USAT Elite Nationals… BUFFALO!

Coming home. It’s always wonderful. I live 60 minutes away from where I grew up yet it’s been years since I have traversed the roads I frequented so as a Buffalonian. As I drove down route 5 from Orchard Park this morning…… it brought back memories.

In 1997  (or 1998, I forget)  a group of us stood at what was then the Pier. Rich, Andre, the Hoad, Curt….. a few others. We decided to form a triathlon club. The Buffalo Triathlon club. Did you know I was one of the club’s founding members? The BTC put on a race at that site called the Buffalo Triathlon. It was where I attained my first triathlon win. Curt and I moved to Rochester in 1999, the BTC continued and flourished. The Pier came and went. The Buffalo Triathlon became known as “A tri in the Buff”, Score-This was born, took ownership of the race and moved it to Evangola State Park.

When we arrived at the race site for the USAT Elite Nationals Race Saturday morning  I stood and looked around. The last time I was here I was holding a giant basket of flowers, with Jim Costello who presented it as a gift for winning that day. Funny how you arrive at this place in your life where memories are of adulthood and not of the teenage years. A place where you see someone and they suddenly have a 15-year-old child.

Then you turn and look at who is your own accomplice today and realize its your ten year old son.

Earlier this week I had told Luc I would be coming down here to check it all out. I knew Laura Bennett and Hunter Kemper were racing. One of our QT2 ITU guys Ethan Brown was coming. We arranged a homestay for Ethan and his friend with Nick Brodnicki, local triathlon stud. Turns out the homestay for the guys couldn’t have been a better fit.

Luc asked me the next day if he could come. “These guys are in the Olympics Mom?” I confirmed. Hunter Kemper was in fact an Olympian and a lot of these athletes would be as well. He begged me to come. I warned him it’d be a long day. He insisted.

Heading to a race with our son was about the best thing on earth. Discussing with him entities of swim, bike run was a thrill. Sure we had talked about it before but now we were talking about how these athletes live, how they travel, the distances they raced (as opposed to Ironman) and what they were all about.

I love this time in live when discussions with your children become about something. Some days it’s about Gettysburg. Today it was about our sport. Anything you can have in common with children and discuss is meaningful in my opinion.

Nonetheless when it’s about sport I am going to cherish it all the more.

Our experience at USAT Elite Nationals was amazing. We arrived early for the age group race to watch Ironman Florida bound Ken do his thing, and do his thing he did. This guy is ready. We got to hang with Ken and Greg and our pal Jeff Henderson, while catching up with some folks I hadn’t seen in years from home.

The elite races were awesome. To see athletes like Laura Bennett, Hunter Kemper and the like, this up close and personal was really special. With the race being where it was…… it was a terrific venue for the athletes. It was a bit sparse on spectators however which meant that we got close. Like real close.

I noticed a common thread from all of these athletes: they possessed an unbelievable professionalism. I wanted to ask them…. did you guys have to attend some sort of class on how to act like a professional? Because I have never seen this kind of behavior before, from every single athlete.

Every single athlete we encountered was kind, had time to stop for a word and a picture. When we realized that the finish line was essentially open Luc stood there hoping to high-five a few of the guys. Every single one stopped and slapped his hand. Most…. just seconds after finishing a balls to the wall effort…….  talked to him. Interviewed HIM. None said a THING about their races, you had to pry it out of them. They asked Luc if he had fun, if he liked triathlon…. how HIS day was.

“Mom, these guys are talking to ME!” He turned and said. “TO ME!”

If I had to capture what it meant to be a professional athlete….. these athletes were it. It was INCREDIBLE.

At the end of the day Luc and I sat in the car for a few minutes, just tired. He looked at me and said “THAT was a cool day Mom.” And I smiled. To be able to share this with him was amazing. To get him this close to the athletes who represent various countries at the Olympics was just plain awesome. That they took the time to stop and really connect with him….. was unbelievable. I was so impressed on so many levels.

Here is a picture of Luc and Hunter Kemper. Mr. Kemper was in the middle of eating a powerbar on the way to the swim warm up and graciously stopped for  a picture and a chat. Luc didn’t know what to say!

And here is a little video, I thought I had gotten some footage at hot corner, but I was so busy tracking EZBreezy that I forgot!

December 2020