Pastor Mark's Reflections, Uncategorized

A Valiant Effort

Hi all – I gave it a valiant effort. What started as a crazy ‘thing to do’ in December, is now complete. I had been looking at trying the Leadman Leadville Race Series Competition for 10 years now since my first 100 mile MTB race in 2007. It begins with a weeder race, the Marathon in June. I trained and survived it. Then the 50 mile MTB Silver Rush in July. Check. Then last weekend, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB on Saturday, followed by the 10K the next day, Sunday. Check, check. Then comes the monster: The Leadville Trail 100 Run this past weekend. It was an experience I will never forget. The gun went off at 4:00am Saturday morning and it was glorious, as a stream of 1000 runners took off to try and complete an epic adventure. The first 13.5 miles were amazing as we ran together in a stream of headlamps lighting the trail out of town and around Turquoise Lake. Being greeted by the crew team at May Queen aid station I was feeling ‘high’ and running strong – felt like I was floating. Next challenge, up and over Sugarloaf Pass. Felt good and continued to run off and on up the pass. At mile mark 22ish, coming down off of the pass, a section called ‘powerline’, I tweaked something in my left knee on a long steep downhill. After the descent, I continued to run through the pain on the level areas. Any section of climbing was relatively pain free. After the Outward-Bound aid station, this pattern of pain continued. Level areas and uphill sections I could power through with strength. However, every time I had a descent on the way to mile 40, the pain would ramp up significantly. When I began the more severe descent into Twin Lakes aid station the pain ramped up to the point where I couldn’t tolerate any weight going forward downhill. I found that descending backwards the pain would subside. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good – it didn’t feel like cramps, spasms, or anything like that. I’ve powered through pain and fatigue many times in different race situations – this felt different to me and I began to wonder what this would mean for the rest of the race. At Twin Lakes, my crew team encouraged me greatly and sent me off through the marsh and through the river section and up the big climb. I powered up the 4 miles, 3,400 ft. climb to Hope Pass, steady and strong, felt good (unbelievable course!). I was still on a 25-hour course finish, better than anticipated, as I topped out at Hope Pass. Crossing over the pass, the view was stunning – on top of the world. Didn’t stay long and began the 2,900 ft. descent to the halfway point. Here is where the pain in my left knee became unbearable -immediately, on every downward step. I could not go downhill forward, not even at a slow walk. Every time my foot hit the ground the pain was crazy. I tried for a couple switchbacks to try different foot strike, sideways, turn my feet, hold my knee in different positions as I bore some weight – etc. No go…

So, I began descending going backwards on the switchback single-track (21% grade for 2.25 miles down before it begins to level off again.) The section from Hope Pass to the halfway point – Winfield aid station (5 miles) should take 30-40 minutes at the most. After a frustrating mile of backwards descent and frequent stopping due to pain, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to Winfield. These ‘short 5 miles’ took me 2 hours. As I descended backwards managing the pain, I knew my race was over and I would have to pull out. I would oscillate between anger and sadness. I had trained so hard all summer for this and this was the final event of the Leadville Leadman series – I just had to make it to the finish line. If I could just walk, I could speed walk the 50 miles back to the finish line and make it. When I finally made it into Winfield (still two hours+ ahead of cutoff time) I had decided to pull out.

At the 50-mile mark, every runner is allowed to have a pacer to carry water, food, clothes, whatever is needed for the return trip. My first pacer was Dewayne Niebur, a family practice Doctor and experienced in emergency medicine. Isn’t that a God thing? We decided to reassess and see what can be done to try and get me back on the course. I told Dewayne my difficulty and he spoke peace to me. He examined me – stretched me – massaged me – we made some trial runs downhill – no go. We borrowed some Kinesiology tape and gave it a run – no go. A PT helped out and dry needled me on the spot (ouch!) – no go. I made one emotionally charged attempt to run harder into the pain – no go. At that point, I knew, it was over. Back on the descent off Hope Pass to Winfield I had many thoughts go through my mind. Besides the anger, frustration, and sadness God would give me flashes of gratitude and perspective thoughts. For one, I didn’t want to continue to run through the pain and cause lasting damage. I still don’t know the extent of any lasting damage at this point. I didn’t want to ruin my knee for all the other things I love to do (hiking, biking, etc) just to finish this race and Leadman goal. If I had kept going, with several difficult descents still ahead, I could have wrecked my knee for good – and still possibly not finished. Two, an overwhelming ebb and flow thought would fill me as I tried to get down the pass: There are so many things (blessings) God has given to me and so many things I enjoy, all of that is on full display for me to engage and enjoy regardless of not finishing a race.

