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Meredith Leigh Knight Columnist

Published Friday, August 24, 2012

Christina the great

It was 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday, and I could hear my friend Christina stirring in the kitchen.

I rolled over in my warm bed and thought how relieved I was to have showed her where the key to the deadbolt was the night before. I started to close my eyes and drift back to sleep when my inner voice shouted at me – “You ought to be ashamed. Get your lazy self out of bed.”

My inner voice is a real you-know-what sometimes. And it’s often quite right.

If Christina can get up to do a triathlon, then there’s no earthly reason I cannot get out of bed, wish her luck and tell her good-bye, I thought.

She was packed and ready to go when I walked in the kitchen.

“Good morning!” she said enthusiastically, and I marveled at how two people can go to bed at the same time yet wake up in totally different moods. “How are you?”

At this, I went into my list of daily complaints. I’m not sure how I have so many when I’ve done nothing but sleep the night before, yet they rolled off my tongue.

“Awww, poor baby, do you need me to drop you off at the ER on the way to my triathlon?” said Christina playfully in her wonderful German accent that allows her to say anything and get away with it.

“No, look at what you are doing. My problems are minor,” I said, sucking in my self-pity and focusing on preparing her for the race.

We loaded up her bike, and she headed south for the 2012 Tri PTC Sprint Triathlon.

In case you are wondering, a sprint for a triathlon usually means a 750-meter swim, followed by a 12-mile bike ride and topped off with a 5K run. This is half the distance of an Olympic triathlon and less than a quarter of the distance of the Ironman, which my friend aspires to do.

If it makes you tired just reading it, then you should really go watch like I did. I was unable to see Christina -- and the approximately 750 other participates -- swim across the beautiful, but shallow and mucky, Lake Peachtree. I did, however, get to see her as she came out the water and entered what is called the transition area.

The transition area is row after row of bikes and gear where the athletes change (and eat). I can’t even remember where I parked my car after shopping at Publix, so I can’t imagine finding my bike in that sea of equipment.

Yet, they do, and once they have it, they push past cheering spectators and family members.

I spoke to the lady next to me and learned she was there to support her husband. He was 60 years old and started doing triathlons at 50. Ironically, he came out of the water just behind my friend.

I saw another older man taking his time drying off while his college-age kids yelled, “We love you, Daddy!”

I saw a girl with one arm run past with her bike, her hair still damp from her swim. I saw a man with a prosthetic leg. I saw young juniors whom we may one day see in the Olympics zip past. I saw middle-aged people. I saw older people. I saw kids as young as 9 (Participates write their ages on the back of their calves).

The one thing I did not see – save for the juniors and a couple of 28-year-olds – was any perfect bodies. I expected everyone to look like they stepped out of a fitness magazine. They did not. They were all shapes and sizes, and they were spectacular.

I moved from event to event to cheer them on, wishing I had gotten my children out of bed to join me.

As someone who takes to water like a cat and dislikes the discomfort of being on a bike seat, I had no grand illusions of participating, though it did occur to me that if, like my friend had done, I set it as my goal and trained – day by day, bit by bit – it was humanly possible.

And that is very inspiring. Thank you, Christina.

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