Posts Tagged ‘SunRype Tri-Kids’

(Disclaimer:  This post was written not to be abrasive, accusatory or argumentative in anyway.  It was inspired by both something I am passionate about as well as some of the recent observations I have made over the past few years in pursuing and impacting that passion)

There are lots of unique “challenges” out there to incite and inspire healthy lifestyle choices like the “30 Day Plank Challenge”, the “Push-up Challenge” and the “Sun Salutation Challenge”.  Strava alone is full of specified challenges to swim, bike and run certain distances, or climb a specific elevation, or maybe “race” a certain event within or over a set period of time.  Others challenges are more aimed at creating awareness around a very deserving cause, charity or foundation and will, likely, ask you to video tape yourself doing something silly like jumping into snow bank naked or dumping a bucket of ice water over your head.  You can view my own HERE.

It’s all for fun.

Ultimately the point is to inspire and motivate others to do something healthy and positive while raising awareness around something important…be it whatever it is.

My own cause is helping kids, even more so in recent years when I actually become a parent.

To this extent, I have supported the Strong Kids program at my local YMCA which provides healthy lifestyle programs and opportunities for disadvantaged kids.  Each year I swim 10 kilometers for Frank & Friends and participate in a Cycle-a-thon in support of the cause.

I have also just completed my 4th year working with the SunRype Tri-KiDS Triathlon series.  I started as a volunteer and have now graduated to becoming a part of the actual race crew responsible for organizing and running all the kids events in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.  Through doing this, I have learned just how important and vital volunteers are in making these events successful.

But the reality is, volunteers are not easy to come by and this never ceases to surprise me.

Most sporting communities with which I am associated tend to suggest that they are interested in “community”  and, often “giving back”.   I hear these two terms being thrown around a lot but, truthfully, I don’t always see these sentiments being put into practice…at least to the extent I think they should anyway.

My own triathlon group has this built right into their mission statement:

“…a supportive community of multisport athletes for all ages and abilities”.

 

It goes on to add:

“…as a club we train with a focus on having fun, building a sense of community, and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.”

Sounds great, right?

I agree.

So why then are volunteers often difficult to come by?  So I am throwing out another challenge to all my friends and peers:

The Volunteer Challenge.

My challenge is simple:  add one specific day or event to your calendar this season (or next) that involves sacrificing a bit of your time to instead help create a positive experience for someone else.

Period.

Full stop.

I’m suggesting that you actually go out there and volunteer for a group or organization that matters to you as a way of actually “giving back”  to that “community”  you are proud to be a member of.

Obviously, I am partial to kids and the SunRype Tri-KiDS organization in particular.  I mean, it’s the best of two worlds:  I get to help kids have a positive experience in their own triathlon endeavors and in doing that, I’m “giving back” and helping to establish the “community” that is very important to me.  I am encouraging then all my triathlon peeps (no matter where you are) to, similarly, also give it a “tri” (if you’ll pardon the obvious pun).

Here’s what you likely won’t get to do:

  1. Swim
  2. Bike
  3. Run

Notice that nowhere did I use the work “workout”.

But I’ll come back to that.

I do understand though why this might be intimidating for some.  They likely have a goal that they are 100% committed to and working towards.  Time is of the essence.

I understand that.

I’ve been there.

Really, I have.

But I have also learned this:  missing one long bike ride, or swim or your anticipated weekend LSD run isn’t going to solely cause you to tank on your being able to accomplish your goal…whatever it is.

It won’t.

Trust me.

In fact, it might just be absolutely the best thing for you in accomplishing that goal.

Allow me to explain:

Here’s what you will get.

  1.  A workout like no other

You may not be swimming, biking or running but, I assure you that you will be physically exhausted by the end of the day.  I guarantee you that you will be physically and mentally fatigued.  Often, I am more worn out after 8 hours of duty at the bike mount line than I am after any of my long workouts.  Everything is sore; my feet, my legs, my back, etc.  It is not an easy day but you’ll absolutely 100% have a smile on your face.  Can you say that about all your other workouts?

Think of it as a unique cross training activity.

  1.  Infinite motivation

I mean, c’mon!  If seeing a child complete their first (or third, fourth, or whatever) triathlon isn’t inspiring in and of itself isn’t motivating – particularly if they’re doing it with a smile on their face – I don’t know what does.

What I can also tell you is this, in my own big event back in 2012 (Ironman Wales), when the wheels started to come off and I started to go into that dark place that will inevitably come with long distances, it was the memories of some of these kids that helped inspire me to keep pushing and to continue moving forward to the finish.

And, hey, there will also be moments like this (click link below).

