Why not a 5k?
“Dad was just diagnosed with Leukemia.”
It’s a low-grade type and there is no real treatment, just something to watch and to stay healthy. To me, this meant he should make his body strong. Dad needs a goal, a purpose. We’d been kicking around the idea of him doing his first triathlon for a while, so when we spoke he was still into the idea, as was my sister. I scanned the local sprint calendar and found one. An inaugural sprint up by where I grew up and my parents still live…perfect!
Common wisdom: why not start him with a 5k? Why does he have to do a whole triathlon on his first foray into racing? Answer: Because I knew he could do it and I firmly believe in training in the various sports to mix things up and keep training fun. Plus, WHAT A GAS!!
I signed myself up and waited for my sister and dad to follow my lead. I waited until I knew what I had to do: sign them up myself! “Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a sprint triathlon registration,” my email read to my dad and sister. It’s ON!
It was a joy giving pointers on the sport I’ve loved since 2005. I even gave swim instruction, which, if you know my swimming skill…is comical to imagine.
Fast forward to Sunday before the race: course preview time. We (illegally) hopped in the water with our wetsuits. My sister found she just could NOT open her eyes in the murky lake water for fear of what she’d find in front of her face and my dad went out too hard and got out of breath, so had to go right on his back. I was so glad they discovered this now as opposed to race day. We hopped out and got on our bikes. Right up the first hill out of transition, and I mean RIGHT out of transition. The whole course better not be like this because this one was kind of steep near the top. Downhill for the next mile and a half and then, oh man, a half-mile hill climb!! My sister joined my two other friends and cranked it up to the top and I stayed with my dad talking him through the hill. He got to the top and said, “Wow. That was hard.” I could tell it was a struggle. Downhill for a half a mile, right turn up a little climb with a beautiful view on the decent and wham, a long, windy climb. So steep in parts we had to walk up from the first steep section .8miles up the hill. Yikes. (I also recently realized his lowest cog was only a ,so I didn’t do him any favors there) I gave him the opportunity to bag this race the following week and we’ll find another one that has a more typical course. He didn’t even consider it. “I’m doing this race whether it takes me longer than the allotted time, I’m crossing that finish line.” That’s what I like to hear! We got off the bikes after finishing the very hilly course and transitioned to the run, which was difficult as well. It was then that I decided I was going to race with him…side-by-side.
Race day and we’re all smiles and ready to go. Transition all set up, pictures taken, a mix up with registration had us in the last wave…ALL of us in the same wave…good times.
I got out of the water, cheered my sister into T1 (apparently she figured out how to open her eyes under water) and onto the bike and waited for my Dad. I finally see him coming and as he gets into transition, I help him out of his wetsuit (the only lucky competitor to have a wetsuit peeler!) and help him get his bike gear on.
And off we go onto the bike course. I had switched him out to a mountain bike on Mike Ricci’s advice and he was able to ride the entire course without walking! Success! The only issue on the bike was the saddle pain on his self described “skinny butt”. When we hit T2, our cheering section was all there including my sister who had already finished (taking 2nd in her AG in her first triathlon!). Quick change into our run gear and we were off on our run. The first mile is pretty difficult as it’s a steep climb right out of transition, steep decline and then an even steeper .5 mi climb. Once we got past the first mile, we got into our rhythm. I kept him on the gas for the whole run, slowed it a bit after the water station (unmanned) so he could finish strong. When we made it up the last rise, we hit our stride, saw all the grandkids waiting at the opening to the finish “chute” and picked up the pace as the kiddos ran with us. I slowed and watched my dad sprint across the finish line of his FIRST triathlon at the age of 68!
I was so proud of him…he stayed positive, his legs always rebounded and he enjoyed every minute of it. I could see the pride on his face (and on the faces of my mom, sister, wife, family and friends who turned out to cheer him on) when he crossed that line. I’d also be remiss to not give credit to my mom for allowing him to race, with her full support, as she was very worried. What a fantastic day. Oh, and he won his AG of course!