My two oldest kids (7 and 8) competed (along with around 800 other 7-15 year olds) in their first triathlon, part of the Weetbix Kids Tryathlon series. Its an event more than a race, since no times are recorded and there are no winners (everyone gets a medal for finishing). Instead the focus is on having fun and finishing the course safely.
It cost $40 per child to enter, although we got a discount after buying 4 boxes of Weetbix (yes spot the sponsors leveraging some extra sales!) but the kids each got a large box in the post this week with drink bottle, event shirt, sun hat, race numbers (for bike, helmet and shirt) and a whole pile of sponsors goodies (including a few of those Honey Shots).
Both kids were pretty excited about competing but also plenty nervous, worried about the swim leg, how they would cope in the transitions, how they'd know where to swim, ride and run and a whole host of other things you might worry about if you have never done a triathlon before. My only worries were the swim leg - 75 metres in the briney waters of West Lakes, since the kids had never really swam in salt water before and I knew one of them would struggle to swim the distance non-stop. The ride - 3km and run -500m, should be a doddle.
I spent Saturday night prepping their bikes - no not the Specialized Transition Pro kids size, but their K-mart mountain bikes. At least I got the chains lubed and tyres pumped up to racing pressure (a whopping 50 PSI).
Sunday morning dawned (yes a real dawn thanks to the end of daylight savings...) and we headed off to West Lakes right near the Westfield Shopping Centre. From start to finish the whole event was run extremely well - helpers and guides all over the place (most looked to be volunteers from a number of different community groups). We checked the kids in (done via a barcode reader), got their numbers written onto legs, grabbed their colour coded swim caps, and then set their bikes, helmet, shoes, shirt and towel in the transition area (all arranged by age and gender).
The race started with the swim leg, oldest to youngest, in waves of 6 kids at a time. This worked really well as it prevented any silly competitiveness and kids getting swamped in the swim.
Both my kids managed the swim OK, although my son did have to rest on one of the surf lifesavers boards for a minute just to catch his breath.
Into the transition zone they both went (and without parental help) managed to get their shoes, shirt and helmet on in the right order and off on the bike leg they zipped. Failed to get any photos as it was all happening so quickly, I was struggling just to get from one area to the next to see them come by, let alone whip the camera out. It was great to see diversity of (mostly) low-spec bikes being ridden. Baskets, streamers, BMX, mountain bike. I don't think I saw a single road bike, let alone a time trial bike. No sooner had they jumped on the bike and it seemed they were back again for the final leg, the 500m run along the foreshore and back across the finish line to receive their finisher medal, a certificate, and grab a photo with a local sporting star. The kids were rapt to have finished and they had a lot of fun. Post-race there was a Weetbix brekkie to eat and a load of various free kids activities to keep them entertained - including the velcro wall where the kids donned a velcro suit and were then thrown onto a velcro wall! Looked like super fun.
I'd highly recommend this event to anyone with kids in the 7-15 age range who are keen to give triathlons a try in a totally safe, fun, and non-competitive environment. Even if they can't swim the distance (probably the main concern for most parents) there is a "wading" option where the kids can just walk through knee/chest deep water rather than having to swim out of their depth. It sold out pretty quickly and I can understand why given the excellent organisation. The kids got a real sense of achievement, had a load of fun and are keen to do it all again.