Ironman Reflection: Going all out and faith


To some it might sound crazy.  The biggest ‘enjoyment‘ I get from Ironman, marathon and any type of you-have-to-run-how-long races…the longer endurance events is that in each of the race there is a pivotal point where I have to make a decision to go all out.

There is much joy in that.  At this point, it is always, always the most trying.  The point where the body is tired.  Every part of the body is screaming in pain.  The temptation to slow down hovers in the air.  As the physical body starts to falter, the mind, ironically, is never so focus and the emotion never feel so intense.

Doubt, uncertainty all boils down to….how far can I hold on?  Can I keep going?

This is not a philosophical question where we sit and weigh the pros and cons.
It is not a scientific question.  It is not a lab as to see how far the body can go.  I can’t dupilicate it on training days or other simulation.

And as always, the answer is:

I don’t know….but I will keep going anyways.

I remembered in Ironman Lake Placid in 2007.  After a 3.8 km swim and a 180 km bike ride, an equivalent of a  ten hour ‘warm up‘, I had to contend with running a marathon.  Forty two kilometers between reality and a dream.

Two years of training.
Two years of uncertainty.
Two years of grasping the impossible all came down to this.

Fourty two kilometers (that’s 24 miles).

The race course consisted of two laps.  The first lap I was on track.  I was in the groove.  Feeling strong and roaring to go.

By the second lap, the glamor of triathlon faded.  Reality set in.
The race course became an arena of survival.  Each of us, triathletes, with our own reasons, our own doubts, our own pain and struggles, battled among the elements and our tired bodies, as we inched our way toward the finish line.
All reasons for motivation went out the door.
There was only one goal left.
To get to the finish line.
Whatever means, whatever it takes.

With about ten kilometers left, my left quad wanted to cramp.

That was the breaking point.  The point where the body yearned for rest, I made a choice.

I told my quad (yes, us triathletes are a bit nutty.  We sometimes talk to our body)…

Quads, I don’t care if you are going to cramp.  You can cramp.  But I am going to keep running and that’s that.  So go ahead and cramp.  Because I ain’t going to stop.

At this point, the moment where every type of pain and suffering clouded me, one decision brought relieve and liberation.  I was no longer fear or worry whether I would make it.  I started to jog.  I picked up the pace.  I kept going.

There is no better description than a photographic moment before I crossed the finish line.

A wearied body.
Going all out.
Nothing was left.
Just gritz and raw passion. 

Some think the glory lies solely in the finish line.  There is some truth in that.  I never feel so happy everytime I cross the finish line.  The true joy, for me, is the precious moment in a race when the pressure is on, when my body is screaming to slow down, yet a little and soft whisper wants to keep going….and so we take that leap of faith and see…

How a physical journey easily mirrors a spiritual one.  When we talk about faith, Christian faith, one often mistaken that we can sit back and let God do His thing.  God will definitely do His thing.  It is at those pivotal points when I ask, really God? Is this what You want me to do, at those points where I have to count my cost and follow Him, did I find my faith, and Him, ever so real.

Lord, can I ride again? I like to go all out.  Thank you!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 

   “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, 

      and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 

 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, 

      and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

1 comment

  • Well said. It is nice to see that I am not the only one who believes that the finish line is not the end, but the beggining. I think I get more out of the journey then I do the finish, because it is where I see where I have been. It is also where I get to see how far the Lord has carried me. Look forward to reading more of your writings.

By Cliff

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