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  • Writer's pictureAdrea Tilford

Why TRI?

When I turned 40, I decided that I wanted to compete in a race at some point in that year. Last July, my friend Robyn shared that she had signed up for a triathlon. I had always been interested in tri's, but wasn't quite sure they were the right fit for me.

A. I had a deep seeded fear of being in deep water without a life vest

B. I didn't really road bike

When Robyn shared that there was an off-road option for biking and when I successfully swam about 200M thinking it was 750M, I signed up. I had about 5 weeks to prepare for this race. I swam every week and I biked and ran a few times.

(Photo: Robyn made us super fun shirts with superwoman patches on the front and this hilarious message on the back)

The night before the race, we received news that it was cancelled, but we were invited to show up and go through the race without being timed. In the end that is probably one of the greatest gifts God has given me. I "swam" the 750 meters, doggy paddling counts. In that deep water I faced fears that were deeply embedded. Handing the griefrocks I had carried around with me for 40 years to my Jesus who was in that water too. Why did my sister have to die? Did she feel this afraid? Were you with her too?

I exited the swim having exhausted every ounce of my emotional capacity and most of my physical capacity too. As I shakily stepped from the water to land, my sobs were received by the young woman attending the exit and she compassionately encouraged me - "you made it. you are here." I lifted my voice to the heavens. "Yes! I did! I made it. I'm alive!"

(Photo: Robyn and I at the transition area- I had enough energy to take a selfie so that's something)

(Photo: After the race - tiny water cups - smiles - we made it)

And then I finished the race. Biking a much shorter course and runningish. As I ran across the damn that holds the lake in place, I saw my child running toward me. She finished the race alongside me.

I most definitely would have been last place according to the clock, but I left the triathlon that day knowing that I am a champion. A champion for saying yes, for tri-ing my best and for showing my girls that they can do things they aren't great at.

A week later, God used that experience to help me maneuver through another first. My first sermon. Here is a social media post I wrote last year:

“We’ve done the work” was the whisper I received this week as I wondered could I really take the next step in sharing my testimony…

*trigger warning*

I guess that I should have been prepared for the prompting to “go there.”

It’s been 22 years since I first told a friend that someone had sexually abused me as a child. It’s been 22 years of working with a counselor on and off, and it’s been in the last three years that I finally have surrendered this part of my story to Gods healing presence.

Last weekend, when I was afraid of drowning in the middle of the lake, the strength of my mind and the whisper of the spirit flooded my thoughts: “you’ve trained for this. You know you can swim that far because you have done it 4 times in the last month.”

So when I found myself dreading, avoiding and looking for an out after I wrote the words to be spoken aloud on Sunday (as a one sentence mention) in my sermon - so that it might be clear how far God has brought me - I had to get that figured out. Fear is not from God.

And there came the whisper. “You have done this work. You have given it to Me. This is NOT your first time. You can share your story because you have done so many times in the past.”

It’s a different context. Public. People will know I am a survivor. Criticism may come. That is part of speaking and writing. If I remember that my identity is beloved and beautiful daughter, then the lies that held my voice captive for too long can not hold power over me anymore.

I’ve been learning so much. I am trying to live out Gods love for me. And I want to share it because every person who has known harm from choices another person has made deserves to see themselves as beloved and beautiful instead of damaged or broken. Isn’t that all of us?

Isn't it though.

And so in the last year, my life has continued to shift and change. The call on my heart to minister to those who've experienced harm and are longing to recover is getting more clear. This year, I said yes to the triathlon again. I knew I wanted to compete this time, though I have no expectations other than to get a PR (personal record) which is totally doable because it's my first time getting a time.

I worked with a health coach, Lina Warner, at the beginning of the year. My goal was to be able to say yes to the adventures life holds. We set up healthy living and developed healthy patterns to help me prepare for the training I wanted to do earlier this time around. I found a couch to tri program from Women's Running, and I've only missed two workouts in the last eight weeks. I've been running and biking and swimming. I am feeling stronger every week.




As I prepare my champion heart for the completion of this race, I know that God will continue to teach me through this experience. Doing something new is one way to develop our resilience. Saying yes to something we know we will struggle in allows us to learn new ways to overcome struggle. Next Sunday, I'll speak again at First Presbyterian church. Tom Hansen, the pastor had an idea to interview me about how I'm trying to apply the learning from our church's summer sermon series with Ruth Haley Barton's Sacred Rhythms. I'm excited to see what God leads me to share. You can see our initial recorded interview in the on-line service too, and you can plan to see me continuing to say yes. Yes to the adventures that life holds as I continue to get healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually and yes to the calls God places on my life to use my voice and my talents to honor His work in my life.

P.S. Training for a race is much more fun with friends:

Swim Day with Robyn

Biking around the lake

Meet up at the pool with Anne

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