This blog recounts my fitness journey into the sport of triathlon and the gifts God has blessed me with while on it! May the movements of my life boldly proclaim that the sparks we encounter in scripture will kindle hope in our lives!

Friday, December 31, 2010

And They Lived Happily Ever After...

A few things have happened since my last post…I’ll pick up on my triathloning adventures and challenges again soon.

Shortly before I posted it, I met a man.

Actually, I was friended by a man…on facebook.

Creepy sounding, I know.

It would have been completely creepy if I didn’t discover just how many friends we had in common and that one of them had given him my name.

His name is Greg Stoesz. *sigh*

We attend the same church and have for the last 8 years or so. Nope. We’d never met.

If I had to guess, I’d say that more than 100 of the 456 wedding invitations we sent out were sent to people that we both knew! That’s right, WEDDING INVITATIONS!!!

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’d spent about 6 months on eharmony. Think what you will. I desired to share my life with someone and wondered if that might be where God had someone waiting.

I “dated” a couple men. Mind you, I loathe the term and never used it when explaining to my daughters how I was spending evenings out. Dating has connotations in our society that I’d rather not have them associate with how I was getting to know anyone.

But, sometime in March I found myself in a fervent discussion with the Lord. He was asking me once again if I really believed who He said He was to me. Did I really believe that if I made it to the end of my life on this earth with no man beside me that I would experience the fullness of the life He had for me here?

Yes. Of course I did. I really did. I laid down my desires once again. What a tricky business it is to hold our God given desires loosely. To hope for them and to wait.

He reminded me to stop looking so far into the future and to trust Him with the next year. I pressed needily into the Lord for something to move into and to utilize my hopeful energy and He put three things on my heart:

  1. I was inspired more in my fitness and what He has for me to do with it. I needed to prepare for a speaking opportunity I had coming up in the fall.
  2. I had pulled back from my intentions to do a half iron (for a variety of reasons that I’ll have to review in another post!) and He reminded me that it wasn’t my idea in the first place. I needed to get with a program because the half iron was just over 5 months away.
  3. He finally settled in my heart the idea that I should pursue a personal training certification. That would take some time and some huge effort.

And so I was content to focus on those things.

And then Greg friended me at the end of May.

I told him during our first phone conversation that I was interested only in friendship. I had other things I needed to be focusing on right now. He got it.

In my heart was a genuine desire to honor His request as a Christian brother. He stepped forward in a very vulnerable way to make his request, and I didn’t really know enough about him to just reject him out of hand. I’d been doing some scripture reading recently about what respecting my Christian brothers looks like. I figured I’d need to understand better what “respect” looks like for a good marriage.

We made a coffee date for more than a week away. Very casual.

June 2nd we met at a coffee shop and didn't drink any coffee, though we talked comfortably for 3 hours. Greg was way hotter in person than in his pictures and much smaller. He’s still a big guy, but he’d lost some weight on his own quest for better health some time before he met me. I will never forget that first time I saw him.

He demonstrated a gentle spirit and a direct manner during our interaction that I found very attractive. Our conversation ranged over a variety of topics and we saw eye-to-eye on each one, including the fact that he’d been divorced. He was completely direct about the circumstances and wanted to know where I stood theologically. “Would that be a problem for us?”, he asked. “No,” I told him. “I believe God’s grace covers all sin.” He was playful and respectful of my space and looked me in the eye the entire time.

I left that night kicking myself for telling him the “only friendship” thing. But tried to rest in the idea that God had safeguarded my heart with that statement. I tried not to panic as I examined how easily I could fall for him. I didn’t want to get hurt after putting myself out there enough to know if he’d be good for me. God reminded me to focus and be who He called me to be and not try to figure it out. “Let Me lead”, He said. “Learn how to walk with me in this place.”

There was another phone call, and a facebook message. He wanted to see me again. He wanted to honor my call to focus on the things I needed to do, but was honest about his desire to see how deep a friendship would take us.
He offered to take me out for a Mexican meal and I had to refuse. I had a race two weeks away. I countered with the offer of a walk at a local park, very bold for me, practicing putting myself first. Doing what I needed to do.

As I considered what our evening might look like I began to pray in earnest. “Lord, please just help me know. I don’t want to interrogate anymore men. I don’t want to waste time. Help me to see if your hand is in this.”

June 9th we went for a walk and as this exceptional man sat before me, expressing his thoughts and prayerfulness about the future of our relationship. He answered any question I could have thought to ask exactly as he should have...

and I never had to ask the questions!

I watched as the Lord unlocked a treasure chest and dumped it's contents at my feet. "This is it," He said. "It's what you've asked for and more. Take it. I love you."

To be continued…

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Well, the Trek Women's Triathlon race of July 2009 was absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed the whole thing.

Others have asked me, my trainer, Paul, has asked me, "What was the worst part of the race?"

Had to think on that. Really. There was no worst part. There have been several races since and there has yet to be a worst part. There are some moments that I may think, "This is getting a little difficult. C'mon girl. Go. GO!" Those moments are immediately followed by, "I can't believe I GET to do this! It's a challenge and I'm meeting it. I was a fat girl. God is good. God is faithful. I trained for this. I can do it! He is restoring the years the locust has eaten. I'm going to accept all He has for me and praise Him!"

Few have, however, asked about after.

I was ill-prepared for what happened to me after the race. It can be a difficult thing to explain so please bear with me.

After the smiles and tears of a VERY successful finish, I found myself quite sad! The transition area was emptying. Charis had just gotten a new phone and was busy texting away with well wishers from all over. The folks I tried to call didn't answer or had to go right away. She had a friend there and a sister and her family and I started feeling very alone.

