View From The Ridge

View From The Ridge

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lavaman Triathlon

 View from the Ridge

Co 9:24-27 Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever. That is why I run straight for the finish line; that is why I am like a boxer who does not waste his punches. I harden my body with blows and bring it under complete control, to keep myself from being disqualified after having called others to the contest. GNB

I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. Old Persian Proverb.

 We were treated to an unexpected event this weekend when the 13th annual Lavaman Triathlon was held here at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. We thought there were an unusual number of bicyclists on the road this past week and apparently most of them were in the final training stages for this half triathlon consisting of a 1.5 mile swim, 24.4 mile bike ride and a 6.4 mile run.

So this Sunday morning we left the condo at 6:45 a.m. and walked about a mile to the beach where just under 1100 participants were assembled for a 7:30 plunge into the blue Hawaiian waters off the Kohala Coast. About 2,000 spectators watched as five waves of swimmers took off at two minute intervals around the rectangular course set up in the Anaeho’omalu Bay. There were 127 volunteers just for the swimming portion, over 300 total.

This was an event that some of the elite athletes were using to qualify for the Iron Man Triathlon held on this same island in October. Most were using it for experience and others were there for the fun and exercise.

While waiting for the start of the swimming portion I was “people watching” and happened to see a man in a wheel chair, wearing a wet suit, and having the familiar participant numbers on both arms. His number was 1001. Curiosity finally got the best of me and I approached his group and asked if I could take his picture. I told him I did a little writing and wondered what his story was.

His name is Dan, and he is from New York. About 10 years ago he was in college and fell over a banister 23 feet to a concrete floor below, suffering severe head and brain injuries resulting in paralysis from the waist down. He stated it was a miracle that he could even talk today, let alone do the things he is able to do. Yet here he was, waiting for the start of a mile and a half swim, without the use of his legs. His friends were waiting to carry him to the water. Later I took a picture of him as he powered his racing wheel chair down the road for his long trek to Kona and back. Only then did the question arise as to how he was going to do the running portion. Still don’t know! But this I do know; if he only does the two parts he is able to do, he has done more than most of us will do all year. This is a young man who will not let adversity stand in his way of accomplishment, what ever it be.

In my photographs posted with this article is also a picture of a young lady on the ground. She and another girl collided just 200 yards into the bike portion of the race. Her race was over and they were waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Months of sacrifice and training were wiped out in split seconds, breaking the hearts of both riders. I don’t know who was at fault but the other rider was in tears, if for no other reason than realizing the shared dreams broken for both participants. The second rider was finally encouraged to continue on and she did, but lost precious time because of the incident.

Not 30 yards past this accident, I took a picture of a rider fixing a flat tire on his bike. This was one of the elite riders, one of the first out of the water, and his day was now ruined less than a quarter of a mile into the bike portion of the race. How in the world do you get a flat that quick into the race?

Then there is the picture I missed. I was walking down the road that exits the resort and happened to turn around just as a group of women were riding by. One of them was riding a regular mountain bike with high comfortable handle bars, a wide supportive seat, a basket with her drinks and food mounted on the front, and a grin a mile wide as if she was off on a Sunday ride rather than a grueling triathlon. She was going to have fun this day and, hopefully, finish. I bet she did.

There were a lot of other riders just like her, both men and women, who were doing this for the experience, some for the first time, all hoping to finish, all hoping to better their best time, all enjoying the event. I saw gray-haired grandmothers competing, and looking like this was not their first race and probably not their last. Most participants were the picture perfect athletic bodies, lean and hard. Yet I saw a surprising number that were obviously using this training to hopefully obtain those lean and hard bodies and had a ways to go; some a long ways. But to their credit, they were taking the road less traveled and making the sacrifices necessary to reach whatever goals they have set.

