We live in "The Ocean State" and so we felt it was important that our children learn to swim at an early age. After wasting our time and money for a while at one place, we moved our kids to Envious Swimming's "Learn 2 Swim" program, and our kids have become fish.
Fast, fearless fish.
Earlier this summer, we learned that Envious was organizing their first annual Kids Triathlon. And we thought – "Hey, cool!" And then we got busy with working on the house and sort of forgot about it.
And then, a little over a week ago, I was reminded at that week's swim class.
But there was still time to sign up.
And later that week (Alex had a make-up class), I told them that Alex would be participating. It was Thursday. The triathlon was on that coming Sunday.
On our way out of the building, a young boy – older than Alex – struck up a conversation with me. He was reading the Tri-Envious poster on the wall near the front desk, and as I headed by (Alex was a little bit behind me), this tall, slender boy with slightly reddish hair asked if I was going to be signing up. I suppressed the urge to look around in a "are you talking to me?" kind of way, but he was so polite and…nice…that I just answered automatically – "Yes – " and I gestured toward Alex, but Julia was actually closer, having a drink from the water fountain. The boy looked a bit surprised "How old is she?" and I shook my head and pointed at Alex. "He's the one who'll be in it." "Which age group is he in? I'm in the 11-12 group. Is he nine?" "No, he's 8."
We continued our conversation a bit, and then I said goodbye and went home with the kids.
He sort of reminded me of someone.
And then it hit me. He sort of reminded me of what I imagine a young version of the kids' cousin, Ray, would have been like. I didn't know him when he was eleven. He's 28 now. And he is, among lots of other descriptive things, a triathlete. You can learn more about him here. (And you should take the time – he's got a great blog.)
And the thing is, my kids know about Ray being a triathlete. He competed twice in the Amica Ironman 70.3, in 2008 and 2009, and my kids were there at the end of the running portion of the race to cheer their cousin on, holding signs and clanging cowbells. So, they kind of knew what a triathlon was.
And one thing we know about triathlons is, you need to train.
So Friday night, after we put away the paint brushes and the laddres, it was time for Alex to do some intense training.
He'd already had two swim classes that week, so we figured that part of it was covered.
And earlier in the day he rode his bike with the kid across the street, so that part was covered.
The running, however, needed a bit of attention. He's used to running around a ball field, or running around in the back yard, but not distance running. So Bill decided to run with Alex.
The different age groups had different distances to swim, bike and run. Alex's age group would do a 100 meter swim (4 laps), a mile and a half on the bike, and a half mile run. So, in order to give him an accurate idea of what the run would be like, we mapped out a little half mile run up and down our street.
Alex and Bill laced up their sneakers, and I suggested Alex do some jumping jacks first, to get his heart rate up and simulate (a little) the way he might feel after having already done the swim and bike portions.
So…the training began.
After 30 jumping jacks, it was time to run. They headed up the street while Julia and I hung out in the front yard, waiting.
Actually, Julia didn't hang out.
She wanted to run, too. So she did. Back and forth, back and forth.
I asked her to take a look down the road to see if Bill and Alex were on their way back up the street.
She celebrated by turning cartwheels when they came into view.
Alex was looking pretty good. Actually, so was Bill.
They ran a bit further past the house, ending in a sprint toward the finish line, and then walked back.
"I want to run next!" Julia was not to be left out. So Bill did a short run with her up and down the block.
She looked pretty good, too.
And so Bill and I asked her if she thought she wanted to participate in the triathlon, too. She very much did, so we checked the distances for her age group – she, too, would do a half mile run. She also would need sneakers (one of her existing pair had disappeared into the ether, apparently – I have NO idea where it is), so we headed off to Target and got her some cute white and lavender running shoes. You know, because it's all about how good you look.
Okay, so we decided that the next morning, while Alex and Bill went fishing, I'd take Julia on the same half mile loop Bill had just done with Alex.
Hm. Well, it would certainly be nice if I could actually do that half mile myself, so earlier that morning I mentally marked a little "start" and "finish" on my own walk/run route, just to see if I could run or jog the whole distance without embarrassing myself or my daughter. I did my little two-telephone-pole-length runs in between walking, and then, when I got to the corner of the "start" street, I started jogging with my eye on the end of the street. The half mile would take me a couple blocks to the end of the road, several blocks down the next, and then one last block to the "finish."
I ran MOST of it. I had to stop and walk a bit here and there, but for the most part, I was running. Well, jogging.
I continued on for the rest of the route with my original walk/run 2 phone pole lengths, until I got home.
Later that morning, Julia and I headed out on our run.
"Remember, Julia, you need to pace yourself…don't run too fast at first." This, as I'm gasping and moving at the slowest run imaginable.
She nodded and slowed down a bit. "Like this?" "Yeah…that's good." Again, I ran MOST of it. Julia, however, ran the whole way.
She was in.
We spent the rest of Saturday working on the house (more painting) to exhaustion (we have to get as much of the painting done as we can during the dry weather). We put the kids to bed a little early just so we could have some peace because they had "an important day tomorrow!" And soon after that we went to sleep, too.
Sunday morning dawned. The Big Day!
