As I was standing in the checkout line of a small health food store here on Kauai, I noticed a rather large event calendar on the wall. And, as I browsed through the dates, I saw that there was a triathlon in Poipu happening on Sunday the 10th. As I love volunteering at these things, I quickly cleared it with the wife and sent an email to offer my services. Literally within a minute of sending the email, I received a call on the phone and, two days later, I was standing on the course at 5:45AM
The event itself was pretty small, having only about 25 to 30 participants. Conversely, there were something like 50 volunteers. The body shapes and abilities of the participants varied greatly, ranging from tall, slender athletic types to those who look like they’d be better suited volunteering. The level of enthusiasm was amazing though.
The race started and finished pretty much without a hitch, unless you consider sending the first 7 racers running 4km longer than they should have a hitch. And, as the race wound down and we were waiting to close the course, 3 out of the last 5 racers ran by the last checkpoint, which was the one that I was manning. The race organizer then drove by in his truck and said “It’s gonna be a while, the last two are pretty far back.” As we had been standing out there for quite a while, we were pretty anxious to get in so the news was met with a rather impatient acknowledgment. A few minutes later, my wife and two daughters came walking up the road for a visit, which provided a welcome break but, after spending a few minutes talking, she took my youngest daughter and continued on their walk, leaving my 12 year old with me.
After a few minutes, I noticed a few runners about a half mile away. I turned to my daughter and said “Hey Cass, wanna run ’em in?”. Without waiting for an answer, I took off jogging to meet them. As I turned around to make sure my daughter was following, I caught her standard “Oh great, what’s dad going to get me into *this* time.” look as she started to run.
In not too long, we were within earshot of the racers and I asked them if they wouldn’t mind some company for the final run in. They seemed glad to have us join them and the four of us continued together on a very slow jogging pace. The couple was a mid-30’s looking husband and wife from Alaska on vacation and the husband looked like he was holding up fairly well. The wife? Though she was smiling, it was fairly obvious that she was at the end of what she felt she could do.
I got them talking, trying to distract her from her fatigue and it seemed to take immediate effect. As we came within about a quarter mile of the finish, I urged them to pick up the pace a bit and finish strong. She immediately responded, her already huge smile growing even more. I kept talking and, within about 100 yards of the finish, the wife started to really slow down and, at that point, my daughter took over: “C’mon, you’re almost there, you can do it!”. Taking my daughter’s lead, she picked up the pace, both her husband and me encouraging her along. She held her faster pace and, about 10 yards from the finish, I held my daughter back and yelled, “You’re there, grab each other’s hands and hold them high!”. Unfortunately, the camera guys had already gone home but the image of them crossing that line will remain in my head forever.
My daughter and I walked up to them and the husband immediately threw up his hand for a high-five. The wife was completely gassed but the smile on her face was as bright as ever. She stumbled towards me, gave me a huge, sweaty hug and just said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” My daughter joined in and I pulled back, looked at the wife and said, “You know what? You just finished your first Tri!” She was crying, nodding and beaming. It was an amazing moment.
Not wanting to crowd them, I took off pretty quickly with my daughter and, as we were walking, she said “Dad, you rock. That was so cool, I’m going to remember that forever!” Helping others along when things get tough is one things that I really love to do in life, being able to share that experience with my daughter made that experience even better. And, watching her “get it” — observing her as she encouraged the wife made the morning that much more special. The day had barely reached 12:00, and it was off to a fantastic start.