This is a guest post from Andrea R. She is the wife of a wonderfully supportive husband and mother of three little boys aged 5 1/2, 2 1/2, and 6 1/2 months. She served a mission to Chile and received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from BYU. She also teaches Microbiology part time at a local community college and is the 4th Sunday Relief Society teacher. She has recently become a triathlete.When I was a little girl, about 4 or 5, I nearly drowned in the
Growing up, I was about as geeky as you could get ”“ I wore glasses, loved science classes, and I had asthma. PE was torture for me, especially when we had to run. Running was my nemesis because it always seemed like I either had an asthma attack from running or I worked myself up into such a frenzy that I gave myself an asthma attack just by virtue of the fact that we were running in PE. Needless to say I was never much of an athlete growing up.
I found fencing in college, and I loved it ”“ for the first time in my life I was doing something athletic. I felt strong and powerful, and I actually beat the boys! No running was required, but strength, agility, and intelligence (and being left-handed, which I am) gave you an advantage. I fenced for several years, became a nationally ranked fencer and competed in events all over the country. For the first time ever, I felt like an athlete. It was one of the best times of my life.
Then, I met the man who would become my husband, I started graduate school, and I decided it was time to hang up the foil and become an adult. I was so sad to stop fencing, and I still miss it every day. But, I realized you can either be a hard-core fencer, or you can have a life and a family. I chose the latter. Chris was a runner ”“ he had run in 5k’s practically his whole life; he has long legs and lots of stamina. He encouraged me to run with him, and I was a dismal failure. But we ended up running some 5k’s together despite my lack of ability. It was always torture for me. When people talked about a “runner’s high” I just laughed. Running was nothing but pain for me, but I did it because I knew I needed to get some exercise. I tried to hold on to the athleticism I had developed when I was fencing, but life got in the way, so I just tried to stay in some kind of shape.
Fast forward to about 9 months ago: I was pregnant with my third son and sitting in a book group discussion with some close friends. Three of us were pregnant at the time, and one of our friends started telling us about the triathlon that she was going to compete in. It was an all-women sprint triathlon ”“ ½ mile swim, 12 mile bike, and 3 mile run. All of us got really excited about the idea of competing in a triathlon. Each leg of the triathlon seemed entirely doable, so we all committed then and there to do the next one in October. The excitement spread to others, and we ended up with 9 women from our ward who were training for the event.
Six weeks after my son was born via c-section, I headed back to the gym. I hadn’t exactly been in tip-top shape before I got pregnant, so I was kind of starting at ground zero. I worked out a schedule of running, biking, and swimming, but it was hard work, and there were many times when I was so exhausted and sore I didn’t know that I could maintain my training schedule. But the excitement generated by my friends kept me going. When we saw each other in the hallway at church, we talked about the triathlon. When we went to Relief Society and to Enrichment activities together, we talked about the triathlon. When we met each other at the park or in play groups with our kids, we talked about the triathlon. We worked out together, we gave each other tips and ideas that we’d read about and heard about from other people who had done triathlons. It was amazing to feel the sisterhood in that group.
However, there were still some roadblocks in my way. Running was still so hard for me. I participated in a couple of 5k runs in anticipation of the triathlon and I could feel the anxious frenzy of my body when I’d start to breathe heavily. I’d have to stop and walk during the race, and I was so discouraged. I was always sure I was going to have an asthma attack, even though I hadn’t had one in over 10 years. Then, we all decided to try swimming in the lake a few days before the race. Nine women with twelve children (including 4 babies) went down to the lake where the event would be held. We decided to go in two waves so that half of us could watch the kids while the other half swam, and then switch. I was in the second wave, and a few meters out into the lake, I panicked. The water was murky and black, and I couldn’t see my hands in front of me when I went under water. All of a sudden, I was a little girl again who was drowning in the
After talking to my husband and my friends, who were understanding and encouraging, I resolved I was not going to let that lake get the best of me. I had worked too hard for too long to quit now. I realized that fear was getting in the way of my success. I had trained for 4 ½ months ”“ I knew I was physically up to the task, but my fears of having an asthma attack and drowning in the lake were holding me back. That night I spent studying my scriptures, looking up every reference to fear. Here are some of the references I found:
D&C 38:30: “”¦if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”
D&C 6:36: “Look to me in every thought. Doubt not, fear not.”
Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with me, be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
The scripture from Isaiah led me to one of my favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation.” This had always been the hymn that strengthened and calmed me during times of adversity. As I read the fourth verse, the words jumped out at me as they never had before:
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify thee to thy deepest distress.”
I realized that I was going through the deep waters literally as well as figuratively. With this race, I was going through the deep waters of my fears ”“ fear of having an asthma attack on the run, fear of drowning on the swim, fear of failure. I also realized that I needed to face my fears to overcome them, and lean on the Lord. My husband gave me a blessing, I meditated on the scriptures I had read, and I went back out for another lake swim before the race. Verse 4 of “How Firm a Foundation” became my mantra as I swam. I had an image of the Lord’s mighty right hand coming up from the bottom of the lake to buoy me up.
The day of the race came, and I willed myself to be calm. I meditated. I prayed. I breathed deeply. I sang the words of the hymn over and over in my mind. My friends, my sisters, were all there with me, and I felt their strength. We prepared our bikes and headed down to the water. Our families were there to cheer us on. The day was overcast as the horn blew and we went into the water. Dark, choppy water and swimmers surrounded me as I chanted to myself, “when through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow”¦” Suddenly I was to the first marker, then the second, then in the home stretch. My mantra helped me relax and push my stroke forward, and then I was out of the water! As I ran to the transition area to pick up my bike, my heart was filled with gratitude. The Lord had held me up with His mighty right hand.
I completed the bike leg with one of my better biking times, and headed into the run. By now, the adrenalin (and I believe, the Spirit) was coursing through me and I was no longer worried about the run. I knew I had prepared. I knew I could run. And I did. I ran almost the entire course, only stopping to walk a little when I developed a stitch in my side. I crossed the finish line in a sprint with my arms in the air.
Even though I came in last out of my group of friends (but not last in the race!), I had done a huge thing ”“ more than completing a physically demanding triathlon, I had overcome my fears ”“ I had gone through those deep, dark, murky waters of fear and self-doubt with the Lord’s help. The rivers of my fear and sorrow did not overcome me, because He was with me every step of the way. It was an amazing spiritual and physical experience, and I can’t wait for the next one.