That night I hardly slept. I tossed and turned and dozed and dreamt. Most of my dreams consisted of being late or forgetting something. I had the same kind of jitters I have before the very first day of school every year. Only this time- it was before my very first triathlon.
I had prepared as much as possible. I printed the course maps and drove them in advance. I bought some needed tri gear. I watched youtube videos galore about transitions and swimming techniques. I made this fancy training plan with pretty fonts and didn't stick to it a single day. But six out of seven days of the week this summer, you would find me running, biking, or swimming- simply not on the day it was scheduled though.
There's something humorous about this that would make you tilt your head in a "huh... really?" kind of way if you've known me for over ten years. After posting the I-crossed-the-finish-line pictures on social media, one of my dear high school friends captured it when she commented "Whoa!!!! Sporty Kim??? (insert party hat emojis) When did this start!?!!"
Yes, I ask myself that sometimes. When did this start?
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I'm 27 years old and I am still finding myself. I thought I was supposed to be 27 years old and have things figured out, but I am still learning things about myself all the time, discovering new passions and dreams, sometimes grieving over lost passions and dreams. I suppose that's exciting though- I hope to be 67 and still learning new things about myself.
Once upon a time I was a lot more artsy and a little more free-spirited. I had a closet full of jewelry supplies, acrylic paints, canvases, scrapbooks, photography stuff, oil pastels, knitting needles, and stamps. I secretly had a small Hobby Lobby in my room. I also played guitar and would climb out of the window to play on our porch roof- singing and strumming for any neighbor to hear. My senior year of high school, a few girls and I made a "girl band" we affectionally named So It Goes (quick- who can match that reference to it's book?). For our churches' Battle of the Bands, I straightened my curly copper hair and wore a trendy, black hat and green converses. We won too.
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This summer, in between training and hanging out with friends and other odds and ends, I cleaned out most of our closets. When we married, I had boxed up things from one closet and simply brought them to another address. Sometimes getting rid of things is hard because of what they represent. But this past year has been a year of letting things go and surrendering- and most of this I am realizing in hindsight. As I went through the art closet, I either trashed or gave away about 60% of the stuff in there: dried up paint bottles, knitting needles with half finished projects, scrapbook pages for only half of a vacation, sketchbooks from my high school art class. On one hand I was a little sad and nostalgic, on the other hand, I felt finally free to release it because I have felt God remaking me and giving me new ways to be creative and feel alive over the past year.
Enter the triathlon this summer. Enter "sporty Kim" (except for that I still don't feel sporty!) When did this start?
I suppose it started 27 years ago when I was birthed into the world and God breathed into me a Spirit of all or nothing. A spirit that would choose something and throw myself at it happily and wholeheartedly with gusto and passion. I wouldn't have thought that about myself until I got married and I had someone there to point out all these things about myself I didn't knew (some of these things have been enlightening, some have made me want to clobber my sweet husband). But it's true in this case. Whether it was crafting or playing guitar or rock climbing in my earlier years or teaching, kid's ministry, house church, or remodeling our kitchen in more recent years, I was going all out. So Aaron just smiled lovingly and said, "Of course you can," when I said that I wasn't just going to bike for fun or try out a 5K- I was going to try a triathlon.
The spirit has been there- it's just been how it manifests itself. The medium for creativity and art has simply changed from season to season.
That aside- the story of venturing into a triathlon begins with a little pain- plantar fasciitis. This foot pain developed four years ago during my first year of teaching. After years of no healing and fears mounting, I finally stepped into a physical therapy office and stayed for seven months. I learned about my body and my mind and my spirit. I started healing little by little. I became amazed at how God made us to heal and be strong and be flexible.
I heard about a women's only triathlon last summer while in PT and thought how cool it would be to do one. But of course that dream seemed so dim and far away because well- people with plantar fasciitis don't to triathlons. But at the same time I thought- people with plantar fasciitis don't do triathlons. So, if I did this one day... would that mean I don't have plantar fasciitis? After months of physical therapy, healing was starting to seem possible and I wondered.
One day last summer, I dusted off my college bike and rode around town. I had forgotten the joy of feeling the wind in your hair. Or the thrill of traveling somewhere knowing you are making this contraption go with only the muscles in your legs. Aaron bought my a pretty (because that's the important part of this purchase of course) white road bike for Christmas and I was hooked.
