Shark Boy – Duathlete, Scoundrel of Steel

Warning: This post contains extreme cuteness, and examples of strong paternal pride.  Reader discretion is advised.

We found out about a ‘Kids of Steel’ Duathlon being run in the Beaches, and the allowed ages started at 3 (for a 3-5 age category).  Though Shark Boy is a few weeks short of his third birthday, we knew he was fit enough and generally game for this sort of activity so we signed him up.  Parents were allowed to accompany their kids on the race course (and in transition) so we figured it was safe and that we could make it work.  My biggest worry was making sure he didn’t get overwhelmed by the crowd of other kids and parents, and making sure he followed the course; I knew he was good for the 50-60m run, 600m bike, and final 100m run in terms of distance, but doing it along a prescribed course (as opposed to whatever the heck direction he felt like going) might be another story.

Upon arriving at Ashbridges Bay, we were easily able to follow all the other racers and their families to the starting area.  Transition was closing within 10 minutes, so Shark Boy and I found a spot for his bike; the racks were too big for toddler bikes and were dedicated to kids 8 and up, but there were some nice designated spots for nearby grass.   Race start time was fast approaching, and I realised we had neither a chip nor a race bib – it turns out I had walked right by the race kit pickup in my excitement and had to run back to get it.   We put on the race t-shirt (a little large, but it was a passable substitute for the rain wear we forgot to pack.

I had enough time before the start to show Shark Boy the sailboats he wanted to see (hopefully they’d be less of a distraction mid-race).

They counted down, blew a whistle and we were off!  Shark Boy quickly decided he wanted to hold hands for safety and security – maybe the crowd threw him off, but it turned out to be a sensible way to avoid colliding with other kids or slipping in the grass.

We completed the loop at a good clip, and worked our way into transition.  Shark Boy knew to let me  do up his helmet strap before grabbing the bike, and he’d been practising walking/running with the bike on his own (!) anyway so he did a great job of exiting transition 1.  He tried to mount a little early… did I mention this race was OAT (Ontario Association of Triathletes) sanctioned?  Rules were enforced!  The bike course had some small hills that challenged (i.e. slowed) the kids somewhat, but it was overall enjoyable.  Even though he’s a bigger bike specialist than his old man, Shark Boy clearly subscribes a ‘stop-and-smell-the-roses’ approach to racing.  My explanations as to why we had to go as fast as we could were not satisfactory, apparently.  Still, while he did slow down to look at other kids, the water, a flock of Canada geese, he never stopped, and never complained (unless you count a teenager-worthy “I knooooow” and eye-roll in response to my cheers to go a little faster). We rounded the corner to head back to transition to the sounds of cheering, his mother of course being the loudest of all.

After getting his t-shirt stuck on the bike during a near flawless dismount, we ran the bike back into transition, in the exact same spot we originally had it, then took off on the final slog of the run portion – the fatigue setting in as I know all too well.

The race marshals and volunteers kept up the enthusiasm and cheering to keep us moving, and when the finish line was about 10m ahead I ran ahead to the finish line to get him to run into my arms for a big hug and toss like we did in practice.   Spectators were kept away from the finish line so getting a picture was hard, but I assure you there was a big smile on his face.  We collected granola bars, raisins and of course cookies as post-race snacks, but he was surprisingly uninterested in Gatorade or water.  There was barely enough time to get congratulated by his mother and take another look at the sail boats before the rain really started up, and we hustled out of the park.

GAME FACE! Shark Boy shows his teeth!

But not before a few victory poses.  I’m very proud to have another endurance athlete in the family, and I really think he’s going to show an increasing knack for it the older he gets.  Still, my favourite part of the day was at bedtime, when he asked me when he could do another ‘Traflon’… he asked so sweetly and innocently if there would be another chance tomorrow!

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