Ironman Chattanooga 2018: T Minus 30 Days

On October 10, 2015, I had one of the worst days of my life.

I DNFd (Did Not Finish) at my very first triathlon, Ironman Louisville–I was pulled at mile 17 of the run, with 9.2 miles to go, as I missed the cutoff time for the final turnaround.

I had spent 8 months, from ground zero, getting my swimming ready and that compromised me on the bike and run. I made the bike cutoff but trashed my legs. I had no legs coming out of T2 and bonked at mile 10. From there, it was a slow-motion train wreck.

The worst feeling was, after that, MrsLarijani bawling when I came up short.

I felt like the old Philadelphia 76ers after their 1977 NBA Finals loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. They blew a 2-0 lead, and lost in 6 games. It was bitter. The team took out ads: “We Owe You One!” Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the star of that team, was without a championship.

I was angry. No…angry is too soft. I was pissed.

Wanting to give MrsLarijani a break, I sat out 2016–did a half-Iron, some centuries, and an Olympic-distance triathlon. Last year, I planned on doing an Ironman, but Abigail and the Battle of NICU was my big endurance event last year. Abigail showed her Ironbaby creds.

This year, I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga. September 30 is D-Day.

I’ve been training like all get-out since April. 

I figured Chattanooga would be the fitting place to take care of business, as that is where I met MrsLarijani and that very area is where MrsLarijani and I spent plenty of time during our engagement.

As for the race itself, the swim is slightly easier than Louisville, the bike is about the same–not as hilly as Louisville, but 4 miles longer and hot temperatures can make it a killer–and the run is one of the toughest on the Ironman circuit.

This time around, I’ve been biking like crazy: 8 century rides so far, one of them 160 miles. I have 2 more planned (tomorrow and next Saturday) going into taper, with long runs on Sunday morning. (To put that in perspective: I had 5 going into IMLOU 3 years ago, but this time I’ll have double that. And a lot of long rides to go with that.) 

I haven’t been neglecting swimming or running, but Ironman–as I learned the hard way–is all about the bike. I’ve upped my swimming starting this week, and nailed a 90-minute swim this morning, adding a 15-minute transition run to it.

(Transition-running after every swim and bike has been a big part of my repertoire this time around. And my long runs have been the day after–not the week after–my long bikes. I’m not treating this like training for a marathon.)

My strategy going in is simple: take it easy on the swim and let the current be my friend, keep it steady on the bike to ensure that I have legs going into the run, and don’t get stupid on the run.

And when I’m going through Hell on the run, I’ll just mutter to Satan, “Yippie kiyay…”

It took the old Philadelphia 76ers team six years–which included two more losses in the NBA Finals and an embarrassing 7-game loss in the Eastern Conference Finals–to get their championship. And it was the one remaining player from that 1977 team–Julius Erving–who sealed it in game 4. 

That was a wonderful day: Doc had his championship, and the Sixers delivered on their “We Owe You One” promise.

My goal is to do the latter. And after that, to be able to stand.

I plan on being a “one and done” with the Iron distance. My back, neck, knees, and hips are reminding me to stick to activities that have little or no impact.

But like those Sixers of old, I have some unfinished business.

Here is the highlight video from last year’s Ironman Chattanooga.

Spiritual Abuse

A woman, who has commented on a couple blogs I enjoy, shared some of her story of physical abuse from her father growing up … abuse he perpetrated in the name of God, which elevates it to Spiritual Abuse.

Unfortunately, I understand Spiritual Abuse … from my own parents, from my first husband, and especially from my ex-in-laws, retired from a career in ministry.

I was pondering the story of this precious woman, whose experiences drove her to atheism …  and the things I experienced … and then swirled around to what my daughters experienced.

