The Atholton children’s triathlon in Columbia, MD


Two of my girls competed in their first triathlon today and I could not be more amazed, impressed, or proud. They’ve watched their dad fall in love with the sport over the last year and have seen him run an Olympic and a sprint. Though they’ve talked about trying it for themselves, the final push came during the Rock Hall sprint tri when they saw a 12 year old boy cross the finish line. My ten-year old wants to do the same one next year.

Yesterday they picked up their packets with their numbers, swim caps, goodie bags, and start times. This morning they left at 6:15 and I followed shortly after to head up to Columbia to the Atholton Swim Club where I found them already body marked with their numbers written in Sharpie on their arms and other information written on their hands, feet, and calves.


Parents were still allowed into the transition area, so I checked out their areas. Some kids were still coming in and getting set up, but my girls were already done with their bikes numbered and essential snacks, water, and transition items set out and ready to grab in a hurry between events. The transition area closed to parents at 8:30.20140629-IMG_642820140629-IMG_641820140629-IMG_6398


The pool opened for a 15 minute warm-up time between 8:30 and 8:45, so Arianna relaxed and Elise swam so much we worried she’d over exhaust herself. Kirk had written times on their small packets of energy gummies, so they each at theirs at different times. We saw Elise’s kick in as she sat and watched the starts before her fidgeting and wiggling, both excited for her own start and infused with energy.


They called the kids according to swim cap color which were given out according to age. Each age group had different distance requirements for the swim, bike, and run. The youngest ones were 5-6 and swam just one length of the 25 meter pool. In general the groups were lined up according to age, but for some reason they put Arianna’s age group, the 13-17 bracket before the 9-10 year old group which worked out well because they ended close to the same time.


Arianna swam a 200 meter freestyle, then ran to the transition area. This is where they have to put on their shorts and shirt over their bathing suit, get on proper shoes, and grab their bikes. They walk their bikes from transition to the bike start, then get on and ride. The bike loop was 1 mile. Arianna had to do 4 loops – which was marked on her hand to remind her.


While Arianna biked, I ran back to see Elise’s swim start. When their group gets close, they line them up in the chairs near the starting lanes, so that they’re ready. Once one group is gone, the kids in back move up and a new group files in.


Once one group has taken off and is nearly to the end of the pool, the second group gets into the water for an “in water start” holding onto the wall with one hand and waiting for the buzzer before swimming their favorite strokes. Elise swam 50 meters, then ran to transition to prepare for her 2 mile bike ride.

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I was worried about catching the girls at all their start and end points as both of them were participating with different start times and different distances, but fortunately, I was able to get the start and finish of each event for both of them. Not long after Elise started her bike portion (I become a great sprinter during these things to get in place to take the photos I want), we saw Arianna starting her 4th mile.

20140629-IMG_656420140629-IMG_6578Parents waited. Especially for us first-timers, it was difficult to know how long it would take the kids to get around the course. One mother complained that while her daughter is competitive and fast on the course, that her son treats it like an casual afternoon ride through the park. I think we were all anxious to see our kids come around. Part of it is just not knowing exactly where they are on the course. It’s a little unnerving (for me anyway).

Arianna finished her 4th lap and was coming in just 18 seconds of Elise. So I saw Arianna pass, then cheered loudly for Elise who was riding perfectly synched along side her new friend, Kate, before running after Arianna to catch her run start. Elise and Kate were finishing their first mile and had one more to go.

It’s not a race. It’s a confidence builder and a healthy-kid event. The goal is to try it and may be even complete it. Though they had timing chips, they weren’t racing each other – just may be, for some, themselves.

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Arianna took off for her 1 mile run and I waited in between the run start and transition area hoping to either catch Elise at the end of her bike or Aria at the end of her run. This timing was tricky. Turns out, Elise and Kate finished the bike together, transitioned together, began their 1/2 mile run and came across the finish line just before Arianna finished her run – perfect timing!

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About Tiffany

I'm eclectic. Sometimes that's a good thing because I can do bits of everything. Sometimes it's aggravating because I get distracted by so many amazing things. Mostly, I love photography and family, travel and writing, cooking, reading, art, and coffee. Sundays are church days to regroup and refocus. God's in charge here.

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