Category Archives: Kenya 2015

Big Brick Weekend

When I woke up this morning, I didn’t think I had 18 in me. In fact, even when I was going to bed last night, I seriously doubted I would run this morning.

My long ride went really well yesterday. We biked the entire IMWI course (112 miles) and I felt great most of the day, despite getting off course 3 different times (might’ve had something to do with the 3 bottles of coke I drank during the ride).


The 112 mile bike course. 5600 ft of elevation gain.

With about 12 miles to go, I missed a turn that lead us 7 miles in the wrong direction. When I finally got back to town for dinner, my blood sugar started to drop fast. I took 2 fast bites of dinner and started to shake. I thought I was going down. I didn’t, thank God, but I wasn’t able to eat more than a banana before I went to bed.

In addition to all of that, I got less than 5 hours of sleep. I’m allergic to something in lake water, which means every time I swim outside, I end up super congested. I couldn’t breathe through my nose at all last night.

Needless to say, when I woke up, I was sure I wasn’t gonna run. Maybe I’d walk some, or jog a few miles. But no way could I go 18. I skipped my normal pre-long run meal, and opted for decaf coffee, a creme dream donut and beef jerky. I planned to hang out with my buddy Tye and support our other teammates most of the day.

But IRONMAN Wisconsin is 4 weeks away, and if I didn’t get this long run in today, with my teammates, I’m not sure if or when I would. So I went. And just kept going.

This is me at mile 13 running along the lakefront path in Madison. Feeling fine. Having a good run with great friends.

I made it 18 miles today. Makes no sense to me.

Glory to God. We are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we think.

Mary walks 18 miles A DAY to provide her family with water. You can read her story here.


RIP Timothy


On July 19, Daniel and I received the very hard news that one of our sponsor children in Bartabwa, Kenya passed away tragically in a flood. We are both heartbroken and without words. Please say a prayer for his family.

This is personal.

We are fortunate enough to have friends and colleagues in the area where our sponsor child Timothy lived and they have been able to help us piece together his story.

One of them was his teacher, Jan Kipsong, she too devastated by the loss of her favorite pupil. She told me that Timothy was a wonderful boy – he was joyful and had many friends. He used to look after his father’s livestock (cows, sheep and goats) and it was in the evening hours, as he was trying to cross a river to take the animals home from grazing, that he was caught up in the “hungry waters” of the flood. It is possible that their livestock did not make it across either, so on top of losing a child, they may have lost their financial security as well.

This is a recent news story from the area where he lives, very likely the same river.

Our kid’s job today was to take our pugs out to the yard and scoop food into their dishes.

Meanwhile, we live in a world where 10-year-olds walk alone for many miles and across dangerous waters to help their family’s survive. Ironically, Timothy lived in an area that lately has been ravaged by drought and famine – one far worse than what we witnessed in the 80’s – but when the rain finally came, it came too fast. A flash flood that should’ve produced hope and replenishment, instead wreaked havoc and stole an innocent life – from ALL of us.


In these situations, it is easy to wonder how a good and loving God could allow such suffering and tragedy.

I believe he doesn’t allow it. We do. People allow it.

Dan and I will be sending a financial gift to help the family and are working to shift the sponsorship to one of Timothy’s siblings. We want to walk as closely as we can with them in their grief, knowing that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” and we want to be close to Him.

You can help by sponsoring a child in Timothy’s community. There are currently 273 children in Bartabwa who are waiting to be sponsored. Child sponsorship is an opportunity for you to build a relationship with one special child and help their whole community have access to vital resources like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education, economic opportunities, and more. Let me know if you’re interested.

You can also make a one-time donation in honor of Timothy to provide clean, safe water his community. Development begins with clean water. Follow the link here to make a donation.…

We love you Timothy and we will continue to fight for you.



Drought: A prolonged absence of something. An extended shortage. Water related.

Last week was a recovery week for Ironman training – a prescribed period of reduced training intensity and volume to rest and replenish. Only 9 hours and 15 minutes of training was prescribed on the plan. Only 9 hours… I know, right?

I was thankful. It was going to be an extremely busy week at work. I hosted an event for 250 people on Thursday night to celebrate the beginning of the Twin Cities Marathon training season, and then flew out to Detroit on Friday morning to help with the Global 6K, where over 900 people were in attendance. So, with everything going on, I fully expected to miss some workouts and I was OK with that  – to this point, I’ve been super consistent, not missing a single workout for 3 weeks in a row.

