Lessons I learned with a 7-year old Triathlete

Abigail is still not 100% comfortable on the bike, and that’s mainly due to me not spending enough time with her out practicing on it.  Still, she was adamant about doing the Kids Triathlon this past weekend.  I on the other hand was more hesitant.  In the end, I think adamant won out (plus I was rooting for her).  She had done it two years ago at age 5, on training wheels no less (the race is for ages 5-7), and was determined to take another crack at it.  She had gotten a side stitch during the short run in 2010, and was determined to come back stronger.  Lately she has taken to running, she LOVES running, and often at the most random times.

We were a bit late to the race that morning, so we had to wait until between our race and the “big kid” race in order to set up her transition area.  While we waited, Abigai and I watched the older kids as they left the transition area for the bike leg of the event. These kids did flying mounts and dismounts like pros! I suppose it doesn’t hurt to be under five feet tall and 60 pounds, but it was impressive nonetheless. Finally it was race time.  Abigail got ready for her swim, and I waited in the transition area.  Adults were allowed to run alongside their children on the bike and run courses, but had to wait in transition while the swim took place.  As I stood there with all the other dads, I couldn’t help but think how funny we must have looked standing there in a sea of tiny bikes, many pink and purple, bedecked with baskets and handlebar tassels.

And there she was! I helped her get her bike gear on and we were off.  She apparently had a good swim, as she wound up being the 9th fastest in a field of 46. She mounted her bike, and I began to run alongside her (just in case she was unsteady), and we made our way down the first straightaway.  Not 10 seconds into the bike, her little legs had started spinning furiously and she was shouting my name. What was that sound? I had heard it before in my own races…she had thrown her chain!  How do you drop a chain on a single speed bicycle anyway?  No worries, I would just pop it back on, and we would be back at it in no time.  I ushered her to the side of the road to quickly take care of it, and then I saw it.  This bicycle has a built in chain guard! You know, the big plastic housing that keeps pants clean, and shoelaces and such from getting caught up in the chain? Doh! I must have fumbled for minutes trying to get my fingers under that thing and slip the chain back on the sprocket, but with no success.  Abigail had started to panic a bit, and I had begun thinking to myself, “I”m going to have to tell her that her race is over, how in the world am I going to do this?”  Then I heard a voice ask, “can I help?”  We were parked right in front of someone’s yard, and a mom from the neighborhood who was watching the race had come to check on us.  I quickly gave the chain guard a once over – it was held in place by a single screw!  “Do you have a phillips head screwdriver?!?” I asked.  In moments she was back with the screwdriver…and then disaster struck a second time.

A younger child just starting the bike leg had not seen me or Abigail on the side of the road (Abigail was holding the bike up by the saddle as I was trying to spin the chain back on). I heard the child’s dad yell out just as the rider sideswiped Abigail and then spilled onto the road. Now Abigail had tears in her eyes as she held her elbow.  I quickly set her on the grass to check on her.  The mom who had come to check on us was also helping calm her.  I could hear the other child’s dad asking if we were okay.  I somehow managed to communicate to them that we would be alright (the other child had only a minor scrape) while I continued to check Abigail out. I had determined that nothing was broken, and Abigail said she still wanted to race.  Finally we were able to get the chain back on the sprocket and we were off!  Her fear, pain, and tears must have turned into pure determination because once she got going she was NOT going to slow down.  At one point I couldn’t keep pace with her and was just hoping I could catch her before she wiped out in an upcoming sharp turn.  Finally we were back to that straightaway again.  As we headed toward transition, we saw the mystery mom, and others were with her.  They were shouting my girl’s name!  I think I felt a lump in my throat as we finished the final few meters. In her unsteady but unwavering way, Abigail had pressed back through the bike course, passing a few slower riders on the way, and was finally safely back into the transition area.  She told me she wanted to do the run alone, and after my record pace setting one mile run, I was more than happy to oblige her!

Not long after, Elizabeth (her little sister), Lisa, and I saw her pressing towards the finish line.  Tongue hanging out, I could tell she had given all she had.  At the finish line, she dropped to the ground in a smiling little heap, 13th on the run, only a second or two out of the top ten.  And even after the fiasco on the bike, she was still smiling.  I went back after the race to try to find that “random” mom, that helpful stranger who had produced a phillips head screwdriver from thin air and then cheered so loudly for this child she had just met.  Amazingly, I did find her.  I just wanted to introduce myself, and say thank you for saving my daughter’s race.  When I introduced myself, she recognized my name.  You see, my neighbor (and fellow teammate) Tiffany just happened to be one of her best friends.  Oh, and they teach Sunday School together.

In the midst of chaos, God had been there, all along.  We go to events with the mindset of “who can we minister to?”  This time, we received the blessing. This had been a teachable moment, for both me and my daughter. I was able to share with Abigail Romans 8:28, “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”  We saw that in the midst of some “not so good” circumstances, God had not only protected, but he provided.  A sister in Christ (Kristen, I later learned) had the opportunity to serve, we had a critical need met at a critical time, and Abigail learned about perseverance in the face of adversity, and that even when things look bleak, God is still in control. This verse even came back to me later in the week. We got more than we bargained for at this year’s KinderTri, and though we might not have chosen it ahead of time, we are probably all the better for it. I’ve heard it said many times that our lives are like an intricate tapestry. We typically see the back side of it, what appears to be a snarled mess of criss-crossed stitches, but God sees it from his side, a beautifully and sovereignly woven work of art. This time, I think we got a glimpse of God’s side.

Finish Well!


2 thoughts on “Lessons I learned with a 7-year old Triathlete

  1. Tom, I really enjoyed your blog about Abigail’s triathalon! Please tell her how proud I am of her for being so determined. She is going far in life with that and the Lord with her and parents like you two guiding her!
    God bless you all and keep writing! Lovingly, Gail Ingram( your Mom’s friend from Selma)

  2. Hi Tom:

    I greatly enjoyed reading about your little Abigail & her lessons learned in the Triathlon – God will use these things to work ‘an eternal weight of glory’ !

    Our family, including our 9 year old Abby, do bicycle Road Racing & endeavor to learn lessons that will help us serve Jesus, whether on the bike or elsewhere in life.

    Keep up the great work & writing,

    David & family – East Texas

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