It wasn’t even planned. I’d eaten a packet of vege chips for breakfast, had on a pair of jeans and thongs and the only spare clothes I had thrown into my weekender were a clean t-shirt and knickers. Definitely nothing in there for a biathlon.
I can’t go. I came to babysit. No swimmers. I can’t even swim. No shoes. Just jeans. And a t-shirt. No training. I’m not a good swimmer. I’ve not eaten anything. I’ll dehydrate. I’ve never done one before.
Yep. I definitely had every excuse in the book NOT to partake in my first biathlon. And I think they were pretty good ones. That was until Lennoxx, my five year old niece, piped up:
Aunty Tina, how can you say you can’t do it until you give it a go.
As someone who has taken groups on challenge trips up some pretty big mountains, I was never going to take that remark lightly.
20 minutes prior to the race, I bolted up to the $2 shop and bought a $10 pair of hot blue shorts. My sister had thrown in a pair of 1/2 size too big joggers into the car, so at least my feet were sorted.
The ocean was dead flat. I no longer had any excuses. Apart from the fact I had done no training, eaten no food nor swallowed any water. Throw in the fact I’m stubborn, need to try most things at least once and was set a challenge by an equally stubborn five year old, I paid my $50 registration fee.
I then lined up with the other 827 biathletes… and then there was me.
I’d missed all the race info as I’d headed up to buy my shorts. So I followed the crowd along the beach to the starting point and was waiting for the horn when I noticed there were three distinct coloured caps. So I officially fit into the masters category and head off at the first whistle.
Now I’ve never learnt how to swim properly, so I interchanged the crawl, breast stroke and dog paddle on the 500m leg. It would have been quicker if I hadn’t got a killer cramp 50m in and the remaining two groups hadn’t swum over the top of me. Swimming in a tshirt, tight shorts, no goggles or swimming cap also proved a little character building.
But I wasn’t giving in. I wasn’t dying. I’d made a commitment. And I was going to finish.
I hit the changeover area and someone had decided it would be really funny to move my bag into a different section. Then there were my sister’s shoes: the ones half a size too big and with the laces still tied up. Ten minutes in changeover wasn’t helping my cause to not come last. But I was going to finish.
Obviously in a little bit of pain, at each checkpoint, the volunteers offered to drive me back to the finish line.
I have to finish.
Yes, I am stubborn. But I also had to finish. I hadn’t come this far to just get driven back to the start when I could run under the banner and feel that total sense of achievement.
So I hit the beach run with chin held high, blood running low, dug in deep and shuffled my way until I could see the finishing line in clear sight. There’s nothing like a crowd to spur one through the pain barrier and turn a shuffle to a sprint.
As I crossed under the banner with my arms held high, I can honestly say that last 100m was one of the best adrenaline rushes I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a few. I’m not so sure it was simply completing the race. For me, it was about not giving in when it would have been so easy to just walk away.
On writing this, it’s reminded me of a few things in my life that I have walked away from. Sometimes, that choice in itself has not been easy, but it is the one that was needed at the time. On reflection, I don’t think I’ve given up. I’ve just taken a shuffle on the sand before I commence the final sprint to the finishing line.