David had trained for over a year. He was in the best shape of his life. A second attempt at the Kona Hawaii Ironman was approaching and he planned on placing in his age group at the World Championships. This had been a life-long goal of his, and months of training from 3:00am to 8:00am were paying off.
At the time we had five daughters, and Daly Kay was nine. The race coincided with our 10 year anniversary, so we planned a vacation to Hawaii which would commence with the race.
Race day finally came. Nothing beats the Kona Ironman World Championships for drama, beauty, or pomp and circumstance. David came out in record time (for him!) on the 1.5 mile swim. The girls and I were in our matching t-shirts that cheered on Daddy, Uncle John, and Grampa as they were all competing that day. Excited to see him come out ahead on the swim, we followed him from spot to spot on the 112 mile bike, and when he finished, he was still in the hunt for the lead of his age group. The girls and I saw him at the one mile mark for the 26.2 mile run.
It was now 1:00PM and blazing hot. We made our way to the six mile mark figuring on about 40 minutes for him to get there. My plan was to see him at the six mile mark, go to the hotel and put the girls down for a nap, and then come back in time for the finish. I hadn’t fed them lunch yet, so not only were they sunburned and thirsty, they were starving.
1:40pm came and went.
2:15pm and I am getting nervous. Three o’clock and I am terrified…I calm myself knowing that at least I know he is safely off the bike, worst case scenario all he has to do is stop running.
3:45pm…and way off in the distance, Bliss spots him! “THERE’S DADDY!”she screams as she, Daly, and Ryli go running down the road to a walking, slumped over David about 500 feet away. I am calling to them while trying desperately to push my double stroller through a thick crowd of onlookers.
David looks like he has been beaten. “My nutrition was past date. I ate it and it felt crystalized in my mouth…but I swallowed it before I even realized the problem, I was so hungry. I’ve been throwing up for the last five miles.”
The heat emanating from the black lava covered roads was like standing in an oven. The girls were practically holding him up as I tried to convince him that he should quit. This was past a competition…his health was seriously at stake.
“I won’t quit. I’ll be fine. I can sit if I need to. I was so far ahead, I have plenty of time to finish the run before the cut-off. I’ll finish. I’m ok.”
The girls took one glance at me and then said, “You can do it, Daddy! You can catch them!”
As he hobbled off, I cried all the way back to the hotel. He had worked so hard, for so long...and the one little thing that stood between him and an amazing accomplishment had been some stupid pack of Gu.
At 9:00PM, we all ran the final half mile of the race down the finisher’s shoot with him. Super human strength and excitement took over as he carried Kemper and Glory the entire way! After the finish, he spent an hour in the medical tent recovering with IV fluids and massage. And we enjoyed a phenomenal vacation that was much needed and celebrated all God had done in our 10 years together.
But something unexpected came from that less than ideal race. Something switched in the minds of our children who witnessed their father’s physical infirmity yet perseverance to finish what had become an impossible challenge.
They learned that day to never quit.
Never give up.
Physically, spiritually, educationally, financially, emotionally, personally…never, never, never quit.
They have used that race as an example hundreds of times.
And even though it did not turn out nearly how David had hoped…the result is something far better than if he had even won his age group that day. His tenacity and endurance was a landmark in our family’s history. Plenty of times my kids have crashed in a race, felt like a bag of lead weights, or just flat out WANTED to stop. But they remember their dad. They remember how hurt he was and still finished.
Moms and Dads, we can go through some tough times. Things can change in a minute. The purpose of these trials is to grow our faith and perseverance, but also so that our children can grow from them too. David and I have made mistakes over the last 20 years together, to be sure. But dangit, if I’m gonna have to walk through the consequences of my mistakes, then I will MAKE SURE my kids LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, and don’t go on to repeat them in the next generation.
[bctt tweet=”The purpose of these trials is to grow our faith and perseverance”]
This Ironman competition is just one such example. Consider the age of your children, and carefully consider letting them walk WITH you through your challenges in life. Don’t hide everything from them. Let them in on it. Let them see how faithful your God is. Let them observe how you endured. Persevered. Learned. Prayed. And received strength and answers. That way, when their time comes as adults, they will have shared in your testimony, and their faith will stand on the shoulders of all you taught them and be better, stronger, and fuller.