Lance Armstrong's appearance over the weekend certainly generated a buzz here in Columbia in more ways than one.
For starters, I want to acknowledge the fact that the Revolution 3 Half-Full Triathlon was not sanctioned because of Armstrong's involvement. He has been banned from participating in any USA Triathlon event.
That, however, didn't seem to deter the large crowd that showed up for his presentation at Centennial High School on Saturday, Oct. 6, or the large contingent out for the triathlon the next day. In fact, of all the celebrities who have come through Howard County during all my years here, I have never seen more electricity generated than there was for Armstrong over the weekend. That includes the likes of great athletes such as golfer Arnold Palmer.
With the announcement that he would enter this triathlon, several things came to pass. First, more people signed up to participate and only two dropped out because it was not sanctioned. After his talk at Centennial, one parent told me that she gained a whole new level of understanding about the Livestrong bracelet she's been wearing for several years. The speech brought her to tears.
The most important thing, though, was the announcement Saturday night by the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults of a new Patient Navigator at Walter Reed to assist those young people at the facility stricken with cancer. The development allows these individuals to navigate their way from the time they are diagnosed all the way through recovery.
I've heard that 92 percent of the triathletes in this event have been touched by cancer in some way. Many were cancer survivors themselves, were running for someone currently battling cancer or had previously lost someone to cancer.
It is important to remember that Armstrong's sole purpose here was cancer and cancer awareness. The race not being sanctioned, in my opinion, was completely secondary.
I applaud him for coming here, his presence meant much more than I can express in words.
The last time I saw professional triathlete Suzy Serpico, she was walking her bike down Route 108 after her chain broke at the Iron Girl Triathlon in April. Somehow, she still managed to finish in the top 20 of that race.
This has been a great year for her as a first-year professional. She did extremely well at the Lake Placid Triathlon this summer before winning the Aquabike (2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike) element of the 9th Annual ChespeakeMan Endurance Festival last Saturday for the second consecutive year.
Another Columbia resident, Benjamin Bartlett, also enjoyed success at the festival, taking first place in the Bugeye Classic Triathlon. The 25-year-old finished with a time of 2:03:30 in the race that consisted of a 1.2-mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run.
I am constantly hearing about the great things that our young athletes are doing for charity. They seem to understand how important their contributions are when it comes to the welfare of our county.
In that continued effort, I'd love to see even more emphasis placed on aiding our older citizens. There are many individuals confined to their homes or nursing facilities who could really use a boost from the outside.
Something as simple as a brief visit can go a long way toward bringing a little extra light to their lives. I, personally, have spent some time at Vantage House and I know how much those visits can make a difference.