Last Saturday, at 5:30 IN THE MORNING, M and I drove to a very dark park in old Katy. We sloshed through the rain to join the hundreds of other nervous athletes, who were pacing, waiting for the 21st Annual Jeff and Brede’s Intergalactic Triathlon to begin.
Athletes on Race Morning are a funny group. Whether they’re gathering for a marathon or a 5K, the hour before the starting gun is the perfect time to witness naked fear. And unbridled faith and hope.
You can feel everyone’s nerves.  From the elite athlete, polishing his $3,000 bike, to the race virgins, squealing with their crowd of family and friends, the competitors are focused, hopeful, and a bit giddy.
You might not have noticed the rain early Saturday morning, but for this group of athletes, it was a very big deal. Wet roads are a nightmare for cyclists–especially cyclists who are trying to ride very, very fast to beat the pants off everyone else. Any sign of lightening, and the race would be postponed, which would, of course, be torture for every anxious athlete there.
The more competitive racers cursed the rain. One guy wearing a white Speedo with unicorns and rainbows yelled, “Hey! Just think! We all PAID to do this!”Everyone laughed because, of course they paid to do this. Races are fun!
These are athletes, competitors, lovers of pushing themselves, sports enthusiasts who run for fun. These men and women try to beat their own best time in the pool. They bike harder and faster than last time, just to see if they can do it.
These athletes are a different breed. At least different than me. M doesn’t even tell anyone when he does a race. He forgets to wear the race shirt and loses it in the back of his closet. He has never once displayed a medal from any competition. He insists we don’t even have to come and watch him in races.
Other athletes are insane like this too. Ken, who is the vicar at our church, an all-around great guy, and fantastic athlete, drove to the race by himself because his wife was volunteering and couldn’t be there. He won second place in his age group. He did not compete to impress the spectators, but because he wanted to do his best.
Let me be very clear. I have run a handful of 5ks, and I do it solely for the recognition. I never lose the shirts; I wear them every chance I get. I buy each and every one of the overpriced race photos, even those that didn’t turn out. I enlarge those blurry pictures, I frame them, and I decorate our house with them. I tell EVERYONE about my 5K. I never mention my time, which is dismal, but I tell them all about how I RAN A RACE.
If I ever competed in something as big as a triathlon, I would insist every neighbor, friend, and child come to watch me. I would force my kids to make posters. I would constantly Instagram selfies of me warming up and stretching. I would make the finish line picture my profile pic. I would absolutely get my feelings hurt if my former best friend from junior high didn’t text me a congrats within an hour of finishing the race.
Clearly, I’m not a a true competitor. I am not really an athlete. I am not in it for the betterment of myself. I’m in it for the public glory. Or, to be totally honest, I’m not in anything since I never do these crazy races.
We’ll find out this Saturday if our kids are racers or not. M signed them up for a Kid’s Tri that is this Saturday morning. Catie is swimming, Sam is on the bike, and Elisabeth is anchoring with a run.
So far, the Hergenrader Kid Tri team is a nice balance between M and me. They’ve done a little training. They all keep saying they want to do their best. But they’re also really concerned that I’m there to cheer them on. Also, they’ve all checked to make sure they get medals.
I’ll let you know if we’re raising athletes in it to win it or in it for the glory. Right now, I’m guessing Catie will race to win, Elisabeth will race for bragging rights.
And Sam will come home asking where he can get one of those Speedos with unicorns and rainbows.


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