I oddly wasn't nervous as I stood in the water waiting for our wave to begin. I just knew I could do it. I had a time in mind in which I wanted to finish, but it wasn't about that.
We counted down to the start, then we were off.
I wasn't as far towards the front of the wave as usual, and had to make my way past some slower swimmers right from the start. There seemed to be lots of stragglers this year. I felt I had to dodge many, many more than in years past.
I knew my time was off as I came up the boat ramp, even though I'd forgotten to start my watch. It just felt slow. But I was still determined.
I saw my mom as I got close to the transition area. She was cheering me on. I smiled, it was great to have her there. She'd never come up to watch me do a tri before.
I quickly dried my feet, put on my socks and cycling shoes. Then some sunscreen, my helmet and gloves.
My sister-in-law had made it to the transition area by this time, and we encouraged each other as we left on the bike leg.
I felt good on the bike. The hills weren't easy, but only because of my hip, not because I hadn't ridden enough, like last year.
I was over a third of the way through the bike leg, sure I was on target to get my best time, when I heard a very loud pop.
Luckily I wasn't on a downhill, and could easily get the bike off to the shoulder without wrecking. I quickly took off the front wheel. And hoped someone might stop with a pump, since I'd very unwisely decided mine was too loose, and would just fall off anyway.
Three very wonderful women stopped to help me get back on the road. Exactly why I love doing this race every year. The encouragement and compassion of the racers.
A while later, I was riding again. Although I admit the flat had knocked the wind out of my sails, a bit. I still was pushing, just not as hard, knowing there was no way to make my goal.
But I couldn't give up completely. I'm just not made that way.
Back in the transition, I quickly racked my bike, changed shoes, grabbed a water bottle from the cage on my bike and put on my race number and sign.
The sign simply said that I was racing in memory of my grandma. I didn't care that pinning it on took some extra time. She was always the one that inspired me to be strong. Carry on. And refuse to give up.
And I intended to be strong, not give up. Just as she would tell me to do.
I started running, but the pain in my ankle and hip told me that would be unwise to continue.
Instead I walked, but quickly, as quickly as I could.
I saw a friend on her way in from the run, cheered her on and carried on. It was hot, but not as hot as last year. I got to talk to several other walkers as I'd pass them. Always encouraging each other.
As I neared the finish line, I began running again. Regardless of any pain I might feel, any discouragement from the flat, there was no way I was walking across that finish line.
As I looked around for any sign of my mom or sister-in-law at the finish, I thought of last year. When TheBoy was there to cheer me on. How promising everything seemed then.
I realized how silly I have been. A (mostly) great guy turned out not to be the great guy for me. There are other great, even greater guys out there. One of them just may be cheering me on next year.
Time to really get back in the race.
Any sadness lingering because of who was not there to cheer me on evaporated as I found my friend, her boyfriend and another friend. We chatted for a while and congratulated each other.
Then I went in search of my mom and sister-in-law. We sat in the shade and relaxed for a little while. Talked with the sisters next to us about the race. About triathlons, and who we raced in honor or memory of. It made me a little teary-eyed.
We recapped the race. My flat and unimpressive time. My sister-in-law's awesome race. How she knows she can do better next time. Yes, she's hooked. That makes me happy. The entire morning made me happy, despite the challenges.
The long, really hot walk back to the car couldn't even dampen my spirits. It was a great tri, even if it was technically my worst. There will be other tris. There will be other guys.