When someone finds out you do triathlons, usually the first question is why?  If I’m going to be honest, (and I am) my answer was for completely selfish reasons.  My hubby started doing them a year ago.  It took a lot of his extra time and head-space.  He loved it.  It’s almost all he wanted to talk about.  I didn’t understand it at all.  And it started to make me a little angry and bitter. Now, I must say, after a few conversations {okay, arguments} about it, he made sure to get his training in early in the morning so as not to cut into our family time. But I felt like we were on two completely different pages.  Here I was dragging myself around, doing everything for everyone at home, with no time for even a shower for my little ol’ self, and he was feeling on top of the world, lookin’ great, with all this extra energy.  I mean really?!  I love him to death, but how is that fair?!

Something you need to know about me is I have a very dominant competitive gene.  I like to win.  Almost to a fault.  Actually…to a fault.  I would rather die than have someone beat me.  I’ve always been involved in sports growing up – soccer, track and volleyball, but preferred the independent ones like waterskiing and downhill skiing.  Whatever I chose to do, I did my best at.  I like to push myself.  I like a challenge.  I’m stubborn enough to do something once I put my mind to it, and do it well.

Now, if anyone should be getting out of the house for a little extra time for themselves, I’m pretty sure it should be me.  So out of spite, {hey, I’m just being honest – now ya know I’m not perfect, ha 😉 } I told Steve I think I want to sign up for a triathlon. To my surprise, he thought it was a great idea!  And for all the reasons I did – time away, to better myself / my body, and to challenge myself in a way I hadn’t in years. You know, after you have children, it’s kind of easy to lose yourself a bit.  Priorities change.  I mean, my oldest son didn’t even know I could run…and I use to be a pretty stinkin’ good sprinter.  So, long story short, I signed up, read a few books, made a few E-bay purchases, and borrowed a bike from my neighbor.  It was a nice road bike, but a awfully dirty one.  Once my friends at Wheely Good cleaned it up for me, I was off and training my heart out.  I was going to do my best.  But I knew I couldn’t win… or could I???

It’s the day before the big TRI.  I’ve done all I could.  I have completed my training.  I have learned a lot about myself along the way.  And I’ve learned a lot about the sport of Triathlon.  It’s a mental game.  There’s a lot to stress over, and obsess about, but I’m deciding to rest in the fact that God brought me to where He wants me.  I am here.  And I am ready.   That said, my stomach is in knots.  I don’t feel hungry at all.  I just choke down the proper nutrients because I know my body needs it.  I spend the day resting my legs, watching the kiddos play in the pool.  It’s hot and muggy.  Temps hovering around 90 with 70+ percent humidity.  YUCK.  I’m trying not to dwell on it.  The Lord knows I don’t need anything else to stress about…and He also knows I hate hot humid weather.  So, I put it out of my mind and patiently wait ’til Steve gets off of work, and we (all six of us) head on up to packet pick-up.  I was thankful he’d done this before and could kind of guide me in the process.  But still, I can’t remember the last time I was this nervous.  This is crazy…

As soon as we arrived, I felt my anxiety rise a little.  I thought it would calm my nerves, but no, it just made it all the more real.  We walked down to the beach and scoped out the distance between each bouy.  We headed over to the transition area and found where I’d hang my bike and set up my gear, in less than 24hrs.  We let the kids play and hit up some of the vendors so they could feel a part of it somehow.  And before we headed home, we drove the run coarse.  Wow.  Nervousness, excitement, anxiety, jitters, butterflies – all of them were flooding my body.  Now all that was left to do was to pack up, and get a good nights’ rest.

My parents arrived after dinner that night.  The plan was for them to come to the race, and my in-laws were to arrive before the sun rose the next morning, to stay with the kiddos.  We gave our hugs and smooches, tucked all the kiddos in bed and started packing the necessities.  We went over and over the list, making sure not to forget a thing.

That night was torture.  I could not fall asleep.  I just laid there thinking of all the steps, praying, asking God to help me survive the race, to be able to do what I trained so hard to do, and to help me sleep.  But, inevitably, my mind would wander down all the “what – IF” roads.  “I don’t want my children to grow up without a mother because I couldn’t reign in my pride.”  “Seriously, I don’t have to do this.”  I just laid in bed for hours with my blood pressure rising because I wasn’t getting the sleep I needed to be able to perform my best the next morning.  We had to be up by 4am and I don’t think I actually fell asleep until after 2:30.  Needless to say 4am came very quickly.  (Turns out, that’s normal.  I guess it happens to a lot of first-timers).

