As I write this late race recap for the “Litchfield Triathlou”, I’ve got three triathlons under my belt. Two were sprint-distance races, which is generally something like a half-mile swim, a 15-mile bike ride, and then a 5K run. The first one went fine; I loved it! The second one, the Chicago Triathlon, was no small feat. In fact, it was not fun at all. You can read my race report here if you’d like to know more details, but the biggest problem with that race was that I had some kind of attack (panic, asthma, allergy to the lake water?) when the swim started, and I never fully got it together after that. The half-mile swim, which should have been about 15-16 minutes, took me 38 minutes! Trudging out of the water and the .5-mile to my bike, I panicked. What was I thinking? How was I ever going to compete in an Olympic-length triathlon in just two weeks?
I wish I could tell you that I got it together and powered through my concerns, regained my confidence, and faced the upcoming race with resolve. Nope. I actually considered dropping out of the race. Every time one of my kids sniffled, I thought a developing cold might lead to my ticket out. My biggest concern was not how I’d feel or that I’d suffer. It was that I might be last and people would see me. Old thought patterns run deep.
Well, try as I did to will myself into a temporary illness, I remained healthy and race day approached. The night before, my little ones and I traveled a few hours away to stay with my friend (the one who had lost 160 pounds) overnight. Elizabeth was going to take care of my kids while I raced and then bring them there to greet me at the finish line.
Poor thing. She was stuck with the task of listening to my negativity all evening. I told her how scared I was. I agonized over possible times and how I just wanted to finish in under four hours. I whined that I was worried I wouldn’t even finish. She listened.
I left her house early in the morning with that same lamb-to-the-slaughter feeling I’d had on that first day of middle school. I literally shivered from my nerves as I tried to eat my planned breakfast and sip on hot coffee. The Christian radio station played “You Make Me Brave.” I didn’t feel very brave!
As I pulled into the parking lot of Lake Yaeger in Litchfield, Illinois, I wanted to be anywhere else, but I started to gather my things to get out of the car when my phone beeped. It was a text from Elizabeth.
I’m praying for your safety and your joy.
I sank back on the seat like I’d been doused with a bucket of water. Joy. She was right. Joy. Why was I doing this? Joy. Where had my journey begun and where was I sitting in that moment? Joy.
God. Please forgive me! Forgive me for forgetting the grace you’ve shown to me. Forgive me for forgetting that none of this is about other people’s opinions of me—it’s about yours. Forgive me for losing my joy in this amazing journey I’ve been on and please restore my confidence and my peace. Amen.
That was it. That was what I needed to still my mind and remember the point of it all. Perhaps it’s needless to say, but the day was amazing. I loved every single minute of it. My times were far better than I had even hoped (by almost 30 minutes!) and I never felt a moment of negativity. As I pedaled along the bike course and tried to remember to take in the right amount of nutrition to fuel myself properly, I was consumed with gratitude. What a privilege it was to be out there on such a beautiful day, nourishing and hydrating my body with precisely what it needed to do almost four hours of cardio, doing exactly what I love to do…when people all over the world, in that very moment, were fighting for survival and struggling to find food and clean water. The entire experiencing was another life-changing one for me, and I hope I never forget it.
The power to win or lose exists almost completely in our minds.