Since I last posted, we’ve been in two 5 Peaks trail runs, and two kids’ triathlons. Rather than try to catch up with 4 distinct race recaps, I thought I’d pair them up by race type – that means you’re going to get an overview of the kids’ triathlons we’ve been involved in this time, and the 5 Peaks races next time.
Furthermore, I’m going to combine observations from both races on a per kid basis; they’re only 2 years apart, but in triathlon, their experiences are very, very different in terms of what the event expects of them, and what they expect of the event. The races were the C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel and Nicola’s Triathlon (for MFM Research).
The Lightning Kid
The Lightning Kid is currently at the ‘Crocodile’ level in his swimming lessons; that means they’re teaching him to roll from back to front, and combining the front crawl arm stroke into the motion. He makes forward progress for a bit, but he’s not really staying afloat or getting his head above water to breathe more than once, so for a triathlon he wears a life jacket (at the C3 Kinetico Kids of Steel) or water-wings (at Nicola’s tri) and I get in the water with him to coach and cheer. For the C3 Kinetico KOS, it was 1 length of the pool for the 6-7 age group (groups are determined by the age on Dec 31st). It would have been 2 lengths for Nicola’s Tri, but we asked them to bump him down to the lower age group, which aligns better with his physical size anyway. At both events, he kicked and doggy paddled gamely, and was only slowed down by his need to take in the scenery and ham it up for the crowd – as usual. I stayed a couple of meters ahead of him and tried to keep his eyes on the prize – or at least the end of the pool lane.
I heard reports that some parents were pushing or pulling their kids through the water, and obviously I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it at a young age like this, but I will say the point of these events is endurance and that getting the job done (i.e. making it to the end) is the bigger goal, not how fast you complete it. I’d rather have my sons come in last, having earned every inch of the achievement themselves – who knew I was so hardcore about this stuff?
Nicola’s Tri took place 2 weeks after the C3 Kinetico KOS and I was blown away about how the Lightning Kid took to transition, running out of the pool area along the red carpet to his bike like a kid possessed.
While we have been getting him to practice on a pedal bike without training wheels, we haven’t been brave enough to let go of the handle yet, especially since he seems to steer pretty erratically, and we figured he’d be freaked out during the race if he had a fall shortly before the big day, so we selected the balance bike for both races. And yes – it’s pink. The bike leg has a lot of the same Lightning Kid hallmarks, good speed, big smile, hamming it up for the crowd. Unlike adult races, I think the kids’ events could stand to have longer bike legs – if only because I think it would favour my kids (while longer bike legs in adult races only penalize me and my lack of bike fitness). They were both basically a lap around the parking lot with me running alongside.
I do help the Lightning Kid put on socks and shoes which is extra challenging with wet feet; he did not want to forgo socks, in spite of my advice. I have to get my own shoes on during transition too so that I can run alongside (or ahead) and cheer and coach (again as usual).
The Lightning Kid has improved his running the most in the last year – it surprises most people. He’s also gotten familiar enough with triathlon that he knows when you get off the bike the race is nearly done and he gets what Germans call Endspurt – a final burst of speed to finish the race. With only about 500 m to run, it’s over so fast, it’s hard for my wife to get caught up and grab a picture. The best we can do for pictures is the finish line.
Every year, the swim length seems to double for Shark Boy. We knew he’d have to manage 100 m this year, so we took to the pool for the 4-5 weeks before the race (on weekends) and tried to increase his skill and endurance. Every week, he’d have to pass the swim test of 2 pool widths before venturing into the deep end for more practice. I drilled him in breast stroke, as I feel it’s a more endurance paced stroke; make no mistake, front crawl/freestyle is faster once you can manage it in a sustainable pace, but plenty of people starting out seem to prefer it, and I know it’s the stroke of choice for recreational swimming in Europe. Too bad some lifeguards here don’t seem to feel it’s a valid way to swim – I had one lifeguard arbitrarily try to say he hadn’t passed the 2 width swim test for using breast stroke where his face wasn’t in the water enough, and during the Nicola’s tri he was forced to use a flutter board, which slowed him down more. I know I have to defer to a trained volunteer when it comes to safety, but I do feel there is a bias there.
Being the slowest in his wave (though not the slowest swimmer in his age group, from what I could see) discouraged Shark Boy, even though I tried to explain before and after the race that the overall time is what counted, not when you crossed the finish line (he was in the last wave of the Kinetico Kids Of Steel). I’m proud of his swims regardless, because through hard work, we took him from not being unable to finish 100 m of swimming to more than capable.
Shark Boy has gotten a hand-me-down mountain bike that has gears in anticipation of a bike camp he’ll be participating in this summer, but though he’s been warming up with it, he wanted his gearless one for the races.
For the Kids of Steel race, he seemed OK on the way out, but I noticed it was taking him a long time to complete. As I had mentioned before, he was in last place in his own imagination, and I think he got discouraged and lacked motivation. It was also very hot that day.
For the Nicola’s Tri event, we had a major problem or two. The course is looped, and though Shark Boy must have listened to 4-5 briefings where the volunteer had the kids repeat back that the bike course had 3 loops, I’m not sure the info really took hold. I couldn’t follow him through transition, so once he was out of the pool I raced to a spot on the bike course. I saw him struggling to gain momentum while pedalling furiously, and I knew what the problem was: his chain had come off. I ran over, had him dismount and showed him briefly how to fix it, then sent him on his way.
Of course this meant I was out of position to tell him to stay on course when he completed the first loop and went straight back into transition….
…and furthermore, he somehow took a short cut on the run course and crossed the finish line after less than 200 m. He knows how long a 1 km run should feel like (especially from 5 Peaks races of the past), so I can only surmise that he was discouraged to the point where he just wanted this thing over with.
Though he was given a medal, the official results showed ‘DQ’ as his time made no sense in relationship to his competitors who went much further. It took some serious mother and father pep talk to cheer him up the rest of the day, as we’ve all had results that we weren’t happy with (including my own DNS) that weren’t always the results of bad performance.
For the Kinetico Kids of Steel event, there was no disaster, but he did walk segments of the run course, and I’m still attributing that to discouragement and heat.
He’s placed better in 5 Peaks trail races, than in triathlons so far. I guess I’m a little discouraged myself to think that at age 7 (meaning he competes with 8 and 9 year-olds) he’s at a level where the training and mental game have to be already pretty high, but it’s actually a good thing for someone who’s had a lot of things come to him fairly naturally (e.g. riding a bike without training wheels by age 3) to learn about the benefits of practice and work ethic. I just hope he’ll continue to view triathlons as fun. In addition to being well versed in the technique of transition, he also knows how to blame his equipment in order to justify further spending – he’s been bugging me to get him a road bike which will ride faster than the mountain bike.
Miscellaneous Event Details
Both events are great days out for the family with bouncy castles, face painting and barbecue.
The volunteers do a lot to make the participants and their families feel welcomed, informed and safe. I love doing triathlon, but I love it even more when the whole family can get involved!