What I didn’t factor into the equation was a) how exhausting event prep and execution is and b) how much even short trips wear me down. While my IM training was significantly reduced, I really didn’t rest much and sleep was at a minimum. My recovery week did not provide me with much replenishment.

So it’s Sunday night, and I’m staring down a new week of training, back to the full-on grind.


This is what I have to look forward to this week. 12 hours & 45 mins.

I feel
and alone.

It’s drought season.

I’m looking at the week ahead of me and questioning everything. To be honest, I don’t want to do it. The motivation is just not there. I haven’t received an ounce of financial support in 3 weeks, so what’s the point? I’m not doing this because I have a dream of finishing an Ironman. If people in Africa aren’t receiving clean water, why bother?

But I committed to doing this, and people have already given very generously. For that, I am so thankful. That is not lost on me. Not at all. But in these moments of radio-silence, when I’m not receiving those blessed emails or texts that scream “SOMEONE DONATED!!” … I feel alone. And the negative voices takeover. They say…

“Nobody cares anymore.”
“Nobody cares about your training anymore.”
“Nobody cares about YOU anymore.”
“Nobody cares about kids in Africa.”

“Give up.”
“It’s not worth it.”

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

So I look to Jesus.
Because apparently he knows something about abandonment.
In the midst of unimaginable physical pain, abandoned by all but a few of his friends and followers, and facing his imminent death, when it would be almost impossible for anyone to think clearly, he called out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”

And yet, through all of this, he endured out of deep love and devotion for you and for me. Strangely, he had hope. He knew that God was going to do something amazing. That, although he couldn’t see it and he certainly wasn’t feeling it, there was joy coming. He knew that because of God’s promise, there was resurrection and LIFE on the other side – for him and for all of us.

Mother Teresa saw these lonely experiences as invitations to unite herself more closely with Jesus in his abandonment on the cross and with the poor, who also feel abandoned.

Drought in KenyaIMG_5638

Speaking of the poor, there’s a severe drought in Kenya currently and it is affecting the community where my sponsor child, Daniel, and his family live. In Baringo County, household distances to water is now three times longer than usual (the usual is 6 kilometers, or 3-4 miles). What does this mean for Daniel? Is he missing school because he has to walk farther? How is this affecting their food supply? Are they being forced to drink dirty water again? Have they been sick?


Does Daniel’s mama, Egla feel abandoned? To have seen so much progress in her community since 2007 when World Vision began their work there, wide-spread development and growth, clean water flowing and her children thriving, feeling blessed and hopeful, and then this happens? The water goes away. Is she wondering where God is now?

There’s a lot I don’t know, but I do know this – if my family didn’t have clean water, I would do whatever it takes to get it for them, and I would be on my knees everyday, praying that God would provide somehow.

This drought has been declared a national disaster in Kenya, and yet, we don’t hear about it in the news. It’s a silent killer that’s easy for the rest of the world to ignore. But it’s taking the lives of nearly 1,000 children under the age of 5 every day. That’s more than all the war and all the violence we see in the news today.

It remains the #1 preventable cause of death.
The #1 preventable cause of mothers and fathers suffering through the loss of a child.

Today, I’m writing to Daniel and Egla, and I’m praying this prayer from Psalm 63 with and for them.

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.

And our faith – their faith being far greater than my own – will remind us that God is good and there is a joy coming, so we must endure.

Oh God, pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; Pour out your Spirit on your offspring, and your blessing on your descendants.

$250 will provide clean water for a family of 5 in Africa.

61 years worth of water

When I visited Kenya for the first time in 2015, I learned about a woman named Mary. You can read her story here. She’s someone I think about often.

This morning, I found out that the pool I swim in at the White Bear Lake YMCA holds 334,000 gallons of water. So I started doing some math.


Photo cred: White Bear Area YMCA Facebook page

Mary’s family needs 15 gallons of water a day just to survive, so she walks a total of 18 miles every day to get it.

This means the water in that pool would be enough to provide water for Mary, her entire family of 9 and all their livestock for 61 years.

61 years! That’s the average life expectancy in Kenya.

Mind blown. The water that I SWIM in.

Not having to walk for water everyday would give Mary back 133,000 hours over her lifetime to do better things with her time, like play with her kids, get an education or start a business.

Because of the way that World Vision does development work – a holistic approach that is comprehensive, complex and sustainable – all these things are possible for Mary and MILLIONS of women like her.

That’s what you’re giving to when you support my Ironman efforts.