I have realized several things today. One, there is no excuse for not getting into shape. If a guy without use of his legs can swim one and a half miles, surely I can get my fanny down the road for three or four miles of walking, either on the golf course or on the county road. Two, anybody can set some goals. I have friends back in La Grande who are just waiting for me to return so they can whomp me on the golf course. I am already spotting them 10 years in age. I can’t afford to spot them an out-of-shape 20 lbs. So I have to start losing weight and work on getting stronger. I have moped around long enough following this surgery and wondering what the future holds for me. I figure cancer will have a tougher time of it in a healthier body than the one I have now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blue Hawaii

On a bright sunny day, the waters off Hawaii are truly blue - all shades of blue, from light blue to dark blue to various shades of greenish blue, all depending on the depth of the water and the sand and corral on the sea bottom. It reminds me some of the waters off of the Bahamas and Nassau. Years ago I was on a training flight from Miami to Bermuda and flew over some corral reefs and islands north of the Bahamas and saw some of the most colorful waters I have ever seen, ranging from dark blue to sea foam green. The waters here may not be quite as colorful, but they still have a beauty all their own.

We are on the island of Hawaii, also known as the “Big Island” because it is by far the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, and is also the newest and is still growing. Mt. Kilauea erupted in 1790 killing approximately 80 Hawaiian warriors, and has erupted 47 times since. The current activity started in 1983 and is still ongoing. The reality of living on an active volcano was demonstrated to us our first evening on this trip when a 4.4 earthquake rattled our nerves and anything not nailed down.

We are less than 60 miles from Kilauea and 35 miles from Mt. Mauna Loa, who last erupted in 1984. Rising gradually to more than 13,000 ft, above sea level, Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on our planet. Its long submarine flanks descend to the sea floor an additional 3 miles, and the sea floor in turn is depressed by Mauna Loa's great mass another 4.8 miles. This makes the volcano's summit about 17 km (56,000 ft) above its base! The enormous volcano covers half of the Island of Hawaii and by itself amounts to about 85 percent of all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. Mauna Loa is among Earth's most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since its first well-documented historical eruption in 1843.

Saturday I played Makalei Golf Course built on the side of this mountain. The club house and first tee are at 1900 ft elevation and the first 9 holes meander up the north-west side of the mountain to 2900 ft where the 10th hole starts and the course works its way back down. The temperature along the coast highway was 83 degrees but it was 71 at the club house. Don’t know what it was on the 10th tee, but it was cooler and lightly raining. Fantastic views of the Kona area and coast line were obscured by clouds. The vegetation at that elevation is forests of eucalyptus and iron wood along with lots of underbrush. There are numerous peacocks and wild turkeys wandering on the course, and it does not do ones putting any good when a peacock hollers in the middle of your back swing.

There is also a local rule for the course. You are allowed a free drop of your ball if it lands in an area damaged by the feral pigs running around. I wasn’t privileged to seeing any but did observe the damage.

The west side of the island is mostly desert looking with lots of ancient lava flows. The middle of the island is higher ground between 2500 to 4000 ft elevation and has lots of Bermuda grass pastures that they run cattle on year round. The Parker Ranch, one of the largest in the U.S., is located here. The east side, where all the rain falls, is lush with jungle vegetation and flowers and lots of water falls. You can drive an hour in any direction and be into an entirely different climate. Under water if you choose the wrong direction!

The water in most areas is crystal clear, which makes it a great area to snorkel. The variety of colorful fish is truly a testament to God’s creative handiwork and humor. Left to random selection, I’m sure, would have resulted in a much duller and uglier result.

We have also been able to observe Humpback Whales within a quarter mile of the beach. The strangest sign so far is the one warning of wild donkey crossings. Later coming down toward Waikoloa we saw a group of 10 or 12 but we were in the middle of traffic and couldn’t pull over to get a picture.

Prices, as expected, are higher here than on the mainland. Gas is running from 3.76 to 3.86 except at Costco where it is only 3.29. The day after we arrived we made our Costco run because we intended to eat mostly in the condo. What astonished us was the prices were basically the same as mainland Costco prices. I bought two Hawaiian shirts for 19.99 which Jeri had seen in the Portland Costco for the same price. Hot dogs and a drink were 1.50 and pizza by the slice was 1.99, same as everywhere else. We picked up New York strip steaks on sale for 4.99 a pound. Most everything we saw in the store was priced similar to Portland. The nice thing about being here for three and a half weeks is we can buy some things in quantity and be reasonably sure we will use it before we leave. We then went to the local Safeway to pick up some items in smaller quantities and were immediately slammed back into reality.