If you’re wondering what God has to do with any of this, I did too.  If you haven’t already, you have to read my post entitled, Run for God.  It’ll help explain the emotional workout I received right as this all started.  You wouldn’t think they’re tied together, but for me they are inseparable.  I wouldn’t want to do this without Him.  He’s my favorite training partner.  And the best coach I’ve ever had.  I got rid of my running apps, stopped using my spedometer and bike computer…and just did what my body could do.  I let go of the idea of winning.  I asked God to help me get comfortable being uncomfortable, because this is hard.  But I wanted to do it.  I knew I could.  I knew He wanted to me to because He had a few things to teach me.  It wasn’t easy.  Humbling yourself is never easy.  It was a lot of early mornings, which added up to extra long days, when you’re running after four little ones who always need you.  It was more meal planning, and creating healthy snacks to refuel a hungry body.  It was giving up certain events and invitations with friends because I had to fit in that ride that didn’t happen due to rain.  It was a major balancing act, but we figured it out.  And I’m so glad we did.

I gotta say, the drive up there, in the pitch black and the stillness of the early morning, and the nerves running through my body, has got to be one of the most uneasy feelings I have ever felt.   To put it bluntly, I’m surprised I did not puke.  I remember saying to Steve, “This is stupid.  Why do people do this to themselves?  Why are we doing this to ourselves?!”  We just laughed it off and continued on our way, in silence.  Really, I felt like I was just going through the motions.  I couldn’t fathom what going through with this would actually feel like, though there was absolutely NO way I was going to quit.  (Remember, quitting is not in my vocabulary).  And so I just did what I had trained to do.  We each found our designated station.  I put everything in its’ rightful spot, in the correct order I would need it.  Checked.  And double checked it.  Found a few friends and waited for ‘go-time.’

One of my sweet friends from my Run for God group, who knew my struggle, sent me a little gift in the mail this week.  I saved it for race day.  Socks that read, “I am with you always.”  They couldn’t have been more perfect.  They’re the first thing I slipped on that early morning, and the last thing I took off that day.  What a great reminder that God cares about things in our lives as silly as triathlons.  Something I thought I was doing for myself – and He had other intentions.   I thank Him for the gift of giving me a body that is equipped to compete in such a grueling sport.  But mostly, I thank Him for drawing me closer to himself through it.

I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.  As a matter of fact, I think I smiled most of the race.  I had a great time!  I complemented and encouraged people I passed, those that passed me, and thanked all the officers and volunteers that came out to give of their time.  I was just so thankful!  It was such an enjoyable experience, and I don’t think it would have been if I had kept the focus on me, like normal.  I just praised God and talked with Him the entire race.  It was so uncharacteristic of the type-A, overachieving, win-at-all-costs, type girl that I am.  I gave it all up and just went along for the experience.   Now, don’t get me wrong, I still pushed myself.  I tried my best.  I just had no idea what that was until I finished and my hubby and friends tracked down my stats.  Turns out I ran a pretty solid race.  Did I win?!  I did not come in first, but I won in that I changed my attitude, and was able to thoroughly enjoy the experience, and learn from it.  I formed some really neat relationships.  I was a good example to my children of what hard work, perseverance, and commitment looks like.  And probably best of all, I got out of my comfort zone and strengthened my marriage because of it.

For those of you stats peeps:  I demolished my goal time by 26 minutes.  I ended up in the top 25% of my competitive age group.  Now, I have something to work towards.  But I’m not gonna change my focus or my training partner.

I thought it was one of those things you just have to do to get out of your system, but turns out, I love it.  I can’t wait ’til the next one!

About Heidi Eitreim from her blog “my sun is to YELLOW“:  As a mother of three independent (my nice word for strong-willed), curious, adventurous little boys, and one little “me too” girl, I am very ‘occupied.’  My home is often loud.  There is usually a mixture of chex (used to be cheerios, but now we’re gluten free – a whole other story), legos, and train tracks strewn about my living room floor, and I’ve got a mountain of laundry that only seems to grow in size.   That said, I choose to ‘rejoice’ in it!   It’s  life, and I’m learning that it’s all about perspective.  I want to remember.  I want to capture every mess, every adventure, every little expression, a twinkle, pout, and grin – so in later years, when my house is clean, still, and quiet, and the laundry is all caught up,  I will be reminded of all those details that are so easily forgotten in the difficulty and chaos of the early years.