$50 gives sustainable access to one person. How many Mary’s can you provide total life change for today? Click here to give:

Got Fitted

This is a pretty boring post. Definitely not the most inspirational thing I’ve ever written. I’m just journaling the journey. So feel free to indulge yourself in my musings if you want, but I promise you, you won’t be missing much if you skip this one.

I finally got my bike (aka the bike that I’m borrowing from a friend) into the shop for a fitting today. After announcing my 39 mile birthday tri, I decided it would probably be good to figure out my bike issues before April 7th.

I got my ride in early this morning – 6am. I thought the plan called for 45 minutes today. Nope, 60. Not exactly the best time to discover that which would obviously cut into what I thought was a well thought out plan for the morning –  ride early, get the girls to school, get ready for the day, toss in a load of laundry, get my bike rack on and loaded up, and head out to my first meeting by 8am. Now I’ve lost 15 minutes to accomplish all of this. I’m already thinking cuss words and I’ve only been awake for 5 minutes.

“This is only an hour, Sinead. What are you gonna do in 4 weeks when your Wednesday workouts start to call for 75 minutes in the morning? or 90?” OH CRAP! I just now realized that this Saturday’s ride is my first 90 minute ride! GAH! Why does this seems to be increasing so fast?

So I scheduled an appointment at Gateway Cycle in Oakdale and met with their manager, Steven. Cool guy. Bike expert, shop manager and a rock n’ roll musician… of course he’s a musician. I learned a lot from him and got the necessary tweaks made. There were a lot of them.

  • The seat, I mean the saddle, needed to be raised and moved forward.
  • The handle bars were raised and the stem was shortened.
  • The arm rest paddy-thingeys on the aerobars were adjusted.
  • The cleats on my shoes were moved.
  • Tires needed air… ha! and the gear shift-thingee was adjusted so it would stop rubbing the chain and making a ton of noise.

Clearly, I need to learn some new vocabulary. But at the same time, ignorance is bliss.

I will also need to invest in a new saddle here soon. I’m currently riding on a men’s saddle which is very narrow and long, compared to a women’s model, and can be kinda painful. But for now, the adjustments that were made do feel better, and will probably help my efficiency and speed a little bit, too.

Today’s bill was $140. The new saddle will be $80. I still don’t have decent bike shorts. Thankfully I have this borrowed bike, because good road bikes start at around $1,000. Yow! This gal and her church planting hubby ain’t got time for that.

Some people wonder, why wouldn’t you just save that money and give it away – skip all the swimming, riding and running? It’s a valid question.

Here’s my simplest “its-after-10pm-and-I-need-to-go-bed” answer:

It’s sorta like Matthew 25:14-29. I guess I’m aiming for a “well done”. This is an investment – one that I hope will have a significant return for kids in Africa. I make the investment of time, money and energy, with a hope that somehow my example will inspire my friends and family to make some sort of investment as well – an investment that supports and encourages me as I face this challenge daily, that reminds me that I’m not alone on this mission, AND most importantly, one that provides water, hope and life to people who really need it.

People like this little dude from Kenya, who’s future’s so bright he needs shades. He stole my heart in 2015.

$50 provides one person with sustainable access to clean water. Invest your talents. Go for “well done.”



*** UPDATE 3/10/17 9:50am

I just got a call from Gateway Cycle. Someone called and purchased my saddle. I can go in anytime and get it put on. So I’m currently out in public with tears pouring down my face.

Thank you, whoever you are. That was incredibly, amazingly kind. This goes so far beyond improving my comfort while riding. This changes my heart. This is the kind of thing that inspires me to love more and love better. Thank you SO MUCH.

Just so blown away. I didn’t see that coming.

*** UPDATE 3/10/17 2:42pm

All done. My sit bones are SO THANKFUL.


Daniel & Egla

IMG_5857I was introduced to Daniel about 3 weeks prior to my trip. Born Feb. 27, 2007 – 8 yrs. old. Lives with both parents in a remote area of the Great Rift Valley of Kenya.

REMOTE is right. When World Vision says they are helping vulnerable children in the hardest to reach places, they aren’t kidding. I’ve heard people describe bumpy bus rides into the field, but I never expected this. All terrain vehicles – Land Cruisers – traversing the hilliest, rockiest roads (if you can even call them that) with STEEP ups and downs, often right on the edge of cliffs. Our 2 hour treks into the field were INSANE. Our drivers – fearless.


When we got to the World Vision ADP office, we were told that when the sponsor children arrived, we’d have to identify our kids from all the others. That made most of the people in my group nervous, not feeling confident they could pick out their new friend, whose picture they’d only seen maybe once or twice before. I was all game though – I knew I would know Daniel. And I did.

