Every year the Shining Tiger Award for Dedication to Triathlon is presented to up to three individuals who embody triathlon’s unique and inclusive spirit. Triathlon is more than just swimming, cycling and running. Triathlon has heart.
This “soul” of triathlon lives in athletes of every age, circumstance and ability level. We join through sport to pursue our individual dreams. We may race alongside one another as competitors but as a community we are “in it” together both on and off the race course. It is a bond. Yes, there are the debates, rivalries and dramas as there would be within any group but the true spirit of our sport outshines all of that. It is carried on by the caring, passionate, one of a kind characters of triathlon. They are the “shining tigers.”
“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. “
Recently, the call for nominations from the triathlon community was answered with an overwhelming volume of deep quality recommendations. We should all be proud. The committee of a few past award recipients and I had a very difficult decision to make. I was in fact getting teary many times reading the vast ways others have been giving, brave and inspiring through this sport. If you submitted a nomination please treat yourself ASAP to celebrate your good deed and consider yourself a shining tiger.
Triathlon can permeate into all aspects of our lives and make us better athletes and better people. These are a few of the leaders that show us how.
Lenora Mariner is the definition of hard work. She makes big dreams become a reality with an unwavering commitment to the training process. She is a hardcore yet very classy triathlete woman who leads by example.
Courage is facing fears and Lenora knows how to do this. When I met Lenora a few years ago, she told me she wasn’t sure if she could complete the swim in a half ironman. She struggled in the open water river practices but she showed up consistently with a positive attitude and willingness to work hard. Lenora persevered over her doubt and fears and completed that half ironman. Since then she’s become stronger every year and refuses to give up even when adversities such as a bike wreck or setbacks stand in her way. She patiently works through it all and is open about her faith which serves to inspire many.
This year, Lenora turned 60 years old and also finished her first full ironman. She trained hard and placed in the top ten in her age group at Ironman Louisville. She is a naturally unassuming athlete yet we know we are often likely to find her on the podiums in her age group.
Lenora had some foot pain during the run in the ironman this year but she spied a fellow age group competitor. Her drive is strong and she pressed on despite the discomfort refusing to back down in typical Lenora style until the competition was far behind her. Only at that point did she slow to check it out. There was a rock in her shoe. Lenora is very tough and she knows how to commit no matter what stands in her way… or gets in her shoe! She is mental strength.
While Lenora holds herself to high standards she also expects the best and therefore brings out the best of those around her. She asks a lot of herself and being in her presence makes you want to ask more from yourself too. I’ve witnessed her help many athletes from all levels (myself included) over the years when they are struggling in training or even when something in life disrupts training. Lenora is never intrusive yet she quietly helps us find balance in this sport. She’s a shining tiger through her example of what is possible with dedication to a dream. She’s a shining tiger through her positive attitude and active encouragement to anyone who interacts with her. Lenora works hard in triathlon and in every single aspect of her life and she still makes time to guide others in sport. She volunteers her time at races and currently coaches running for the YMCA 10k run team. She was nominated by several people within the triathlon community.
Thank you Lenora for being a leader, showing us what is possible and inspiring so many to achieve their potential too.
Jeff is a strong athlete, a multiple ironman finisher and a family man. He is also a true leader in the sport. Jeff obviously cares about inclusivity in triathlon. He wants to see individuals of all levels achieve their best potential in an open and welcoming environment. You won’t often hear him talk about these ideals. In fact, you’re more likely to find him joking around and smack talking with his wide circle of tri pals! However his actions show us he cares about a positive and open atmosphere for triathletes. These values are a common theme that came through in the many shining tiger award nominations for Jeff.
For years Jeff has been instrumental in breaking down potential barriers for triathletes and weaving the Richmond triathlon community closer together. He shines as a leader organizing many open group practices and events. For example, often times triathletes struggle to find affordable and safe open water swim opportunities to practice with other athletes at their skill level. Yet in RVA Jeff has been spearheading the effort to organize regularly scheduled bi-weekly kayak supported open water swim practices in the James River for anyone to attend (free of charge) from spring through fall. One could find fifteen to fifty triathletes from newbie to professional level hop off the dock and swim together with full volunteer kayak support. Of course this leads to socializing in the park to cool down after. He has also been part of the leadership to put together “all are welcome” social events and planned open invitation group rides. Jeff conceived the “Robius-man” which is an all are welcome unofficial training “race” event timed to help athletes prepare for their late season long course races.
Richmond is home to many local coaching or training group options but what Jeff has done consistently for years is to provide, plan and lead neutral, all inclusive environments where everybody feels very welcome to join in on the training and socializing adventures regardless of the color of their jerseys. The cool thing about Jeff is that he enforces the open culture through his strong leadership skills, quick wit and approachability. He will even help match up athletes (often without realizing it) with training partners around their ability level just because he finds it fun to link people up who will be racing. I’ve met a few gals I like to race and train with through Jeff’s off hand introductions.
With Jeff’s “unaffiliated” open environment group training sessions triathletes are given the opportunity to come together and improve together. It’s a blast! In addition to these projects, on top of his own life, training and racing schedule Jeff can also be found volunteering his time at races and many other tri and running related organizations.
Thanks Jeff for balancing your own life, your own tri goals and still giving back to the triathlon community in such meaningful ways.