Thowback Thursday: “Athletes Only”

I originally wrote this post in the summer of 2012. The picture above is of my first triathlon ever in June 2010.  A lot has happened since though at times I still check if when someone says “athlete” they are referring to me.

I was nervously walking to “transition” rolling my $300 bike with one hand, and a huge, clumsy bag full of stuff on the other. I looked like a whale in a super tight, totally unflattering tri suit, and felt even more out of place than what I looked!  In triathlons, transition is the area where you leave your bike and where you, as the name implies, go to when you transition from one sport to another.  So when the guy in front of transition called out “athletes only” I almost turned around and went the other way.

I mean, who was I kidding?  I had spent the last ten years on the couch, and the last four either having babies or taking care of them.  Maybe if I scroll back in time, I could’ve called myself an athlete.  Maybe in high school as part of the volleyball team?  Perhaps, but that day in 2010 athlete was not a word I used to describe myself.
As I turned around it occurred to me: “Wait! He is talking about me!”  My arms had my race number written on them: the Sharpie writing was clearly there.  And my calf had an equally clearly marked “37” – my age for all to see.  In the bag were goggles, swim caps, cycling shoes, running shoes, a race belt, a hat, energy gels all of which I needed.  Then there were extra water bottles, towels, and all sorts of other stuff I later learned I could do without.  Yes that was me, and at that moment I became an athlete.   Not only was I an athlete, but if I ever finished that race, I would become a triathlete.
The girls who got me going

The girls who got me going

I got to that point with my two friends Valeria and Tonya.  The three of us made this triathlon our mission.  We had no coach, we had no real equipment and we didn’t have a clue of what we were doing.  In fact, when I found out the race course included going up the William Powell bridge connecting Miami to Key Biscayne I almost chickened out.  How the heck was I going to make it up that thing?  Yet the three of us were committed.  We rode in a storm, we ran in the midday heat, we shared the cost of the babysitter who watched all six of our kids poolside.
Three seasons later, I am still going at it.  I have done thirteen races, including a half ironman or 70.3 miles comprised of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.  I train every morning, even the ones when I don’t want to get out of my bed at 5:00am.  On some mornings, I ride up the Powell bridge more than ten times in a row in my much more expensive bike.  I have a coach, a team, and a training plan which I try to follow as best as I can.
Super speedy team

Super speedy team

I’ve made my way to the middle of the pack when it comes to race results (not to the middle of the Wolfpack, they are too fast!) and if I compare, I despair.  It seems the world around me is faster than I am.  But to be an athlete you don’t have to win first place.  At this moment, to me, an athlete is an adjective not a noun.  It doesn’t define me but I know I am one.  There are many other adjectives that describe who I am: wife, mom, teacher, friend. Being an athlete is a badge I wear since I decided to sacrifice something (time, sleep, money) to reach a physically challenging goal.  Definitions can change over time, I change over time, but today  there is no doubt in my mind when I hear  “athletes only” at transition, I know they are talking about me.

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