Since January, my eldest (“A”) has been riding her bike to and from school while I run alongside her, pushing my littlest (“G”) in the single BOB stroller. When A was much younger, we purchased a balance bike for her, but she never used it. My sister had purchased her a scooter for our first Christmas here, when she was about 2.5, and she loved it and used it all the time. Somewhere in that same timeframe, we also bought her a bike, probably 12” or 14” — thinking that if she didn’t like the balance bike, she might like a regular bike — but nope. For whatever reason, we never had training wheels for her; if memory serves, her bike never came with them. Given A’s total lack of interest in using a balance bike, she had even less interest in trying to learn to ride her bike, so it sat gathering dust in our garage for years.
Thanks to a neighbor friend her age who learned to ride his bike pretty young (after he figured out how to get around quite quickly on a balance bike), at the end of last year, A got pretty fired up to learn how to ride a bike, and in just a couple days of trial and error on the princess bike — that by then, was quite too small for her — she figured it out and loved it. She adored being in motion on her bike and wanted to ride it everywhere, all the time. Naturally, the next conversations became when can I ride my bike to school? Secretly, I had hoped that by the end of kinder, not only would she know how to ride her bike, but that she’d also want to ride her bike to school — and selfishly, alleviate me of all the BS and headaches that come with the traffic mess that is school dropoff and pickup (and with her little sister in tow). I figured, and experience has since taught me, that it’s much easier and faster to run/ride to/from school on foot than it is by car. Once I was certain that A would be physically capable of riding her bike about 1.5 miles each way — and slightly uphill, on the “out” portion of our commute — we began riding and running to school 4 days a week.
Sometime during the course of one of our many run-ride commutes, A mentioned to me that she wanted to do a swim-bike race because not only had she become enamored with riding, she has been swimming since she was 8 months old and loves it pretty equally. I told her about this thing called triathlon, and what it all entailed, and how there are kiddo triathlons out there that she could do if she wanted. A has done many kid dashes and kid races, mostly here in the Bay Area, and I knew that she’d be physically capable of handling a distance for kids her age in any kid tris around. She was ecstatic about the opportunity, so I signed her up for the Santa Clara Kids Triathlon.
On a sunny and warm race day in August, A was one of over 800 children, aged 6 and under all the way through teenagers, who participated in triathlon. Kids in the 6 and under division got to swim 25 meters (or yards? idk), which was 1 length of the pool; run out to T1, which was located pretty close to the pool; bike an out-and-back 1 mile; run back into T2 (which was the same as T1); and then run 400 meters, or a quarter of a mile. Her age group, the youngest, could have a parent in the water or could also use buoys or flotation devices, and on the ride, the littlest ones could use training wheels or balance bikes, too. On the run, they could run, walk, run-walk, walk-run, whatever they wanted (also with a parent alongside, if they wanted). Her AG didn’t start until 11am, when it was already pretty sunny and warm out, but it was a beautiful morning.
Rather than tell you more details about my daughter’s race, I’ll switch things up a bit and put on my interviewer hat. I’m so stinkin’ proud of her, as if that wasn’t totally clear 🙂 Turning it over to my six year-old…
How did you prepare for your first tri?
I got my swimsuit; then I picked out some biking clothes, with my biking shorts and a little shirt; and then I got my bike and helmet; and then … (thinking) … I ran in the same clothes, and I did not like the running, but we talked about it, so it was good. (foreshadowing!)
How did you feel going into your first tri? Was it different from how you felt before your running races that you’ve done before?
I felt kinda nervous, but I was mostly excited. I’m not sure (if I felt differently); it was probably the same.
What did you wear for the race? Why did you choose that?
I thought the biking clothes would be good for running, and I thought the swimsuit would be good to wear. (I chose those clothings) because the shorts have a pad on the back so anytime I fall, I have a pad on the back.
You shared a lane with another little girl for the swim portion of your tri. Did you like sharing a lane with someone?
Yes! Because it’s nice to share with people! Because sharing is caring! And because it’s nice!
Which type of stroke did you swim? How was the swim for you? Did you have a strategy going into the swim?
Breaststroke. It felt great! The lane was short. I could swim the whole lane. I just did a medium speed. I got a little pushoff off the wall and started to breaststroke. It gives me a little boost to the end! I practiced in the big pool (at swim class), which is bigger than the other lanes.
After your swim, you had to get out of the pool quickly and into T1, where you had to take off your goggles and swim cap, put on your shirt with bib number attached, shorts, socks, shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and quickly get on your bike to go begin your ride. Was it hard to get dressed really fast? Did you get dressed faster than you do each morning before school, or did you take your time?
Yea (it was hard to get dressed really fast), because when I got dressed, I was really sticky, and it was hard to put clothes on! I didn’t get a chance to dry off, like I usually do. I got dressed kinda faster (getting dressed for the tri), but getting dressed for school is kinda a little faster because I wasn’t wet. My hair was tangled.
How was the bike part of your race? What was your favorite part? What was your biking strategy?
It felt great! (My favorite part) was pedaling! It was not so long; it was very short. It was only 1 mile. I can do 7 miles! I mean, 3 miles! I tried to go faster when everyone was cheering for me so I could try to get my legs more stronger.
After the bike, you had to ride really fast into T2, dismount, and start running, the last part of your triathlon. Was it hard to get off your bike really fast? Did you think you were going to fall?