Egla and me

Egla and me

There was something very distinct about Daniel’s mama. She stood tall and she wore a huge, bright beaming smile. When I went to greet her, instead of offering her hand, she opened up her arms and gave me a great big squeeze. Hugging didn’t seem to be super customary, but Egla didn’t care. She’s a teacher, and mother of 5 children – Winnie (17), Hillary (16), Mercy (15), Matthew (12) and Daniel. Her husband, Joseph is a police officer. They live in a village called Terik, where water was finally just drilled the week before. Now her 6K walk for unsafe water would be about 1K for clean.


Daniel and me having fun with the selfie stick

Daniel was much more timid, with a very quiet, sweet soft voice. Egla would translate for us, or we’d just communicate through the international language of soccer and smiles, juggling the ball and counting together. I couldn’t keep up with him. It was hot, he was fast and could go as long as the ball could – So I took every opportunity to sit with Egla and talk.Through our conversations, I learned that Daniel wants to be a driver when he grows up (who can blame him?). I learned that their village was about an hour away on bike… Egla and Daniel had both rode on the back of a motorcycle for 60+ minutes on those wild, rocky roads to get to our party that day.

Beaded purses - gifts from the Amdany family.

Beaded purses – gifts from the Amdany family.

I brought a few small gifts for Daniel – some school supplies, a ball, and a photo album with some pictures of our family. I took lots of polaroids so he could add some photos of himself and his friends. The gifts didn’t costs me much – we were advised to spend only about $15, so it wasn’t a big deal. But then Egla presented me with 2 small, beaded purses – precious gifts – one for me and one for my husband. I wasn’t expecting this at all, and it was humbling. I thought of the story from Matthew 12 – the widow’s offering – how I had given out of my surplus and Egla gave from what little she has. She gave me FAR MORE than I gave her that day.

Egla did speak pretty good English. She said “Ay” a lot, in agreement. Toward the end of our time together, I asked her what the rest of her day looked like. I wondered if she would be going home to cook dinner or if she had many chores to do, as I often do in the evening. I just wanted a peak into her day-to-day. She answered quickly with enthusiasm “I will tell my family all about you…” She wasn’t thinking about what needed to be done. She was going to share… about me.

I asked her how I could pray for her. She said 2 things – “that our needs would be met and our relationships would continue to be good.”

Egla is a model human being. She does life and love right – pure and simple.
I want to give like she gives.
I want to pray like she prays.
When people ask about my day, my life, I want it to be about people. I want it to be about others.

Many people have a sponsor child. I feel I have a whole new family; people who I long to stay connected to; friends who will no doubt be seated among the honored guests at the Great Banquet in heaven. 12112050_10153768621457835_5231945695557603115_n

Samuel & Mary

SamuelI met Samuel last Thursday. He is a silly, bumbling old man. He didn’t speak much English, but he tried, mostly repeating “thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again (I’ll write more about the outpouring of gratitude later). To that point, I had held back in my communication with my new Kenyan friends, speaking slowly and carefully, assuming the language barrier was too great. But with Samuel, I decided to go for it, embrace the awkwardness and see where it went. His dark, weathered skin told me he had a story to tell.

I asked about his life and his family. He’s 51 years old and a farmer – 1 cow, 1 goat, 3 chickens. 7 children. 1 wife, named Mary. He says “She’s the best. She does everything for me.”

Mary wasn’t there that day, because she was likely out collecting water. Samuel told me (at this point, with the help of WVKenya staff translating), Mary walks 5K – one way – to find water, and because of their needs, she makes that walk 3 times a day.

— Stop here. She’s walks 30 kilometers A DAY. That’s 18 miles, friends. Every day. Let’s assume that she walks 3 mph (which is generous considering she’s carrying 44 lbs of water for half of those miles). 3mph, 18 miles = 6 hours a day walking for water. —

On top of that, Mary works daily to find food for her family of 9 and to earn money… to buy alcohol for Samuel… to wash away his pain and escape his reality. My Kenyan colleague Ronald asked “Can’t you smell it on him?”

Heaven help us.

Imagine what Mary could do with those 6 hours if she didn’t have to walk for water.

I didn’t meet Mary, but she has affected me deeply. I am and will carry her in my heart, and it’s heavy. She exists somewhere… right now…in Western Kenya and she endures. And she inspires me to do the same.

Give to end Mary’s water walk: