Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Kids Race Too

One of the benefits of a parent exercising and having run at races is that this love for activity hopefully spreads to your children. But it's not always easy.

Last year one of my biggest parenting failures went hand in hand with my daughter doing her first triathlon.  You can read about that here if you're interested.

This year I asked her if she wanted to do another triathlon and she said yes. I couldn't believe it and so I waited and asked again and she said "no". I made peace with that. I did not bring it up again. Then she came to me a few days later and said she'd changed her mind she did want to do it. So, yes again and I thought to myself, okay we can do this. So, I signed both kids up and I made myself some rules:

Rule Number 1 - I would not become personally invested in her race.
Rule Number 2 - I would relax and enjoy the day.
Rule Number 3 - I would do what I could to make sure the kids had fun.
Rule Number 4 - Please see Rule number 2. Relax - smile - have fun. The only reason to do this is to have fun.

The only kids triathlon near me this summer is the Miami Kids Triathlon. It's not the same one we did last year. It's a little closer to us but not really all that close.

Race Day

Race day always starts early.
Awake ... sort of.
 The kids got up and had breakfast and off we went. Everybody slept well and I was pretty calm. I even let my husband drive. When I'm nervous I can't take it and I have to be in control of the driving.

Kids races are disorganized. It drives me nuts. I have a really short fuse when it comes to disorganization. But I was determined to keep a rosy face on. The instructions said transition would close at 7 so I took that seriously and we got there in time. Luckily setting up a kids transition spot takes about 20 seconds. At one point Marc questioned my answer to where Jack's transition area was and rather than fight about it I sent him to ask the man in charge. I recognized him from packet pickup. Marc learned two things then. First and most importantly, I was right. Second the man who coordinates these events is really not helpful. Instead of just saying ... Over there and sending him on his way he gave Marc a 5 minute lesson on transition area logistics. Marc was unimpressed and quite honestly a little annoyed.

My husband got Jack set up in the little kiddo spot and I got Dylan set up. I have to say this race had less volunteers than the last kids tri we did and the volunteers were... what's that word, oh right, clueless. But I didn't get rattled and I kept my smile on.

Then we headed over to body marking - they loved getting their bodies marked. I think it's fun too.  For kids the  age group is your age. My little guy has a summer birthday so he's just changed ages and therefore this was pretty funny:

Volunteer: How old are you?
Jack: 5
Me: nope he's 6
Jack: Oh right, I'm 6.
Volunteer: okay, 6. (Writes number 6 on his leg)
Volunteer: What's your race number?
Jack (with confidence): 72
Me: nope 28
Jack: Oh right, 28. (he never had any idea ... why he said 72 is anybody's guess)
Volunteer: that's what Mom's are for.

Not surprisingly, Dylan answered all her questions correctly.
Note - red marker does not come off in the shower as easily as black marker.

The races
Did I mention that kids triathlons are disorganized? Well they are. So they do each age group completely and then they start the next group. This is because they change the distances in between. Makes sense but takes forever. Jack's age group went first. 25yd swim, 1/2 mile bike maybe, 400 yard run I think.  He was actually the third one to go. He did great on the swim. He was (of course) a total maniac on the bike and then he made it with a smile through the run. He had a good time but was really thirsty and ready to be finished by the end.
heading off to the start. Aren't they adorable!
That little spec is Jack swimming his heart out.

t1 - okay where is my bike?

zoom zoom
T2 - I'm not sure what exactly is happening here.
Finish Line!
He got a medal. He was pretty thrilled!

Dylan's group was about 50 times the size of Jack's. The bigger kids did 75 yd swim, 1 mile bike and 3/4 mile run. She put herself toward the end of the group.
So a lot of people went before her. She was happily socializing and watching the other swimmers. Her plan was to go slow during the swim. She did great during her 75 yards and proudly showed off her flip turns. Why yes all the parents nearby did say, oooh look flip turn. I'm not kidding. Then she dashed off to the bike. She took her sweet time in transition and I kept my mouth shut with a smile. Then she was off on the bike and I was pretty sure she'd get lost because there were no signs or other riders in front of her but whatever. Then we waited and waited. There were some super fast kids in her group and many of them even did the flying dismount. Super impressive. She finally finished the bike and went out on the run. She looked great on the run and she finished really strong. When she finished we learned that she actually fell on the bike but got up and kept going. What a trooper!
Waiting to start. She's in the pink swim suit in the middle.
That spec is her swimming. That's Jack ringing the cowbell.
t1. Like all triathletes finding the bike is the hardest part. We did get her laces that she didn't have to tie for the race but I'm not sure it got us any more speed. But she loves them anyway.

