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Our family's triathlon

My friend, Bobbi, had emailed me asking how our family did on our triathlon yesterday. Here's my reply to her.

Hello Bobbi!

Thank you for your curiosity and enthusiasm for our big race day yesterday. It was wonderful! I'll tell you more about it, but first want to show you an email that Lindsey sent to her last year's personal fitness teacher from school. It's really cute that she wanted to share this success with her coach. I am including some of my own comments in parentheses in the middle of Lindsey's email. I will italicize those parts too, to distinguish her words from mine.

After re-reading this LONG email I wrote to you, I think I might cut and paste it to put on my blog. Enjoy, my dear friend!

Hey Coach Fisher!

I don't really like the shirt that I got from doing the triathlon, so I'm not going to wear it to school. (I think she must have coached the students to always wear their shirts after an exercise event to the school to show off what they'd accomplished.) But I really want to tell you about the experience because it was awesome!

We were hosted by the Rockin' R tubing place on the Guadalupe River, which was so cold that when I dove in to do the swim part, it knocked the wind out of me. (This reminded me of you, Bobbi!) A lot of people were in wetsuits, and I was only in a sports bra, shorts, and a tank top. Anyway, we swam against the current in the cold water, and it took me 10 minutes to do that part.

Then I went to transition for the bike part of the race, which took me about 3 minutes to get ready for. The bike part was up and down hills for 14 miles, and it was really intense. I made a goal to not get off of my bike much, and I had to get off just once at the top of a very steep hill that was during about mile 12. The bike part took a long time, but it was fun. I loved how spirited and friendly everyone was at the race. Almost everyone I passed encouraged me, and said I was doing great, and that gave me more motivation.

After the bike part, I was so worn out and I couldn't picture my body being able to handle the 5K. (Everyone who has done a triathlon can relate to this!) I never thought of giving up, but it just seemed so unrealistic at the time. But during my transition, a nice lady that was next to me asked how I was doing, and if I had eaten anything, and when I told her I hadn't had anything besides cereal and a ton of water, she gave me this gooey stuff that gives you energy right away when you drink it. It was weird, but it totally worked and I had enough energy to jog quite a bit of the 5K.

It was my mom's third triathlon, and my brother's, dad's, and my first. We all really enjoyed it, and this morning we found out that I was the youngest woman competitor, and my brother was the youngest overall competitor, so we both placed first in our age division. (Lindsey was the only one in the 19 and under female group and Christopher was the only 14 and under male.) I made it across the finish line at 2 hours and 38 minutes, and my brother made it at 3 hours and 18 minutes.

It was exciting, and my family was kind of nervous that my brother would complain a lot about it after we were done, but when we were packing up, he said "I can't wait to do another triathlon!" So, we will be doing more. =]

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to stay healthy and work hard, and for all of the care you put into me and the other students that you have. Thanks again!


She really surprised me at how determined she was, even though she has never been very athletic. It was so encouraging to see that everyone in our family wants to do another triathlon. My personal goal was to knock off 30 minutes of my pathetic time from last year and I fell short, but did manage to go from 2 hours and 30 minutes to 2 hours and 13 minutes, improving by 17 minutes. Next year, I'll try to cross the finish line in less than two hours. Honestly, I hadn't trained much prior to this year either. Here and there, I'd do some running on the treadmill or cycling in the neighborhood, but not often enough. Kelly beat me by less than three minutes, for his first attempt. He hopes to be able to finish next year in less than two hours also.

One thing that I was really nervous about was how my kids would do by themselves on the course. Lindsey agreed to stay with Christopher and then when I caught up to him on the cycling leg, I saw that she had left him behind in the dust, and that he was peddling up the hill all alone, as Kelly and I had predicted might happen. I asked him if he wanted me to stay with him or to go on. He said I could go, but I could tell that he was wishing I would stay, in a way. I was so torn, and hoped I had made the right decision when he said for me to keep going. I made the same choice that Lindsey had. I sometimes wonder if I baby him too much. In any case, I kept going and crossed my fingers and pedaled away. In hindsight, I'm really happy that I did.

When I had caught up to Lindsey, she asked how far back Christopher was, and I thought that she might wait for him, but apparently, she was more interested in doing her best as well. In case you had not figured it out, the younger age groups started the race before mine did (I was in the purple swim cap 40-something women group). When I had made the u-turn and started heading back, the winds seemed to pick up and the hills seemed more steep. After about a half mile, I had met up with Lindsey again, since she was still heading toward the turnaround, and told her to hang in there, and so forth. Then after about another half mile or so, I saw Christopher again, pedaling away all by himself on this quiet, country road, which is actually probably not very safe if I stopped to think about it, and he shouted out to me, "Can I turn around yet?" And I said back to him, "You're almost there! You've got about a mile to go!" Then I thought that might seem too far to him, so I then exaggerated and shouted out, "It's more like a half mile!"

