“What’s the matter with kids today?” goes the song from “Bye Bye Birdie.” Why are they all obese, and lazy, and disrespectful? I witnessed it myself: 365-plus “lazy” kids between the ages of seven and fourteen swimming, biking, and running their ambitious hearts out in the summer heat on Saturday, August 10, 2013 at the North Hills Youth Triathlon.
The triathlon (TRI) is a relatively new-kid-on-the-block of athletic events. The first TRI took place in 1974 at Mission Bay, California. You can now find a TRI almost every summer and fall weekend in the greater Pittsburgh area. The Youth Triathlon is still a sport in its infancy, and only the brave attempt one. Running can make you tired but swimming requires far more energy and stamina, and biking can be outright dangerous, even to experienced riders. (I’ve witnessed a “wipe-out” at every adult triathlon I have attended.)
Such stressful endeavors allow for courageous individuals to come to the forefront. Cases in point:
- 8-year-old Matt was in Children’s Hospital three Augusts ago with Kawasaki Disease. A life-threatening illness which can permanently ravage the arteries of the heart, it is now just a memory for this young man.
- Joey, now an adult triathlete, developed severe ketoacidosis when diabetes mellitus changed his life at age 10. By the age of 14, the North Hills TRI became a yearly reminder of his normal life because of an insulin pump.
- Katie, age 14, chose to step-up to the adult TRI this summer to compete against her older sister, brother, and superbly-conditioned mother.
However, the hero of the day had to be 13-year-old Byron, who wiped out on the bike course, severely injuring his left wrist. When examined on the course, everybody strongly suspected a fracture.
“Can you finish your lap and run?”
Before I realized the folly of my question, he jumped back on his bike and proceeded to finish the race! I examined Byron again after his “adrenaline rush” had worn off following the race. With the pronounced swelling and tenderness that I now observed, I had no doubt he would be in a cast up to his elbow when he saw the orthopedist.
All worthwhile endeavors have their cost. Although we live in a cynical world, the striving for physical excellence among our young never fails to astonish me.
And their striving for mental toughness.
And their display of one of life’s greatest attributes: courage under fire.
Congratulations to all our kids!
“Youth not wasted on the young.”
That is what I witnessed.
*** A special thanks to Nancy Feyrer and Debbie Pfeiffer for helping me on this article!***