Conversations Over DinnerAugust, 2020
Dinner #1 – August 17, 2020
Of course on the first dinner of my idea for “Conversations over Dinner”, I said: “let’s meet out front of the restaurant and we can decide if we want to go there or somewhere nearby” and then a monsoon descended on the area right at the meetup time, so it became “let’s meet INSIDE” and not out in the torrential downpour! I had the great privilege of sitting down over dinner with a club member who has been a member of the Club almost as long as I have. She joined back in 2007 after having gotten into the triathlon sport while being stationed in Egypt for work and joining a running club.
Life and kids took her away from the Club for a while, but she recently re-joined with the hopes of getting back into triathlon and reacquainting herself with the Club. Then the pandemic hit and plans got thrown out the window. She was excited to see that we now have a Slow2Mod Community Group and we spent a long while discussing that while there tends to be the perception about the Club only focusing on the fast people, that we really are about all speeds here. We discussed how the Club has tried to break that perception (not always successfully), but we encourage her to continue posting her training rides/runs in the group because the Slow2Mod group is just as much a part of DCTri as any other community group or athlete. We also spent some time discussing how the sport of triathlon has changed over the years from when she got involved in the sport back in the 90s, to the heyday of the sport about 5 years ago, to where it might go after the pandemic passes.
My take homes:
- Circumstances have a way of taking us away from the multisport lifestyle sometimes, and the Club should consider finding ways to provide resources for those “off-seasons” in life and how to stay active during those times.
- Our “Slow2Mod” community group is an important and vibrant part of the DCTriClub family and probably encompasses the largest percentage of our membership. The Club should do more to emphasize the group on social media and on the website so that our members know that the group is there and that it is a great source of friendships, information, and encouragement. #thereisaplaceforeveryoneindctri
This was a great kickoff dinner for this idea and I’m excited to see someone returning to the Club. I really appreciate her taking the time to meet with me. Looking forward to the next dinner!
Dinner #2 – August 20, 2020
The weather was much more cooperative for the second “Conversations over Dinner” and so we grabbed an outdoor table at a pub over in Arlington for our chat! My second conversation gave me the great pleasure of meeting one of our New Triathlete Program participants. He came to the DC Triathlon Club the way many of our members do: through a google search about “triathlon” and “DC”.
I was incredibly fascinated with our discussion because I quickly learned that this gentleman had virtually had every hurdle in the world thrown at him and each hurdle was treated as a hurdle to conquer and overcome. He was from Arizona and had been born prematurely, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. He was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy and given an incredibly small percentage chance to live, but he took on these challenges and persevered through each and every one of them. He has been in the Washington DC area for 10 years now and after an issue with his foot and multiple reconstructive surgeries where doctors told him he may never walk again, he wanted to prove them wrong. And so triathlon and the DC Triathlon Club entered his life. Unfortunately, as he undertook this new challenge, the world decided to throw another obstacle in his way with a pandemic. But he’s taking this complication on just like every other one he has faced and looks forward to tackling his first triathlon when we are allowed to race again.
My Take Homes:
- There are some incredibly amazing people in the DCTriClub who come from varied backgrounds and for various reasons find us and join our ranks. At the next event we are able to have in person, I challenge myself and everyone else to break out of your usual circle of friends and meet someone new. There are some amazing people in this club!
- This gentleman looked at each hurdle in front of him and found his “why” to conquer it. Triathlon is about taking on challenges and finding that “why” to drive you through three sports to cross that finish line. Take a moment to find your why. And maybe that changes every so often. I know mine has. I have faced a lot of mental hurdles the last few years and have questioned my desire to continue doing triathlon. Meeting this gentleman helped me find another why for why I love this club so much.
Dinner #3 – August 25, 2020
On a gray evening with clouds threatening, I traveled to Bethesda for my third “Conversations over Dinner”. We grabbed a table in the bar area of a microbrewery in downtown Bethesda away from the few other customers. It’s still strange to be sitting indoors, but when Cynthia, the Club’s administrative assistant, told me who the third dinner would be with (I’ve been doing these almost kind of “blind date”-ish for lack of a better description), I was ecstatic to grab some brews with this guy because we have been friends ever since I joined the DC Triathlon Club back in 2008 and I thought it would be great to get his thoughts on what has kept him around the Club for so long.
