This summer, I did my first triathlon which was 3/4 mile swim, 18 mile bike ride and a 3.2 mile run. It is something that is completely out of my comfort level and, frankly, scared the hell out of me. Up until the night before, I was still considering skipping it and was constantly looking for reasons to not do it…aside from the exaggerated fear that I would drown in the lake.
Of course, I did it.
As I came down the stretch of the first of two laps in the lake, I was pretty tired and filled with doubt that I could finish this race…I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish the swim. I knew that the fish under me were just waiting for the 230 pound free meal flailing around in the water above them. As I came closer to shore, I could first see my boys jumping up and down, holding signs they had helped their mommy make and cheering me on. I heard their little voices yell out, “Go, Papa, go.” I knew that no matter what, I had to finish this race.
As I came out of the lake after the second lap (only about five steps in front of the first woman out of the water who started 15 minutes after I did), Benjamin and Matthews faces lit up. I had talked a lot about how nervous the water made me and I think they knew. (Of course, up until the moment they noticed me, they were exploring rocks and throwing sticks, seeming unaware of the race going on around them.)
The first five miles of the bike ride were brutal, with the kind of hill Edgar Allen Poe might imagine to torture a soul. I really struggled up the hill and, again, I entertained thoughts of quiting. It would be so much easier to turn the bike around and just head back down hill…literally and figuratively. Again, however, I thought about the face of my sons. It is one thing to disappoint myself…I’ve done that enough in my life. It was a whole other story to disappoint them. And even though I knew that at that moment, they were more interested in what would happen if they threw rocks at an ant hill, I knew that in the long run, there was a lesson here.
I got my second wind and started passing people on the course. I felt more myself, in my element. I finished the ride and cruised back into the transition area for the run. By then, after almost two hours of exploring the lake, they barely acknowledged me (some geese were more interesting than I was, and I can’t blame them) and I began the last leg. I ended up walking most of the running course, watching several other guys passing me, before finding a last bit of reserve energy to run the final mile . Andrea noticed me about a quarter mile out and rallied the kids to cheer me on.
I was exhausted and proud to finish, especially a full two minutes faster than the goal I had set for myself. There have been things I’ve started and not finished in the past, and for both the kids and myself, I really needed to finish that race. As I recovered, I ended up crumpling over as I got overwhelmed with emotion.
The next day, I went online and found the results of the race (I didn’t have the energy to check it out the day of). Ben was sitting near by and asked me if I won. I laughed and told him his Papa finished dead last of all the guys (with most women finishing ahead, as well). He let out a moan of disappointment and said, “Oh, I wanted you to win.”
I told him I was proud of the result. I told him that it was okay and that even though I finished last, finishing was the important part. I had done my best and that was what was important…and that I had fun doing it. I’m not sure if he knew what I meant, but he seemed to acknowledge it.
Would I have liked to have won? Absolutely! Do I want my boys to try to win at everything they do? Without a doubt! Can stronger lessons sometimes be learned from finishing last rather than first? Sure. You can’t win at everything you do…but it is important that you be proud of everything you do and I hope that one day my sons will learn that.