I have a new inspiration in the world of triathlon and she is only 11 years old. Her nickname for this blog is "Churchill" (since I will most likely refer to her over and over again at the very least until I get back from Lake Tahoe).
Allow me to explain. She is obviously not a balding WC Fields look alike. She's a kid who completely embodied Churchill's quote, "Never, ever give up*" at Huntsville's first ever youth and junior triathlon recently. (*That quote is stated in various ways but that's the essence).
I met Churchill at the KidsTri clinic I did prior to the race. She looks like the swimmer I already knew her to be from talking with her mother. She has an infectious smile that can melt icebergs and is much taller and prettier than she should be at 11. She listened intently to the various tips I was doling out and she even laughed at my goofy jokes. She said she was looking forward to the race.
Little did she know what was in store for her that day.
This race was broken down into three divisions, Guppy, Junior and Senior. Because of some race permit issues, we were forced to start the Guppies off at 10am, which meant the Seniors (Churchill's division) wouldn't race until MUCH later in the already hot day. This was a reverse triathlon; Seniors would run a mile and a half, bike five miles and then jump in the pool to swim 150 yards.
I didn't see Churchill come in from the run, but I do know she was certainly not the last one out on her bike. After many of the bikers had come in, we started trying to assess who was still out on the course (by counting the number of bikes missing in transition). When we got down to just two or three I started trying to find out who was still out there. When the second to last little triathlete came in on her bike I realized the only one left was Churchill. I couldn't understand what had happened, because this little girl certainly looked the part of a full on athlete. I was told the sweepers were with her and that her mom was on her way out on a borrowed bike to ride in with her.
As I saw her coming in with her entourage of cheerleaders I immediately saw the bike was pretty small for her tall frame. And then I saw her TWO FLAT TIRES!!!
In case you've never had the experience of riding on flat tires, I found a video someone shot who apparently thought it was cool to do this (amazing how you can find videos of anything on youtube!). Notice how the bike wheel is very unstable. (FYI, riding on flat tires can be dangerous and can ruin your wheel so don't try this at home.)
Also, if you've never ridden on flat (or almost flat) tires, you don't realize how HARD it is to pedal. Holy Peace Sign Churchill!! No wonder this poor girl was last in on the bike. When she was coming into transition, someone said, "hey, run her in to the pool". She was HOT and TIRED and probably a bit disoriented. The volunteers who had helped every other child get to where they needed to be had already abandoned their posts.
Little did I know how fast this kid could run!! Once she got her shoes off and grabbed up her goggles, she was sprinting to the pool like she was running from a bear!! I had to take off my hat and throw my legs into racing mode in order to stay in front of her!
I expected her to shoot off in the pool pretty fast since she is a swimmer first and foremost. I also expected her to slow down a bit from being worn out after the run and the flat-tire ride. I didn't time her laps, but I did watch the whole thing, and I think she actually sped up!! She was FLYING through the water like a dang dolphin! Not only that, she was bilateral breathing with perfect form! ((When I get tired I have to resort to breathing every stroke on one side...not this kid!))
I had made it clear to the kids who came to the clinic that their race ended when they touched the wall on their last lap of the swim. There was a "finish line" but that was for show, not for timing purposes. To top off this amazing swim, Churchill did a deck up and trotted across the finish as if she had just won the race--smiling from ear to ear as she had been the whole time!! I was tearing up at least as much as her own family.
I waited until a bit later to gush over her. I told her she had just experienced a character building race. When she didn't know what on earth I meant by that, I explained. Most every adult I know would have quit. Without the ability to fix the flats, it would have been the end of their race. But this was Churhill's first triathlon. She was unwilling to be thwarted in her her determination. More than that, after running 1.5 miles in the sweltering heat and riding 5 miles (on, did I mention, FLAT TIRES?!) she finished STRONG and SMILING! I went on to tell her how unbelievably proud I was of her. I told her our character is not what we do but who we are as a person and that she is incredibly strong in that department.
Since that race I have had several challenging training opportunities and have done one 5K race (I'll write about some of those experiences in more detail soon). Each time I have thought about Churchill. The look of determination on her face, the way she raced through transition and sliced through the water to finish in what she already knew would be dead last place. She could have given up at any point in time. No one would have thought less of her for doing so. She could have jogged to the pool, she could have finished her first triathlon the way I did--doing the backstroke the whole way!! She could have finished with a tear in her eye and a pout on her face giving all the reasons she didn't do "well". Instead, she was smiling from ear to ear and that smile has stuck with me...and will be with me as I cross the finish line on September 22nd after swimming 2.4 miles, biking (on well pumped tires) 112 miles and after running 26.2 miles. I intend to put a picture of Churchill (the real girl, not the balding bowtie wearing man) in my special needs bag to remind me to:
NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP
|Victory is not determined by our place in the race results...|