The transitions themselves require preparation. First, you've got to have gear—goggles and wet suit (depending on your climate) for the swim; bicycle, bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses for the bike portion of the race; running shoes for the run.
The weeks quickly tick by, and the big day approaches. So here I am in Carlsbad, primed for a new triathlon challenge. That's when I notice the missing part of my bicycle. Am I finished before I begin?
The answer is no. A mobile bike repair business, "Wheels on Wheels," has set up shop at the race site. Its owner, Dan, sees my plight, takes pity on me, and loans me the part I'm missing. He doesn't ask for a deposit or my driver's license or anything. He just hands me the part and tells me it would be great if I returned it when I'm done since it costs $30.
My Day is Saved
Dan's thoughtfulness typifies the triathlon community. It's a bunch of people who love the thrill of the race, the challenge of the multi-sport experience, and the camaraderie of likeminded, fit individuals.
It's inspiring for me to be a part of the whole thing. I'm thrilled by the sight of the incredibly fast 20-year-olds who are sprinting into the end of the run course even as I'm getting out of the water. I'm also excited to see individuals in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s lining up for the three-part event.
The horn sounds. You run down the beach to the ocean, dive into the waves, heart pounding. You round the first buoy, then the second, the third, fourth, and fifth. Suddenly you're headed for the shore. You run up the beach, strip out of your wet suit at the transition area, climb into your hiking gear, and hit the trail. Fifteen miles later, you head back to the transition area, dismount, take a swig of water or sports drink, slip into your running shoes, and start the run. Three miles later you see the sweetest word in the triathlete's vocabulary: FINISH.
Is it too much of a stretch, too corny, to say that life is a triathlon? After all, both are about body, mind and spirit. Neglect one and the others suffer. In life, as in triathlons, the race isn't always to the swiftest. It's to those who pray for balance, who show up prepared, who want to enjoy themselves, and who accept the grace that awaits us if we seek it, typified by Dan the bicycle man's open-handed kindness.
The race is on, whether we know it or not. Success is showing up and making a committed run as we move through life's events and transitions. At the end of the race comes the reward: a voice saying, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Originally published: 01/10/06.