Last year I went and watched some friends race in the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon. I was kinda kicking around the idea of doing it but wanted to see the set up first. The whole thing was exciting so I decided then to do it this year. At the time, I expected to be out on the course with my several different friends and training partners and my husband to be my cheering section (and sherpa). As it turns out, one friend was injured and couldn’t train or race this season. A local trail race changed the weekend it was held and conflicted with Emmett and all of my regular training partners had already signed up for that one before they realized the conflict. And then my husband had to travel for work. Triathlon is essentially a single person sport. You can race it as a relay team but even then, you are on your own for whatever piece you’re doing. You are responsible for your own performance. You are ultimately responsible for your training. But. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that you’re never alone. And that community is a big part of what keeps me coming back.
Earlier this week I put out a plea on Facebook for someone to do one last open water swim with me. A woman I met a few years ago through the Pulse training group not only agreed to go out with me, she put together a whole group, complete with kayak support. And then she stuck with me the whole time even though she could have easily left me in her wake and swam twice as far as me. That same group of people were at the race today and offered up support, encouragement and cheers throughout the day.
This morning I got to the parking lot to load my bike on the transports up to T1. I had ridden briefly last night to check my tires and felt fine with them then. But Jon always airs them up for me and I’m notorious for thinking they’re fine when they’re a bit mushy. As I pulled my bike out this morning, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that HE WASN’T THERE. A friend was coming to meet and support me but at that moment, I just wanted my husband to reassure me that the bike was fine. I stood staring at my tires for a moment, second guessing if they were really okay and trying to talk myself out of crying. An older couple were unpacking next to me. He glanced over and then asked if he could check and air up my tires for me. I nearly burst into those tears and instead word vomited all over them. “Yes! My husband usually takes care of this but had to fly out of the country and I’m suddenly freaking out a little not having him here and I’ll know I’ll be fine but I don’t know if my bike is or not and I really want him here…” The husband calmly took my bike and then wife proceeded to talk me down. We turned out to have quite a bit of common interests and friends. It was a big “small world” moment and incredibly reassuring to me. I felt like God put them specifically in my path to remind me that He’s still caring for me, even in these relatively trivial moments. And then the wife touched base with me several times throughout the morning until she saw I had other people around me.
I was setting up my bike transition and a woman near me started up a conversation. We stood and talked about 15 minutes, like we had known each other for years. She cheered for me, by name, when she passed me on the course later. And we talked afterwards, when we saw each other at our cars.
I had numerous mini conversations and encouraging words from random athletes on the course. I may have not had my usual training partners and friends to chase down but I was surrounded by people who bond over this crazy sport and who, inevitably, make sure no one is alone. It’s an incredible community.
But. Can I tell you the REAL heroes? They’re the friends and family that don’t bond over this crazy sport. They find it only mildly interesting and only because they love me. And yet they listen patiently as I discuss times and training sessions and various other triathlon related minutia. They forgive me missing events and social outings and conversations because I’m training or sleeping. They show up early on Saturday mornings and stand for several hours in the heat just to yell my name for a few seconds (and hold my stuff). My husband supports me taking hours away from our weekends for bike rides and swims. He endures weeks of sub-par, quick dinners because I have to get in a run after work and pauses his schedule to do bike maintenance on MY schedule. These dear people. They did not choose triathlon but they patiently endure it.
I stood in cold water at 9:35 this morning and crossed the finish line one hour and fifty eight minutes later, finishing out my 2017 triathlon season. No one else swam that course for me. No one else pedaled my bike or took even one of the steps away from me for 3.1 miles. No one else put in the training for me. But when I crossed the line today, it was to wrap up a season that was ONLY made possible due to the people around me.