12 Apr When you come last and it feels AMAZING. Because you slay anyway.
I was in New Zealand last month with the Hot Man to be his Bad Watergirl for the Taupo Ironman and something strange came over me. A feeling. A mysterious whispering that said, ‘Hey, why can’t you do stuff like this? Why can’t you be like these fit’n’fabulous freakazoids? What’s stopping you?’
Well, the answer to those questions is obvious of course. What’s stopping me? Oh just the unshakeable fact that I CAN’T BLOODY WELL SWIM. And I’m AFRAID OF THE WATER. Oh, and another rock wall obstacle – I HAVENT RIDDEN A REAL BIKE SINCE I WAS A KID. And I’M INCREDIBLY UNFIT AND CLOSE COUSINS WITH SLOTHS.
But I listened to the mysterious whispering and before I knew it, I had looked up a triathlon that promised to be fun, supportive and encouraging (even for total losers like me) – the IronMaori which is a quarter distance of an Ironman. I registered.
Then I asked the Hot Man if he could please coach me. Starting with teaching me how to swim.
Because he loves me and doesn’t want to dash my wild hopes and dreams, he didn’t say WTAF IS WRONG WITH YOU? ARE YOU NUTS? Because he loves me and he doesn’t want me to drown, he said yes he would train me. Even though he’s busy with his own training program and even though most athlete-coaches, when they give up their precious time to train a newbie – it’s for someone with actual winner potential. Not a 45year old sloth who can’t swim for shit.
The first lesson was terrifying. Ever since I worked on the tsunami book, I’ve been afraid of the water. Just putting my head under had me panicking. We had our lesson in the hotel pool but I kept struggling and resisting every time I had to put my face in the water and then try to co-ordinate my breathing. I drank half the swimming pool and ended up kicking my patient swim coach when he tried to help me. It was quite discouraging for me and Im sure it was hell for my coach.
But one of my greatest flaws (that drives my loved ones up the wall) is that I’m ridiculously stubborn. And fiapoto. Which means I don’t often quit. (Even when I should.) And after three weeks of swim lessons, I told Coach that I wanted to try a real triathlon. Samoa Events has a monthly triathlon series that includes a short one for kids aged 10 and under. A 200m swim, 4km bike and 2km run. I decided that would be perfect for me. I asked the very nice organiser if I could do the kids mini triathlon since I just started learning how to swim and there’s a high possibility that I would drown. He said yes of course. (And please don’t drown.)
I told Coach the good news.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. “You’re not ready. Why not wait a while? I don’t want you go get discouraged when the children beat you.”
OHEMGEE DUDE. THANKS FOR THE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE.
I told my children I wanted to do the triathlon and they said, “No Mum, you might die.” Bella added helpfully, “It will be sort of embarrassing for an old woman to be in the kids race. Everyone will see you and laugh.”
Of course that just made me more determined to do it. Anything to embarrass my demon kids.
I pestered Coach some more until he gave in with a sigh. “Okay, you should be alright, as long as you run your own race and don’t worry about anyone else.” Then he said, “Let’s take you to try swimming in the sea.”
We went to the ocean so I could swim up and down. I hated it. The ocean is too big, it’s salty, it moves and THERE’S CREATURES IN IT! But I told myself, hey the kids triathlon is only a 200m swim in shallow water. That’s not long enough for a shark to get me. And besides, sharks don’t go for old woman sloths first. Children are more appetising.
Then Coach said I had to try riding a real bike on the road. I’d been going to spin class at the gym for two months so I knew I could ride a bike for an hour and not die. Indeed, I felt pretty confident of my biking self. “I got this! Not a problem,” I said with nonchalance.
Two days before the event, Coach took me to Mulinuu in the evening so I could ride around the loop in front of the Parliament building. Can I just tell you, that riding a bike on the road, is NOTHING like riding a spin bike in the gym. (Big surprise). Bloody hell. You have to watch out for cars and people and dogs and potholes and rocks and bumps. The wind blows and tries to knock you over. The bike wobbles and I’m freaking about falling off – and then damaging my beautiful legs which let’s be honest here, are the only things I’ve ever owned which can be classed as consistently SKINNY. (Never mind my chubby face, I just don’t want my legs getting messed up.)
