Triathlon Resonates Importance of Helping Your Team

Kevin Henning, structural engineer with GRAEF, during the run portion of the Alcatraz Triathlon.

by Kevin Henning

I spent the past weekend in San Francisco preparing for and racing in the 2012 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. In the sport of triathlon, the Escape from Alcatraz is an iconic race. Staged for the last 32 years running, the race consists of a 1.5 mile open water swim in the icy water of San Francisco Bay from Alcatraz Island to shore, an 18 mile bike ride through the hills surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge, and an 8 mile run that includes narrow trails, steep uphill climbs, winding narrow descents, dirt trails, and a climb of over 200 feet up a “sand ladder” cut into a bluff on the Pacific coast.

After completing 14 prior triathlons and countless running races the experience was unlike any other race I have competed in. The course was punishing, the scenery was breathtaking, and the high of crossing the finishing line was worth every ounce of suffering. What I will remember most, however, was the deep and genuine camaraderie among the 2,000 athletes. I met men and women from Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, and points all across the USA. Every one of them was there not only to mark their own accomplishment but to enjoy the company of and offer whatever help and encouragement they possibly could to their fellow athletes.

Henning during the bike leg of the triathlon.

Henning takes the leap to start the swim leg of the Alcatraz Triathlon.

As I fly back to Chicago and return my mental focus back to work and family I hope to bring as much of that positive energy with me as I can. At GRAEF, that will mean never losing sight of the firm’s collective goals, sharing the benefit of my experience with my colleagues, being open to learning from the experiences of others, and offering support anytime, anywhere, and to anyone in the firm. If perfect strangers are willing to lend a spare pair of swim goggles, help another athlete change a flat tire, and take the time to cheer each other on as they make their way up that last hill, we can all do a little more every day to help each other accomplish something great as professionals.

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