This was very frustrating to me because I knew I'd be "on my own" with this. On a heart level I was prepared for it to be just God and I. He's who I did it for. And I KNEW He was with me, but the enemy was relentless. I tried to enjoy our celebration lunch out-complete with turtle sundae! Still, I was overwhelmed with thoughts before we left to head home. How would I make it through the rest of my races on my own? There was no special someone for me to share this with. God had to be enough. He knew what this was to me. He alone really understood how deep the journey went for me. How precious the victory was. How impossible-made-possible by faith and obedience.

I got over that wave of sadness. Then, on the ride home, Charis' husband Matt, called with our results.

Five weeks before the race I was finishing 5k in under 30 minutes. Then I had the leg injury and I went easy on the leg during the race. My 5k run took 32 minutes. And, even though I finished the swim 8 minutes faster than I thought I would and finished the bike faster too, Charis' overall time was much closer to the ideal time I want to do a race in. She was screaming and flailing all over in the car, so happy with her results. My heart didn't seem to listen to the very logical fact that I didn't have a road bike and that I pretty much went as fast as you can go on a hybrid on my bike. It didn't hear that I had done fantastic on the run after not having run for 5 weeks! I was so disappointed. Then mad at myself for being disappointed!

How could I be so ungrateful? I had done what I set out to do with God's help and finished the race. I was a triathlete!

I still don't have it all figured out! I'm not done growing in this experience. Even now, almost a year later, I have an aversion to being compared in some way to others. During a race I just zone in and do my own thing for the most part. But in a training or a practice where time is being kept and I'm aware of how I do compared to others - I FREAK OUT!! It's weird. It's like my brain demands that I refuse to compete.

As an example, during master's swim I would become so frustrated that I was so much slower than everyone else (this is not an exaggeration, I am always the slowest!) I couldn't relax enough to learn! I'd also stop bother trying to do well because I figured I'd never measure up anyway, I was so far behind, why bother? I quit going for 3 months! Now I get in and do my own thing. I have to tell myself that it's my race and no one else matters in my race.

This I do know: God's walking with me in this! That moment after the race, and several since, led me into a deeper examining of things I don't like about myself. I'm exploring His grace and the self-discipline I apply to my spiritual walk. He loves me and continues to show me that He does!

For the past many months I have beaten up and berated myself for my inability to just not care about how I do! How can I be so petty? Why do I care so much?! During one race, as I dropped back from pushing myself, I recognized that I feared my best wouldn't be good enough. How often had I sabatoged my life by not trying my best because I feared it wouldn't be good enough? That I would be compared and found wanting...On three separate occasions I contemplated quitting altogether so that I wouldn't have to deal with the conflict within myself. Each time God rescued me from that place! The best of who I am is how God can minister the fullness of abundant living to me! Of course the enemy wants to do anything and everything to keep me from that place!!

The two very specific things God's shown me so far:
The first, I am an incredible, unique individual. He created me to be exactly who I am. My mind, body and spirit and connections between them are unlike anyone else on earth. I said unlike, as in different, not better, just different! (Thank you, Becky Patton!) The strengths and weaknesses I have in body and in spirit can not be compared to anothers. I have to look to the Lord to address, manage, cultivate and cure them. I can not follow the formula of another persons life or ideas to "achieve" in any area of life. I have the privilege of Scripture study and wise counsel in my life, but ultimately God and I, my faithwalk in fellowship with Him, is what continuously proclaims victory in my life.
This dovetails to the second thing He's shown me, I will win, in my own life, every moment, every challenge, every trial, every race that I run with God. No one can come against the victorious living I do in my Saviour. If this is something He has for me to do-I intend to do it, by His strength and in His grace. Even if I'm the last one accross that line!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Here!! It's Finally Here!!!

JULY 2009

Well, race day zoomed up on us! We had finished our tri-prep class. I was soooo glad I took it. The class had covered all the basic parts of the race and a lot more. I felt prepared. I was about to learn if I was!
Charis and I enjoyed our 6 hour drive to Pleasant Prairie, WI.

We're ready!

From my journal:

The expo the day before the race was so fun. Charis and I have to wait for our shirts because they didn’t have any left in our sizes. They marked both of our arms with our numbers and we got our timing chips. We looked at fun sports products and grabbed lots of free goodies. We listened to an inspirational speaker and course overview. We examined the beach where we’d be starting and put our feet in the water. We went out for a pasta dinner and drove the bike course. We were ready.

We knew the weather the next day was going to be great. It was hard to get to sleep the night before, that’s for sure! My phone alarm sounded way too soon-3:45am. The transition area would be opening at 4:30 and our plan was to be there at 5:30. All of my gear was laid out the night before so all I had to do was go through the pile of stuff to get ready and make the breakfast. Heart rate monitor, contacts-that’s right, I was going to put an extra set of contacts in my transition bag! I loved putting on that tri suit-it made everything very real.

Well, I had to figure out what to do with my hair too. Why did I grow it long again? No matter how I did it, it was sure to be a mess when I was done. I just wanted to keep it out of my face. I figured out something that I hoped would work and still fit under the bike helmet.

Breakfast. Double protein smoothie and oatmeal. Fill my water bottle to rinse my feet after the swim. Fill my water bottle for my bike with Gatorade. Fill my other water bottle. Pray they have enough port-a-potties at the race! I grabbed all my stuff and we were pretty much on schedule. Charis gathered the food we were planning to eat between the closing of the transition area at 6:30 and our swim wave which would be no sooner than 8:20!

