Lisa Tilstra via Crowdrise
October 05, 2015
BENEFITING: JESUS FOR ASIA INC
EVENT DATE: Sep 27, 2015
“So… why are you doing an IronMan?”
I’ve been asked this question a lot in the past few months. The feelings accompanying the question range from admiration to something that feels like disdain. My mom (love you, Mom!) is supportive while simultaneously saying, “I don’t know why you want to do that.”
And now that I’m staring at Race Day two weeks away, freaking out one minute, feeling excited and fit the next, I want to share the series of events that have brought me to this place.
It started 10 years ago. In fact, October 2015, marks the 10-year anniversary of my first triathlon — I was the runner on a relay team.
Another, and more pertinent 10-year anniversary happened this past February— the anniversary of Eric Hope’s death. In the months following Eric’s passing, I began trail running with my Great Dane. I had never enjoyed running, but somehow I found satisfaction in this exercise I previously loathed.
After running a few 5k’s and 5-milers, I was talking to my friend, Tag, and remember him saying, “It’s amazing what the human body can do.” He was referring to a friend training for a desert ultra-marathon.
That phrase stuck with me when I ran my first half-marathon. I hit the proverbial wall at mile 11 and somehow ran (ever so slowly) through it so that when I passed the split where full marathoners went left and half-marathoners turned right to the finish line, I thought, “I could do the whole thing!”
Now here I am, in the final days of training for the Chattanooga IronMan Triathlon, the mack daddy of triathlons… IronMan.
So, why the IronMan? Why now?
While Eric and I were going through the experience of his brain tumor and life-as-we-knew-it disappearing before our eyes, I was challenged emotionally in ways I never expected to be and never would’ve thought I could handle.
Somehow after he was gone, I found comfort in pushing myself physically in ways I never expected, in ways I never would’ve thought I could handle.
This year is special. A decade has passed since Eric left us, a decade since I began this crazy little thing called triathlon. I’m 39 years old… the same age Eric was when he died.
All of the memories somehow meld together in my mind and create an energy and passion to push myself physically, to be in better shape than I’ve ever been, to complete a physical challenge that symbolizes the emotional challenge.
Two weeks ago my training included a ‘Super Training Day.’ Starting at 6am, I swam for an hour and 40 minutes, pedaled on my bike trainer for 5 hours, and ran 2 ½ hours on the treadmill. If I could do this, my coach said, the race would be easy!
Four hours into the cycling, my legs were heavy and burning. My mind felt as fatigued as my body. Ok, I thought, what am I going to do to push through this?
And that’s when I felt his hand stroking my hair….
Just about a week before Eric died, we had a particularly rough day. At this point in time, Eric needed assistance with all his self-care and mobility. Eric was awake and alert in the morning so it seemed like a good day to help him shower. He tired quickly, however, and while helping him out of the shower, we both almost fell.
It scared me.
I began to worry about what would happen if I couldn’t take care of Eric anymore. My sister had just spent a month with us, I couldn’t ask her to come back. What would I do?
I felt alone and scared.
I helped Eric back into bed and laid my head on his chest and cried. And I felt his hand… stroking my hair. Eric couldn’t talk to me, he didn’t have the strength to hug me, but he stroked my hair. He comforted me the only way he could. And somehow I knew it would be ok.
He died a week later.
I can’t fully explain all the connections, but when I felt like I couldn’t go any further on the bike (and later, the run) during my Super Training Day, I felt Eric’s hand stroking my hair. And I knew it would be ok.
I’m going to complete the Chattanooga Ironman on September 27, 2015. Chattanooga was Eric’s home town. I have friends and family there. It’s meant to be this year. My race will be for Eric. To honor his heart and spirit that lives on in me, in his family, in his friends.
I’ve invested a lot of money in this race and the process of training. I’ve invested in a triathlon coach (best decision, btw!), purchased a triathlon bike, and am flying to the US from Saudi Arabia… all for this crazy race.
But it’s not just a crazy race for me. I hope you can sense why it represents so much more than just an event and miles covered.
One of the greatest lessons Eric taught me was generosity. I’ve been blessed a thousand times over by the generosity of others and have been astounded at how far a single dollar can go in certain places in the world.
Another 10 year anniversary is coming up in December… my first trip to a developing country — Cambodia. A piece of my heart was left in that country at an orphanage and school, called Wat Preah Yesu.
I’ve sent donations there ever since and I’d like to invite you to give too. I’ll be so grateful for your support of my race. It’s crazy how psychological something like this is. Just knowing people care enough to give $10, will give me an extra ounce of energy when I need it on race day.
I’d like to raise $2015. Pick an amount that means something to you.
Give to represent a memory of someone in your life who is no longer with you. Give $10 to represent the10 year anniversary of so many life-changing events. Give $39 to represent mine and Eric’s years on this earth. Give $140.60 to represent the miles I’ll cover during the race. Give $1 just to let me know you’ve read this and will be thinking of me.
I’m deeply grateful and forever humbled by friends around the globe. I’ll be thinking of you on race day. I’ll be thinking of Eric.
And when my body is drained and weary, I’ll remember that the human body — and the human spirit — can do amazing things. Thank you.
*Note: Jesus For Asia is an umbrella company that will send all funds raised to Wat Preah Yesu in Siem Reap, Cambodia