TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
Jim McCann was the TCSD President 10 years ago. Many, including me would say Jim built the TCSD. Jim passed away unexpectedly in June 2007 and to honor Jim and Dee Dee, they are the focus of this TCSD Conversation. If you knew them, then you will love this interview. If you didn’t know them, you will love getting to know them. Grab some Kleenex and enjoy.
Craig: How did you and Jim meet and ultimately end up in San Diego?
Dee Dee: The story of how Jim and I met is a pretty good one. It was 1998, and Jim had been studying wilderness medicine and wanted to find a challenging wilderness training program. I was living in Ohio, had been doing some solo backpacking and wanted to find a challenging wilderness survival program. So, June 1998 found us in the tiny town of Boulder, Utah having both signed up for a 10-day wilderness survival course with BOSS. I felt a powerful attraction to Jim from the moment I laid eyes on him. He had such a solid, calm demeanor with a shy smile and very soulful eyes.
At the end of those 10 days, I cancelled my return flight to Ohio and instead drove with him to San Diego, a place I still think of as Jim’s Town. Over the course of that drive, Jim told me so many stories about the club and the people in the club! His passion for sport and for people was so contagious! Barbara Javor, Bob Doyle, Bill Gibbs, Rita Reyes (now Williams), Osamu Chiba, Jonathan Toker, Henry Chan, GR – all of these characters (and many more) played such a big part in his life at that time and I couldn’t wait to meet them all!
After I finally did go back to Ohio we maintained our relationship, and I moved to San Diego in 2000 with my dog, Sante. She and Jim formed an immediate and intense bond. She never left his side. Sante didn’t recover from losing Jim, and she died a few months after him.
Craig: What was unique about being married to Jim?
Dee Dee: I’ll start with our wedding, because that was very unique. We wanted to get married where we met, so we contacted BOSS and they agreed to let us get married on their land, in the heart of Utah canyon country. The only hitch was BOSS didn’t want the local magistrate on their land, so the BOSS CEO, a very nice Jewish guy, went online to become a Christian marriage celebrant!
A few days before the special date, we learned that a group of Tibetan monks were in town, at the first stage of a US speaking tour. So, we were unbelievably blessed to have these monks participate in our wedding ceremony by performing their very unique deep throat chanting and bestowing special blessings on us. It was an absolutely magical experience!
Our very unique wedding set the bar pretty high for “uniqueness,” and so much of the rest of our married life met the bar! When Jim started wetsuitrental.com we were living in his small condo in UTC. As the business grew, the wetsuits kept taking over all the space in the condo until eventually there were racks of wetsuits in every room and right down the hallway. I thought we would get brain damage from the overwhelming smell of rubber!
Later we moved to a tiny cottage about a block from the Cove. The cottage was so small that we erected a mountaineering grade tent in the back yard and used that as our bedroom! Our queen-sized bed and two bedside tables were there, and we each had a headlamp for reading in bed!
Another very unique thing about Jim, something that I’ve tried to keep in my life, was his follow-through — Jim followed through on absolutely everything. Every idea, every commitment, every next step — he followed through. One time he met a woman in the checkout line and got to talking with her about Burpee Seeds (he was a manufacturer’s rep for them at the time). When he learned that she ran a community garden, open to everyone, he sent her boxes of vegetable and wildflower seeds. He was constantly doing things like this; touching people’s lives for only a moment, yet forming a real connection and then following through in unique and thoughtful ways. It was as if Jim really understood that life can be cut short and he didn’t want to leave anything undone.
Another special thing about Jim was his love of his family. He was very close to his sisters, Patty and Linda, and he had six nieces and nephews. He went to incredible lengths to be involved in their young lives and to be a good role model to them about healthy and happy living. The best example is that he created a summer baseball camp for his two nephews, Ike and Willy. Every year, we flew them to San Diego for a couple weeks and Jim created a complete baseball camp experience for them, teaching them skills and drills. One year, Bill Gibbs got them all on the field at Qualcomm! By 2005 the baseball camp moved to Kingston WA and had expanded to include half the town!
A final thought is how he encouraged and coached people to be their very best self. I’ve been reading the stories submitted by so many club members, and I couldn’t do a better job of describing the impact he had on other people. Just read through all the stories and memories of Jim, and you’ll see the impact this unique quality had on others.
Craig: What do you think Jim would consider as his greatest accomplishments as TCSD President?
