Never, Ever Forgotten

Here is a race report of a different color. Although the race referenced is the 2007 ChesapeakeMan Ultra Distance Triathlon, there is not much race detail in here. This report is an open letter to anyone who has ever lost someone meaningful in their lives. This report is a letter to my dad who we lost in August of 2005. Although never a triathlete, he exemplified the ironman spirit – especially in his final days. Although this is a little dated, I think it’s another message worth sharing to my FOX friends. And folks, if you have something to say to a living friend, relative, or loved one, SAY IT TODAY.

Dear Dad,

Well, I finished another ironman this past weekend. Conditions were pretty brutal but I finished strong – and happy. I reached out to you a few times and knew you were there. Perhaps that is the reason why I didn’t feel like I got too beat up during the race – in spite of some very challenging conditions. Although you never got the chance to see me race an ironman, I know how proud you were of my accomplishments. I really wish you saw one. Maybe we can try to bring mom next time, but it’s such a long day.

The race itself was quite tough. There were huge swells in the water and harsh winds. Two buoys were blown off course and the entire swim was a challenge. The winds kept up on the bike which added to the adversity. But this IS ironman. It’s not supposed to be easy. I had a few moments of wavering self pity. But this is a sport; a hobby. I signed up for this. And the reality of it is, even with the tough conditions, I had the time of my life and can’t wait to go back and do it again. I didn’t race my fastest time but far from my slowest and I did pretty good actually given the conditions.

I have been wearing your WWII dog tag recently too. In fact we have a couple of cool race pictures of my shirt unzipped and the tag flying. When I am racing and my mind is wandering, I sometimes think of your war experiences and try to compare and draw parallels on a simplistic level to what you may have gone through in the islands of the South Pacific. Maybe it’s stupid to make such a comparison between sport and the real world, but the mind goes funny (and stupid) places during an ironman. I get a finisher’s medal – you received the Purple Heart.

You would have been especially proud of this one dad; the support crew was out in full force. I’m a pretty lucky guy to have my wife, 2 daughters, and brother in law, nephew, and college roommate all out on race day cheering, supporting and volunteering. How many people can say that their families helped them with their special needs bags, placed a finisher’s medal around their neck, ran with them across the finish line, and filmed video and took pictures along the way? It makes the races so much more special. I pictured you sitting in the bleachers at the finish. The same way you would sit with mom at baseball games when I was a kid. You were proud then too.

And this particular race – The ChesapeakeMan Ultra Distance Triathlon is very special. Although it’s not huge in numbers, it is run by a world class organization that makes each and every athlete and their family members all feel like champions. It is run by a race director whose staff cares more for the spirit and the camaraderie of the event than anywhere else I have ever seen. He works diligently to make sure the athletes and families walk away from the race saying, “Wow that was a very special experience”. These are your kind of people, dad.

We stayed at a friend’s house near the race so we had the chance to enjoy the day after the race, which, incidentally, yielded perfect weather conditions. We all hung out on Sunday and enjoyed each other’s company and the beauty of the Cambridge area. All in all, it was a great weekend, a great race, a great venue shared by great people. I connected with some good friends and made a few new ones. That’s the beauty of this sport. I can’t wait to return.

I also go back in next week for some more preventative maintenance chemotherapy for the Leukemia. No worries on that front though. It’s purely maintenance and part of the plan. Plus I get to sit in a recliner for 4 hours and be waited on. It’s not a bad deal at all.

Gotta run for now but we’ll talk soon. Thanks for helping me notch ironman number 9 into my belt. Oh, and mom is well. She is being taken care of and doing great. Have a great day (I guess they’re all great now).

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