“Be joyful in love, be firm in hope and be constant in effort.”
This is where my book flew open, when I prayed for guidance one day as I picked up a book in my office that I had never seen before. That quote became my mantra at work and at home. After reading it I signed up to compete in the longest Triathlon that I had ever done, the Malibu International Triathlon on September 16, 2017.
Training: One Our Father and Hail Mary at a Time
The most beautiful part of my training is that I paced myself with the Rosary. I would push a bit harder during the Our Fathers, and then settle into my rhythmic pace during the Hail Marys. The meditations allowed me to be mindful on prayer with every step. Praying helped me to keep going, to believe in my growing strength, and to trust. It also created this incredible sense of gratitude for my ability to train, swim, bike, and run, and my ability to reach beyond what I thought was possible.
When Race Day arrived, it felt different than any other one I’ve experienced before. We arrived in Malibu while it was still dark. As the sun began to rise and we were about to start the race with our swim, I glanced out among the waves to see a pod of dolphins. It was as if they were reminding us of all the ease and grace of swimming. In that grace and gratitude, we stepped into the cold water and began our swim. I had 1 mile to swim down the coast and I began to pray, my strokes and breath coming into alignment with the rhythm of my prayers and before I knew it I was passing the second (out of 6) buoy! As I swam and lifted my head to breathe, I caught the rays of the rising sun on the water and saw that its rays illuminated a school of tiny silver fish swimming right under me!
Continuing the Good Fight
As I finished the swim and put my feet on the sand I realized my legs were wobbly; I sank back in the water. I began to pray for balance and strength, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time my legs held me up as I slowly jogged to the transition to get on my bike. It was in that moment that I handed my race over to God. I simply asked for Him to allow me to finish. I was no longer racing, I just wanted to keep my legs from shaking and finish the next segment. I jumped on my bike and tried to clip in, it didn’t work and I almost fell over… now I was really shaking… I told myself: try again, get your balance, breathe, pray, and on they went, I was clipped in safely and ready to ride the 26 miles up the coast of Malibu! This is the part I trained hard for: this was between me, my strength and the hills! The Our Father became my go-to prayer, where I exerted the most energy to make it up those hills! As I neared the last mile of the bike ride, I noticed so many of my fellow racers began slowing down. I decided that this was my time to speed up! I told myself, “Race with all everything you have to the finish line, don’t stop early!” I was praying, pedaling and passing others… WOW! I got to the bike rack, put on my running shoes and the rest was home free.
The Final Stretch
It was just me and the road and finally time to pray my Rosary, and have fun! I was no longer trying to win, I just wanted to finish. Six miles seemed really far, but I took it in two mile increments and one Rosary at a time. I ended up praying two Rosaries and once again as soon as I saw the finish line I began to sprint, this time I did not pass anyone. Rather I cheered them on along with me and together we ran the race all the way to the finish line.
Crossing the Finish Line
I did it! I finished the longest race I have ever done and I did it as I was turning 50 years old! Thank you JESUS!!! I couldn’t help but reflect on the verse, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!” It was a simple message to be joyful in love, firm in hope, and constant in effort. It spoke to me, challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone, and taught me the effort is joyful when done in love and prayer!
As I was leaving the race zone and the medals were being awarded, I heard my name being called. I was so excited that I ran up on stage, stood on that podium and raised my arms to heaven in thanksgiving.