We train; we race. It is what we do. But every now and again a race is not a race at all! A race can be a celebration or an avenue to honor loved ones. My sisters and I were blessed to experience just that.
After the Natchez Trace Century Ride, my friend pointed out a poster for the Memphis in May Triathlon. My granddaughters call me Mim; the short version of the Tri is MIM. Hmm, it was calling my name. Unfortunately, May 20, 2017 was the date of my first 70.3 distance race. We would have to wait another year.
After posting it on Facebook and a little wrangling, my sisters and I agreed to do the race in 2018 as a relay. The condition was that I had to swim, because they did not. Yikes, my weakest leg of the Tri! My parents were excited when we shared the news. They planned to watch us cross the finish line in TN! I was so stoked! MIM would be the first time they saw me race. The Cantrelle Sistas was formed!
Tragedy struck our family less than a month later. My father passed away on June 8! Then the next day my Mom was informed that one of her knee implants was infected and would have to be replaced. This would require removal of the implant, 6 weeks in-house IV antibiotic treatment and replacement of the implant. Life was in a tailspin.
With Mom on the mend, we decided to change our name to “The 3 Aces” to honor my dad. One of his many nicknames was Ace. Mom would be finished her rehab and would be able to watch us cross the finish line and celebrate our dad’s life with us.
In January, less than 7 months after my dad passed, Mom was called to Heaven. Life came to a screeching halt. We lived in a fog for quite a while.
With MIM a little over a month away, we needed to make a decision. Skip it or do it? I had half-heartedly did a few weeks prep for IMFL70.3. Race day I actually had a PR in the swim! My parents were with me for each stroke. I took my PR swim as a sign from them. We needed to do this race, for my parents and for us. We regrouped and registered as “Aggie’s Aces.” My Dad called my Mom “Aggie.” I also registered individually. If I had to swim, I may as well “tri” it, too! Lol
The weeks leading into MIM were quite emotional. The prior Sunday was Mother’s Day. Last year, both my parents were with us on Mother’s Day. We had such a wonderful time. We would be celebrating the day at the same party we attended last year without either of them. Strange, it just made their departure final for me. Not sure why, as I had certainly grieved their passing already. But it hit so hard.
I knew that this race was not going to be a “hit it with guns a blazing". It was going to be a weekend of honoring our parents and sister bonding. It was all of that and more.
MIM weekend started with piling all of our gear in the car and heading to Memphis. My sister, Kristie, my friend, Cyndi and I left NOLA on Thursday. We enjoyed lively conversation and a wonderful dinner along the way. Friday morning, Cyndi, my sister, Phyllis and I did a pre-race ride and Cyndi and I did our shake out run. We had a relaxing lunch and headed to packet pick up. Cyndi and I did a pre-race swim to calm the nerves and then met up with my sisters. We went over transition with my sisters, as they had not raced a tri before. Aggie’s Aces were ready!
Race morning, I was quite a basket case. I teared up a couple of times and prayed that I could pull it off and not let my parents or sisters down. Cyndi and I headed to the race site a little earlier to set up our transitions and get in the water. Bikes racked and ready, they announced it would be wetsuit legal! Thank you, Mom and Dad. I ran back to the car to get my suit!
When my sisters arrived the tears welled up once again but this time they were happy ones. We were going to honor my parents and each other. We had some pre-race fun and took some pics with Elvis. I was not concerned about our time or podium. This was not that type of race. It would be about the fun and experience shared.
As I entered the water, my sisters were cheering me on. Phyllis was videoing and cheered me at swim out. We ran together to transition as Kristie was standing at the ready! Phyllis put the chip on Kristie and off she went. Wetsuit off, a little convo with Phyl, a gear change then I took off on the bike.
I was worried that Kristie would be on the bike route without many directions since I was one of the last swimmers to enter the water due to a registration snafu. I pushed myself to catch up with her. When I approached her I asked how it was going. With a big smile, she said good! Told her great job, looking good, and passed! There were a lot more people around her and the route was well marked. I thanked my Mom and Dad for taking care of Kris. When I was heading back to transition again, I saw Kristie’s smiling face again. I was so excited, my parents were taking care of us all.
I saw Phyllis when I got to transition and told her Kris was not far behind. She was doing well. The temps were rising, and I asked my parents to help me on this run. A nice breeze encircled me, and the leaves on the trees were blowing. I felt their presence. I saw Phyl out of the run course. She was getting it done. No smiles on a hilly hot run, but we were in this together. This brought us both comfort.
When I came to the finish line I could see Kristie and Scott, my brother-in-law. My heart was full. We watched Cyndi and Phyllis cross as well! With the help of our parents and the strength of our sisterhood, WE DID IT!
I know Aggie and Ace were extremely proud of us! For this was truly a family race! We won 2nd Place! We proved once again, we are better together! I look forward to racing with my sisters again.
Written by Angele Sanders, Siren Luminary
Follow Angele on Instagram! @nolagel
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