It had finally arrived. After 12 weeks of staring at this date circled on my calendar, it was go time.
Katie and I got up early, packed our bikes into the car, and drove to Irvine's Northwood High School to face the challenge. Even though it was 6:30am. the parking lot was full of similar souls who were unloading their gear. Women of all shapes and sizes were gathering to give this sprint triathlon a try.
We headed to the transition area, where we would store our bikes and belongings during the race. I glanced around at my fellow race mates; all women, some had brought their kids along for the run. I smiled as I saw them slather sunscreen on their little ones and make sure they used the bathroom before the race. I doubt many Ironman Triathletes ever worry about such things.
But this race was different. Instead of being a competition, it was more like a communion of friends, many who have never done anything like this before.
"I just thought I'd give it a try," said the woman next to me at the bike rack. "I haven't ridden a bike since I was a teenager. I'm curious to see what I can still do."
It was refreshing to be in their company, these women with no makeup, up early on a Saturday morning wearing various sizes of spandex shorts. Even though our ages were written on our calves, we stood as one group at the starting line. I realized that this was exactly the type of experience I wanted to share with my teenage daughter: an example of women at their best.
Then the race began. The Hollywood Version of the day would go something like this:
Middle-aged Mom breezes through the iTRYathlon..due to her 12 week training program, she runs up hills easily, laughing as she passes those offering water and rest. Her 9 mile bike ride feels more like an afternoon trip through the park..She casually chats with her daughter as they pass rider after rider...The real triumph comes in the pool, where she glides through the water and....cue Chariots of Fire soundtrack music...she is victorious!... jumping out of the pool to receive her medal as a cheering crowd looks on...
The Real Version of the race was more like this:
It is hard. Very hard. Our heroine commits the classic rookie mistake and starts out too fast...after the first mile she is gassed.
She finds that there's a reason they named the area around Northwood High "Orchard Hills," since most of mile two is an incline.
She tries to enjoy the impressive view, but finds herself staring at the water stand at the top of the hill like an oasis in the desert...
The bike is a relief at first, but the same hill greets her again...this time she asks them to shower her with water as she passes by...In fact so many people pass her that she wonders if there's a sign on her back that reads, "On Your Left!"
By the time she reaches the pool, she's not sure how much energy is left..fortunately, the pool is nearly empty since most competitors have already finished..
Slowly, with a stroke that no Olympian would envy, she touches the wall and accomplishes her goal.
It wasn't pretty, but it was very, very cool.
I wasn't last and I was certainly a long way from first, but after 12 weeks of trying, I know I did my personal best.
The iTRYAthlon was the perfect solution for a perpetual quitter like me. The decision to complete the race kept me going on days when training was difficult and even slightly painful. At the end of the journey, I can say something that I never thought was possible with regards to fitness: I didn't give up.
Of course there were many people who helped me achieve this goal. There were the folks at Blue Buoy Swim School who supported my goal and didn't think it was strange that a 48 year old would want to start taking swimming lessons. There was my coach and friend Cheryl Evans who magically appeared on the iTRYathlon route just as I felt like I would stop. But probably the best helper of all was my daughter and fellow racer Katie, who kept me going with her precious words:
"You can do it Momma. You've got this."