Even with all of the detours for construction and closed roads for the race we made good time to the off-site parking. We just needed to pull our bikes off the van and pump up the tires and we’d be good to go-plenty of time. Except Charis had some trouble with the bike pump! We got enough air in her tires to make it the 2 miles we needed to go-we hoped-and off we went.

We made it to the race site at about 6:05. Instead of the hour we had planned, we had 25 minutes to set up and get out! Charis headed straight to the bike mechanic and I went to rack my bike. There was no room. The bikes were packed in with about 2-3 inches between each one. Wow. With 3200 women registered for the event, we saw this could be a problem the day before as we looked over the sea of already racked bikes, and asked about our options. I grabbed the next rack closest to the one I was assigned and racked my bike.

About 15 minutes later, as I was setting up my gear, I saw Charis one rack over. The bike mechanic pumped up her tires and assured her that the tube would be fine. We were both relieved! Then she walked over with this mournful look on her face. “Jesaca, I’m so sorry. I forgot the food.” Gulp. I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth! I’m typically NOT a calm-under-pressure-girl…“You know what? It’s o.k. We’ll be o.k. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time. We’re ready. We’ve hydrated well all week. We’ve been eating well for weeks. We’ve trained well. Our bodies will do whatever we ask them to do today!” We scrounged what we could and prepared to leave the transition area with everyone else. We headed to the pottys right near the transition area and got in line. The line wasn’t too bad. We knew we had plenty of time.

As we headed toward the beach we decided to watch the elite wave of 11 women take off at 7:00. We had a super view off the side of the lake. It was a straight across swim. The first woman came out of the water after her half-mile swim in under 9 minutes! Wow!

 I love those pink goggles!!

Charis was watching for her sister, Bethany, to maybe show up and take some pictures of us. We figured after we saw the line for the port-a-pottys that we should get in it! It took 50 minutes to make it through the line. We worked on stretching while we were in it! Then we hit the water to warm up a bit. We cheered on the gals from previous waves who were headed to the finish line on their runs! Then we started to join all of the yellow caps that were headed into the corral on the beach. It was almost time!

As we were standing there, Bethany found us and began snapping pictures. Then we were crossing the timing mat. We were cheering and dancing to the loud music and then we were counting down. I gave Charis a big hug and punched my watch stem and off we went!

I remembered to stay calm. I just kept swimming and sighting and bumping into other gals who would stop and say they were sorry. It didn’t seem like many of them were really swimming, they mostly had their heads above the water and I totally get that! I only learned how to swim in October and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But after a while, as I would turn my head to breathe, I noticed an odd look on the faces of the gals I could see. When it dawned on me that it was a look of admiration I wanted to cry! “Yes,” I thought, “I’m really swimming! I can swim and you can learn how too and you should!” I really hit a groove and was so comfortable so I started pushing for a little more speed, trying to pace myself and remember to rest my legs-they had a long ways to go yet. When I realized I was more than half way I got so excited. I thought, “I’m going to do this, I’m really going to do this! I don’t think it’s taking me the 30 minutes that I thought it would! I have prepared for this!” Then I could see the lake bottom getting closer to me and I wanted to scream. I came out of that water as fast as I could.

 Thanks, Bethany, for all of the wonderful pics!!

I started running and yanking on the zipper of my wetsuit. (Yes, I really wore a wetsuit!) I saw the timing mat under my feet and I yanked my wetsuit down to my waist. As I began the long run through the transition area I grabbed my goggles and swim cap off my head. I ran straight to my bike, thank goodness, and looked at my watch. What?!? 22 minutes!!! I began pulling off my wetsuit and looked over. There was Charis! We waved excitedly at each other and she was off!

The transition was a little scrambly for me. I was worried I’d forget something! I was pumped to get on the bike, I knew I was already ahead of time!

3,000 bikes!

As I headed off with my bike, I was a little confused, no one else seemed in much of a hurry. I scooted over another timing mat and tried to move through the group of women that were starting out on their bikes. It was so disorienting. No one seemed to be in a hurry! I was thinking, “Is it supposed to be like this?” Women were taking up the entire lane 3 and 4 wide and moseying along at a leisurely pace. A woman in front of me ran over a cone and almost wiped out while she was waving to her family! At that point I started hollering… “Coming through! On your left! On your left! On your left!” I was as polite as I could be as I started trying to ramp up my speed until I finally left the driveway of the recplex and moved onto the road that was closed to traffic for us. I began screaming by everyone on my bike. Even up the first several hills! Charis and I had started off in the buddy wave. I wonder if that’s why so many gals were 2 and 3 wide on the roadway chatting like they had all the time in the world. Good for them. I’m glad they got together to do this fun triathlon thing. It’s good exercise. There were lots of people at the expo yesterday. Were you gals not there? You’re supposed to stay to the right. “On your leeeeffft!!!!” Could you just maybe stay out of my way? Thanks!

I was really pleased with how well I maneuvered on the hills. Once again I thought about how much I had prepared for this and I was so glad I had. I wished I knew my average speed. I knew I was in the 16 range a lot and I didn’t seem to drop below 11 on the hills. I knew I hit 26 at one point, but it was hard to tell overall! When I got the official results I was really shocked! My average on my hybrid was 17 mph, which my trainer, Mark, assures me is kickin’ for my bike! My time for the bike leg was 8 minutes less than I guessed it would be!

I came in off of the bike trying to be careful of the moseyers! I downed a gel pack and some water and headed out on the run. Now would come the challenge.

 Lookin' a little fierce, that's me!!!

Five weeks ago I was doing 5k in just under 30 minutes. Not really fast, but incredible for me! But for the last 5 weeks, I hadn’t been able to run much more than 2 minutes at a time because I was having trouble with my lower left leg after ramping up my intensity without wearing my orthotics for 2 ½ months. I had resigned myself to the idea that I might need to walk the run leg of the race. Just 4 days before the race I was finally able to run for more than 20 minutes and I cried with relief. I wanted to do this pretty badly!

