Monday, 15 April 2013

Karen writes: On being a supporter

Being a supporter is hard work.  Harder I think, than actually doing a race.  A week ago I did the 2.8km State King of the Bays 10th aniversary swim over at the North Shore with Kate, it was a lovely event, very much like others in recent years, you turn up, enjoy your race and go home, if it is a gorgeous day too then that is a bonus. Because it was so far away across Auckland it was a seriously early beginning to the day and the whanau dropped me off  to talk to Kate, watched us start, then they went and entertained themselves for a while. Me and Kate swam, and just over 70 minutes later the whanau were waiting at the finish line for a wet hug, oh just another event for Mum. I did enjoy the swim, in spite of being under-trained and having thought after Ironman that I could hide the wetsuit under the bed for at least 6 months.  The whanau support crew appeared to enjoy the day too, partly I think because successfully completing an event is an excuse for fast food and treats not just for the athlete but the supporters too.

This weekend just gone it was my turn to be supporter.  The girls, age 7 and 10, were doing the Weetbix tryathlon, again on the North Shore, their first and fourth triathlons respectively. This start was even earlier, out of the house just after 6am with bikes and transition boxes in duplicate, warm clothes for the early morning wait around, sunhats, cooler clothes, sunscreen for expected hot sunshine later in the day, food, water, camera, spares of pretty much everything 'just in case'. We drove for about 45 minutes as the sun came up, and it wasn't until we hit the Auckland harbour bridge that more vehicles with bikes on the back started appearing, then it turned into a regular convoy, culminating in the car-packed roads between Takapuna and Devonport.  Over 2200 children participated, each with parents/caregivers/siblings and it sometimes seemed the next door neighbour's neighbour and the friend of a friend of any visiting relative was there as well.  Standing, or wiggling space only.

After successfully negotiating a variety of essential queues, it was time to wait for the start, always a time of anxiety.  I lost the younger one.  Her age-group was about to be called, she had disappeared, I wasn't sure if I was more worried about her being missing and potentially at the mercy of goodness-knows-who in the crowd, or that she was going to miss her start and might be put off events for life by the trauma of it all.  Was she in the crowd, at the lost-kids tent, or had she independently followed all the other little white capped junior athletes into the swim start corral?  With the help of the eagle eyed 10 yo we saw her on the other side of the fence ready at the startline, concentrating hard and with a 'lets get on with it' look on that small face. Oh drat, she might not see us and think she'd been abandoned, what to do...leap up and down and yell with all the other parents leaping up and down and yelling, or find a position she could see us as she ran past.  The latter was the answer, she got a wave and a "go girl" from near the beach as she ran to the water.

Time for the older girl to go, but how to see her start...surely necessary since so much effort had been put into seeing the little sister start. At the same time I needed to make sure I didn't lose track of little sister so as to not miss her finish as her's was a shorter race...and it was her first.  Ohhhh...what to do?

Eventually I got to see the little one over the finish line, but in the fight through the mass to find her after the finish I missed the big girl finish 2 minutes later.  The big girl came out after the melee for photographs long before the little one, where was she?  Turned out that the little one had no anxiety about the tryathlon itself, but she didn't want to push forward for the photos, so she stayed in the mix being pushed around, funny what is the biggest worry on the day but personally I can relate to that one.

All done, prizegiving completed, both girls insisted on riding their bikes back to the car, a complicated dance through other wobbling cyclists, walkers and push-chairs.  In the car they jabbered excitedly, relived the race, the horror where other children fell off their bikes, fury at rude boys who blocked the path during the run, glee when said rude boys were told off, and they basked justifiably in weetbix fueled glory.  I asked the little one if she was going to do another, she looked at me with level eyes and thought about it so seriously that I really wasn't sure what she was going to say.

She worked her fingers around her medal and said "yes".  I felt like crying and I put that down to being just plain exhausted from all that hard work being a supporter. Of course it might also just have something to do with being a proud mum watching her girls growing up.