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.

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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.

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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.





A Good Week

13 09 2013

Phew, what a week! It’s been busy, but it’s been a really good week, for several reasons:

1) I started a new job!

I recently took on a full-time position at an organization that I worked very closely with while I was in DC. I’m still in the education world, but I’ll be back working with/for a population that is dear to my heart- English Language Learners. I’ll still be in Tampa, but I’ll get to do a bit more traveling than I have in the recent past. I’m really excited about the work I’ll be doing and I’ve got a great group of colleagues that I’ll be joining!

2) I witnessed my first Ironman live and in person!

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(I guess I didn’t really didn’t get a shot of any of the brand in this shot!)

I flew into Madison, WI for work on Sunday and it just so happened to be Ironman Wisconsin! I got in to town around 6pm, quickly dropped my stuff at the hotel, and walked a little over a mile to the finish line. Oh. My. Gosh. There is nothing like an Ironman finish line! The energy is absolutely contagious and it is so awe-inspiring to watch people of all shapes, sizes, ages crossing that finish line!

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And in case you were wondering, I did not wait in this line the next morning:

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to nab a spot in IMWI 2014. I have a few people putting a bug in my ear about a different race happening in 2015…We’ll see about that…

3. I’ve had some pretty fantastic workouts this week.

Before I left for Wisconsin, I started my Sunday with a brick on Davis Island. It was a perfect day for a ride- the sun was shining, the temps were a little cooler, and the humidity was lower than usual. I met up with my friend Chris and we rode about 32 miles together (I tacked on an extra 3 while I was waiting for him to arrive) and then I ran 4 miles after. I was rocking my Jet City jersey and I crossed paths with Jessica, the Jet City owner, who was also getting in her workout for the day. It’s always fun to see familiar faces on a run/ride!

IMG_8597I ran 6.45km, which is 4 miles (my XP coach forces strongly encourages us to switch our Garmins to metric; I’ve made the switch, but I still have my lap set to miles-whoops!) and I averaged 8:18/mile. I was stoked! I think track and tempo runs are paying off!

Inspired by the Ironman, I planned to get in a good run before work on Monday. I was out the door by 6:45am and I was pleasantly surprised that it was light out! I guess being up north, the sun rises a little earlier! I ran through the streets of Madison, now quiet after the excitement of the previous night’s race, and down to Lake Menona. I ran 12km (7.46 miles) and it was MUCH more pleasant than when I ran that same distance the weekend before in Florida. I average 8:48/mile, which wasn’t too bad, but I was more excited because I actually enjoyed the run. I haven’t really been running long because it’s miserable to do so in the Florida heat- I was encouraged because as the weather (hopefully) starts cooling down, I’ll be able to get in the long runs I need before my HIM and they won’t be torture!

I ran again on Tuesday (6km), and took a really fun spin class at CYC fitness in Madison on Wednesday. (Full review coming soon.) Thursday morning I flew into Jersey and got in a run on the boardwalk. I heart running on the boardwalk! I felt super speedy and ran 4 miles, averaging 8:11(!!)/mile.  BAM!

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This week’s runs have been super encouraging for me- now I just need to channel that speed this weekend!

4. It’s race week!

If I haven’t already mentioned it, I’m super excited about my race this weekend in Atlantic City! This will be my first and only international distance of the season- and because of the flexibility race directors have in determining the distances for each sport, this one will have a 1 mile swim! Heck yea!  DelMo sports puts on great races, so I can’t wait to get to that starting line on Sunday morning!

5. I’m spending time “down the shore” (aka home) in New Jersey!

Nothing beats September in South Jersey. The shoobies (those who spend their summers at the shore but aren’t really locals) are all gone, the weather is still pretty nice, and this year, the Miss America Pageant returns home to Atlantic City. You know those “Life is good” tees? Yeah, that’s me right now. 🙂





Jersey Strong.

3 11 2012

Last week, I sat in the comfort of my home in Tampa, FL with my family, visiting me from Ventnor, NJ, our tiny beach town on one of the barrier islands in South Jersey.

We anxiously refreshed all of the weather and news websites, hoping that Sandy wouldn’t make that dreaded turn towards the shore. When she did, we searched for all the news we could find about our tiny home town. We talked to neighbors who hadn’t left the island, worried about how much damage would be done to the house,  hoping that the family cat would be okay, but thankful we were all safe and sound, thousands of miles away.

 

My parents were finally able to fly back to Jersey on Thursday morning, and then were able to get back to their home on Friday afternoon. My family was so incredibly lucky, as  water from the storm was only in the crawl space (under the house) and an inch or so into the closet leading to the crawl space. Salt water from the bay got into one of the cars, but other than that, we were one of the lucky few.

As I look at the pictures my friends from home are posting on Facebook, my heart aches. There is so much loss. And yes, most of it is just stuff. Stuff can be replaced, and it is being replaced! My heart warms to see the outpouring of love and generosity- not just through the typical channels- Red Cross, the benefit concert- but through the use of social media. My Facebook news feed is FILLED with posts of people volunteering their time and resources to help with the clean up. I am so moved!

Jersey has this rough reputation, and when you mention the Jersey shore, everyone immediately thinks of those dummies on that awful TV show. But that’s not the real Jersey shore. This is.

The people in Jersey care for each other. We live in a tight-knit community; we’ve gone to school with the same kids from kindergarten to 12th grade. Everyone knows the Magees or the VanDuynes or the Smiths (just to name a few!) We want to rebuild, and to be a better, stronger community. To me, the Jersey shore means family. It means friends. We didn’t need a tragedy to bring us all together- we know there’s someone who lives down the street or maybe even 20 minutes away who would lend a helping hand, some food or a warm bed to sleep on. But it is so heartwarming to see it all roll out for all to see via social media. We will rebuild South Jersey. I’m proud to be a Jersey Girl.

(Shirts available here: 100% of profit goes to Hurricane Sandy Relief)

Jersey Strong.

If you’d like to help the Jersey Shore, you can click here: http://www.shorefellowship.net/sandyrelief