“My left foot is numb.” I hollered to my dad as I ran past him and waved to my cheering children packed into the wall of spectators lining the race course. “Please pray” I managed to communicate before I trotted out of earshot. The front outside portion of my left foot was indeed feeling thick as I finished the first round of the three loop course. I have dealt with foot numbness on the bike in the past, and I can usually ameliorate the tingling by sliding my foot around inside the shoe. But there’s not much place to move your foot while running, you just have to keep going… I was concerned. Would it get worse? Was this going to derail my race?
I had felt good about the day up to this point. My swim time was the fastest I had ever posted. That gave me some breathing room during the bike to let my heart rate come down a bit and refuel for the coming run. The only real issue, up until my foot had given notice it was not cooperating, was my stomach. I had been a little queasy since just after starting the bike course. But after three hours of queasiness I figured it wasn’t going to get any worse. I knew I had a good chance to beat my time goal if I could put together a decent run time. Now my left foot was really bothering me. Not this, I thought, not now. I only had nine more miles to go…
As I passed my dad again on the way out for the second loop he called out with the advice to move my impact point, to change how my foot hit the ground. I adjusted my stride to land a little more on my heel and monitored the results to see if it helped. Winding down the second loop I was glad to report to my dad that though the foot was still bothering me, the feeling had stabilized and I was ok. I could hear him praying for me; his shouts of encouragement buoyed my spirit as I entered the roundabout and began the last lap.
Passing my children for the final time and taking in their smiles, high fives and cheers was priceless. Only 4 more miles to go. I wouldn’t see them again until the finish line. But I wasn’t alone out there. In the throng of runners were two other friends also competing and we were watching for each other, calling out our names and a mutual “You got this!” as we flashed by each other. And then there was our tri club operating one of the rest stops of the course. They were busier than bees offering liquid and food to the athletes streaming by, but they always cheered loudest when one of their own came through. By the last lap I was walking the aid stations so I got to soak in their adulation a little longer than normal. I needed those few seconds of respite from the pounding to take a blow, dig deep, pour a cup of cold water over my head gobble some fuel and then restart my cadence.
Finally the eleven mile marker came into view…only two miles and the finish chute to go! For the first time all day I checked my elapsed time on my watch. I was going to do it! The end, while not quite yet in sight, was close and with that I picked up my pace.
The finish area was inside the main arena building at the expo center. Instead of entering the roundabout to start another loop you veered right and entered the chute which took you down and under the building. I took my shades off as I passed through the dark entrance and then burst into the light and noise, finally catching site of the finish arch, just fifty short yards away. Arms raised like I’d just won the world championship race in Kona I glided along the carpeted path reveling in the moment. I heard my name and turned to see my children and parents pressed to the barrier waving and snapping photos. And then I was through. Done. 70.3 miles completed. Bent over. Hands on knees. Chest heaving. Adrenaline flowing. Five hours, forty-two minutes and six seconds. I felt something hanging around my neck. I opened my eyes and there was the medal that proclaimed, “Finisher”! YES!
And then I was enveloped in love, hugs and tears from mom, dad and my children. I sought out my fellow athletes and congratulated them on finishing and we all hugged and high fived. I was of course euphoric that day. Tired yes but amped up and thrilled to have finished and to have beaten my goal time. The rest of this last week has been recovery. I was extra sleepy on Monday and Tuesday. My legs and hips took a few days to overcome soreness but was this the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life? Not by a long shot.
Yesterday morning the children and I took time to just rest in the presence of our Heavenly Father. I reminded them that in our study of the book of Exodus earlier this fall, we learned that the Israelites camped around the tabernacle while in the desert. The tabernacle had either a pillar of cloud by day or fire by night that enveloped it. The very presence of God was in their midst. They weren’t just camped around a portable building, they were camped around the living God. Our lives need to have a similar orientation. Our advantage over the ancient Hebrews is that God’s spirit is within us through the life of Jesus! We can freely approach Him at any time to get His input, encouragement and correction…wisdom for life, in fact the very author of life sharing it with us!
With that encouragement I gave the children four questions to ask God. The first was this, “Is there anything You want to tell me about the loss of mommy?” I want them to be able to talk to God about the hurt, about the process, about grief. He’s their source of life, they need to connect early and often. I did the same exercise so we could all share at the end. What I heard was this: “Don’t let this loss define your life. Let my life, my life in you define you. Live full of Me, Chad.” What a needed message! So timely, so full of hope and life.
And with that we all laid back on the trampoline where we had gathered to share, relaxing in the morning sun and soaking in our Father’s presence. We are not alone in this race. My foot may go numb at times, there may be more queasy stomachs ahead. But as we walk the rest stops, taking time to rest and refuel with Jesus while refocusing on the road ahead, His life, His joy will indeed manifest itself in and through us. And that is where I aim to live.
B-Gone, B-9, B-Healed…It’s a way of life!
Matt extends an encouraging hand!