The reason for visiting Kansas on this particular weekend was so that J and her friend JSko could participate in the WIN for KC Women's sprint triathlon. This triathlon is an excellent, safe, and fun introduction to the sport for women of all ages and abilities, but is also sufficiently competitive with all-event chip timing and a staggered swim start. The swim is 500 meters (~1/3M) in the warm July waters of Smithville Lake, followed by a 10-mile out and back mostly flat ride on a controlled course, before ending in a 5k run along the lake on a leafy bike path.
Now, despite having been hot and soaking wet with sweat at 3:30AM, somehow we found ourselves wet and cold 3 hours later. Unfortunately, a powerful storm moved in and sat right on top of the course. After everyone was lined up for the swim, lightning flashed and hit the ground on both sides of the lake, and a cold, hard rain pelted the triathletes, who were standing around in swimsuits. The 7:30 start was delayed by 10 minute increments, but we were all worried about a cancellation. The storm clouds were swirling quickly, literally colliding from two opposite directions above the lake. We were in the eye, hoping the storm would move past.
Eventually, the race started handing out garbage bags for warmth, which helped. It was a mad and chaotic scramble to get one, so the girls shared one (and I, like the sorry guy in the Titanic lifeboat amongst women and children, shamelessly huddled in for a bit until I stopped shivering). I felt bad for their anxiety as they waited out the storm. I had nobody to blame for my foolishness: I was standing around in full cotton clothes, drenched in cold rain and shivering, barely able to move achy legs.
Finally, the rain and nearby lightning stopped for at least 20 minutes, and the start was on for 8:30, after an hour delay. The day was still somewhat dreary, but the water (I was told) was pleasantly warm. The race had swim pace groups from 6-20 minutes, and the girls lined up at 15, despite my call of sandbagging on their part. The system worked nicely for spreading the swimmers out, but the girls finally got into the lake at 9am.
I missed JSko coming out of the water, who is generally a faster swimmer, but saw J come out running somewhere in the 13's. As I suspected, they were faster than what they gave themselves credit for. I hobbled over to the transition zone as quickly as I could and saw J come out on her bike. With a small rise to start, I saw her get off the saddle and start passing immediately -- awesome! Within a couple minutes, I saw JSko come out, too, smiling on her bike. They both survived the dreaded swim!
Now I had time to get in position to watch the bikes come back in. The fear of course is a flat tire or mechanical issue, but now also some sort of problem with the wet roads. But, the sun was out now, and it was as nice of a day as they expected. I had time to watch the women come in, a mixture of road and mt. bikes, generally smiling and enjoying the race. I did some math and hoped for J in the 15mph-17mph range, and was happy to see her come in right on schedule, looking strong. I just barely saw her get out of the transition and start running, so I knew she was still feeling good, and I'd have time to watch for JSko.
JSko was on a mt. bike with slicks. I remember when she bought that bike, back in San Diego where we all lived and met probably 7 years ago or so. Among a few casual rides in San Diego, we also had a road trip where we all rode near Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ. We had also done a few runs together, most memorably Coronado Island, another 4-mile partly trail run in Del Mar, and a road-trip run to Monterey for the Big Sur Half. I would say that their enthusiasm for doing different runs really helped get me into it.
Anyway, JSko was most anxious about the bike portion, and unbeknownst to me at the time, she had slipped and endo'd due to slick conditions when she started, but had hopped right back on the bike! Soon enough, I saw her riding in strong and smiling. I caught her coming out of the transition, running! She didn't know how much she'd be able to run and didn't want to be at the end of the pack but was looking great and still ahead of plenty of others.
Now the day was getting hotter, and I hoped J was able to keep running, and sure enough she was right at a solid running pace and finished up strong.
JSko's husband and kids made it up to the finish line just in time to see their Mom finish as well, still running!
What started as a horrible day still ended up being the event the girls were hoping for, and I think they did as well or better than they possibly expected. The event and organization are fantastic, they are very much encouraging of women to incorporate sports into their life. Women like JSko, a full-time working mom of 2 young boys that still fits training and sports into her schedule, are the exact sort of people that events like this can bring together. In the swim line, and in many pictures afterwards, I saw lots of little tykes being handed over to mom's for pictures. Physical activity is important for everyone, but I can't help think about how powerful a message it sends for kids to see Mom, who is more often the maker of lunches and influential in lifestyle messages on a day-to-day basis, out there working hard yet having fun in a race. And maybe, along with her, you recognize and cheer on your Aunt, your teacher, your babysitter, your Doctor. I don't pretend that running 100 miles or whatever is the most for everyone, but I certainly enjoy the more realistic inspiration that comes just from watching one of these events.
I'm proud of the girls for how they did in the triathlon, and I'd encourage anyone to look for a local race -- they're everywhere! -- that's a few months in the future, and then make a focused goal to finish it. Everyone can do it, and ends up a happier and healthier person for doing so!