Look For the Candles

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. – St. Francis of Assisi

Even though I have run many races, I have participated in only one triathlon, a sprint.

A sprint triathlon has short swimming, biking and running legs. In the race I did, the swimming portion was 300 meters long (six laps in a pool), the biking portion of the race was 16 miles, and the running portion was five kilometers.

It was a decade ago, and going into the race I was far too confident in my abilities, especially in the biking part of the race.

At the time, I was running two or three marathons a year, so running a 5K was no issue. I also swam a mile two or three mornings each week, so a 300-meter swim was not daunting.

The bike, though…ahhh, the bike.

I do not own a road bike. I am scared to ride on the roads because of the traffic I would have to contend with. I have a mountain bike, which I occasionally ride on gravel rail trails.

I rode my mountain bike in the triathlon. I borrowed a bike helmet from a friend the day before the race.

My total preparation for the bicycle part of the race consisted of my husband pumping up the tires (they were flat because the bike was used so infrequently) and then riding to the end of our street and back, a quarter-mile.

Ready!” I foolishly pronounced.

I am happy to report, I was first in my age group for the run, first for the swim.

And dead last for the bike part of the race.

So much time passed when I was out on the bike that my husband, concerned when course marshals began leaving their posts and returning to the race start as most bikers finished, thought I got off course and was hopelessly lost.

I finally did return from the bike race and ran the 5K running portion nearly alone.

It was a humbling experience.

Before that race, I had hopes of running longer triathlons, maybe even working my way up to a half Ironman.

A 1.2-mile swim did not seem unattainable. I was already swimming a mile before school and would only need to bump that up a little bit. The half marathon (13.1 mile) running section was easily in my sights. But the 56-mile bike ride. I couldn’t face that.

A full Ironman was beyond my comprehension. 2.4 miles of swimming, a 112-mile bike ride, followed by running a marathon (26.2 miles)? I couldn’t even imagine it.

I had run several marathons by that time. Before each one, I was careful to stay off my feet as much as possible, hydrate, rest, and fuel up. Miles of swimming and biking before running 26.2 miles was unimaginable.

Anyone who trains for and completes an Ironman has my unmitigated admiration.

Courtesy of Special Olympics

Chris Nikic is a 21-year-old Special Olympian training to be the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a full Ironman.

When Chris was a youngster, he needed a walker to get around. He had open-heart surgery when he was just a baby. He is no stranger to uphill battles or hard work.

In his other aspirations, Chris is not much different than other young men. He tells Runner’s World magazine, “My dream is to buy my own house, buy my own car, [and] get a smoking hot blonde wife from Minnesota.”

Chris says that working harder in life than most people is nothing new, but “it’s being called ‘stupid’ and feeling ‘less than’ by adults and peers that have hurt the most.” The arduous work he has put in for his whole life just to be accepted has helped him prepare for the Ironman, he says.

This Ironman hopeful doesn’t want the attention or acclaim that comes with his unprecedented attempt. Instead, he welcomes the ability to connect with others, to break down barriers Special Olympians typically face.

Chris wants to show he has what it takes, even if he just gets 1% better each month – his training plan.

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

These days, it may seem as though we are going through a very dark time – a worldwide pandemic, an extremely contentious presidential election in the United States, rampant hatred and division, natural disasters, uncertainty, chaos.

But it is amazing how much light one candle emits.

Candles are used in church to represent Christ’s words: “I am the light of the world“. They symbolize Jesus going out among the people.

It’s good to remember to search for candles in dark times, to cup our hands around their faint glow, to protect and promote the illumination they release.

Candles come in many forms, in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Some are showy and some are subtle.

Sometimes they come in the form of a 21-year-old man with Down Syndrome.

Next weekend, Chris Nikic will step into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City in Florida.

If he can swim 2.4 miles, bike for 112 miles, and then run a marathon all in less than 17 hours, he can officially claim the title “Ironman“.

Whether he accomplishes his goal or not, I call him amazing, ground-breaker, courageous, determined.

I call him illuminating, incandescent, a candle.

I hope Chris makes history next weekend. I hope he (eventually) gets the chance to buy his own house and car. I even hope he meets, falls in love with, and marries a smoking hot blonde from Minnesota.

More than anything, I hope Chris’ light shines on, clear and lambent.

We need to look for the candles.

 

You can find the places I link up here.

 

144 comments

  1. OK, I’m hoping you have changed your habits and helmet wearing is mandatory at all times. 70s rock singer Nico Icon was riding her bike on a bike trail going to a Saturday morning farmers market when she fell off her bike, hit her head and died. It happens. I’ve learned a lot about achievement and overcoming disabilities over the past through years. It’s truly something to be celebrated when someone bashes through expectations and does something that almost no one (able or otherwise) can do. I hope he kills the race.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I like people who do the right thing, and work hard to achieve. They are inspirations. They are not the people who blame others for their shortcomings… LeeAnna

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, my goodness . . . thank you so much for introducing me to Chris Nikic. He has my deep admiration. I so hope he wins his Ironman title, but as you point out, it really doesn’t matter if he does or not: he’s a true hero and I am humbled by his example. Pretty sure there’s a smoking hot Minnesota blonde in his future.