Dee Dee: Jim was proud of how the membership grew during his tenure. I think membership grew from around 350 in 2002 to about 1,200 in 2007. He was such a strong believer in the power of sport to transform lives, and he was constantly looking for new ways to improve the range of experiences the club could make available to people. Jim was adamant about only being around positive people and creating positive experiences. I think he would be proud of the hundreds of positive experiences he helped make happen. Oh, and the food! He would be proud of how well he used food to connect people with each other!
Craig: What are some of your favorite memories of being part of the TCSD community?
Dee Dee: When we were planning my move from Ohio to San Diego, Jim said, “You’re not going to be a spectator, Dee Dee. You’ve got to be a participant.” So, the tri club became a very important part of my life! I remember the first club race I did. It was at Glorietta Bay in Coronado. I finished in the middle of the pack (as always!) but ended up in an intense down-to-the-wire battle with Malin. I had never exerted myself so much and had never felt so exhilarated!
I remember the Midnight Century! I have no idea how Jim came up with the idea to start a century ride at midnight from Borrego Springs to Solana Beach, but we must have made six planning trips along the route, plotting every mile marker and identifying the best spots for break stations. I think 12 or 18 brave souls signed up for that event.
I remember when Jim came up with the idea for the desert training camps – oh my gosh, the planning that went into those events! It was never enough to just bring people together for a weekend of training and fun; it was always about what new experiences we could bring to bear, like the Hilltop Challenge.
I remember all the Friday night cove swims and then later all the Monday night Shores swims – always followed by food and socializing.
Craig: How was the TCSD helpful to you after Jim passed away?
Dee Dee: In the days after Jim died I was blown away by all the new stories about him people shared with me. So many stories I hadn’t heard; it was as if I was still getting to know him. And then, in the weeks and months that followed those first horrible days, I found incredible comfort in remembering and thinking about how many people Jim had touched through triathlon. Ultimately, it was too difficult for me to stay close to the club, but I have treasured those memories throughout the past ten years.
Craig: What is your life like today? The universe works in strange ways. I’m sure I don’t deserve to have a second love of my life, and I’m grateful — every single day — to have met Pete. He’s an incredible person who has had a fascinating life and, as it did for Jim, the ocean plays an absolutely central part in Pete’s life. He’s a paddler (prone not stand-up), surfer, swimmer and professional sailor, and he has to be immersed in water on a daily basis to maintain his equilibrium. He’s got a huge cache of incredible stories about his experiences racing sailing yachts all over the world, and he can tell a story like nobody’s business!
In 2015 I got an opportunity to work in Australia, which is coincidentally Pete’s home country. We’ve been in Sydney for a little over two years and plan to stay one or two more. We live in the beach suburb of Freshwater in a little apartment that is right on the beach – we can hear the ocean waves all night. I still work in financial services, and every morning I take a ferry through the Sydney Harbour, right past the Sydney Opera House and disembark under the Sydney Harbour bridge. What an amazing commute – I pinch myself every day. I don’t bike or run any more, but I do still swim every week. There’s an incredible swim from the south end of Manly Beach into a little cove called Shelley Beach – the water is crystal clear and the fish abundant.
Back in 2000 when Jim said, “You’re not going to be a spectator, Dee Dee. You’ve got to be a participant,” he meant that both for triathlon and for life. It’s one of the many things for which I’m so grateful when I think about Jim’s influence on my life and, I think this is an apt way to sum up his legacy.
Craig – I asked our members this question – What are your fondest memories of Jim? Here are their responses.
Bob Babbitt – The year was 2007 and we were at La Jolla Shores for an Aquathlon, one of the awesome series of social events that Jim McCann added to the Tri Club of San Diego’s schedule during his time at the helm of the world’s best Tri Club. One of the reasons the club has been so successful over the years has been the spirit of the inclusion that Jim made such a huge part of the TCSD culture. It wasn’t about being an elitist, it was about being welcoming. Jim’s mantra was simple: come join us and let’s participate in and celebrate the world’s best sport…..together.
While we were standing there that evening, a person brand new to our sport emerged from the changing rooms in a wetsuit that Jim had just loaned him so he could join us for the swim/run event that evening.
One problem. This young man had the wetsuit on inside out. Now, if this was a different triathlon club, or if Jim wasn’t this very special man who gave so much to each and every one of us, he and the others around him might have drawn attention to the mistake and poked fun at the guy who couldn’t tell the outside of a wetsuit from the inside.
Instead, Jim casually strolled towards him, put his arm around his shoulder and quietly suggested that there might be a different way to put this particular wetsuit on.