So it will be OK. I was so thankful for that thought as I fought to get into Winfield Aid Station. Third, and this is kind of funny… I started turning my thoughts to my crew team who had come up for the weekend to pace me and to support and encourage me – Deone my wife, Morgan my daughter, Dewayne Niebur (pace me from Winfield to Twin Lakes up and over Hope Pass again), Ryan DeGroot (who was born for this kind of event -pace me the next 17 miles from Twin Lakes to Outward Bound), Erik Newhouse (pace me through the night up and over Sugarloaf Pass) and Joanne Niebur and Morgan Quist (pace me over the last section to the finish line…) and Peter Ruh, a constant encourager. This was my thought: I want to have a pizza party at High Mountain Pies in Leadville with my support crew. (We did end up there about 3 hours or more later…)

So… I’m still working through my disappointment of not finishing this goal for the year. A one and done, always was from the beginning. I turned 50 this year and this was my mid-life crisis. Not such a bad thing – now my mid-life crisis is over. I can continue to do what I love – biking. I can continue to compete in MTB events and jump into tours with friends, Deone and my family. Over time, the thoughts of gratitude will overwhelm the disappointment. During my training runs this past year, I found out why I hadn’t run a single mile over the past 30 years since college – I hate it. I don’t enjoy running at all. Isn’t that funny? So here are some neat things that happened for me and around me in the aftermath of saying at the 50-mile mark, “I’m done.” I was the recipient of many a runner passing me on the descent from Hope Pass wanting to help me, encourage me, and get me down safely. People at the aid station were helpful to me. Dewayne was amazing and just the right person God had in mind for me to meet at the 50-mile mark. Dewayne and I hitched a ride out of Winfield back to our crew team in Twin Lakes and met a wonderful woman, recent nursing grad from University of Michigan, and our conversation with her was delightful. When I saw Deone, Morgan, and the crew at Twin Lakes and they knew I was done… they surrounded me with love and affirmation. That makes me smile and made me cry. I am especially thankful for my wife Deone who supported me already in early December 2017 in the decision to give this Leadman thing a try.

I am so thankful to Deone who has supported me and spent 5 summer weekends of her year this year crewing for me at every race. She is amazing and now its time to make up for some lost time and invest more intentionally with her in the things she loves and enjoys. Ryan, my pacer who was to partner me over the next 16 miles and who was born to run, found someone else who needed a pacer through the night and paced them for 24 miles from Twin Lakes to May Queen aid stations – instead of me, he helped another person finish the race… And Erik was able to support Ryan. Wonderful. Deone and Morgan – thank you! Dewayne and Joanne, thank you for your support from early Friday to the end. Peter, thanks for being a support from the gun start to the end and getting our pizza party kicked off. And Ryan and Erik – for coming up and giving your weekend to help and support me. I’m thankful!!!

Thanks for allowing me the space to write some of my thoughts and feelings. This morning early already I have placed all my papers, time split goals, race notes and bibs, etc in a folder and they are filed in a file cabinet. I’m reminded of John Ortberg’s title of one of his books, When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box. I like that. Builds perspective. It was a fun goal for this year – a once in a lifetime attempt.

Peter said to me after returning to Twin Lakes, “Nice work Mark – you ran the entire course.” In a way, he is right. It’s an out and back and I ran the course. Deone, Morgan, and all of my support crew said, “I am proud of you.” And many others as well – thank you for that encouragement, you all make me cry – God has blessed me! Thankful for such wonderful love! And my Crestview Family has prayed me through from the beginning!

So here it is… God’s love is constant and steady. His unfolding plan for my life certainly goes on and it isn’t hampered in the least by races finished or unfinished. The blessings of my God, my family and friends are a constant source of my joy – To God be the Glory both now and forever!

People have already said after I have said, “I’m not signing up for this thing again” (Leadman or the Leadville Trail 100 Run) – “Never say never.” Well, I’m quite confident when I say, “Never.” Why run when you can bike?

See you on the trail!