I felt pretty good heading out. I knew my leg was warmed up well too, though they both felt wooden for about the first mile. I clipped along checking my heart rate every so often. It was hard to know just how much to push my leg. I know I can run comfortably with my heart rate, in race conditions, at 168-171. I kept it at 165-166 to keep from pushing on my leg! My time for the run ended up being a little over 32 minutes. While I was disappointed, I know I can’t complain. Especially after Charis reminded me that I hadn’t really run for 5 weeks! I didn’t have an ipod either because they’re not allowed. (Though I saw numerous women wearing them anyway!) I walked 3 or 4 steps for water at the first water stop and then ran through a sprinkler. At the half way point they had a fire hose, which I ran through! I walked for some water again and couldn’t believe how great I felt, so I took it up a notch. I started to feel my leg, but it wasn’t too bad and I was almost to the finish! The closer I got to the finish line, the harder I pushed and it was difficult to move through the many people that were strolling to the finish! People were cheering and clapping and before I knew it I was crossing the timing mat!

Thank you, God! Thank you for seeing me through so much! Race day was mostly about celebrating the journey, for me. I did it! I really did it! That had to be one of the best feelings of my life. Charis was there and we grabbed each other and just cried. We’re such girls!! She had held her finishers medal to put around my neck and I did the same for her. What an incredible moment!!! What an awesome day. An ordained journey. According to Sally Edwards, I can now say, “I am an invincible triathlete!”

I think this one says it all.

Incredibly, I had completed my goal to do a triathlon! It had been less than one year since I had partnered with the Lord to pursue it. The journey had been about so much more than that one race! God used it to cultivate strength in my body, mind and spirit. I discovered so much about who I am, who He is and how He loves me and what He wants for my life. I'm sure I sound silly when I describe triathlon as a spiritual experience. I know it's not the triathlon that is. It's my life. Triathlon is a gift that allowed me to more fully embrace my life and the wholeness of who God created me to be. And I'm deeply grateful for His mercy and grace!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Darn My Left Leg!!

 My fave kicks. Saucony Hurricanes - They just plain LOOK fast!

I mentioned my leg injury in the last post.

I had been running for almost a year and a half. For more than six months I'd been running six days a week. My trainer, Mark, in particular, found this pretty astounding. To be running, at my size, ramping up my miles, with no resulting knee or back problems WAS pretty amazing.

Then, in May, I purchased my first pair of running shoes.

When I went in to the running store to be fitted, the owner of the store waited on me. She knew what she was doing. She watched me stand. She watched me run - without shoes. Then she asked about my orthotics.

I hadn't given much thought to my orthotics. Dr. Joe told me orthotics would be beneficial for my back health. He explained why. At this point in our relationship, if Dr. Joe suggested something, I just did it! The guy had eliminated so many ongoing health issues with chiropractic adjustments I simply trust him!

She asked me why I had them. I couldn't put my finger on why. It caught me off gaurd. It didn't occur to me that I would need to explain why. I told her comfort. Big mistake.

She told me I didn't need them with proper shoes. I believed her.

I bought the shoes. Began running without my orthotics and didn't give it another thought. That was my first mistake.

The second mistake was not listening to my body when I began to experience discomfort in my shins that I hadn't experienced before. Much more in the left leg, but a little in the right. I began doing some preventative exercise for shin splints, but it quickly became apparent that shin splints were not the issue. I would rest my leg for a day or two and then it would be o.k. and I would run again. Mark began putting together a corrective exercise routine as it became very apparent that there was a serious imbalance on my left side.

One day after about 4 weeks I got on the treadmill and I was running along when a piercing pain shot up my left leg. It was done. My trainer told me to stop running until we knew what the problem was. He encouraged me to work with Dr. Joe, but if I couldn't get it figured out I should see a sports medicine specialist.

I had been in to see Dr. Joe and we were really digging for answers. I began to work with Josh, a massage therapist at Dr. Joe's office. Josh and Dr. Joe would both listen to me describe exactly what I could feel happening and how. Josh was able to "feel" what was happening in my leg. Where the insufficiency was. We began talking about orthotics again and I realized I hadn't been wearing mine!

They scanned my feet and I put in an order for an athletic specialty pair of new custom orthotics. At that point I hadn't been able to run for more than two weeks. I had about 3 weeks until my first triathlon. It would take at least a week for the orthotics to arrive.

I kept doing everything I could do. I swam. Probably more than I would have if I could have been running! I could bike and the leg wouldn't bother me at all. So, I worked on swim/bike bricks too! I would complete a swim workout, gear up as fast as I could and head out on the bike.

Was I discouraged? Yes.

I kept wondering if I was doing what I should be doing for my leg. What if it was a stress fracture? The reading I'd done didn't really help. I could go and see someone for it, but that wouldn't necessarily give me a definitive answer either.

I began facing the fact that I may have to walk the run leg of my first triathlon. That hit hard.

Really, God? Really? I've worked so hard! You led me into this! Are you telling me no? Did I do something wrong? Have I really come this far to not be able to really do the race?

The following is what He gave me. From my journal...

