As an act of utter defiance against my impending 40th birthday, my husband and I decided to train for a triathlon. Actually, decided isn’t quite the right word to use…more accurately, I was coerced. You see, it’s a crazy enough notion in its own right – this “exert-yourself-til-you-just-wanna-die-while-someone-actually-times-you” kind of thing…but for those who really knew me, it was considered the most ludicrous thing they’d ever heard. I was no longer a spry I’ve-got-energy-to-burn 20-something. True, I was a sports fan, but not actively involved in my own game since my college days…and to be quite honest, my shadow hadn’t crossed the threshold of a fitness center in over five years. And that, my friends, was the little bit of trivia that got me into this mess in the first place.
During our courtship three years ago, I made the silly mistake of whining about my lack of fitness-related activity…and the next thing you know, I’m being challenged to enter a triathlon. The only logical defense I have against such a hair-brained idea: blinding love. Enough said.
To add a little insight into the male perspective on things, HE thought it was the smartest thing we could do to test out this budding relationship of ours. In mustering up the inner courage to face a challenge much bigger than ourselves, we’d be able to really get to know each other from the inside out. You’d be amazed at how clearly you begin to see yourself when all of the personal junk comes floating to the surface…all of the fear…all of the insecurity…all of the unbelief. Each time one of us hit one of those walls, it gave us insight into each other’s character and exposed what we were truly made of. I have to admit (even in writing) that he was right. It was a brilliant plan.
So we spent 3 months training together – narrowly escaping death-by-drowning as I attempted to swim the full length of the pool for the first time in over 2 decades; taking a nasty spill on my bike and being assisted by every emergency response team on the entire Peninsula; fearing that I’d lost a lung somewhere in junior high PE, which would validate the panic I felt as I gasped for air each time we tried to complete a run.
Between you and me, it was stinkin’ hard work – but something in it was so gratifying. We were toughing it out. We were fighting through. We were not going to be defeated. WAe were not giving up. And we were GOING to cross the finish line…together.
Out of all the grueling adversity, determination was born, and a sense of ability rose up from the insecurity, and fear collapsed under the weight of child-like anticipation as race day approached. It was one of those “life moments” where we knew we’d done the hard work…and the impossible seemed well within our grasp.
So on race day – at the end of swimming through post-hurricane ocean swells, and biking against shoreline wind gusts that made us feel like we were riding backward, and after losing my remaining lung on the last leg of the run – I was overcome with emotion as I saw the orange cones taper down toward the finish line.
We’d done it. Unlike dozens of people around us, we finished the race. Mind you, we didn’t shatter any long-standing records. In fact, a 70-year-old man passed me during the bike ride and shouted back at me,
Don’t give up!
Great. So we finished humbly, you might say…but we finished. All of that fear, insecurity and unbelief no longer had a hold on us. And best of all: we’d finished together. It was one of the most powerful feelings I’d ever experienced. (By the way, you know that dorky fist-in-the-air thing runners always do as they cross the finish line? You HAVE to do it. It just comes up out of you…with a whoop and a holler, I might add.)
Then to make a memorable moment simply unforgettable as we crossed the finish line Mr. Wonderful got down on one knee and proposed in front of the entire race crowd!