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CAF Memories of Robin Williams - Scott Tinley

I’ve been thinking about the great ones lately, the leaders in their respective fields whose brilliance was impossible to compare. They were the first and perhaps only. They thrilled us like no other. And like many of Robin Williams’ fans, we’ve been watching his old films, reveling in his performances, laughing, looking for clues to his pain.  In Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams tells Matt Damon’s character that, “you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you.” But it was Robin who we could not understand the depths of.

CAF was blessed with the depths of Robin Williams. And every one of the thousands he touched with his wit and humor and unbridled kindness took a piece of him away, their lives now better, lighter, more livable. He particularly loved the kids at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) and though I never saw him angry, when he was hanging with the kids, you dare not interrupt. In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin loses his patience only once when his wife, in divorcing him tries to keep him from seeing his kids. Perhaps what Robin saw in the physically challenged youth of the world were pure souls wondering why they had been dealt a tough blow, wondering why they couldn’t be free and happy like the other kids. Perhaps he saw himself.

And the kids loved him back.

Robin’s passing brought people together like the formation of some impromptu peleton.  It was that tragic catalyst that reminded us of our human frailties and the need to hold out a hand to the imperfect and the ill and anxious. It reminded us that he was a friend of CAF not because he had the chance to ride his bike with some of his pals or spend a few days in La Jolla. No, I think Robin Williams was a friend to CAF because he felt they are that big hand offering to make things a little better for the imperfect.

In the 1998 film, Patch Adams, Williams plays a med student who suggests that “our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death.” He did that job well.

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The SDTC Crew: Robin with Jim Ochowicz, Wendy Ingraham, Gerry Margolis and Scott Tinley

team-braveheart

SDTC Team Braveheart: Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Robin Williams and Scott Tinley

CAF Memories of Robin Williams - Tabi King

At CAF, I think we have a unique view of the person Robin Williams was and will always continue to be in our hearts and minds. For me, it was a personally unique experience because I was the person who would oversee his event day activities and navigate him from location to location. Sounds easy, but I can tell you I was whoa-fully unprepared.

You see, prior to the 1998 that brought Robin to our San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC), we were a small event at the La Jolla Cove… we attracted about 250 athletes… we would introduce our 20 or so challenges athletes and off everyone went… and we would wait until the end of the day for them to come back to have our awards barbecue. Back in the day, we were all volunteers. This was an easy job. But that year… 1998… That year changed everything.

Virginia Tinley, CAF’s Executive Director, had informed me Robin was coming to SDTC and asked me to be his liaison for the day. Why would I reject that job! His “people” gave me very simple instructions. “You cannot promote his appearance, you will need to see if he is “in the mood” to talk to media before his ride, after his ride I’m sure he will talk to all.” Okay, sounds simple… event day came, the crowd saw Robin… the crowd went crazy… all of a sudden, this “A” list celebrity was taking the time from his life to come to this tiny event at the La Jolla Cove to see what was happening.

As I went in to “Over drive” to shield him from the crowds he did the opposite. He went to the crowds, jumped on laps, dove into Improv, learned athletes names, listened to their stories… over the years I learned the “Look”, that look that said “this is okay”. This is what I want to be doing right now. Eventually I learned when he needed a break and when he wanted more. Most often, he wanted more. He looked forward to these faces, to athletes he would see every year. He remembered them, and wanted to hear the updates. He always said, “This is like coming home to family. Like a reunion.”

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He especially loved the energy he got from the athletes, their excitement of being there and the attention he bestowed on them. The thing that resonates the most is he never wanted anything in return. In fact he did not want us to actively promote his appearance. He had no agenda… I think for him it was the best of both worlds. He loved the fantasy camp idea of riding with his heroes’… Scott Tinley, Wendy Ingrahm and so many more. And then hanging with his other heroes, such as our athletes in Operation Rebound. Through Robin’s annual trek to the San Diego Triathlon other Celeb’s wanted to check it out.

The year was 2003… just Before Will Ferrell did Elf. Their trainer, Gary Kobat, brought Will, Jim Carrey and David James Elliot to the event. Now mind you, at this point Robin and I had a routine… but add three more “A listers” in that recipe and things became a bit chaotic! I will never forget Robin’s attorney, Jerry Margolis, look at me at the end of the day and say “Tabi, I think you’re one celebrity short of a nervous breakdown”. He was so right….