That small moment is something that I see in my mind’s eye every time I think of Jim McCann, a man who gave so much to so many, a man who helped to build a loving and caring triathlon village here in San Diego and a man who left us way too soon.
Sergio Borges – I always remember Jim smiling, playful and well loved by many. It was always fun to hang out with him. He always found a way to bring peace to all and deal with problems with an ease. Great guy, Will never forget!
Wendy Harp – Jim is the reason I joined TCSD. When I did my first triathlon in 2000, I was ‘ready’ to join TCSD. I was really intimidated by the club, but Jim had a warmth about him that made me feel as ease. Not only did I join the club, but he talked me into becoming the New Members Coordinator. With just his smile and presence, he made me feel welcomed and a part of a great TCSD family.
Barefoot Henry Chan – We joined TCSD about the same time back in 1988 (maybe ’89). We were both new to triathlons, so the club was our life for years. My most memorable event was on a Friday evening cove swim. We were the only ones that showed up, and the surf was up. We went out, and I got pushed up near the cliffs, and a lifeguard had to reorient me towards the way out. Jim and I regrouped past the breaks, and we decided to just swim to the Shores and walk back, barefoot.
Nice that Road Runner Sports in Kearny Mesa has a permanent marker honoring Jim.
Richard Duquette – Jim was well respected by the TCSD membership because he empowered people. He would support those willing to contribute. I remember him saying, if the membership wants something (within reason), give it to them. Then,Jim would follow through. He had integrity and was easy to approach. With the nay sayers, he would “appoint” them to lead the project they questioned, this thereby called out those genuinely interested in contributing. This had the effect of creating an inclusive team of membership and sponsors all pulling in the same direction. I do miss him and his lovely wife Dee Dee, who would attend club camp outs. I thank Jim for giving me a lifetime TCSD membership, as we had a great working relationship.
Drew Peterson – I remember the feeling of Jim McCann. You felt a certain way around him – welcomed and liked and valued. You felt like you had known him and were long time friends. I remember after my bike crash on Torrey Pines he went to the hospital and talked with my parents for a long time and supported them. We have never forgotten this act of friendship to this day. Jim was so encouraging and you felt a sense of happiness and inspiration around him. He was happy doing what he did and was such a cool person. In my mind he was the perfect leader and would have been the best president of anything he set his mind too. Confident, friendly, inclusive and a sense of deep peace and strength. Something so rare today. Strangely my late dachshund Pumkin shared many of the same traits. Ah right now I just thought of his dog Sante I believe. OK shortly after he passed I was riding up on Laguna and saw someone who looked exactly like him. I turned my head and looked back at him and waved and he smiled at me. I will never forget Jim and he will be in my heart always. I have always held him in my mind as the perfect leader.
Chris Costales – In five words, gentle voice and infectious smile.
But my fondest memory was at the west coast Xterra championships in Temecula where we talked about all the triathlon specific gadgets we could add to my 2001 Xterra. “Right here we could add a water bottle that is heated by the sun. Attach a hose and bam, you have an outdoor shower. What about a pull out ramp so your dog can easily get into the back, like a moving truck?” He had about 20 ideas and we chatted for at least an hour. Great guy.
Barbara Javor – Before Jim was TCSD president, he was the race director full of ideas how to make races different from plain vanilla triathlons. I served as his assistant. When we raced at Glorietta Bay in Coronado, sometimes he tossed tennis balls into the water marked with numbers that represented time bonuses for the competitors. The catch was if you grabbed any of the balls, you had to carry them on the bike and run as well to get the bonus. At one of the races he put everyone’s running shoes in a pile, which benefited the slower competitors. At our Miramar Lake races, we rented row boats instead of swam, and rollerblading could substitute for running. Sometimes we had mystery events included, like grabbing a plant bulb from a box and running up a hillside to plant it at the top. One time each competitor had to figure out a charade before crossing the finish line.
Before Jim took over as race director, there wasn’t much of a post-race feast beyond bagels, muffins, and Gatorade. Jim started bringing a camp stove and he cooked pancakes. From there, the post-race feast grew and served as the best way for club members to get to know each other both after races and before our monthly meetings. Before that, when people finished their races they would pack up and leave with participants still on the race course. That wasn’t very inspiring for slow athletes like me. Jim instituted the fourth event, eating, to make the club events more social.
David Lang – His unsurpassed friendliness! He never “met a stranger” and made everyone feel welcome.