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSunRypeTRiKiDSTriathlonSeries%2Fvideos%2Fvb.368867786535082%2F1084302064991647%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=400

5-year-old Wesley was one of our VIP’s this year.    Wesley, as a result of coping with and overcoming brain cancer, lost mobility in his lower body and the ability to speak.  Despite all this, Wesley managed to complete a triathlon…a fucking triathlon!  I will admit, that seeing this brought tears to my eyes and you had better believe that this is going to motivate and inspire me during those guaranteed dark points in my future events.

What motivated you on your last workout?

  1.  The ultimate feel good factor

Think about it, you will help to enrich an experience for any number of kids.  In an average day at the bike mount line, I directly interact (and hopefully, positively) with around 400-500 kids.  That’s a lot of impact to feel good about.  Yes, you will have the same opportunity to directly make the experience as positive as absolutely possible.  And as with anything positive, there is inevitably a darker  side and, usually, (for me anyway) this comes in the form of some parents.  It absolutely shocks me sometimes in regards to what some parents feel is appropriate “encouragement”.  My favorite so far is overhearing being yelled from the sidelines: “GO FASTER!  KEEP PUSHING!  YOU CAN BREATHE WHEN YOU GET HOME!”

Really?

The kid was 9-years-old…and in tears.

Brutal.

Now imagine if somebody had said, “You’re doing amazing!  Keep going!”, or maybe “just have fun”, or “wow, look at how awesome you are!”  instead.  What a different experience that would have been.

Well, you will get to be that  person.

And with people like that, your “community” can’t help but do well.

So, friends, peers, triathletes, I’m throwing down the gauntlet.

Go and volunteer!

And if not for triathlon or SunRype Tri-KiDs or whatever, get out there and actually do something to make that positive difference in whichever community it is that you feel so strongly about.  Forget about the all haloed “schedule”, or that today is supposed to be “long bike day”.  Instead, go out and give back whatever it was that inspired you to become a part of that community you love so much in the first place.

Be the change you wish to see in your world.

You won’t regret it.

Now that my triathlon season has effectively come to an end, I’m refocusing a bit while I continue with my foot rehab to spending more time volunteering at events that have become near and dear to me, namely, the SunRype Tri Kids series.  This is my second year volunteering with this event series as working with kids and promoting kid’s triathlon has become a bit of a passion for me, particularly this year.

T1 for the 3-5 year-old's

T1 for the 3-5 year-old’s

Now, I have volunteered at adult events before but, well, let’s just say that being grunted at all day by exhausted athletes doesn’t exactly provide me with all those warm n’ fuzzies.  I realize it’s an important role come race day and its very appreciated despite the lack of direct ‘thank you’s’ from the competitor’s, but working with kids is just so, so…awesome.  I feel like my experience as a developing triathlete at this point is both welcome and appreciated at the bike mount line where I prefer to be positioned; reminding kids to breathe, smile, have fun, not to mention fixing any skipped chains, untied shoelaces, etc.  I genuinely love the absolutely shell-shocked expressions on their face and then reminding them – despite the pressures often being placed on them by their over-excited parents – that it’s okay to relax and just have fun.

I think they appreciate that.

Now, having said all that, if there is one thing that I have learned through this experience is that every parent likes to think that their child is special.  And while I agree, every child is special; some parents will take that to the absolute extreme.   I could go on and on about some of the crazy things I saw and heard parents do and say during the course of the day but, well, let’s just say it’s often crazy:  “Don’t drink unless you absolutely after to!”, “Ride hard!”, “Push! Push! Push!”, “Catch that kid in front of you!”, “Can’t you go faster?!” 

I only wish I was joking here.

Hey, whatever happened to “just have fun?”

Just sayin’…

T1 for 3-5 year-old's

T1 for 3-5 year-old’s

Anyway, the added bonus for me this year was that HRH  was also able to participate in this year’s event (being the idiot I am, I forgot to actually register her for it last year) and, as such, we’ve been preparing her both physically and mentally to do her best since April.  We’ve done a few run workouts on the track at the Fort Erie YMCA, and we’ve biked together along the Friendship Trail, and we’ve worked on her swim skills in the open water at the Welland International Flatwater Center.  Of course, these “workouts” were more like play but, hey, who’s keeping track?  I figured she didn’t have to necessary know that she was also participating in interval workouts just as long as she was having fun.  All she really cared about was getting a finisher’s medal – just as it should be.

