My First Triathlon

k-tri-5Today I did my first triathlon.

Most of you probably know that I have a “workout” drive that is almost comical. I picked up distance running at age seventeen, but never ran in high school. In my junior year of college, I decided to try to walk on to my school’s division 1 cross-country and track team. Silly, right? I know. But amazingly within a year I had made it onto the traveling team. God gets all the glory for the strength he has given my body. Unfortunately, I discovered a weakness in my shin bones. 3 stress fractures later, my brief official running career ended sooner than I had hoped. I remember the disappointment when, right before our conference meet, I had to be put on crutches, and was out. At the time it felt like the biggest disappointment of my life. I cried and tried to find another solution, but like my overdrive nature tends to do, I had already run so long on a fracture the pain was unbearable to even walk. I really thought I would look back and be sad about this for the rest of my life. Your probably thinking, really? Especially because I was graduating soon and had a wonderful man who I was going to marry a year later. Still, it seemed important.

Fast forward a year, and I married the love of my life. Just three months later we found out we were expecting our first baby. I was nervous, puking all the time, and still a newlywed. But what did I still to do? You guessed it. If you’d driven by our house at the right time you could have found k-tri-3k-tri-4me out exercising dutifully. I continued running as long as my doctor thought it was okay (20 weeks). I then started biking. So much safer, right? I also went to a gym and used stationary equipment. On our family vacation when I was 33 weeks pregnant, I was determined to bike around Cade’s Cove with the rest of the family. I can still remember, as the cars would pass, hearing people gasp, saying, “that girl’s pregnant!. And I wasn’t a little pregnant. If you didn’t see me then, I can tell you I had a big baby belly. Finally, my Dad and Adam impounded my bike with a couple miles to go, insisting that I ride the rest of the way in the back of the truck. Perhaps the craziest part is that I biked up until 12 days before I delivered Kyla. When the doctor said I was dilated to 3 and would have the baby any day, I decided to switch to light aerobics! I know you are probably thinking I’m crazy. I guess I had discovered exercising makes you feel energized and free.

Well, something happened to me. I became a mother. From the moment I held that tiny little bundle named Kyla Grace in my arms, I saw the world differently. I found something so much more rewarding than running! I remember laughing at myself as I saw how trivial bodily fitness is compared to things in life that really matter. And I thanked God for keeping my baby safe, even as I probably pushed the limits a little.

The next time I began running it was with a different perspective. After I got clearance from the doctor, Adam and I started training for a 10 mile trail race. But my goal was no longer to be the fastest woman there. No, my goal was to take my baby girl with me. I wanted to push her in a jogging stroller for 10 miles just 3.5 months postpartum. I wanted to be able to tell her someday that we did it together.

Time went on and Adam and I enjoyed exercising together and even taking Kyla along. Family fitness is even more fun than competitive fitness!

We found out we were expecting baby number 2 last November. This time, it was different. I was a mother determined to be as careful as I could. I took a few weeks off exercising completely during the most critical development time for the baby.

And then, the unthinkable happened. An extremely rare cord accident and we lost our little girl.

Along with the questions, heartache, and horrific grief, came deep perspectives on life that have impacted me profoundly. While having a child brings some change, losing a child changes everything. It is almost impossible to look at anything in the same way. The fragility of life becomes so real. Most things that seemed important, good, or even just fun, aren’t the same. When you bury a child, death becomes so real. It’s almost like you actually fast forward and see the end of your own life, and the reality of eternity is solidified.

Back to the rest of the story…

With encouragement from my hubby we starting exercising a little again a few weeks ago. It seemed so stupid, but gave us something physical to do. (Grief sometimes makes you want to “do” something…as if it will make you feel better). I knew in my mind it was good for my body. Adam has an interest in triathlons, so he was planning on doing the little one they hold at SIU every spring. Maybe, just maybe, I would do it with him.

As it turned out, Adam wasn’t able to participate due to his work schedule. After going back and forth several times, and shedding quite a few tears, I decided 3 days before to go ahead and do it.  I didn’t want to because I shouldn’t be able to. I should be 27 weeks pregnant instead. Competing and running just seem so silly now. I so wish I was big and pregnant today. But I’m not. So I decided to try my first triathlon even in the midst of my journey through grief. Besides, nothing seems very hard anymore.

God gave me strength once again and I finished a 385 yard swim, 5.8 mile bike, and 2 mile run in 42 minutes and 57 seconds. It was nice to cross the finish line.

But there is a much greater finish line I am looking forward to. You see, we are all in a race right now that is much bigger than any competition. It is the only one that really matters. It is the race of this life. Who we run for, and how we run, will determine our eternal destiny. Today, more than ever, I want to run that race. I want to run hard and well, just as Paul exhorted in Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Even now, in the daily struggle through grief and loss, I will keep fixing my eyes on Jesus. He has endured so much and will help me each step of the way.

At the end of this race is the real reward – my Jesus, and now, my baby Esther Kate. I can’t wait for that day. I want to run well for my King. I want to run well for the Daddy who holds my little girl right now. And while I run…I know she is in that great cloud of witnesses cheering me onFor she already sees the end victory.





  1. Adam Waller says:

    Great post.
    I love you baby!
    Great job on the race!!

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