Separating God from Church

At this season in my life, where life is relatively calm compared to most all the previous years of my life, I have time to ponder the past, the choices I made, the things I did and didn’t do as a person, a woman, a wife, a friend, a mother. Some of that pondering is good, and some I just need to stop thinking about. One thing I often think about is when I pulled my daughters and myself out of church in the wake of the divorce. I did so because every Sunday something happened that left at least one of us crying all the way home, and I decided I did not want my girls to equate church and church people with Jesus and God. So we stopped church, and I separated God from church and those church people who do stupid, harmful things.

Contemplating the Past

Hindsight is not 20/20, as is often stated; rather, it’s distorted. We cannot recreate the past in the present. Much of the time I find myself deflated and critical of myself when I look back; some of it is justified, much is not. And this hovering question of whether or not I should have removed us from church wavers in and out of my conscious thought from time-to-time. Did I do the right thing? Was it best?

In light of this woman’s story … my personal experience … and pulling my girls and me out of church – and one other thing I will share last in this post – I have concluded it was the right decision. And here’s why:

The Store Incident

There was a pivotal incident years ago when my girls’ Dad tried to force them to do a terrible thing. My Aspie Girl fell into an autistic meltdown and was incapable of obeying him, causing him to become intensely angry. This was in a large store, and he was so angry he commanded Oldest to come with him and leave her sister, whom she knew was incapable of controlling herself or of helping herself. He left the premises and proceeded to leave all together (I do not know if he actually drove away and came back or simply went to his car and came back.)

Oldest fell apart. She was still young – middle school – and incapable of handling all of this but knew it was wrong to leave her vulnerable sister unprotected. She found herself curled up in a corner of the large store, calling me, crying, begging me to come get them right away because Daddy left them. I left immediately to drive the 45 minutes to get them. In that time, she was able to get her sister, tell her Mommy was coming, Dad came back in, they left, went to his place, packed their things, and met me at a restaurant parking lot. And this was when he did the unthinkable … this was when he told our Oldest, who had been a Daddy’s Girl since she was born, that he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and if she was going to be like that, then call her Mom to come get her; he didn’t want her.

Using the Bible to Justify Wrong Behavior

Two weeks later when he picked them up for his regular visitation time together, as he drove off he handed Oldest a sheet with Bible verses about children obeying their parents, chastising her for disobeying him and not leaving the store with him, leaving her sister alone. She threw the sheet back at him, told him she already knew those verses (and she did) and that she would never abandon her sister. Again he told her he didn’t like her and didn’t want her and to call her Mom to come get her, which I did.

A Pivotal Moment

As I thought of all these things – the woman who shared her story of spiritual abuse, my own spiritual abuse, and what I will share at the end of this post, I realized that it was for that one, pivotal moment, and the days and years that followed, that I believe God led me to pull us out of church and separate God from church all those many years earlier. If they related God to church people, and therefore related God to their own Dad – who never, ever missed a church service even to be with them, at that moment my Oldest would have turned from God.

The Funeral Incidents

Another incident ocured several years later at their Daddy’s funeral where their grandfather and uncle (both pastors) led the service. The things their paternal grandfather and uncle did and said surrounding his death and in that service and the days and weeks and months following were nothing short of deplorable. It was so bad that people of great respect came up to us later and told us they were sorry for what happened. It was so bad that the funeral director, even though she was bound by law not to reveal details, said to me, “It’s because of people like him that I do not believe in God.” They did terrible things and said terrible things, even of their own son/brother at his own funeral.

If I had not separated God from church people, my beautiful daughters would not be able to separate God from what these, who call themselves children and representatives of God, these who are biologically related to my daughters, did and said (and continue to do to them and me).

Oldest’s Thoughts

I shared these things with Oldest recently and asked her how that first experience would have altered her perception of God had she not already separated who God is with what her Dad and grandparents and uncle did and do … I asked her how she thought that would have changed the trajectory of her life from that point, and with realization she soberly said, “I’d be really messed up right now.”

