The Sprint Triathlon That Is A Day In The Life Of A Mother

by Dori Sonntag
Originally Published: 
Maridav / Shutterstock

My husband is participating in a sprint triathlon today. It’s really quite remarkable, considering the training and skills required to be able to move from event to event with speed and stamina. It takes thoughtful preparation and great mental and physical stamina.

Last year was his first experience, and we learned how important the transitions were—nearly as important as the race itself. If he gets stuck taking socks off, drying off feet or taking off a wet suit, that could be the difference between first and third place or beating his personal record or not.

I am not any sort of triathlete in the true meaning of the word. However, I thought about a different type of triathlon we moms participate in daily. There usually isn’t much swimming, biking or running. But, it can be a sprint with many transitions, often making a difference between good and great.

Let’s consider yesterday’s major events that made up my triathlon: My race started in the morning by getting the kids ready and off to school. We all had a healthy breakfast while we rushed to put on our race gear, eyes focused, with homework complete and in backpacks and lunches packed and in the hands of the other racers.

Then we were off. I navigated us carefully and thoughtfully through neighborhood construction, taking the most incredible route to allow for my own personal record in the midst of obstacles thrown my way—cones, traffic and school buses. We made it to school while shaving three minutes off our average race time.

This race was off to a great start, and I was already strategizing my transition from mom to executive in my head. But just as the boys were headed out the door, I saw an expression on my youngest son’s face that I have seen before: He had forgotten his lunch on the floor at home while tying his shoes.

Crap. There went my personal record.

I quickly re-strategized considering this obstacle and decided that I would order a sandwich and have it delivered to school instead of jeopardizing my race. I gave him a kiss goodbye and sent him on his way. Obstacle averted. Now, I just needed to remember to order that lunch.

The transition wasn’t as smooth as I hoped, but mentally, I started to go through my day, preparing for various meetings and conversations that were to come my way. I looked at the clock and realized I had enough time for a pit stop at my favorite coffee shop. I saved time by ordering ahead so it would all ready for me, avoiding any line that might have formed. It was ready when I arrived, and I was back on schedule for my race.

At first, the day continued to go fairly smoothly–until my boss showed up in my office wanting to chat. What was supposed to be a five-minute conversation turned into 45 minutes before I finally stopped him so I could head to a meeting at 11:30 a.m. I would make it there just in time. All of a sudden, it hit me: I didn’t order sandwich for my son.

Scrambling, I called my colleague to let her know I was running late. I got online quickly to look up the school address (no, I don’t know it by memory). Damn it, I thought. I should have created and saved an online profile when I had the time so this would be faster (note to self for my next race–I mean, tomorrow). Any chance to shave off transition time helps.

I ordered the sandwich and barely made it in time to arrive for my son’s lunch hour. Back on track, I ran off to my meeting. Because I was late, my meeting went past noon, and afterward, I had to pound on my office door, which is locked during the lunch hour. Thankfully, my teammate was there and willing to help me get back in the race.

Now, this is typically the planned time I have for catching up on emails, quick tasks and refueling. I washed down a hard-boiled egg, an apple and a piece of string cheese with some water and prepared for the last half of the day. It was going to be tight, as I had a meeting scheduled to end at 4:30 p.m. and then I would need to transition from executive back to mom to pick up the kids at different schools in time to feed them and get them off to soccer practice by 5:45 p.m. Thankfully, that day their practices were at the same location.

Sometimes you just get lucky.

The pace in this half of the race was difficult. It required great stamina and mental toughness, and I was tired and feeling worn. I knew I needed to press on, because I was leading a meeting and the team needed me to be on top of my game. I gave it my all, keeping everyone on task and showing up with positivity and perseverance.

It was 4:29 p.m., and I still had to pack up and hike out to my car, which was farther away than usual. I should have planned for this. I picked up my oldest just in the nick of time at 4:46 p.m. Phew. I had made it just one minute late, which I could make up at home. I walked into the school library with him, and he asked me where his brother was.

Panic rushed through me. I realized that I had taken the wrong route. This was a massive error. I was supposed to pick up my youngest first. I thought about the implications of this: My son had to wait for me. The coaches had to wait. I still had to drive through more obstacles of construction. This was certainly going to put us back, jeopardizing our on-time arrival to soccer practice.

I had to calm down and think through this next transition. I decided to take some back roads to shave off some time in transit. It didn’t really work, and we still arrived 10 minutes late for pickup.

He was fine. The coaches were fine. There was still time to quickly eat, change and get the boys to practice on time, but we had to be completely on task. We headed home with another skillful move: avoiding the construction and traffic. I barked orders like a drill sergeant and we found ourselves back on track to finish the race as planned.

I quickly got the boys to soccer, making the next transition to chief operations officer for the home. I stopped by Target and exchanged cell phones because our command center was in need. I grabbed groceries for the rest of the week, toilet paper and some household hardware that my husband requested. I looked at the clock and saw that I was riding high.

This was the point of the race where my adrenaline was pumping. I could see the homestretch. I decided to pick up dinner so I could keep this feeling instead of the dreaded late night meal prep. There was nothing getting in the way of finishing this race.

I pictured a nice, warm bath to congratulate myself on this massive accomplishment. Maybe I would even indulge in a glass of wine. Surely I deserved it.

I picked up the kids, we headed home, and I finally crossed the finish line. The sprint was over, and I’d made it another day.

I reflected on the day and realized that sprint triathlons maybe aren’t for me. Perhaps I’m more marathon material–slow and steady.

That sure sounds lovely.

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