Monday, April 20, 2009

Last Week's Kids Triathlon

Two Saturdays ago, the three oldest kids participated in their first triathlon. The distances for the two oldest were as follows: run 1 mile, bike 3 miles, swim 200 yards. For Grace, it was a 100 yard run, 500 bike and 50 yard swim. I thought it would be a good idea to let the kids do their very first triathlon so they could get inspired to join the local swim team. Of course Ethan was already pumped. Elise was more nervous and tentative. Grace was oblivious. I didn't sign my youngest up because I wasn't sure whether she could swim the 50 yards alone.

Conceptually, having the kids do the triathlon seemed like such a fun idea. Little did I know how stressful it was going to be. Friday night was comprised of dashing across town to register the kids, picking up bike tubes to fix bike tires that hadn't been used much over the winter, and getting the kids' transition bags packed with swim suits, goggles, helmets, running shoes, and everything else they'd need to complete their first triathlon. I had to spend a lot of time assuring my oldest she'd be fine. She's very much a perfectionist and worried all night that she wouldn't finish. In the weeks leading up to the race, she wouldn't commit to doing the race. I lied and told her I already signed her up. She was partially mad and partially happy.

When we woke in the morning, it was raining. It had been raining since the wee hours of the morning and was quite cold. The kids were intimidated by the cold. I thought for sure, they'd either call the race or at least leave out the bike portion. We ate breakfast and loaded the bikes in the car. Mia (the youngest) kept crying because she wanted to do the triathlon like her older brother and sisters.

We got to the triathlon and I helped the kids set their bikes up in transition. They hung their transition backpacks from their bike handlebars. I carefully instructed them that they had to put their helmet on before they left transitions or they'd be DQed--not really but I want to instill the rules early.

Then we went to the race office where they got body marked. I pinned their numbers on their chests. Each kid had their swim suits under their sweats for a quick transition. We huddled and talked about race strategy in terms what they needed to do after each race segment. This was a run/bike/swim format triathlon. I assured them the most important thing was to finish. I told them to not think of it as a race. "Just finish and don't give up!"

While going through all the pre-race activities, it kept raining. Inside I hoped that they'd eliminate the bike portion of the race. I was very much stressed trying to make this a positive experience for them and managing each of their individual concerns. The race organizers called the pre-race meeting for the parents and announced that they were going to continue with the kids triathlon in spite of the rain...and, they were still going to have the bike portion. I watched my children's faces, and they seemed fine with the news.

The younger age group (Grace's group) started first. The kids lined up for the run and the organizers blew their whistle. Off they went. Both the run and the bike portion were in the parking lot. Grace ran with the lead group and had a smooth bike transition.

Grace During The Run

The parents were able to help and I helped her get her helmet on. She jumped on her bike and rode through the bike course. What was really amazing about Grace's event was she has only been riding a bike without training wheels for a month or so. What's more, she was riding the bike she purchased with money she saved.

Grace Off On Her Bike

As the younger kids were finishing the bike portion, the older group (Elise and Ethan) lined up to start their event. Tanya peeled off to usher Grace through the rest of her bike and swim segments of her event while I helped Elise and Ethan.

Grace During The Swim

Grace And Her Hardware

Shortly after Elise and Ethan lined up, the organizers blew the starting whistle. They were off for their 1 mile run. They headed off on bike trails away from the facility and out of site. I, along with other parents, waited with anxiety for our children to reappear for their next event. For what seemed like an hour (but was only 10 minutes), we waited. One by one each kid came into site over the hillside from their trail run. Ethan came running and I could tell he was giving every thing he had to the race. He's really funny because he smiles while he's physically exerting himself, so it looks like he's just messing around.

About 100 yard behind Ethan, Elise came following. Her cheeks were bright red. I helped both of them get their helmets on and sent them on to their respective bike sections. This time they were gone even longer and the level of anxiety was much greater. By this time, all the kids were much more spread out.

First Ethan came in from the bike leg, and I helped him rack his bike. He pulled off his sweats while it rained, jammed them in his backpack grabbed his goggles and ran to the pool.

Just as Ethan finished, Elise pulled into transition. I could tell she was winded but was pushing through. I racked her bike and helped her get her clothes in her backpack.

When Ethan started the swim, he started with a full-on sprint. He tried to use his freestyle stroke. By the time he finished the first length of the pool, he was exhausted. He finished the rest of the swim a better pace using a modified dog/breast stroke. As soon as he finished and climbed out of the pool, the race organizers put a metal around his neck. He was very happy and wanted to know how many people he passed.

Ethan With His Hardware

Elise took a much more conservative approach during the swim portion. She swam with her head above water and just focused on finishing. When she finished, she climbed out of the pool, got her metal, and collapsed on the ground to catch her breath.

Elise With Her Hardware

Elise was really tough and hung in there. The three girls that finished before her climbed out of the pool and started to cry because it was so hard. She took some time to catch her breath and was ready for the rest of the day.

Afterwards we went to Zios-a local Italian restaurant and celebrated the kids first triathlon. This was one of the first meals out we've had where the kids weren't going nuts. All of them were still wearing the metals and were excited to explain where the metals came from when asked. Ethan kept telling people he did his first IronMan.

When we got home, I was so tired I took an hour long nap. The day's event was stressful. I wanted everything to go just right. I wanted the kids to have an experience that they could remember for a long time--something they could build on. I think the event met that standard, but it just wiped me out mentally--more so than a full day of training. I'm glad we did it; and the kids keep asking when the next one is--next year please!

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