Pumpkinman 2016 is in the books and it will be a weekend none of us will soon forget for so many reasons. First and foremost, of course, is the fact that our 10th anniversary happened to be Kat Bianconi Donatello's final year as race director. Kat brought a world-class event to our community and it's had a major impact on so many families - mine included. In the past 10 years there is nobody who I have called more often or sent more texts to than Kat. If you added together the calls, messages and emails the sum would be staggering.
The lessons I've learned by working with Kat transcend race management and are things I'll carry with me through my career. My time with Kat and the race have helped me to develop an incredibly diverse skill set that can be applied so broadly. And while this weekend was a very serious event, it wasn't all just business. In the (admittedly few) quiet moments we had this weekend it was fun to reminisce about everything we'd been through together in previous years - whether it be at Spring Hill or the post-race together in Kona. Some of those memories still generate laughter after all these years while others continue to leave us speechless.
On a very closely related note, I could not be more excited for Rachel and Brad Martin who will be taking over the event moving forward. Rachel and I have worked very closely for years and she is the perfect person to lead the race into the future. She and Brad are full of ideas, energy and passion. And on top of that their commitment to our community is unmatched. They're people I enjoying spending time with and that's important to me. I also know it's important to Pumpkinman's athletes. The people who race with us each year do so because they like the atmosphere and people. Well, athletes, you're certainly going to like these people.
The question I was asked most often this weekend, without question, was, "will you be back next year?" To those who asked, I gave vague responses that didn't really deserve the title of answers. That was certainly a calculated way to handle things on my part. While the race this year was in transition, my mind wasn't on 2017 or beyond. Producing this event requires an immense amount of focus and energy. Best I could, I avoided thinking or talking too much about the future in hopes of keeping people safe in the present. What I did tell those of you that asked is, "I'll always answer the phone when Rachel calls." That's true and it always will be. But what's more telling is that I started the weekend starting many of my sentences, "next year you..." but by 5:30pm on Sunday while standing in the Martin's garage everything started, "next year we..." That wasn't something lost on Rachel! Maybe it was the exhaustion speaking or maybe Rachel and Brad are just good people with good ideas, but either way I'm committed to helping them grow the event in whatever ways I'm able.
Truthfully, every year for the past 3 years has been "my last". Event management is hard and it takes a toll on me. But there's something that always brings me back and it's the people. So many of my friendships have formed because of or through this event. I recognize several hundred faces each year and know many of those people by name. I often know their family and friends, too. A number of these people have even become close friends - people I see outside of the triathlon world. Pumpkinman is special in that it's an event centered around community. We receive a tremendous amount of support from our communities - both those that we live in and the wider triathlon community. The race has given an incredible amount to the towns and their people by way of financial support and community outreach over the years. At the same time, those same people have selflessly given their time and energy to support a sport that they likely didn't know existed before Pumpkinman came to town. Today, when we were hit with the worst weather I've ever experienced in my life, members of this community reached out to offer help. They called. They texted. They emailed. They were concerned and wanted to do what they could to ensure people's safety. Many cared so deeply that they showed up at the venue to assist us in the middle of the storm. Nobody asked they to come, but they came anyway. Nobody called Katelyn and Bryan Aube and asked them to come back to the venue after they'd gone home to get some much needed rest. But they came anyway because they knew we needed experienced hands and minds. Nobody had to tell Kurt to get in his truck and go pick up runners so they could get to safety during the peak of the storm, but he did it anyway because it needed to be done. that's just one example of so many that illustrates what makes this a special event.
While all of you deserve an individual mention, one person stands at the front of that line. I could not do this without Eileen. As I said, as much as I like it, the race is hard on me. It's physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Eileen is constantly in the background keeping me grounded. That task, in addition to everything else she has to do, is not an easy one. By the end of Pumpkinman season I'm certainly not the only one in our house who is completely exhausted.
I wish I could individually thank everyone who has been a part of this event for the past 10 years. Since that's not realistic, please know that if you've ever raced, volunteered or spectated with us that we appreciate it more than you can know. Without all of you this race wouldn't be what it is today. And if this race wasn't what it is today, none of us who manage it would be who we are.