Friday, June 25, 2021

In the Zone

Only 19 miles to go to the finish line. I just need to focus, one step at a time, pace, form, hydration, nutrition… hey there’s a bird!  Back to the zone, focus, you got this, just keep going… I wonder what I’ll have for dinner after the race.  Ugh!

I think we’ve all had that experience. We need to be in the zone, but we find our minds wandering aimlessly.  It takes every bit of effort to reign-in the wandering mind and regain a sense of focus.



I’ve been told about meditation and mindfulness for years, and I’ve tried practicing them many times, and the key word is, “tried.” I used to think I’m the least mindful person in the world, until I realized that many people struggle with the same thing.

I find the same in my prayer life. I start with the best of intentions, I focus my thoughts on God, but then my prayer for my neighbor, who has cancer, turns into a prayer for her family, and I pray for her husband. Then I wonder if her husband ever got the boat fixed, which reminds me that I need to change the oil on my boat, and I wonder if Saturday will be a nice day to go on the boat, and I sure can’t wait for warmer weather… Again, ugh!

God’s Perspective

“Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you” (Proverbs 4:25).  The physical part of focus is easier than the mental part, but the physical part is a great enabler for the mental.

The Bible also tells us to lock-in or fix our thoughts on Jesus.  Hebrews 3:1 says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”  Locking in on Jesus allows us to have a very specific, narrow mental focus. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  This too helps remind us to keep our focus away from temporary, earthly things, which often consume our thoughts and mental energy.

Satan, the enemy of our lives, wants us to be busy and distracted.  In fact, busyness is one of his most powerful weapons, as it is a very effective tool for keeping us from spending time with God and focusing our lives on Him.

Hitting the Zone

If you ever watch an athlete at the pinnacle of their sport, you’ll see an incredible focus.  Anything less will result in defeat.  A baseball batter must have the ultimate focus as he aims to hit a baseball coming in at 90 miles per hour and sinking, curving, or even rising at the end. A football receiver must catch a ball being thrown dozens of yards across a football field, while in stride, and while preparing to be hit by an anxiously awaiting defender.  

In my endurance races, I’ve found that there are times when my mind can wander, but there are times when I need to be dialed in with laser-like precision.  When my favorite cycling instructor pushes us up on wattage or cadence, she will always call out, “Watch your number – if you stop watching it, it will fall.”  And she’s right.  

Whether it be in training or in a race, when I need to hit the zone, there are a few things I need to do:

  • Eyes – I need to have an environment where I can physically see and focus on the goal with my eyes. That may be a certain number, like wattage or cadence, on a bike ride.  It may be my pace or cadence on a run.  No matter what, I need a place to focus my eyes.
  • Ears – I need to have an environment where I’m not distracted by what I’m listening to.  I can’t focus while listening to music; others can.  I can’t focus as well if I’m on a bike ride but listening to the cars coming up on me and wondering if I’m safe.  I need to be safe and free from sound distractions that will take away my focus.
  • Body – I need to have an environment where my body is immersed in what I’m trying to focus on.  On the bike, I need to be in a tight aero position, and on a run, I need to be locked in on my running form.  When I stray from these, my mind goes also.
  • Mind – this is the tough part, but I need to create a sense of urgency and intensity, and I need to focus on a purpose.  Whether it be holding a number on the bike, holding a pace on the run, or simply just putting one foot in front of the other, I need to convince my mind of the importance and create the necessary focus.

Prayer Zone

Having struggled mightily with my prayer life for years, I finally learned how to improve my focus.  Deep down, I believe that God wants our focus, but He also understands when our minds wander during prayer. I believe God would rather have us pray and get distracted than not pray at all. 

In a recent running race, I had taken on one prayer request per mile to bless others while keeping my mind focused on God for the race.  I was amazed at the results.  I was able to focus my eyes on the path ahead – no distractions.  Other than the sounds of nature, there really weren’t any audible distractions.  Physically, my body was locked in on my running form, and I really had to just focus on continuing to put one foot in front of the others.  Lastly, I attempted to keep my prayers very direct and focused. I didn’t try to tackle the whole list at once or recite War and Peace.  It was just simple, straight-forward, personal conversation with God.  As a visual, I imagined Jesus was running next to me, and He and I were just talking, like friends.  It worked.

Your Zone

If you struggle like I do, I urge you to think about the other factors associated with your prayer life.  Where are you praying?  What are your visual focus points and visual distractions?  What are your audible opportunities and distractions?  What are the various body postures and activities that enable you to be in the zone?  Try it out, see what works, and make it yours.  Most of all, think of it as a conversation with your best friend standing (or running) next to you.  After all, He is.

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 
Check out In Our Weakness We Are Strong on Amazon at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at


Friday, June 4, 2021

What's Your Why

This past winter, I felt a nudge to do a fifty-mile run.  I’ve been competing in endurance events for the past seven years for my favorite charity, the Hope Water Project, so this seemed like a natural evolution to my racing portfolio, even though I didn’t think I was physically capable of succeeding.  I’ve been down this path before – first with a marathon, then with an Ironman. Somehow, I believed that with the right training, and with the faith that God would show up when I needed Him most, this might be possible. So, I decided to go for it.