As I went past him, I thought to myself, "That was dumb. I should have been honest so he wouldn't think he only had a half mile left." Next time, I'll tell him the accurate mileage remaining. I could appreciate that even more when I was on the running leg of the race when the officiators/volunteers would say that there was only about a mile left, or a half mile, and they were WAY off in their estimations. I'd rather have the truth! Anyway, that's another topic.

When I was at about mile 12, as Lindsey had stated, there was a really steep hill that was rather tough to go up and the wind had started blowing toward me, which made it even more difficult to maneuver. I kept being so worried about my kids who were behind me, wondering if they would have the strength and endurance to make it back okay, particularly through that steep section. I kept wondering if I was doing the right thing, by going on ahead of them, and crossed my fingers and prayed for them to make it.

The fourteen miles seemed to go on and on, even though I had an accurate reading on my bike of how much farther I needed to go. I finally made it into the transition area, then was ready to start the run.

I realize that I skipped over the first leg, so before I tell you about the run, I'll tell you about the swim. The male age group of 25 and under (or maybe 20 and under, I can't remember) were the first to begin. There was my little preteen out there among all these buff and eager testosterone-filled men, about to kick off the start of the race. Christopher was by far the youngest there, and the most unfit, from a quick assessment. He was nervous, but had confidence that he could handle the swim in the swift moving Guadalupe River. Because of the current, they only had three at a time start, then everyone dove into the water from the river bank, as they were counted and their timing chip began. Each one aimed toward the center of the river, and luckily didn't have to exert much effort to get to the second buoy, which was the half way point to turn back.

The return part was the opposite, as they'd have to swim upstream against the swift current. To avoid being washed downstream, everyone had to swim as close to the bank as possible, to be able to make any forward momentum, and to return back to the starting point on the river. I was worried about how my son would do, and kept a close eye on him from the moment he hit the chilly water. He seemed to be fine, so I could breathe a sigh of relief. He swam along adequately, and when he got to one of the kayaks, he clung to it for a little break. I had told him in advance that he could go to a rescue kayak if he got tired. He made sure that it wouldn't disqualify him or anything and I told him that it was perfectly fine to do. After a moment to catch his breath, he let go, then swam around the kayak to head toward the turnaround buoy. I was nervous about how he would manage on the way back, and he seemed to be holding his own fairly well. I was able to greet him when he got back to the shore and headed to the transition area, then cheered him on to start his bike ride.

Next, I went through the same moment of anxiety as my daughter got started on the race. After she was in the water, she looked up to the shoreline toward me and shouted, "The water is cold!" I had no idea that it had affected her as severely as it actually had, until she recounted her experience afterwards. Good thing! I might have freaked out more. She did fine and I was unable to watch her as closely because I wanted to be at the start to encourage Kelly next. He got started on his swim, and I didn't need to worry about him, but I did, just a bit. Then it was my turn, and I was thrilled that the water level in the Guadalupe was much higher this year than last, and enjoyed riding in the current on the way down. I felt like Nemo for a moment and thought I was cheating, because the river flow greatly assisted my pace and I didn't have to have much talent in swimming.

The way back was another story. But I managed, and because I was so close to shore and it was a bit rocky, I could actually touch the bottom, so I got to take a little break and catch my breath. The swim is always the fastest leg of the triathlon, but for some reason, it tends to wipe me out the most. My cold, wet, self-conscious body headed toward the transition, as I dripped toward my bike, towel, and remaining gear.

Kelly was still in transition and I got to say hi to him and wish him good luck. I was annoyed that my bike had been toppled to the ground by another cyclist who must have knocked it off while getting his down. I stood with my tired back hunched over and quickly blotted the water from my feet to put on my fancy, cleated Sidi cycling shoes. I threw on my plain, white shirt, cinched my elastic Zoot belt with my race number attached, grabbed my bike helmet, clicked it on, then headed toward the white line to mount my bike and begin the 14 miles.

I've already told you about the bike part, but one thing I neglected to mention is how beautiful the ride was. The temperature was in the 70's, the weather was perfectly comfortable, and the route went alongside a two-lane country road, filled with wildflower patches, much of which was along the river, where tents and campsites were filled with campers enjoying a day of leisure. The friendly police officers and volunteers were helpful and effective in their jobs, as usual.

