Yesterday morning, a few awesome girls became triathletes.
I am so proud of them!
At the beginning of the summer, we had a good sized crew. But then, school was out. And vacations came. And work came. And, inevitably, a few emails came from kids who decided to back out. I was kind of bummed, but I tried to remember that this often happens to us adults, too. But I have this big project at work...but I have to do this or that....sound familiar? So, instead of being bummed about losing a few kids, I decided that, you know what? I'm going to make this as fun as I can for the kids I do have, and they will have a great time, and I'll be able to start earlier next year. My mind is already churning with the ideas I have for next summer--a mini-camp, a pre-race pasta dinner, adding 3 more schools that I have solid contacts to, getting all the legal mumbo-jumbo and photo release waivers out of the way earlier, etc. etc.
So I threw my efforts into making these girls feel like triathlon queens in training. Because, we all know, once you have a race day, you're hooked.
On the docket over the past six weeks, we've had two open-water swims, four spin and core classes, 6 brick workouts, a weekly email with training tips, and a transition and race day talk. And I really couldn't have pulled this off without my Iron Bro, TriEric, who was gracious enough to not only lead the brick I couldn't make, but come to our open water swim and give tips in our transition talk, AND cheer like crazy after kicking some major butt in his own race yesterday. Thanks, buddy!
It was so much fun for me to see these girls progress over the past few weeks. The first brick, a few could barely hang on for the ride and then had to run/walk a mile. One girl was taking a few swimming lessons because she didn't really know how to swim. I only know this because I saw her working so hard one morning when I was doing my laps. And I had her in class the past two years, and this didn't surprise me. She's one of the hardest-working kids you'll ever meet...one who just doesn't give up and rarely complains, but throws her effort into it and just tries to make it better no matter what, because she knows deep down in there, she can do it.
You know, the kind of kid that grows up to be an Ironman.
And all five of these girls possess these qualities in different measures and ways. It was really, really fun to see. I can't wait to see where they go now.
So yesterday was the race. I met them down in transition at 6:45. Well, Ashley beat me there, actually, with a perfect spot chosen on the edge of a rack near the bike exit, just like I told them. "The early bird gets the worm!" she chirped. Yep, there's a triathlete for ya, huh?
They laid out their transition towels like we practiced, applied sunscreen, got their water bottles ready, and went over to get their body markings.
And then, it was time to head to the beach. But not before I could snap a picture of them with their numbers on their arms, like tri-rock stars.
They walked down to the beach and discussed the beginning of the swim.
I saw a few girls getting a little nervous about the swim. Two were pretty solid in the water, but the other two weren't strong swimmers and I could sense the fear of the open water rising, despite a nice calm day. I said a silent prayer thanking for this calm day, as I didn't think I could even get one of them to start the race if it was crazy wavy. Whew.
They waded in, got their caps on, and waited for their waves to start. And then they were off. I watched as they made their way to the first buoy. I wasn't worried about two of them, but my other two I was a little worried for. If they can just make it through the swim, they'll be fine, I thought. Basically, the same thought process in my head during Ironman. Please, just let me get through this bike. If I can get through this ride, I can do this...
I ran out to the breakwall about halfway through the course to look for them. I found them both--one was resting on a kayak for a minute, so I cheered her on. I told them before it was totally okay to take a rest, or do some backstroke or doggy paddle or WHATEVER you need to do. She kept going. Good job! I thought. I saw the other one on her back doing a few backstroke kicks. "Good job, Erin! Keep going!" I yelled. She saw me, and gave me the thumbs up sign.
Okay. We're okay. They're gonna be fine.
They all made it out of the water, and I was there to cheer them on with their parents. It was so exciting to me to see all their families come out to cheer them on. That is another goal I hope to have with this thing--to get families together, and maybe even doing the race together.
On the bike course, I just waited for them in transition. Jenna came in first, with some blazing speed, especially for a mountain bike! I had already told the girls NOT to freak about getting passed on the mountain bikes they were riding upon...that there was NOTHING they could do about that, so just run your OWN race. Jenna is a fierce competitor and a captain of the cross country team who is not used to getting passed, so I hoped she remembered my words. She seemed to look great, and I knew she was in her element now. She took off, and passed a few people right out of the gate!
Next came Ashley, another runner and swimmer, too. She swam THREE MILES last weekend for a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. THREE. MILES. I have no doubt this girl will be back for more triathlons, and I can see her going the distance some day! She moved quickly through T2, then realized she forgot her hat so she came back...and then she was off.
Jenna came in first, looking strong, and with a look of determination on her face combined with the desire not to hurl. (Her mom and her had been joking how she often leaves it all on the course....literally....in cross country races.) She crossed the line and smiled as she tried to catch her breath. What a tough cookie!
Then, I saw Jackie and then Erin round the corner. Erin grabbed some Nuun I bought for her in transition and Jackie took a few swigs of Gatorade. Jenna cheered on Erin and told her just a few more short miles and she'd be done...which is what tri buddies always say to each other, right? Jackie was a runner, but I knew this would be Erin's longest run ever. I cheered them on as loudly as I could, and ran with Erin down and up the first hill just to get her going and keep her spirits up.
Ashley came in looking really strong with a nice kick! She crossed the line all smiles and hugged her Mom and Aunt who came to cheer her on.
I was getting a little worried and hoping the girls were feeling okay. It was really, really humid, and the longer they were out there, the harder it would be. TriEric's wife Aimee helped me spot the girls as they crossed the street and made it to the last turn. I saw their parents and uncles, too, as they crossed and we all cheered them on.
They got that magical energy we all get when we see that finish line, sprinted like they were in the Olympics, and crossed the mat.
And they were in!
Four new triathletes. And one more who will be on August 2nd in downtown Cleveland.
I gave big sweaty hugs all around, and we all celebrated. I told them how proud I was of them, and they all seemed genuinely proud of themselves. I especially congratulated Erin, who isn't on the swim team or cross country team. She just thought this sounded like a great way to challenge herself, and she worked SO hard. She made it.
They all did.
They swapped stories about the course and hugged their families. I remembered my first sprint triathlon and the memories I still have from that day seven years ago. It gave me pride to know that this morning would be a part of these girls memories forever, and hopefully they'd had so much fun today that they would remember this feeling of accomplishment and how they can do anything--anything--if they try hard enough.
So congratulations to the newest members of the triathlon family! I am so proud of all of you.