Yesterday I raced in the Vancouver Triathlon in Stanley Park. This is the main race that keeps me training all year long. I look forward to the 1.5 km swim in the ocean, the 40 km bike ride through the Stanley Park roadways with no car traffic, and the 10 km run on the paths of Stanley Park. There was a moment as I pedalled hard up a hill toward Prospect Point when I looked at the moss covered trees and the ferns around me and thought, “Wow, what a beautiful place to race.”

Of course, yesterday, I was doing all of this in the rain. Everyone gets wet in the swim but usually you dry off on the bike. Not yesterday, the puddles, and spray and constant rain kept us wet and cool. Then came the run – in soggy shoes.

I learned some things from this race. I learned that you can train all year for an event but there is always the possibility of unforeseen challenges. Who would have thought that the biggest struggle of the day would have been taking off my bike helmet? My hands, cold and numb from my handle-bars, did not have the manual dexterity or strength to pinch the clasp to release my helmet.

I learned that the race is very much a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge. My brain tried to convince me several times that I was doing poorly. Reminding myself that I was in one of the most beautiful parks in Canada, enjoying a day of swimming, cycling and running, gave me the perspective I needed to enjoy the race and ultimately succeed in a personal best time.

I learned that it is fun to encourage each other to do well at a triathlon. Everyone has the jitters before a race like this. As we stood on the beach about to plunge into the cold Pacific ocean, the good natured joking and bantor helped us all to relax. Toward the end of the third event, the 10 km run, we were all dragging a bit. I started singing, “We are the champions, my friend, and we’ll keep on fighting to the end.” I saw a few smiles, heard a few out-right laughs and a few who turned it up a notch because of the prod. On the next time around the course the volunteers were making requests, “How about ‘Eye of the Tiger.'” To which I dutifully responded with “It’s the eye of the tiger; it’s the thrill of the fight, rising up to the challenge of our rival . . .” We all had a better day as we laughed at the incongruity of it all.

Triathlons have become a metaphor of life for me. I train my body and my mind. I am thankful for the chance to be a part of the race in this beautiful world. I learn to deal with the unexpected difficulties. I keep a right perspective. I encourage others. I enjoy the moment. I laugh.