ON MY MIND: Oh, happy day!

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

You always remember your first one. Of course, I am writing about our local triathlon. What can I say? Wow! Wow! Wow!

I love this kinda stuff. I have also loved every year of the Danish Festival. I love the spirit of community excitement and working together. This triathlon was another great example.

The trail gave the fans a perfect perch to watch from. The beautiful Baldwin Lake and scenic road around it were glorious for the participants to experience. Hills gave them great challenge. A participant from Reeds Lake in East Grand Rapids said, “This lake is so clean. This was a wonderful place to do this. Usually we end up running in fields.”

Lake people morphed into cheering squads as they floated around from spot to spot ringing bells. I guess they hadn’t all gotten the memo, “BYOT” — bring your own tambourine. I seemed to be the only one out there with two bells and a tambourine. I’m pretty sure lots of other cheerers were jealous.

A few days later, I heard that Keith Hudson cheered participants on with a drum. His memo must have been “BYOD.”

As we all gathered here and there along the route to cheer folks on, it was wonderful to see how that encouragement lifted them. They smiled, some with big grins, some just with their eyes as the race was taking everything they had. Several came back after the  finish to thank us. Many thanked us as they went by. I had never realized before how much athletes appreciate or need that.

Thinking about it, when you’re running, biking or swimming — you are doing the work of keeping on keeping on, all by yourself. It is you and your thoughts. The noise and cheers are balm for the tired spirit and body.

“This was a fabulous event. It was so well organized and so well done. It was wonderful.” That comment came from the winner of it all. He won and then went back onto the course to find his sister and cross the finish line with her.

The weather was supposed to be bad. All the weather reports confirmed. My heart ached for all the people who had trained so hard and all the others who had worked so hard planning the event. At about 3:30 a.m. there was thunder, lightning, and rain. My heart sunk more. But, it quickly passed and then the Gods and Lady Luck shone bright on this event. A lovely cool temperature, clear skies and then full bountiful sun made the triathlon everything everyone hoped for.

My super brother-in-law, Mike Devereaux, did it as a relay. He did the bike part. Mike is in the midst of chemo therapy for cancer and this was a shining example of his zest for life.

Gregg Daniels had a full knee replacement not long ago and completed the full event. He planned to walk the running part and came through like a trooper, fourth in his age group. He did it with his son-in-law, Booner Williams. Booner is a local boy, grandson to Lloyd and Marcia Walker, who came in from St. Louis, Mo., to do this. Booner didn’t even train for it. He made it look way too easy.

Penny Dora ran past us and said, “Never underestimate how hard this is!” And then she added, “Which is what I did!” as she ran past us to the finish line, wearing her beautiful big smile.

Vicki Korson emailed me recently and said, “I don’t know how I got into doing this. I can’t imagine how I’ll do.” She sailed through with pride and strength and came in numero uno in her age group.

Julie Momber and Gisela Peek walked the Mackinaw Bridge with me a year or so ago. We did it to conquer our fear of heights, or at least get a piece of them. Now they took on the triathlon and conquered that. They trained hard and made it look easy – great examples, for sure. Gisela, 68, was No. 1 in her age group and the oldest participant in the triathlon.

As if all this glory, excitement and achievement weren’t enough, when it was over, an event was held for kids. They swam 100 meters in shallow water, biked 2.2 miles and ran a half mile. To watch as the kids ran and biked by was absolutely wonderful. To hear how they were cheered and announced in as they crossed the finish line, was heartwarming.

My friend, Miss Emma Wolverton, age 8, was No. 1 in her age group. I asked her how it was. “It was pretty cool. The hardest was running.”

“Would you do it again,” I asked? “Yes,” she exclaimed without hesitation.

More than 150 volunteers made this fab day happen. More than 225 participated from age 7 to 68. Participants came from five states, including Hawaii.

Oh, and, we can’t forget all those cheerleaders, on the lake and all along the way — family, friends, strangers, everyone excitedly encouraging others. I gotta train next year, though. I’m telling ya. Never underestimate how hard it is to ring bells and a tambourine for hours. I can hardly move my fingers to type this. And I heard that Lisa Pullum and Amy Korson ended up with blisters on their fingers from ringing their cow bells.

All in all, bravo to everyone, including those sun gods. What a peak day. Wow! Wow! Wow!

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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