In a huge plot twist, there are appropriately, three winners of The Shining Tiger Award for Dedication to Triathlon.   This is TRIathlon, after all.  I have to confess, When I brainstormed names to create this award intended to honor the passionate and caring unsung heroes of triathlon, The Shining Tiger Award for Dedication to Triathlon initially struck me as both an amusing and intense title.  So, yes I smile when I say the name. You can too. This is supposed to be fun! Yet the honor behind the award is genuine and the recognition is sincere.

 The award is intended to recognize an inspiring person in the triathlon community who has demonstrated strength of character, enthusiasm, empathy and courage. This individual will be honored for their significant contributions to triathlon through authentic acts motivated out of an inner passion and dedication for the sport.

The three winners, like tigers in the wild each have their own unique stripes but they are all shining tigers with their individual gifts to the community.  In alphabetical order by last name,  please join me in congratulating…the 2014 Shining Tigers!

Jon Cencich

Jon Cencich does not want this award. I’m 100% certain he has not been dreaming of the coveted trophy and dusting off a place on his mantle in hopes that the honor will be bestowed upon him. He might even ask to give it back but “SORRY, your name is on the trophy already. Surprise! FAQ Shining Tigers do not want the award

Jon is receiving this honor because he is a true example of life balance, candor and heart in the sport. He has an inclusive nature despite a wise guy demeanor. Jon is likely going to be humbled and he might even be aggravated with me for a minute or so for pointing out how inspiring and encouraging his influence has been to those athletes around him. Jon will race his heart out and rise to the challenge of even the most challenging race venues. He is bold and an independent thinker.

Jon has inspired members of both the triathlon and the single sport marathon community over the years. His MTT (marathon training team) friends marvel about his progress calling him a “serious training beast now,” encouraging me to “look up his results” to see the remarkable progress he’s made year over year. Jon loves triathlon but will not boast about it. You can see the passion in that gleam in his eyes right before a race or big training session. He’s fun to be around and his authentic nature & high standards for a low stress balance in the sport makes us better athletes. Jon is a constant reminder to keep it fun and relaxed but to embrace the lifestyle to its fullest. He’s about going hard & giving focus when it is time. He can for example be found drinking beers at Cask (a great pub in Richmond) and then turn around the next AM to bust out some serious wattage in a 6am group trainer session on a regular basis.

He does this all while elevating others around him in a blend of jeering yet encouraging delivery. If you’re whining about an upcoming session, worried your Vo2 max score is too low or being overly competitive at a practice, Jon will set you straight and you’ll want to thank him for it later..but he will not let you. Years ago, I was running in a half marathon and in the final stretch I was fading and playing with my watch. He ran to pass me (smoked me, too) & mustered energy to say, “suck it up buttercup, let’s go.” I picked it up and had a better race because of him. Jon holds high standards for himself and for other athletes. He wants us to give our best but also makes sure those in his wide circle never take themselves too seriously in the sport. He is brazen enough to speak up to make sure you live up to that. You can count on Jon to “call you out” but always with a positive intent. Warning: do not draft off him up a steep hill. : )

Jon is the person who can and will chime into Tri forums to tell you exactly how to fix your Garmin or GPS watch issues while playfully encouraging you to learn this stuff yourself when you are puzzled. Now that you know this, he may charge you. My thoughts? “I want commission, buddy!” Jon Cenchic is a maverick among green box obsessed, split memorizing, data crunching serious long course triathletes.

He will probably be mad at me for presenting him with the prestigious Shining Tiger Award for Triathlon Dedication, but I’d be pressed to find one who knows him that can argue that he does not embody the high ideals of independence, courage and toughness represented by the Shining Tiger.

Marv Cline
Marv is a family man of strong principles who generously extends his time and energy to make the triathlon community a better place.   He does this by always supporting other athletes with utmost sportsmanship, standing up boldly for what is right and ideal in any situation, and racing with courage despite any obstacle.  He may be humbled by this and try to resist the recognition but he deserves the trophy for all he gives. 
Marv & his wife, Sandy

Marv loves triathlon but he will tell you he is semi-retired from the sport as he switched his focus to family priorities after tackling his first ironman.  The community however, does not accept this “tri-retirement” and respects Marv so much that he really cannot escape Richmond tri-world.   He’s constantly being asked to race on “relay” teams with other athletes who know that he is dependable and fun.  He graciously accepts nearly every request as he is a team player, always willing to help another.  He brings fun and values to the triathlon table in a very genuine manner.  He also gives back to the community through volunteer efforts at races and through dedicated service on the Board of Directors for the widely popular, Richmond Tri Club.  Marv raises the high standards of integrity in the sport through his actions and his encouragement.  I hear he has a fairly new, all black tri bike that should be incentive to jolt him out of the pause and back into the racing scene soon.  Stay tuned…
When he is racing and training he is disciplined and focused but always makes time for his true priorities in life and keeps a very level head.  He will however, always put in the work and his determination to succeed is remarkable.  Regardless of the challenges before him, he will overcome all in order to meet his goal.  The hard work and dedication he gives is inspiring.  I watched him go through many ups and downs as he trained for Ironman Florida and I was impressed by the perseverance.
From the early years of the Winter Rider Group