I biked around and around for an hour and my butt hurt. I was having serious doubts about doing the kid’s triathlon. But it was too late to back out. I’d already been a fiapoto and told my family that I was going to do it. I think I may even have quoted Beyonce and told them that I slay. Oops. #fiaBad #fiaBeyonce
There was one more huge question to address before I could attempt a triathlon though. The most important issue of all. WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?! Because if Im going to be attacked by a shark, I at least want the recovered remains of my half-gnawed body to look good in a glorious triathlete suit.
Coach saved the day by offering me his tri-suit selection. I was amazed to find they fit my slug self, and excited to model the suits for my children.
“Check it out kids! Don’t you think I look like one of the Avengers!?” Strike a superhero pose…
Bella couldn’t see the likeness. “Noooo not really.” She walked around me to get the full effect from all angles. “It’s so tight you know. Everyone can see that you have a really flat bum.”
Okay then. Thanks so much for that. Let me just add that to my Bio. ‘Lani Young, Superhero Triathlete and Flat Bum.’
So how did my mini triathlon go? Let me break it down for you…
The night before, I get all my gear ready. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time. I have a checklist and I lay it all out to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. Apparently this is what the pro’s do. And hello, I am an aspiring pro in all things. Of course.
We wake up early for the triathlon and it’s raining. Lightning too. Oh shit. Now I have to worry about getting electrocuted as well as drowning and having sharks rip me to shreds? “Will they cancel the triathlon?” I ask Coach. He says no. Because triathletes compete in rain or shine.
Alrighty then. Bring on the lightning.
I put my tri-suit on and feel like a badass. We’re about to leave when I suddenly need to go. Nervousness has me BUSTING to go. But when I dash to the bathroom, that’s when I realise that while superheroes and triathletes may look badass in their ofu’s, its actually hell to get out of them to go to the toilet. WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME WHAT A STRUGGLE IT IS TAKING THIS THING OFF?! I am reconsidering wearing the one piece Avengers ofu when I get called up by Captain America.
At Mulinuu we take my bike to the rack and set up my gear. Everyone is supportive and encouraging but even then I am hit with a blast of hideous self-doubt. I don’t much feel like Beyonce anymore. And I sure don’t look like a superhero in my ofu either. More like a squishy sausage busting out of its casing.
I switch my inner voice off. The one that’s screaming YOU’RE A WIMPY SLUG LOSER AND TOO OLD TO TRY THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME. I operate on autopilot. I smile when Im smiled at. I nod when I’m asked a question. And I do everything that my Coach says to do… put your socks inside your shoes so you’re ready to go quickly, have all your bike gear laid out on the towel next to the bike, put your race number on a belt because you’ll be too tired and shakey to safety pin it to your suit…relax, breathe, have fun. Ha, yeah right.
There’s two events happening at the same time. One for grownups – a sprint distance triathlon. And one for kids under ten years old. That’s my event. The adults go swim first. They all look lithe, lean and sleek. Like how I imagine that I look. But really. #not
Then the kids line up in the water for their race to start. I’m standing next to a little girl in a red tri-suit. She looks like she’s ready to slay. Confident, powerful and besties with Beyonce. I am a fan of her already. I didn’t have her confidence and strength when I was Under 10yrs old. Heck I dont have it now. #sigh
I’m trying not to think about the fact that the water is murky and funky and there’s bits of grass and suspiciously rubbish-like stuff floating in it. My clean-freak radar is going off wildly. But then the race starts and there’s no time to worry about dirt, germs, bacteria and sharks. Because I’m just trying to swim and remember how to breathe. The little girls take off like dolphins and leave me behind in a flurry of energetic splashing. I want to be like them when I grow up.
I stop to have a rest, stand up and breathe. The water is up to my chest. The swim monitor who’s keeping an eye on the kids, reminds me, “You can walk Lani. Keep going! Walk!”
I start walking but I’m more scared of the possible sharp things on the ground that I can’t see (dead things/stinging things/slimey things/broken beer bottle things) so then I swim again. Stop, breathe, rest – then swim again. Repeat.
Finally the swim is over. I did it! I can’t believe it. I want to cry, take a photo, and tell everyone on Facebook immediately about my incredible achievement.
But there’s no time to hi-five my awesomeness, because I have to run across the road to the transition zone and get on the bike. By this point, all the children are already whizzing by on their bikes and they are on fire. But it’s all good. I’m putting one foot in front of the other here… I put my helmet on – backwards. Oops. I put my shoes on – the right way. #win Then I get on the bike and the ground is moving up and down and side to side…ummm whats happening? A helpful race monitor tells me to WAIT, BREATHE, TAKE IT EASY, MAKE SURE YOU’RE OK BEFORE YOU START RIDING! And then I’m off.
