I was 1.2 miles into the first of two laps on the bicycle course in downtown Austin’s “Capital of Texas Triathlon.” My first race ever, let alone a triathlon. Now, before you go thinking that I’m some kind of “Ironmom” multi-sport athlete, let me assure you that Heather, my daughter-in-law, is the hero in this scene. An experienced swimmer and runner, she had invited me to bike on a relay team with her. We signed up for the short-distance “Sprint” race and I trained as well as I could.
Anyway, that’s how I found myself cycling up Congress Avenue from the Colorado River toward the Texas State capitol building, which I’m sure would have been an impressive sight if I had not been too busy to notice it. My self-coaching (first sentence above) kicked in where the route went around the building on 11th Street. All along the course, whether climbing, descending or flat, I noticed two things:
1) Lots of people passed me.
2) I passed lots of people.
Normally, being passed makes me feel inadequate, while passing other riders (especially younger men) makes me feel like a hotshot. So, most of my mass-start rides amount to a self-esteem roller-coaster.
The thing about a triathlon like this one is that there is no mass start. Everyone starts in “waves” alongside only the people in their distance and age or ability group. Once the first few waves of swimmers are away, no one can tell who started when. By the time the relay teams started swimming (Last category, thanks), all the Olympic-distance people were probably already out on the bike course. They did four laps on the course as opposed to my two. And, when I first rode across the river, plenty of people had done their biking and were already into the running course.
So, some of the people who passed me were experienced racers. I had nothing to be ashamed of.
And I’m sure that some of the people I passed at 1.2 miles had already done the long swim plus 14 miles on the bike. They were probably just catching a quick break, while I was still warming up. I had nothing to brag about. I passed one woman who pedaled along using two prosthetic legs. Clearly, I had nothing whatsoever to brag about.
We were all together on the same course, doing the same activity. And yet, we were not really in the same race. That is, I wasn’t competing with the Tarzans or the people with the aero bars and $600 helmets. We had started different distances at different times. Just from looking, no one could tell how far an athlete had come, or how far they had yet to go.
Talk about taking the pressure off! I just rode my best and didn’t worry about trying to keep up with anyone else. Those comparisons were simply not relevant.
Heather and I talked about these things as we fought our way through the post-event traffic. Later, I recalled something that Jesus had said about comparisons. First he had told Peter, to paraphrase loosely, “You’re going to be martyred, my friend. So. Follow me.”
Understandably, Peter became uncomfortable and looked around for someone else to focus on. He tried to get Jesus to make a prediction about his buddy John, too. But Jesus wouldn’t even give him a hint, just a non-answer ending in a question. “What is that to you?” he asked Peter. “You follow me.”
Peter and John were not competing against each other, so they had no need to compare themselves to each other. John’s future was irrelevant to Peter’s calling. Like the triathletes in Austin, both men came in with different tasks and faced different challenges. God would use both of them, in different ways, to invite people into his kingdom. He alone knew which would finish his tasks first. He alone knew just when and how each would go home to heaven.
Where is my ultimate finish line compared to yours? I don’t know; but then, what is that to me? He just wants me to follow him.
And leave the comparisons back at the start line.
Thanks for reading!
PS: You are invited to hop over to Rachel Anne’s blog party and meet the Company Girls!
Also, visit Jen and the Soli Deo Gloria sisters as we share our questions and stories.