We sat down and ordered our beers and after food and catching up about life and lack of racing, we dove into my slate of questions. There weren’t as many questions this time because most of them didn’t apply for someone who had been around the club for so long. But the topics that we did delve more into was why had he stayed around the club for so long and what kept him coming back each year, renewing his membership, and staying in touch with the members. The conversation evolved into both of us talking about why we kept coming back, why we kept renewing our membership because the answers were the same: the friendships and the camaraderie of the club members. We reminisced about the “old times” and the friends we had made way back and where they were now. How many of our friends now had children and how we had watched them grow up. Lifelong friends that we had met because of the DC Triathlon Club.
My Take Homes:
- The best part of DC Triathlon Club are the friends you make (and get to race with), and while 2020 has been a dumpster fire of a year, the friendships between members of the Club cannot be damaged even by a pandemic. If anything, those friendships have become even stronger because we have had to adapt and change with a new normal and have had to rely more on each other in the absence of our desire to race.
- It bears repeating: the friendships between us are really what makes us stronger and one of the best triathlon clubs in the nation!
Dinner #4: October 21, 2020
For my fourth “Conversations over Dinner”, we met up over Zoom from our respective work stations at home to talk. As there was no ordering of drinks or food, we jumped right into the conversation. I have known this member for several years now, but we have never really had the chance to talk and it was a pleasure to hear about how she came to the sport of triathlon and ultimately to the DC Triathlon Club. Starting as a swimmer in high school, moving to cross country, and then back to swimming college, she had a strong background in two of the sports. On the cusp of heading off to physical therapy school, she was involved in a serious car wreck and sustained a brain injury that went medically undiagnosed.
In 2015, after taking time to recover and heal, she made a New Year’s Resolution to finally return to running. She moved to the Washington, D.C. area and after a year of exclusively running grew bored and started to explore the idea of triathlon. In 2016, she signed up for TriColumbia’s IronGirl Triathlon, the Nation’s Triathlon, and the DC Triathlon Club in a single day. The only problem: she didn’t have a bike. So to Craigslist it was! She found a bike, her first season was a success, and she was hooked. A swim meet was her first official Club event and she soon started meeting other club members and getting involved in other club programs and events (Off- Season Spin, Masters Swim, and the winter running group, among others). She met people who became great friends, loved the activities she was participating in, and that is what has kept her around the DC Triathlon Club.
My Take Homes:
- Triathlon is about a journey. Many people begin it because they grow tired of one sport (the monotony, the constant pounding on a single muscle), and the multisport world is the journey that broadens horizons and offers new experiences. The mission of the DC Triathlon Club is about helping members discover what journey they want to make and then empowering them to make that journey, and that is what we, as the Club’s Board of Directors, need to enable our club members to do.
Dinner #5: November 10, 2020
For my fifth, and final, “Conversations Over Dinner,” I traveled to Takoma Park to meet up with another member of the New Triathlete Program. As 2020 goes, the place we planned to meet was closed because they had had a positive COVID-19 case among their staff that day. So we wandered the streets and found a nearby pizzeria with outdoor seating. Thankfully it was a warm enough November evening that we were comfortable and didn’t have to hurry to get out of the cold because this was another fascinating conversation that I got to have! This member came to the sport of triathlon through a challenge by family members. His sister, having completed swimming’s Triple Crown (crossing the English Channel, crossing the Catalina Channel, and circumnavigating the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim), challenged him to doing a sprint triathlon. Not a swimmer himself, he accepted the challenge and looked for a group that could help him get to the finish line.
He discovered the DC Triathlon Club and the New Triathlete Program in his searches and figured that the program would be the best way to keep him accountable and to help him meet the challenge set by his sister. Not being much of a swimmer himself and having never found goggles that fit or didn’t leak, he discovered custom fitted goggles (https://themagic5.com/) and the first hurdle of his journey was overcome! Then COVID happened. The NTP group support struggled as participants tried to navigate their own lives in this novel time of a pandemic and as races were canceled. This member tried his best to keep motivated and keep engaged with other NTP participants because he still wanted that group support and still had a challenge to tackle. He intends to stick with the sport and has already begun setting more challenges for himself once he is finally able to cross the finish line of his first sprint triathlon. Which he knows he will be able to successfully accomplish as soon as possible!
My Take Homes:
- I had no idea custom goggles were a thing! Very cool!
- Marathon swims sound incredibly awful.
- Triathlon (and the multisport world) is a challenge for many. It’s not just one sport, it’s three sports. Some people look at this as impossible, but many many others look at it as an obstacle to take on, tackle, and conquer. Even in a pandemic year, that mentality has held true and many of the NTP participants still yearn to take on the challenge that they began back in January of 2020, which seems oh so long ago! When we are able to get the New Triathlete Program back up and going, I really hope to see those same eager and smiling faces again that I did back at the NTP informational session at the Cleveland Park library looking to finally conquer their triathlon goals!