Monday, July 19, 2010

What my 7 year old and 5 year old taught me about Triathlon

Yesterday was NOT a good training day for me. I had a 50 mile bike ride scheduled and I already had a headache going into the ride. Even so, I was still motivated to do the ride! I really enjoy being on the bike, but yesterday things just didn’t go my way.

The route I chose to take yesterday was one that I had never taken before. I like to use my long bike rides as my “exploration days” and ride places I haven’t been before, but I think that may need to change! I clipped into the pedals and I was on the road. Things didn’t start off so great. In addition to the headache I was dealing with, I had to drink two bottles of water within the first hour. Maybe a sign I was dehydrated going in?

Any who, I got on the bike and, despite the headache, the first hour I was feeling very strong. I really wanted to challenge myself. I was in the big ring the entire time and getting out of the saddle to attack hills. On this particular route there were PLENTY of hills. This is totally new for me. I haven’t felt comfortable in the past getting out of the saddle.

Actually, I haven’t felt comfortable doing anything on the bike instead of cycling! I couldn’t even take one hand off the bike to pedal two weeks ago! Now I’m getting out of the saddle and last week I was able to un-strap my left cycling shoe while it was still in the pedal [non-triathlete readers, this is like a big deal because it just looks cool :)]. Not such a big deal for seasoned riders! I nearly wrecked last week when I tried to un-strap my right shoe. So, I am getting more comfortable on the bike, which I hope equates to getting stronger overall.

Because I was hitting so many hills I spent 90% of the ride out of the aero position and riding on the hoods which was extremely uncomfortable. I had taxed my legs early on in the ride, the headache was killing me, and my water was starting to boil (maybe exaggerating a little). Mentally I was coming undone. At that point I just wanted to go home. Unfortunately, I did. Somewhere in the midst of ALL of those EXCUSES it seemed like the best thing to do!

What was interesting was once I made it home, I was extremely disappointed in myself. None of those excuses mattered. I had…quit. I didn’t want to blog about this but I feel like I have to be honest with first myself, and second the people that are supporting me. I felt a lot of emptiness about stopping 20 miles early.

I even felt a little hypocritical because yesterday was also my children’s first kid triathlon. Leading up to the triathlon I had been preaching to them that the two most important things to do were to have fun and not quit. And what had I just done?

Two hours after quitting early on my training ride I was headed to my children’s house to pick them up for their first ever kid triathlon. They always call my races the “BIG RACE” so today was their “BIG RACE”. I was so excited to watch them following in my footsteps, but I was also EXTREMELY nervous.

My son enjoys the pool but can be a bit apprehensive when it comes to being in the water. My daughter LOVES the water but the distances she had to cover made me a little nervous for her. Here is the kicker, my children don’t know how to swim. They were able to use a kickboard for their swim which made it possible for them to participate.

My son’s wave started first (4-6 year old boys) and of course my son, whom I was EXTREMELY nervous for in the swim start, was in the deepest part of the pool – 17 feet deep!!! All I could think about was what if he slips off the board?! I was ready to jump right in that pool to get him! They counted the boys down… 10-9-8-7 all the way to 1. It was a loud count down because everyone was excited to get this race stated after a rain delay.

One great thing about the lane he was in was that his was an end lane. That meant I was never more than 3 feet away from him because I was able to walk along the edge with him while he swam (that was a God thing!). I never worried about Kealan except on the swim. He is a tough kid with lots of energy to burn, which often leads to “boy” behavior and gets him into trouble! Kealan had a great swim, although he was getting tired toward the end, but pushed it out to finish. He did one lap around the track on his bike and then a 300 yard run. All of the children were so cute! They ran with their bike helmets on! It was the cutest thing ever!!! Can you imagine if the pros ran the marathon like that in the Ironman? That would be hilarious!

I was able to run alongside Kealan as he sprinted to the finish. And yup! I got emotional. It was parental pride, excitement, and the fact that my son is a big-boy and just completed his first triathlon. Ol’ Mr. Kealan, who is full of personality, walked away from the finish like he was the man! ha! He had a certain strut to his walk! You could tell he was proud of his accomplishment. Even so, I think I was probably more excited about this triathlon finish than he was. Kealan’s event was actually over pretty quickly and all went well!

Having fought a once-losing battle with my weight most of my life, I have always made it a goal as a parent to try to instill sports and healthy living into my children’s lives. Watching Kealan finish and seeing the smile on his face confirmed for me that was a great activity for him. He was pushing himself and enjoying it.

Isabella had a tougher race ahead of her and I knew it. The distance she had to complete most adults probably couldn’t do, or at least wouldn’t do! Yet there she was…my brave little girl, ready to go! It is in every father’s heart to protect their children, especially their daughters, but at what point do you stop protecting them in order to teach them a life lesson?

Isabella’s wave (7-8 year old girls) wore pink swim caps, which she loved! (Kealan’s wave wore yellow). While she was getting ready for the swim, I asked Isabella if she was nervous and with the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen she said, “A little.” Oh Isabella my sweet little girl, I know that nervousness!