In the end, it was Robin’s genuine loyalty that put a stamp of credibility on CAF. Before he came, people really didn’t know what we were doing… he let others know that it was important. That riding a bike at any ability was important. Being able to get outside and be great was important. And every person regardless of their ability deserved that right. The word’s that will forever ring in my head are very simple… at the end of each day, each year, I always said the same thing… “Thank you Robin for being here, it means so much to our athletes,” his response, “No it is I who thank you. It means more to me than it does to them”.

Thank you Robin. You will always be our very dear friend. You will always be our greatest gift.

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When I think of Robin Williams and his amazing support of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), there is no question in my mind that Robin had a huge impact on not only CAF, but on the sport of triathlon. When he participated in the Malibu Triathlon on a relay team back in 1997 or so, he was the first ‘A’ list celebrity to embrace our sport and to participate on a relay team.

When he came to San Diego to participate in the San Diego Triathlon Challenge, he was teamed up with double above knee amputee Rudy Garcia–Tolson, who did the 1.2 mile swim, and with two time Ironman World Champion Scott Tinley who ran the 13.1 mile half marathon. Robin, a very serious cyclist, did the 56 mile very hilly bike ride. They were Team Braveheart because Rudy had a business card that he created when he was seven years old that said on it ‘A Brave Heart is a powerful weapon.’

Rudy and Robin teamed up eleven times at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge with Scott Tinley on Team Braveheart;. Robin told me that Rudy could care less about his stature as a celebrity. “All Rudy cares about,” joked Williams, “is that I’m his video game pimp.”

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One year Rudy was honored with the Casey Martin Award, which is presented each year to a person who is inspirational to the disabled. Casey Martin came on stage at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and told the audience, “I usually like to give out this award since it’s named after me,” he said, “but someone performed last night in New York and flew all night because he wanted to present this award to Rudy.”

At that point Robin Williams came bounding out from backstage and said, “they call Rudy a challenged athlete because he’s missing his legs. Not true. Rudy is an amazing athlete. To me a challenged athlete is a 300 pound person trying to squeeze into a pair of bike shorts!”

That was Robin. He embraced CAF and helped the world to understand that our athletes are unique and that they can accomplish anything.

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One other fun Robin story that I will always cherish. When you are Robin Williams you understand that the media will come out to La Jolla Cove on the morning of the San Diego Triathlon Challenge to interview you. He also knew that when the media came to see him, they would then be exposed to our CAF athletes. But that didn’t mean the guy couldn’t have a little fun.

Putting a live microphone in front of Robin Williams is like putting a piece of raw meat in front of a lion. You sort of know what’s going to happen.

One year a reporter asked Robin what he was going to feel like at the end of the 56 mile bike ride. He asked the reporter if the segment would be live, which meant that his sound bite could not be edited, that the reporter was actually walking a tightrope without a net.

“Is this live?” Robin asked. When she nodded that it was, Robin lit up. “What will I feel like? I’ll feel like there is a river of sweat like Niagara Falls running down the crack of my ass. Oh…is this live?”

CAF Memories of Robin Williams

We talk about how CAF has changed the world for the better over the past 21 years. Well, with his humor and humanity, Robin changed our world for the better every single day.

– Bob Babbitt, CAF co-founder

Guest Blogger: Strava

As a company built by athletes for athletes, being active is part of Strava’s DNA – it’s who we are and what we do. For this reason, it’s hard to imagine life without sport.

We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to live an active lifestyle. Activity provides a release, freedom, independence and a sense of accomplishment that is unlike anything else. To support this belief, we’re partnering with GU Energy to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF).

CAF is an incredible organization that is changing lives, one athlete at a time. They provide funding grants for costly equipment such as running prosthetics and hand cycles to physically challenged individuals.

We’ve created two Challenges (run and ride) in order to give our community the opportunity to use their own able bodies to help athletes with physical disabilities lead active lives.  For every kilometer run or every three kilometers ridden during the Challenges, GU Energy will generously donate $0.01 to the CAF (up to $50,000). The more kilometers we cover as a collective community, the bigger impact we can make towards this cause.

