Strength in Struggle: Triumphing through Turbulence in Endurance Sport

March 18, 2024

During the final event of the 2023 season for our Junior Triathlon Team, one of our remarkable athletes faced a challenging moment before the race began. This event marked the culmination of a whole summer of hard work and preparation. As she stood at the starting line, observing hundreds of participants entering the ocean, her fears reached a peak.

The Assistant Coaches and I were watching the athletes enter the water, five or six people at a time, waiting eagerly for our junior athlete to begin. Suddenly, I looked to my left and there she was, standing at my shoulder, eyes brimming with fear and tears. Fear heading into a race is an extremely common feeling.

I have stood at start lines alongside seasoned adult athletes, walking them through their anxiety prior to a race. I have supported athletes during open water swim sessions, some too anxious to enter the water or put their face in the water for more than a few strokes at a time. I have been present with athletes hesitant to use clipless pedals on their bikes, nervous at each stop sign, red light, and left turn, for the fear of falling or struggling to unclip from their pedals quickly enough.

At 14 years old, she dedicated her summer to training, attending every session, pushing herself at each practice, and absorbing all the advice, psychological tactics, and knowledge provided. Displaying courage, resilience, and a determination to persevere, she showed an unwavering commitment and pure joy in each session. However, in these moments where anxiety comes to an absolute peak, regardless of age or experience, it is essential to rely on others for help.

While comforting her and offering guidance, my prayers focused on instilling her with courage and supporting her to begin and complete the race. It was evident she needed someone by her side as she embarked on the race. The corral was growing smaller and smaller and she needed that courage soon before she no longer had the opportunity to begin the event.

I looked back at the corral and saw one of our adult AME athletes. With his charismatic, compassionate and giving character, I knew instantly he was the right person for the job. If we only understood the depth and reality of all of God’s small miracles. He orchestrates and times everything perfectly.

Not only did this athlete stand with her and work with us to help calm her anxiety as they made their way to the start of the corral, but he was fully prepared to complete the whole ocean swim right next to her. As they took off from the start line into the water, she bolted like lightning across the sand and into the water for the start of the swim. The conditions of the swim were tough as the water was rough and choppy, but she gave it her all. As she came out of the water and ran into transition, she was beaming from ear to ear.

Mental tenacity is the quality of never giving up, the continual persistence in reaching and working towards a goal. What we must realize is we never reach our goals solely on our own, any of them. We cannot do it all on our own and we were not designed to work that way. It’s the people, the support, the encouragement, the knowledge base, the understanding, all the little things you receive along the way that provide for this remarkable character trait, allowing you to tap into it.

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and have good courage; do not be afraid or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Our help comes from the Lord and He gives us everything we need to run the race with endurance. He provides strength through connection with Him and connection with others. He is the author and perfector of our faith. In those moments of our greatest fear, our greatest weakness, or even our greatest letdowns, He gives us exactly what we need to make it through. When we make it to the other side, our faith and relationship with Him is strengthened and deepened.

Several weeks after the event, the AME athlete who started the race with our junior athlete shared with me when he started that season, he was wondering his why. This experience with our junior athlete, her nervousness to start, seeing her smiling ear to ear on the bike and then fly by him in the final stretch of the race just before the finish line, helped give him exactly what he needed to finish the season hungry and coming back for more. In his support and encouragement in helping her finish the race that day, he was given so much more in return. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be put in your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you, Luke 6:38.

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