When Nikki did her first triathlon, it did not end well. She ran and biked fine, but she panicked in the water and had to be helped across the pool. When she got out of the water (it was a reverse-order tri, the swim was last) she lost it and started crying and could not stop. She was embarrassed, she was scared, but mostly – she was disappointed in herself. It was a very hard thing to watch as a high-anxiety Mother who – especially at that time – was struggling with her own triathlon/swimming fears. I wasn’t sure how to help her because her fears were always different from mine. Hers came more from a, “I want to be AWESOME at this!” place and mine came more from a, “I just want to finish alive!” kind of place.
But I did everything I could to encourage her and she never once…NOT ONCE…considered not trying again this year. And this year went much better! I am over my fears, so I worked with her in the pool a lot more. We practiced the distance several times and she was able to do it almost fully Freestyle every time. But on race day? She panicked again and did most of it on her back. WHICH IS FINE! And way better than last year! But still…the mental hurdle was not moving, it seemed. YET!…She let me sign her up for her first real Sprint Triathlon. A 450+ participant race where there are probably less than 20 kids in the 14-and-under category. She took the tears from last year and the terror from this year and somehow still enthusiastically jumped on board to try her first grown-up race.
And do you know when that race is? TOMORROW.
She and I have worked very hard for this race coming up. We’ve done several two-a-day workouts where we swim and run, or swim and bike in one day. We tacked on late night laps after cross-country runs. We did long bike rides to the river. We shared lanes at the Y. We have filled the weeks since her Kid’s Triathlon with real training for a real race. She and I would get in the pool together, she would swim her 8 laps and then go play while I swam more. She has gotten so confident with her swim it’s hard to believe she’s the same girl from June who had to swim 75m on her back because she panicked. She jumps in and goes now, and if you start she and I at the exact same time, I have to work VERY HARD to beat her. And I’m not certain I could every time, it’s a close race.
I am just amazed at how far she has come.
But I’m mostly amazed she never gave up.
I have never finished a race in tears from anxiety or fear before, and not said – at least once, “I’m never doing that again.” But No, she never said that. We never had to convince her to try again, even if her first attempts weren’t great. Never once. She always knew that one day she would get it and so she just kept trying. And that’s where I think we could all use a little bit of Nikki in our hearts. She never doubted that if she stuck with it, she would get there eventually. And I really believe we’re there.
My only concern tomorrow is actually with the run, something she’s been doing for years. Nikki hates the heat more than the average runner. And since we’re slower racers, we’ll start latest into the pool, so we will be doing our run during the hottest part of the day. And she becomes VERY grumpy and whiny in the heat. And I become very grumpy and whiny when she’s grumpy and whiny. SO! We’re going to do run/walk intervals – Running 5 minutes, Walking 1 minute, to get us through that 5K. But the swim? Not worried about it even ONE BIT. I’ll be right there with her the whole time, so I can talk her out of a panic attack, but I’m not really worried. She’s done this distance so many times now she could do it in her sleep.
I’m just beyond proud of her.
We did a mini-triathlon last weekend to practice riding our bikes wet (something she’s never done before since the Kid’s Tri was reverse-order) and we pick up her race packet today. She wants to get a chocolate Gu to take before the run and we’re freezing water bottles and gatorade tonight. She asked if she could wear my FINISHER shirt from last year’s race to school today, to help her get into the spirit, and she wants to get to the race AS SOON AS TRANSITION opens tomorrow so she can set up her stuff properly.
This race is a great one for a First – it’s very much geared to newbies. I’m not sure I would have gone back for more if I had tried a more “serious” one for my first one, so I’m really glad it worked out this could be her first official Sprint Tri. All of our friends are going to be enthusiastically cheering her on and Donnie will be on #TeamNyoka for a change. (We call ourselves #TeamDonnie for his races, if you’re not privy to our Instagram documentation.)
I can guarantee you two things tomorrow: 1) Nikki will kick that race’s ass and 2) Her Mom will be sobbing as she crosses the finish line.
(Her Mom might actually be crying now, while she’s typing this entry.)
Keep us in your heart, tomorrow. And keep my daughter in your heart if you decide to ever brave a challenge that terrifies you. She seems to have something most of us could use to get over our own fears.