Coming in off the bike.

That's her on the run. She actually had the 4th fastest run time in the 9 year old group!
Finishing Strong! There is no picture of her with her medal because this is when I learned of the bike tumble. There were tears and we immediately went to get band-aids. Band-aids make everything better. But she's tough, right! She finished the whole thing even after falling!
The results. 
In kids triathlon you only compete against kids your same age. So 5 yrs old against 5 yrs old. They do however follow the USAT rule that it's your age on 12/31. So Jack competed against other 6 year olds even though he just turned 6 and Dylan competed against 9 year olds even though she is still 8. I guess it's as fair as any other system but it seems screwy.  

In the end Jack was 2nd in his age group and Dylan was 6th in her age group. Because Jack won 2nd Dylan was crushed that she didn't also place. I anticipate that this means next year she will not lollygag during the swim and will go faster on the bike. She isn't super confident on her bike yet so a year of practice will really help. Jack on the other hand is fearless on the bike. It's just a boy - girl thing I think.

Normally that would be the end of the day but since Jack got second we stayed for the awards. It took forever. Did I mention that kids triathlons are disorganized? It was about 1000 degrees and it took forever but we got his trophy. He's never been so proud of anything in his little life. He carried this trophy around all weekend and told everybody about it.
Jack with his trophy!
Jack brought his trophy into breakfast and took 6 photos of it and 2 videos. He is really proud!

All in all it was a good day. Both kids are already saying they want to do one next year. But first they are strategizing about their plan for the Turkey Trot the 5k we run as a family on Thanksgiving. Pretty stinking cute! 

Words of Wisdom
So, we've done this kids tri thing twice now. I'm happy to have inspired my kids to do this because as my husband points out they only do this to be like me. I think that's the only reason a kid would ever do a tri - because the parents do it. All the parents were triathletes. So the point is - remember the kids are watching and act accordingly.

First a quick tip. If you can show your kids the course in advance I think it's helpful. My kids actually swam in this pool to practice the day before and it made a big difference. And to be honest the winners in both my kids age groups had raced this course before so they were much more confident and knew where they were going. Which is helpful since there aren't many signs or volunteers. I would not suggest putting a child into a triathlon without having done some swim camp - swim team style stuff. It makes a big difference and I think that was our issue last year. Just like adults this is the part the kids seem most nervous about.

I think it's important to keep the attitude light for the kids. There were 2 dads that almost got into a fight near the bike dismount because another parent volunteer had accidentally told his kid to an extra lap in the pool. The extra lap is super annoying and it did totally screw up his kids time but seriously...calm down and remember the kids are watching.

When I started training for my first marathon way back in 1999 ... I was a huge fan of a running columnist named John Bingham. His nickname was the Penguin and his slogan was "waddle on." One of his pearls of wisdom was, "The miracle isn't that I finished it's that I had the courage to start." I still think that's great advice. In the end that's why I think it's great my kids did this race because it does take courage to try things like this and if they can do it now when they are young hopefully it will stick with them through whatever they choose to do later.

My kids are very proud of what they achieved on this day. Yes I encouraged them to do it and made it possible for them to do it. I packed the transition bag and I made the signs to cheer for them. But I also took a step back this year and just cheered and let them do their thing and didn't stress at all about the results. That my daughter showed the inner strength to go onto the run with skinned knees without even telling me is terrific. And that she didn't get a trophy is good too because I think the best place to learn that lesson (that we don't all win) is here where it really doesn't matter.  And for my son. He has spent the year being dragged to my triathlons and his sister's gymnastics meets - for him to get his own trophy was awesome!

This post is already too long but my last point on these kids races continues to be ... I think that the race producers who do the adult races should produce the kid races. Really I do. It makes no sense that these goof balls are out there reinventing the wheel with no signs for the course and clueless volunteers when an actual race production company could do this with no problem. I just don't get it.


  1. The forever long race might be a result of the way kids races are. Ours was like that and it was put on by the same people who did a good race the next day fir adults.

  2. If you had gone to the June one ... this was totally on the ball for the 5 to 7 age group. Glad you guys had a good time and that Jack got podium! I think the whole thing is wonderful and am grateful that a triathlon for, in my case, a five year old even exists. and of course, it was nice to meet you in real person too!

  3. love this post. Can't imagine my kids doing a tri -- one would be too busy calculating pi off the wheel to pedal, the other too busy bossing the organizers to get out of transition.

    did you have a nice victory meal?