They lined up along the walls of the concrete tunnel, the darkness at the end of the hallway would be their entry to athletic stardom. Jittery with anticipation, some had their swim goggles in place. Perhaps it was to shield others from seeing the game plan in their eyes, perhaps it was just a sign of readiness. Let’s get this party started! They had already laid out their towels, parked their bikes, and placed their helmets and running shoes within easy reach.
Brightly colored chalk names with arrows pointing to kids bikes and gear covered the pavement of the parking lot transition area. Some had received instruction on exactly what to do as they arrived at the transition from the swim: “wipe your feet on the towel before you put your shoes on then grab your helmet and put it on like this”. Good instructions from Dad to daughter for her first triathlon. She’s seven years old and her lifetime of athletic feats is only just beginning.
I’m at the edge of the pool when the first group of six year olds enter from the hallway to the loud cheers and flashing cameras of the parents in the gallery bleachers looking down on the lanes. Some turn to give a wave to the fans while many stare into the blue tile below the water. It’s go time and the game faces are in full effect.
Waves of swimmers enter the pool, filling the benches as each round of swimmers finishes their required 50 yards and exits to start the 2 mile bike portion. There was freestyle, doggie paddle, backstroke, strokes that I don’t have a name for, a kickboard and a swim ring but all the swimmers made it down the lane and back by whatever method they could muster.
Because the swim was at an indoor pool, the racers were scheduled in waves from the youngest 6 year old racers first, to the oldest competitors at 14 years old going last. Just as a line of swimmers steps to the starting blocks, a volunteer stops them. Inside, we hadn’t seen or heard the storm brewing outside. Hard rain, lightening and thunder would halt the race less than an hour after the start. And so, the waiting began. The 6, 7 and most of the 8 year olds were able to start the race, the older kids had to wait. No one likes a race delay but safety on the course is more important.
Those who were able to start headed out to the transition and then on to the bike portion of the race. Just a light drizzle at first but soon the wind was kicking up. The out and back bike course meant that racers enjoyed a nice tail wind for the first half of the course but on the way back they were faced with a strong headwind. Mirroring the variety of swimming styles, there were all kinds of bikes used in the race. Everything from Barbie themed bikes to BMX bikes, training wheels to tri-bikes, you race what you bring and these kids pushed themselves through the rainy wet course. Volunteers were on hand to make sure they slowed down as they went into the turns.
On the run course, the racers who had made it out before the race delay were trying to finish in spite of the rain and the wind that was blowing some of the signs and markers down. Eventually, bags of trash too heavy to blow away were used to mark the course and finish line for the “lucky” ones who got to do the race.
While the kids waited for news on whether or not the race could continue, Craig O’Neil of THV11 was trying to keep the some 400 kids and their families entertained. He danced with the boys, Gangnam Style and tried to convince a group of girls that rain was a good thing because “Rain kills Cooties, y’all”. Some of the girls looked skeptical of this information. In the end, Zeus’s bolts continued to flash in the sky, the inflatables were deflated and the sno-cone stand went unused as timing chips were gathered and medals were handed out. The older kids would have to wait for another day to race.
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