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  4. I think finishing an Ironman is amazing even without any handicap.

    Chris is beyond amazing.

    I couldn’t handle the swim or the bike. Lol. I’m stinking to running.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a lovely story Laurie – and an inspiring young man. I can’t even imagine wanting to do a triathalon – let alone an Ironman event. It is beyond my comprehension as to how this can be something anyone would want to do??? But I am still impressed with every person who tackles one – and good on you for pushing through on that long and lonely bike riding component of your first story!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! Thank you, Bev. My biking certainly falls under the “Needs Improvement” category! Chris is an amazing athlete. I hope he gets everything he wishes for. Blessings to you, my friend!

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  6. Chris definitely is a bright light in a dark world, Laurie. But I have to say, I’m really impressed with what you accomplished in that triathlon yourself! Sheesh! I couldn’t make it through any of those segments, much less place first in my age group! You rock, my friend! Keep on keeping on! And let’s all be brighter lights of God’s love in a dark world!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. The bike portion is the reason I won’t consider any type of triathlon! Biking for fun on the rail trail makes me nervous at times if other bikers fly by me or get too close. I can’t imagine racing near others.

    Please post how Chris does, I’m apt forget to check myself and he sounds like an inspiration!

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    • Actually, I was so far behind everyone else, most of the bike part of the race, I completed by myself. I didn’t have to contend with other racers. I will make a note to publish Chris’s results. The race is on the 8th.

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  8. This is a great story, and it is a ray of light in the darkness! We need more good news stories at the moment, and I know they are out there – we just don’t hear about them so much. I hope he manages to complete the challenge!

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  9. Thank you for sharing Chris’ story. The fact that he is participating in an Ironman is amazing in and of itself. I am going to be looking for the candles, the lights that shine brightly, the hope that reflects God’s glory.

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  10. Good morning, Laurie! Yes, yes, let’s look for the candles. They are there, shining bright in the darkness. And thank you for Chris’s story. And for yours! I want to focus on all the good things God is doing in the midst of the madness.

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  11. I’m glad you told us the story of Chris, Laurie!
    Amazing, I’ll be following the event next weekend.

    If it’s any consolation, the bike is the most intimidating part for me as well. I get overtaken by everyone else and it’s very frustrating.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow! Thank you for sharing Chris’s inspiring example. The way you’ve written this is beautiful as well. Good luck Chris! Whatever happens, I hope he realizes that he has already been a candle as you described. Thank you for sharing the good! I’m visiting today from the Purposeful Faith link up. Have a beautiful week Laurie!

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  13. Wow, how inspirational! We do need to look for anything positive right now, and Chris sounds very brave. I have never attempted any sort of triathlon. I haven’t ridden a bike outside in probably 20+ years and I am not a strong swimmer at all!

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Thanks for sharing that uplifting story, Laurie! We all need some uplifting these days. Good luck to Chris!

    I don’t bike at all. Definitely one reason I’ve never even attempted an tri. I might be able to do an inside tri — although not right now, for obvious reasons.

    Your candles are like my rainbows. 🙂 Even in the darkest of times, they’re out there.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Gosh what a story from you about this young man. Go well, I say! As for you…oh dear. I am sorry about the bike ride. Glad though to read about the candle. As I respond to you we are entering the evening of 4 November and you guys must be getting ready for the day soon. The day, when we wonder, what the news will bring for your country. Fingers crossed from Australia. Thanks for linking up for Life This Week. Next week, the optional prompt is 45/51 Share Your Snaps #9 9.11.2020 and I would love to see you there! Denyse.

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    • We are still waiting for news from the election. Hoping for some good news tonight! Chris is certainly an inspirational young man. He is a bright light during a dark time. Thanks for hosting. See you next week.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. You and Chris both have stamina and guts … Chris has a few added challenges and I think he will succeed in this goal … we need more inspirational stories like this Laurie, something to take us away from 2020 and its baggage.

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    • Thank you, Linda. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Chris is a compliment. I am going to try to do a short post with his results after this weekend. Some commenters requested it. I needed a feel-good story in 2020 for sure!

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      • I was going to ask you if you would do a follow-up Laurie … good, I’m glad you will. I did that with my Mike Posner story on his journey across the U.S. on foot and he wasn’t half as special as Chris.

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      • That’s incredible it took that long – I will look now before I shut down my computer. I am behind here again but today I walked five miles and worked outside all day … we had a beautiful day! All that Vitamin D and fresh air!

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      • I can’t imagine it either Laurie – that is a lot of stamina … that’s for sure. We are supposed to have good weather all this week after a storm overnight tomorrow, so with the recent time change, I have been able to walk a lot of miles. I do think I’ll make it. 🙂

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      • I’ve walked a lot since our all-day rain on November 1st, especially due to the time change. We have a soggy Sunday on tap unfortunately. Maybe they’ll be wrong. As snow and Winter wait in the background, I aim to get the most out of each day, outside-wise.

