"Mom and I beat a team of people who were all in their 20s!"
—Ruth & Patricia Balestra, triathlon relay team
In 2007, Patricia Balestra decided it was time to do something she'd always dreamed of doing — all three legs of a triathlon (The Nation's Triathlon, in Washington, D.C.). Back in 1993, she'd been the swimmer of a relay team in a sprint-distance triathlon (fitting, since she worked as a swim instructor). But after her divorce a few years ago, she went for the whole thing herself.
Meanwhile, her mother, Ruth, a retired Spanish teacher in Miami, revealed in December of 2007 that she was considering joining an adult swim team. At 65, Ruth knew she'd be the oldest person in the pool, but as a life-long swimmer she was looking for a new challenge.
"She signed up, and pretty soon most of our phone conversations revolved around the different drills she had learned, how she felt, and how recovery at age 65 took a lot longer than it did when she was in her 20s," says Patricia. "But my mom was getting stronger and seemed to really be enjoying the workouts — especially when she could swim faster and farther than the 30-something year-old men in the pool with her!"
So on one of her mom's visits to Washington, D.C., Patricia brought up the subject: What if they did a sprint tri together, with her mom doing the swimming and Patricia doing the bike and run? They signed up, and each trained on her own.
On Mother's Day weekend, the family, which at the time included my mom's four grandchildren, assembled near the race in Miami. "The morning of the race, we woke up at 4:30, had a power breakfast, and walked to the race site. The ocean had 4-foot swells, and all I could think was how glad I was that I wasn't doing the swimming! Our family gave us high fives and we watched as Mom ran into the water," says Patricia. "She came out of the water in less time than most people half her age! Her oldest grandchild, who was 5 at the time, ran alongside her as she came into the transition area. How many kids get to do that with their grandma?"
But the race wasn't over. It was hot and humid, which can make running feel tough. "Knowing I was in this with my mother made me keep running.
"Not only did we finish with smiles on our faces, we also beat the other relay team made of three people all in their 20s!"
That afternoon, when Ruth dropped off Patricia at the airport, "my mom said to me, 'you've been my inspiration.' I turned to her and said, 'I think the tables have turned here. You're 66 years old! You are my inspiration." Next up for Patricia? "I'm hoping one day I can be on a team that includes my mom and my sister."