This year I have been tasked with starting up a Rock Hill branch of Tri It For Life, the triathlon mentoring group I am in. We started out small...30 athletes and a solid group of 10 mentors who are really pitching in and helping. It's been a lot of work and a lot of driving to Rock Hill. We have biking on Tuesdays, running on Wednesdays and swimming on Saturdays. The pool is 55 miles round trip from my house. At least the gas is cheap.
So this started April 16 and for the past 9 weeks these ladies have been working their little booties off. We have women from the age of 11 to 84. Each one has shown up, session after session, and the improvement has been remarkable.
This past Saturday was what we call the Mock Tri. We set up everything and have the athletes go through the entire race, to work out kinks and to give them the confidence that they can indeed do this triathlon.
Setting up this event was pretty easy for me and tapped into my event planner past. Easy doesn't always translate into fast and the whole thing was pretty time consuming. In fact, the entire Rock Hill start up has been pretty time consuming. It has messed up my sleep schedule, zapped my energy, and I can't tell you the last time I cleaned my house. Nothing will kill your passion for an organization more than being involved. I was really looking forward to the day being over.
The women started showing up early, which is odd in event world. Everyone was ready and super nervous. I said some pre event remarks, our Tri It president said some remarks and we started lining up in the pool area. As we did I saw one women standing in line crying. She was nervous. I went up and hugged her and asked her what was wrong. She said she just didn't think she could do this. I knew she could and told her so. Quickly it was her turn in the water and of course she got through it. I watched as all the women made it through the swim and then headed out to the bike course. This was the scariest part for me because I wasn't with them. The road is busy and I felt like I was letting my kids go off by themselves for the first time. I started feeling better as they came back from their ride. Of course everyone was fine. We even had a flat tire and I am proud to say the girl changed her own tire! After the bike is a 2 mile run. At this point it was hot and nearing 11am. As some of the stronger athletes came in we would cheer and then those women would stand and cheer on everyone else.
Everyone finished with huge smiles on their faces but there are a couple that really made me tear up.
Sandra - Sandra and her daughter Aimee train together with Yulonda, a neighbor. Sandra has come to every single training opportunity I have provided her with and her ability has multiplied. She has pushed herself and it is apparent to everyone (but her) that she is so strong now. She still doubted that she could do it. As she crossed the finish line, Yulonda was right there and the two just embraced and hugged for a long time. I started crying. It really is the greatest feeling to have someone else believe in you, ESPECIALLY when you don't believe in yourself. I am forever grateful for Cindy for believing in me when I couldn't see the strength in myself.
Beverly (pictured above) - Beverly is the grandmother in the three generation team; Kenzie the granddaughter, Wendy the daughter. I know I am not supposed to pick favorites, but Bev is mine. I worked individually with Beverly on her very first training session and taught her how to use the gears on her bike. Her husband died last year and like many people, Bev and Wendy dealt with the stress by eating. After gaining 30 pounds, they knew they needed to do something. They joined Tri It For Life and I am honored that I played a part in their journey from mourning to remembering. Watching them grow, both physically and emotionally, has been a true blessing.
I can't explain why, but I am fundamentally a different person after crossing that finish line in 2009. It changed the way I think about myself and what I think I can do. I have been bitching and complaining about the time this organization takes and the various little issues I have. But in the end, I played a tiny part in a fantastic group of women changing their lives forever. I'm pretty proud of that; of them. Today makes it all worth it.