39: Race Against Time

39: Race Against Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Race Against Time

Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side.

~The Talmud

Three numbers in Sharpie down my left calf and three more down my right upper arm brought home the reality that I was about to participate in my very last triathlon. After two years of competing, I found myself no longer physically able to participate in the swimming, biking and running event. My body, unfortunately, was giving way before my spirit was ready.

Please do not be mistaken; erase the image of me you’ve just created in your mind. Now, re-adjust to a slightly overweight, middle-aged brunette mom of three. There you are; that’s me. I am the one who didn’t rush to the results board with the others to search for my name and results upon crossing the finish line, because it was always there patiently waiting for me at the bottom of the list. With each event I completed, a part of me would berate myself for not being fast enough or good enough. I saw myself as the “feel good story” of the event, the person you patted on the back and congratulated for managing to finish the race.

At one point, I couldn’t take it anymore and I pushed incredibly hard and watched my time like a hawk. While I achieved what I set out to that day, and it felt fantastic, that was not my “time to thrive.” No, that lesson came for me on the day of this very last event, one early summer morning in 2013.

I had signed up for this particular triathlon once before but then I hadn’t shown up. This time, I signed up and embraced the race as my farewell to the triathlon piece of my life journey. My goal that day would once again include time, but in a much different and unexpected way. I was going to ignore time, unheard of amongst a sea of competitors donning timing chips on their left ankles. The goal was to not allow time to be the measure of success or failure at my last event.

As my turn came to enter the pool, my thoughts went back to when I first began swimming as an adult. Finding a nice evenly paced stroke, I ignored the clock and focused instead on the way I felt in the water. I embraced the peace swimming always brought me, and the lightness of not only body, but of spirit. As I completed my laps, I emerged from the pool with a feeling of serenity. Averting my eyes from the large clock on the wall, I made my way over to my bike, ready to take on the next challenge.

With the cheers of the people around me, I hopped onto my bike and turned off the timing device on the handlebars. I settled myself into a rhythmic dance with my bike, tuned into the feel of the summer breeze on my skin and the energy of the ride. As I rode into my last lap, my smile grew.

In the past, this is where my negative mind would take over the race. As I switched out my riding shoes for my runners, my legs were always heavy and my spirit growing more so — and the real battle against the clock usually began. The running part of the race was where you make or break your time. Could I fully surrender time?

As I began to run, I once again turned my mind away from the pressure of time. I took my thoughts off my tired feet and reflected on the things that make me, well, me. I love to laugh. I love to smile and I absolutely love to encourage others to do the same. And so my run that day became less about the countdown with the clock and more about all that I could and did bring to this triathlon to make it mine.

A favorite moment was when I made my way to the water station at the halfway mark of the run, out of breath but full of joy (joy! can you imagine?). Usually grabbing a cup and pushing on was my way so as not to lose a moment on that clock. This time, I stopped. I rested. I chatted with the volunteers and joked about who was going to give me a ride back. After a while they reminded me. “Hey! You should get moving. This is a race against time, you know!” Thanking them for the water, I moved my feet once again and made my way up the hill to the turnaround point and smiled. Today was not about racing time for me, it was about learning to let it go.

Across the finish line, I lingered before making my way over to the results board. I had to take a peek, right? I knew where to look, but my name was mysteriously absent from the bottom of the list. I searched a few lines up but didn’t go too far, because I knew it wasn’t there. I headed over to the timing table and inquired about the discrepancy. Upon giving my timing chip number, the man grew extremely apologetic and let me know that there was a malfunction with my timer. From his body language I could tell he expected me to be upset. As I said, time is of the upmost importance at these events. Slapping my hands on the table, I threw my head back and laughed. Taken aback, he asked if I was okay. Smiling brightly, I replied with a victorious smile, “There could not have been a better person to have a malfunctioning chip today than me. Thank you.”

And so it was in an event designed to conquer time that I would do exactly that by simply ignoring it. I thrived on a new personal level that day, releasing the power that the clock had over me. Letting go of the harsh and negative way I would judge myself after crossing the finish line.

My last steps in the triathlon world became my first steps into the journey of transforming who I am, how I speak to myself, measure my worth, and so much more.

~Angela Wolthuis

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