The first few swim waves went off seemingly without a hitch. 5...4...3...2...1....AFLAC!!!
Next in line for the swim wave start were the ladies with the blue caps. I had a few friends in this wave so I made them smile for the camera and yelled words of encouragement to them. Then all of a sudden something seemed a little odd. What was going on right in front of me?
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Was this actually happening? Did a woman decide to quit the triathlon within minutes of her race? What happened to her? Did she somehow get injured during the swim? Had someone kicked her in the head and given her a concussion? I knew that could have been a real possibility. I had so many questions about what I was seeing and I was very curious about what was going on. Wait! There's my friend Laura and she is talking to her. Maybe they know each other. Maybe Laura will turn around and yell for a medic...but she's not. They are just talking. Okay, Laura must know her because now she is giving the woman a hug. Number 858 looks petrified! I really wish I could hear what was being said. Oh, wait, there she goes. She has started swimming again. WHAT JUST HAPPENED????
That evening I sat down on my computer and typed a note to Laura asking her about the situation and the story she told me brought tears to my eyes. You see, Laura didn't know this woman at all. Number 858 had started her swim and then decided she couldn't do it and started heading back to the start line to quit the race. Laura stopped her and gently reminded her that she had trained hard for this race and today she was going to become an IRON GIRL! Laura then proceeded to give her a big hug and briefly talked about the different strokes she could do to get to the finish. She pointed out the closest kayak which was there for safety and she encouraged the girl to just go do it! Number 858 turned around and began swimming freestyle. Of course, everyone that heard this story was interested in whether she had completed the race or not and, sure enough, she completed the race that day (in pretty good time) and became an IRON GIRL!
I am always amazed by the quality of people that I have met throughout my life and, in particular, the quality of people in my favorite sport of triathlon. Yes, it was a great accomplishment for number 858 to become an Iron Girl but I am so full of joy when I think of the compassion Laura had for this woman. When I think of an Iron Girl I think of someone that is more than a triathlete. I think of someone, like Laura and so many other female triathletes I know, who have a heart and a passion for this sport, their teammates, and other women competing against them. Yes, it's great to be able to stand at the finish line with a trophy in your hand, but just as important are times like this that make me so proud to be part of this community.
Thank you, Laura, for reminding me what this sport is all about and thank you for helping one more girl reach her goals. You are truly the definition of an Iron Girl!
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