Race fearlessly...two words that when put together have become a powerful mantra for me over the last few years. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have repeated these two words...in my head...verbally...written by hand...to help get me through moments in my life. Those of you who know me know that I love to run (I mean hello...it's in the name...vegangirlontheRUN) and compete in races year round. Yes, while I repeat this mantra while competing, it goes way beyond racing in the traditional sense. I apply it daily to this beautiful mess called life.
We live in a very broken world that offers so many opportunities to be afraid of something at some point; however, as a Christian woman, I also know that God reminds us continuously throughout His word to not be afraid. It's not always easy, but I'm learning to let myself fully submit to Him and trust that He will get me through whatever it is that I may be struggling with. You see, fear and faith, also known as trust, are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. You can't live in fear and expect faith to thrive. They don't coincide well. Psalm 56:3 tells us, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." God can cast out fear, if we surrender to Him.
This year, particularly this summer, has definitely been a rough one for me with more moments of fear than I would like to admit to. Unless you have been living under a rock, we all know that 2020 has been a doozie of a year. It's been the year of the 'rona and has taken it's toll on everyone in some way shape or form. We are all in a sense in the same boat; however, we have all been presented with different challenges while on that boat. While, I don't care to give all of the details, I have always strived to be raw, open, and honest with my blog. Writing has always been a bit of therapy for me so I felt very compelled to write and give myself a bit of a release...I think I've earned it.
Earlier this summer, I found out that there was a good chance that I had cancer. As a young, healthy, fit woman, this is the last thing I ever expected to hear. Don't get me wrong, I know cancer doesn't discriminate, but hopefully you get my point. When I heard the word "cancer", it was like my world stopped for a moment. Y'all, I broke down and cried. It was not pretty. I cried ugly. My doctor (who knows I believe in God...goodness I'm so grateful for her faith as well) pulled me together and said that she (with God's mighty help and guidance) was going to get me through all of this. She assured me that I did nothing to cause it and that I was going to pull through this and then she said IT..."don't be afraid." Not an easy feat at the time, but I did my best.
From here started a whole lineup of appointments, procedures (painful ones), tears, trusting despite my fears (y'all it's not easy to live both in fear and trust... I quickly learned that) and slowly over a couple of months loosening the reins to those fears because quite frankly it was the only way I was able to get through that time. Don't judge this, but I'm human and somedays I let fear get the best of me. After these procedures, we discovered that I did in fact have cancer cells in my body...to what extent we were not fully sure so it required a big surgery. My doctor was fairly confident that we caught it early and since the type of cancer I was dealing with is traditionally slow spreading, we had both of these things on our side. While it wasn't guaranteed, the surgery did have a decent percent chance of us being able to remove all of the cancer knowing we would have to remove quite a bit of my good tissue to try and get everything out. From there, it would all get sent to pathology to see how aggressive it was.
A little over 4, almost 5, weeks ago was surgery day and let me tell you those two weeks of waiting to find out the results were hands down some of the longest weeks of my life. That coupled with the fact that recovery (which took 3, almost 4 weeks for me) was much more intense and painful than I expected it to be made it a rough summer for me. This time of waiting was full of lots of my "race fearlessly" mantra...on repeat! Results finally came back showing that the cancer was much more aggressive that was originally expected; however, they feel that they are confident that they were able to remove it all. I have been declared cancer free. God is so good and I'm can't thank Him (or my doctor) enough for pulling me through this. I truly believe that as believers, God will speak to you. He does this through His word, through other believers, and to our hearts (call it conscience if you want.) God placed me with a faithful woman through my doctor and she was a huge part of helping me through this. My family too, especially my mom and daddy, were essential to me during this time...I will be forever grateful.
So, I'd love to leave y'all with another good moment that has come of this crazy 'rona year. This brings me to my latest race with a quick recap. Quite frankly, it was my first "real" non virtual race this year and it couldn't have come at a better time for me mentally. Just over two and half weeks ago (note: this was 2.5 weeks post surgery) I got a message from my dear friend Anthony asking how I was feeling (he was one of the few other than immediate family who knew about my cancer situation and my surgery) and if I was up to a triathlon...FOR THAT WEEKEND. My first reaction in my mind (typical of me of course) was a big YES...but then I was immediately brought back to reality because I was still recovering from surgery. My training had been pretty much non-existent for the three weeks prior (bc of my surgery) and even then I hadn't really biked in over a month and definitely hadn't swam in a while. All of this sounded like it could be a recipe for disaster and a horrible performance on race day, but I know my body well and knew that I could gut it out so I said yes...what can I say, I may be just a TAD stubborn.
I had less than a week to "train" so I got in a swim and a bike ride and a few easy runs and hoped for the best. To be honest though, I could care less how I performed...I had just found out days prior the results from the surgery and I was just so grateful to be doing something I loved. With as aggressive as the cancer they removed was, my doctor said had I waited possibly another year before getting checked out that I would have been in a much different situation. I get to continue in this marathon "race" of life...not everyone gets that opportunity. I was very much looking forward to the pain, hurt, burning legs and lungs that this race would gift to me...a privilege I will never take for granted. I was ready to race fearlessly.
The triathlon I competed in was a sprint tri located in New Braunfels, Texas...known as the Wurst Tri Ever. As the name of the race (Wurst) suggests, New Braunfels is town with lots of German influence. The swim consisted of a 300 meter (quite frankly, I think it was a bit longer) swim, a very hilly 12.7 mile bike ride, and 2.7 mile run. The swim portion is quite interesting with this race as you do the first 150 meters in a spring fed pool...aka, it's super cold...and then you get out and do a decent length walk (well, you are supposed to walk...but let's be honest...we all did more of a wog) to a nearby Olympic pool (much warmer water...thank God...I can't stand being cold lol) to finish the remainder of the swim portion. From there you went to transition 1 to prepare for the bike portion. If you have ever done this race or done some cycling in New Braunfels and you know about California Blvd then YOU KNOW. It is a hill like no other...proud to say that I actually rode it because so many of the athletes that day had to walk up that hill with their bike. It was brutal...just keeping it honest. (side note: I just learned this summer how to ride a triathlon bike and how to use the special cycling shoes...I am so so new to this sport of triathlon and let me tell you...I know I have so much room to grow and improve on the bike...but riding a triathlon bike provides an adrenaline rush for me...it's a bit scary and completely puts me out of my comfort zone and that's one thing I love about it) So, 12.7 hilly miles later and I was back at transition 2 to get ready for my run...my favorite part and strongest discipline. I went out of that transition with heavy legs and feeling like I was running in slow motion, but was able to pull of a 6:47 mi/mile average pace for the 2.7 miles. I was very happy with that pace : ).
I completely surprised myself that day and performed much better than I expected to do. I repeated my mantra over and over again through that race and was just so grateful to be doing something I love. I am an athlete and adore the spirit of competition and seeing how much my body can handle. My face had a smile for majority of that race and I thanked God multiple times throughout for His goodness. Despite everything going against me going into this race, I pulled off an overall 2nd place women's finisher, 25th overall between men and women, and first place in my age group...completely blew myself away and loved every bit of the pain, discomfort, burn that I felt that day. God is good...my body is able...and I am grateful.
So, I leave you with this. Fear can take on so many different personalities in our lives and it can be crippling. At the end of the day if we succumb to it, it causes us to trust and rely on things other than the One we should be trusting and relying upon. God's continuous commands to not be afraid should help remind us that because of Jesus, we have nothing in this world worth fearing. Trust God and put your full faith in Him and He will fill you with a peace you have never known.