Ragnar!!! (AKA the longest post ever)

Prior to April 19th, 2013 the farthest I had ever run in my life was about 7 miles.  I remember that day because it was the day I thought my heart was going to explode through my chest and end up all over the road in front of me.  I was training for a half-marathon with Gigi and that would have been a real bummer if she had seen that happen.  Luckily for me, it didn't happen (we didn't end up running that half-marathon due to other, less life threatening, injuries.).  Since then I've never really put that much effort into running.  Every once in a while I would throw on my shoes and pretend I was still in shape for about a mile or so until I was quickly reminded that my heart hates me and would gladly commit suicide if I didn't stop instantly.  

As I've told you guys before, my good friend Jordan Gash asked me just prior to the end of last year to run the Ragnar Relay with him this year.  He had told me about the relay many times before and to be honest, it sounded awful.  It was way too many miles in too short a time frame.  Surely my heart would revolt and try to kill me again.  But this time I told my heart to shut-up and said yes to Jordan's invitation.  I am older and out of shape, but so what, I'm always sometimes occasionally up for a challenge and this might as well be it.  Besides, it was to raise money for FaithQuest Missions and send people all over the world to spread God's word.  If I can't rise to that challenge, what good am I?

January rolled around and I started training.  Mile after mile each week I was slowly telling my heart it needed to listen to my brain and fall in line with the rest of my organs otherwise it was going to be death for all of us.  Slowly but surely it listened and by the end of February I had run more that 30 miles that month without dying!  I was actually pretty impressed with myself and began to think, maybe I won't be the slowest guy out there during this relay.  Second slowest maybe, but not the slowest.  

The closer it got to race day the more nervous I got.  I was close to raising all the money I committed to raising, but was still a bit short.  I had been able to run the distances I was assigned but nervous my heart had been plotting against me for three months and just biding time until it could get itself to a bigger stage.  4 miles, 6.5 miles and 2 miles. No bigs.  I've got this.  I just need to focus on getting the last remaining donations to meet my commitment and I'm all set for the big day. A final Facebook plea and the remaining donation is covered, phew!! One less thing to worry about.

Three days before race day I go to send an email to some friends and family telling them where each of my relay legs would end so they could come cheer me on if they wanted and I noticed something.  The race organizers changed the course.  My third leg was changed from 2 miles to 6.6 miles! Okay, this is gonna be a bit tougher than expected, I thought, but I'm committed and I'm doing this. At least we start early in the morning (6:15 a.m.) so none of my legs look like they will be in the heat of the day.  

The day before the race I get a text from Jordan…"We changed our start time from 6:15 to 9:30 a.m.!"  For him this was exciting.  It meant we should be finishing closer to the same time as other FaithQuest teams.  For me, it was like going to school naked.  I just knew it was going to be hotter than I wanted.  I don't do well with running in the heat and I had been pretty excited to avoid it.  But there it was.  Unavoidable.  Alright heart, let's do this. Please don't kill me!  

Race day was exciting and nerve-racking.  I met the guys in our van and we quickly became friends sharing a common enemy.  The gun went off in Huntington Beach and our first runner was off!  We drove ahead in the van for and as he passed by we cheered him on and encouraged him to keep up the pace.  I was instantly inspired by the way we had formed a tight bond and were ready to help each other through this insane feat.  

Each of us was ready to go and and willing to take on the challenge ahead of them.  My first leg rolled around, I got in the starting gate, had that bracelet slapped on my wrist and was off!  A mile in and the heat started calling me all sorts of names and zapping all my energy.  3 miles in and I could see my teammates standing in the distance and encouraging me to just keep going.  It instantly gave me the strength to fight through the heat for a while longer and push through the pain.  It's amazing what encouragement from a team can do for you!  I pushed through and finished out my 4.5 miles and passed the bracelet off to Jordan who killed the next 2.2 mile uphill.  As I slapped the bracelet off to Jordan I looked up and saw Gigi and Peyton staring right back at me beaming with excitement.  God knew exactly what I needed to keep from throwing in the towel right then and there.  A sweaty kiss to my girls and I was off with my team to pick up Jordan.  

The day continued through the heat until we passed things off to our second van and we went to get a bite to eat and rest a little.  We grabbed some lunch, talked and continued to get to know each other as a team.  It was great to hang out with these guys, even though they were all at least 10 years younger and in better shape than I.  I was ready to conquer this race with them!

