If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter you are probably sick and tired of pictures of my boys triathlon on Sunday … but I just can’t help myself. I am so proud of them, and of us, as a family and a team.
In case you missed it, my boys competed in the Miami Kids Tri and Fearless won his age group 5-7 years old with a blasting time of six minutes and thirty seconds for the 25 yard swim, half mile bike and quarter mile run. His brother, Dreamer, who aged up to the 8-10 year old group got in towards the back of the pack for the 75 yard swim, mile bike, and .75 mile run.
The boys have recently joined Tri4Kidz, a local triathlon team, and twenty of their peers were racing. They have been practicing everything from the swim, bike and run to mounting and dismounting, to transitions putting on their helmets and shoes. We managed to get through all this with only minor injuries such as when Dreamer got his leg stuck on the back wheel during dismount and took off a big plot of skin from his ankle.
As with any afterschool activity in this family, sometimes the kids are absolutely excited to go to triathlon class, and other times they are not. Fearless once threw a massive, one-of-a-kind tantrum because he did not want to go swim class. But in general, the addition of triathlon into the boys’ schedule has been positive. It gives the boys cardio, a team, and a goal.
The Miami Kids Tri offered an opportunity to test their skills.
Dreamer was nervous. The day before the race, he asked if he could go to the pool to practice his swim. On his own he swam 75 yards, got out of the pool and ran to the front door of the building and back. After a couple of repeats he gleefully told me “I’m ready.”
And though our alarm was set for 4:45am, by 4:30am Dreamer was up and hassling me to get dressed. On a regular school morning this same process is reversed and takes forever. Between the refusal to get dressed, and the tearful “I’m too tired to eat” our on-time arrival at school is often dubious.
But not this day. My house was lively and by 5:30 we were out the door. In fact, with all the adrenaline, it was hard for the boys to understand that for the rest of our building, this was still quiet time.
The race started with the youngest group, and Fearless would be in the first wave at 7:30. We arrived early, the boys set their transitions and Coach Lilly reviewed with them the steps: helmet, sunglasses, shoes, go. Yet the day before the race, Dreamer’s leg was still not 100% healed, Fearless’ shoes fell off every once in a while, and his goggles had disappeared.
So we sat down. I asked Dreamer what would happen if his bandage fell off in the swim. He wrinkled his nose thinking about it and replied, “get a new one?”
I answered: “no, just keep going. And Fearless, what would you do if water came into your new goggles?”
He was paying attention and said “just keep swimming. I can swim without goggles!”
“Right. If anything goes wrong, you just keep moving forward. If you fall, get up, and keep pedaling.”
After a few more redundant examples, they got the message.
In no time, Fearless was towing the line for the swim start. He seemed calm and ready. I wished him luck, and after he jumped in, I ran to see him at transition. He ran the wrong way, and was re-directed. He put his shoes and helmet on the fly while a volunteer got his bike out of the grass and set it up for him on the asphalt. He ran, jumped on it, and pedaled fast. Before I blinked he was back throwing his helmet on the floor and putting his race number on. I had gotten the boys a race belt, an elastic band with a clip where you put your race number. We practiced snapping it on and off, but it was somewhat stiff for little hands. At transition, Fearless couldn’t snap his. He couldn’t hear me yell “don’t worry,” nor could any volunteers hear my plea to help him. He began to run and the belt clipped right as he turned a corner to get onto the course. His older Tri4Kidz teammates where there cheering for him, calling his name, and that kid took off like a bullet. I thought he would eventually pass out as there was no way to keep that speed but he kept on going and crossed the finished line. I hugged and kissed him and told him just how proud I was. Then I gave him a chocolate milk and we settled to watch his brother who was up next in the 8-10 age group.
The swim is in the pool, so each child is given a lane, and the timing person walks to them, shouts out their number to someone on the computer, and get’s them ready: “on your marks, get set, go.” This process takes some time, and as we waited I talked to Dreamer who sounded confident though I could see he was anxious biting his goggles as if they were gummy bears.
He was called to the lane, and since I was volunteering to help direct the children I got to place him on his lane and say good luck. I told all participants to wait until the timing person was near them, but Dreamer was anxious and literally jumped the gun. As the official was calling out for another boy, he jumped in the pool and began swimming.