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View more photos of the race on Mark’s FB page here.
Pastor Mark's Reflections

Merry Christmas from the Quists!

cub-lake-familyMerry Christmas to the Crestview family! It has been one year since beginning the journey of living life together. The Quist family is praying God’s blessing over all of you this holiday season.

Advent 2016 has been a reminder to us of God’s grace. The gift of God in Jesus is a pure gift of grace. His invitation to salvation and to ongoing life in Him is a pure gift of grace. Thank you God for the gift of Jesus, and thank you Jesus for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

From our family to yours – Merry Christmas! May God lead us further into his will and plan for us as a faith community in Boulder and the world,

The Quist Family
Mark, Deone, Morgan and Anna

When you click on the Cub Lake Fun video…. wait for it 🙂

Pastor Mark's Reflections

Faith, Doubt, and Asking of God

lighthouseThis video was taken in Holland on the western shoreline of Michigan. It reminds me of James 1:2-8. “Consider it pure joy my friends whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Life throws us huge challenges. And the winds of tragedy, trauma, and depression blow from time to time. A lighthouse is an amazing example of perseverance. Day after day, month after month, year after year, the waves buffet the lighthouse.

According to James, trials produce perseverance… ‘Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” So now James is saying not only do trials produce perseverance – they develop maturity and completeness. This is a mystery. Yet a significant truth for a follower of Jesus.

The Gospel doesn’t promise that everything will be smooth sailing in life here on earth. The Gospel does promise that everything will be alright in the end and that his presence will be with us every step of the way to the end. Whether times are tough or times are not as tough, we are able to stand because of Jesus promises and presence with us.

What else does James say? He goes on from there to say, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double minded and unstable in all they do.”

This is interesting. When the waves of life do get rough – and they will from time to time, we are to ask God for what we need. Trust. Have faith. If we don’t have faith and trust in his promises and believe in his power and presence with us, we are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Instead of being like a lighthouse that stands in the storm, we are like a bobber blown every which way on the surface of a wave.

There is a famous picture taken of a man standing on one side of a lighthouse as a monstrous wave seems to swallow the lighthouse. Its the La Jument Lighthouse that guards the Iroise Sea, one of the most dangerous waters on earth. A photographer Jean Guichard shot this from a helicopter, of the lighthouse keeper Theodore Malgorn on December 21, 1989. Its a good analogy of God with us in the middle of the storms of life. We can ride it out with God’s presence with us and with faith in his promises.

Pastor Mark's Reflections

What I Learned From Tandem Riding

Jesus, My Tandem Partner: Is He the Captain or the Stoker?

(What I learned from Tandem Riding.)

By Pastor Mark Quist

summer-fall-2012-787When my friend from church invited me for a Mountain Bike ride shortly after arriving in Grand Junction, Colorado, I had no idea just where the trail would lead. From day one I was mesmerized. I soon discovered my first church pastoring engagement would place me at the epicenter of the mountain biking kingdom, ‘drool city’ USA.   I could bike from my house in any direction and be rolling on world class mountain bike trails – 18 Road Fruita to the North, Kokopelli and Moab to the West, Lunch Loop/Tabeguache/Colorado National Monument to the South, and the Grand Mesa to the East (Oooh – la-la). Google these locations and pair it with ‘mountain biking’ and you will see what I mean.

Mountain Biking is a passionate sport. Nothing better than winding through the woods on a single track trail – or experiencing the accomplishment of negotiating a technical rock descent without going over the handlebars. Its marked by rugged and individualistic persons. Just me, the bike and the trail. I enjoyed entering and finishing races – became a passion of mine. So when a new friend of mine, Devin, who also was into racing, suggested we try riding and racing a tandem mountain bike together, I had no idea the things I would learn about my friend, myself, and more importantly, Jesus.

First decision, we need a bike. Tandem mountain bikes are somewhat of a specialty item. We found one and bought it. Then came the big question: who sits up front (Captain) and who sits in back (Stoker). The Captain does all the steering, shifting, braking, and picking the ‘lines’ (direction). There are many choices to be made during the course of a race and the captain makes most of them. The stoker on the other hand, does one thing and one thing only… pedals. And pedals. And pedals. And pedals. Not a very glamorous position.

Usually in a tandem biking team, the taller person and the person with the most weight is up front. That person is the captain. Devin is taller than me and weighs about 20 to 30 more pounds than me – he should be the captain of this team.

