By Kent Bramley
Of all the races I have done, all the training, all the great people I have met, the most memorable and moving triathlon moment for me took place next to a sanolet, all alone, while I stood and watched.
It was two and a half years ago when I competed in my first XTERRA triathlon at Buffalo Creek, Colo. Man was that fun, I am hooked for life. My goal was just to finish and I did.
The organizer, Robert Martinich, created a kids version of the XTERRA so I thought I would put my oldest child Connor in it. He was 7 at the time. I finished my triathlon just prior to the start of Connor’s. There were fewer than 10 kids in the race and each of them was raring to go. The water was cold, the sun was dipping behind the clouds and the wind was picking up. At the go, the kids made the 25 yard swim in the frigid Wellington Lake. With the crowd cheering, each of the kids flew into transition where a loving parent was waiting to help them get ready for the bike.
Since I had a truck, I volunteered to follow the last kid on the bike portion. Immediately I noticed that Connor was going to have a tough time getting up the hill. Several of the kids had really good mountain bikes and they were experienced in riding them. I had purchased my son a bike at a garage sale. It was old and it really was too small for him. So even though Connor did well in the swim and T1, the other kids quickly passed him on the bike. He was so determined to catch up. Once he got to the top of the hill, Connor could see some of the kids in front of him. As soon as he started to go down hill he really let it all out. I kept my distance in the truck and cheered him on from inside my cab. Then in the blink of an eye, Connor was down. Quickly, he got up and I could see the tears streaming down his face. I threw the truck in park and slammed the emergency brake on and ran to his side. Connor’s left arm, side and leg were all bloody from the crash. He had hit a rock, which stopped the bike but not him. I picked him up and carried him to the truck, where I examined the wounds and tried to calm him down.
We sat for a few minutes and I asked him if he wanted to quit. His first response was yes. As I got out to pick up his bike he thought about it and decided to continue the race. I wanted to take him back. “Are you sure son,” I asked. “Yes dad, I want to finish.”
Slowly he got back on the bike and very carefully headed down the trail. By the time he got to T2 I don’t think he even noticed his pain. He was in such a rush that his mother did not even see the blood. Connor finished the race all sweaty and tired and in last place. I immediately took him to the paramedics where his mother gasped at the site of the wounds. Connor told his story to the medics while they patched him up.
It was starting to get cold and Connor was shaking now and fully aware of his pain. I put my sweatshirt on him. He wanted to go back to camp but Richard asked the parents to please keep all the children around for the medal presentation. Mom stayed with Connor while I went to move the truck. I had parked my truck next to a sanolet. By the time I got to the truck, Richard had started his presentation using a microphone. I stopped and stood next to the sanolet while he talked.
All the triathletes surrounded Richard, the adults, the pros and in the middle, the kids. He spoke of a triathlete from a previous race who had broken his arm but somehow continued on to complete the race. He told how that person’s effort and determination showed what it meant to be an XTERRA triathalete. How that person had the spirit. He then went on to say how each year they look for individuals that have that same spirit. He then called Connor up to him.
Richard told the crowd about Connor’s accident and how he continued on and finished the race bleeding and in pain. As I stood there alone next to the sanolet listening, my heart swelled up and tears ran down my face. I can’t really describe what I felt at that moment but I knew that moments like this would be far apart, so I stood still and took it all in. Richard than placed a silver medal around Connor’s neck. I could see all the other triathletes clapping and cheering for my son, I could barely catch my breath. In his first triathlon, my son exemplified the spirit of the race. I ran to his side and hugged him, along with his mother. Connor was speechless as he stood there shivering and in pain.
I almost feel guilty at the amount of joy that moment brought me. The fulfillment of all the goals I have for myself will never match the reward I received watching the crowd of triathletes celebrate my son’s spirit.