I was “that kid.” The one who was taller and more developed than her peers. I longed to fit in. As the only girl in a family of three brothers, I learned how to hold my own. My brothers taught me how to shoot a basketball with great precision. In a neighborhood of boys, I was revered as “one of them.” My athletic prowess earned me respect and acceptance. However, I confess that I longed to play Barbie’s and experience all things full of “girl power.”
In time my athletic skills connected me with the peers I longed to know. As a member of the Centerville High School varsity tennis team, we earned state-wide recognition and my memories of “that kid” began to fade.
At Albion College I played varsity tennis and field hockey. I had found my people. This was the antithesis of “racing like a girl.” Being joined in the spirit of strong, smart and ambitious women armed my belief that women did not need to apologize for being fearless.
In the years that followed, my thirties, my husband encouraged my USTA 4.0 tennis team participation. There was something magical about being united with a network of inter-generational women. We were undefeated in the mid-90’s but got our butts kicked at regional Florida tournaments. It really didn’t matter. We developed strong bonds that continue today. That connectivity of girl-power on steroids became something I craved.
Triathlon became my escape in my forties. Our son had a multitude of cognitive and physical disabilities. I had reinvented myself from department store manager to non-profit executive director. I found a way to work and provide therapy five days a week for our non-verbal son. My love for all thing’s endurance took a backseat to our young son’s special needs.
In time, I was like a ticking time-bomb that was about to explode. The stress of balancing personal and professional life had increased my weight and blood pressure beyond bounds. For the first time in my marriage, my husband, Jim, was scared. “I can’t do this alone, “he said. I had to find a way. I needed a path to balance. In 2009 after running my first half marathon, I got the idea of doing a triathlon in honor of our son for Autism Speaks. It launched my mantra, “How hard could it be?” I had not swum in 20+ years and did not own a bike. However, I was determined in the name of love.
That race changed my life. It set me on a path to fulfillment through triathlon. Most importantly, it connected me with my tribe – #IRaceLikeAGirl.
Cynthia Falardeau lives in Vero Beach, Florida with her husband, Jim, and their son, Wyatt. Cynthia is the Senior Director of Membership for the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation. She is a two-time Ironman Finisher, seven-time Half-Ironman Finisher, six -time marathon finisher, two-time Dopey Challenge Finisher and 2019 USA Triathlon Age Group National Qualifier/Finisher.