June 25, 2003 changed my life.
Not because the Federal Reserve's monetary policy committee met to discuss interest rates, (sound familiar?)
Or that The Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce, Marshall Michigan met for . some other reason,
Or that Leo Lindig retired from the Falcon Heights Fire Department, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, after thirty-eight years of service. Receiving a decorative pike pole for his many years of service.
Arguably life-changing events, yes?
June 25, 2003 changed my life, because on that date, for some reason which remains a mystery, at the age of 52, I joined the Los Angeles Triathlon Club.
Now, I didn't say 'saved my life'. Nothing that dramatic. But that date, 6-25-03, and oddly that month and day, June 25, 'changed' my life . twice.
June 25, the first time: A little history. On June 25, 2003, I could not swim 10 yards in a pool, freestyle, without fear of drowning. The ocean, at that time, was such a remote possibility, that it wasn't even in my thoughts.
I had not been on a bicycle in 40 years. Forty . years. That's longer than some of you have been alive.
I ran a little, but that was it.
I had no idea what a triathlon was. Not a clue. I DID know, that it started in the water. Swimming. For this reason, I just KNEW that I could never do one. I KNEW this.
And I believed it.
Yet, something drew me to this sport. And to this club and it's amazing members. And allowed me a personal growth that I wish each of you reading this, will experience during your lifetime.
The Bike: I bought a bike. Knowing nothing about bikes, and still new to this club, I called a few members (over and over) with basic questions. And each of them (over and over) offered their advice. If any of these people tired of my calls, I never knew it.
Then I learned to ride. Not quite the same as when I was 12. Clipping in? Tipping over! (I first tipped over in front of an entire film crew in Griffith Park. They, of course, captured this moment on film.)
Now, let's try riding: It took only one email to the club's (now 1500) members for me to find a riding group. Actually, many riding groups. And we were off. Riding the Pacific Coast Highway, with the Pacific Ocean in the next lane. Or taking to the hills, spending 4-5 hours in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Riding with Triathletes of all levels. Okay, maybe not the REALLY good ones. But, we were right behind those guys. Sometimes. For a short while. But, I swear, each member of this club that I met, seemed to want to help me become a better rider.
The Run: What I learned, very early on, was that running races, and running races after biking, are two completely different days.
I learned about hydration, the hard way. I learned about nutrition, the hard way. I learned that not being open to learning, is a hard way to learn. I learned more about running, through triathlon training, than I had learned while running.
The Swim: Next came the fabled first wetsuit. A gift. A perfectly timed gift. A film producer (and triathlete) with whom I had been working, gave me one as a bonus. "The zipper goes up the back", he explained. My history with, and fear of, water, now had to be addressed.
As with the bike, any of the LATC members I'd see at the pool, or the beach, would offer suggestions, encouragement, etc. That's what kept me coming back. The encouraging words to try again. And again.
Until, finally, I had some success in the water.
Which lead to one of life's greatest experiences. The feeling you get when you can 'give something back'. Like so many of this club's members, who organize workouts, clinics, rides, etc., I was allowed, along with LATC'er Steve Herbert, the opportunity to start a clinic. The Ocean 101. A clinic to help others better understand, and get comfortable in, the Pacific.
We got to see people achieve, to move past their fear, and to prove something to themselves.
I honestly believe that one of life's great purposes, is to help others succeed.
Part two: a small beach, at the Coeur D'Alene Resort, Idaho.
June 25, the second time: Oddly, coincidentally, or perhaps of no consequence, on June 25, 2007, fours years and one day after I joined the Los Angeles Triathlon Club, I completed my first Ironman Triathlon. Vertically.
Know that more people finished that day ahead of me, than did behind me. And my finishing photo wouldn't make the cover of GQ Magazine.
But I can promise you, that accomplishment would never have happened without the support of this club and it's members. Some pushing me harder on the bike or the run. Others offering me suggestions (and critique) on swimming techniques, or joining me for the longer ocean swims.
LATC member Oliver Martin's words continue to ring true. "No matter what, keep moving forward".
Either in the race, or in life, "Keep moving forward."
The Ironman was never even a possibility in my life. Not on any checklist I made. Me, a triathlete? Hell, me a swimmer? (okay, I still have some work there to get up to speed.)
It was through this club, which supports and builds it's members, as much as it's members support and build the club, that I grew in ways never imagined.
Here's wishing that each of you have many June 25th s throughout your lives. Those life changing moments, the importance of which is only realized months, and sometimes years, later. Those life changing moments which set the course for life's directions never imagined. Yes, I wish all of you many June 25th's.
Lastly, here's to my June 25th's yet to come. And to the people I want to share them with.
Welcome to the best sport on the planet. And the best club in the sport.
Picture: Tim Bomba in the back row/center with one of his Ocean 101 Groups, 2006.