Joe and I yelled “Dreamer, Dreamer, stop!” And soon the entire pool deck started to yell but he was focused and there was no way he could hear us. The official said to let him go, he would use the same time as for the other child and so inadvertently, Dreamer had started his race. He ran to transition and though shoes were not a problem, he had a hard time getting the bike off the rack. It’s something he had never done before and the handlebars got stuck. He did not understand you had to move the bike forward, and kept pulling it backwards instead.
I’m sure it was seconds but to me it felt like hours until someone finally helped him out and he was on his way. As he left, I saw another of his teammates also leaving, but he was slightly older and on a road bike. Dreamer was going to realize he is being passed by his teammate. I anxiously waited for him to get back, but he wasn’t coming.
I saw his teammate come in from the bike, but still no signs of Dreamer. Until out of the corner of my eye I spy him and begin cheering my heart out. He was smiling. He dismounted perfectly, leaned the bike on the rack and headed out to run.
I went behind the finish line so that I could take his picture, but he was not coming. I looked at Joe who was at a different vantage point and he shrugged his shoulder.
I hoped Dreamer was okay.
The night before, I mentioned to Joe I was anxious about Dreamer. He is built like me, he is a truck not a Porsche. He is strong, but he is heavy and triathlon is not a sport that favors someone with his build. I know that first hand. As I see my leaner, lighter friends prance during the run, I feel gravity pulling my big build down. I am not feather-like, and nor is Dreamer.
As a grown-up I have come to love triathlon, training, and the lifestyle it has given me. My doctor recently confirmed I was healthy, and though I will not be getting any podiums, I feel my improvement over time. All of this makes me happy.
But I am an adult and I can see that. I didn’t want Dreamer to be discouraged. His brother has that lighter build. His brother runs like the wind, and I don’t want him to compare himself to that and fall short. At the same time, since he began training for triathlons, Dreamer has become leaner and stronger. He needs the cardio to avoid gaining weight because, again like me, just looking at food makes our waist gain inches.
And there all of a sudden, Dreamer appears, and he is not running slowly either. He was sprinting to the finish line and crossed it in victory.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and celebrated with him. We were joined by Joe, Fearless, and Coach Lilly; a proud family moment.
We stayed around to cheer the rest of the team, when we found out Fearless won first place in the seven year old category. I checked the results and he had indeed won over eleven racers. But he had also won his 5-7 age group of 29 participants.
When I told him, Fearless smiled from ear to ear. “Am I going to get a trophy?”
“Yes you are.” I replied proudly.
“What about me?” asked Dreamer.
“You came in fourth of the nine year olds.”
I held my breath waiting for his reaction.
“Wow, that’s great!” he said.
“Yes it is, I hugged him. But I don’t know if you get a trophe.”
Dreamer is so full of self confidence that he won’t let me project my insecurities on him. He replied:
“That’s okay.” And he really meant it.
He taught me, once again, to be proud of our accomplishments. You don’t have to win first place to be a winner.
After the race, we went to breakfast at a nearby diner, something quite uncommon for us in Miami. The boys walked in with their bright colored tri suits and the servers immediately asked what the kids were up to. Fearless said beaming “we just did a triathlon and I came in first place! This is my trophy.” He showed the trophy with such excitement he almost stuck it up the waiter’s nose!
The super nice waiter yelled to the whole restaurant “hey everybody, this kid just did a triathlon and won first place!” The entire diner began clapping, and Fearless all of a sudden became bashful and sat down. He is entitled to his moment of glory, but I held on to Dreamer’s hand.
I wanted so badly to tell the diner how Dreamer came in fourth place, how he ran his heart out even if it is hard for him, how he beat his anxiety and jumped the gun, but I didn’t. I felt that explaining Dreamer’s victory undermined both him and his brother. It showed the world that someone had to publicly protect Dreamer’s feelings, while taking the limelight away from a prideful Fearless. And the world needed neither. In fact, I didn’t need it. This is hopefully just the beginning of races, matches, wins and losses. And there is no need for me to do much more than fill my Twitter stream with bragging pictures.