Raindrops and Rainbows – Naperville Women’s Triathlon
by Sara B.
What am I doing? How did I get here? Can I really do this? All of these questions and more run through my head as I drive towards the race, as I set up my transition area, as I stand and wait during the rain delay, and even as I talk with my friends and ET members.
As the rain pours down I think to myself, “Here’s my out. If I leave now no-one will notice and I won’t/can’t disappoint anyone.” Then, as if it never happened, the rain lets up and the race begins. Here I am, having a while to wait for my wave, and my nerves and butterflies are getting worse with every passing minute. As we wait, we all see the peaking out of a rainbow over the race.
One by one, all the people I know who are racing start their own race. At this time our spectator friends jump in with encouraging words and high fives. Finally I am starting to feel like part of a group. These people really do believe in me. They are people who all have been exactly where I have been. People who have helped me through one of the hardest years of my life and all of the changes I have encountered. People that believe that anything is possible and being out there is just as important as trying. Their words, smiles and truths finally are sinking in and I feel like I might be ready.
Then it hits me: this is all me! I go and stand in my wave and see fewer and fewer familiar faces. My heart starts pumping and my fears are setting in again. Each wave before me starts and goes off with a bang and then there I am, standing in the water. The volunteer in the water is talking to us and I can’t hear a word over my heartbeat. I am locked into myself. I am finding every ounce of strength and courage I have in myself to get this going. To do my race and end with a smile.
We’re off!! I find myself swimming and just trying to stay with the group. I can do this. As I get passed I start to feel like I will be the last person out of the water, but who cares? I keep going. I approach the last turn and I hear a faint cheering for me. I get up out of the water, run to the beach, and receive cheers and high-fives from both my friends and strangers. I start to realize that, hey, I am doing this, no one else. This is me.
Transition is rough. I am new to the bike, but whatever, get going. All the while I am thinking, “What am I doing? Am I really here?” I truly feel like I am in a dream watching someone who looks and sounds like me doing something I have only ever dreamed of. So I continue to turn my pedals and see the encouragement and smiles of the athletes that surround me. The bike goes well. I get to the bike in and set my bike in the rack and here I go…my favorite part…the run.
As I head up the hill my emotions are finally starting to catch up with me. I’m running at my pace, but people pass me. Each one with encouraging words of, “You got it!” and “Keep going!” Everyone is smiling and really glad to be out there, so I keep going, choking back my tears. Every time I want to stop, I see someone who provides me with that extra push. A co-worker cheering from the sidelines and a stranger with a water cup, they all keep me going.
Then it happens. The tears start to well up and I think, “I can’t do this.” I finally realize that this is me, I am doing this, no one else. This is not a dream, it is reality. I am an athlete…and the tears flow.
As I turn a corner, I hear a huge familiar voice yell, “Sara!!!!! YAY!!!” It’s my friend, my first encourager on this path, the person that introduced me to ET and this new side of myself. As I cry even harder, finally realizing my amazing friends and accomplishments, she starts to run by my side and encourage me to finish and her excitement pushes me on. As we near the finish line, she leaves my side and I see it, it is so close, I am almost there. Then I hear them… I look up with huge tears in my eyes and I see my group of friends, coaches and supporters. It is unreal to see this huge group of people who are all waiting for me, cheering me on as I cross the finish line. With hands high in the air and screaming my name, I run past them and feel it: I am part of this. What a GREAT feeling!
I cross the finish line by myself and hear the announcer say my name and there it is: I am officially an athlete, a triathlete. The tears flow and I finally see that I did this, me, on my own. Through all the tears, pain, sweat and fears of the last year, I have become something I only dreamed of. I walk back to the group I just passed and I am welcomed with huge hugs and congratulations. They all know me in different ways and understand every emotion I am feeling. With warm embraces and beaming smiles I see that I DID IT!!!
Thanks to a great role model, encourager, friend, coach and team of other athletes, I have arrived. Nothing, including raindrops or fears, will stop that.
At the end of the day, all the raindrops and storms from the last year seem to be lifted, and the rainbows are soaring higher and higher. I could never have thought that such a group of people would become such a family.
What a great day we had. Dozens of ET athletes and friends of ET had fun in one of the most inspirational races around. Later in the day we held our annual season kickoff pool party. Enjoy all the photos from our day at ET Photo.