Everything in life has a spiritual connection. An affirmation that confirms our belief in God and that He is in control. Confirming a belief that He knows what’s best for each of us and that on His green earth everything has a purpose.
Understanding life is as easy as a lock that needs just a simple key to open but without the key, our belief in God, the door of our understanding stays shut and we never gain the full experience of what life has to offer. Ironman has a tremendous correlation and connection to life and it always confirms my faith in God.
While I crossed the finish line at 10:14 pm after starting my day at 3 am the event started for me over a year ago when I was fortunate enough to obtain a slot in the race. Ironman events are so popular that they fill up a year in advance. Ironman events are open to the public via an online enrollment process that ends the day after the race. Last year over 6,000 people hit the submit button within seconds of each other for about 1,100 slots. So you see I knew I was fortunate when my entry was approved the first time I tried. I have a good friend that is from Wisconsin and has been unsuccessful many years in row trying to get in.
My year 2010 Ironman schedule was set this time last year. I knew I was in for a great season when I would have the privilege to compete in the two hardest Ironman courses in North America; Ironman St. George, Utah (May 1, 2010) and Ironman Madison, Wisconsin (September 12, 2010).
The first spiritual connection for me started after I enrolled last September 2009. It is a privilege to participate in the toughest endurance event in the world. Just a very very small percentage of athletes, both male and female, will ever experience crossing the finish line in an Ironman triathlon. It is amazing to me that God would allow the body to be able to endure the pain of the last 8 miles in this event to finish. But He does and I often think of the great pain the Savior must have endured for each of us in His atoning sacrifice.
Much of this season I’ve tried to improve many aspects of the three events; swimming the 2.4 miles, biking the 112 miles and running a 26.2 mile marathon. While my times in these two Ironman were not my best, my endurance and physical fitness have improved a great deal and without exception these two Ironman triathlons were my most gratifying finishes.
The first connection for me to God was in the area of nutrition. About this time last year I was so focused on improving my health and one area that I felt I had not exposed myself to acting in full faith was in the food I put into my body. I always felt I eat good food but when I drilled down and looked in detail at my nutrition I realized I wasn’t even close to God’s nutrition plan. Let me explain.
As you may know in the bible we are taught that we are made in God’s image. I believe that means we are therefore perfect as He is. If God made us perfect as He is then He would also give us a perfect food system to provide the body fuel it needed daily to stay perfect. Upon that belief I was able to open many doors of understanding. I began to discover that much of the food I was consuming was altered and processed by imperfect men. I started to consume “natural” food that had not been altered and processed. I would not eat anything that was white except cauliflower because white meant all the natural nutrients were missing. I also discovered the tremendous natural food system of Isagenix®.
The results of just eating perfectly were to say the least; phenomenal! Prior to this I had thought I was fit. After eating right I lost 3% more body fat. My lean muscle mass increased and my body weight now is what I weighed when I graduated high school 36 years ago!
Being this fit and healthy allowed me during this Ironman to push through pain that before would have me walking to the finish line. This was a huge milestone for me because before without following the Lord’s nutrition plan, I never really knew if I could run the complete marathon. Now I know that I can!
Once again in this Ironman it was confirmed to me that the reason I participate is to bless other persons lives. Ironman Wisconsin was my 7th finish in four years. My first Ironman was Arizona in April of 2007. After my first Ironman finish I prayed to find out the Lord’s will for my continued participation in the sport of Ironman. I wanted to do more but I’ve learned over the years to first trust the Lord before I depend on my own understanding. Inside I felt a desire to continue but was uncertain if I should. During this reflective time I was inspired to continue to participate however the Lord wanted me to do them as service to others.
When I first heard the voice of the spirit tell me to do them for others I did not know what that meant. I kept asking how on earth would my participation bless other people’s lives? Without knowing the answer then, but acting in faith, I signed up to do my second Ironman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for June of 2008. During my training I felt inspired to dedicate my Ironman to a person that was experiencing challenges.
I approached the person and asked them for permission to dedicate my Ironman to them. I would take a laminated photo of them with me the entire way, just me and them. Little did I understand the impact that would have on that person until after I had crossed the finish line and then witnessed firsthand the positive changes in that person’s life as they were able to conquer their challenges as I had conquered the challenge of Ironman. Now I started to see why God inspired me to continue to be an Ironman triathlete.
