In July 2013, my kids were by my side as I raced in my first triathlon. They had watched me train for months, and now it was show time. At each transition zone, they were there, shouting to me that I could do it.
They were waiting for me as I crossed the finish line and to this day it’s one of my best life’s moments.
At the time, I thought I was modeling a good life lesson about doing things that scared you, perseverance, not stopping until you were done.
It turns out that me not being able to withstand ridiculously cold water and quitting a triathlon less than four minutes in was the lesson they needed even more.
Fast forward to July 2014. It was a cool day, and I knew going in the water was going to be cold, somewhere around 14 to 16 Celsius degrees (that’s 57 to 60 Fahrenheit for the old timers like me). Even in a wetsuit, that’s cold. I waited on the dock with the other women in my age group watching other swimmers being boated back because of the frigid temps. I tried not to think about it.
Finally, it was our time. This was a dock start, meaning you had to jump into the water and tread water until the horn sounds to signal the start of the race.
The minute my body hit the water, I knew I was screwed. I jumped, went beneath the water, came up and couldn’t catch my breath. I was hyperventilating because of the cold, otherwise known as cold water shock.
I treaded water mentally trying to get a hold of myself and my breathing. The horn went and I was still short of breath. I made it about 100m and signaled for one of the lifeguards in a kayak to come get me. By this time, my hands had started to go numb from the cold.
For the record, there is no way to get into a boat from the lake gracefully. Add in the fact that it was a very hot Australian dude who rescued me, and my humiliation level went up another notch. I took the boat ride of shame back to shore, grateful that I could at least breathe again. It was over in less than four minutes.
Once on shore, a very nice woman took my timing chip, and I was sent to the transition zone to get my equipment.
I held back my tears as I made my way to the van and called my husband and kids who were on their way to let them know they shouldn’t bother coming to the finish line. I had failed miserably.
Cue the snot bubbling ugly cry.
Months of training gone up in smoke in less than five minutes.
I felt like a complete failure. I also felt frustrated, angry, embarrassed, and that I had let my family down. The time I spent training was time away from them.
Who the hell did I even think I was trying to do a triathlon?
Then I got home, opened the door and was handed this:
It reads: You are still #1 to us. And even though you didn’t finish you still tried your best (I would never be able to do a triathlon). We will always be there for you, you worked hard, trained hard, and did your best and that’s what’s important.
We will always love you.
I didn’t even come close to crossing the finish line in that triathlon, and it was the best lesson I could have taught my kids. It’s not about being the best; it’s about trying your best.
I signed up for my first duathlon the very next day.