Friday, September 25, 2009

Weneki's Triathlon

"When was the last time you did something for the first time?"
Sally Edwards*

For three days I have been writing about the experience of watching my daughter, Weneki, participate in her first triathlon. I say first because something tells me she might be doing it again next year. The ideas are out of my head and onto paper. Like a homemade loaf of bread the story is in the resting stage after being kneaded and shaped. I've covered it up for awhile before going back to it for yet another rewrite.

I have never seen a triathlon in person so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that my determined daughter had been training for nine months - swimming, running and biking building up both her physical and emotional muscles. This race would not only be a test of her ability to perform in three race venues, it was the culmination of a task she'd set before herself.

On that chilly morning over 800 women gathered singly and in groups to await the start of the race. I was wrapped in a long sleeved fleece as I watched the women parade around in swim gear that ranged from Speedo tanks to full body wet suits. There was way more on the minds of these ladies than body image. There was every age, shape and size. Besides my daughter, I zeroed in on women with gray hair amazed that any one in my age group - or older - would be attempting this feat. I was also very aware of the temperature. It was pretty damn cold. I couldn't figure how any of those ladies was going to be able to jump into that lake and even make it to the first buoy.

After a brief pep talk by the race spokesperson, and some high-fives they took off in waves. Wekeki was in the 7th group to start. As she swam her way through frigid waters and sea grass her rooting section waited for a glimpse of her to come up out of the water. After 21 minutes she sped past on her way to the next venue - a 12 mile bike ride.

As I waited I thought back over the recent years when Weneki struggled to make a life for herself after her husband died. She'd spent 10 years devotedly caring for him. After he was gone she learned how to climb, took up hiking, made new friends. From where I sat on the other side of the country, it seemed as though she maneuvered herself through a grief period with grace. Gradually she learned to be okay in a world without her beloved. Like everything else she's done in her life, she made it through this period in her life with a combination of good humor, hard work, and determination.

Yet nothing quite prepared me for the woman I watched compete in the triathlon. I kept wanting to tell people "she gets it from me" like the mom in Dirty Dancing, but she had clearly surpassed any physical prowess I might have had back in the day. She does come from a long line of fast runners on her dad's side of the family. I think the guts and will power were hers alone.

She whizzed by us to the transition area where dropped her bike and started the 3 mile run. Look at that baby go, I thought to myself. Look at all those babies go. My god, I never realized how electric a group of women with a single goal could be. The air was alive with estrogen! Since I've never been in a race environment before I can't say for sure that it would be different if the competitors were men instead of women. I believe, however, that a "sisterhood" of women, though still competitive is kinder and gentler in some way. Individually the racers pushed themselves to their personal limits. Collectively they kept an eye on their sisters, willing to lend a hand if needed.

One by one women crossed the finish line. It was an awesome sight to see. When Weneki came running down the chute I thought for sure my heart was going to leap out of my chest. It was such a treat to be there see my woman/child triumphantly finish reinvent herself. The can-do spirit was everywhere around us. Caught up in the spirit of the day, Weneki's friends toyed with the idea of signing up for next year's triathlon. Onlookers seemed to want a piece of what the racers had achieved.

While this day was all about a physical challenge, I think there is a time for each of us to dig deep and find out what we're made of. Since I came home I've been asking myself questions like ... Is there something you've always wanted to do but didn't believe you could? Is there a prize you desire that only comes from hard work and determination? Are you everything you want to be?

I don't have the answers yet. When I do I hope I've learned a few things from my daughter.
What about you ... when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Wishing for you a goals and girlfriends and a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow,
Merry ME

*TrekWomen's Triathlon Series Spokeswoman for the Trek Women Triathlon Series and CEO of HeartZones USA


Molly said...

Ay carumba! She rocks!

Fire Byrd said...

This was so lovely to read when I'm feeling so sad for my self at the moment.
Ok I can't sign up for anything, but I can take each moment as it comes and give it my best shot as I deal with my horrible new experience.

swallowtail said...

What a post! I am sitting here in tears, and really, I "should" be doing something "productive!" I love this. I love what you say about this athletesism being her own as she makes her way in this world. Wow.

Also, I will email you an image or two of the quilts... they are purchased, usually on sale, from places like Ross and even Goodwill! Please email me (my computer will not allow me to get your email...weird, I know).

And, blessings to you and that lucky 'old codger!'