NO MATTER HOW PREPARED YOU THINK YOU ARE for anything in life, there is always an element of unpredictability. Now that my birthday celebrations of Sunday are passed...reflecting this morning, I felt compelled to share my experience in the international triathlon race of this past Saturday.
This year was my second time participating in the La Paz Pan American ITU competition. One more year of training under my belt, I felt strong and ready.
We started the 1.5km swim in a rough sea with challenging waves. Having trained often in the choppy water at Palmilla beach, in San Jose del Cabo where I live, I managed to decrease my time by 11 minutes from last year! Quick transition to bike, glanced at my watch, I was real happy to be off to a great start!
Feeling real good and strong, I got into my cycling flow...passing a lot of competitors who obviously had a better swim time than me, with all the confidence and trust in my training (as my coach always tells us), I was on my way to decrease my bike time as well, until a few kilometeres before Balandra, I heard a familiar "scary sound"...ohhh noooo....I had come face to face with the unpredictable; a flat tire at the front!!
Quickly off the bike, and pulling to the side of the road, with shaking hands, I proceeded to change my tire....fighting the drop in spirit happening in my head (that little voice that says: why is this happening to me!!). With a deamed light of confidence, I pulled out one of the two little air cylinders which blows up your tire in a flash. Call it the nerves, or what ever...this little "bomba" was not inflating my tire. I quickly reached for the second one...no air...nada!! I was out of "air"...and my moral was also deflating. And just like a child who would miss Christmas, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I felt heartbroken...as I watched my fellow competitors, one after the other, racing in front of my eyes with a compassionate look towards me.
An official on his moped quickly passed by and promised to return and help me. I had the option to give up and go back with him on his moped...but while waiting, I suddenly thought to myself; "ok Isa, suck it up! Stop the tears and go into your dynamic spirit." This is part of the game...you've trained for that...you have to finish no matter what, because finishing is what you train for...finishing is what you are here to do!!"
And suddenly, a racer named Paula, screamed: "what do you need"?! I waved at her to continue her race, because there is no way an athlete who has trained hard for a race should sacrifice her time to stop and help anothe. But to my surprise, she wouldn't hear it. She turned around and came towards me with her little hand pump (yep, lesson no. 1 for me: the hand pump is ultimately your best friend). No matter how much I protested it would slow down her time, she said: "5 minutes won't be the end of the world for me...we are all in this together"! As she proceeded to inflate my tire, and helped me put it back on, I was in shock...as I knew that I was in the presence of a very special soul. Than we both left and carried on...in seperate directions...with the echo of gratitude in my voice, in the middle of the desert, shouting: "thank you Paula...thank you!!"
And yes...biking back to catch-up on about a 20 minutes stop, I knew I was now stretching my challenging knee to the max...but at that moment it wasn't important-that's when the mind takes over. Quick transition off the bike...I hit the grown running the 10km, with "mind over matters" numbing the growing pain in my legs. And there she was again...the angel-fellow competitor named "Paula from Cabo", my savior, on her last running stretch cheering me up as I passed by her: "Go Isabelle go"!!. With all the admiration in the world, and tears in my eyes, I was in awe of such rare selflessness and kindness. She was my new hero! Nothing to do with time...or winning the race: on my constant strive to become a better human being, "Paula" is the type of person I wanted to be more like.
And so, even though my knee said "enough!" I painfully crossed the finish line...because I am a "finisher" in sports, and in life...and this is just one of many more races to come.
But I am still puzzled by Paola's selfless act of kindness. This is usually unheard of in competitive sports, and should rightfully not be expected, as athletes spend months and months of hard work, training for the race...for this one big moment in time; a chance to make it to the podium. So what makes one ultimately decide, during such an important moment in their life, to forgo their own personal gain to help another...I wonder?
This race ended up being a real "gift of a learning experience" for me, in so many ways. I am happy to have been able to finish the race, feeling grateful, blessed and deeply touched by someone's selfless act of kindness. Thank you "Paola of Cabo"; you are a true success, as a human being!
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