Last August, as I was journaling in my triathlon journal and looking at where I’ve been in the sport and wondering where should I go, God laid it on my heart to set a goal to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships held in Clearwater, Fl. each November.
70.3 WC is the equivalent of the Hawaiian Ironman WC held each year in Kona, HI. and watched by millions on TV each year, for the 1/2 ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run = 70.3 miles). The ONLY way to get to 70.3 WC is to win a slot. You can’t just pay to play. You must win a slot.
So, this was a huge goal. I could see glimmers of my improvements in biking and especially swimming. But I knew my running was soft. I agreed that I would train, pursue and believe for an opportunity to qualify for 70.3 WC. Over the months, I was honest and told people of my goals. Most were very polite. I explained that I would need a roll down, but that I was pursuing, believing and expecting to go. This is a big deal in triathlon because many people try to get a WC slot for many, many races before getting one if ever.
My first race that I entered with this goal in mind was Buffalo Springs 70.3. At the time of registration I had to decide if I wanted to go to the awards ceremony and if so, purchase a dinner ticket for Robert. On faith, I purchased that dinner ticket.
Recently, I was taking to a veteran in our sport. A man I deeply respect as an athlete. He told me all about the course. Literally scared me to death. Warned me that the athletes were fast. Told me to get race wheels on my bike. Then, he asked me, “what do you hope to do in Buffalo Springs?”. It was a moment of truth. I didn’t want to tell him I wanted to qualify. I wanted to tell him, I just wanted to do well. But, the Holy Spirit said, “tell him the truth”. So I did. And yes, he basically told me I was insane and wished me luck. I told him I needed a little roll down help. Not sure he heard. Well, that was an uplifting conversation..not. But, I was true to God, the dream He placed inside of me and I was pleased with how brave I was in that regard.
Now, Buffalo Springs is a tough course and many very good athletes show up to compete there because it is the ONLY 70.3 that offers both Ironman WC and 70.3 WC slots. So, I would be competing with a lot of very fast women.
I trained hard and planned my race. As I was preparing mentally for this race, the word that came to me over and over and over was ANTICIPATION. If it went perfect I could finish in 5:38 and not as good would be 6:00. My hope, plan, prayer was that I would get in the top 10. In 2009 the 10th place woman in my age group won a slot.
I raced this past Sunday and finished in 6:04, placed 18th in my age group out of 33 women. Not exactly the ranking I thought I’d need to have a chance at getting a slot. But, I have a big God..a big God. Perhaps this wasn’t the race He wanted me to qualify at; but perhaps it was. Robert and I debated even going to the awards ceremony. But we decided it was an act of faith to go. So, Robert and my friends, the Dixons and I all went to the awards ceremony.
We watched all the male age groups first. We learned how the “roll down” works.
Buffalo Springs has 28 Ironman and 50 70.3 slots to give away. Each age group is awarded a certain number of slots based on % of athletes to the total number of athletes entered. So, in some of the larger men’s age groups they would get 1 slot to Ironman WC and 2-4 slots to 70.3 WC. We watched as the top 6 finishers in each age group went to the stage and were offered slots. The first place person was offered the Ironman slot – they usually took it. After that the first 70.3 slot was offered and if the 2nd place finisher didn’t want to go, it would roll down until someone took a slot. Often, the guys on stage would say no. Why? Expensive to go or they had already won a slot in a prior race.
I was encouraged to see how the roll down worked! I began to be hopeful, cautiously hopeful.
Time for the women to get their awards. Just like the men, we see a lot of roll down. I’m less cautiously hopeful. We get to my age group, women 45-49. The announcer says there is one slot to IM and 2 slots to 70.3! That’s one more slot than I thought my age group would get to 70.3 WC!! Again, my hope is increasing and of course, my hope is all in God!!
The first place woman takes the Ironman WC slot. Then the 2nd place through the 6th place women ALL say no to 70.3 WC slot. I’m getting more hopeful.
The announcer calls out a few more names and finally a woman stands up and takes 1 of 2 slots. The announcer calls a couple more names. No one is present. You must be present to get the slot AND you must pay the entry fee that night.
Well, the announcer moves on to the next age group..but wait..there is still one more slot in MY age group. Hmmm…what to do. I ask a guy behind me how this works when there is a slot available but not given out. He’s not sure. Then I see a woman I recognize but don’t know. I know she’s been around the sport quite successfully for a while. So I go up to her and her husband and ask about the slot in my age group. With total confidence, her husband tells me, ” Go up there and tell the announcer there’s a slot, you want it and to call out names until she gets to you. She has to do that.”
Armed with this information and infected by his confidence I go up to the announcer. Tell her I’m in the 45-49 age group and there’s a 70.3 WC slot left and that I’d like to go. She looks at me, smiles and says, “Yes, Maam”. Then she pulls her sheet listing names in my age group. She rattles of a couple, then a couple more. I’m now a little embarassed that she has to call so many..but whatever. Then she calls my name. I raise both arms and say, “I want to go”. The guy hands me the slot and the announcer woman is smiling huge at me.
I am in shock. I am so thrilled. I did my part – trained hard and race hard. God did his part – 17 women either didn’t show up or didn’t want to go..so that I could go!!
Often it is so hard to keep pursuing and believing where God is leading you. You can’t fathom where you are going, why you are going, how you are going to get there. That’s faith right? But, I sincerely and with confidence encourage you to listen to where God is guiding you. Don’t expect to understand or figure it out. Just follow. Just do what you can do and leave the rest in His hands.
In my race prep report I wrote that I knew God would show up and that when He did, it would be exciting. Well, He did show up. He did do His part.
There’s a verse in Psalms that says, “delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I have to say, when the desires in your heart are placed there by God, you can count with full assurance that He will give them to you. You may not know when, you may not know how…but He will.
I can’t tell you why God wanted this for me….perhaps I’ll learn that when I get to Clearwater to race in the 70.3 World Championship on November 13, 2010!! Stay tuned!