So the evening before, we organized out last preparation “workout” to familiarize her with the transition process.  We laid out her clothes, towel, bike, helmet, etc. on our front lawn to mimic her transition set up and proceeded to make a game of getting dressed and one the bike, and then off the bike and running.  I had her get into her swim suit and after being spun around a few times (to simulate the feeling of getting out of the water), I had her get into her bike stuff and ride to the end of the street and back, before hopping off and running to the corner and back.  She absolutely loved it.  I figured she was as ready as she was ever going to be.

HRH's transition set up.

HRH’s transition set up.

Come the next morning (race day), she was more than excited to get going.  Once she and Kelly arrived (I was already on site and working at the bike mount line with the 3 year olds), she proceeded to get her body markings, got her clothes set up in transition the way we practiced (which, I must say, was nothing like we adults set our stuff up) and, before she knew it, she was lined up and getting ready to hit the pool.

From then on, she had a ball.  She swam the 75m well even if she didn’t kick a whole lot (a chip off the ‘ol block I guess), and by the time she got changed and ended up at my mount line she was all smiles and giggles…exactly how I had hoped she would be.  In fact, when I asked her if she was having fun, instead of the blank stare or unsure grunt I typically got from a lot of kids I asked the same question to, she responded with a very enthusiastic “YEAH!!”

Awesome.

So I sent her off with a gentle push and watched her ride out onto the bike course pedaling like a demon possessed; if only she pedaled like that when we ride.

When she dismounted a few moments later after a 3k lap around Ridley campus on her bike, she casually walked her bike into T2 and – low and behold – started running!  I mean, like, really running.  I was shocked.  I know she doesn’t really like running and I fully expected her to walk the run course (which is fine, of course), so when she actually started running I almost passed out from sheer amazement.  Clearly, she was really getting into the spirit of the thing.

T1 for the 3-5 year-old's

T1 for the 3-5 year-old’s

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see anything more after she had passed through T2 onto the 1.5k run course.  However, I heard that she walked some of it and ran some of it.  Not bad really.  A really funny I learned later is that each time she passed through the water aid station (which was conveniently manned by my coach) she both drank a cup of water as well as dousing herself with another.  Where she learned this little maneuver, I’m not sure but, yup, a chip off the ‘ol block for sure.  Whatever she was doing, she also remained true to her intention (as well as our track workouts) of finishing strong and saving a bit for that final sprint to the line to earn her coveted finisher’s medal.

Here’s the big moment captured for all posterity (complete with motivational music and everything:

In in all, HRH’s first triathlon went very well indeed.  You can read that as:  she had a lot of fun while maintaining a smile on her face the whole time, and that she is definitely looking forward to participating in the next one next year.  She now has a better idea of what it takes to not only complete a triathlon, but what it takes to prepare for one should she choose to go down that path in the future.

Did she have a finished time?  Sure.  But who cares?  Did she ‘place’ in her age group?  Probably…but, again, who cares?  I’m very proud of her regardless of what any numbers might tell me about her performance.  The most important thing is that she enjoyed herself and that definitely seemed to be the case, so I’m chalking this up as a total victory.

All we can say now is, “Bring on the 2014 season!”

Now that I’ve begun the all-haloed taper before my big event, I’m finding that it’s not as enjoyable as I had originally envisioned.  No, now I find myself inundated with just about every doubt, worry, and other conceivable drama my mind can conjure up.  Am I good enough?  Can I do this?  Have I prepared enough?  What’s that ache I feel?  Oh no, I think I’m getting sick.  You name it; it’s probably gone through my head in the last 48 hours alone.  Maybe this is typical for most triathletes before an event of this magnitude, specifically if it’s your first, but, whatever; it’s been driving me absolutely crazy.  But I’ve also come to appreciate that you can find motivation sometimes in the strangest places, usually, when you’re least expecting it and today I found the motherload.

Thanks to my own buffoonery and inability to plan properly, I missed the registration cut-off for my seven-year-old step daughter to participate in this weekend’s SunRype Tri Kids triathlon series at Ridley College in St. Catharines.  I know… I’m a total idiot.  What can you do?  Last week, however, I was alerted that they were in need of volunteers to help out so I decided that I’d lend a hand instead, particularly as I don’t get enough opportunities to be involved with kids these days in lieu of my own training regimen.  I was scheduled for my own long bike ride this morning but that could definitely wait until later.  Hey, it might even be fun.

I showed up an hour early as requested and promptly informed that I would be assisting out on the bike course.  Crap!  Unfortunately, what this typically means is that you stand there like a boob holding a flag and directing traffic along the course.  I realize it’s one of those thankless but necessary roles that needs to be filled like any other but I had been hoping for something, well, a bit more involved shall we say.  I have my Level One Coaching Certification now and I’m looking for chances to work with and coach little kids so the thought of standing around waving a flag was not a happy one.  But, whatever, I said I’d help out right?