Health wise we are doing fine. Jeri has a mild sunburn and I have only fallen twice, stumbling over rocks that snuck into my path when I wasn’t looking; once while taking pictures of the whales and the other while searching for golf balls. Some things never change. Oh, the ball count is over 40, all off of the par 3 second hole. Aloha.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Planning the Future

View from the Ridge

James 4:13-15 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, "Today--at the latest, tomorrow--we're off to such and such a city for the year. We're going to start a business and make a lot of money." You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, "If the Master wills it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that." MSG

Never has this scripture been more relevant in our life than this winter. We had plans to spend January in Southern Californian visiting family and friends, February in Tucson volunteering at Wycliffe Bible Translators with friends from La Grande, and March in Hawaii celebrating 50 years of marriage. As you well know, January was spent partly as planned and the rest having polyps removed and CT-PET scans performed. February found us back in Portland for surgery and recouping. Now March is here and we are back on schedule.

We are at the Waikoloa Beach Resort located 26 miles north of Kona. I have pictures, but unfortunately I just discovered that I brought the wrong dongle that allows me to download pictures from my camera to the lap top. I was so sure that I had the right one. Dumb, dumb, and dumber!

On the bright side, we had arranged for a rental car and went with the smallest, cheapest economy car we could get, a Chevrolet Aveo. What we ended up with was a Bright red Chevrolet HHR, definitely a step up. I have driven it for two days now and it has been a fun car to drive.

And then, while walking on the beach, we saw our first sea turtle. But the most amazing thing I have seen in the short two days we have been here was this morning while watching a one-legged golfer tee off. He was playing in a three-some, was the only one whose ball was in the fairway and was the long drive of the three. I tried a practice swing and that isn’t easy on one leg. I watched him play out the hole and he never came close to falling.

As for excitement, we were treated to a 4.4 earth quake that shook things up a bit the first evening here. But, I digress, so back to the relevance of the above scripture.

During this past year I had started to think that because of the age of my dad, and the long life spans that the males of my ancestors had lived, I might start making sure that all my ducks were in order for a longer life rather than shorter. Silly me. It is amazing how your life can be turned upside down in such a short time. We all know it can happen, we have seen it happen in other peoples lives, but we really don’t expect it to happen to us. And yet, when it happens, it catches every one of us off guard.

When I was born in 1939, life expectancy was 62.8 years. Those of us who made it to 70 could expect to live another 9 years. I have never liked statistics because it’s just numbers, and I never fit into the boxes that it tries to put me in. Throw in mucosal melanoma and statistics now say I have probably another 3 to 5 years. The catch here is those statistics are based on case studies of 50 or 60 individuals over 25 to 50 years due to the rarity of the beast. It does not – and can not – take into account modern methods of early detection and treatment, nor what is coming down the pike of research, DNA and immune therapy in the next year or two. Both my surgeon and oncologist stated that their goal is to get me through the next 3 years cancer free because of what is being developed. Their goal is to defeat this beast. I like that!

Every day we walk the face of this earth is a privilege. We have no idea whether we will be granted another one. In the back of our mind we know this but we don’t dwell on it for obvious reasons; it is much more positive to believe that we will grow old and enjoy retirement.

So now this cancer beast is trying to burst my bubble and has succeeded. I am having to reevaluate my future plans and have no idea where to begin. Do I plan for the worst case scenario or the best? Or something in between? I know that God has a plan for all of this, but will He let me in on it? Probably not, if past history is any gauge. So for the present time we are doing nothing, praying about everything, seeking wisdom and insight as to what to do next. Do we sell the ranch and downsize? Do we buy a new Fifth wheel and travel more, or keep what we have and travel less or not at all? Or do we hitch up our boots and continue on living as we have, planning on a long life but knowing that each day is precious and could be our last? Who knows, we could wake up tomorrow morning under three feet of lava the way this island is acting. So many questions, so few answers.

As for the immediate future, April will probably bring showers and flowers in Portland and the beginning of radiation treatments. The doctors are encouraged by the pathology reports of no cancer but they also know that melanoma is a sneaky little devil that can and probably will pop up somewhere and they want to try and insure that it doesn’t return in the nasal area so close to the brain.

So there you have it folks. Thank you for your prayers, they mean so much to both of us. As for the near future, the blog will be less about me and more of what is going on out there.  Hopefully.