Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Invest in our future

As a kid my parents tried to get my brother and I involved in as many physical activities as possible.  I'm sure it was to keep us out of trouble but also to help us learn teamwork, dedication and determination.  We tried every sport from swimming to soccer and always kept busy from season to season.  While I was part of both a swim and track team back in Mexico, it never occurred to me to combine them and branch into triathlons.  I don't know if maybe I had just never heard of them or it was never suggested to me but I really wish that I had given it a try.  

I was fortunate enough this past weekend to not only attend a kid's triathlon, but also be a part of the event by volunteering in the transition area.  This was really one of the best spots because we got to see the kids as they charged in from the water and then dodge off for their run after coming in from their bike ride.  The first group (ages 11-15) were lead by a young gentleman who was leagues ahead of his comrades.  He had the intensity of a seasoned triathlete and only broke his stride to unrack his bike.  We soon saw the masses of kids coming in from the water, some looking a little more bewildered then others.  They all made their way to their respective transition areas and geared up for the bike ride.  It didn't take long before the leader was back from his cycle portion and onto the foot race.  These kids were SERIOUSLY impressive.  I had to keep reminding myself that some of them in this group were as young as 11!!!

For the little ones (ages 6-10) they had to bring the buoys in as the swim course was shorter as well as the other 2 legs of the course.  As soon as that first swimmer came galloping in we all cheered as we were ecstatic to see a girl leading the pack!  This was truly a proud girl power moment and I got a little misty eyed.  Some of the really young ones needed an extra boost as they made their way into transition so we made sure to encourage them as much as possible to keep them motivated.  I had a lot of favorites in this crowd and wished I could carry them all home with me haha.  One particular little boy stopped just in front of Sam and I then tears started streaming down his face.  He didn't say anything, just stood there, silently crying.  We offered him some water and Sam helped him find his way to his bike.  A little girl came bustling in and headed straight for her custom pink bike equipped with a pony along the handlebars.  She was my absolute favorite!  Once all the kids had made it back from the bike course, we headed to the finish line to watch them earn their medals.

As we approached the finishers area I started to feel overcome with emotion.  All that excitement, joy and pride I felt after my first triathlon came rushing back and my heart sang as I watched one after another cross that finish line.  I had to fight back tears quite a few times as the rush of feelings overwhelmed me.  These kids gave it their all.  They left NOTHING out on that course but their fears and doubts.  I was so blown away by just how hard they worked and refused to let anything stop them or get in their way.  Perhaps the most beautiful part was watching a group of girls all wait by the finish line for their friends to arrive and immediately embracing them in a giant group hug.  It was so heartwarming to see this.  I was inspired and empowered to know that these girls would grow into strong women who would constantly support and build each other up.  I felt like I was staring into our future, and it looked bright. 

Finishers welcoming team
Once the finishers made it past their welcoming committee of friends their parents were next in line to congratulate them.  This is really where the waterworks kicked in.  One girl ran to her family as her mom collapsed onto her knees in tears of joy, so proud to see her daughter finish. They both stayed there for a few minutes, embraced in a hug that really only a mother and daughter could understand.  Not saying a word but knowing exactly what each was thinking, tears pouring down all the while.  Just typing this I feel myself getting a bit choked up. 

Beyond the camaraderie and athleticism of the event there was something else that really struck me watching these kids.  Almost all of the kids present where local to the neighborhood, and for the most part were all minorities.  As an adult triathlete I'm no stranger to the fact that statistically, minorities are not very prevalent in this sport.  At one of my first events during training last year I met a wonderful couple (Denise & Claire) whom I still keep in touch with now.  I remember how Denise came up to Jenny and I to tell us how excited she was to see other Latinas getting involved in triathlons because it's rare, especially at our age.  It's true, there aren't many Latinas or other minorities at these races.  Knowing that events like this kids race could potentially shift the dynamic of the sport for the future is so thrilling and gives me such hope about where triathlons are heading

This has BY FAR been one of the best experiences I've had as a race volunteer.  I left feeling hopeful, excited, motivated and most of all inspired.  If you could capture the essence of those kids heart and soul that day, it would be enough to fuel the entire universe.  Now my mission is to find a kid I can train to be my little protege...


  1. Excellent excellent words! Thank you for experiencing this event with us! As you can see it touched your heart in a special way. I know the feeling as it happened at my first one. Seeing my own kids come across that finish line made me very happy.

  2. So cool Natali! Let me know which other events you plan to volunteer.