Reflections from a 70.3 Ironman: Trust the Training

Reflections from a 70.3 IronmanAlong the course, the supporters are great. You’ll hear cheers from strangers. Words of encouragement are shouted. Volunteers at aid stations provide physical relief with water and ice. Additionally, you will see signs along the way. Some signs are posted in the ground while others are held by fans, family, and supporters. Of all the signs, there was one sign that stood out. The sign simply read, “Trust the Training.”

Why such a sign?

As a first timer, one reason I needed to see that is because I didn’t know if I had done enough before the race. Sure, I followed a training plan, sought advice from coaches, and talked with others who had completed the race, but I still had the lingering question in the back of my mind, “Am I really ready?”

My goal was to finish in about 6 hours and 30 minutes, but really, I just wanted to finish. I knew I could do each of the three parts of the event, but doing them back to back to back was something I had never done. I wondered if I was truly ready. Before the race, I knew all the training would be put to the test. The hour had come. Would the training come through? Would it all pay off? Could I complete the course?

Others who had completed a triathlon of this distance before knew they could complete the course, but they still had possible lingering doubts. Did they train enough to make their goal? Would all their hard work of preparation pay off when things got tough? Could they bike the hills fast enough? Would they have to walk the hills? Whatever it was, the unknown future was approaching.

Beginner or expert, both needed to take in the message, “Trust the training.” But why trust? It is because of the unknown future. No one knew exactly how hard things were going to get or how painful things may become. Nobody knew what time they would have. Even with goals, was their training enough? That’s why I needed to hear my wife tell me the night before, “You’re ready. Don’t worry. You’ve put in all the time and effort. You’re ready.” In other words, “Trust the training.”

All who competed put in hours of training each and every week for months leading up the event. It included early mornings, late nights, cold days, and sweaty evenings. Multiple hour workouts when no one was around was the norm for months. There were nutrition adjustments, schedule adjustments, family adjustments, and work adjustments. Enormous amounts of effort were needed to prepare for the event. Equipment had to be purchased and coaching conversations had to happen. All this was part of the training. But the question remained the same, “Am I ready? Did I prepare enough?”

This question is unique to the athlete, not his or her coach. It is not the coach who personally asks this question, “Am I ready?” but the athlete. The coach will instruct the athlete, but he cannot perform for the athlete.

The athlete who does trust, tries. He gets in the water and doesn’t give up. He gets on his bike and pedals hard for hours. He puts shoes on his tired legs and runs with burning muscles. The athlete who trusts the training will give it all he has. He believes that all the months of individual, cheerless workouts will finally pay off, getting him across the finish line.

I trusted the training. I finished. My wife was right; I was ready.

I was ready because I followed a training plan, but it wasn’t my own. It was designed by a seasoned triathlete, someone who had run the race before me. He knew what it would take and how to prepare the athlete so he designed a plan, that if followed, would get the athlete across the finish line, accomplishing his or her goal.

In all areas of life, that’s why the Christian can trust not just the training, but the Trainer. The Christian knows there is only one Trainer: God. He sent His son Jesus ahead to run the race before us. Jesus knows the tests, challenges, trials, pain, and suffering that is faced in life because He has already run that race.

God trains us in life. He allows and plans events and circumstances in life in order to train us. He puts us in situations so that we will be ready. He did that in the Old Testament for David. David killed bears and lions before killing Goliath. God trained David so that when Goliath was in front of him, he was ready. God did that in the Old Testament for Esther. Esther was given a place of privilege as queen and a relationship with Mordecai as preparation. That is why she was in that place “for such a time as this.” God prepares His people. God trains His people. The day Peter went from fisherman to follower, he had no idea he would one day be leader of the church.

Recently, we found out a close family friend was diagnosed with a serious illness. It was heartbreaking news. Both the husband and wife have spent years in ministry, reading the Bible, and are formally, theologically trained. As I thought about the message, “Trust the Training” and their situation, I thought, “This is what all those years of seminary have trained you for. All those years of Bible and theology have trained you for this moment.” My triathlon is nothing compared to the road they will now walk, but the message is the same. My wife and I will be cheering them along and encouraging them. We know they are ready. They can trust the training. They can trust the Trainer.

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