A family in motion

There was a long straightaway around mile 3 of the race, and I was finally starting to think I could finish this thing, my first Olympic distance triathlon.

Then I saw them. Oh God. My parents were walking along the street opposite the runners. Really. They’d made their way, 50 miles from home, into this giant, poorly marked state park on a hot sunny day, to cheer me on in a field of 100-plus.

Like a 15-year-old caught with a red solo cup at a party, I turned to the guy running next to me and said, “What are my parents doing here?”

I’d tried to be vague about the race. I tried to discourage their curiousity. I said, “It’s way down in the park and I don’t know if you’ll be able to drive in, and I don’t know about parking or how you’ll find me. Why don’t you just go to my house and sit on the porch and watch the boats on the lake instead?” But there was no stopping them.

For the next 4 miles I had flashbacks of my mother shoving a peanut butter and honey-smeared rice cake in my mouth between field hockey practice and a race when I was a freshman in high school. She was onto something because that styrofoam-dry platform and gag-inducing topping propelled me through a 10k. I remembered her entering me in a 10k before I had any grasp whatsoever of the distance (maybe age 12?) and nearly got lost along the way because I didn’t know the route and basically followed people who looked like they were running too. And how she’d gamely participated on a sprint triathlon team (our biker) something like 10 years ago when she was closer to an age divisible by “7” (shhh!).

mom the triathlete, second from right

mom the triathlete, second from right

Back then my father loved the fact that I’d finished second to the rich kid who had a private running coach. He and I went through a running phase when I was about 10, me trotting along behind him on the dirt roads near our house. Swimming with him was better, he’d throw us over his shoulder to dive into deeper water (and he took us to the beach after work when there was no lifeguard to tell us what we couldn’t do). Too bad he didn’t drill me on laps, I would really appreciate that now when I have to keep to the outside of the swim course or be run down.

We bought them matching bikes about 25 years ago, and they were thrilled. This was to be their retirement activity (outside of cheering on grandkids at various soccer fields, softball games and freezing cold hockey rinks). Since then they’ve probably been on every bike trails in New England. I think they’ve worn out and replaced three or four sets of bikes. Last spring they showed up to do the canal path with me and completely amazed me with their speed and comfort level riding through crowds of people. They’re not ready for rocking chairs yet.

 

not slowing down

not slowing down

So I was the only runner today finishing the race with her parents cheering like crazy on the sidelines. And they both took pictures. The the questions started: why does that guy’s bike already have shoes on the pedals? can I carry that for you? did you get a t-shirt? aren’t you going to eat something? how early did you get here this morning?

Imagine what I might have missed if I had done this alone.

We walked to the transition area. “Wow,” my father said, “have you ever seen so many bikes in a lot like that?”
“Yes, I was in there with them a few years ago!” Mom reminded him.

Wait, Dad has to take a picture of all the bikes (he uses disposable cameras for heart-stopping images of antique trucks and stuff).

Then we walked to the lake and I jumped back in. The cold water felt really good this time, nearly 4 hours after the plunge the race started with in the morning. They sat on a picnic table and watched. For a few minutes I felt like the 10 year old again, showing them how I just learned a new stroke.

As I close in on an age easily divided by “5” I really appreciate that these two set my life in motion, literally. They haven’t stopped and I won’t either.

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