Lianne Chu – I have such fond memories of Jim and I agree with you that he truly built TCSD. When I first started TCSD years ago I remember that one of my first activities was the track workouts at UC high. I didn’t know anyone and the practice was a series of 4×400 relays (2 members per team and we would each run twice). Jim came up to me (probably noticing that I was a little clueless and alone) to be my partner. I had no idea that he was the president of the club. He made me feel so welcome and introduced me to everyone around us. At future TCSD events he continued to remember my name and was always so good about introducing everyone around him making TCSD feel like such a warm family.
At the TCSD camping trips Jim would put together the “hilltop challenge”. My kids were so young at the time- they are now 16 and 18 and to this day they still fondly remember him and this event. Jim would have us run up the steep mountain behind the campsite, collecting bags of random goodies…he would have prize bags stuffed with goofy hats and party supplies. No joke, we still have some of the hats from those events.
Jim also supported a family friendly environment of TCSD by supplying us with huge bags of rubber duckies and prizes for a monthly kids event at the aquathlons – we called this the aquackathon and it introduced the next generation to the enjoyment of being active.
About a month before Jim passed away, he and Dee Dee had a fabulous party at their house welcoming a huge group of TCSD members. It was the last time I saw him. What a fabulous and influential person Jim was to myself and my family. We all miss him and think of him with such beautiful memories.
Darrell Steele – Jim had an unassuming way with people that was disarming, while also being a master at painting a vision for how they could get involved in the Tri Club. I experienced this first hand and it changed my life. I was eating lunch after a Saturday ride with Jim, Dee Dee his wife and another friend. Bobby, the ride leader, had just accepted a position in LA and announced he was moving. As we ate, I causally asked Jim what he was going to do about the ride. He responded, “What are you talking about?” I then replied, asking “Who was going to lead the ride now that Bobby was leaving?” Jim simply smiled and said, “You.” I laughed at the joke until I realized he was still just smiling. I then protested, saying that I hadn’t been riding with the group long enough, that I wasn’t qualified, that I couldn’t commit and any other excuse I could think of. He continued smiling and assured me that it would be great and I would be fine. After I exhausted my excuses, I finally relented and agreed with a great deal of reluctance and several stipulations. That was more than 11 years ago, and those years have been more remarkable then I could have ever imagined. His belief in me and faith that I would grow into being the ride leader, have been a blessing to me. Having the opportunity to be involved with the TCSD Saturday Del Mar Ride has enriched my life in incalculable ways. I’ve had the privilege of meeting remarkable people from around the world. I’ve gotten to know and grown close to many whom I call very dear friends and met one who has become my best friend, Laura my wife.
Jonathan Toker – This is both an easy answer, because there are many fond memories of Jim, and a tough one, because it’s painful to remember him and difficult to chose any particular memory or small subset of memories of my friendship with Jim.
The odd thing is that it doesn’t feel like 10 years since Jim passed away. It feels almost like yesterday, and my memories of time in San Diego with the tri club feel both fleeting and enduringly indelible.
Jim was a paternal figure, but in the best of ways as a friendship of equals.
One of my fondest memories of Jim is at any number of summer Friday evening cove swims and potlucks. I have a lump in my throat as I think about all the times he seemingly effortlessly got everything and everybody organized. He was a master orchestral leader. And his masterpiece was a coming together of strangers and friends with food, standing around with a soggy plate or two of the most delicious food. Often based more on circumstance than on haute-cuisine. Jim was so welcoming, without judgement or examination. It was as if Jim had an unMcCanny (sorry!) ability to just see the best in people.
Again, at the Glorietta Bay club races or annual Pine Valley Duathlon, and Jim somehow managed to help direct the race, host the post-race spread, and keep everybody happy.
I give Jim credit for helping give me the courage to live life and take chances, in particular as I started up my own company, and his passing was one reason I was able to get up enough courage to pursue my dreams and leave my job to pursue my dream – in October 2007, just a few months after his passing.
In the absence of somebody loved, one finds solace and strength based on their memory. I still miss Jim today, though I know he would be (quietly) proud of himself and how he positively affected those who were fortunate to call him a friend. I miss Jim.