We picked up the second van around 6:30 p.m in Temecula at their final destination and we were off running again.  The evening was just as much fun as earlier that day… without the excruciating heat.  Around 11:30 p.m. and it was my turn again.  Due to some improper planning we were 15 minutes late making the switch which meant I didn't get time to use the restroom before 6.7 miles of running in the middle of the night.  But oh well, such is life.  Full bladder and all, that was the best run I have ever had in my life.  Through a golf course, up a hill that probably would have been easier had I been wearing my climbing shoes, and down a long hill under clear and starry skies, around 50 degrees outside with Sara Watkins playing in my headphones.  Seriously guys, it was like what running should always be.  Anyway, I finish my leg and one of my best friends Angelo is standing there ready to greet me!  Wow I have some good friends!  1 a.m. and I have a friend willing to meet me in a parking lot to get a sweaty hug??  But, sorry Angelo, I have to pee big time and then hit the road to pick up Jordan!  I appreciate your appearance more than you'll know though!

3:00 a.m. and we hand things over to the second van again so we can get a little rest.  We drive down to Carlsbad where we will resume in the morning, find a parking lot and get what we thought would be about 3 hours of sleep.  90 minutes later we get a call telling us the last runner would be finishing in about 45 min.  Ok, let's get going! Hitting the coffee bar and the bathroom first, we get our first runner ready.  No sooner that we did when we see our team coming in about 5:00 a.m.  It's go time!

The lack of sleep didn't phase us.  Banded together we kept up our energy and encouraged our teammates to keep going.  Only a few hours left!  It's already starting to get warm and I am getting worried about my final 6.6 miles.  I swallow that fear and get ready.  Jordan tells me he is feeling fresh and might run with through part of my leg.  That was like music to my ears.  I knew I would need some encouragement.

9:30 a.m. came around and it was my turn.  The bracelet hit my arm and I was off.  2 miles later I saw a long and steep hill in front of me.  But to my elation there was also Jordan standing there ready to attack it with me.  He tells me, "I'm gonna finish this with you." and for the next 4.6 miles his encouragement kept me from getting in the van as it passed.  I was determined to finish the 18 miles I set out to do.  Through the back spasms, the ankle, calf, and hamstring tightness Jordan was right there encouraging me to keep pushing and finishing strong.  At a half mile from the finish line we picked up the pace and ran in to the exchange.  Again, surprised and elated I see first my brother-in-law Mark, my nephew Joel!  A few yards later, my sister Jessica and niece Sofia!  At the finish line, Gigi and Peyton!  I was so excited to see them, I gave Gigi a huge hug and started to cry.  I had nothing left but emotion even though I was out of tears.  Peyton says, "Hi Daddy! How was your exercise?" and Joel comes over and gives me a homemade #1 medal he had made with the words, "Bam Josh" on it.  I hung it around my neck and gave him a few fist bumps and then had to jump back in the van to finish out the race.  Funny how God knows what you need and when you need it, right?  Every leg of my race I had someone there feeling proud of me and excited to see me.  

We raced to each of the next two legs of our race and handed things over to van 2 to finish things off.  We went and had a killer breakfast at the recommendation of a teammate and talked about our experience so far.  Then we went to the finish line, where Gigi and Peyton once again met us.  We met back up with van 2 and ran the last few yards through the finish line as a team.  What an exciting adventure!!! Tired, sore, and completely amazed by what we had accomplished I couldn't have been more proud of our team and myself for doing what we set out to do.  

I still get a bit overwhelmed thinking about it all.  I think about things and I don't think about the pain; during our afterward.  I think about all the good times, the fun and camaraderie and then wonder to myself, Did I really run 18 miles over 32 hours?  Did I really only get 90 minutes of sleep?  Did I really meet these guys and were they really all crazy enough to say yes to this adventure?  Yes to all of the above!  And you know what?  I'm ready to start training to do it all again next year.  


momma's birthday letter to P

My Sweetest Little Munchkin, Peyton,

You are two years old today! On the one hand I can’t believe how fast time has flown by, but on the other hand, I have loved every minute of the past two years more than I’ve ever loved life before!

