It takes a village to raise a child and apparently a trio to get me to the start line of a race. Ever juggling the activities of parents and kids, keeping all balls in the air this weekend required a divide and conquer, which has been manageable as a one-car (plus a fire truck) household for the most part but not this time…
As we approached the move to Ashland last summer, one of my first acts of business was to investigate race options in the area and was pleased to find that there was a late season triathlon available. The date of the race coincided with the first soccer game of the season for biggest, however, and we made the choice as a family to spend the weekend together in town, supporting him as he debuted with his new team. I vowed that the next year, we would all go together, staying at the lake for the weekend and participating in the festival of races.
Alas, the timing got away from me and as the date approached for 2016, we were once again faced with a soccer/triathlon overlap, this time both biggest and middlest were playing with the added twist of my husband coaching middlest’s team. In retrospect, I could have simply noted our unavailability for the day but direct expression of thoughts, especially if it feels they might disappoint, is not my forte and my family was ineligible for the race weekend. This season, however, I was honored as the featured athlete for the event through Rogue Valley Race Group (RVRG), complete with an interview on training for triathlon using CrossFit programming, and wanted to follow through on the race.
Given that my husband would need our car for soccer, I needed transport to the course for both my bike and me. This was made possible through the graciousness of two athletes from the Ashland Wednesday Track Meet-Up, with whom I had trained in the winter months. Both were forgoing their own race experience to volunteer for the triathlon and began their course assistance by working with me to get bike and body to the race site where I was welcomed by the many familiar faces of the RVRG – competitors and administrators alike. I was also surprised to see a fellow athlete from my gym making his triathlon debut and had the opportunity to assist him with transition set up and race preparation.
It was a chilly morning – air temperature not yet 50 degrees with the water only a few notches higher. With many offerings on the day, the race group was working hard to organize both Olympic and Sprint distance triathlon and duathlon alongside open water swims as well as a kids triathlon. The time, manpower and attention to detail required for race directorship is massive and I am so grateful to all who sacrifice their own opportunity to race to allow others to compete. Feeling the need for speed, I opted for the Sprint triathlon and skipped the wetsuit, figuring any time gained would be neutralized by the struggle to remove and hoping my Lake Michigan trained roots would carry me through the brisk swim. As the sun warmed the ground and our bodies, the water remained frigid but I drew on my earliest days of racing when a wetsuit was not even in my arsenal and embraced the chill.
The water was at least as clear as it was cold and I survived the swim without mishap, though I was a bit dismayed to find my feet lacked feeling as I made my way through the first transition and struggled to get my shoes clipped in for the bike ride. Circumnavigating the lake, the bike was shorter than a typical sprint distance, with rolling hills and was largely shaded, which would normally be a welcome feature but on this morning I longed for patches of sun to thaw the ice blocks at the end of my legs. Climbing a hill around the third mile, I overtook a fellow athlete and my usual “good job” was met with the response of “Go Amelia!” I immediately recognized a fellow competitor from the summer’s Pool2Path series, coincidentally also a transplant from Michigan and loyal Spartan, and we would spend the remaining 6 miles in a cat and mouse game, pushing each other toward the second transition. I cannot recall having so much fun on the bike leg of a race – big thanks to Chad for taking my mind off of the cold and into the fun of competition!
The bliss of ignorance was short lived as I swapped bike shoes for racing flats and I took off on the run still without feeling in my feet. The entire course was on shaded trails, not too technical or too hilly; it was simply an enjoyable run through the woods, reminiscent of high school cross-country days. I tracked down and passed a few athletes in the woods and ultimately was the first woman across the line, third athlete overall out of 116 who raced. As we cheered in finishers, there was lunch to be had at the lodge overlooking the lake and the inspiring cuteness of the kids race.
From the gorgeous weather to the spectacular scenery to the friendly competition to the dedicated organization, the 2016 Lake of the Woods Triathlon was picturesque end-of-summer racing fun. Back at home, biggest and middlest had great games and my husband, ever the talented juggler, successfully coached with littlest tagging along and they all greeted me with congratulations and positive inquiry on my return home.
My resolve is strengthened to be clear and direct with my expectations next year, maintaining dedication to the teams while kindly declining the first game of the season and bring my whole family to participate in the Tri-Sports weekend to savor final moments of summer in a beautiful setting with racing opportunity for all.
Though an individual sport, often filled with many solo hours of training, today was proof that success in triathlon does not happen in isolation. Training partners, tech support, volunteers, medics, family, friends and fans are all critical pieces of the puzzle that comes together to grant the athletes opportunity to compete on race day. With gratitude to all who interchange racing and caring as seamlessly as their common letters for making today possible, I cannot wait for next year!
May we communicate clearly and give graciously, appreciating the kindness of others as it contributes to our success and helping others toward their own.