The other day, Oslo came home with an application form for an Iron Kids triathlon that he wanted to enter. There was 3 - 6, 7 - 10, and 11 - 14 age group categories. Oslo is seven so his course consisted of a 100m swim, a 2 1/2 mile bike ride, and a half mile run to the finish. He has never entered any race before except for his first sports day ever a couple of months ago where he was only racing against kids of similar ability so we really had no idea if he was even vaguely athletic. I had been sporty as a kid and was a speedy sprinter at school here in Bermuda, and then moved into cross country at my boarding school in Kent where I ran for South of England. But that was the last competing I did as I went to an arts school in Boston when I was 15 and never did anything competitive again. I have since loved cycling on my own at a leisurely pace and for a short period in my 20s got into running, but the closest I got to a race was jogging in the opposite direction of a big group one day. I spotted my dear friend Rose and asked her what she was doing with a number on her chest. She told me she was running the Bermuda Day half marathon and I was ashamed at my lack of knowledge, not to mention the mini distance I was covering. And that was it. We are not the kind of family who go out for family runs, and really, the only family cycling we do is to get from A to B with a buggy on the back rather than anything ambitious. But Oslo was determined to enter so over the last month, I have tried to convince him that he needs to train, and that he can't just show up on race day not having prepared at all for something that needs this much stamina. Despite my urgings, I don't think he could imagine what was involved and so of course, no practicing occurred and suddenly, race day was upon us.
Despite our best intentions to get there in plenty of time, lost keys, missing sunblock and a host of other things (aka poor planning) prevented us from leaving the house in time and we arrived just as they were gathering for the race. I rushed with Indigo to register and get his number while Ben and Oslo went to listen to the orientation. Oslo couldn't hear a thing and was so surprised by the huge number of kids competing in his age group that he started to panic. By the time I arrived with his race pack and number, he was standing barefoot on burning black tarmac and sobbing. He was terrified that he didn't know where to go or what to do. I had to calm him down by explaining that there would be plenty of adults showing him the way and he could always just follow the kid in front! I told him this was just for fun and the first year he was doing it so it was purely an experience so he could know more for next time. After a few deep breaths, he finally calmed down and we headed to the beach to line up. I pinned his number on his chest, and strapped the Timing Chip to his ankle. I tried to explain how it all worked with the start times all being different and how they calculated it (sort of a complicated concept for a 7 year old), and pointed out the buoys on the course where he needed to swim. Luckily, he was number 169 so we had loads of time to see all the older kids in front go first. I loved how his cap was so tight and so low that it squashed his eyebrows down and virtually closed his eyes. I had to lift his eyebrows up and use the goggles to prop his lids open - can't have felt too good but he was so pumped on fear and excitement that he didn't even notice.
I was so touched that my mother and father wanted to come along and watch and cheer their grandson on. Made Oslo feel so proud that they were there showing their support. And Ben wore the brightest shorts he could find so Oslo could easily spot him (or at least I hope that is the reason!).
As I said, I am not the competitive type so haven't really been into races as an adult and am ashamed to admit that I have rarely even made it out to cheer on the competitors on the 24th May half marathon. We did get our act together early enough one year and as the runners rushed past us on the side of the street, I was overwhelmed with emotion and cried. It was such an intense feeling and here I was with that same feeling but this time, it was my own child in the race so everything was magnified and I could barely hold my camera. In fact, this is why I don't actually have many good shots once the race began as I simply lost control of myself, including losing knowledge of how to use my camera! That coupled with not knowing if I should video with my snappy happy camera, take still shots with my regular one, or just enjoy the day without trying to capture it, so it ended up being a combination of all three, and then running from one area to the next to cheer him on on top of everything else.
The wait for the queue to go down seemed to take forever but finally it was Oslo's turn to start his swim. I was so impressed with how well organised the event was and it was such a great PR gig for Capital G! Such a well attended family event.
The change over from the swim to the bike was what Oslo had been most afraid of when he had his melt down before the race, but it was all very obvious once he was there and Ben was waiting near his bike on the other side of the railings so he knew just where to go. I kept forgetting about poor Indigo who chased after me terrified of getting left behind - she was just as much a trooper as Oslo was that day! He was a speed demon putting gon his socks and sneakers and helmet - we always remind each other when we are in a rush to slow down or things end up taking longer, like trying to put the key in the lock too fast, one always fumbles so he was calm and accurate.
Oslo was entered in the non-racing bike category which is good considering we rescued his bicycle out of a rubbish heap and it weighs a tonne!! Plus it lives in our garden so the already rusty chain is even worse now than when we got it and of course it has no gears. But his little feet flew on those pedals and we watched him take over several kids until he disappeared out of sight. I ran to the bike finish line and waited for him. About a minute later, even though nobody had passed him during the swim, a boy who had started 20 places after him came through the finish and we later heard that a few cyclists had cut across the parking lot and missed out the cycle part altogether! I am sure it was a mistake, but Oslo was pretty bummed about that. A little while later, I saw an ambulance pull up in the distance and as it pulled away, I was terrified that my little angel had been hurt. Thank Heaven just moments later,his little grey sun suit (so dressing him in nuclear red next year) appeared and he raced so fast into the finish (we hadn't known about the slowing down earlier trick) that he he had to jump on his brakes and nearly skidded out!
This photo below is totally out of focus but I was so excited to hear the commentator call out his number and name and say how well he was doing as he headed into his half mile run, not to mention I was running next to him! Can you imagine what a pain mum I am??? He is going to be so embarrassed in a few years.
21 minutes and 11 seconds after starting, Oslo crossed the finish line! We later saw on the Bermuda Timing Systems' Finish List that he was 22nd over all in the non racing bike category out of all the age groups - that is in with the 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds all together out of almost 100 kids! We were so stunned since he had not trained at all and we really didn't know whether or not he was at all athletic. As soon as I found out online, I ran into his bedroom after he had gone to bed that night to whisper in his ear how well he had done. The smile of pride that slipped across his lips was so heavenly that I thought my little heart would explode right there. I was so excited for his future and all he was going to work hard for (no matter what it turns out to be) and he was excited to start training immediately.
Every child who made it across the finish line received one of these medals. It was Ben's and my anniversary that night so we went to dinner at Mickey's on the beach to celebrate. Of course Oslo wore his medal all night and the next day too - so cute!
His little face, once he had made it to the end, was sort of heart breaking. I could see he was really feeling the strain and that he was definitely not expecting how hard it turned out to be. He later told me that during the bike race, when he reached the top of one of the hills, he had pulled over onto the grass and taken a little rest before jumping back on his bike with renewed energy. He then passed all those who had just overtaken him, plus some others who were ahead as well. On the run, he admitted he had walked for part of it, but he kept going all the same - I think pacing himself is something he will learn if he ever does actually do some training, but on this first triathlon, his efforts and dedication blew my mind.
A little sparkling water and orange juice pepped him right up though. And I think hearing from all of us how amazing he was helped too!
Oslo darling - we are so so proud of you. Just the fact that you signed up for this all on your own, and then pushed yourself harder than you ever have before, taught us so much about you, and I know you learned a lot about yourself too. I see such a bright future for you - whatever you choose to do, I know you will do it well with your heart fully committed. Congratulations on such a great achievement my love xxxx