After competing in a few beginner races, where she successfully reached her goal of not drowning, she signed up for the Iron Girl, which is longer.

Now a little background for those among us who are not masochistic. Triathlons are … special. They have a lot of rules, which means planning for the weekend of the race is essential. And planning is not Katie’s strongest asset.

So I was not shocked last year when I realized we had double booked the weekend of the triathlon. The race was on Sunday, but it required that the bikes be dropped off on Saturday.

So we drove to Lake Lanier and dropped off the bike, only to drive back to Atlanta to attend a party. I thought this was a bad idea. The party was not the kind that ended at 9 p.m. And unlike Katie’s deficiencies when it comes to planning, she excels at the skill of attending parties.
But despite the party the night before, she set the alarm and the next morning we were up at 3:30 a.m. and headed to Lake Lanier for the race. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans.

Just as Katie stepped out of the car at Lake Lanier, she realized that she had started her period two weeks early. This meant she was forced to watch the race by my side. And underneath the irritation of stomach cramps and back pain, I could see that she was disappointed.

When Christmas came, I wanted to give her another chance. I not only registered her in the race but reserved a hotel room so we would spend the whole weekend there. That gift was finally realized this past weekend, when Iron Girl returned to Lake Lanier. Katie checked in for the race and we checked in to the hotel. We ordered room service that evening and right before I fell asleep, I heard the lightning and thunder.

Those storms lasted all night long. Around 4:30 a.m., race officials cancelled the race due to the weather. No rescheduling, no refunds. No Iron Girls.

Of course, I felt bad for her. But she wasn’t that upset for herself. After all, we were only an hour from home. Instead, she was sad for the first-timers who had traveled hundreds of miles, and trained for hundreds of hours, for what they thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I told her not to worry: We would be back next year and I was sure a lot of the other athletes would be back as well. She smiled and agreed. And then Katie made me understand these events in a way I never have before.

“The saddest part,” she said, “is that some of these girls don’t get to find out today that they had already done the hardest part. More than 1,000 girls showed up willing to do something that is hard. And it isn’t until the end of the race that the first timers would have found out that showing up and just starting the race was the hardest part.

“The actual race is nothing compared to the internal strength it takes to just show up and jump in the water.”

I hugged her and told her that on the bright side, my Christmas shopping for her this year was going to be easy.


Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huffington Post. She broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in Atlanta and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter

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