The bike is so much better than dying for air in the sea. I’m flying. I am Fast and Furious. I am killing it. I am Beyonce and Serena Williams and Usain Bolt and everybody else you can imagine who is awesome and amazing! I feel like I can bike forever. It helps that we’re going around in circles on the road in front of the Parliament building and its completely flat – but hey, the point is, I AM BIKING AND NOT FALLING OFF AND I AM STRONG AND POWERFUL! I COULD DO THIS ALL DAY BECAUSE I AM A SLOTH WHO SLAYS.
We have to do 10 laps and it’s going well. (Because did I mention that I am fast and furious?) I’m coming up to a little boy on his bike and I’m going faster than he is. Someone shouts, “Overtake him!” But there’s a problem. I don’t know how to overtake another cyclist. I haven’t biked with any other people before. What if I try to pass him and we crash? So nope, not doing it. I pull back and just be happy being my speedy self, by myself. I remind myself that Coach said to ‘run your own race. Don’t worry about anyone else’ and I’m righteously being obedient to my Coach. (The man would be astounded at this I have to say. We’ve been married 25yrs and ‘obey your husband’ has never been in my vocabulary. )
I finish 10 laps and get off the bike. Victorious. But a little tired. Slight problem when I can’t lift my bike up to rack it properly. Where’s Coach? I loser whine, “Somebody fix my bike please!” A nice lady helps fix the bike and then I’m off to run.
This is the point where all Coach’s counsel goes out the window. I’m supposed to start by walking, catching my breath and then pace myself slowly so I can finish the run strong. But a wild panic takes over and I’m SPRINTING down the road. I’m not sure why. It could be because my family is cheering for me. Or it could be because the other triathletes (the children) are running like Olympians way in front of me and I MUST CATCH UP!
Whatever it is, it dies really fast and within a few minutes I’m exhausted and want to puke. But I haven’t even run 200m yet. Can I lie down for a bit? Can everyone just hit the PAUSE button so I can throw-up for a few minutes? Please?!
This is why Coach said – start the run slow. Dammit.
I walk and run. Then walk and run some more. Every step feels like I’m carrying a sack of rocks with me. WTF? I don’t understand. In the last 6 months I have gotten rid of forty pounds of excess weight. I should be dancing light on my feet, a butterfly fluttering along, a gazelle that’s fluid and effortless! But instead I am thundering along like an elephant, weighty and ponderous.
I am muttering to myself with every torturous step. This really sucks. I knew I shouldn’t have tried to do this event. I’m too old. Too fat. Too slow. Not only am I older than all the children in the Under 10s race (obviously), I’m also older than everybody in the grownups race.
Older than everybody – except my Coach. My Ironman husband. Who is winning his triathlon while I whinge about being too old for this suffering…
That realisation almost stops me in my tracks. For the first time, I catch a glimpse of what it must be like for Darren when he does local triathlons. Nearing fifty and still outracing teenagers. I have always been proud of my husband, but in that moment, I am in utter awe of him. His drive, determination and courage. And so I pick up my pace.
Then the finish line is in sight. Glory be! I speed up and dash to the end. And just like that I’ve done it. I’ve completed my first ever (mini) triathlon. I’m hot, sweaty and still a squishy sausage in my husband’s tri-suit. Still a shuffly sloth who can’t run very fast. Still a gasping spluttering swimmer who can’t swim good. Still a (badass) biker who’s too chicken to overtake anyone on the road. And I’m last behind the fabulous fierce children who blitzed to the finish way before me.
But none of that matters because in that moment, I feel amazing. I am amazing. I slay.
And I can’t wait to do next month’s (kid) triathlon.
(Here’s where I tell you that if a sloth like me can do a mini triathlon, then literally ANYONE can. Including you! Check out the Samoa Events website and Facebook page for details of the next event. Bring your kids to try it. Samoa Triathlon has spare bikes, helmets and even tri suit gear for all ages. And dont worry if you cant swim good. Theres great race monitors at every point along the route and they even walk alongside the kids while they’re swimming. Parents can swim beside their kids too if you like. Its a great way to try a new sport in an encouraging and safe environment. See you all next month! But be careful, I warn you – I am fast and furious on the bike, I will be overtaking people this time and I may run you over.)