Thankfully, one of the volunteers had gotten lost and they needed a last minute fill in at the mounting line to help kids get on their bike and give them some last words of encouragement before launching them out on the course.  Sweet!  So with a little finagling and coercing with the race organizers, I managed to get myself positioned at this very spot instead, so things were beginning to look up.  What followed were about the most rewarding and inspirational seven hours I could have ever have hoped for.  Brussel Sprout Power personified!

First up were the 3-5  year old’s.  Think of the last transition zone you saw at your last triathlon; the $8,000  carbon fiber flying machines, the limitless gadgets and hi-tech devices, the exact precision and meticulousness that the athletes place into setting up their stuff just so.  Now take a gander at this:

How awesome is this?

How cute is that?  C’mon, say it with me:  “Awwwwwwwwwww.”

Kind of puts things in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

As each kid came out from their swim, their eyes were as big as saucers and full of “Oh.  My.  God”.  Transitioning between the disciplines can be a bit disorientating, especially when you’re only knee high to a grasshopper.  But to all their credit, not to mention with a little help from their parents, they came out, dried off, got suited up in their bike stuff and hit the 500m  out-and-back bike course with all the grit, focus and determination of any accomplished triathlete.  Talk about ‘awesome’!  I couldn’t help but smile as I helped them on their bikes and got them going in the right direction…most of the time.  Just seeing their enthusiasm and excitement in the face of what must have been for them a rather daunting challenge was enough to provide me limitless stores of motivation for Wales and I consider myself very fortunate to have shared that experience with them.

Transition (3-5 year old’s)

Next up were the 6-7  year old’s looking to tackle the same obstacle, a 1.5k bike course around the Ridley campus.  They didn’t need so much help getting on the bike as they did a friendly word of encouragement, a reminder to b-r-e-a-t-h-e, be safe and, most importantly…to have fun.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I had some, well, ‘moments’, as I remember all too well the feeling of first approaching that bike mount line after a swim, my heart racing, and a cloud of uncertainly lingering about regarding what was to come next.  Can I do this?  How’s this going to go?  But then again, I also remember those words of encouragement provided to me at one of my first triathlons over four years ago by a then volunteer at the line:  “Hey, smile.  This is the fun part!  Now go get ‘em!”

Riley gettin’ ready to giv’er…

For the rest of the day, wave after wave of happy, sometimes nervous, sometimes just plain scared kids exited the pool, mounted their bike with me at the line before heading out to conquer their demons, whatever they were.  My hat goes off to all of them; particularly one girl, let’s call her ‘Brooke’.

Maddy lovin’ it all and having a great time…

Brooke (12 years old) was one of the last girls to get off the bike with me at the dismount line.  It was clear to me from the time that she got on her bike that she was finding this to be very challenging, and being chased through transition by her, shall we say, ‘very excitable’ parents, I think, it had all become very nerve wracking for her.  She confided to me shyly while walking her bike to the running leg that she had a “rough” swim ad her bike “could have been better”  but also that she “had to finish”; all the time, her parents pleading for her to “Pick it up”, and to “Go, Go, Go!”  It sure didn’t seem like much fun to me.  But I digress…

I can also remember that feeling of loneliness you can experience out on the run course, especially when you’re already tired, hot, hurting, and just about fed up with it all.  But she was determined to finish and I respect that.  In fact, I respect that much more than some of the other 12-year-old super kids in speed suits with the customized Specialized bikes complete with GPS navigational systems, cadence counters and SPD clip-on pedals and whatnot all shooting for new PB’s.  Here’s a kid, just desperately trying to not to let her parents down or herself as she had admittedly “trained really hard for this race”.  What can I say?  I’m a sucker for an underdog.  So together we ran/walked the entire 3k  to the finish line where an entire crowd of volunteers and spectators were waiting to cheer her in.  Perfect end to a perfect day.

Now, I know there’s little chance that she’ll ever read this, but Brooke: YOU were my hero today.  When things didn’t go your way, you smiled and did your best anyway.  You faced your challenges head on and bulldozed through them.  You finished and you should be very proud of yourself.

So, in a way, thank you.  I only hope I can tackle my own event in three weeks with as much spirit and determination as you demonstrated today.  Believe me, I’ll remember you when the wheels begin to fall off as I know they will eventually, and I’ll be thinking to myself:  ‘if she can do it….’   

I never did get to my bike ride afterwards as I figured I had already gained something so much more significant.  After all, a bike ride is just another bike ride but inspiration transcends mere mileage.  I’m ready.  I can do this…