I dedicated my participation in Ironman Wisconsin to a special person. This person is such a great person with many wonderful attributes. This person is a beautiful person with so much life to live in happiness and health.
During Ironman Wisconsin on many many occasions I could hear a voice give me words of encouragement as I faced several major challenges. I thought actually that if I had not dedicated the Ironman to this person I might not had made it. I was being served yet I was supposed to be the one serving. I was so grateful that this person was with me the entire way. I just hope and pray that my effort will help this wonderful person overcome obstacles in their life. Truly this person is deserving of the rich blessings of Father in Heaven.
I’ve also discovered that I have the ability to help others obtain great health, as I have, through nutrition. The shear fact that I’ve completed multiple Ironman triathlons lends credibility and opens up the doors for me to teach others what I believe to be the Lord’s nutrition plan.
I only hope that as I continue to exercise faith and participate in Ironman triathlon that the Lord continues to bless others lives in new ways.
The third connection to God’s plan was in staying in control of my emotions when Plan A failed and I had to rely on Plan B.
The 2.4 mile swim went without a problem. I had worked on my stroke a lot in preparation and felt I could actually break the 1:20 mark. The first half a mile is where I think I may have fell short of my goal and I finished in 1:25. There are about 500 more athletes allowed in Ironman over a year ago which means there are that many more bodies to shove in the same amount of space. It’s like trying to heard more cattle through the same size shoot. Some cows are going to get squished. I was in the middle of at least four swimmers the entire first half mile; one in front, back, and both sides. I would work my way around or through one of them only to find myself next to someone else. It is more difficult to get the long smooth stroke I had worked so hard to perfect when you have to constantly sight; lifting your eyes out of the water to see where you’re going. Each time you lift your head up you slow down because your butt and legs drop and that creates more drag and slowing swimming.
As always when I finish the swim portion I’m so relieved. Just to be out of the wet suit and on dry ground is a blessing. I’ve never like confined spaces ever since I went spelunking (hiking and crawling in caves) as a Boy Scout leader. I much prefer the vast openness. That’s probably why I love the high desert of Nevada. I can see miles in front of me and the sky is always blue and endless.
The transition length between the swim and bike course was the longest of any prior Ironman. I ran up a helix to the third floor of the center. My transition time was 15 minutes which is about 6 minutes longer than normal.
Finally I was on my bike.
I knew going into Ironman Wisconsin that the bike course was challenging. There are so many rolling hills through some beautiful country (see photos). You had to constantly be shifting gears to either go faster down the hills or slower up to the hills to conserve energy. Many of the downhills had sharp turns at their bottoms so I had to go slower down the hills in order to make the turn safely and then having to stand to begin to build speed after them. Many times after a sharp turn you had to begin to climb again.
My goal on the bike course was to take it easy and conserve energy for the marathon. The past six Ironman triathlons I had made the mistake about 80% of the age groupers (non-professional triathletes) make and went too hard on the bike only to suffer through the marathon. I felt confident going in with my bike endurance. I had had a one-on-one coaching session with six-time world Ironman Champion Mark Allen and learned how I needed to train and race the bike portion in order to have a good marathon. I knew precisely what energy output I needed to accomplish my goal by keeping my heart rate between 120-127 beats per minute.
This is where Plan A failed and I had to switch to Plan B.
About mile 16 of the 112 mile bike portion I was riding over some rough road which caused my heart rate computer to pop off my bike. When I looked down to check my heart rate and realized my monitor was gone I had to make a choice. I stopped and turned around and rode backwards against a constant stream of other athletes to see if I could find it. After riding about a mile backwards with no success I turned around and went forward. I now had to rely on how my body felt to determine my pace and energy output. I had practiced what a 127 bpm heart rate had felt like in practice but never did I believe I would have to rely on that feeling and especially for 96 miles of rolling challenging hills.
It took me several miles to get comfortable with the fact that I did not have one of the most important pieces of equipment with me anymore. I said a prayer and asked the Lord to bless me with the discernment I needed to monitor my energy output.
He did bless me. I also had my supportive friend with me to offer words of encouragement. I knew then that I could do this.
I finished the bike 15 minutes over my goal of 7 hours. I rode back into town as it was approaching 4 pm. My bike to run transition was good and I began the official marathon course.
