Part of me says a Triathlon, but everyone I know who’s gone over hasn’t come back. They’re all hooked. And bikes are expensive.
I imagine that there are just as many parents out there who enlist their children into their hobbies as those who can’t be bothered. We were noting candidly as we sat on the bleachers that the types of folks in attendance, the types of folks who sign their own kids up for a junior triathlon, are well within the fitness bell curve. The mom does tri, so the kid does tri, too.
I run. I’ve never done a tri. I’m a noob to this whole thing. But I thought it might catch her interest, y’know, fitness-dad style…
I didn’t force Claire to sign up. I told her about the event. I explained to her the effort she’d need to do. And she casually said “sure… I’ll try it.”
She did her first triathlon yesterday — 100m swim, 2km bike, and a 1km run — and she did it exactly like a kid who’s never competed in a triathlon before: she gave it 110% until she crashed, oh-so-hard, about half way into the run. And then she went home, crashed even oh-so-harder (complete with a low-grade fever and a self-induced mid-afternoon nap).
She was kinda-sorta proud. She showed her medal to her friend and then flopped it onto her dresser and that was that.
First tri: done. What’s next? What’s on Netflix?
I had this thought in my head that she’d push through it all, no matter the pain or whatever. I have. I do. At least I think I do.
She’s not a competitive kid, I often joke. But serious: she just doesn’t give a fig if she wins or –as became apparent late in the triathlon — even finishes. I don’t know how it looked from a spectator point of view, but I had to run out there, take her by the hand and pretty much drag her across the finish line.
She was (literally) going to walk off the course and give up with a hundred steps to the finish line.
I don’t get it.
It struck me as a bit of a disappointment at first, but as the day progressed, and we talked about it, and then I saw that she’d literally made herself ill competing in the first couple stages, I had to step back a bit and put a new spin on it all: (a) she gave it her all but (b) when she ran out of gas her motivation went with it. Completely.
It’s that disconnect between physical done-ness and mental done-ness: I don’t know how to bridge that for her. She ultimately needs to face that on her own.
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Swim. Bike. Run. I’m not a tri-athlete, but I can watch the sport and feel the pain.
My little brother took up tri-athloning… tri-athlonisizing… tri-athlonics… whatever it’s called, a few years ago now, I guess. Derek jumped into the sport with that vigour with which he seems to approach everything in life: go big or go home. Where I ease into things gradually, inching into the pain and commitment a little bit at a time, he’s always been a cannonball-into-the-freezing-water kinda-guy.
I honestly haven’t been tracking much of his tri-athon career-to-date, but he been to a few, worked his way up from the entry-level distances, and has recently convinced our mother to train along with him.
In fact, it was this two-in-the-family reason that had us driving down to Calgary this past weekend to cheer on the pair as Derek competed in an Olympic distance while mom (now in her sixties, I might add) attempted her first Tri-It distance.
An Olympic (international) Triathlon, is more familiar at 1500 m swim, a 40 km bike, and a 10 km run.
Derek’s division went second overall, the men’s Olympic following the women’s, swimming two laps of Calgary’s Lake Chaparral, before stumbling out of the mild waters tired and disoriented.
You get a real sense of how exhausting and bewildering swimming in open water can be when you watch these guys: even the best and fastest of them seem to be always popping their heads out of the chop to re-orient themselves. The course is marked by these giant six-foot inflatable buoys, but somehow even they were seemingly tough to spot.
But Derek was off and done a couple laps on the bike course before mom even needed to be on the beach ready to swim. And while I’d be among the first to tell you that EVERYONE needs to start SOMEWHERE, there was an obvious experience gap between the Olympic group and the Tri-It group. For example, when the timing chip guy wandered out and told everyone in the Olympic group to make a note of their chip number in case of a mix-up, a few of them casually looked down but seemed to have had the air of “already done, dude… get on with the race.” On the other hand, when the same announcement was made to the Tri-It group, I could have got an awesome shot of forty people trying to flamingo their legs up in a knee-deep water, all simultaneously trying to read their ankle chips.
But a few minutes later that last group was off. And we all spent a tense 18 minutes on the shore watching mom swim her dam-nest out into the unfamiliar lake, around the big old buoy, and chase the kayak back to shore. She may have been the last one out of the water, but she was the first one finished in her age category: so what does that tell you, huh?
The biggest win, of course — or so I’d like to think — is that between their dads running and racing, their grandma meeting new athletic challenges head on, and the two girls themselves starting to enter their own smattering of events — like Claire running the Kids’ 1 K Event in two weeks or Julia completing a kids triathlon earlier in the summer — we seem to be doing a better job of role modelling than we used to. Three generations of part-time athletes, and the girls get to cheer everyone on and make signs, noise, and see that there’s more to life than shopping and iPads.
They even are embracing the habit of running that last few dozen meters with whoever is about to cross that finish line. Claire’s done it with me a few times now, and both the girls made their grandma’s finish when they ran up to escort her on the last push.
I mean, we’re all not going to be sporting much more than participant medals (at least for a while) but who would have thought we’d ever see a mother-and-son picture like this: a pair of tri-athletes.
Now I just need to figure out a way to beat Derek in the Melissa’s Half Marathon next month.