We needed to be over at the pool (where the whole thing was held – there are sports fields and so forth behind that building for the biking and running) at 9:00 for registration, so the first order of business was a good breakfast.
"Mom, don't bug me, I'm getting in my zone!"
Alex said he was nervous, and this is apparently how he works through that.
They ate while I gathered up their stuff (goggles, a towel, etc.) inside and Bill got their bikes and helmets out of the garage.
I also made signs. Signs are important. They lift the spirits and add a boost of energy when the race seems neverending.
So here are the two signs:
We got to the pool a little after nine, and I filled out paperwork while the kids had their race numbers written on their arms. Julia was 601 (age 6, first participant to register), and Alex was 801 (you get the idea). They were each given a bag of goodies from Envious and from some of the various sponsors, and then we went home.
Here's a picture of the loot.
The race was to begin at 11:00, so we headed back over at about 10:30, so we'd have plenty of time to put the bikes in that transition area and learn about the course. Fortunately there were plenty of volunteers out and about, directing bike and foot traffic once the race was underway.
Like most big races, this one had plenty of media coverage. You can see my kids being interviewed in the photo below. Ha ha, just kidding, that's Bill, with our DVD camera.
Here are the kids, suited up and ready to go, friction-reducing swim caps and snazzy goggles in place. Behind them are their sneakers, ready for when they come out of the pool.
One last photo together before they assemble with their age groups. As I'd kind of anticipated, the older kids (11-12 and 9-10) had the first heat, and then the 7-8 age group went about ten minutes later in the other end of the pool. Julia's group – 5-7 (parents optional) went after that.
Bill and I were hanging out with all the parents on one side of the pool, and all the kids age 8 and under were over on the other side, waiting for their turn.
At last, Alex's group was up.
Alex looked pretty focused waiting for the start.
He did pretty well. There were some kids that were faster, some that were slower. Bill hollered words of encouragement and I took a bunch of pictures, hoping for one that was halfway decent.
Four laps later, Alex pulled himself from the pool and I encouraged him ("ALEX! RUN!) out of the pool area and over to where his sneakers were. I think I may have ripped his cap and goggles off as he ran by. Sneakers on, I told him to RUN to his bike and start that leg of the race. RUN!
I hurried back inside to see Julia's swim, and also to (after her swim) get the dvd camera from Bill because since he was going to run alongside Julia's bike, I needed to hold the camera and maybe film something.
There's Julia, below, second from the left.
She blasted away at the start and pretty much maintained a lead over her lane companion for most of the swim. She had 2 laps – down and back. Not too terrible.
Then she was out of the pool and Bill was handing off the camera and the signs to me and hurrying Julia to her sneakers.
I hurried up to catch Alex on some of his mile and a half bike ride…and this is what I saw: Alex, running.
For a moment I thought "Oh no! He forgot to ride his bike!!" Which was a ridiculous thing to think, given the amount of volunteers everywhere, but I'm control freakish enough that I would imagine that somehow he'd slip past them and accidentally not ride his bike.
Silly me. No, he was just fast ("I passed two older kids…but they were girls.") and got that part over and done with before I could get there. So what you see below is Alex leaving the T2 area (couldn't resist trying to sound all trathletic and stuff) – where he dumped his bike and is racing to the ball field where he will run the half mile distance around the outside of the field, next to the fence. I hurried after him, so as not to miss THAT portion.
Meanwhile, Bill and Julia arrived at the bikes and Bill got her helmet on…
And she was off! Note her look of grim determination.
I used the dvd camera a bit, and then switched to my own SLR. That's Alex, second from the left, as he runs. He said he had to walk a little bit, but that's okay. Plenty of other people did, too.
But he turned on the speed as he came in toward the orange cones that led the way to the finish line. Bad picture, though – not a good shot of his head. Ah well.
And there he is, my little triathlete. All the kids who finished received a medal.
I confess I was a little verklempt at this moment.
Alex hung out with me and told me about the race from his perspective (it was long) and we kept watch for Bill and Julia on the bike portion. I used the dvd camera a bit first, and then switched back to my camera as they ran around the field.
In this first picture, Julia is leading Bill…
But she started to slow a bit, Bill said, so he moved ahead to keep up the pace.
And at last, weary and out of breath (and bleeding – Bill had a gash on his shin from one of the pedals of Julia's bike…he was preventing a wipe-out on gravel…brave soldier…), they crossed the finish line.
There was plenty of icy cold water available…
And then there was food! Burgers or hot dogs, chips, assorted beverages, and yogurts.
A bit later, once the times were tallied up and sorted and compared, it was time for the prizes.
The top two male and female athletes (they were among the older kids) received gift certificates to Providence Cycle, which was pretty cool.
Then they had a bunch of awards for other kids – from the younger age groups – who did well.
Alex's name was called.
He got a cool little Fireman Rubber Ducky.
And some of the other kids got to pick something out of a bin of assorted cool things lie goggles and swim caps.
And a little bit later, we went home.
Alex had a birthday party to get to, so it was a quick pit stop for the two of us.
Later that afternoon, after the party, Bill finalized the dvd and previewed it while it was still in the recorder.
And yes, Julia has fuschia marker under her eye.
I don't know why.
Must be a triathlete thing.