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“I hate to tell you this Mom, but . . . ,”
Ralphie said with a concerned expression only a worrywart could appreciate.

We were making our way down the steep hill that leads to the triathlon registration table for Ralphie’s race the following day. A stream of weary athletes were pushing their road bikes up the hill. They had completed the “long course” earlier in the day, and one could tell by their limp posture that this dusty hill was draining every last bit of their energy.

I had just spent an hour parked in the “car staging area” with my adorable 11 year old niece playing “If you were an animal, what would you be?” and learning way too much information about my brother’s vocabulary when he is directed to drive in circles on a narrow campground road dodging hundreds of bleary-eyed racers as they  make their way in zombie-like oblivion back to their campsites.

While my adorable niece was tattling on her dad, “The second time that lady pointed us in the wrong direction, my dad said a bad word,” my amazing brother, Mr. Ironman, was riding his bike around the campground and snagging us the best campsite ever.
Note to self: Never tell my adorable niece (or me) anything unless one wants it to be broadcast to the world (and posted on a blog).

“I hate to tell you this Mom, but . . . ,”

but what?

What could he possibly tell me that would generate such a genuine display of concern?

As we approached the deserted grandstand that had been bursting with cheering crowds earlier in the day; where friends and family had willed their loved ones across the finish line, I reflected on motherhood a bit.

I watched as the race volunteers methodically collected empty paper cups and reluctantly cleaned up the half-eaten nachos swept beneath the metal bleachers. Dusk was settling in over the transition area when it struck me that parenting has a lot in common with endurance sports.


From cuddling in the big green chair discussing important things like how a lion goes “roar” . . . to sharing with everyone in the grocery store how one’s four year old taught himself how to ride a two wheeler yesterday and didn’t give up until he was covered in bruises from head to toe, “really that’s what these bruises are, he would not give up . . .” . . . to explaining why one has to go back to kindergarten on the second day of school . . .
to watching the piano recital with tears streaming down one’s face wishing Tony was sitting next to me instead of lying in a hospital bed . . . to explaining to the other PTA parents that one is sort of a control freak when it comes to building the fifth grade haunted house (does that say “Worrywart’s Haunted House”) . . .
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to lying in bed next to Tony (who thankfully did not die in the hospital and who is also wide awake) waiting for the front door to open and hearing the magic words that finally allow us to sleep, “I’m home!” . . . to realizing that this time those sirens really are for one’s own child,

and feeling grateful beyond measure that he survived unharmed, and recognizing in that single moment how limited motherhood power is when all it takes is a little bee flying into the driver’s side window to take down a pole and all of the power in town . . . to driving 200 miles in fog and rain and snowstorms (the kind of driving conditions worrywarts thrive in) every weekend of the football season for four years so one can sit on a narrow wooden bench in row 46, seemingly giving birth to the tall man with the season ticket in row 45, just to watch one’s child play trumpet during the halftime show . . .
to cleaning, packing, and moving yet another college apartment (hint: Kmart sells really cheap replacement drip pans) . . . .


to letting go . . .


again . . .


and again . . .


and again.

Motherhood is the mother of all endurance sports, and there is always another steep, dusty hill (and grimy stovetop) . . .

“I hate to tell you this Mom, but . . . ,”


A full facial tattoo?

A plan to hitchhike across the USA to see where you end up, you know like that guy did in Into the Wild (we know how that ends)?

Approaching the registration tent, I tried to imagine a worst case scenario for the second half of Ralphie’s warning.

A climbing adventure without his cell phone to an unknown canyon, you know like that guy did in 127 Hours (ditto)?


This can’t possibly be the line to pick up the race packets.

No, look they all have their bikes and numbers, and they look exhausted. There was a collective muttering along the line about the long day, the long race, and this long line for the shuttle bus.

Then, a sudden flurry of excitement erupts at the front of the line.

Someone begins to shout.

A ripple of woohoos and hollers makes its way down the haggard line, breathing exuberant life back into the run-down crowd.

The silhouette of a lone runner, barely visible in the twilight, appears on the horizon.


A wave of earsplitting applause crushes the previous blast of cheering, completely annihilating any sense of fatigue amongst the shuttle bus queue.

“YOU CAN DO IT, MOM!” A young athlete leaning over the blue plastic fence lining the course shouts to a middle-aged-over-weight woman who is proudly plodding up the road toward us.

Holding her head up high,

one step in front of another,

one deep breath after another.

The crowd is going wild, women and men alike are dabbing at their eyes beneath their superhero racer shades; each tear filled with empathy for this woman who started the 1.2 mile swim, the 56 mile bike, and the 13.1 mile run course with them eight or nine hours earlier; this woman who did not give up.

I wipe my eyes along with the others as I watch her run down the now forgotten blue carpet, past the empty grandstands, and across the finish line.

The timing clock is no longer lit up, the announcer with the handsome radio voice has made his way to the VIP tent, the Cal Poly students handing out cold, wet towels are back at their base camp gearing up for an all-night dance party that might just tick off a few oldish campers, and the folks with the goodie bags and race medals have long since packed up.

Everyone has gone except for her son.

“I hate to tell you this Mom, but you have a hair growing out of your chin.”

Plucking a well earned whisker (with my bare hands) from one of my well earned chins, I respond, “I think I’m going to train for a triathlon!”

“You should Mom, I know you can do it.”

“I know I can, too.”

Coasting downhill this week:



I love you Mom!!!!! Sorry about driving off in my little white 1976 Datsun pickup truck just to see where I would end up (don’t try this at home kids) – luckily it was here.