I’m so amazed at the professional athletes in Ironman. The men pros had already finished the marathon before I had even started. The lead female pro and I had passed each other during the first mile of my run. She was finishing and I was just getting started.
I felt great as I started the marathon. My pace was solid and heart rate exactly in a comfortable zone. The run course at Ironman Wisconsin is by far the best I’ve ever ran. It winds through the campus of the University of Wisconsin. It also includes a lap on the football field, Camp Randle (see photo), where only the day before I watched the Badgers defeat San Jose State. After running around the far cone I turned back onto the field itself and pretended I was going 100 yards for a touchdown. I joked with the volunteers that I had just scored a touchdown and did a Heisman Trophy pose for them. We all laughed. You need moments like this to keep your mind from thinking about the pain.
That’s another one of God’s connection. When we focus on others, as I was trying to do with the volunteers and the person I had dedicated my race to, my mind did not recognize how uncomfortable I was. It is only when we start to focus on ourselves that we encounter the pain; not only in our body but in our lives as well.
At the 6.5 mile turn around of the two lap 13 mile course I started to feel the affects of an injury I had sustained just 8 days before the Ironman when I crashed on my bike on my final training ride of over four months of training. My lower back and groin were beginning to really stiffen up and start to have the injury kind of pain. I knew something was going on. I was now starting to run much slower because my stride length was shortening and my energy output was greatly increasing as indicated by a now elevated heart rate.
Decision time. I asked myself, do I continue and try and gut it out perhaps risking not being able to finish, or do I begin to run/walk in the hope I recover and increasing my chance of finishing?
I turned to the Lord for the answer. I said a silent prayer as to what I should do. I felt the Lord’s answer. He said for me to do everything that would allow me to finish because the person I was racing for needed me to finish as an example of the importance of not giving up and turning to Him for strength. The Lord’s will for me was actually for the person I had dedicated the Ironman to. I almost started to cry with such a powerful feeling of the spirit. I’ll never forget that feeling as long as I live.
I started to run/walk and by about mile 8 I was down to a walk only.
When you walk in an Ironman, which I’ve had to do on each of the prior six events, you pick up with other walkers and can talk. I found myself talking with several other athletes. A young man from Atlanta named Thomas and I had a delightful conversation for about 3 miles. He was on his second lap and I was on my first lap. During this time I remembered I had extra strength Excedrin with caffeine in my run pouch. I took three of them and continued to walk.
At mile 12 for me and 25 for Thomas we separated. He wanted to run the last mile. After our separation I actually felt pretty good and started to run again. I’ve never been able in a prior Ironman to start to run again after I had started to walk. But this time I could! I was very happy. Once again, I felt the presence of the Lord who was blessing me with all the right training I did prior to the Ironman. I also had a short conversation with my companion that we were going to finish this event by running and not walking! I was pumped because I know how important it will be for this person to realize the ability in their life to “run and not be weary and walk and not faint” as the scripture promises.
I was running slower than I was at the start perhaps because my groin was still stiff but the Excedrin had masked the pain and I felt like I was on a training run. I ran steadily to about mile 23.
During this stretch I once again saw my wife and our friends we were staying with in Madison. That was about mile 18. It is always so uplifting to see family members supporting you during the Ironman. I saw them twice on the bike and twice on the run.
When I had reached mile 23 I was feeling the affects of the lower back and groin pain so I decided to walk/run until near the finish line.
I made my last turn and I could see the finish line and all the many great fans that Madison produced. They were cheering me as I ran the last several hundred yards to the finish. I was giving high fives to the fans and was totally elated that I was finishing my 7th Ironman. Then as all Ironman finishers expect to hear Rick Riley say, “Michael Lantz from Las Vegas, Nevada. You are an Ironman!”
Afterward I expressed my gratitude silently to the Lord I greeted my wife and friends.
Again, I know that my Heavenly Father lives! I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that with Him I can do all things. Ironman is such an extension of God’s plan of happiness for all of us. I’m so fortunate to be able participate in the Ironman triathlon.
It is my hope that you might have felt something as you read my testimony about the Lord and Ironman. If I have unlocked something in you to reach a new potential for you, either spiritually or physically, it would be my honor to help you reach a new plateau in your life.