From zero to hero

The unlikeliest Iron Kid of all wound up in the spotlight after she ran most of the bike course pushing her busted bike and then went on to finish the race.

Lately I’ve been thinking how inspiration runs in all directions, rather than simply trickling down from the elite athletes of the world.

Just this week I got motivated to tackle intervals by emulating a friend who’s a complete beginner. I figure if he can work bursts of jogging into his walks, surely I can fit a little speed work into my jogging.

On Saturday I accompanied Colleen to the Iron Kid Triathlon in Bluffton without any expectations whatsoever. At 9, she struggles with a pretty serious weight problem, so it was kind of amazing she wanted to try it at all.

She completed her 50-yard swim, got out of the transition area without a glitch and peddled off onto the bike course, a 1.17 mile route through nearby blocked-off streets. We walked over to the 4-H Park to wait until she returned for the .65 mile run.
We waited. And waited. And waited.

Finally we spotted Colleen approaching the park — but she wasn’t riding her bike. She was pushing it as she jogged slowly along beside.

Bike chain dangling, Colleen jogs toward the transition area.

Tears were streaming down her face. Her chain had come off shortly after she made the turn onto the road course, and though a volunteer tried to help her, it obviously wasn’t going to be a simple fix. Determined to finish, she’d just started running with the bike in tow.

“Honey, let’s just forget the run,” I said, incredulous that she’d made it as far as she had. “C’mon, let me help you with that.”

Colleen shook her head.

“No,” she gasped. “You took off work to come here. I‘m going to finish!”

I winced. Yes, I’d played that card a time or two, reminding her that if a kid triathlon was worth skipping work for, it was worth training for. She’d been busy with baseball and swim team, and had only recently been getting in much jogging or cycling. She knew she could make the distance, but just barely.

“Colleen, you’ve already run over a mile,” I said. “You don’t have to prove anything here. You’ve got an equipment malfunction. It’s OK.”

She didn’t say anything as she entered the transition area. Just parked her bike, unbuckled her helmet — our helmet, the one I bought before my own triathlon earlier in the summer and that we now shared — and trudged off toward the running course.

I ran off to grab some water and caught up shortly afterward. Her age group wasn’t supposed to have parents running alongside, but the bike cop escorting her — she was the only kid left on the course — told me to come along.

“Colleen, you don’t have to do this,” I said over and over, as the cop filled me in on her ordeal.

She just kept plodding along, huffing and puffing and reaching for the water bottle every so often.

“You don’t have far to go now,” the cop said as we rounded the last bend and saw volunteers and pylons up ahead. “You can do this!”

I pulled off to the side as Colleen hit the homestretch. Remarkably, she managed to speed up as she approached the finish line — where, just as remarkably, several people had stuck around to cheer her on.

“Right after I crossed the finish line, it felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she said later. “It was like my lungs were stuck.”

She still hadn’t fully recovered when she went up on stage to get her finisher’s medal. She was both embarrassed and proud when the race director told the crowd how she’d persevered.
It was a gutsy performance by an Iron Kid who proved she belonged after all.

Waiting for her heat to begin. The 9 and 10-year-olds started with a 50-yard swim.

And they’re off…

In the transition area, preparing for that ill-fated “bike ride.”

Heading off on the bike course, little realizing what lies ahead…

This entry was posted in fitness, running, triathlon, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to From zero to hero

  1. Wow—truely inspiring–I’m sure you guys are so proud–gosh, I feel proud of you! Colleen –YOU ARE AN IRONKID! If I’m ever having a bad race I’m going to say, if Colleen can do this running her bike, surely I can do it. Well done! 🙂 Elizabeth

  2. wdhowell00 says:

    Thank you Colleen, I am doing my first triathlon in a few weeks and think you are a hero for finishing what you started. Than you for not giving up and giving me the inspiration to hopefully do the same. – William

  3. Ragu says:

    Way to go, Colleen!

  4. Reblogged this on Triathlon Obsession and commented:
    I hope you are as inspired as I was when I read about 9 year old Colleen who proved to herself (and to everyone) that if you put your head down and persevere, you are a winner— no one can stop you! I think Colleen is awesome!

  5. tri-grandma-try says:

    Reblogged this on trigrandmatry and commented:
    Colleen is my hero…what guts!!! Way to go girl!!

  6. Sandra says:

    You are an inspiration, Colleen, and my new hero!!!! I have often wondered what I would do if my bike broke down and I only hope that if it happens, I would have your perseverance, courage, and endurance!!! Never a DNF !!! Yea, we are all so very proud of you!!!!!!!!!!

  7. sweatingforit says:

    Colleen that’s amazing! Congratulations on your triathlon! With that kind of tenacity you can accomplish anything.

  8. Reblogged this on pipe down piper and commented:
    I just found a new hero: Ironkid Colleen, you are an absolute inspiration. Wow!

  9. Tahira says:

    BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO, Colleen! Inspiring! Congratulations! YOU ROCK!

  10. Mumblechop says:

    Hi Colleen, I think you are amazing and nothing will ever get in your way. With your determination, you will succeed – whatever you do next.

  11. Tahira says:

    Reblogged this on tahira's and commented:
    So inspiring! This kid is my newest hero! We need more people in the world like her. Bravo, Colleen!

  12. This made me cry. What an incredibly inspirational story. And what a gutsy gal!! Thank you so much for sharing. As a newbie triathlete, the glow from this story will get me out the door today! 🙂

  13. Amy says:

    Amazing Colleen!

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