When I did my first triathlon at 38, I was told there was nothing like your first race so I should enjoy it. I told my son the same thing this past weekend as he did his first triathlon. Except that he is six years old. I guess I have schlepped him to enough races for him to at least be curious about the whole thing. Fortunately Florida International University (FIU) has a kids triathlon series where children aged five to fifteen can compete in a USAT approved race.
So I signed him up and June 3 was the big day. It was two whole days after his kindergarten graduation … talk about a lot going on for the kid. I spoke to George, the Race Director who told me to be there by 6:00am to ensure we had enough time for packet pick up, getting settled, and etc. Being the nerd that I am, I took him seriously. As I set my alarm for 4:45am I told myself … if I can do this for me, I can do it for my son but I have to admit I did it with half the enthusiasm. I woke the Big D up, fed him some breakfast and we were off – I drinking coffee, and the Big D passed out on his booster seat on the way to his first triathlon.
We got there before sunrise, and I pumped him up on how he will know what I am doing when I leave before dawn for a race. It was kind of exciting to show him since Joe, my husband, usually gets there a minute before or a minute after I cross the finish line. We got our race package, he got body marked with a big “7” on each of his shins, and headed out to set up his transition. The bike rack was as tall as the Big D so I taught him how to get the bike out (sort of), and showed him where he can lean it on the way back so its out of the way but so he doesn’t have to struggle with it and poke his brains out in the process.
We were done by 7:00am taking our sweet time – and then we waited, and waited, and waited some more. The event had about 300 children registered. Eight children start in each heat doing laps in the pool, the oldest go first in the 13 to 15 year old category. So, working backwards, we realized if the Big D is in the youngest (and smallest) age group at 5 to 7 year olds, we are looking at 290 children going first through this process before he even begins. As an old lady usually leaving in the last waves of a triathlon I understand the frustration of waiting but geez, this was going to be a long morning. I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince him we could go home and try again next month but he was adamant he was going to race.
The process runs slowly but apparently smoothly and after three, yes three entire hours of waiting on the pool deck with my six year old they call out his age group: five to seven year olds. All of a sudden a flurry of activity began, we said our goodbyes and he was led away to get his time chip. I felt his nervousness, or mine, or both, but the race was going to start!
They call out “five seconds” and STOP! George, the Race Director, was highly agitated complaining the course had not been changed yet and they needed an additional ten minutes to make it the distance for this age group. Seriously? Yes, seriously.
|Waiting for boy to be bandaged|
So I headed back to the Big D’s lane, chatted, reapplied sunblock, took some pictures and saw some kids playing in the pool. “Hmmm. They shouldn’t be doing that dangling from the basket ball hoop thing,” I thought. But then again, I am a teacher and notice these things even when not on duty. Low and behold, when we were ready to start the basketball hoop falls on top of one of the boys head. There was blood everywhere, 911 was called, another flurry of activity ensued , and though I had compassion for the kid with the bleeding head … seriously? Yes, seriously.
A paramedic mom came by, bandaged the kid up and after another ten minutes or so pass, we were finally, and I mean finally going to get this show on the road. Again, the Big D puts his game face on and this time it really does start. I screamed my head off, as if he could hear me. I saw him doing his rainbow arms nice and high (not very efficient in competitive swimming but just how his teacher showed him). He gets out of the pool and I dash out the pool deck to meet him at transition. He had a look on his face and I understood. Its that “Oh my God I am in the middle of a triathlon look” where anxiety, excitement, disbelief and tiredness all comingle into an indescribable feeling. I helped him put his shoes on and off he went on his bike only to come face to face with a fire truck not even ten meters into the bike ride. Seriously? Yes, seriously. The race was stopped and the kids had to wait, again. It was the 911 call being answered.
Another twenty minutes pass, yes you read it right twenty minutes, and there is a whole lot of discussion between George (who is not on my good side by now) and the parents as to what to do. Some parents were really concerned about timing and how it would affect their child’s time. Seriously? Yes, seriously … a dad with a five year old was getting bent out of shape about the whole thing. It was finally decided kids would start one by one, with 5 seconds in between them. And so, for the third time the Big D gets ready and puts his game face on.
Off he went, and I screamed my head off once again. I see him returning to transition, help him off the bike (which he just threw on the ground) and he took off for the run. About four hours after we got here, he was finally racing and he was tired. I saw him slow down, walk a little, but he crossed that finish line like a champion.
After he caught his breath he told me “I did it Mami.” I could not have been any prouder. He was probably one of the last ones in his 25 meter swim, ½ mile bike, and ¼ mile run but he felt like a champion. He was a champion and now a triathlete.
Today, the day after this whole mishap of a race, he told me he wanted to do the July race but without all the waiting. And that is what being a triathlete is all about. You just went through hell and you sign up for it all over again. Like mother like son. Except I wonder if he is going to even remember his first triathlon.
Dreamer becomes a triathlete