In August, I signed up for a sprint triathlon because I wanted to do something different, to dig a little deeper, and challenge myself. The race — which would include a 200-yard swim, an eight-mile bike ride, and a 2.5 mile run — would certainly be a new challenge for me.
Committing to it would push me out of my comfort zone, but that was the idea: to push my boundaries and become more intentional with my free time.
Becoming disciplined in my workouts
As I began to train for the race, I dreaded the pool. I ran and biked often, but when it came to swimming, I was nervous. I was embarrassed. The last time I had swum laps was during swimming lessons in seventh grade.
But one Saturday morning, I got into the water.
After some failed attempts at swimming a mere 50 yards that morning, I was gasping for breath. I got out of the pool and approached the lifeguard for some tips.
An avid swimmer, the young woman offered me pointers for breathing and encouraged me to keep at it. She watched my stroke and provided guidance on how to increase my speed. With her encouragement, I returned twice a week and tried to incorporate her tips into my laps.
My cousin, who had completed a sprint triathlon a few months before, suggested I stack my workouts — like bricks — to prepare for the big day. So I began training with brick workouts, piling up swimming and biking, and then running and biking. My workouts now varied between a 16-mile bike ride, followed by a two-mile run, or a half hour in the pool, followed by a 30-minute run.
The day of the race
When I awoke early on the morning of the race, I said a simple prayer: “Please God, just let me finish. Give me the strength to finish.”
The other thing that propelled me out of bed was knowing that my sister would be there to cheer me on. My mom back home in Iowa was cheering via her iPhone.
That morning, I met a new friend, Mimi, when I hung up my bike. It was her first sprint triathlon, too. We also met Julie, who hung her bike near ours and had raced the year prior. We quizzed her about transitions between the events and whether we should wear shoes to the pool.
As we lined up for the first event — the swim — we encouraged each other and assured ourselves we could do it.
Supported throughout the race
The sprint triathlon was tough for me and quite honestly a little bit of whirlwind. I remember the volunteers’ cheers along the way and when I saw my sister at the finish line, tears of joy ran down my face. We embraced each other, and I cried, “I did it. I can’t believe I did it!” She hugged me tight, and said, “Of course you did!”
I knew God had answered my prayer. He had given me the strength.
In that moment I felt a sense of accomplishment, that I had done something that, before August, I never imagined I’d even attempt.
I didn’t know what to say — how to show my gratitude to God, all who cheered me on, to Mimi, and Julie, or to the lifeguard who had encouraged me that first day in the pool. I even thought of the women from my parish who I knew had been praying for me.
All of them had become a community of support — leading me toward greater purpose, helping me along my journey, encouraging me to keep the faith.
Here’s what I learned
I recognize that for an accomplished athlete, the distance of a sprint triathlon may not seem like much of an accomplishment; but for me, it showed me the power of setting my mind to something and of believing in something and someone greater.
A friend recently told me that training for a race is more fruitful than simply working out because it implies working toward something. It’s preparation and following a plan. It requires discipline.
While I experienced discipline in the brick workouts and the pool time, I also realized that it takes discipline to set aside time to pray, and that exercise feeds my soul.
I had asked for God’s help to try some new things, to risk failing — and He heard me.
For me, everything I do becomes much more fruitful when I acknowledge that God is with me through it all — and feel His support through the people cheering for me along the way.