Mama’s Gift

It is HARD to be a parent, and it has been super hard for me to face these things and these choices and the years we’ve lived after them … wondering if I did the right thing … hoping I did the right thing.

And then these moments of revelation come about. A gift from God. And I am grateful. So grateful.

Spiritual Abuse

Any abuse done under the umbrella of God: supposedly in the Name of God, for the supposed glory of God, to supposedly honor God, supposedly because of God, using the Bible to justify the acts and/or words, or done by a person who represents God … all of that then is elevated to Spiritual Abuse.

And I’m beginning to believe that of all the forms of abuse, Spiritual Abuse is the most severe. Why? Because, in the words of Andrew Klavan, “It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”

Andrew Klavan’s Thoughts

In all honesty, I do not know who Andrew Klavan is. A friend on facebook put up one of his video shows highlighting a totally different topic than I am addressing here (he covers many topics in the episode I am fixing to share). In the midst of this video, Klavan begins to talk about the sexual abuse in the Catholic church and says some very profound things.

I take this further and relate it to all Spiritual Abuse as I defined above, not simply in the Catholic church. All Spiritual Abuse has devastating effects because again, as Andrew Klavan states, “it destroys the pathway to faith in God.”

In Ep. 560 – Hell on Earth | The Andrew Klavan Show, Klavan talks about Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church from 15:00 – 21:49. Here are some quotes that struck me – which I personally relate to all Spiritual Abuse in any church and/or by any person who represents God or does anything in the Name of God or uses God for their own purpose:

(16:00) Andrew Klavan:

“What does it [spiritual abuse] do? It puts up a barrier …”

(17:00) Andrew Klavan: quotes Matthew 23:13-15 NLT:

13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.

15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

(18:35) Juliann Bortz (molested by a priest in her Catholic High School):

“The collar is still a trigger for me. They murdered something in me. Something died. Everything I believed, died.”

(18:40) Andrew Klavan:

“They took away her faith. They closed, did what Jesus said, they closed the door of heaven.”

(20:00) Andrew Klavan:

“If you are closing the door to the Kingdom of heaven, you are committing a sin against the Spirit that is immense.”

(20:23) Andrew Klavan:

“The enemy is the devil who is in your church. He is in your church. This has got to be pulled up, root and branch.”

(20:50) Andrew Klavan:

“Seventy years of taking away from people their path into the Kingdom of God.”

(21:15) Andrew Klavan:

“It destroys the pathway of faith to God.”   

Consequences

How this world thinks it will escape the consequences of their actions is beyond me because they are all through the Bible and history. Yes, His grace and mercy and love are great … but it is because they are great that we face the reality and consequences of sin.

If it were, as some claim it should be, that God excused such behavior because He is a God of love, then His grace and mercy and love would be weak and powerless. We know that this is not true and cannot be true because God is All-Powerful. Therefore His grace and mercy and love are powerful and come from a place of power, never of weakness.

Many times the Bible says, “Woe to him who … ” God is very serious about life and how we live it. And He is very serious about those who hurt others.

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:1-2 (NKJV)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! Matthew 18:6-7

Help

There is help and healing for those of us who have been abused in any form, including Spiritual Abuse. I am not a counselor or expert of any kind, but please do seek out qualified help in your area if you’ve experienced any of this on any level. God really does exist, He really is God, He really is Holy, He really is Healer, He really is Love, and He really is Good.

Holy God, spiritual abuse is so overwhelming for me. I cannot think of it for long or it completely pulls me under into dark places. But You can handle it. You are God. Nothing is too big or too much for You. There is no place we can go that You cannot find us. Thank You. My heart is heavy for this woman who was turned from you because of the violent abuse of her own father in Your Name, but not nearly as much has Your heart is burdened for her for Your love for her is greater than all other. I lift her up to You, Jesus, and I pray that, in Your time, You will gently draw her back to You in ways that only You can. I pray for anyone reading this that has experienced abuse in any form, especially spiritual abuse. Draw them into Your loving arms. Lead them to places and people who can help them heal. May they know they are never alone and that You are God. Thank You for protecting my daughters and me. Thank You for loving us and caring for us and healing us. Thank You for being God. I need You, and I love You, in Jesus’ Holy Name, Ame

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

About Debt-Free Virgins With No Tattoos

Fair disclosure:

(1) In my single days, I did not discriminate against women who had prior promiscuity or who had tattoos. I dated both virgins and non-virgins. The relationships that failed, failed for reasons having nothing to do with sexuality or body art.

