I know I’ve written about my 9 year old before, but I have to boast a little for her again. You see, she is such a driven kid. Nothing stands in her way. Once she sets her sights on something, that’s it. It’s just a matter of time before she achieves her goal, and then immediately moves on to what’s next.
She’s always been this way. When she was younger, and learning to read and do basic math, she never stopped learning and practicing, until she mastered the next level.
This past spring, she decided that she wanted to run her first 10k. And, she did. Just like that. She started asking me about doing a 15k, but I told her that we should take our time before bumping up her mileage right now. You see, she’s going through a growth spurt, and I know increasing things right now might cause some orthopedic aches and pains.
So, instead of tackling the next distance milestone this summer, she decided to do her first splash and dash, aka aquathlon. At first, I wasn’t sure if she was going to be able to pull it off. It was May when she decided to register. She hadn’t been in the pool for the entire school year. She only swims in the summer, and she has never had formal lessons.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking….mom of the year. I have been a swimmer since I was about 6. Forty+ years of swimming, teaching swim lessons, and coaching, and I never really “taught” any of my kids to swim. That’s a whole different discussion; but, I digress.
So, we decided that when school was out, we’d start training in the pool and at the beach where the race would be. I figured, since the race was in August, we’d have enough time to at least get her comfortable with open water. I knew her running would be fine, since the run was a 1k.
We started out easy. She would get in the public pool, or my parents’ condo pool, and kind of splash around. I wanted her to get comfortable and confident before we went into open water.
Since I was going to set the buoys for the race, I knew that the girls that were competing would easily be able to stand up at any time during the race if they needed to. We started going to the beach so she could get used to the idea of a big lake, and sand, and fish, and waves and we swam right where the race was going to be.
She was fearless. I was amazed at how well she took to open water. You see, Abby approaches everything very matter-of-factly. You tell her what she needs to do, and she does it. Quite simple.
Her first time at the beach, she asked for help getting her cap on, but that was it. She was in the water, swimming in small spurts, then standing up and asking me for feedback.
Slowly, we increased her distance for her out and back swims. We would swim for a few minutes, then hop out, use the minivan for transition, and then do short runs. We only ran as long as she wanted to, and I made her stop at 2 miles. I wanted her to enjoy it, not feel like it was too hard or too unattainable.
She sometimes begged me to let her run more, but I was firm in my resolve. One time, as we were running along the reservoir after a swim, she told me how much she loved being a triathlete. Her smile said so much at that moment. When we got in the car, she told me how glad she was that I was her mom. These are the moments of parenthood where you feel like you are doing something right. She smiled the whole way home that day, and couldn’t wait to tell everyone about her workout when we got home.
Before we knew it, it was race day. I asked her if she felt ready and she simply said, “Of course I am.” We went over, picked up her packet, and set up her transition. Just like that; like she was an old pro. She was quiet, which I knew meant that she was focused and ready.
At the start of the race, she ran into the water with total confidence. It was amazing. She swam just like we had practiced: swim as long as you can, stop and catch your breath, and get right back at it. She came running out of the water, right up into transition, no hesitation. She got right to work, just like we had practiced. She dried her feet, put on her race shirt with her bib, sat down, put on shoes and socks, stood and put on her hat, and off she went.
I was speechless!
What a fierce competitor. She took off down the sidewalk, heading toward the turnaround point. I quickly dashed up to the finish line so I wouldn’t miss her. I cheered while I waited for her, since there was an adult race going on as well that day. Before I knew it, I spotted her coming back along the course. Her stride looked so graceful, so powerful, so confident. My eyes filled with tears and my hear felt like it was going to burst. I still tear up when I think about it.
As she turned toward the finish line, I couldn’t help myself. I was jumping up and down and making a complete fool of myself. Her smile fueled me even more. She crossed the finish line and got her medal, grinning from ear to ear.
I ran to her and squeezed her so tight! I’m surprised she didn’t complain. I could see in her face how proud she was that she had done it. All by herself. I made sure she got some water and a snack. We went over to collect her things from transition. All of her fans were waiting to congratulate her – grandparents, who were just as proud as me.
Later, when we were at my parents’ house, I turned to see that she had tears in her eyes. Immediately, I worried that maybe it was too much for her. Had I pushed her to do it? Had I put pressure on her to perform? I tentatively asked her why she was crying.
She looked up, her face red and puffy. “I’m just sad….because it’s over.” Oh, my heart. I held her tight, told her how proud I was of her, and how much I loved her. “There will be more races, sweetie. And you can sign up for any that you want to do. I promise.”
Run happy. Run long.
Amy is an ultramarathoner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also an ultramarathoner and triathlete), and kids in Ohio.