It goes without saying you’re the cutest, sweetest kid in the entire world.  I honestly don’t know how we could have been more blessed by you.  You are happy and you love Daddy and I SO MUCH—we feel your love for us all the time…in your hugs, your kisses, your smiles and your laughs.  And just yesterday you actually thanked God for Daddy and I during our prayer.  You had me holding back the tears. 

I can’t believe how smart you are.  I mean, I don’t want this to go to your head or anything, but girl, you are SO STINKING SMART for your age.  You talk more than any other kid your age that I have ever met in my entire lifetime.  I love that you have this knack for communicating—I like to think you got that from me.  You and I are having full conversations and have had them for a few months now, and it’s just so much fun to have you as a best friend!  I hope we stay this way forever, but I’m sure sometime around jr. high you’ll be over me L So sad.  I promise I’m cool, baby girl!!  Well, maybe not “cool” in the sense of the word, but funny and goofy and totally in love with you!

I continue to have big dreams for you, but I have to remind you, Love, that God’s Will comes first!  So no matter how many joys I wish for you, the reality is, God has the BIGGEST plans for you, and I continually pray that we are all prepared for what He has in store for you, and that you fall in love with Him more every day!

Munchie, I truly can’t get enough of you.  This past year I came home from work to be with you full time, and it was THE ABSOLUTE BEST decision your dad and I could have ever made!  It was ALL GOD, too, He really made the pieces fall together, because let me tell you, its not easy to afford life in Southern California on just one income, but we’re doing it and we have embraced every bit of budgeting we’ve had to do to make it happen.  Because being with you, loving on you, and teaching and guiding you are my number one priority.  We’ve had our hard days, trust me—days that I can’t believe a 2 foot tall kid can make me question every decision I’d made during that entire day—but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I hope you are enjoying our time together, and that ultimately you are more secure in who you are as a person because I’ve been here to help you along the way.  I know you’d be fine even if I had to work—you’re strong and wonderful and my work situation wouldn’t change that—but I know this is critical time that we’ll never get back, so I pray that we both take full advantage of it!!

I think you’re going to love your birthday party this weekend.  You really know all our friends and family now, and although you may be overwhelmed and “mommy-hold-you-ish”, I think you’ll feel so very loved, and you’ll enjoy all that goodness…

Thank you for yet another wonderful year, my sweet pea.  No matter what, I’ll always love you.  SO MUCH.


Happy Birthday Peyton!!!!

Dear Peyton, 

I've been your dad for two years now.  I know to you I seem like an expert by now, but I think it's time to let you in on a little secret... I have no idea what I'm doing!  I mean, I know to change your diaper, keep you fed, keep you away from harm, and to try not to curse when you are around, but the rest of it, yeah I'm just winging it.  I figure if I just play with you like crazy and make you laugh till you wet your diaper I'm doing something right.  Let's be honest though, making you laugh isn't so hard.  You are the happiest kid I know.  Your mouth is in a constant state of smile!  Lately, you have learned to laugh at yourself with this condescending giggle that makes me think you are going to be seriously funny when you grow up.  I love going for a walk with you practically every morning before work (especially when you tell me you want to go before I ask.) and getting hugs and kisses from you when I walk through the door after work.  I love hearing you ask question after question and discover the world around you.  I love when you ask me to "tickle you, please!" and say out of the blue "I love you Daddy!"

You are such an amazing kid.  So curious about everything you see and touch.  So sweet and loving to everyone around you.  I am so blown away about how much you know and how much you want to know more.  You talk incessantly!! And the words that come out of your mouth are so far beyond what I thought you would be saying at this age. "Bye Daddy! Have a good day at work!", "Have fun exercising!", "What did Mommy actually do?", "Daddy!! Come throw you on the bed!"  It melts my heart and blows my mind at the same time.  I seriously can't get enough of you!  Just check out this video of our walk just the other day.

Everyday you learn something new, say something new, and experience something new and every day I get to be a part of it.  I am so proud to be your father.  Your mom and I are so proud to be your parents.  Despite the fact that I am learning every day how to be your Dad, I promise to continue to do the best that I can.  I pray daily that God watches over you and you grow up to be a strong woman in His image.  I will keep changing your diaper until you don't need them anymore, keep feeding you, will still keep you out of harms way, and will still try not to curse in front of you, but I will also keep encouraging you to try new things, keep teaching you to do what is right and avoid what is wrong, and keep loving you no matter what.  

Happy Birthday, Peyton Reese Johnson!


Your Dad