Towards the end of this school year with a new summer on the horizon, I realized I could maybe, possibly, sorta, kinda try to train for the triathlon because my feet were in much better shape. Now, this is simply laughable given that when I started I couldn't swim one lap in the pool or run even 3/4 of a mile. But I was learning that I am way more capable that I think I am so I made that pretty training plan and decided that if I felt good about things by the end of June, I would sign up.
June came to a close and I felt good about things. When I registered and hit that submit button, I wept. People with plantar fasciitis can't do triathlons. This was a test. Could I do it? I had just paid and signed my name on the dotted line so to speak. Pain or no pain- here I was doing this thing.
250 meter swim. 10 mile bike. 2.5 mile run.
Knowing I could already bike far past 10 miles, I focused more on the other sports. Soon, I could swim 100 M, 200 M, 500 M. I could run 1 mile, 1.25 miles, 2.5 miles. The day I ran 2.5 miles I also cried tears of joy. People with plantar fasciitis can't run, but I was running. I could still feel slight pain in my left foot every once in a while, but the craziest thing happened, the more I trained the less my feet hurt. I was getting stronger, stretching thoroughly, and resting weekly.
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It was race day. I rolled out of bed at 4:20 am- five minutes before my alarm was set to go off. My bags were packed, we cooked up a breakfast of champions, and then we were off flying down the dark, foggy highway to Greenville listening to "pump up" music.
Jitters. Nerves. Excitement. The sun was rising. Anticipation building.
The clock struck 7:00 and the first ranked swimmer stepped over the timing mat, jumped into the pool, and was off. I was ranked 73 according to the swim time I submitted for the my average 100 M. With every ten seconds another person jumped in and I took another small step toward the start line. I adjusted my goggles and watched the man directing swim starts. I was so nervous, but I felt so ready.
"Go." I jumped in and pushed off from the wall. The cool blue water enveloped me in a familiar and yet startling way and in the first lap I struggled to find a rhythm in my breathing. I know success in swimming lies in breathing steadily, but my fear and nervous mounted and I felt like I couldn't do it. In the middle of the second lap I switched from free style to breast stroke and I cursed under my breath. I reached the end of the lane and stopped to take a few deep breaths. Can I do it? I steadied myself and looked up at my husband's face in the window. We locked eyes and he nodded and gave a thumbs up. It was only a few seconds, but it was monumental. Looking to the end of the lane, I whispered to myself "You can do it." Plunging forward I reached and kicked and breathed and refused to stop. While it was not the smoothest freestyle swimming I've ever done, I did it. I reached the wall and pushed off again. One lane after another. I can do it. Just keep swimming. I was channeling my inner Dori. I hopped out of the pool and even though I had the entire biking and run portion left, it felt like I'd made it over the biggest obstacle. Once you mentally conquer something, the rest seems so much easier.
My adrenaline kicked in big time and I biked and ran (well... ran/ walked), faster than any of my training sessions. I didn't win any awards or get any medals, but I didn't care at all. I did it. I did what I once thought was impossible. I did what I once thought was reserved for sporty people. For people who ran track in high school and have been doing swim team since they were ten years old. For people with all the fancy gear and fitbits and clip in pedals. For all the people who are fearless and strong.
And then again- maybe no one is really fearless and strong. Or... is everyone actually fearless and strong, we only have to believe it to live it? Maybe I have plantar fasciitis, but maybe I don't. Because people with plantar fasciitis don't do a triathlons.
Maybe it's not about what we think or feel in the moment, but what we choose to believe about the future. Maybe it's not that I'm fearless, but I choose to show up despite my fear. Maybe it's not that I'm all that strong, but I choose to give it my all and that makes me strong. Maybe it's not that I'm 100% healed, but that I choose to believe that I will be and that makes way for true healing.
God made us this way. He is a God who calls things that are not as if they were. Who says to darkness, "let there be light." Who says to the sinner "you are a saint." Who says to the rejected, "you belong." Who says to the orphaned, "you are a son."
That is the work of an artist. To see something that is not, and make it so. Maybe fifteen years ago that meant strumming a guitar and humming new melodies or painting landscapes onto canvases. Maybe now it means jumping in a pool, hopping on a bike, or lacing up my running shoes. Maybe I am fearless and strong. Maybe I can do it.
So my friend, here's to many more I-thought-I-couldn't-but-I-did adventures. You can do it too.
My transition area ready to go!
The man who encouraged me all along! (this is an after picture!)
Look ma, I'm doing it!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Celebration meal at Tupelo Honey after!
My training plan- everyday is scratched out and something new written.... (insert I'm-laughing-so-hard-I'm-crying emoji)