Again, the crowd began to count down from 10. Once the crowd reached 1, Isabella started her 50 yard swim, 1 mile bike ride, and 0.3 mile run. She started really strong! I was impressed that she wasn’t that far behind the swimmers and had a really solid kick going. By the time Isabella reached the turn around the other swimmers had created a huge gap. Isabella looked around and noticed she was one of the last people in the water, but even so she continued to kick with everything she had. I wondered what she was thinking when she looked around and saw that most of her peers were swimming without a kickboard. I know what I was thinking! “Isabella you will be truly swimming in this triathlon next year!!!”

Isabella made it out of the water and prepared to jump on her bike. I helped tie her shoes and as I’m tying you know what that little rascal asked me?! “Dad, are you almost done so I can go?” Geesh Isabella, well I guess she was in race mode! She took off out of the transition area smiling and in full stride.

The way the spectator area was set up it was a journey to see the bike portion. I missed Isabella’s first lap but made it in time to see her last two. She was moving along and by her third lap I could see she was getting tired. She jumped off her bike and started the 0.3 mile run. This is where my 7 year old daughter taught ME the lesson I had been trying to teach to both of my children!

Isabella started her one lap run and about halfway through began holding the right side of her abdomen. Yup! A side stitch! We have all been there and know what painful little buggers those things can be. Suddenly my little girl’s race didn’t look fun. I was immediately overcome with guilt. I was trying to teach her a lesson about achieving goals through fitness and it was causing her so much physical pain. So much, in fact she began to cry. Gulp. I held back tears as I tried to encourage her. “It’s ok Isabella. You can walk a little. Let’s walk to this cone and….hey! There’s your mom. Walk to this cone then run to your mom!” Her mom saw that Isabella was having a tough race and ran over to encourage her as well. At this point Isabella was really crying…LOUD! I felt like the worst dad ever!

By the time Isabella made it to her mom she was at the same starting point as Kealan’s run; 300 yards to go. Isabella, with a look of fierce determination, sprinted to the finish while her mom and I ran alongside her. She was holding her side and crying…tears streaming down her face uncontrollably. Hey, she finished! She and her brother were then given participant ribbons (They weren’t handing those out at the end of Kealan’s race).

Isabella was still crying as her grandmother and other family members came over to tell her how proud of her they were! I could see something starting to change inside her at that point. Those tears of pain and frustration were starting to give way to a smile. She was starting to feel accomplished. She finished a tough race and earned her title as a kid triathlete.

When it was time to start heading toward the car, Isabella said, “We don’t have to run do we?” Ha! No we don’t have to run now Isabella! En route to the car we passed a big tent where they were setting up trophies. I saw both Isabella and Kealan eyeing the trophies. I told them they can get them next year if they compete in all 4 triathlons of the series.

They were both immediately ready to sign up for next year’s triathlons! Isabella had forgotten about the pain she had experienced and was basking in her accomplishment. Her pain didn’t matter at all! She had achieved her goal and was ready for the next event. They both were!

As we were all walking to the vehicles, I found myself walking alone. I called Isabella, who was really smiling now, to walk with me. Something was baffling me! Something I needed to understand about my daughter. I asked Isabella, in that calm you-can-be-honest-with-me daddy voice, “Isabella, you could have stopped when you were hurting. Baby, why didn’t you stop?”

She looked up at me and said in calm, assured voice, “I wanted to finish.”

I let Isabella walk ahead of me after that. I couldn’t let her see me wiping the tears from my eyes. Even as I write this I can feel the tears starting to form in my eyes. That’s it baby, I get it! My daughter in that very moment taught me the lesson that I had been trying to instill in both of my children. Despite what she was feeling in that moment, she had a goal that was bigger than the pain she was feeling.

Somehow, I let that determination slip away from me in my training ride earlier in the day. My mental toughness had waned. How did this happen? I have a goal that is bigger than what I was feeling on my training ride. It’s not every day your 7 year old teaches you a lesson about competition. I certainly needed to be reminded of this one. So I wouldn’t forget again…I asked Isabella again why she didn’t stop and this time I got her answer on video.

My son and daughter aren’t yet swimmers, but they were brave enough to get into the water to race. They didn’t care if they beat anyone or not. They could have come in last and would still have enjoyed the post-race pizza party just the same! They competed against themselves and probably never even thought about not finishing the race. It probably never crossed their minds. The best part? The absolute best part was on the way home… they both were talking about next year’s competitions and winning those trophies!

I learned a lot from my children yesterday. In fact, I learned what I had been trying to teach them.

“Kealan and Isabella! What are the two most important things to remember today?”


“And what else?”


Thanks guys for teaching daddy a lesson!

p.s. I will be adding video and pictures shortly.

1 comment:

  1. WOW-what a story! I am crying! Your kiddos are amazing. I'm so glad you posted this because I wanted to ask you how they did. This is an amazing story and you have an amazing family. I know you have to be beaming with pride and love! WTG kiddos and daddy!