AGITA (n.) a feeling of anxiety. This word was used mainly by Italian American and Yiddish-speaking persons.
Proudly, I am 100% of Italian descent. My mother was born in Italy and emigrated to Philadelphia in the 60's. My father's mother was born in Italy, and his father's parents all emigrated nearly a century ago. Thus, I have heard the word AGITA my entire life, mainly surrounding my antics as a teenager and aspiring entrepreneur. "Stephen, why do you do these things, Ugh, you give me AGITA!"
AGITA is what I felt leading up to the Atlantic City Triathlon. Although this was the 13th year producing the event, there was an uneasiness surrounding my soul. As you all know, last month World Triathlon Corporation made the decision to discontinue IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City in 2024, and even though I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work within their amazing organization, no one feels good about receiving their walking papers, especially when you feel like you're at the top of your game. It's only natural to want to "Play Forever." But it is what it is.
So why was I feeling anxious leading up to the Atlantic City Triathlon? Over the past 12 years, we have had 5 different finish lines and 2023 would introduce the sixth. If you're wondering where they all were, I'll help you out:
- 2011: On the boardwalk in front of Bally's
- 2012-13: Main runway of Bader Field
- 2014-15: Rounding the loop of Bader Field
- 2016-19: Kennedy Plaza
- 2021-22: Mississippi Ave Beach
For me, I wanted TRI AC to be "easier" for athletes, spectators, and quite frankly, us as producers. Since 2016, we've had to shuttle our athletes back to Bader Field and that can be a hassle for some and even a barrier for others. Additionally, I've always felt like our event gets swallowed in the center of town due to the high-octane nature of Atlantic City. So, after last year's race, I was determined to find a solution.
And I did... or at least I thought I did.
In my heart and in my mind, a beach finish at Albany Avenue was the perfect location to do what we do: Beach Finish Festival. It's our hallmark at Tri the Wildwoods and this would be the final iteration in our search for a new finish line. I was CERTAIN of it. Would my team think so? Would the athletes? I didn't know and, with all due respect, I didn't care. Sink or swim, this was all going to ride on my 'feel.'
Then came event week and all the doubt set in compounding on recent events and I was nearly certain everyone was going to hate it. Changing the finish line of any event is a BIG DEAL and this was not just a change, we were talking about an entirely new location completely different from what we have ever done. WHAT WAS I THINKING? WHY DO I CHANGE THINGS? In his book, "Courage Over Confidence," Dr. Mitchell Greene calls this, "Mind Chatter" and I was suffering in the worst way. My blood pressure was through the roof, and I couldn't sleep. The night before the event I was wide awake, talking with my wife on the phone explaining these awful feelings, and as usual she was masterful at helping me put them to rest.
So, what happened? I put all the agita aside and trusted the fact that no one has produced more big scale triathlons in the greater Philadelphia area than our crew, and no one knows how to meld swim, bike, run in Atlantic City like we can. That's what I held in my head as I walked and talked with athletes. This is our domain. This is where we shine, and shine we did. Our event was, well, a DelMo Event #IYKYK. I was walking from transition to finish (.7mi) and the complements/selfies coming from athletes returning were everything I thought they would be. We had smiles for miles and grand displays of gratitude; this is why we do what we do.
The realization. It only took 13 years, but we have successfully figured out how to produce an amazing Sprint/Olympic triathlon in Atlantic City. My instincts were correct. My team absolutely nailed their responsibilities. The athletes brought all the good vibes, and we all strolled back to Bader Field together. This was our journey over the past 13 years. Everything is always evolving and we're simply refining our touch.