From the beginning Devin said, “I’ll ride in the back. I’ll be the stoker.” It was my first glimpse into a prominent quality of my tandem partner – humility. It reminds me of Philippians 2 where it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. You should not look only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have the same attitude as Jesus Christ.” This was the beginning of Devin reminding me of someone I know – Jesus.

I on the other hand like to be in control. I was more than good with this arrangement Devin agreed to. Steering, braking, shifting, picking the lines – all sounds good to me. Our biking together began with training rides. Right away, I enjoyed the conversation we could have while riding in close proximity. Devin was always right there with me.

We began to test our abilities racing together in tandem. We entered some gravel road races – first 36 miler, then 50 miler, then a 67 miler. Just a couple of yahoo Dad’s in a mid-life crisis. This is where the learning took off.   The more we spent time on the bike in training and racing, the more we enjoyed it.   After several races, we talked about the challenge of the ultra-endurance racing – 100 milers.

Over the past 5 years of racing together, we have completed more than 15 races together in tandem, including six 100 milers in Michigan, Ohio, and Colorado. In ultra endurance racing you learn a lot about yourself. And in tandem racing, you learn a lot about your racing partner. summer-2012-colorado-815

Here are some things I have learned:

 Two better than one… Riding tandem is much better than riding solo. We are better together and better in racing when riding tandem. Its just easier for us. We are able to talk throughout the race and share the experience.

 Encouragement! Throughout the race, Devin is giving encouragement, “Good pace, good line…” When one is down the other is up – Racing is tough stuff – especially 100 miler ultra endurance races… where you are in the saddle an average of 9 to 10 hours depending on course terrain, altitude, weather… it is physically, emotionally, and mentally grueling. And time and time again, when fatigue, cramps, and pain and exhaustion set in… (feel like its time to quit), Devin will say, “We can do this!” In my racing experience with Devin, he is always encouraging me with a hand on the shoulder, “Good line Mark.’ “Nice shifting!” This sounds like Jesus to me.

Grace and Humility. There have been times where I have not taken a good line and its led us off the trail… In the LumberJack 100, a 100 mile race in Michigan’s Manistee National Forest, I’ve cut corners through trees to tightly and turned his handlebars sideways on a tree trunk. Imagine weaving rough cones in drivers training, accept instead of driving a Volkswagen, they give you a Semi-Truck with a trailer. The race is 98% single track weaving through trees. Once I took a line to close to the edge of the trail. The forest floor was covered in ferns and I didn’t see the stump that Devin hit full on with his pedal crank arm. The jolt ‘kicked’ us off the trail and off the bike. It was mile 17, with 83 more miles to go and the shaft was bent badly. In every instance, Devin got back on the bike with me and continued the race, even managing the difficult pedaling pattern, all the way to the finish. This sounds like Jesus to me.

In the Mohican 100, a race in the central hills/valleys of Ohio, I twice dumped Devin. Once I turned a corner and went straight into a large puddle, stalled out. I unclipped and jumped off the bike as it was going down. Devin didn’t have time to get out of his clips. I laid him down right in the middle of the mud puddle. Later, we were on an incline with a steep drop off to the left. Same kind of thing, I lost balance and momentum, I knew the bike was going down. I unclipped and watched as Devin fell toward the left and rolled down the hill into the woods. Both times he got back on the bike with me and finished the race. Again, this too sounds like Jesus to me.

mohican-tandem  Time and time again, he gets back on that bike with me… Its unbelievable… (Sometimes I wonder if something isn’t right with him to trust me like he does.)

Devin is taller than me. He can often see over my shoulder to the trail up ahead.   He will speak words of guidance throughout the race, “Sharp turn coming,” “Do you see that obstacle?” “Steep climb ahead, get ready to shift into a lower gear.” “Pace yourself.” Devin is constantly whispering wisdom and encouragement in my ear throughout the race. Sounds like Jesus.

My experiences with tandem riding have brought a richer understanding about Jesus. It has caused me to ask this question: If Jesus where riding tandem with me (which in life, he most surely does), would he be the Captain or the Stoker? Would he be the one up front steering, shifting, and braking, picking the lines? Or would he be the one in the back who pedals and pedals, and pedals?

I have heard the phrase before, “Jesus is the Captain (Lord) of my life. He is the one in control of everything.” I understand the truth of this phrase, but in life, what I have learned from tandem riding is that Jesus is more like the stoker.

