The sport of triathlon always gets my writing juices flowing. For different reasons, so does the topic of death and losing a loved one. So I can’t quite understand why when those two subjects combine as one that I am practically at a loss for words. Perhaps it’s not that I am at a loss for words, maybe I just can’t seem to organize any of the words that are colliding in my head into an intelligent thought.
As many of you know an athlete lost his life at this past weekend’s Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon. Although as athletes we all know the inherent risks of participating in these types of events, hearing news like this always gut wrenching. And it’s even more difficult when it happens at a race that you are involved with on the production side, and when you are friends with the race’s organizers and founders. I know how hard they are taking this. I know how diligent they are in the planning, execution, and safety concerns associated with putting on an event such as this. They take each and every detail very seriously…. as they should. But still…. things happen.
But all of that pales in comparison to what Derek Valentino’s family went through on race day and the pain and loss they now feel. Derek was a 40 year old father of two and a first time triathlete. I didn’t know Derek, but at the same time, I did. His is a pretty common demographic in the triathlon community… Derek could have been anyone.
But he wasn’t just anyone. He was a dad, and a husband, whose family supported his quest to become a triathlete. While my heart aches for Derek’s family, there is a small voice inside me that is telling me that Derek died pursuing a passion, which in some weird way makes it a little better, yet more tragic at the same time.
I will say this to the Valentino family… Derek wanted to be a triathlete. The truth is he already was a triathlete by race morning. The training and preparation that Derek put into this race made him the triathlete that he wanted to become. The Valentino family probably doesn’t quite understand just how tight the triathlon community is, but I have a feeling they are about to find out.
We all mourn your loss. And we are all honored that Derek chose to become involved with this sport.