Thursday, June 30, 2011

True Grit

After watching me do so many triathlons, Anna has really wanted to join in.  The age limit for the Danskin is 14, but for the Pflugerville Triathlon it's 10.  After her birthday this year, Anna insisted she wanted to sign up.  I warned her the training would be tough, but she was quite determined.

She hung in there on our training sessions, too, even after we decided that she had really outgrown her bike.  At first she insisted she loved it and didn't need a new one; by the time she was OK with replacing her bike it was too late.  In May, she didn't walk during our local 5K at all except at the water breaks.

Her confidence held until 2 weeks before the actual event, when she started to get cold feet.  Plus we didn't train as much as we'd like those last 2 weeks, due to Choir camp and a visit to Nana and Grandad's place.

Since she is so small, and we were planning all along to do it together, the race organizers said she should just go in my wave (40-44 year olds).  Unfortunately, since this event has all the men go first, then the women go youngest first, oldest last, we were in the water in one of the last waves.

Also, the wind that morning was wicked and strong.  The swim is nearly a half mile, out and back.  The waves had white caps coming towards us.  Fortunately, we had done a swim in this lake on a similar windy day.  Still, it was tough.

We started, Anna bravely plunging headlong into the waves.  Around us, many people were literally bailing, crying out panicked for help, hanging onto the kayaks steered by lifeguards, who brought them back to shore.  Anna didn't notice, but she did hang on to my arm twice while coughing, and took a break at the outermost buoy.

We were some of the last out of the water, onto our bikes.  The bike ride is 14 miles, and is Anna's weakest event.  We had practiced the hardest 12 miles of the course, but not with this kind of wind.  Anna complained of tired legs on mile 2.  She was afraid she couldn't finish the course since she hadn't actually done 14 miles.  I explained to her that she had done all the hard hills before, and told her about a friend who had done a 150 mile bike race, 75 miles per day, even though he'd only practiced 20-30 miles a day before that.  She quietly absorbed this and kept pedalling.

The bike course was basically a big square, and the second leg of the course, the one with all the hills, is the one where the wind was straight in our faces.  It was so strong, some gusts stopped Anna dead in her tracks going up hill.  Then she fell on mile 5, bloodying her knee and elbow.  She cried on the side of the road for a little bit, then got back up on her bike and kept pedalling.  Poor little thing, she had to pedal continuously.  There was almost no coasting on such a little bike.

Finally, we turned the corner, making our head wind into an easier cross wind.  "Mile 7!"  Anna said triumphantly when she saw the sign.  "Halfway done!"  Then, quickly her face started falling, "Oh, only halfway done..."  I assured her that the worst was behind us, the rest was nearly flat.  She was silent, got a determined look, and kept pedaling.  It was a look she kept for the next 5 miles.

At the end, an inconsiderate cop tipped us off that we were the last competitors on the course. ("Hurry up!")  "Oh, Mommy, I think we're the last.  I didn't want to be last."  I assured her that at least she was still going, and I was proud of her.  She was so tired and spent, but I really wanted her to have a successful finish.  Soon, a race volunteer pulled up behind us on his bike, and confirmed that we were both competitors, and radioed back that he had the last two competitors and was bringing them in.  He must've seen how dejected Anna was about this, because he told her, "I'm sorry it took me so long to get to you, but I was dealing with two people who dropped out.  Otherwise I would've been here sooner.  You should be proud that you are finishing.  I can't believe you went all that way on that little bike!"

The bike ride took us 2 hours.

We came into the transition area, which was busy because many competitors were finished and were exiting.  Some race volunteers helped escort us through to the portopotties then out to the run course.  Many people saw me and my little athlete and cheered, which gave Anna a burst of energy.  We started out running, then walked for the vast majority of the 3 mile course.  The wind was hot and the sun was intense.  There were two water stops on the way with great volunteers who had waited for us and encouraged us to finish.  Anna looked up at me as we started mile 3 and said, "Mommy, thank you so much.  I couldn't have done it without you.  I really wanted to quit, but I'm glad I didn't!"  I was glad, too.  I know she was too small and young to have self motivated herself to finish, but with very little encouragement from me, she found the strength in herself to push on and make her goal.  We fantasized about the post-race meal we had planned. "I'm going to have THREE pancakes!"  she said.  I assured her I didn't know anyone who deserved 3 more than her.

Finally, we could see the end in the distance, then we recognized the specks that were Anthony, Colin, and Emily.  Colin ran with us for a while, and Emily helped us over the finish line.  Anthony recorded the happy event.  Anna was elated, exhausted but happy.

She ate all 3 pancakes.


marthak said...

Three hundred cheers for Anna!! (and her awesome mom!!)

Laura said...

How fantastic!

mr man said...

THAT is an awesome story. I'm a little choked up. That gets a few arm pumps: WAY TO GO, ANNA & JEN.


... my word verification: werium...

paula said...

I got tears in my eyes reading this, am so very proud of you both but especially for Anna!! "Well done" and "congratulations" doesn't even come close. Outstanding!! XXXXXX

Lisa said...

Wow, Anna, we are so very proud of you! Hopefully you will be riding a bigger bike soon. (ahem)

Huge hugs and kisses from us!

Emily said...

She is awesome! I am so proud of you both. And I'm so glad I was here to share in the moment (and the yummy breakfast afterwards). XO

EdamameMommy said...

So proud! Crying in the line at the post office reason this!!!

sarah doow said...

What an incredible feat! Well done!
*bows down in awe*

EdamameMommy said...

ha ha. Negra modelo and pancakes. Nice!

Anonymous said...

Yes, tears all the time reading this one. Anna you are so wonderful and my hero - they keep telling me to do this Tri and I know NO WAY for me. You keep doing this and you will succeed.

And Jenn, you are one wonderful writer AND Mommy!

Love, Nana

mainlyclearskies said...

That is so inspiring! SO proud of both of you - go Anna!