Here is what I have come to believe about Jesus. He gives me so much freedom in life – to make choices, to take certain paths… decide which line to take… and some of the lines I choose are good lines, others not so good. Some lines lead to blessing while others lead to trouble, hardship, even pain. Yet, whether my decisions are good lines or bad lines, Jesus is always there. He is Immanuel – God with me. It’s like this, Jesus says, “Here are the handlebars, here are the brakes, here are the shifters and see that up ahead, that’s the path. Now go!” And then quickly adds, “And I will be with you.” No matter the path, he is with me.

What this means is that sometimes we take Jesus right into the mud with us, or run his crank arm into a stump. Yet time and time again, Jesus gets back on the bike with us. Whether we are flying down the trail or cranking up a steep hill, Jesus adjusts his cadence to ours, he is God with us.

Life can be difficult and challenging, much like an ultra-endurance race. The most difficult race Devin and I ever entered was the Leadville 100. The town of Leadville, Colorado sits at 10,200 feet above sea level. That’s where the start of the race begins. After that, its packed with elevation gain (over 14,000 feet increase throughout the race) with extended steep grade climbs (five to be precise) and there is absolutely no oxygen… at least that’s how it feels. 100 miles of ‘fun.’ On a good day, if everything goes well, you might finish under 10 hours. During the course of those 10 hours, you literally feel like you are going to die. Often, you think, “I’m not going to make it.” tandem-leadville

So it can be in life. Pain and brokenness comes to us from our own poor choices and it comes to us simply because we live in a broken world. Fatigue sets in and ‘cramps’ can take over. You may even feel at times you have nothing left and can’t go on. And what does Jesus do? He adjusts his cadence to where we are, matching our pace, pedaling with us. He is there behind us with a hand on the shoulder saying, “You can do this. We will make it to the finish line.” This is the promise of God to us in the person of Jesus – a tandem partner.

During one of our races, near the 90 mile marker, Devin and I had been experiencing repeated mechanical problems. Every time we wanted to shift into a higher gear to go faster the shifting would slip on us. The chain kept riding off the gear teeth and we would have to stop to make adjustments. We were exhausted and defeated. And then it happened, the chain slipped again, came off its gearing and we stalled to a stop. At that point, I came off my ‘gears’ as well. My patience was gone. Yet somehow, I found enough energy to pick up the tandem bike and throw it into the woods. I also said some things I shouldn’t have too as my frustration boiled over. Devin’s response was interesting. He said nothing. He simply watched and waited for me to calm down. He stood there for a moment longer. Then walked over to the bike, picked it up, made it ready to ride again, and set it on the path. Then he said, “Let’s go Mark, we can do this.”   This sounds like Jesus to me. This is what he says to us time and time again, “Let’s get back on the bike… let’s peddle to the finish line. We can do this. I’ll be with you.”

 I wonder if Devin might be Jesus. I know he would have a problem with me saying this with the ‘humility’ thing and all. But in and through Devin, my tandem riding partner, and the racing experiences we have had riding in tandem, God has given me some insight into Jesus, that’s for sure. Jesus is our Stoker, capital “S”. He is the ultimate Emmanuel, God with us.

 There is idea of Jesus being our stoker. For in being our stoker, Jesus calls us to be a stoker for others. That in humility, we adjust our cadence to the cadence of those around us. Life is like a race. It can be difficult, exhausting, and at times reaching the finish line can seem impossible. But God calls us to saddle up with others in this race called life, and to stoke for someone else.

There is more to all of this. I’m reminded again of Philippians 2 where it says, “Since we have been united with Christ, with his love, and we have fellowship with his Spirit… (since we are riding tandem with Jesus…) then have this same attitude and love toward others.”   Jesus, the ultimate stoker calls us to stoke for others. Jesus calls us in humility to adjust our cadence to the cadence of those around us.   Life can be difficult, exhausting, and at times reaching the finish line can seem impossible. But God calls us to ride tandem with others in this race called life, and to stoke for someone else – bringing pedal power and encouragement alongside another.

From my heart to your heart, in the journey of the Christian life, find a good tandem partner. Start with Jesus, he is the ultimate tandem partner. Then go the extra mile and find other people who can pedal with you through life.

A Video of Pastor Mark giving a similar address to a high school of 800 students