JOIN NOW

“Often times the expensive cost of adaptive sports equipment can be an obstacle that keeps athletes with physical challenges on the sidelines.” – Virginia Tinley, Executive Director at CAF

In addition, participants who individually run 50 kilometers and/or ride 300 kilometers will unlock the ability to purchase a limited edition tee-shirt from Strava. All profit from the sales of the tees will be donated to CAF. The money raised will go towards costly adaptive sports equipment, giving athletes with physical disabilities the opportunity to pursue active lifestyles just like the rest of us.

Take on this Challenge as a reminder to appreciate the impact that being active has on your daily life. With every stride you take, you’ll increase our ability to make a difference on the lives of athletes in need.

 

Run for Challenged Athletes logo    Ride For Challenged Athletes logo

by Eric McElvenny

The morning started early like most races. We arrived with our transition gear well before the sun was due up. I was proud to once again wear my Chocolate Milk orange tri kit letting the city of Boulder and the near 3,000 competitors know that I’m Built With Chocolate Milk. As we made our way to the swim start, I was relaxed. I knew the training that I had put in the months prior was about to be tested and I was confident that I was going to pass. I knew the race was going to be difficult and at times painful, but I was also aware that the most difficult part of an IRONMAN is early morning workouts day in and day out leading up to the race. Those were done. Now all I had to do was put my body in motion, stick to the race plan and be prepared to meet my body’s expected nutrition needs.

The water was pleasant, smooth and fast. I had surprised myself coming out of the swim before 1:05. It was a good surprise. After a lot of contact for the first 500 meters, the water opened up and allowed freedom. It felt great. I knew this was the last time I’d need my arms for the day, so I tried to make every last stroke count. The bike course was breath taking for two reasons. One, the mountain scenery around Boulder was beautiful; and two, the altitude made it difficult to regain my breath after the hills. The bike course was certainly more challenging than I had expected. The climbs didn’t look like much on the elevation chart, but they taxed my body. My prosthetic was bothering my limb towards the end of the bike. We put a lot of time into a great fitting biking prosthetic, but I’m starting to think that there isn’t a fit that prevents all pain after 5 hours on a bike. Although I maintained my nutrition plan throughout most of the bike, my body had become weak towards the last 20 miles. I spent a few extra minutes transitioning from bike to run. I wanted to make sure my limb was ready for the pounding of a marathon. I was more concerned that my body wasn’t ready so I took the extra few minutes to get some additional nutrition down, peanut butter and jelly uncrustable sandwiches, a life saver. The temperature at this point was hot, the air was humid and the altitude still presented a challenge. I smiled heading out into the marathon. I like a challenge. The crowd that lined the run course was fantastic. They were loud, energetic and motivating. Their signs were hilarious and their words of inspiration were meaningful. I was feeling the heat. I utilized each and every aid station for water, ice and anything that I could get down to energize myself to get to the next one. The miles began adding up, the hilly run course had a deviating affect on my pace. There were a few times that I felt my muscles begin cramping, but the grapes, chips and oranges at the aid stations were enough to fight off any serious problems. As I hit mile 25, I began to pick it up. I knew my next aid station was the finish line. I wasn’t worried about my body shutting down anymore. I figured I’d be done within the next 10 minutes and I knew I could do anything for 10 minutes. As I was running towards the finish line the pain had ceased. I don’t know why, but as I crossed the finish line, I felt as fresh as I did prior to the race. That feeling only lasted minutes. After the finishing shoot, I met up with my family. I slugged a chocolate milk with my daughter. She hardly ever turns down a chocolate milk. I actually went back for a second one knowing that my body was in serious need of nutrients. We enjoyed that evening and the following day in Colorado before heading back to San Diego. An amazing trip.

The way forward for me… I’ll be racing IRONMAN Arizona in November. I plan to give my body 3 weeks to heal and rebuild before I get back into serious training. It’s going to be a hard wait. Being physically active has a great affect on me. It carries over to other parts of my life. I’m more confident, I’m more efficient at work and I’m happier around the house when I’m putting my body to the test. I rebuild everyday with chocolate milk. When you find something that works, you stick to it. I’m thankful for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and for Team Chocolate Milk to play such an important role in my life. The opportunity and challenge of racing an IRONMAN has an everlasting affect on most people and I’m proud to have raced at the inaugural full distance IRONMAN Boulder.

Eric McElvenny after IRONMAN Bloulder    Eric McElvenny and family after IRONMAN Boulder

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