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Tri’ing is for all types…

Thursday, July 11, 2013 by Coach Kristen

This past weekend, I volunteered at a local race.  I always love being out there to cheer people on and help guide them in the right direction.  It’s such a great way to see a triathlon from a different vantage point.  I always suggest for people to volunteer, or at least go and watch one, before they participate in an event.  You can see that it’s not just all about the 20 something male with a stunning body that can run sub 6 minute miles.  It’s quite the contrary. 

It’s 4:45am and I’m driving to the race.  Not many people are on the roads at this hour.  It’s a weird feeling to look around and not see a single car on what is usually a bustling highway; only darkness in the skies and street light after street light shining down on me.  About 3 miles away from the race, I finally see another vehicle and a small smile of relief comes across my face because they have a bike rack on the back. Where else would they be going but to the same place that I am at this early hour.  Finding a place to park was simple since we arrived before most of the participants did.  The race directors were still frantically putting the final touches on their project that they have been working on for the past year.  It’s a different kind of nervousness you feel from them. They want to make sure everything is perfect for the 600+ people that are about to trust them to get it right.  You know they have been working all night as you can see it in their faces and under their eyes.  I report to my station, front and center, at body marking where everyone has to go through before they enter transition.  It’s a great place to be able to talk to lots of people and encourage them before they go on this little adventure. 

My first encounter was a guy in his forties.  He seemed confident and knew exactly what to do.  Talking to him, he had done over 40 races.  He was going for a personal best and wanted to podium.  He acted like this was going to be a walk in the park for him.  He had his racing suit on already, his fast steed next to his side, and a simple small bag with shoes and helmet thrown over his shoulder.  He walked off with pride in his pocket and maybe even a little chip on his shoulder.  I wished him good luck.

Participant after participant told me their story on how they had come to stand with me before the sun even came up that morning.  I chatted with one woman in her fifties who had lost over 20 pounds getting ready for this race.  She had been training for the last four months to make it there.  She nervously fumbled through her bag to find her race number.   Things were falling out left and right.  I just kept picking them up and handing them back to her with a smile. This would be her first race.  She barely knew how to swim four months ago and knew that would be her challenge today.   I reassured her to trust in her training and to start out slow and she would make it.  As she walked away, I had to trail her a bit because she forgot to zip her bag and things were still falling out.  She thanked me many times over for being there that morning.

I saw a boy and his dad standing off to the side working on getting the kid’s numbers on his bike and helmet.  I walked over and asked if he was ready to be marked.  His dad sternly gave me an answer of “no” and I gently told the boy to come see me when he was ready.  I wondered if his dad was forcing him to do the race or just a control freak.  I, of course, never got the answer to that one, but after about 15 minutes, the boy did come see me (without his father by his side).  The sweet thing was only 14 years old and he was shaking so badly in his shoes I think he burned an extra 200 calories just standing in front of me.  We chatted a little bit about the race, but he was too nervous, or focused, to talk much.  I prayed for him to be able to channel that energy into a good race.  He ran off briskly after I got done writing numbers on him. 

It was amazing to see everyone as the sun rose.  There was a moment that I’m pretty sure time stopped.  As the sun peaked up over the horizon and it became light outside, you could almost feel everyone take in a deep breath.  It was a gorgeous site and as the hustle and bustle slowed for just a second, you could feel in the air that everyone could appreciate the grace they had been given to be there that day. 

People that decide to participate in triathlons come from all walks of life.  Some with collegiate swimming backgrounds, some with no athletic background at all.  Some in the best shape of their life; some who are just starting to change their lives.  Old and young, tall and short, fat and skinny.  It doesn’t matter who you are, you will see someone just like you participating.  It really is just about getting out there and doing something that maybe you know you can do with confidence, or you are nervous as all get out and unsure whether you will finish, or maybe it’s something that someone else thinks is best for you…no matter why you show up race morning, just know you all have to go through the same things…you swim, you bike, you run…you finish what you started.   I love to hear people’s stories and share them with others.  I promise you are not alone when it comes to taking on this journey called triathlon.



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