Marv will actively seek to make improvements in the triathlon community so that we can enjoy it all the more.  He is a responsible action oriented man that takes strides to ensure inclusive opportunities for athletes to enjoy the sport in a friendly and open environment.  Marv cares about engaging athletes in the sport to lead a healthy lifestyle.  As a Midwestern transplant to Virginia, cold weather doesn’t phase him even in the winter elements on two wheels.  Marv went above and beyond 3 years ago to create the “Winter Rider Group,” an informal but well attended all are welcome weekly group ride followed by coffee and hot chocolate.  You will find newbies to elite, triathletes to roadie and everyone in between from every team in town under his leadership at this ride.  He wrote a popular article about winter riding gear and is always willing to answer questions for cyclists newer to riding in colder conditions.  The series lasts all winter and the forum on social media is 24/7 365 days of motivation.  We actually look forward to these off season adventures freezing with Marv. He takes great pride in creating fun and interesting routes and is a complete leader who will make sure no one is left behind, lost or having a hard time.  He’s the guy who will always take the time to help you change a flat tire.  If conditions become too intense, he and his wife Sandy will invite athletes to their home for a GTS (garage trainer series) adventure in his remarkable bike trainer studio/garage he personally designed and put hard work into creating last year.

“Everyone knows Marv” is the case in Richmond triathlon and he’s highly regarded by other athletes.  Last year at the Richmond Endurance Symposium in our city, there was a “Marv’s Friend” game by one of the vendor sponsored, which amused us all. 
I’m very proud to recognize Marv Cline with the Shining Tiger Award for Dedication to Triathlon. 
Bernie Neighbor

Bernie embraces it all with an adventurous belief and enthusiasm that never ceases.  She has a fiery passion for improvement and enjoys soaking up and learning all the sport offers while seeking fun challenges.   She also has one of the purest hearts of gold that I have ever known.  She will make efforts get to know her friends and other athletes in her life deeply and she’s a giver to the core.  She could likely name several athletes who would be on the “Shiny Tiger” list and she’s so unassuming that she likely would not think to include herself.  Surprise!

Bernie and her husband, Shawn

Bernie knows how to dream big and that is what inspires others around her.   When you couple that genuine excitement with a bold attitude and an unparalleled dedication to doing the hard work to achieve goals, you have success: Bernie Neighbor style.  She integrates the sport into her life as a wife and a mother.  If you are lucky enough to be one of her many friends, she will always take care of you, believe in you, celebrate your good times and give you hope when you are down.
When I first met Bernie a year ago, I asked her what she was training for.  She was fairly new to triathlon and so when she spit out that she was going to California to do the iconic and tough Escape from Alcatraz triathlon and then her first half ironman would be the tough and hilly Musselman, I was amazed and impressed by her sense of dauntless zest for the sport.  She certainly followed through in an unstoppable yet intelligent manner all season long.  
This past season, she learned some hard lessons about injury setbacks in training but she rose to the challenges before her with bravery and navigated through injury in partnership with her support team.  Her wise choices and impressive patience despite frustration allowed her to heal up in time to crush all of her goals for the season.  Her attitude as she went through the agonizing mid-season injury process was ideal for any athlete.  She once entered a race but had to cut it short due to the injury.  She stayed through the entire day, cheering on the sidelines for all the other athletes.  Her sportsmanship is truly shining.  For me, seeing her at the final miles of Tidewater Tri really made my day and others have raved about how caring and supportive she can be. 

Bernie gives her best in every avenue of her life and that includes the triathlon endeavors she bravely undertakes.  This year she also wanted to place in her division in the Virginia Maryland Setup Events Series and she absolutely smoked it.  She took her goals very serious but balanced that with her love for giving back to others.  You see, she was struggling with her desire to go watch Ironman Chattanooga and be there for her friends who were racing but she also had a race that weekend.  Just days before race weekend, Bernie took a leap and followed her heart down to TN where she gave all her energy supporting her friends and being part of their journey.  She still placed in her division in the VTS/MTS series in Bernie Neighbor style success.
Bernie is wholly compassionate and knows how to be there for other athletes with her caring intuition.  She is hospitable and welcoming and will extend home stay invitations to athletes from rookie to professional who are racing in her town.  She will cook up a healthy meal and selflessly take care of the host athlete’s every need even while getting herself ready to perform at her best.  
I’m proud of all I have seen Bernie accomplish and look forward to her success as her inner spark remains bright in the sport.   I am happy to present the “Shining Tiger” to this deserving athlete.
There you have it, the winners of “The Shining Tiger Award for Dedication to Triathlon.”  Please do congratulate them and also reach out to those unsung heroes in your own tri-world and thank them for all they give.