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Healthy Kids Run, Bike and Swim the Conway Kids Triathlon


Adult athletes often say that training is just as important, maybe more important, than racing. Mary Kate has learned that lesson early on.

Mary Kate’s mom, Laura, appreciates the Conway Kids Tri too.

“This is a great starter triathlon for any kid at any fitness level. I love how the Conway triathlon is so supportive and encouraging to the kids. I wish I would have had this opportunity as a child. Twenty dollars buys a priceless experience that includes a great T-shirt, food and entertainment for the whole family.”

First Security Conway Kids Triathlon - Child Biking

The 17th Annual Conway Kids Triathlon presented by First Security Bank and supported by the Conway Running Club will take place Saturday Aug. 2, 2014 at the Wellness Center on the campus of Hendrix College. Proceeds from the race benefit Soul Food Café Mission. Last year, race day was plagued by a bout of severe weather. Rain and wind could not dampen the high spirits of the kids. It didn’t hurt that Craig O’Neill was on hand to entertain them while they anxiously awaited news on whether the rain delay would be lifted. For the youngest competitors, the race was already underway before the skies surged.

They lined up along the walls of the concrete tunnel; the darkness at the end of the hallway would be their entry to athletic stardom. Jittery with anticipation, some had their swim goggles in place. Perhaps it was to shield others from seeing the game plan in their eyes; perhaps it was just a sign of readiness. Let’s get this party started!  They had already laid out their towels, parked their bikes, and placed their helmets and running shoes within easy reach. Brightly colored chalk names with arrows pointing to kids bikes and gear covered the pavement of the parking lot transition area. Some received instruction on exactly what to do as they arrived at the transition from the swim: “wipe your feet on the towel before you put your shoes on then grab your helmet and put it on like this”. Good instructions from Dad to daughter for her first triathlon. She’s 7 years old and her lifetime of athletic feats is just beginning.

I’m at the edge of the pool when the first group of 6-year-olds enters from the hallway to the loud cheers and flashing cameras of the parents in the gallery bleachers looking down on the lanes. Some turn to give a wave to the fans while many stare into the blue tile below the water. It’s go time and the game faces are in full effect.

First Security Conway Kids Triathlon - Swim

Waves of swimmers enter the pool, those waiting to swim fill the benches as each round of swimmers finishes their required 50 yards and exits the pool to start the two mile bike portion. There was freestyle, doggie paddle and backstroke. There were strokes that I don’t have a name for, a kickboard and a swim ring; but, all the swimmers made it down the lane and back by whatever method they could muster.

Because the swim was at an indoor pool, the racers were scheduled in waves from the youngest 6-year-old racers first, to the oldest competitors at 14 years old going last. Just as a fresh line of swimmers steps to the starting blocks, a volunteer stops them. Inside, we hadn’t seen or heard the storm brewing outside. Hard rain, lightning and thunder would halt the race less than an hour after the start.  And so, the waiting began. The six, seven and most of the 8-year-olds were able to start the race; the older kids had to wait. No one likes a race delay but safety on the course is more important.

First Security Conway Kids Triathlon - Bike Transition

The racers who were able to start before the rain delay headed out to the transition and then on to the bike portion of the race. For most of them there was only a light drizzle at first, but soon the wind was kicking up. The out and back bike course meant that racers enjoyed a nice tail wind for the first half of the course but on the way back they were faced with a strong headwind. Mirroring the variety of swimming styles, there were all kinds of bikes used in the race. There was everything from Barbie themed bikes to BMX bikes, training wheels to race outfitted tri-bikes; you race what you bring and these kids pushed themselves through the rainy wet course. Volunteers were on hand to make sure they slowed down as they went into the turns.

First Security Conway Kids Triathlon - Boy Biking

On the run course, the racers who had made it out before the race delay were trying to finish despite the rain and the wind that was strong enough to blow signs and markers down. Eventually, bags of trash too heavy to blow away were used to mark the course and finish line.

First Security Conway Kids Triathlon - Run

While the older kids waited for news on whether or not the race could continue, Craig O’Neill of THV11 was trying to keep around 300 kids and their families entertained. He danced with the boys, Gangnam Style, and tried to convince a group of girls that rain was a good thing because “Rain kills Cooties, y’all”. Some of the girls looked skeptical of this information. In the end, Zeus’s bolts continued to flash in the sky, the inflatables were deflated and the sno-cone stand went unused as timing chips were gathered and medals were handed out. The older kids would have to wait for another day to race.

First Security Conway Kids Triathlon - Craig O'Neil

There year’s race is coming up soon, for more information see the race homepage. There is still time to register or you can volunteer to help these kids have a fantastic experience. It might not hurt to hope for better weather, not that the kids seemed to mind dancing in the rain last year.
All photos courtesy of Arkansas Outside.

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Arkansas Women Blogger member Lisa Mullis loves to cook for and eat with her family and friends. She runs, lifts heavy stuff and bicycles to make room for more food. In addition to looking at tiny things under a microscope for her job as a microbiologist, she writes about her cooking, running, lifting and cycling and about her friends who do all those things too at Frenetic Fitness and Arkansas Outside.

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