A frustrating challenge of being in video media and having facial recognition issues is that people often come talk to me and I don't recognize them. The convenient time is when they aren't quite sure who I am and my standard joke about it is "I just have one of those generic faces," and after the laughter we introduce ourselves (it can be strange when a stranger in another state who happens to behind you in a random line goes you were on that ESPN piece right?. Perhaps I should stick to things like the more recent Rogue Running podcast since my face was built for radio.
But through this summer, just because it's summer and there's more time Kiana and I have been riding, swimming and running and I couldn't help but notice that the one event that I had done ever that she hadn't was a triathlon (I've only trained for one and until yesterday had only done 2). I'm a horrible swimmer but she is not and so I signed us up for one which seemed perfect, Jack's Generic Triathlon where there byline is "where you're not just a number, you're a barcode." This year happened to be the 15th anniversary so they had a little fun with it and said they had brought 15 years of generic smiles (and you know generic smiles in the age of selfies, constantly posing for camera phones and showing everyone on social media that you're officially happy is quite important). This generic face couldn't resist that invitation and knew Kiana and I had to get signed up for one. Kiana's had some very cool experiences and so have I but I do hope that she enjoys the daily scenes and local races and moments as much as the big ones. It's arguably which ones matters more in life.
My parenting philosophy is you give kids roots, than you give them wings and this event would
Still when race day came, the weather was actually very good. The tweaks we'd work on like transition, dismounts, drinking while on a bike, brick workouts, well we were going to see how they all came into play. Her paternal grandparents, both of her parents and their significant others were there to cheer her on and dad was going to stay as close as he could. However, I'd forgotten with so little triathlon experience that they let you out both in age groups and gender and well... Kiana and I don't match in that. I tried to ask one of the course people if I could just start in the women 39 and under (I thought making a joke about how I hang out with her enough that maybe I identify as a 12 year old girl but who knows how that would go over in the current political climate). With Kiana standing next to me, they said that I would then be disqualified under triathlon rules for not starting with my heat and Kiana said no it's okay dad, just start with your heat cause I don't want you getting disqualifed for breaking any rules. I was amused at that because well to do a sprint triathlon you have to be 12 years old and the person who registered her (me) might have lied about her age to do that. I suppose it's not as bad as Spartan races where her first one she did at age 8 even though you're supposed to be 14, the age I might have said to everyone she was when asked (Part of this is me trying to get her into so many things at a young age because she's capable and I honestly fear there may be too much of her life I miss if and when my cancer grows. The other part of me fears that not too far down the road her justifying to herself that her dad letting her do things when she was officially too young for them).
So I started with the men's 39 and under heat and actually swam it fast enough to where I was back before her heat started and may have gotten lost on that 500 meter swim and done another 500 behind her. If you think it was because I was watching out for her well you would be wrong because 1000 meters was the most I've ever swam in one day and it turns out it's hard. But luckily I'm a little taller and was able to start walking a little earlier and make it up as we went into transition.
She had done three formal rides before, two of 20 miles and one of 25 miles. This one was 12.9 but on those others it was stop in the middle and get some snacks, rest and socialize. Now we were in race mode and many of the people doing the Olympic distance were doing their second loop. I stayed behind her and she got cheered on by many generic strangers who were impressed with a 12 year old taking this on (in triathlons you wear your age on your calf). We were actually keeping a decent 13 miles an hour on her mountain bike with the wind at our back but then it went down to 11 as we faced a strong headwind. She didn't fade at all and while she was passed plenty, she also passed a few people and her dismount was more gracious than any I've ever made.
Then we got to our game, the running game. The legs felt funny to Kiana but it wasn't long before she was moving pretty well. She was passing people and I mean passing people. If she started to slow down I did the old fashioned running backwards heckling of you want to get beat by an old man running backwards and all of a sudden she sped up and would say 'you're not old'. In the entirety of the run, while conceding she started in the very last heat of the day, she was passed by only one person and passed a lot of other people. With about a mile left, because I'd started the watch at my start and not hers I mistimed where she was and you're going to have to hurry if you want to do it under 2 hours. She said I'll hurry at the end. She turned it on at the end and... literally at the finish line passed the one person who had passed her on the run. As she huffed and puffed after we finished. I was like whoa you really sped up on the last bit, maybe you had too much left in the tank. She looked at me and said, 'that's not how it works dad. No matter what I find a way to finish strong and pass people at the end.' I don't know where she gets that competitive attitude from. She didn't place in any age group but she was the youngest finisher at...12 years old.
We've actually done several other races this year and we've both taken home some placement trophies but it was the first finisher's medal we had earned on the same race this year, over a year since the last one, longest gap since we started collecting them almost 3 years ago. But in a race where we weren't just a number, we were a bar code, it was great that the first medal of 2017 was on her first triathlon ever. By the way, while I have a generic face, out of all the little girls the universe has, she comes first and helps an old man with a damaged brain know his heart's still working.