Judy Seid – Jim McCann built the TCSD into what it is today due to his spirit of inclusiveness, encouragement and his true inner fun loving nature. The club had previously been viewed as a club for “elites” thus kept away many who may have been intimidated to enter the world of triathlon. Instead, Jim transformed the club into a home for anyone and everyone to have support and training so they too could push their own limits without fear of intimidation. Jim started the real beginner Sunday bike rides. Jim started the open water swim training at Glorietta Bay where people could get comfortable in the bay environment. Jim started the Borrego Winter training camps, really just a super fun campout with a 60 mile bike ride on Saturday and the Hill Challenge on Sunday morning before breakfast. Jim had the tennis ball races at Glorietta Bay where we would collect time deduction tennis balls in our swimsuits and carry them back with us. Jim rented a house in La Jolla Village and slept in a tent in the backyard. Jim chose Dee Dee as his wife. Dee Dee shared Jim with all of us! There were prizes, always prizes. There was always food, lots of it. Jim started the Aquathlon and brought tables of food for afterwards…the club grew! Jim encouraged others publicly and privately. If you weren’t volunteering in the club, Jim would get you to start doing something. Outside the club, Jim, who played college baseball, encouraged my daughter to start a softball training camp after she graduated college. He taught her how to start a course online and then purchased and had 2 boxes of regulation softballs shipped to her to start her off. We were shocked at his generosity! Jim didn’t need recognition, he did things quietly. Jim regularly practiced random acts of kindness. My daughter’s second job now is coaching a High School softball team in her home in Massachusetts. She is 32. She will always remember him and is a better person because of him. Jim’s legacy is living on every day. Thank you Jim for everything you gave us!
Bill Gibbs – I have countless fond memories of Jim. He was welcoming to anyone and everyone. His casual style of leadership was perfect for the club. He took ownership of the club so it was like family to him. The way he “delegated” is something that most people will probably remember. I was a victim of his delegation when he asked me to be vice-president of the club. I enjoyed volunteering for the club but becoming vice-president was the last thing on my mind. The next thing I knew I was VP. It was hard to say no to Jim. Jim helped give me the courage and confidence to take on other challenges in life and I will always be thankful to him for that. Jim worked hard to organize club races, club meetings, social activities, and countless other events and somehow he made it look easy because he enjoyed it so much. I agree that Jim built the club. If I’m not mistaken, membership grew from a few hundred to two thousand under his leadership.
Claudia Flynn – Jim McCann was a wonderful person and a great ambassador of triathlons. He really motivated and helped many of us with the open water swim at La Jolla Shores. He wanted us to have the best experience in the water and excel at it. He helped us overcome the fear of open water swim with his passion about the ocean and his love of dolphins. He took care of us and planted the seed to love triathlons and make it a lifestyle. Not only was he a great president, but he organized the aquathlons and beginner races and made TCSD a stronger club with a remarkable increase in the number of new members. His smile and positivism was contagious and undeniable. After our last swim with him, there were so many dolphins that night surfing and playing in the water. I will never forget after Jim passing, Dee Dee said that “it was like the dolphins were saying bye to Jim”. He definitely made an impression on everyone that had the privilege of meeting him and he will never be forgotten. I’m forever thankful.
Matt Sparks – I was having some sink or swim moments round about the time I met Jim. He was one of the people who helped me swim. He was my first client and it was his enthusiasm that caused me to create what turned into the Corporation, MHS-Works, Inc. Originally called Trustworthy Handywork and Custom Projects or THCP, it soon outgrew its humble beginnings and became a Licensed construction company. Dee Dee also hired us several times. And it was Dee Dee, who took me out in my first ever open water swim at LJ Shores.
Elaine Bergeron – I remember Jim being very inclusive and always connecting people. He even introduced a few people that later went on to get married. The first time I went to a swim, I was nervous as I didn’t know anyone. Jim told a few people who I was and where I worked to spark conversation. He had such an ease and natural way of approaching people. From that point on, I felt like I belonged as part of TCSD. The first time I saw Jim on a Saturday TCSD ride, I was surprised to see him on a mountain bike. I learned that he did this so that he could stay with the folks in the back. Thank you Jim for the way you touched our hearts, and showing us how to live.
Jimena Florit (Dolzadelli) – Jim was one of a kind. He always found a new and extraordinary way of doing ordinary things. That put him in an exclusive club, that’s for sure. He loved people, he loved sports, but what he loved most was helping people to be happy at doing sports. He dedicated his life to the TCSD and the Aquathlons at the Shores. Jim coached kids baseball and answered any questions anyone might have pretty much about anything.
