Always put your fastest foot forward

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George Papadakos - Triathlon

With the summer slowly dwindling down, or at least what the kids enjoy of it anyways, we took the opportunity to travel to the sunny locale of Orlando, Florida.

It is a family favourite, where lots of great memories have been had, and I'm sure will continue in the future.

One of the best parts of the trip for me is the drive down, and apart from the long durations of sitting on one's butt, it affords me the time to think (I know... scary eh!!!).

It is almost therapeutic to me, and I usually solve most of the world's problems in the first few hours, and I will get to those later.

I tried desperately to think of the amazing trip that lay ahead me, but part of my mind wondered, and opened a box labeled 'unfinished business.' When I Iooked inside I found a good old friend who had just passed away from cancer.

I know this hasn't started out as much of a triathlon article, but just bear with me for a second, I'll get there.

His name was John Nooren or "Johnny" as he was known to me. I couldn't tell you the name of his loving wife or wonderful kids (I know them now), or his favourite music or favourite food. But what I can tell you is that every time I met him or played soccer against him, he inspired me.

I am sure that everyone has met, or has friends that you connect with on such a keen level, and no matter how long you're apart, you pick up right were you left off.

Johnny was that guy to me.

I met Johnny when I was 16 years old playing soccer for the London Hungarians, and he was a force. He approached the goal keeping position with such flair, panache and fearlessness, that he was someone I secretly looked up to.

Over the years we had many goaltending battles, where we both played great and encouraged each other during the game, and commended each other on fine saves.

I am not sure if he felt the same or not, but I looked forward to playing against him, even when I was well into my thirties and the confines of competitive soccer was a bygone era.

He brought the best out of me, and I am sure to those who saw him more regularly. But more importantly he taught me how to be a good sport whether you win or lose, and to smile, it's just a game, and games are supposed to be fun. It sounds like something you read in a Dr. Seuss book, but man it works.

When I started doing triathlons I took the approach to just jump in, be fearless, and most importantly learn and share my experiences about my multi-sport career (always sounds funny when I say that).

At the beginning it wasn't easy, but most things that are new to you... aren't.

I struggled, hated some workouts, wondered why people do this, learned skills, unlearned these new skills and then relearned these skills the right way. When I finished my first race, I knew then why people do triathlon... to see what we are made of.

I guess the thing that I liked about Johnny was that he dared you to challenge him. Back against the wall, odds heavily stacked against him, he would smile and play his heart out, for his team, his coach, and most importantly himself.

Probably one of the most courageous people I have known, and wish I would of known him better. I never fully realized how much he played a part of developing my character until he was gone... and now I miss him.

Life is short... and things that we take for granted can be gone in an instant, so always put your fastest foot forward, and don't wait for someone to dare you to be better, go out and make it happen... I did.

To all my training friends, I love you all for your great support and camaraderie, as my successes are yours as well.

Thank you Johnny, you will be deeply missed.

Until I meet you at the start line, train safe and have fun!! 

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