Saturday morning, I asked my Dad and his wife to come to my first Olympic-distance triathlon in late-June. I opened the conversation by telling him we were planning on taking the kids camping across the country this summer and that we wouldn’t make it to Pennsylvania for a week like we normally do. I had my “It’s Wisconsin!” pitch all ready, because I know he feels a little tense and claustrophobic in the city, and I thought Wisconsin would be a good compromise.
And when I stopped talking, he said, “Okay. We’ll be there.”
All I had to do was ask.
I was a little surprised at how elated I was. I no sooner hung up the phone when my husband returned from an early-morning long run. I delivered the news with the same intensity I imagine I’d use if I ever get to tell him I bought a lottery ticket on a whim and won $7 million dollars. I called my aunt and e-mailed my bestie from middle school to tell them my news. Then I got into a steaming hot shower and cried a little.
Something about my dad seeing me compete in this race is emotionally overwhelming. Despite my training, I’m certain I’ll be feeling awfully vulnerable when I’m in that first big race, and I’ve just invited my Dad to be a part of this experience – sink or swim (literally!).
I can’t remember the last time my Dad was in a crowd, cheering me on for something. I never was an athlete, so I don’t have any stories of picking his face out of a crowd as I slid into home plate or blocked a goal or …. whatever happens in sports that would make a Dad yell and scream enthusiastically. I played the flute in marching and concert band for three years in high school. I think I was in key club my senior year. I signed up for Spanish Club every year. Not really “Go, Tracy! You can do it!” moments.
Of course, my dad was in the crowd when I graduated from college. He was at my wedding. And he damn near beat us to our condo when we brought Maggie home from the hospital (we were driving from downtown Chicago; he was driving from Pennsylvania – go figure). So, while he’s certainly been there at the key points of my life, I’ve not really had any situations that would require him to watch me do something physical; something that might require a few shouts of support. Something that might give me an opportunity to see him as I drag my tired ass across a finish line, instead of just calling him to let him know that I didn’t die during the race (which has been the protocol since I started competing in triathlons and half-marathons).
It’s been a few days since I started writing this entry. I got a little carried away with the Chicago Blizzard of 2011 and spent my time hoarding food for the family and then I turned to my favorite non-active activity: knitting. After I talked to my Dad on Saturday, I felt a new source of motivation, and then I promptly skipped two workouts. But on Tuesday – the day the storm rolled into Chicago – I got myself to the Y in the morning and did my run workout – a 35-minute run with 10 minutes of stairs. I pushed myself throughout the run, instead of making excuses for why I should take it easy and at the end of 45 minutes, I felt happy.
I don’t need to be the first one to cross the finish line … ever. And I didn’t sign up for triathlons two years ago to gain my Dad’s approval – that would have been stupid. But I think having him in the crowd … and having 5 months to think about him being in the crowd … will help me power through with a little more intensity on the days when I just don’t feel like it.