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1 year, 9 months AGO

Rites Of Passage

March 18, 2013 11:37AM EST
Rites Of Passage

The path I’m on right now (triathlons, climbing mountains on a bicycle, running long distances, etc.,) all started when I began to wonder what my kids would think of me when they’re grown. I wondered if they will think I was brave. I wish I were sure of it, but the truth is I’m still walking that path every day, looking for opportunities to live a life outside of the safety of our softened and convenient culture.

I read an Outside Magazine article by Michael Roberts about Jack Johnson and his dad back in 2010 that has stuck with me since. I think about young Jack watching his dad’s every move and his realization that he’d be a man one day too. And then I think about my dad. I think about my own kids watching me.

Here’s part of the article where Jack Johnson talks about his dad and his own coming of age:

 “My whole life I’ve thought about it: As a young man, he hopped on a boat and sailed across the ocean. That’s a pretty strong image to have of your father. My dad led me to the water and said, ‘Here you go. Be careful,’” Johnson says. “You have to sit there and decide when you’re ready.”

“I would look out and see what he was doing on these big waves,” he says. “As a kid I’d think, Holy cow, do I have to do that one day? And, slowly, I would go out when it was knee-high. Then you start surfing waist-high. Next thing you know, you’re surfing waves as tall as you. One day you break a leash a quarter-mile offshore in 20-foot surf and you’re not scared at all. You realize you’ve gone through that rite of passage. You’ve become powerful in an intensely powerful situation.”

Reading this today I think about Jack’s father Jeff. It was his courage that led to Jack’s. I can’t get the line “Holy cow, do I have to do that one day?” out of my head. In a lot of ways I’ve felt that way about my dad my whole life.

I wasn’t even born yet, but he spent two tours in Vietnam – including a stint with the uber-special forces unit comprised of green berets, rangers, and seals called MACV-SOG. Their mission was so classified that the government denied the unit even existed for many years after the war. After Vietnam he ran bomb disposal units in the South Pacific and then finished off a career in the military.

dadvietnam 375x500 Rites Of Passage

I never knew much about that part of his life. I wasn’t supposed to ask. But somehow I knew. I sensed it. Because he is my dad. And you just know things about your dad. The way he stands. The quiet calmness. The scar on his arm. You just know.

Recently my dad has written down his story. Among other things he wrote a little about Vietnam: how he arrived in the Northern highlands just two weeks before the Tet Offensive. About the attacks they came under.  The time he broke his pelvis jumping from an airplane and then jumped again the next day. I learned about his bronze stars and his Legion of Merit awards.

I read these words penned by my dad about the Tet Offensive:

“I learned what a person can endure. After three days and three nights with no sleep I laid down on a concrete floor with my flack jacket on, my steel helmet rolled back on my head for use as a pillow and my rifle by my side. I slept like a baby.”

A kid grows up wondering  where his strength comes from. If  he’s strong enough. Brave enough. I learned through my dad’s sacrifice. Maybe even more valiant the sacrifice of my mother – the one who raised four kids while he was away conducting secret missions.

I’m 38 years old still trying to surf that “big wave” that I heard about my dad surfing. And I know that my kids are watching me now, wondering if they’ll have to do it one day too.

I want to be courageous enough in life and in Faith to inspire my kids. They’re too young to be reading this now, but one day – having grown up enough to wonder about who I was – I want them to know that I tried to show courage through my life – like Jack Johnson’s dad did for him, and like their Papaw, my dad, did for me.

I didn’t follow him into the military, so I’m not going to war. But as I prepare for another 70.3 at Rev3 Knoxville in May and my first full 140.6 at Cedar Point in September I’m doing more than training for a triathlon. It’s not about the competition for me anymore. At 38 it’s another rite of passage. Still trying to measure up. To carry on the legacy. To establish new markers in the legacy.

Fatherhood does that both for you and to you.

Thanks to my mom and dad I’m a quarter mile offshore in 20 foot swells. And I’m not scared at all

You Can Follow Chad’s Blog here: 

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Chad

Nikazy

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I am a husband. A father of 3. And a triathlete currently training for my first 140.6 mile event at Rev3 Cedar Point in September 2013! Most men competing in triathlons are driven, motivated, hard-charging guys. Unless they’re part of a very select group though, they also work regular jobs and have families to support and raise. I’m one of those guys. I’m trying to lead by example. And it ain’t always easy! I’ve been competing in triathlons of various distances since 2002. Our first child, Isabella Hope, was born in 2004 (just before tri season!). I decided then that my kids would ALWAYS come first, no matter what. In August 2008 my wife was admitted to the hospital in preterm labor at just 20 weeks while carrying our twins Max and Kate. She stayed in the hospital for 10 weeks. Isabella and I visited every day, but also had to learn to live without Mom for awhile. Max and Kate were delivered at 30 weeks. Preemies! They stayed in a variety of hospitals over the next 6 weeks. Triathlon was far from my mind, but it stayed in my heart. Everyone got healthy and after a two-year hiatus from frequent racing I made my “comback”. I stepped up to the 70.3 distance in 2010 (Longhorn 70.3, Florida 70.3 and Boulder 70.3 all in 11 months). I was racing again, but there were more factors at play than ever before. Family, work, and training is a juggling act, but I’m determined to get it right. This is my personal blog where I’ll tell you about my training, my family, and how I’m striving to be the best triathlete I can be, while being the father and husband God created me to be. I’ll also be interviewing professional, elite, and exceptional age group triathletes about what it takes to excel both at home and on race day. My goals through this site are: 1. talk to my kids about who their dad was when they were young ( a keep sake for them) 2. reach other moms and dads with a positive message about love. About being a parent and spouse first and also keeping your passion for multisport alive. 3. Introduce my kids (and readers) to other cool married couples and moms and dads who are winning at both parenting and sport. None of this is possible without the unwavering support and belief given to me by my wife, the love of my life, Karen. She believes in my crazy ideas, even when I waiver. She stays behind the scenes, but she is there in everything I do. Most of this blogs content are “letters to my kids”. I hope they’ll read these one day when they’re grown and I hope you’ll enjoy them now. Thanks for reading!

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