Your leg is a tiny part of My plan. It’s just a small token to remind you of my faithfulness. Look at what beauty I have worked in you. I continue to lavish upon you the desires of your heart. You can run with the strength and drive and power I’ve crafted in you. You can swim, without fear, like you’ve always wanted. You’re venturing into new groups of people and activities that you never thought were accessible to you. I’ve given you peace to sleep well in the dark. You can enjoy a day now without having to plan it. You know now that you are not weak. You know you can make it alone-with me none but Me by your side. Not a day passes when you don’t enjoy the fellowship of many friends that I’ve sewn into the fabric of your life. I’ve blessed your life with provision to travel and adventure. I’ve redeemed your health though the enemy tenaciously tried to destroy it. You speak with the authority of My redemption and people listen. When I look upon you, blessed one, through the blood of my Son, I see only your faithfulness. Have patience, be courageous, remember that My time is not the same as your time and it is perfect. I love you. I love you. I’ve returned you again to the desert. Do not forget the Oasis that is My Word and the comfort of My Holy Spirit. Take refuge there and abide in Me.

And I did. I pressed into Him hard, recognizing, once again, during this time just how much of my journey was about His faithfulness. I was working hard, but He was transforming me!

The orthotics arrived about a week before the triathlon. I wore my shoes with the orthotics in them every moment I was awake. Thank goodness for Smartwool socks!! During the weeks I couldn't run I walked at incline on the treadmill for at least an hour a day. As soon as I got the orthotics broken in I began running for up to 2 minutes. Then up to 5 minutes.

Two days before we left for the race I ran for more than 20 minutes with no pain. I got off the treadmill and wept.

I was going to be able to run the race after all.

(I am currently working more diligently on form/stride/footstrike while running. I'm hopeful that it will lend additional support in injury prevention for the future so I can enjoy running for many years to come! Not to mention improving my efficiency as a runner.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Neoprene and More

Just trying them on!
As I looked forward to the girls being occupied at VBS (vacation bible school), I began to schedule how I would spend my time for 3 hours every day that week!

I had injured my leg and couldn't run at all. (I'll get to that in the next post.) My best options for training were to bike and swim. I reserved 3 of the days for biking and swimming. Charis and I made plans during one of them to shop for a wetsuit. The other I was trying to leave open to be "spontaneous". I'm still workin' on that!

Charis had received a referral from someone to a particular shop for us to try on wetsuits and so our adventure in neoprene began!

We trekked out to the shop on Monday. It was about a 30 minute drive.

The sales staff was very friendly and helpful. It wasn't their fault that wetsuits aren't really marketed to women that aren't over 150 pounds! Fortunately I had already learned about the Athena and Clydesdale racing I didn't find the shopping process entirely shocking.

Let me explain. When you enter a triathlon, they typically ask you to identify what group you should be placed in.

There's the Elite group. That one should be self-explanatory. Professional racers and folks that have an athletic bent beyond most.
Then there are the age group categories. Also self-explanatory. Last year I raced in the 35-39 age group for a few races.
You can also choose a "buddy wave" in some races. These folks are typically more casual racers (which Charis and I discovered rather quickly at our first tri!), or they might want to race "with" a friend but don't fall within the same age group as that friend.
Then there are the Clydesdale and Athena categories. Essentially these are categories for "bigger athletes". Good grief. A woman can qualify for an Athena entry at just over 150 pounds!!! You don't have to enter these categories, you can enter as an age grouper, but they exist.

At the time I shopped for my wetsuit I weighed about 187 pounds. I knew that wetsuits were marketed toward "average" sized athletes. This could get tricky.

Sure enough, the sales clerk brought out the only wetsuit they had that was technically my size. It was almost $700. I had no intention of spending that much but, I figured I should be a sport and try it on. Charis tried on the same one in her size and one other. She was much closer to "average" than I!

No dice. We left without the suits, but some fun pics of our shopping trip and hysterical memories of the grunts and groans and the sweat equity it can take to get a wetsuit on. It's not a delicate process, let me assure you!

We did some fun biking that week and swam. I don't recall that as much as my next trip to shop for a wetsuit though. My friend Becky accompanied me this time. To a different shop. I wasn't about to chance having to ask a male sales associate to help me get into the thing!

 This is the wetsuit I ended up with.

We found the wetsuit! Pulled it right on. It was less than 1/3 of the price of the other I had tried on!

We had extra time after that so I decided to try on some tri suits as well.

You don't HAVE to have a tri suit to do a triathlon, but they sure do make it more comfortable. You wear them for the entire event. They are made out of fabric that wicks away sweat and water. They feel seamless so you avoid chafing. Best of all *insert sarcasm here* they fit like a second skin! Eliminating drag and all that...

No kidding, I tried on about 14 different suits. One-piece suits, two-piece suits, skirted suits, suits with an extra bra, suits that zipped, suits that didn't, suits that had no color and suits that screamed color. One of the suits I tried on caught my attention. Of course, it was one of the most expensive. However, when I looked in the mirror at myself I was kind of astonished. I looked at Becky and she looked at me. "I look HOT in this one!" I said. "I think that it has to be the one!" she said. Success.

My tri suit. Well, you get the idea...

The cool thing is. I'm WAAAYYY hotter now! I tried that suit on the other day. I have to get a new one. It's too big...I'm fairly certain it's the same story with the wetsuit...

I registered in the Athena category for an event this summer. Just for fun. I "figure" it's one more way for me to "Embrace the Athlete"!!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Swimming in the Rain

As far as sports go, I'd played some volleyball growing up. I was a jv basketball cheerleader, so I'd watched some basketball. Thanks to my dad I'd seen some NASCAR on TV. I had never watched a triathlon (Whoops, I take that back. I do remember watching some of an Ironman on TV when I was a kid.) and had read just a little.

Good thing I signed up with Charis to take the triathlon prep class through the YWCA!

The class would cover four elements and help us know what to expect about each during the race: the swim, the bike, the run and the transitions. Having no desire to be competitive, I wondered if I'd be overwhelmed by information. My goal was to simply finish the race!

