So this past Sunday was my first sprint triathlon. I’ve wanted to do a tri for a long while, but never had the guts to tackle the swimming aspect. My re-entry into running was cut short in February because of plantar fasciitis. With a deployed husband, I had to find some kind of physical exercise that would keep me sane. I tried the stationary bike for awhile, but that drove me to the limits of despair. The only other activity I could think of was swimming. Fortunately, I live very close to an indoor heated pool. I began swimming, taking some clinics on proper form and drill work. Then one day in early April, while drinking wine with friends (dangerous, folks), one of us said, “How about we try a triathlon?” We were fired up! We jumped on the computer, found a race that suited our schedules and signed up.
Fast forward 2 months. June 8, 2014, 7 a.m. My friends and I stand on the river beach, questioning our sanity. The buoys are so far away! And the water temperature is a chilly 59 degrees. But here we are. It’s a grand adventure, right? Hmmm. The race begins in waves. I wait until the very end to begin, balking at the thought of salty water in my mouth and critters (oh so many jellyfish) touching me. The first few meters are agony. I panic and wonder how in the world I am ever going to do this. Where’s the black line?? The crystal-clear water? The ropes separating the lanes? And above all, where is the chlorine?!? I flipped onto my back and did the backstroke until I could calm myself. “Draw me after you, let us make haste” (Song 1.4); “Put out into the deep” (Lk. 5.4) “At what time I am afraid, I put my trust in thee” (Ps. 56.3). The comforting words calmed my fears and allowed me to flip back over and swim with greater confidence.
The biking section was probably my favorite part of the race. Since I was at the back of the pack (pack? what pack? I was so far behind that I was my own pack) I had plenty of time to concentrate on the road, the scenery and prayer. The town and its surrounding environs is absolutely gorgeous. New England back roads are spectacular in the springtime. I passed an alpaca farm, had a deer jump out in front of me twice and heard the cheerful songs of the birds. The hour plus ride gave me plenty of time to pray. I prayed for priests, for my family, for the people in the area, the people in the race. And I sang! There was no one even remotely near me so at the top of my voice I sang songs of love to the best of all mothers, Our Lady.
Maybe I shouldn’t even mention the running portion. This was the part I was dreading most. After the swim, the bike, I was exhausted. I walked. A lot. By now, my enthusiasm had died and I was praying something like this: “God, please don’t let me die.”
I finished 3rd to last in this race. 2:30:27. It was an exercise in humility and endurance. Not humility like humiliation, but rather, I’m not the best or even close to it. Nor do I want to be. I did this for fun, for the adventure, for the joy of finishing with friends. And so I ended with the prayer that I try to pray every day: God, let me be a beginner again. Let me learn from you.