What Do Following Jesus & Training for an Ironman Have in Common? Part 1: A Deal, A Disappointment, & A Dose of Divine Mercy

What Do Following Jesus &
Training for an Ironman Have in Common?

Hello. My name is Monica, and I’m addicted to endurance sporting events. Early in my life it became apparent that I was not the fastest kid on the block, but I possessed the desire, drive, and discipline to go further. I completed my first marathon in my late twenties, and with that came my first endurance-sport-training-object-lesson on following Jesus. Since then, I literally expect spiritual lessons to be birthed throughout whatever physical challenge I undertake. My current endeavor? An Ironman – a triathlon comprised of a 2.4 mile swim immediately followed by a 112 mile bike and then 26.2 mile run – to be completed within 17 hours on 11/1/14 in Panama City Beach, Florida. Training for Ironman Florida (IMFL) has literally been a yearlong process, and I have been journaling all along the way. As the final countdown to IMFL nears, I will be reflecting on the journey, turning some of my journal entries into blogs to share with you. My prayer is that what Jesus has lovingly taught and shown me through the highs and lows of this journey might become life-giving Truth to you, too.

Part 1: A Deal, a Disappointment, & a Dose of Divine Mercy

Nearly a dozen of us made a deal, a pact, around my breakfast room table just over a year ago: Complete Ironman’s newest addition to the Ironman 140.6 family, Ironman Chattanooga (IMCHOO), September 28, 2014. The first step toward our goal? Register…as it turns out, a feat easier said than done…a lesson of divine mercy waiting to be experientially learned.

Registration was scheduled to open online at exactly noon Eastern Standard Time September 26, 2013. Per the instructions of previous Ironman (IM) finishers, those of us “first timers” practiced filling out the application ahead of time, and all of us cleared our schedules beginning at 11:55 AM EST 9/26/13. Although geographically separated – some folks in-town…others out-of-town, some folks at their office…others at their kitchen table – together we sat fingers on the keyboard, eyes on the clock, phones on the right poised to send and receive the frenzy of text announcing, “I’m in! IMCHOO here we come!”

Oh, there was plenty frenzy! The frenzy of pecking at the keyboard turned to a frenzy of frustration captured in flying text and email messages. Within three minutes the Ironman site crashed. Who was in? Who was out? There was que, an electronic waiting line. What number are you? How any minutes does it say you have to wait? Fifty-five minutes passed. Still glued to our computers, we continued to rant over text and email. Then, the rumors started. Internet sources confirmed what we already knew, the IM site had crashed three minutes into registration. But they also reported that IMCHOO had filled all 1700 spots in those first three minutes!

Who was in? Who was out? It would take days for the fog to clear and those questions to be answered. In the end, all but four of us could change our Facebook status to “IMCHOO 2014 bound,” and three out of the four of us, including Claude and me, signed up for IMFL to be held five weeks after IMCHOO, 11/1/14.

I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I wasn’t merely frustrated over the whole IMCHOO registration debacle, I was mad…really mad. I threw a verbal tantrum about it, too, especially after a leak exposed an early invitation-only registration, which filled more than a quarter of the spots before online registration even opened.

How could I NOT have gotten in? Among members of the deal-makers, I was one of the people who REALLY wanted to do an Ironman race, as opposed to others who had been “swept” into the river of enthusiasm or acquiesced to a little peer pressure. Heck, I had even talked some friends from South Dakota into signing up from IMCHOO, so we could finally meet face-to-face. (By the way, our South Dakota friends did get in.) Furthermore, I DID successfully fill out the application within the first two minutes of registration. But, to my shock, after pressing SEND, the registration form reappeared with one of those nasty red asterisks indicating that I had missed a question. I HAD NOT! (Remember, I had practiced filling out the form.) I knew I had done it ALL and done it correctly. I quickly checked the box in question and resubmitted. THAT is when it happened…the crash. This cannot be happening. After all, I had already booked our hotel room for the big event. Yep, I was hopping mad.

If you are a parent, can you recall a time when one of your children REALLY wanted something…REALLY BADLY? But you knew, and therefore withheld this much-desired thing, it was NOT what she needed….it what was not in his best interest to let him have it. And, despite whining, begging, and tantrums, because of love, and possessing a wisdom your child did not yet understand, you held firm in your answer, “No, you may not.” That is exactly what my loving Heavenly Father did for me when He said, “No” for IMCHOO, and I cannot count the number of times over the past year that I have said, “I’m so sorry” and “thank you” for that “No.”

Here are just two things God foreknew which would have drastically effected both our decision and subsequent Ironman experience:
  • Remember that red asterisk question I supposedly left blank that kept me from completing the registration? If my application had been accepted with the first SEND, I would have almost certainly been registered for IMCHOO. Oh the other hand, by the time Claude began the registration process, the site had already crashed. Thus, I would have been training for and doing IMCHOO without Claude. Training for IMFL together, rather than doing separate Ironmans, has been both a blessing and a necessity.
  • The information originally put forth by Ironman about the Chattanooga race changed numerous times over the year. Had these “changes” been in the original information about the race, we would have never even considered it a possibility for numerous reasons.

These are two things I “see” now, with my limited perspective. I imagine a host of other reasons exist that I will only know in the Age to Come.

So what does this have to do with following Jesus? We will follow more faithfully – wholeheartedly and with abandon – those someone we trust unequivocally. Oh that you and I would TRUST in the love and goodness of Jesus so completely, so fiercely, that we would not waste a moment hopping mad – whining, complaining, throwing tantrums – but with open hands, rest, expectant for the better “yes” around the corner.

So, here I sit in that reserved hotel room in Chattanooga the eve of IMCHOO. No, Claude and I are not participating, but we have the incredible privilege of cheering on our pact-making friends. And, we did get to have that face-to-face meeting with our South Dakota friends. And, we will be participating in an Ironman – an Ironman that Claude and I have been able to train for together, an Ironman that better suits our personal strengths, weaknesses, and schedules – in five short weeks!