Challenge Atlantic City

2 07 2014

As you may already know, I grew up in South Jersey. Ventnor, to be exact. Yes, if you’ve ever played Monopoly and landed your thimble on the yellow “Ventnor Avenue” property, it’s that “Ventnor.” Ventnor is one town south of Atlantic City.

Monopoly

 

Atlantic City holds a special place in my heart. My dad grew up there and my grandfather lived in their home on Chelsea Avenue until he passed away when I was in high school. Every Sunday after church (which was also in AC) we would go over to his house for lunch. If it was summer, we’d head down to the Chelsea Avenue beach, where I’d play in the ocean for hours. I went to Atlantic City High School, which was the public high school that the kids from Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, and Longport could attend. And, after my sophomore year, I tried out for the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, where I guarded for 8 summers.

ACBP

Atlantic City has never struck me as the healthiest place on earth; despite the beautiful boardwalk that, to me, just begs to be run on, people come for the gambling, the clubs or to get their money’s worth at the all-you-can-eat buffets. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not criticizing, I’m just saying that fitness is not one of the top priorities in this town.

So, four years ago, when Stephen Del Monte of Delmo Sports announced that there would be a triathlon in Atlantic City, my jaw dropped. How the heck did he pull that off? I signed up immediately, thinking that this might be the one and only time this race happens. To my surprise, the race is in it’s fourth year, and I couldn’t be happier to know that it is alive and well! Though I haven’t registered yet, I’m 90% sure I will be.

StateAveMonopoly

Even more shocking was the announcement late last year that the European-based Challenge Family brand of triathlon races was coming to the US, and they had chosen Atlantic City as the location to make their debut. WHAT? Part of me was so incredibly proud that they had chosen South Jersey as the place for the inaugural race. The other part of me was wondering if they had made this decision over one too many drinks at Trump Taj Mahal.  Are they sure they know what they’re doing? Atlantic City? Really??

Atlantic City Skyline

I didn’t register for the event as I had other obligations on race day (bridesmaid!) and already had plans to complete my first Ironman with my teammates in Cozumel later in 2014. But I followed the event closely, and was so excited when they announced Miranda Carfrae was participating on a relay. As the event drew closer, I was wishing and hoping that the event would be a smashing success, but at the same time was worried that Atlantic City just wasn’t the place for a race of this caliber.

Challenge AC

On the Thursday evening before the race, the Press of Atlantic City released an article that said the Showboat casino would be announcing that they were closing; they were issuing the required notices to their employees on Friday. This news comes just a few weeks after the newest casino to open, Revel, announced that if they don’t find a buyer by the end of the summer, they too will need to shut their doors. Add to this the fact that the Atlantic Club, another casino, closed its doors in January. Oh, and remember that storm Sandy? Yeah, she did a number on AC, and there are many families STILL displaced from that awful storm.

Online_Original_Tee-4_1024x1024

Wow, what a blow. Atlantic City is in a sad state. This race NEEDS to be successful here. It needs to prove that it is boosting the economy- and that it IS something to get excited about. Sure, the road closures are a pain, but how often do you get to watch world-class athletes push themselves to the limit in a race that lasts as long as a work day? Or, even more inspiring, cheer on the every-day Joe, the weekend warrior as he proves to himself that yes, he too can push his limits and cross that finish line! If you’ve never been to a finish line of an iron-distance race, put it on your “to do” list. Believe me, you’ll walk away with a tear in your eye, and so inspired to push yourself to try that one thing that you’ve always wondered if you could do.

10460116_10100304476044542_7060137147400723819_nI downloaded the above picture from a friend’s Facebook page- This is Mike Pelosi, a guy that grew up with me (though a few years older) who was also on the ACBP with me. He’s picking up his daughter, who has cerebal palsy, to run with her across the finish line. I’m getting teary-eyed just typing that. How incredible is that? Check out the Press’s article about some of the locals in the race, including Mike and a mention of Dave, the other guard in the picture with me above.

In Europe, thousands of people come to watch the Challenge Races. It’s no World Cup, but they line the streets to cheer on the athletes. I want that vibe to be present in the Atlantic City race too. Maybe all these economic blows are AC’s chance for a clean slate- perhaps to bring a new breed of tourists. After all, the average income of USAT members is $126,000 (source)! (Please note, I know it’s not that easy to bounce back from rough economic times).

So far, I’ve read mostly positive reviews of the event, with of course the typical bumps in the road that inaugural events have. And, registration for next year’s event just opened (yes, I’m going to participate, just not sure if it will be in the capacity of a relay or something longer…). This gives me hope (and the fact that they have a 5-year contract)- but the triathlon community and the South Jersey community need to come together to make this thing an overwhelming success like I know it can be. I may be babbling, but I truly and deeply want this race to succeed. Not only for the sport of triathlon  (Ironman could use a bit of competition) but for Atlantic City. They need this race- they need something to get excited about and more importantly, something to help boost the economy.

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2 responses

2 07 2014
genna

wow!! That looks great, I may have to do some research because every summer I went to Cape May so this is nice and convenient for me during summer 🙂

2 07 2014
321delish

I love Cape May! Don’t get down there enough! I really want to do Delmo’s Escape the Cape tri!

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