Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pacific Palisades School Puts on 6th Grade Triathlon, TriDiva Jealous

If my 6th grade class had had triathlon as part of the curriculum, I'm convinced I'd be a much faster, meaner competitor in the leagues of Michellie and Chrissie by now. Instead, I discovered triathlon long after I might have chosen CU Boulder over my triathlon team-less artsy NY College. At least they let me swim and run there despite my less-than-collegiate level of skill, which might've come if I had gotten a taste of triathlon at the much more impressionable age of 11.

In five or six years, the 6th grade graduates of Seven Arrows Elementary School in CA's Pacific Palisades neighborhood will kick my bum. And I am proud I might have had something to do with the development of their need for speed and congenial competition.

At approximately 1:05pm today, 11 brave and well-trained 6th graders dove into the pool of Santa Monica's swanky private beach club, The Jonathan Club. Since none of the volunteers culled from the LA Triathlon Club were allowed within the walls (sponsor-laden spandex probably isn't a part of the dress code), nobody knows how far they swam for certain. Sources say 150 yards, so that's what we'll go with.

The kids had been training for this race every Saturday morning for almost three months with LA TriFit owners Gina and Bernard Baski. So when they ran to T1, where their pink mountain bikes, bmx bikes, and cruisers with glittery saddles were waiting for them, they were ready for the challenging 2-mile ride down the bike path to Temescal Canyon. At T2, a large LA TriClub trailer gobbled up the bikes, and the kids were off to the treacherous crossing of Pacific Coast Highway.

Sweet Bike in Transition

(Sweet Bike in Transition)

When the light turned green, I realized my protégée, Rachael, was going to kick my butt. She took off, showing unbelievable speed and grit for someone her size. She was angry because some kids made it through the light before we did, and we had to wait an entire traffic cycle to cross ourselves. She was determined to make up for lost time. I was determined to not let her break away from me, lest I relinquish my Ironman hat at the finish line after being beat by someone 1/3 my size.

Waiting at Temescal and PCH(Waiting at PCH & Temescal)

The run was brutal--straight up Temescal Canyon. Parents and teachers cheered on the competitors, who all wore green t-shirts specially created for the event. Some moms held out water cups. I drafted off Rachael. We were cookin'.

Run up Temescal Canyon(Run up Temescal)

Just at the end, she darted into an alleyway and went off course. "Rachael!" I yelled. "This way!" But she was already gone. So after her I went, only to discover she knew better than I did--she found a new way back, and had me chasing after her when she entered the finishing chute, lined by cheering parents and classmates.

"She kicked your butt," another volunteer said grinning.

"Should I take off my hat?" I said.

I had asked another 6th grade girl how she felt as we were running up Temescal Canyon.

"I feel terrible! This hurts!" she replied, still jogging.

"Triathlon's tough, but it's fun when you finish!" I offered.

She didn't seem too convinced at the time, but she and the other 10 kids were overjoyed when they crossed the finish line into the arms of adoring younger schoolmates and parents. And bless their little hearts, they all went around to shake every volunteer's hand to say "Thank You", radiating happiness out of their sweaty cherubic faces.

The triathlon was only half an hour long, but I'm sure the experience made an impression on several of those kids. I'm off to train, so when Rachael goes to Wildflower in 10 years, I'll be able to give her a run for her money. Unless, of course, she goes pro.


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