Unexpected Life Lessons From My Triathlon

This was not my first triathlon. It was actually my 4th.  It was Seth’s second, and since it had been a couple of years since our last one, we put ourselves in the “beginners” group. Our group was the last wave to begin, and wetsuits on, at the foot of the Boulder Reservoir, we were waiting for the horn to blow. As we were all waiting, a bunch of rafts were put in the water. Each raft had a child in it. One child had cerebral palsy, one had muscular dystrophy…You get the picture.  They were part of My Team Triumph. I asked an observer who was wearing a My Team Triumph tshirt what the organization was about. They give kids, teens, and adults who have disabilities the opportunity to experience endurance sports. Each raft was pulled by a swimmer attached to it. Each bike was attached to a trailer with a person inside and the bike rider pulled them along as they rode, and each runner pushed the person in a jogger. I was so moved that I started crying. So did the lady.

Then the swim was about to start and I had a little voice inside of me saying “why are you at the front of the group. You should go towards the back.” But I ignored the voice and the horn blew and off we all went into the water.

A few meters in and I started to feel suffocated. Between the constriction of the wet suit and the amount of people on my tail and passing me, I was overwhelmed. I saw a lifeguard on a small raft and swam over to him to catch my breath. I started to unzip my wetsuit as I felt like I couldnt breathe.

Then we heard the sounds a woman calling for assistance. It was her first triathlon and she started to panic in the water. So we swam over to Jackie (I asked her name) and (I like to think) I helped to calm her down. She was so mad at herself for not being able to do it. I told her it was normal to feel frustrated, and that it was also a huge accomplishment just to sign up for the race! We hung out holding onto the raft for a few minutes and I was starting to think that I might be able to continue the swim, when the triathlon staff told the lifeguard we had to come to the shore. It was too late to continue, and we had to hand over our chips, as we were disqualified from the race.

I told Jackie I felt like crying. She did too. I cried for about 10 seconds as I let the feeling wash over me.  Then it was gone.  I asked Jackie if she wanted to do the bike and run with me (we just wouldn’t be officially timed) and she said that she would find her friends and go with them. I told her that I hoped she wouldn’t be too hard on herself.

When I got to the shore the triathlon staffwoman said to me “Is that a skirt you are wearing over your wetsuit?” I said “Yes, I am Jewish and observe the laws of modesty.” I wasn’t sure how it would go over with her, but a big smile spread over her face.

I went to transition, got that awful wetsuit off and got my bike gear on. Seth came through having just finished the swim, I told him I freaked out but would continue on. “See you at the finish line” I said as I knew that he would finish before me and be there waiting for me when I came in!

So here are some lessons that I learned or was reminded of today. I am sure there are more, but here is what comes to mind and in no particular order:

  1. We can only “tri” our best. Results are not up to us.
  2. People come in all shapes and sizes and can do triathlons.
  3. People of all ages can do triathlons.
  4. You can be 79 and finish a triathlon (yes, there was a 79 year old woman in the race!)
  5. You can do an triathlon in a skirt (I got lots of compliments, by the way).
  6. Get a good bike seat.
  7. Never take your health for granted.
  8. We are each on our own journey.
  9. Always cheer people on.
  10. My anxiety eased when I focused on helping someone else.
  11.  Everyone has insecurities.
  12. When you are speeding down a hill on a bike, take a moment to enjoy the thrill of being alive!
  13. Just like you have to shift gears on a bike depending on the ups and downs, you have to shift gears in life depending on the ups and down.
  14. Swimming, biking or running slower so you can pull or push a fellow human being who can’t, is better than any personal record anyday!
  15. Listen to that little voice inside. It is usually right.



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