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Sunday
Nov212010

4.3 The Story

Ironman

A  friend recently wrote to announce that she had completed her first Ironman. I wasn't sure which amazed me more... the fact that Terry finished the course in seventeen grueling hours or the reality that she had trained for a year leading up to it.

The event began at the dawn's early light with a five mile swim in the nippy waters of Lake Placid. Without stopping to celebrate everyone leaped on to bicycles and pedaled 112 hilly miles of countryside which were breathtaking in more ways than one.

Then as if that weren't enough of an excursion for one day Terry and 1800 other die hards finished off with a marathon.

As someone who doesn't get to the local park on my own steam, I am impressed. I have even become one of those wimpy adults I scoffed at in my childhood that swims without getting my hair wet. As for my biking credentials, I did once come in second in a race, but I must confess there were only four contestants.

One element that intrigues me is the fact that the race took seventeen hours but the sun only shone for thirteen. There was an elaborate system of high powered lights set up to guide weary runners those last long miles.

Volunteers were sprinkled throughout the course to offer encouragement, small comforts and sustenance. Terry described the finale as a triumphant climax. She swooshed down a long slide into a crowd of wildly cheering friends who had all traveled great distances and stayed up way past their bedtimes to shower her with their collective love and energy.

The support she felt during her training and the race carried her along like a tradewind. Her husband danced along next to her for the final few miles, coaxing her to go just a little faster. He was afraid that she might not make the cut off and would eagerly have scooped her up in his arms and carried her across the finish.

I asked Terry what kind of shape she was in when she began.

" A year ago I could barely run a mile."

Astonishing.

Now Terry had prepared for this Ironman. She saw it coming, knew the parameters, built up her stamina and gathered her resources. Her angel daughter's picture was perched on the handle bars, her husband and son were poised at every pit stop for kisses and hugs, along with carefully chosen snacks.

If only marriage's endurance tests came with such advance notice. If only we could get our hands on the script and find out when things were going to get sweaty. But too many Ironmans come without warning... a screech of brakes, a diagnosis, a phone call. And there we are, left swimming without a wet suit in water that chills to the bone. Somehow we stay afloat, if partly off course. But when we reach land we are told to mount a bicycle and keep going. Can it be true? Haven't we endured enough already? So we lock into a rhythm of pedalpushing, fueled by desperation and a fear of stopping. And even that test does not suffice, for waiting at the end is a marathon. So we run, plod, crawl, in what feels like a relentless line as we deal with the loss, the disease, the death.

But it doesn't have to be like that. We can prepare. For Terry the Ironman was less of a torture and more of a triumph. It's not that she didn't ache. She did. When she paused to sit in a folding chair it felt like a throne.

Still the tenacity had been etched into her thighs over months of pounding the pavement. Her blood had increased its capacity to carry oxygen from countless breaths drawn on misty mornings when no clock was ticking. She met the task head on.

We too can surround our marriages with the support of people and angels who want to see us cross the finish line. We can gather wisdom to light our way in the valley of shadow. We can walk in the paths of righteousness so often that it becomes a worn and familiar stride. We can draw our inspiration from the Word, and multiply the truth coursing through our veins.

Because as Terry observed, this was her first Ironman.