As I approach the midway point of what is shaping up to be a very good and very full racing season, I have found myself in awe of a number of people for a number of different reasons. I volunteered at the Avalon Islandman and Islandkids race in July which are always great events but what stands out most about the weekend is the kid’s race. Kids of all ages swim, bike, and run their way to becoming “triathletes”. The expressions on their faces are priceless. Some look horrified, and you just know they can’t wait to get finished, others look confident and poised. But at the end of the day, they are all triathletes and are all winners. Races like these are cornerstones or exclamation points for some kids. Accomplishments such as these are just what some kids need to bolster their self confidence and self esteem. Yes, they are fun and games, but races like this can give kids direction and set them on the right course at a very young age. Unfortunately these events, like all others, are not without a few “stage parents” who put a little too much pressure on their kids to perform. There are great growth and development lessons in this sport, as long as the parents keep their distance, watch from the sidelines and let the kids be kids.
And then we have a guy by the name of John Schultz. I have run into John at 5 or 6 races so far this year. In every race thus far he has won his age group and in a couple of races he has received additional special recognition. John is very distinctive because he always races in red shorts and no shirt and you can pick him out of any crowd. Oh yeah, and John Schultz is 77 years old. Up until this week I didn’t even know his name and we simply referred to him as “77 year old guy”. Earlier this week while parking my car on my way to work in downtown Wilmington Delaware, who do you think I saw ? You got it – 77 year old guy. I felt compelled to walk up to him and say hello. This idea played out much easier in my head because I practically had to sprint down Delaware Ave. just to catch up to the guy. But I did eventually catch up to him and introduced myself. He actually lives four miles from where I work and was sporting his Sunset Challenge race tee shirt from this past weekend. He was an incredibly nice guy and almost seemed a little shy or embarrassed that I would have remembered him. As we parted ways he said to me with a big smile, “hey there is a local 5k here tonight if you are interested”. I can only hope and pray that I am still doing what John is doing at 57 or 67, let alone 77.
Every race has its share of athletes who struggle at the very back of the back and who seem like they may not even make it to the finish. To see them walking the street you would not picture them participating in a triathlon. But that’s the beauty of the sport. It is very accepting of any and all comers. I am far more inspired by the woman who finishes long after everyone else has with a smile on her face and feeling empowered as a result than I am of the elite competitor who smashes a course record.
And then we have the elite athlete who does smash a course record, but who is so humble that he doesn’t like to talk at all about his own accomplishments. The kind of guy who would rather give back to others and to the sport than to call himself an elite. I know one guy that fits this description quite well. But I won’t even mention him by name as that kind of attention would only make him feel uncomfortable. He knows who he is and how I feel about who he is and what he does.
For the most part the next six weeks will be more training than racing for me. The fall is pretty full with long distance racing for me and it’s time to bulk up some of my training miles. I love long distance training and racing. It’s very therapeutic for me to be on my bike for hours at a time. You tend to figure a lot of things out during that time and gain valuable perspective which is useful in all aspects of life.