The alarm went off at 5 am. My first desire was to roll over and go back to sleep. Even though I had trained for this, I did not want to get out of bed. Evelyn woke up too, and faithful Justin went to shush her back to sleep. I roused myself and brushed my teeth. Pulling on my triathlon bathing suit and clothes felt strange in the early morning. I sat on the closed-lid toilet and put on my socks and shoes. It was a little surreal.
Downstairs, I turned on the coffee maker and started my typical pre-race breakfast of oatmeal, peanut butter, and banana. I poured my coffee and realized I had made it too weak. I hadn’t been able to find my 1/8 cup scoop the night before, so I used a tablespoon scoop. Without thinking, I did two tablespoons, plus a bit more, for two cups of coffee. Way too weak. I didn’t have time to make more, so I added some instant hot chocolate to the thin brew. It was just ok. I would have to wait until later in the day for a real cup of coffee.
Out the door at 6:05. Bike, helmet, swim goggles, snack, coconut water, regular water, towel, ID. I was ready! I pedaled over to the park. After crossing the street and turning right, I saw the shockingly pink sunrise over the little castle. I heard the music across the reservoir and knew it was a party I was invited to. I had trained for this. I was about to become one of “them”: a triathlete.
I went through the check-in procedure: pick up bib, T-shirt. Get chipped. Get marked (permanent market on my biceps with my bib number, age on my left calf). Feeling official, I wheeled my bike into the transition area and tried to pretend I knew what I was doing. I chatted with a few people. Used the port-a-potty.
Eventually, we all made our way down the pool and lined up according to our numbers. These numbers were given to us based on our estimated swim time. I had estimated, months ago, that it would take me 13 minutes to swim 12 laps. Well, turns out it only takes me 7. Looks like I would be passing people. We watched the first swimmers take off. Criss-crossing back and forth through the lanes, their raised arms formed graceful arcs, like synchronized swimmers. This is the pool I had trained in, with Maggie and two babies, trading off lap swims and babysitting. It felt strange to be there without them.
Me being set to start at 7:43 (while the fast athletes start closer to 7) I just hung out chatting, daydreaming, visualizing. Then, all of a sudden, there are only ten people ahead of me, jumping in the water at 10 second intervals into the pool. Then five. Then it’s my turn.
I hop in and wait for the “Two…One…Go.” The first four laps don’t feel normal, because I’m passing people. By lap five, I settle into a comfortable rhythm. It’s over before I know it, and I’m trotting to transition. Towel off, quick snack, pull socks over damp, grassy feet. It’s bike time.
This is my favorite part. I love biking, and it was certainly the most thrilling part of the race. Again, I passed people (it’s an ego booster to accidentally estimate a slower start) and the hills were no problem. There were two up and two down, and I let myself fly downhill. Normally, I’m more cautious. Must have been the adrenaline.
Back at transition, I parked my bike and took off for the run. This is the hardest part. Not only am I not a great runner, but it’s the end of the race. I’m tired, I feel heavy, and I have to go to the bathroom. Justin was ready with Evelyn in the runner stroller, and he ran the first lap with me. It was nice to talk about normal things. What time did you guys get up? What did she eat for breakfast? I welcomed the mental break from the simple race thoughts: run. shift. brake. drink. keep moving. almost there.
The final lap came, and Justin pulled a fussy Evelyn over to set her free from the stroller and wait for me at the finish line. Now it was a mind game. “You trained for this. You can do it. You will finish well.” (Singing in my head) “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me…Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see..” (Rocky theme song) “Dehnt. Dehnt. Dehnt deh dehnt. Dehnt….It’s the eye of the tiger it’s the…something something…”
There was the finish line. I could see it! I was about to cross it. My whole body relaxed, and I realized I had just completed a triathlon. I smiled and finished.
The rest of the day was spent in a mix of relaxation and busy-ness. Justin and I sipped coffee and listened to a favorite sermon. We prayed. I wrestled a cranky Evelyn down for two naps. We turned board book pages in between naps. I processed tomatoes, made pizza sauce, assembled pizzas, prepped BLT sandwiches for the week’s lunch. Cleaned up. I was tired. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I felt like it because my metabolism was revved up all day. Maybe I ate most of a chocolate bar…maybe not…
In the evening, we plugged in the twinkle lights and enjoyed our pizza and beer on the back deck. Evelyn slept. We crawled in bed, weary dearies. I will probably look back on this day in awe. Yes, I did a triathlon. Yes, I have a faithful husband. Yes, God is good every day, whether I’m tired, whether I do a huge accomplishment, or whether I just get through the day.