well. Ex - Need to get in a ride but have to watch the kids? Get on the trainer. Kid needs lunch? Get off the bike, be a father and make lunch. Kids want to play - Play with them and Then get back on the bike.Well done Brett!

So charge your Ipod, put on your shoes and head out for a nice run with some Zen-Tri in your ears.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sunday Ritual - What are you training?

I recently came across an entry on's staff blogs entitled My Weekend Ritual . Given the title of this blog, I'm sure it's no surprise why it caught my attention.

In the article, author Mario Fraioli, a senior producer at Competitor and beastly runner, describes his Sunday workouts and what they mean to him.

The part of the article that most caught my attention was Mario's claim that "[his] Sunday routine isn’t much different from  [his] friend who attends services with his family and then heads out for coffee and pastries afterward." Before I dive into my opinion on this, let's look at Mario's reasoning:

"... for me, running long on Sunday morning, either with others or sometimes by myself, is a form of worship and a time of reflection. It’s how I choose to celebrate life and appreciate the beauty of the world around me. Like my non-running friends who do attend weekly religious services, every weekend I’m introduced to new friends, gain insight into a variety of different issues and inevitably learn something new about myself."

The running community looks at the long Sunday run and the gatherings after as the perfect opportunity to commune with fellow runners, get in some good training and escape from the general pace of life for a few miles. Next to the chance to look studly at the local 5k, it's one of the biggest selling points for recruiting new members to our crazy little hobby.

The similarities of these two happenings are many: a gathering of people, atypical clothing, and the possibility of self discovery. However, the claim that running and church-going are analogous doesn't quite work for me. Here's why:

Impetus - The act of corporate worship is something Christians (should) do out of obedience. Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to "not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" and Acts  reminds us that the early Church is a model to follow in terms of meeting together regularly. Running groups are formed, usually, out of a personal desire to have fun, acquire some motivation or just to be social. So as one event is done out of obedience and the other out of pleasure driven choice, the two are dissimilar.While I do think a group of believers could worship God while running and successfully build each other up in the faith as they click off the miles, I don't think that is what is being discussed in the article.

Purpose - The purpose of corporate worship is to give honor and glory to God. He defines the worship experience, not the worshipers. Weather we enjoy it or not, weather we feel like it or not, Christians owe it to our Creator to pay Him homage. The purpose of the Sunday run, however, is a blend of personal enjoyment and improving bodily health. God certainly wants his children to be happy and healthy, but that doesn't mean acts that lead one towards health or happiness are necessarily worship.

Presence Matthew 18:20 points out another important distinction. Matthew tells us that, unlike worshiping the sea while swimming or nature while trail running, God is with His followers as they worship Him. One can only be in the sea or among nature. God isn't off in the distance receiving praise; He participates in worship. As the Holy Spirit moves in the heart of worshipers, He personally interacts with his followers.

Although I do see the similarities, and although I certainly enjoy both running and corporate worship, I don't think I can support the claim that running groups are anything more than seemingly similar to worship groups. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Running Podcast from Clif Bar - Of Pace and Faith

Hello, my name is Phillip and I'm addicted to Clif Bars.

If you run, bike, climb, tri, or otherwise exhaust yourself, you know what a Clif Bar is. Many of you practically keep yourself going with these things. And why not? What could be sweeter, literally, than finishing off a nice trail run with the taste of "roasted macadamia nuts and scrumptious white chocolate chunks"? Dig the propaganda!

It's rare that my favorite foods get paired with technology.
The hamburger phone... eh, only so-so in my opinion.

So I'm thanking the tech-gods for this little find: Clif Cast Podcast Series. Basically, Clif Bar is publishing a podcast series on all thing related to running - health, training, nutrition, etc.

I think Clif is doing a great job with this series. The Ian Sharman one was most entertaining, and I found the Protein and Insights from Afar episodes very informative.

The quality is great and they keep things light, so there easy to listen to. If you're already pretty well read and experienced on these subjects, you won't learn a ton of new stuff, but the advice is solid.

So the next time you need a dose of running "shop talk", but can't find another endurance nut to jaw with, grab your ear buds and give Clif Cast a try.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ryan Hall - Christian Runner or Running Christian

American distance runner Ryan Hall has been in the news a lot in recent months. Leading up to the London Olympics, he did several interviews that centered on his controversial coach: God. Yes, Hall is "self-coached" but he claims that he's not really alone. This isn't merely posturing. Many have heard how he once wrote God in as his coach on an official drug test form. When he was told by an official to list a real person, he responded with "He is a real person". Obviously Hall doesn't struggle with conviction.

The New York Times featured an in depth article detailing exactly how Hall manages to be a "legitimate" faith based runner. Apart from devotional acts that most would expect from a professing Christian (praying, reading scripture, etc), Hall even takes one day off from training to honor the Sabbath - itself a sin to many in the distance running world.

Hall doesn't get overly literal about this, however. Hall was quoted saying "The Bible is not going to tell you how to be a good runner, just like it's not going to tell you how to build a computer," It could be said that he relies on God more for inspiration than absolute direction. (Ex - Try to push yourself today vs Run 10x1000 at tempo). Not to say absolute direction from God can't or hasn't happened. That's a question for Hall to answer.

After his 2nd place finish at the US Olympic Trials, there was little doubt in the running world that Hall had a shot at bringing home some hardware from London. The final day of the Olympics arrived and everyone was ready to see him shine.

Then, it happened. Just 10 miles into the race, Ryan Hall dropped out of the marathon - a career first. I had never seen anything like it. Sitting on my couch in the early morning hours, I was simply shocked.

I went on Twitter later that day searching for people bashing Hall and his coach. What I found was much more uplifting.

"You continue to inspire me," with the hashtag #GodIsStillGood  - Ryan Hall to Meb Keflezighi, Hall's teammate who was the only American to finish the marathon.

While most would say Hall failed in London, I think he achieved something amazing.

Hall's motivation for switching to faith based training are well summed up in this quote:
“I was a runner who happened to be a Christian. I needed to become a Christian who happened to be a runner.” Simply - Ryan wanted to go from being a Christian runner, a type of runner, to a running Christian, a type of Christian.

If Ryan was a Christian runner when he toed the line in London, his goal would have been to win the race, and a DNF would have totally demoralized him. Since it's pretty obvious that, while he was no doubt shocked and upset, Hall found a silver lining in the outcome of the race and could put it in a bigger perspective, the label of Christian runner fails to define him.

So, Ryan, for what it's worth, it is this bloggers opinion that you should consider your task complete.
Ryan Hall, running Christian.

1st Corinthians 924Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Start Gun

Perhaps the most terrifying thing I've ever seen is a starting gun. Unlike its more lethal counterparts, the start gun releases the life in me, rather than stops it. Its blast hits my ears and I'm set free to cover the course before me as fast as I can.

If my last blogging adventure is any indication of the road ahead, this blog should be quite a journey.

I promise my readers only this: my honest thoughts and observations on all things I encounter having to do with endurance sports ( running, biking, swimming, triathlon, etc.) and faith. Although I am a runner at heart and a Christian by the grace of God, I hope the posts in this blog will be quite eclectic and enjoyable.

Thanks for reading.