I do not believe that virginity is the be-all/end-all.

Is it a bigger deal than our culture wants you to think? Yep.

Is your world over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

Are your chances of enjoying sex when you get married over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

Are your chances of having a good Christian marriage over if you’re not a virgin? Nope.

And as I say this, I also realize that there are women and men who are not virgins, and are not so due to circumstances beyond their control (i.e. sexual abuse). I’ve known very few Christian men who would have a problem dating or marrying a gal in that boat.

(2) Nor, in my single days, did I discriminate against women who had debt. However, looking back, I will say this much: if a gal had carried a higher debt load than I would have been able to support, it would have been a show-stopper.

With that out of the way, it would not be unfair to say that Lori Alexander made herself the mother of all lightning rods with this post.

The title alone struck a cord in the Twittersphere. I first noticed it when Ashley Easter linked to it. The condemnations were quick and unending. Most of my friends in that sphere attacked it.

My immediate thoughts, before reading the article, were “Well…duh…men tend to want their women to have minimal baggage, and the same is true of the women with respect to men.”

(I’ve always said it plainly: men and women each have their general preferences. It does not make either side mean or unfair, it just is what it is. As an example: women, as a group, prefer tall men. As someone who is more akin to Reepicheep than to LeBron James, that put me at a disadvantage in my single days.)

At the same time, while the title of the article–fairly or unfairly–generated controversy, I found the actual article to be a bit ridiculous in places.

Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men? Unfortunately, there are so few of these types of young women anymore because of the high costs of college (debt) and sexual promiscuity even within those in the church. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to live in a way that is pleasing to Him because His ways are the best. He calls debt a burden and urges us to live lives of sexual purity.

That’s true, and it is true of the men as well. When Paul gave his many admonitions regarding sexual ethics, he did not merely aim them at women.

OTOH, Alexander is not far from a point here that is worth mentioning: from the stats I’ve seen, the male virgins, in raw and percentage terms, outnumber the female virgins. Intuitively, I expected the opposite, but that is apparently not the case. And given that men–irrespective of how much you shame them–will tend to prefer a virgin over non-virgin, that does not bode well for the ladies, at least not on the margins.

Now, for some of the more controversial content:

There are many reasons why Christian young women should carefully consider whether or not they go to college, especially if they want to be wives and mothers someday. Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways. It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, sexually available, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.

That depends on your major. If you major in any of the STEM fields–even biology, where evolution is a commonly-held belief among faculty–they aren’t going to bother you, as they are more concerned about your academic performance in fields that require hard analysis, than they are about your worldview. If you’re a Christian and oppose evolution, you may get some derision here and there, but if you can do the work, the static you get will be minimal.

In fields like engineering, it’s even better: no one cares if you’re gay, straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, but if you can’t calculate the shear, torsional, and bending stresses on the main spar of an aircraft under various loading conditions, then you’re going to have a problem.

One woman wrote to me and gave her opinions on why women shouldn’t go to college. (I have added my thoughts in parenthesis.):

“Men don’t want to marry a women with debt. Most of this debt comes from college. They would also prefer a woman who still lives at her parent’s house that has not had other relationships. Do those two things and you will be highly sought after.” (I’m not sure about men only preferring women who still live at their parent’s house and have had no other relationships since some young women have no choice but to live away from their families and some have had their hearts broken by men they thought was ‘the one.’ I would agree that most men don’t want to marry a woman with a load of debt! That isn’t right to bring into a marriage.)

