My mom can beat up your mom

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My mom rocks.

And Saturday she rocked her very first full triathlon. I’m just totally proud of her. Now, I’m not going to divulge her age here on my blog. But let’s put it this way: I’m just about 43. And I wasn’t any kind of teen pregnancy.

She’s come to a few of my races in the past. And last year Corinne talked her and my dad into teaming up for the Green Lake Triathlon. My dad swam, Corinne biked and mom ran the 5K at the end.

And when she finished, she knew she wanted to try one all on her own. Her hang up (as is most people’s hang up) was the swim. Open water distance swimming is a daunting challenge. So the natural answer was the Chain of Lakes Triathlon in Alexandria. It’s in her summer hometown and it includes a pool swim. I told her I’d get her signed up…but it didn’t happen. The race filled up before my tax refund came in.

Fortunately I found the Mid-Minnesota Early Bird Triathlon. It’s right next door to us in Sauk Rapids and it also features a pool swim. Unfortunately, I was about the only one who found the Mid-Minnesota Early Bird Triathlon. They cancelled it due to lack of participation. (sigh)

So mom had been training all winter long…and I couldn’t find a race for her. Then I found this.

Yes, it’s a “lake swim”. But it’s only 300 yards and it starts/ends on a nice, sandy beach.

Deal. So I signed us up. And she did it. And here’s how it went.

The gang’s all here
We managed to bring along 9 of 10 grandkids with a minimum of whining, even though it meant getting out of bed at 6 on a summer Saturday. (If you’re looking for an answer to the question, “But why do I have to get out of bed?”, apparently, “Because your grandmother is running a triathlon,” is an answer that not even a teenager can argue.)

So mom had tons of support. Corinne brought along a white shower curtain and a pack of multi-colored Sharpies and the kids all made a big, supportive banner while mom was out on the bike course.

And when she came back in on the run, even Erin woke up and came out of the truck to cheer her on (in her own way).

I’m glad we were all there. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.

It went swimmingly

I’m trying to think of a way they could have made this lake swim more tolerable. Short of adding a ton of bubble bath and handing out rubber duckies, I’m drawing a blank.

It’s a 300-yard swim…if you want it to be. “There are two turnaround points,” explained the bubbly race director. “Out to the farthest paddle boat and back is 300 yards. If you don’t want to swim that far, you can just go out to the swim raft and back.”

Mom had great intentions of swimming all the way to the paddle boat. She and Christine started out together. Somewhere between the swim raft and the paddle boat though, common sense kicked in and she turned around. Good choice, mom.

It’s just like riding a bicycle
Mom owns a bike. It’s a relatively comfortable Schwinn mountain bike and it’s less than 20 years old. (Unfortunately, mom’s bike is “less than 20 years old” in the same way that Michele Bachmann is an “elected official”. Sure, it’s an accurate statement…but just barely.)

Corinne, Christine and I have all ridden triathlons on comfort/mountain bikes. It’s a slow, heavy process. So we tried talking mom into riding Corinne’s road bike.

I brought Corinne’s bike with us when we went to pick mom up on race day and (what do you know?) I just couldn’t get mom’s mountain bike to fit on the rack. So she agreed to ride Corinne’s. (Hesitantly. She was very nervous.)

When we got to Pine City, Corinne decided it would be a good idea to hop on and put mom’s fears to rest by demonstrating just how easy it is to shift gears. To her credit, she did a fantastic job of demonstrating gear shifting. On the other hand, she also did a great job of demonstrating how easy it is to get mired down in a patch of sand, tip over and scrape your knee all up. On balance, I don’t think mom’s fears were allayed.

Didn’t matter though. The worm has turned for my mom. She flew on that bike race. No problem at all. She talked the whole drive home about what a difference the bike made and that she passed 9 people! Very cute. I knew for sure that it made an impact on her when the first thing my dad said when we sat down to lunch was, “Well, if you happen to come across another one of those bikes, I guess you’d better let me know so we can pick one up for your mom.”

Gran on the run
Now, the run here was advertised as 2 miles. Mom’s sure she heard some guy say that he was pretty sure it was more like 2.3 miles. (Could be. It did feel a little long. But I didn’t want to be a buzzkill and explain that every triathlon run feels longer than you think it’s going to. Might be because you just got done SWIMMING AND BIKING!)

At any rate, I saw mom take off out of transition at a run…and I saw her slow down to a walk a couple of blocks down the street. No matter. Running right after you’ve climbed off a bike is brutal. It just is.

So sooner or later she must have picked it back up because we eventually spotted her jogging gamely down the street toward us at the finish line. That was all the incentive our girls needed to rush out and escort her to the finish line. And there she was; my mother – a woman whom I’ve described before as one careless date away from being a great-grandma – pushing across the finish line, flanked by her entourage.

Completely fantastic.

My first tri
This was a great race for a first triathlon. For one thing, it was cheap. I missed the early-bird sign-up rate, so it cost us $20 each. (Early-bird was $15.) And it still comes with a t-shirt (long sleeve and everything!).

For another thing, it was short. A 300-yard swim (or something close to that), a 12-mile bike ride and a 2-mile run. All manageable distances.

For a third thing, it was small. They were very excited about their registration numbers this year. I believe there were about 65 of us. (Last year, I believe they said, was 19.)

And, lastly, it was totally informal. No timing chips, no big clocks, no uptight race marshals touring the course on motorcycles and assessing penalties for drafting. If you wanted to know your time, you started your stopwatch at the word Go.

Just my luck
Of course, you knew that comfortable informality would have a downside. My first podium finish comes in a race without a podium. (sigh) You just finish up, get your water bottle and pick up your t-shirt.

But, for the record, I was third across the line. And, I’m not bitching here (yes I am), but I think I might have won…if I hadn't beat the race volunteers out on the bike course.

See, I caught the lead biker at about the 4
-mile mark and they had the ambulance in front, sort of serving as a pace vehicle. That worked well for the most part. (Sucking diesel fumes sucked, but having someone to show me where to go was cool.) But, at about the 7-mile mark, the ambulance driver decided to stop and chat with the volunteer at one of the corners. So I STOPPED and asked, “Which way am I going?”

“That way,” said the ambulance driver. And I started out again. That stop was kind of a drag, because that turn brought me into what little wind there was and started me up a little bit of a hill. Irritating, but not devastating.

Still, a quick glance over my shoulder reassured me that I still couldn’t even see the next cyclist. On I went until a little before the 9-mile mark…when I came to a T in the road. With no one there. And no markings. I stopped. I looked one way. I looked the other way. I swore. I turned back; deciding that I must have missed a very quiet volunteer sitting at a corner somewhere back up the road.

I started heading back up the road and eventually ran into the second cyclist. We stopped and both pulled out the little printed business cards we’d been given with the course directions on them. Just as we’d decided that we weren’t off course and that we should take a right at the T, a volunteer drove up and started pointing to the right. “Go to the right!”

“Um…Let’s stick together,” I said to the kid on the bike next to me. So we rode on for those last 3+ miles at a pretty decent pace…but not a flat-out race pace. And eventually a third cyclist caught up to us and joined us.

When we got to transition I waved my co-rider in ahead of me, since it had been his reading of the direction card that got us back on the road. (Mine was wet, smudged and illegible in spots.) I was first out of transition…but I couldn’t run with those two. They caught me, passed me and beat me by about a minute and a half.

Still, I wonder how much of a lead I would have built up on the cycle if I hadn’t ever had to stop…

(sigh) C’est la vie

The results

Greg — 54:45
Christine — 1:12:24
Janet — 1:22:12

Great job, mom! (And you too, Christine!)

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