Sunday, September 12, 2010


At 7:13 a.m. on the morning of my thirty-third birthday, I stand knee-deep in water and look out at the orange sunrise over the black lake with a hundred other pink-capped women aged 30-34. Connie stands next to me. We wear black wetsuits and we shiver with cold and nervousness. We pull our goggles down over our eyes, push them hard against our faces to seal. Connie says, "Don't try to talk me into doing another one of these" and I say, "Never again." Then it is 7:14 a.m. and the whistle blows and we are off.

The water is cold and choppy and it is crowded with pink caps. I try to put my face in the water and swim the way I have practiced but I am too worried that I will swim straight into someone, so I make do with a modified crawl, my head sticking up out of the water more than not. A little behind and to my right, someone starts crying out, though I don't hear exactly what they say. I hear someone go to her and yell, "We need a boat over here!" and just the thought of the panic they are in makes me a little queasy.

I press on, but every time I turn my head to the side to breathe, I get a wave in the face, so I do a little breastroke, a little freestyle, a little treading water to see where I am going. The buoy seems very, very far away, and it doesn't feel like I am making much progress. I have lost Connie completely. I reach the buoy, head back towards shore, and am able to get enough space to put my head down and swim the way I want to swim - strong, smooth - more of the way back in. I am hating every second of the swimming, but I am almost done. When my feet touch the slimy cement of the boat launch and I walk out of the water, I rip my pink cap off and smile. I pull my wetsuit down to my waist and run gingerly (bare feet!) on the cobbled path. The clock says 25:something when I run past and go to my transition area.

Connie is just there, too. Wetsuit off. Helmet, bike gloves, long-sleeved wicking shirt, shoes, camelback on. Shot Blocks in pocket. Ankle strap secured. And I'm lifting my bike off the rack and running it toward the Bike Out chute, getting on, and pedaling with Connie a few yards in front of me. We are Moms on Mountain Bikes. We take turns leading each other up and down the hills, talking when we're close enough, getting passed by plenty of people with sweeter, faster bikes. I am pedaling on Fulton into the wind when Jason passes me. "Hi, babe!" he says, and then he's a blur of gray and red and white speeding down the hill. I turn around and the wind is at my back for the horrible hill on the return and the hill is not as bad as it has been before. I eat my Shot Blocks and drink all my water and before I know it, I am cresting the intersection of Cascade and Robinson, turning left onto my very favorite part of the ride, a smooth section completely covered with trees that leads to a curving downhill. I am going fast and I have a huge smile on my face because the hardest part is over.

I coast toward the transition and I hear people cheer and yell my name and someone is telling me to Slow Down and then I'm off my bike and running it back to my rack. Connie gets there a few seconds later, and because we're not fancy, we don't have fancy clip shoes to change, so we just ditch our bikes and helmets, then start to run. My legs feel a little heavy, but we're talking and laughing anyway. Sarah is waiting for us in front of the library, yelling "Woooot! Woooot!" and she jumps in to run with us, full of stories and positivity. We are talking and laughing and telling her how much the swim sucked. Other people ask if we're The Fun Group and we say yes.

More people, more cheering, and the run feels great as we go around the lake. We reach the hill before the rock and I think This is the last hard part! On the downhill we see an old friend, then Sarah drops away and we turn the corner towards the finish. I see Jason, just finished, watching for me and I blow him a kiss. I say, "I can't believe we just did this," and Connie says, "Neither can I" and we cross the mat side by side, two hours and eleven minutes after we started.

I did a triathlon on my thirty-third birthday.


  1. Amazing and inspiring! Congratulations, Stephanie...on the triathlon and on 33!

  2. Love it! Such a great post. I could really picture it all. Huge congrats to you. :)

  3. p.s. And do you feel a little sad now that it's over? I do. :(