10 Lessons From Finishing My First Triathlon: Part 1

You are never going to believe what I just did. On Saturday July 12th of this year I finished my first triathlon! For those of you who are not familiar with these events they are made up of three disciplines: swimming, biking and running. Triathlons also have different distances. I did an Olympic triathlon. It’s a 1 mile swim, a 27 mile bike ride and a 5 mile run.

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            The vision for doing a triathlon was birthed in me over ten years ago. I finally set a goal in 2013 to finish one in 2014. I started training in 2013. My first step was to get a bike and start riding, which I did in the spring. My second step was to learn how to swim. Honestly I didn’t want to learn how to swim. I hate the idea of getting into water, being cold and sinking which is what I do in water. Thinking about being way out in some bay drowning or ending up on shark week wasn’t exactly motivating either. On top of all this I was about to turn 46. I had a lot of reasons to not do a tri. To my knowledge no one in my family had ever done one. No one in my church had done one. None of my close friends had done one. What was I thinking? `

             Over the last year I have learned so much from training and finishing this triathlon. I want to share 10 lessons I learned from my first triathlon with you.

            Lesson 1: Inspiration - God created a world full of inspiration and you are going to need it if you are going to get to where you want to go and be who you want to be. Inspiration is all around us, all you have to do is stop navel gazing, put your phone down and use the eyes and ears God gave you and you will see tons of it. Inspiration drives us and gives us the fuel we need when we want to quit. For the past 10 years I have enjoyed watching the iron man on NBC. I love seeing people in their 70’s and 80’s finish that race. I love seeing people with severe disabilities finishing. And then there’s always someone doing the iron man for a cause that brings me to tears. I also received inspiration from people like Peggy Marchanti who lost her husband 2 years ago in Afghanistan but continues to serve and worship God while making sure her husbands death brings glory to God and good to people. I receive inspiration from my two nephews Earl and Erik Hooks who have turned their lives around in a big way! Yesterday while I was out on a bike ride and I saw Karen James, recently married and a new mom, out training for her upcoming marathon. I had been pushing it on the bike, feeling the pain and hearing the “its time to quit” voices and there she comes running while pushing her baby in a stroller! What she was doing was harder than what I was doing and it inspired me to keep peddling. But no one inspires me more than God who has secured an eternal relationship for me through Jesus and then has blessed me with life, family, friends, a great church and grace every day to enjoy Him and to pursue His will. His ever present love and His promise to never leave me or forsake me has become the greatest inspiration in my life.

            Lesson 2: Vision – is seeing the end, it’s knowing how the movie ends, its knowing the final score in the game. You are not going anywhere without vision. A large part of my coaching involves helping people define, clarify and execute a vision for their life. Listen, in order to finish the triathlon I had to see myself finishing it. I had to see myself as a triathlete. This was hard to do. I could see myself biking and maybe completing the run but it was impossible to see myself finishing that swim. God made me with metal in my bones. Oh did I mention that sink in the water? Remember, I didn’t know how to swim. I would have been ideal for the role in a movie where I get chased by a shark because I splashed a lot, exerted lots of effort and didn’t move in the water. If that wasn’t enough I was having a hard time seeing how I was going to put all three events together in one day consecutively. I mean let’s keep it real, to do one of these in one day is a big deal for me. Over time I had to learn what it means to take every thought captive. Over time I had to re-learn what it meant to talk to myself instead of allowing myself to talk to me. Over time I had to create and sustain this vision, I had to cultivate and feed it daily. Sometimes it was harder than the training. But, nothing was more important than seeing the end at the beginning.

            Lesson 3: Goals – are the things that connect your vision with reality. As you set them and meet them you begin to see the end, the light at the end of the tunnel. I learned so much about setting goals. First, set small ones. When I started swimming my first goal was to swim to one side of the pool and back without stopping. It took me several weeks to do this. My second goal was to do that twice. I was well on my way to swimming a mile huh? I had to do that (swim to one side and back) 34 times if I was going to swim a mile straight. That’s what I call a small goal. Some of you set goals but they are way too big to start with. Second, master the goal you set before you move on to the next one. Once I was able to swim up and back without stopping I did it over and over again, stopping to rest before I did it again. After two days of doing this I went for my second goal which was to swim 2 laps, up and back without stopping. Third, at some point getting to your goal is going to be really painful and that’s when you will need your inspiration and vision in order to endure the pain. By the way the older you are the harder this will be. There have been times when I have literally felt like the training is killing me. I like what Alfred told Bruce when he wanted to quit being Batman, “Endure Master Wayne, take it…” sometimes that’s exactly what we have to do to get to what matters most to us. Fourth, goals are the most practical way to get to my vision. I had to start viewing them like this. As I pursue them and accomplish them I get close and closer to my vision.

            Part 2 coming soon