After my first open-water swim on Memorial Day weekend however, I was more and more excited about discovering what I was capable of. So it was with nervous excitement that I picked up Charis and headed off to our first prep class. The topic for the night- the swim!

There was a gentle rain as we headed out, but no one had called either of us to tell us the class was canceled.

We got the call as we were coming down the main road along the lake. The instructor told us to come and talk with him anyway. Maybe we still wanted to swim?

We pulled in and met our instructor. They'd gotten a hold of everyone else. There was no lightening. He was prepared to swim anyway, but not by himself. Did we want to go for a swim?

Charis turned to me while shaking her head yes. It felt great to say, "Let's go!"

Neither of us had wetsuits yet, but the lake was warmer than the air or the rain. We swam back and forth for a while between the buoys just outside the swimming area and got warmed up. We were just expecting to swim. Then the instructor started talking with us and showing us everything we'd be doing in the class. He had us trying out all the techniques! We got a private session!

We worked on sighting. He showed us a few different techniques for staying on course while swimming. He had us practice them. Then he had us close our eyes and head for a buoy to see how close we'd come. I went straight to it! Talk about a confidence builder.

He showed us how to maneuver around a buoy and had us practice it.

He talked about drafting and had us practice that. (Which I've never used by the way. But it's cool to know how to do it!)

We talked about strategy and mindset for entering and exiting the water and practiced a few options. Including dolphining! (Digging your hands into the lake bed to propel you forward while diving in and out of the water.) I haven't done any races yet where dolphining would be advantageous, but I'm prepared for the day I do!

I remember thinking that I didn't want to forget anything about that evening. Not just the strategies, but the way I felt. It marked a moment when everything from that point became vibrantly alive with promise.

I was swimming in the rain. It was real. Triathlon wasn't a dream I was thinking about some day. I was stepping into it - right now.

I'd made many physically and emotionally unhealthy choices in my life. Willful choices distrusting God's plan. Here I was walking out, with that same drive, one of the most physically and emotionally healthy choices of my life. It felt really good. Supernatural.

I sent Paul a text when we got in the car to leave. Something like, "Class canceled. Swam in the rain anyway. Embracing the athlete!"

Philippians 3:13&14
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
I want to forget, put off, the mindset I've had in the past and grab hold of all God has for me in His service, in His name for His glory while I'm in this life. That's what was bursting from my heart toward Him when I laid my head on the pillow that night.

I needed my rest. My girls were headed to VBS for a week. Three hours a day for me to train!

And shop for a wetsuit...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Ticket

The first date on the calender slammed up on me quickly. June 4th. My wedding anniversary. I would have been married 15 years. I've been told I shouldn't look at it that way. My marriage ended when my husband died. But, it's still a significant date on my calender, and I can't help but do the math each time it comes around.

It's as though I need to validate that time in my life. The investment that I made in living a life that seems so far in the past now.

I don't remember details about that date in 2009, but I vividly remember the events that occurred on that date the year previous! I'm fairly certain I'll remember June 4th 2008 for many years to come.

From my journal...

My day was packed.  I had run some errands, stopped home and headed out again for an appointment before I’d head back home to start dinner.  The location was only 7 minutes from home.  I was running just a little late and remember thinking that it was especially busy near the school.  I had the music up loud and I was enjoying a day to myself.

Then I saw the lights.  They twinkled red and blue in my rear view mirror.  I was already headed into the turn lane and the car with the lights followed me.  Shoot.  Did I run a stop sign?  Had I been speeding?  I didn’t even know.  It didn’t recall doing either.  I pulled over, rolled down my window and started digging for my license.

“Do you know why I pulled you over, mam?”

“I don’t know officer.”  I said.

“You were speeding.  Do you know how fast you were going?”

“I wasn’t paying attention officer, I really don’t know.”

“You were going 41…”  I stared at him blankly.  The limit in the area is 35 mph.  It struck me as odd that he’d pull me over for 6 miles over the limit, but he must have had time on his hands.

“…in a School Zone.  The speed limit drops to 20 in a school zone when the crossing guards are present.”

Oh.  “Of course.”  I’m sure he thought I was an idiot.

“Your license and proof of insurance, please.”  I handed over my license and
 began digging through the glove compartment for the insurance certificate.
I pulled out about 10 of them-none with the proper dates.

“Well,”  I said, “I have insurance.  I’m just not-“

“Look,” Mr. Officer interrupted. “Is the car paid for?”


Why would he ask me that?  I thought for a split second about the life insurance money that paid for the car.  While it’s true that I did finance some of the cost, it was only to build some credit in my own name.  For about the last 6 or 7 years everything had been in my husband's name.

“What?”  I asked.  Now he knew I was an idiot.

“Is the car paid for?”  He asked for the second time with some exasperation.

I gave him a blank look - again. “Yes.”

“Sit tight.”

It was at this point that I began to think about the fact that I had lived most of the day without remembering just what day it was.  “That’s right,”  I thought, “it would be 14 years today.”  Perfect.

It would have been my 14th wedding anniversary.   It was a day that marked a coming month of days that had been emotionally draining during each of the last three years.  I don’t know how I had forgotten for most of the day.  My husband had taken his life 3 ½ years ago.  Our marriage was a difficult one.  Throughout the month of June would come the anniversary, then Father’s Day, then his birthday.  This year wasn’t as gray as previous years have been and because of that I’d been moving through the week hopeful that this year would be different.  I remember praying that this year would mark my new life in a special way.  I had no idea what I was asking for.  We never do.

Mr. Officer returned.  “Here’s your citation...”

