“In 2009 my son, Zachary, then 19, completed his first Olympic-distance triathlon. He was younger than nearly all of our competitors in the New York City Triathlon, and he earned several distinctions while finishing in the fine time of 3 hours, 19 minutes, and 50 seconds.
Zachary was probably the only cyclist who aimed for and hit every puddle as we made our way along the 25-mile bike course on the Westside Highway. He entertained his cousin, Jeff, who was by his side during the 6.1-mile run through Central Park, by singing Disney songs and performing entire soundtracks from Dr. Seuss and Spice Girls videos. Of all the participants, I’m certain he had the most fun.
And he is one of the only triathletes I know of who also happens to be autistic.”
This is the beginning of an article that I read today that moved me to tears for a myriad of personal reasons… (click here to read in its entirety) …not the least of which is a family connection. Knowing the challenges that attend this condition, I feel particularly attaboy-ish and fist-bumpy when I read success stories such as these.
But to be honest, this particular article poked and tugged at me for a much more selfish reason. And it started with this boy’s quest to ride his bike through every puddle.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m currently training for my first mini-triathlon. And I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy or remotely natural. While I’ve enjoyed making progress, I’ve also grown increasingly anxious and critical. What if I’m too slow? What if I finish last? How embarrassing will that be? That little voice in my head has become louder and more persistent.
Especially this past weekend. It was hot, humid and miserable when I hit the road with my bike for my training ride. There were some residual puddles in the broken pavement — and I painstakingly avoided them as best I could. By the time I rolled back to the start, I’d put up a disappointing time and was exhausted — and more than a little discouraged.
I was reminded of that ride this morning when I envisioned Zachary barreling through every puddle for 25 miles. What if I hadn’t worried about the puddles? Or my time? What if I’d actually set out on the bike with the sole purpose of enjoying it? Or…a more radical thought…what if I don’t time myself any more. Any of it. What if I just complete the event and have no idea how fast or slow I’m going. What if I make “joy” my only goal (besides finishing) and just have fun with whatever each leg of the race brings. I wonder if I am able to do that.
“I’ve seen how Zachary’s enthusiasm and willingness work for him, even when he’s gotten some cuts and wounds along the way, as we all do. The scrapes heal, and he returns to the challenge without hesitation. He isn’t afraid of the open-water swim. And being the fastest finisher is never his concern. He simply enjoys the race.
And through it all, Zachary has helped me find the fun in sports and fitness again. I see his joy, his focus, his absence of fear, and I try my best to follow his example.”
Think I’ll try my best to follow, too.