Sure, men would prefer their women to have no debt. And this is rational: they realize that, as soon as the first baby arrives, her income stream is probably going to dry up, at least in the near-term. If she wants to be a SAHM, then he’s going to need to be able to cover for everyone, and that means he will need to support her debts as well as his. That’s economic reality.

At the same time, there is nothing in Proverbs 31 suggesting that a woman must forego college and take on no debt and live with her parents until her knight in dented armor shows up.

I would also suggest that men ought to be careful about the debt they take on in their single days. As they consider college or professional paths, they also need to think in terms of potential return on investment (ROI) as well as payback time. Not all college paths are prudent.

“If they go to college, they are unlikely to stay home raising their children to pay off the debt and use the degree they spent years on.” (I have seen this in many young women’s lives, sadly.)

What I just said about the men–that they need to consider ROI and payback time–applies to women, and for the reasons stated. If you’re coming out of college at age 22 and you want to get your debt paid down before you become a SAHM and that takes 5 years of all-out work, that puts you at 27 before you consider children. Your peak fertility years are now behind you. And if you’re not married yet, the most desirable men in your cohort are now taken.

(At that point, the best available men are going to be socially-awkward, short, geeky PITA types–like I was. :))

Calling me names won’t change the reality, because I didn’t create it.

“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.” (Sadly, most young Christian women wouldn’t listen to their husbands since they’ve not been taught to live in submission to their husbands. However, it’s the older women who are called to teach the younger women biblical womanhood and most husbands have never seen it modeled in their lives so they wouldn’t know what to teach.)

Lori, you lost me here.

“Teaching their wives the correct way to act, think, and live”???

Are you kidding me, Lori?

Where have you been for the last 50 years?

Let’s be honest here: neither sex is lighting up the world for Jesus right now.

From my own observations: the men need themselves to be taught how to love, act, and live in a Godly manner. They sure aren’t learning that at church, with all the half-baked and plagiarized sermons coming from the pulpits.

The men are downloading porn at such a rate that you now have men–IN THEIR 20s–who are getting married and cannot get it up with a real naked woman in the room.

The men are also racking up mountains of debt that they must take many years to pay.

And the men who are most desirable? They tend to be the “Alpha Males”, who themselves have a crap-ton of sexual baggage of their own.

Right now, as for church attendance, singles are largely falling off the map. When they graduate high school, both sexes often leave the church, but the men seem to be taking a longer time coming back. We can argue all day about why that is, but let’s be honest with ourselves: that is the situation on the ground.

There are lots of things to challenge about the culture, including the mantra that college is good.

There are good and bad reasons to go to college.

Good Christian women will go to college, some will even go on to law and medical school. Some will become doctors, lawyers, engineers, IT professionals, even businesswomen.

Good Christian women will also stay home, perhaps go to trade school, and forge different niches.

Good Christian women will move out, work on their own, and forge a path that is more independent.

None of those things, in particular, are evil.

As a Body, we need to have a larger discussion about debt. Especially student loan debt.

Fact is, college is not the marginal benefit that it was 30 years ago. There was a time when a 4-year degree in ANYTHING would guarantee a good job and a quick ROI, but that is no longer the case.

And when you factor in debt, the benefit of college CAN be dubious. Not just for women, but also for men. It may be for you, it may not be.

There is no hard “this is what you must do” plan for everyone, but rather teens and their parents need to make rational and sober decisions in this area.

As for the secular mindset of colleges, that is not a new phenomenon, although some departments may be more hostile to Christians than others. The larger issue in that regard is this: parents and churches need to do a better job equipping their children to deal with a hostile world.

At the same time, being marriagable is more than being a debt-free virgin with no tattoos.

While those are good things that would–ceteris paribus–make a gal more and not less attractive, they are not substitutes for Christian character.

Class dismissed.