It’s not about the win. It’s about how you treat others during the race.
It was my first sprint triathlon! Yes, it was ugly, but I finished. The culture of the event was one I will never forget. It truly was a great experience.
My family was out of town so I ended up being at the race alone. This was actually a good thing because I needed to focus. I needed to make sure I had all the correct swim gear, cycling gear, and running gear. It is quite a task just making sure you remember everything. I went to the course site a day early to scope things out because it was my first event and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. In fact, I had no idea what I was doing!
I had this preconceived idea that it would be a bunch of jocks standing around talking about themselves and looking to judge why in the world this guy (me) was here. I was shocked at the reaction of the volunteers and the participants.
“How can we help you?”
“Have you ever participated in a triathlon?”
“Do you know how to attach your chip?” (I didn’t even know what a chip was)
“Hey man, just stick with me I will show you around.”
“Hey bud, you need some air in your tires. I’ll bring my pump over.”
“Do you know where to place your stickers, numbers, rack your bike?”
There was an overwhelming amount of support from people I didn’t even know. I felt like they really wanted me to be successful.
Looking back, it was a culture I had not experienced before. It wasn’t just the volunteers, but the participants as well. It was a small event – around 350 would be competing. I thought to myself, “These are just the nice folks; it will be different on race day.” I arrived two hours early. Yes, I was the only one there. I could not sleep due to a nervous, scared, anxious, and excited feeling.
As I stood in line for the swim, I felt myself allowing more and more people to get in front of me. This guy from Hendersonville, NC, asked my swim time and told me to follow him. He pushed his way toward the middle of the pack and just told me to stay with him. I entered the water and he was right. He put me exactly where I needed to be. The swim was great! I had trained hard for the swim, but if I had been ahead or behind where he put me, it could have been a bad experience. Thank you to the guy from Hendersonville, NC!
As I moved from the swim to the transition area, there were military volunteers cheering me on. It’s funny how my mind works, but I was thinking “Here are men and women fighting to protect me and my country and they are cheering me on.” I really wanted to stop and shake their hand and tell them thank you, but it would have been a little odd to do that during the race. I did yell out, “No, thank you for what you do!” As I made it to the transition area and grabbed my bike, shoes, jersey, sunglasses, and gloves I realized that I had dropped my water bottle. (Thank you to the lady from Charlotte, NC, who yelled at me to get my water bottle – she may have saved my life!) The bike is my second strength – after the swim. I completed the 16-mile bike portion of the race with at least one hundred people cheering the entire way. We rode through a small town in upstate South Carolina called Travelers Rest. People were lining the streets and I felt like I was riding in the Tour De France. It is amazing what a little encouragement can do! (Thank you to the Travelers Rest community for your support!)
Lastly was the run. I dreaded the run. It was my weakest area of the tri and I knew it would be tough. I put my shoes on and headed out of the transition area and I could hear the crowd yelling.
“You’re almost there!”
“You can do this!”
“This is the last stage!”
The run for me was more of a trot in slow motion. Everything in me began to burn, hurt, and ache. I wanted to quit. No one was there to see if I finished. No friends or family had attended, so what was the big deal? Then I heard it…
“You got this..don’t quit.” It was like they could read my mind…
“Just keep moving,” they would say…
Then it was the final mile. A lady from Pinehurst, NC ran up beside me and started making some joke about how hard the run was this year (you’re telling me!). I was thinking, “I can’t even breathe to speak much less have a conversation.” You have to picture this. I am 36 years old and this lady was probably in her mid-fifties. Little did I know at the time that she had already completed the race and was doing a few miles of cool down. I’m laughing as I write this. I mumbled that this was my first race and she grinned and said, “Come on..I’ll get you there. Let’s go.” The pace picked up a bit and she began to talk about racing and running and I just listened…each step the pace picking up more…then she was gone. I turned and she had stopped her cool down and I was on my own. (Thank you to the lady from Pinehurst, NC. I am not sure if you are a person or if you were Jesus getting me through the race but whichever you were, Thank you!)
As I looked up, I saw the finish line and then I heard the sweetest sound that you can ever imagine. About 100 yards in front of me I heard
“We love you Daddy!”
“You got this Dad!”
My eyes filled up with tears as my 8 year old Kinley had climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse of Daddy, my 5 year old Lathem and my 3 year old Sophie were holding the “Go Daddy, We Love you” sign, and my awesome wife Dawn was cheering almost to the point of embarrassment….it was perfect! They had come back in town early to see me finish the race. There were no aches, no pain, no suffering, nothing but joy. It was perfect!
It was an amazing experience and I will be doing it again soon. The culture of the race itself is what I can’t stop thinking about. Can you imagine the work place, your home, your business, your boss, or just everyday people treating each other like I was treated? Can you imagine the production that would take place if we treated each other with the race-day attitude? What if we could Cure the Culture of negativity and build positive competition where we pushed each other to be better? What if this in turn made ourselves better? What if……
Lead Well, Serve All,