When I got back to the transition area again, many participants had already finished the race, and I hurried along and changed gear. I was glad that I had packed an extra pair of socks because my first pair were drenched. The dry socks and my brand new running shoes felt good, and I made my way through the crowd and headed out for the final 3.3 miles. As I had remembered from last year, the first part with the killer uphill climb was the worse. I ran up about halfway, until I couldn't make it any further. And walked it off until I caught my breath. I continued to run and walk for the remainder of race, and kept thinking that I wanted to improve by 15 minutes. Last year it took me 55 minutes to complete the run and this year, I was only six minutes faster. Oh well, that's still progress! I really haven't been working out too much lately, so I can't complain. I was frustrated that nobody else in my family wanted to (or was able to) work out with me to prepare on a regular basis, so I got lazy and didn't put much effort into it. Now that they know what it takes, I hope they will be more eager to train for the next one. That goes for me too.

So, back to the kids. Kelly and I had finished the race, our final times--less than three minutes apart from each other. I started looking for my kids, wondering where they were. Did they make it back safely from the bike ride? Were they still in the race? Had they given up or did they endure to the end? I asked around to some of my friends who were there and got conflicting reports. One person said they had seen Christopher a while ago and thought that he'd given up after the bike ride. I was disappointed, but glad he was fine. I had my hopes up for Lindsey still and kept watching for her to come in from the run. It seemed like an eternity, then as I saw Lindsey and two women in their forties rounding the bend and heading toward the finish line, I got that proud feeling that parents get when their kids accomplish something really big. "Coming in now, Lindsey ---!" the announcer said, and I was thrilled to see the look of satisfaction on my daughter's face. She did it! She was a triathlete! I was so happy for her.

More time had passed and there was no sign of Christopher, when I realized that our friend, Dave, was also nowhere in sight, so my worries lessened. Before the event had begun, I had asked Dave to please keep an eye out for my kids and suggested that if he could, see them in during the final leg, as I knew he would have finished way before Kelly or me. Dave is the best triathlete I know, and could swim, bike, or run laps around all of us. In a nutshell, Dave was my hero of the day. After seeing Christopher, following the second leg of the race, Dave had personally escorted Christopher through the entire final 3.3 miles of the triathlon, giving him positive encouragement the whole way, and getting him to the finish. It was a huge sacrifice in my opinion, because Dave was there with his wife for a little weekend getaway to do the triathlon together, to lodge in the quaint little German village, leaving their four kids in the care of someone at home.

What he gave up was his moment in the spotlight to be recognized during the awards ceremony as the 1st place competitor in the 35 to 39 male age group, just to help Christopher finish what he had started. It touched my heart so deeply that he would do this for our son. Christopher came running in, the last participant in this year's triathlon, and you would have thought that he'd come in first place, by the sense of accomplishment on his bright red, freckled, sun-drenched baby face. One of the officiators put a medal around his neck and congratulated him. He went to bed that night wearing his prize. He also took it with him to church today, stuffed in his pocket to show all of his friends. Now he wants me to register him up for another triathlon on June 5.

We left the house at 5 am, and were sound asleep for a three-hour nap by 2 pm that afternoon. What a wonderful day this was for our family, an experience we'll long remember!

When is your triathlon that you are doing with Carrie? I'm excited for you!



jennie w. said…
I'm so proud of all of you! Way to go!!!
Desiree said…
What a fun memory! Very inspiring...
OLLLL said…
What an amazing day! I am so very proud of each of you! Such an accomplishment! :-)

Love you -
Jess said…
Wow.. I am soooo impressed by all of you! that is an amazing accomplishment. After reading your post, I started looking up "training for a tri", etc... I really think I want to try it!

Sounds like a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun!

Way to go Christopher for sticking it out. :)
What an amazing family experience for you guys! You have motivated me...
Julie V said…
that is amazing just to have the courage to even sign up for the thing! I'm impressed! Way to go to you all. I'm next now with my Ragnar Wasatch Back relay in June. 188 miles with my team of 12. woo hoo! I wish Christopher good luck in his next tri.
Julie said…
Way to go Kellys and kids! That is so awesome! I've raced with my daughter Sarah before, and Ken and Chris--not sure if I could convince the whole gang to go out for a race. If I did, I can be sure that I would be one of the last ones in!
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
so amazing. way to go everyone. i'm very impressed!

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