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      • We are forecast to have a soggy Sunday too. But we had rain most of the night and on and off throughout the day today. I still managed to get a run in between the rain showers. I will run in the rain on Sunday if I have to. Bill is not running right now – he is having sciatic nerve pain. I don’t even remember what it is like to run solo! I want to get as much in as I can before winter too.

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      • At least our soggy Sunday is the only rain day until the following weekend, so that is good news. That’s good you got a run in between the rain showers. We had widespread frost this morning when I went out. I’m sorry to hear about Bill’s sciatic nerve pain. That is painful. I thought of Bill this morning as I’ve finally used that anti-fog spray on my glasses to keep them from fogging up when wearing my COVID mask. So far so good and I just checked and it is available on Amazon, if you can’t get it at your eye doctor’s office. One application lasts for a long time and the product is: “FogAway by Gamer Advantage”. Hopefully by the time you get your hands on this product, Bill will have recovered. You’ve not run solo since Bill retired and that’s about two years now in December isn’t it?

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      • We haven’t had a frost yet, but I did see the temperature is supposed to go down below freezing this week one night. We are still getting tomatoes from the farm stand. I hate to see them go away!

        I ran with my trail running friends by myself this morning. It was strange not to have Bill along. I am going to pass along the anti-fog information to him. It is becoming more of a problem now that the weather is colder. Thank you! You have a good memory. It is 2 years this December since he retired.

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      • We had a heavy frost yesterday, but the sun came out and had melted by the time I was done walking. It was a very bright sun – nice to see! I’ll make the most of tomorrow since Sunday will be soggy. I hope Bill rallies back soon. I should have tried that anti-fog spray long before now, but it has been so warm and I had very few issues with fogging in the heat/humidity. I hope it works for Bill too. I thought it was two years and Bill found out he had extra personal and vacation days to use, so he left earlier than year-end. I’ll be the time has gone quickly!

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      • Our weather was cold but sunny, so perfect and walked nearly seven miles – we both did well today. I hated to come home but I didn’t want to push it walking anymore. I had no issues with my mask fogging up so I hope it works for Bill. I am wondering if a runner’s pace, which is faster than a walker, will account for more exertion, breathing a little heavier and cause more fogging issues – hopefully not. It had good reviews on Amazon.

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      • Wow! 7 miles? That is awesome. Bill doesn’t typically wear a mask when he runs, just when we go for a walk or go to the store. We usually run on country roads, so there is very little chance of encountering other pedestrians.

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      • I am bulking up the miles now in case things turn bad (weather-wise or Coronavirus-wise).
        We got more restrictions yesterday and they are in place for three weeks, but none affect parks … I hope I don’t have to stop going to the Park now. It is cold now though – there were more people hanging around the picnic tables having get-togethers in late April and the picnic tables are gone and it’s too cold now.

        It was cold and blustery this morning – no fogging, so happy for that. Is Bill walking with you during his sciatica issues or just resting?

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      • Good plan to bank miles now. My son just found out last weekend that his restaurant is closed. He will be laid off again at the end of the month. Ugh! They had a nice outdoor area that a lot of people used but of course, it’s too cold now to sit outside. Bill just started running again last night. It was even painful for him to walk when his sciatica was bothering him.

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      • Yes, I think so, especially since the time change I’ve been able to recoup a lot of miles. We have 30 mph winds tomorrow morning, so that does not bode well for walking either. Rain again Sunday, so “make hay while the sun shines” to get the goal done. I’m sorry to hear about your son’s job and right now all the restaurants will have the same issue – hopefully he can find something comparable. Even if the restaurants by those outdoor igloos, they are expensive and must not only be heated, but there must be good air circulation in them to work well. Glad to see Bill is running again – sciatica is rough. My mom had it for years and I have had a touch of it in the past.

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      • We ran in the wind this morning. When it was a tailwind, it was great, but oh, that headwind! Bill made it for 5 miles today, despite his sciatica. It is improving.

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      • That’s good news about Bill! That wind this morning kicked in the tail end of my walk and I could have blown along like a tumbleweed. The weather is a little crazy lately … warm today, a touch of snow Saturday into Sunday morning.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. What a beautiful post. I was actually crying as I was reading it. Thank you for sharing!

    I don’t swim nor bike. Running is all I do. I had been interested in doing a duathlon with me doing the running portion. Anyone that does all 3 is amazing because it cannot be easy.

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  18. What a beautiful post; thank you for sharing! We all need extra light right now, especially since as you say, one bright candle can emit so much light in the darkness.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. What a beautiful inspiration. As being someone who just VOLUNTEERS at Ironman competitions & see the weariness in people that make it through – to know Chris does it even with a situation that would hinder others from trying…. love this so much.

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  20. You catch me every time. You start out on one thing and make a turn into some meaningful, relevant point that goes beyond t he story of running. I think you might have a drummer lurking at you desk waiting to hit that rimshot. (I hope this comes out the way I mean it, as a compliment.) I just don’t always see those rimshots coming. You too are a candle! Michele

    Liked by 3 people

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