Exhilaration: Lessons from Triathlons

On May 31 of 2008 I competed in my first Half Ironman competition. I had competed in several other triathlons, but not one of this distance. A Half Ironman consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run. Finishing this race was the culmination of a life change that began about 8 years ago.

Allison and I were visiting her family in Mobile, Alabama over Christmas in 2000. I had become a bit frustrated with a pattern I had developed: skipping meals during the day and eating a lot at night with virtually no regular exercise. I wasn't in bad shape, but I knew that I was developing a lifestyle that was not healthy. I had picked up the book, "Body for Life" at a bookstore in Mobile. When we returned to Atlanta, I signed up for a membership at the local YMCA in Atlanta and began to make a change. In 12 weeks I dropped around 15 pounds, developed a healthy diet, and exercised regularly.

I have always been a runner, and I have always enjoyed biking. So, that spring I thought, "I'd love to do a triathlon." In September of 2001 I finished my first sprint distance triathlon in Pensacola, FL. It was about a 600-yard open ocean swim, an 18-mile bike, and a 3.1-mile run. The swim felt very surreal - imagine swimming in the ocean at 7:30AM with about 300 or so people kicking you in the head with their feet and hitting you from behind with their arms. All of this, while going against the tide for the first 200 yards, trying to focus on a buoy in the distance, and ignoring the lingering thought that a shark might bite you!

Well, after that race, I was hooked. I entered another triathlon in Panama City, FL in April of 2002 and cut my previous time by about 15 minutes! For the next 6 years we were busy working, raising a family, recording CDs, and writing a book; thus, there wasn't a whole lot of time to train for a triathlon. But I had long wanted to go to the next level and complete an Olympic distance triathlon (.9-mile swim, 25-mile bike, 6.2-mile run). Finally, in January of 2008 I began the training process. I kept a journal for my training. After 4 months I logged 15,000 yards in the pool, over 500 miles on the bike, and over 300 miles running. I competed in the Turtle Crawl Triathlon on Jekyll Island in Georgia in May of 2008 - I beat my goal by about 7 minutes, completing the race in 2 hours and 23 minutes. I felt so good afterwards I thought, "I think I could finish a Half Ironman." In a few weeks, that's exactly what I did. At the end of May I competed in the Rock 'n Roll Man Half Ironman in Macon, GA. I entered the lake at 7:30AM and crossed the finish line at 2:00PM. I was exhausted, but I felt great! The experience was exhilarating.

The thing I have learned through all of this is that patience and perseverance yield satisfying results. After 12 grueling weeks back in January 2001, I realized that a good diet and regular exercise really does make a difference. I took it to the next level and finished a triathlon. Within another year, Allison and I finished recording our first CD - it took 18 months of hard work. But I had learned a valuable lesson from training for my first triathlon: patience and perseverance yield satisfying results. It was such a good feeling when our first shipment of CDs arrived on November 13, 2003.

I continue to dream big. Our family moved to California in September. We are at a great church and see God working in amazing ways. More than muscles, over the past 5 months I've been exercising faith, and I've seen God do more than I could ask or imagine.

Sometimes we simply get lazy and comfortable in life. We find ourselves in unhealthy patterns, and we simply forget how to exercise faith. Training for a triathlon requires the rigorous exercise of a number of different muscle groups: arms, legs, shoulders. The Christian life requires the regular exercise of faith in a number of different areas of life: finances, relationships, time.

Personally, I never want to become complacent. I never want to think, "I could never do that." Or worse, "God could never do that." He can. He does. Do you have dreams for your life? Have you exercised your faith lately? Try it. It's exhilarating.


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