“I am sorry.”  I interrupted. “I’m not usually so distracted.  I am a good driver.”  I don’t know what compelled me to say that!

“Yes, I know.”  He said.  “I have to give you a citation.  School Zones are serious business.”

“Of course.”  I didn’t bother trying to explain that I wasn’t trying to get out of the ticket.  He explained about how to pay it and off he went.

Now, I sat with the ticket in my hand, remembering the last time I received a ticket.  A split second of remembering, but a lot was packed into it.

I had sobbed.  I was as close to hysterical as I’ve ever been.  The officer asked me if I’d be o.k. to drive home.  A friend was in the car with me and I remember the officer charging her with making sure I calmed down before I started to drive again.

All because I was terrified of what my husband would say or do.  He would rant and rave and crush me verbally-that was a given.  Never mind that I was in the car with him on two different occasions when he received a ticket. He’d carry on and on about how I wasted the money as though I did it on purpose as a personal affront to him.  It didn't matter that I worked a full-time job too. He might throw things-sometimes he did.  (He never seemed to realize how wasteful that was!)  He might freeze me out for a few hours or a few days, punishing me with silence.  I would never be forgiven and it would come back on me later as justification for denying some future endeavor I wanted to pursue.  On some very rare occasions he would surprise me and there would be almost no response.

But he was gone.

After that sober acknowledgement, I glanced into the rearview mirror and noticed the officer was getting into his car.

Then I caught my reflection in the mirror.  I was smiling.  I had asked for this!

I felt that smile grow as I placed the ticket in my purse and started my car.

As I headed out to complete my last errand, laughter bubbled out in that sobby, breathy way it will when you’re overcome with the supremely divine joy of the Spirit dancing with you.  I wasn’t anxious.  I knew I could pay the ticket and that would be the end of it.  God is my husband and provider.  He knows it was a mistake and I’ll be more careful.  He knows that I’ve submitted the stewardship of His provision to Him.  No anxiety, no fear about the repercussions.  The day was marked in a special way alright!

I made it to my appointment right on time.

Let the Season Begin!

May wrapped up. The girls and I finished all our school stuff. There was still a lot to do to get ready for the Trek Women's Triathlon in July - my first one of the summer. By this time I had registered for 2 events and was looking at 2 more!

The girls were all excited about a week at vacation bible school...and so was I!!

Charis and I registered for a series of 4 Tri training classes toward the end of June and that would be coming up.

I still needed to shop for a wetsuit. Yeah, I was really excited about that.

I still needed a tri suit too!

I was facing 3 difficult dates in June. My wedding anniversary, Father's Day and my deceased husband's birthday. I had no idea how they'd each affect my life (and the girls) as they approached.

I didn't know an injury was waiting right around the corner either...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Memorial Weekend Swim

Late Saturday morning, Bobber Bill was taking us on a tour of the Camp Lebanon footprint for the future. There were about 10 or so adults headed out just before lunch.

We headed out to begin our tour at one end of the zip line. It’s more than 300 feet long and about 100 feet in the air. It wasn’t operational yet. We could see workers across the way and knew that they were finishing up to have everything in place for the opening event and first ride next weekend. We wound around the newest camp acreage and explored the sites of the new tubing hill, future ball fields, additional housing and the RV Park.  We headed into a more wooded area and I could see we were coming out on the other end of the zip line. We had to step carefully and watch for branches in our faces before we came to a clearing right at the zip line platform. I had to maneuver around some construction debris and then I pressed in with the group so I could hear Bill speaking, but I didn’t hear a word he said. As I lifted my eyes to observe the work on the zip line I felt my stomach drop.

The man I saw made my knees go weak-literally. He had short dark hair and filled out the black t-shirt and jeans he wore with a very masculine build. I could see a tattoo around his left bicep. I couldn’t breathe.

The men working on the platform kept working as Bill talked and asked Tattoo Guy a question. He answered, his voice tinged with some sort of accent.

I began to panic. Alarm bells started going off in my head and I began to back away from the group. I prayed that no one could see what was going on inside of me. I slowly turned onto the path we’d be headed down next, crushing within myself the desire to run down it-away from Tattoo Guy.

I really was unprepared to deal with that element of living. It scared me! That hasn’t happened to me in many years. Not to mention, I was at family camp! We do “family stuff” with other families all weekend. I’m supposed to be safe there. I let my guard down. I didn’t expect the slimmest potential for a weak-kneed moment!

Still, I didn’t give Tattoo Guy much thought as the weekend continued. I asked God to help me sort my reaction out later and I was choosing to rest in the fact that He would. I wanted to enjoy the rest of the weekend. We came back from our tour and had a great lunch that I didn’t have to prepare. I enjoyed some time papermaking while the girls were off playing foursquare and carpetball with friends.

Saturday afternoon was my first opportunity for a swim.

I’d gone back and forth all morning in my head. Should I or shouldn’t I try a swim in open water? There would be a lifeguard. I might be the only adult swimming. It’s pretty cold. Is it too cold? Would it be foolish? Will I be a spectacle? What would people say?
I had become pretty comfortable in the pool. I even swam all the time in the lap lane now! In the end I really couldn’t resist the opportunity to get in the water. I had to try it.

The girls and I got changed and left our room in the chalet in record time. The beach was packed! Not an adult near the water. No adult was even pretending to think about going in the water, but the kids were all playing in the sand and splashing a bit along the shoreline. Some kids were out enjoying the slide in the deeper water. Only a couple of moms had suits on-with shorts, of course.

There I stood with my towel around my waist, swim cap and goggles in hand. It took me a few minutes to gain some courage! I put sunscreen on the girls and chatted with a few of the ladies who asked me if I was really going to swim. Looking around me, I almost talked myself out of it, I could go tomorrow.

