A few weeks ago I found an application for the Mighty Kids Triathlon at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme online and asked Nell if she was interested in trying it out.
"Will you come with me?"
"Let me think about it."
And a day later she said, "I'll do it."
Driving to the race, Nell seemed remarkably at peace. I was more nervous than she was, pre-race jitters being de rigour for me. She stood calmly next to Brian in the long line to get registered while I stood back with her bike and her brothers. We set up her transition space with her bike, helmet, shoes and shirt. Brian and I, along with many other fit looking parents, were giving her great tips for making speedy transitions. She nodded politely, but seemed much more concerned with getting all of her hair into the lime green swim cap. ("I get to keep it!")
Down at the beach she gathered with all of the other 8 - 10 year olds in identical lime green caps. There were thirty or forty of them bunched together at the edge of the water. Nell's was the youngest age group and the first to go. She looked a bit pensive during the pre-race instructions.
I tried to urge her to move to the front of the pack. She has been swimming on a swim team for almost a year now and she's pretty good. I figured she would probably be one of the stronger swimmers in the group. But she was reluctant to move from her spot in the back. "Nell," I said. "You're a good swimmer. If you get stuck behind a bunch of slow kids you might get kicked."
Just before the starting whistle blew, she moved up and dove in at the far left of the group.
Most of the kids swam with their heads up the entire way and Nell was no exception. The kids swam about 75 yards out to the big red ball and back again. A few kids chickened out in the waves. The East Lyme swim coach tried to help them by holding their hands as they swam, parents on the beach yelling at them to keep going. It was heartrending.
Nell came running out of the water looking happy and strong.
The path to the transition area went under a train bridge and up the sidewalk next to the bath house. I ran along beside Nell telling her how great she was. She was all smiles.
Parents were not allowed in the transition area, so I ran around to the exit to catch her starting out on the bike. She took FOREVER getting her shoes and shirt onto her wet body, but finally she mounted the bike and toodled through the parking lot. Off she went, in no particular rush, looking for all the world like a little person out for an enjoyable morning ride.
The bike portion lasted six or seven minutes and then she was back in the transition area. Evidently she had a little crash with some kids coming in on bikes as she was leaving for the run. I missed that. Brian told me about it later. But she seemed none worse for the wear as she started out running.
A little over half way into the quarter mile run, Nell got a stitch in her side. My heart sank as I saw her grab her belly and stop to a walk. She walked for about ten steps and then started trotting again, still holding onto her shirt above the stitch. She finished well, still with a huge smile on her face.
She keeps asking me when she can do another triathlon. "I loved it!" she says. Next year seems like such a long time to wait.