Mmhmm. Because I didn’t have a kickstand. And because they raised my seat, it was hard to bend over. I just had to be careful that I didn’t fall off. No, I didn’t think I was going to fall. (Yup, Mom fail; we’ve had a kickstand in the garage since Santa brought her bike, but we have yet to put it on her bike. In the days before the race, Sports Basement offered participants a complimentary bike and helmet check, and they suggested we raise her seat since she had grown since she began riding.)
How did your body feel after you finished swimming and biking? Were you tired at all? Did you think that you wouldn’t be able to complete the run?
My body felt kinda exhausted, so I went out to eat. (after clarification) Oh, it felt kinda good! But then I felt kinda nervous to run because I don’t run that much. Yes, but you know what I did? I didn’t give up! Now I know that triathlons are fun! (can you tell how much I try to emphasize not giving up when things are challenging?!)
You said that you liked the run part the least from the three sports you did in your triathlon. What didn’t you like about the run? What made it difficult or less enjoyable compared to swimming or biking?
The run? Because my legs got so exhausting! I tried to speedwalk, but I always walk so slow! It was just because I don’t run that much, so my body, or my legs, get kinda weak of running, so I start to fall, but I just don’t give up! (and again with the tenacity talk. My legs get really exhausting sometimes when I run, too. I feel ya.)
Sometimes running can feel really horrible, and I sometimes doubt that I’ll be able to finish a run or a race. Did that happen to you? What did you do to make yourself keep going?
No, that didn’t happen to me. My brain told me, “Alice, keep going! Keep going so you can get a medal!” And I went and got a medal for finishing all of the sports.
How did you feel when you saw that the finish line was near?
I felt kinda happy that I made it! And then I smiled! And then I was so tired that I needed water, and the friends gave me posters, and they also gave me some apple drink, a sweet drink. (Janet and her baby, Meg and her family, and Connie and her baby, in addition to our family, so graciously came out to support A. Connie brought a big ol’ bottle of Martinelli’s for A, and she was floored because we rarely drink juice at home!).
What was the first thing you thought when you crossed the finish line?
I thought … (thinking) … I didn’t think anything. Well, I think I thought “I’m going to finish! One more step, and then I get to walk! Finally!” (said every runner, everywhere)
Did you hear or see Meg and her family, Connie and her family, and Janet and her family cheering for you?
I saw Meg and Connie. It felt great (to see them/hear them)!
How did you celebrate finishing your first triathlon?
I celebrated by getting a cup of water so I could cool off from the hot, hot sun. I was lucky that I got to go in the pool. Everyone else had to stay in the sun. Mom got to run with me. I celebrated by making a little happy face, which is nice!
Did anything surprise you about triathlon? Was it as fun as you thought it’d be, or harder, or easier?
Um… kinda easier? I mean, a little bit hard? But a little bit… I mean, half half? I mean, harder is the less because running was the only hard part, and biking was the fun part. Oh, swimming too — that was fun.
Do you want to do another triathlon?
Next year? Mmhmm, yea, next year. I just want to do biking and swimming because they’ll have that one next year. I hope it’ll be three laps around for the bike ride because I can do that. (She’s really interested in the idea of an aquabike race, but I have yet to find one in the Bay Area that’s suitable for kids. Most aquabike races I’ve found have significantly longer distances that don’t seem well suited for the younger racers. Suggestions!?)
Do you have any piece of advice for other boys or girls your age who want to do a triathlon? Would you recommend it?
You’d have to sign up for it and then practice running, biking, and swimming. If you don’t like any of those, then you shouldn’t do a triathlon. If they’re scared, they can see how fun it is! Try it, you’ll like it! It was fun and a little bit nervous but most excited! I’d tell people you should do it if you want to. (Sagacious insight, daughter).
Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
It was really fun! I didn’t give up on anything, even the running, because I didn’t like running. It was great.
One last thing (from a parent perspective) about this race: plan on arriving at least 90+ minutes ahead of your designated heat. I only gave us an hour — which was suggested — and we cut it very close. I hadn’t accounted for how long it’d take to park the car, get the family out and situated, and walk over to the park (and find where we were supposed to be); get her bib and ankle chip (and my parent bracelet that’d allow me to be on the run with her); set up her transition area; slather her up with sunscreen; and get to the pool to figure out where we were supposed to go. Man, triathlon is complicated! The race only offered same day race packet pickup, too, which I’ve never experienced before (though then again, I’ve also never done a tri, so…). When you register your child for the tri, you’ll also have to purchase USAT membership for him or her, too, but the cost was just an additional $10 or so for the annual membership. It doesn’t matter if you already have USAT membership; if your child doesn’t, you’ll have to fork over the additional monies. It’s an insurance thing, apparently. For the $30 or so triathlon registration cost, kids got a t-shirt, medal, and the typical race bag with some samples and coupons. I have since found another kids’ tri in the Bay Area that offered similar distances for 6 year-olds but cost nearly $150; that seems excessive, particularly for a kids’ race.
Overall, aside from that whole running thing, my daughter seemed to really enjoy her first triathlon. She talked about it all the time the following week (and continues to do so), and it was the talk of her class on Monday, too. 😉 I want her to do activities that she enjoys, so if she never wants to do this again — or if she wants to try her hand at aquabike — we’ll obviously be supportive. I just want her to grow up knowing that “exercising” — playing, really, or just regular physical movement — is a part of a happy and healthy lifestyle. How that will continue to manifest, be it in tris, aquabikes, running races, dancing, soccer, karate, gymnastics, swim lessons, or who knows, we’ll learn along the way. It’s part of the fun. It’s supposed to be fun.