What if the weather was bad tomorrow?  I stepped into the water-it really was cold. Then I remembered why I was on the journey I was on. I had lived most of my life waiting for “tomorrow’s” opportunities instead of enjoying the chances I have every today to live life.

I didn’t want to let this opportunity slip away! This was an opportunity to try something just because I could. I had been working hard physically and emotionally so that when I encountered moments just like this one I would be ready to jump. My heart really wanted this!

I put on my swim cap and goggles and I turned to place my towel on the retaining wall at the top of the beach. As I turned back from doing that, there he was, Tattoo Guy, looking right at me from the end of the beach. Mortified, I wanted to dig a hole in the sand and crawl in!! For a split second I almost turned back around to grab my towel up and find an excuse to flee.

Time stood still as I felt a steeliness climbing up my spine.

A man that I’m attracted to only has the power over me that I choose to give him. I can choose to allow no one, no baggage, no insecurities or fears of my own about what someone else thinks about me, to keep me from doing the things in life that I desire to do-that God has called me to!

I squared my shoulders to the water while taking a deep breath and began to pick my way through the sand toys and kids. I prayed that I wouldn’t be distracted or intimidated by Tattoo Guy and that I wouldn’t die of shock in the cold water. I stepped into the water and kept on going up to my chest. It was freezing!! I splashed some over my shoulders and pushed off the bottom into a glide. I began to swim.

There just aren’t words to describe how wonderful it felt.

And I didn’t see Tattoo Guy again all weekend. Thank God.

The Bloody Battle isn't over...yet

Who is that vibrant woman?
This is my favorite picture of "The New Me" so far!
The way I look matches so much better how I feel inside. 

By the end of May 2009, I'd been working with Paul and Mark for about 8 months. I'd seen some tangible physical progress. I've described some of the amazing experiences I had while I was working so hard to change my life, essentially, who I was.

However, I recognize that much of my story can sound kind of "over the top". I love to memorialize the most shiny moments! I don't enjoy revisiting ugliness. You know some people save their "fat" clothes so they can compare them later-remember where they've been-not me! I've gotten rid of every stitch of "fat" clothing I had. I want to support every effort to stay focused on where I'm headed.

Let me explain something, though, that I perhaps have not been clear enough about. This journey has been and continues to be a downright, spiritual/emotional bloody battle.

When I contacted HOMFIT to begin training, I had already been working pretty hard on my own for 8 months. I was mentally prepared to continue applying my determination to the hard physical workouts.

Nothing prepared me for the emotional work I'd have to do! I had to grapple with dirty looks from friends as my appearance began to change. I struggled with feeling very conspicuous as my shape changed and I began to wear more fitted clothing. People were always asking me what I was doing to lose weight and I would find myself the center of conversation over and over again. As my weight went down it seemed to be unearthing a variety of elements that tied my emotions to the pounds that were leaving. As I began to turn my back on previous escape mechanisms I had to begin facing emotional trials head-on! That made for some interesting melt downs and serious self-examination.

Why was I tempted to eat when I wasn't hungry?
Why did I want to watch hours of mind numbing TV?

I was lonely. I was unhappy. I was angry. I was bored. I was anxious. An old emotional scar was picked open as I faced a circumstance of the present.

I had to learn to face those things and wrestle with them as they occurred and make different choices about how to look at them. I had to take the time to frame them in the hope of Truth. And it's still stinkin' hard work!! We live in a culture that isn't the most supportive about putting the brakes on life to get things figured out. We're supposed to pull ourselves together and get on with life! Well, I'd put the brakes on anyway. I was determined to do whatever it took, still am. Sometimes that looks unconventional or defies the comfortable societal norms. People tell me I'm courageous for my attitude about doing whatever I need to do when I need to do it no matter how others view it. Maybe. I think I'm more stubborn and perhaps compelled than I am courageous.

I have to fight every single day to make these changes. Each and every day stands alone. Are there bright, ecstatic days? You bet there are. Are there days that I've been knocked down and decide not to get back up until the sun goes down and comes up again? Absolutely! Every moment hasn't been victorious! I have to choose not just to believe the Truth, but to walk in it.

Some days I don't want to get out of bed and it takes me a while.
Some days I want to be crabby and I cringe as I snap at my girls.
Some days I still want to just pig out and escape whatever current concerns I may have and I do.
Some days everything makes me cry and I can't stand my own wretched ungrateful spirit.
Some days I'm still someone I really don't want to be.
Some days I wake up and think, "I don't want to swim/bike/run today." *gasp* and I don't!

On other days, I know exactly who I am and whose I am!

On those days I am a force to be reckoned with. I embrace the beauty and strength God's wrought in me. I hit the ground running in the right direction and only God's hand will stop me. It seems that my life is absolutely inspired and ordained. I speak and others hear Truth and see Truth as I do life with them. My spirit cannot help but run, dance and laugh and encourage others to do the same with abandon. I live and walk in a trust that is so true and transparent that I feel as though I'm breathing the very air of the Kingdom!

Please hear me say this with gravest humility, because the beauty of this work in my life has almost NOTHING to do with me! God has born it out as I've pressed into Him to remind me of His eternal truth moment by moment. The key to the transformation of my outer shell hasn't been some special diet or workout routine or the power of positive thinking, but my passion to surrender all of who I am to the One who made me.

I felt a need to explain that.

Anyway, as incredible as some of my moments on this journey seem, I was about to head to family camp at the end of May and experience one of the most jaw dropping episodes so far!

...and I had yet to complete a triathlon!