Once I mentally committed to doing a fifty-mile race, I did my research and created a training plan.  At that point, I picked a specific race and began preparations.  As I began fundraising, I heard one question from nearly everyone with whom I discussed this race, “Why?”


What’s Your Why?

I’ve often looked at people who’ve done ultra-marathon races and asked the same question, “Why?”  Why would someone to sign up for a race that they didn’t know if they could finish and risk thousands of training hours on failure?  Why would someone to sign up for a race that takes an inordinate amount of mental and physical energy in terms of planning, training, preparing, and then racing?  Why would someone sign up for training and a race that will likely incur injuries along the way and physical pain both during and after the race?  

Like any major decision in life, we look through the lens of our 3 Ps: purpose, passion, and priorities.  If you haven’t thought about this before, let me implore you to take a few introspective minutes and think about your 3 Ps. 

  • What’s your purpose?  What motivates you?  When you wake up every day, what gets your blood pumping?  What’s the one thing that will be most important when you someday look back on your life?
  • What are your passions?  What do you love to spend your time on?  What are those things you do that energize you the most? If money and time were unlimited, how would you spend them? 
  • What are your priorities? What are the things that are of the most value to you?    How would you rank things like faith, family, health, work, hobbies?  

In my case, my purpose is to positively impact the lives of others for God’s kingdom, and in this case, a race is an opportunity to raise money for the Hope Water Project.  It’s also an opportunity to train and race with others, using sports as a platform to drive positive impact and share God’s love.  Lastly, it. aligns with my passions for health and endurance sports, and it fits within my priorities of faith and health.  To me, when I felt called to do a fifty miler, the decision was a no brainer.

God’s Perspective

In the Bible, God has a lot to say about purpose and why we’re here.  Starting in the book of Genesis, God created mankind to live in the presence of God (Genesis 2:15).  More than anything, He wanted us to live in relationship with both Him and others.

God also made us to reflect His image and His glory (Genesis 1:27). God wants us to live our lives in a way that reflects the fact that we are made in His image.  He also wants us to glorify Him in all that we do.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Above all, God wants us to seek Him.  His door is always open for us.

One of the greatest priorities is the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy Spirit.” 

God’s sense of purpose for our lives, and eternities, is clear: be in relationship, reflect God’s image, glorify God, seek His kingdom and righteousness, and make disciples.

What’s your purpose in life?  Why do you believe God put you on earth?  How are you seeking the kingdom and living a life that reflects and glorifies the Father while spreading His love?


In the weeks preceding the race, I experienced a myriad of injuries that impacted my training and caused me to question if I could make the distance.  In my final weekend of heavy training, I was able to run 31 miles, but at the end, I was struggling to keep moving and was in so much pain that I wondered how I’d ever last another mile, much less 19.

As race-day approached, a friend suggested that I solicit 50 prayer requests, one for each of the 50 miles of the race, as a way to connect with God, pray for others, and keep my mind in a positive place on race day.

The Race

The field of runners was limited to 200, and the course was a winding, hilly, two-mile path that covered the full spectrum of terrain, including gravel, dirt, mud, grass, and stone. The race started in a chilly but sunny 28 degrees, and as the day went on, I was able to shed layers as the temperature climbed into the mid 50s.

The first 31 miles of the race were challenging due to the hills, terrain, temperature, and my pre-existing injuries.  However, I’d run that far before, so mentally I knew I could do it.  The real question in my mind was around what would happen in the last 19 miles.  There were two battles taking place at that point.  There was the physical battle, which required that I continued running fast enough to make the 12-hour cutoff while managing my nutrition, hydration, and pain.  There was also the mental battle, which required that I focus on my why, prayer, and my strength in Christ.

Physically, I continued to execute on my race strategy, which included nutrition, hydration, pain management, and pacing.  Mentally, I used the strategy of 50 prayers in 50 miles to keep the focus on God. It truly felt like I spent 12 hours straight in prayer. I also leaned on my why.  I took every opportunity possible to connect with others on the course, and I knew that if I could achieve my goal, I could glorify God and appropriately give Him the credit for success.

Every minute of the last ten miles was rough.  The pain was intense, my pace was slowing, and I was battling the cutoff clock.  I truly believe my close connection with God was working in my favor, as I continued to pray earnestly throughout the race and kept thinking about my why.  I felt God’s presence as I prayed each of the 50 prayers, and I truly felt that He would help me cross the finish line.

As I approached the 50-mile goal, I realized that I was going to make it.  Tears of joy streamed down my face as I reached the finish line, nearly 12 hours after the race began, and I simply looked up to the heavens in thanks.  I knew that this wasn’t my accomplishment – I had leaned on the power of God and the strength of the Holy Spirit to carry me.  

God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.

If you’d like to contribute to the Hope Water Project, please visit my donation site at

Welcome to the new you.  Enjoy the journey... 
Check out In Our Weakness We Are Strong on Amazon at
Learn more about Dave VanEpps or request a speaking engagement at

In the Zone

Only 19 miles to go to the finish line. I just need to focus, one step at a time, pace, form, hydration, nutrition… hey there’s a bird!  Bac...