“I belong anywhere but in between” -Counting Crows
The hardest parts of an open lake swim is how small you feel and dark it is as you broach the merky water. From the shore it’s not too bad but as soon as you submerge, the low, waterline, the dark, distance begins to set in. The buoys seem light years away. With this being my third year doing Got the Nerve, I thought for sure I wouldn’t freak out on the swim this time. Check out last year’s experience over at Rantings Reflections and Radiance. This year, I have been intentional about my swimming. My swim captain has helped me tremendously. I have felt stronger in the pool. But nope. Got in. Felt the smallness, the darkness, the distance, and rolled on my back. Soaking in the blue sky above, hoping I didn’t get kicked in the head as I scooted along. Figured it was better to just keep swimming than to have to be pulled out by rescuers. As long as I’m able I will do this race. Not because of the course but because of the cause. The IM ABLE foundation is all about living where you are, with whatever ability you have and persevering with fortitude. I dedicated this race to my Aunt Adele as she is currently fighting her own battle in Rehab pressing on and in one believing better day at a time. Fighting for each forward step. I know much of my love for words, laughter and story telling comes from her. So when I considered backing out the night before, I thought of her pushing for each step. “Do what we can, with what we have, where we are.” And my attitude changed.
“In this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure.” J.R.R. Tolkien
I am learning these races are so much more about fortitude (courage in the face of pain or adversity) and perseverance (continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition) than it is about crossing any finish lines, sizing up the competition, or putting a race notch on my belt. Comes as you are. Do your best with what you’ve been given. And watch how God speaks and shows up as you press on. He’ll meet you right where you are. I was grateful the week of the race I was reminded even though darkness maybe lurking all around, He doesn’t have a dark, unhealthy, or unsafe side. He is perfect love. And perfect love casts out all fear (1John 4:18). He knows every hair on our head, what makes us tick, speaks our language, ready and willing to show up for us. Faithful. Trustworthy. Unfailing. He never leaves us floundering even in the dark, distant, merkiness. Grateful that I can and am able to learn and grow with each forward step. So I woke up, nerves and all and set for what I like to call…”a fun field day of adventure activities with lots of unknowns.”
“I got my mind made up…”
Cherished Race Moments
1. The Pledge: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” As I looked around at all the other sojourner wetsuiters I was moved and grateful we live in a land where we can be free and participate in activities and events that make our heart sing. Thank you to everyone who has fought and sacrificed to make that a reality in our country. I thought about what battles each person has overcome to be there, what stories they have told or have yet to tell, and yet here we are in one big mass having this moment, this shared experience together. Some with neurodegenerative diseases. Some with hand bikes. Some with prosthetics. But all with battle scars, resilience and the fortitude to keep moving forward.
“…and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble…” 1 Corinthians 1:4
2. No pain-No gain
I was reminded our pain is never in vain. Whatever we’ve walked through can help someone else if we allow it. To extend that same grace and compassion from a genuine place…I’ve been there. Hold on. You’re not alone. You’ll get through this. Keep going. As they corralled us down to the lake area, I look over to my right and a lady next to me had the same color swim cap; bright green. Wave 9. 35-45 age group. And the tears were streaming down the side of her face. I knew at that moment if I was going to meet my Maker in the lake it was worth it to be placed next to her at that moment in time. Comfort and encouragement. We hugged. She said thank you and found me afterwards. I know I didn’t say anything profound. A hand. A hug. A word. A new friend. She didn’t have to tell me the details. It wasn’t necessary. But she clarified; these tears have nothing to do with the race…I responded with…”I never once thought they did.” I don’t know what private battle she maybe fighting, but I know she showed up that morning about to jump into a 60 degree lake with her wetsuit on. Moving and able. Grateful I could be beside her at that moment.
“whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
3. Faith Walk
And just when I was feeling like when is this going to end, how much longer is this run…my hip is acting up…a lady had a shirt on in front of me…”Walk by faith.” I thought to myself…whatever you do…run, walk, swim, bike, sit, read, write, garden, laugh, paint, talk, do it with faith. Be all there. Wherever you are. Thank you lady in front of me for that reminder. I kept running.
4. The Pay Off:
When I touched base with my swim captain to tell her how I was disappointed about my back stroke, she asked me what my times were last year. That didn’t even register for me to look back to see if there was any improvement. I actually left the race without even getting my times. I’ve always been more of a big picture thinker…”finish and don’t get hurt” and that’s a success! But when I debriefed with her it gave me hope. Hard work does pay off. Change is possible. You can measure your effort. Your time counts for something.
2013 Results: Finished 13th in my age group. 408th overall out of 479. Swim: 12:11, Bike 1:09, Run 31:30 Total Time: 1:58 overall
2014 Results: Finished 7th in my age group. 258th overall. Swim: 11:56 (yay!!! broke the dreaded 12) Bike 1:00 (with my new ride), Run 27:35 (8.30 pace) Total Time: 1:46 overall
My time improved 12 minutes. Yipee! I’ll take it. Grateful. And looking forward to the next one. Thanks Kelly for encouraging me to look at last year times. I would have probably never looked back and been hyper focused on the fact that I did the back stroke again. It’s so funny that the run was my best leg. The one I look forward to the least. Being met in that place of challenge.
Sometimes we do need those gentle reminders to look how far we’ve come don’t we. That even if it seems dark and merky; hold on and keep moving forward. Just keep swimming. Living full is possible. You’re not where you once were and you are growing, transitioning, being and becoming, one day at a time. You are moving forward even when you may feel like the lake is closing in around you and you flip in whatever way to possible to get to the other side. You are getting there. What ever difficulties you maybe persevering through with fortitude, I hope you fix your eyes and heart forward on the One who can bring you safely home. I hope you cherish those moments when someone comes along side you and reminds you to keep pressing onward and upward. Never give up. You’re worth it. Irreplaceable, Life Changing, New Identity, Live Full, Dream Chasing kind of words. If you don’t hear those words in your own life, I hope you find some here you can take and put in your pocket and carry with you. Your story is not over. There are plans and dreams that you were put here to fulfill. And maybe you could care less about Triathlons. That’s cool. We’re all made differently. Maybe it has nothing to do with moving or sweating. He made you. He knows every hair on your head and what speaks right to your heart. He’s safe and trustworthy and there is no darkness in Him. He knows how to lead you into the fullness of life by His love that will never fail you. Grateful to be open and listening.
Choose life. Believe Better. Live full.
“We all run for something…
I’ll be your light, your match, your burning sun,
I’ll be the bright, in black that’s makin’ you run.” -One Republic