Genuine from the heart, he cared. And you knew it! Jim had a clear vision of where he was going, and lead the Tri Club for many years, growing the number of Tri enthusiasts even if you didn’t own a bike! And if there was a Friday night swim at the cove, with a potluck after, you knew you better step up your game with his NO CHiPS and SALSA policy. He had 2 loves to share his free time: his beloved wife Dee Dee and his sweet companion dog Sante. If you knew Jim, you knew Sante! Slow moving dog, sweet like him. People like Jim seem to often pop up in the memory at random but meaningful times. He was one of a kind who will be missed forever.
Denise Bienias – My fondest memories of Jim McCann was his very calm, yet strong commitment towards triathlon and all it encompassed. Jim was always the quiet guy off to the side at the TCSD Coronado club races, as they were getting bigger and bigger, fielding any questions and giving sound advice to any TCSD newbie that asked or appeared to need it. I remember always the smorgasbord of goodies, including the muffins, after all the club races. He just quietly went about his business of running the club and going thru his own training. He loved the sport and it was evident from all his long hours and hard work he dedicated as President of the Tri Club. We were so fortunate to have been a part of Jim’s legacy and always remember him fondly.
Bob Rosen – The year was 2001. Penticton, British Columbia, Ironman Canada, I was up there with Bill Gibbs who served as Club VP for the same time Jim was Prez, About 7 years. As anyone who’s ever done an IM knows, the evening before is pretty much on a schedule. Dinner at 5 PM, set out all your gear. Settle in early, which we did. Try to deal with the nerves. So the night before the race, at about 7:30 PM, the phone rings, it’s Jim. He asks if we’d like to join him for a picnic dinner at Okanagan Lake Beach. We were downright befuddled by Jim’s call. “It’s the night before an Ironman and you haven’t eaten yet? Is your gear ready?” “Nah” Jim says, I thought it’d be fun to hang at the beach with you guys. I can pack my gear afterwards.”
It was just another day in the life. Jim’s life. Living in the moment.
Steve Tally – I had the great pleasure to get to know Jim during my first few years in the club. In addition to his unassuming and gentle disposition that put everyone at ease, I have a few specific memories of Jim that stand out.
One memory doesn’t sound like much but is very typical of Jim and his way. At one of my first Aquathlons, I had just come around the pylon to head back for the second loop of the run and Jim was there. He said “Go Steve Tally!” which made me feel like a million bucks as I was a newer member and the President knew my name! Then I heard him calling out names of all those behind me as well, and this continued until I was out of earshot. I realized he took the trouble to learn names of as many members as he could. I could see the confidence it gave people at the turnaround. When I came in for the finish he was still at it standing there cheering each member on by name (we were admittedly a much smaller club then!).
The way the Tri 101 started was also very typical of Jim. I had helped answer some of the beginner questions before a club meeting and mentioned to him that most beginners had the same questions and that we should have a monthly meeting to answer them. Those that knew him could guess his response: “OK, go ahead and get that setup and let me know what you need.” You had to watch what you said around Jim!
It was an honor to know you Jim!
Osamu Chiba – It’s not easy for me to pick one particular day or event as my fondest memory of Jim McCann. Instead, I would say the overall closeness to him like family = my fondest memory.
Around 1999 ~ 2001 I would show up at Jim’s place every Saturday or Sunday afternoon. If he was there, I stayed for a couple of hours and talked about all kinds of topics, such as about triathlon, camping, his business, etc.
And we would call each other if necessary, like taking care of his pets while he was out of town.
I sure miss those years…
Thomas Johnson (TCSD President 2009 to 2012) – I have many great memories of Jim. Here are a few that stand out for me.
I met Jim at La Jolla Cove on a Friday evening in the summer of 1998 looking out over the Cove. Jim was very outgoing and had a calm sense about him that was very welcoming. We both had a love of ocean swimming. Jim offered me a cheeseburger from the potluck after my swim. I asked him what group this was and I had my first introduction to the Greatest Club on the Planet! The Triathlon Club of San Diego. It was four more years and a few more free cheeseburgers before I joined the club. My first volunteer position with the club you ask? Potluck Captain! Very clever. I didn’t even see it coming.
After a Monday evening La Jolla Shores swims in late summer 2002 Jim & Dee Dee invited me out for dinner to Su Casa over by Wind ‘n Sea. They shared their story of how they met on an adventure challenge in MOAB and fell in love. I realized right then that I met two very special people and was grateful for their friendship and their love of trying to connect people in the club they thought would be a good match. I didn’t find my true love that year personally but I bet we have a marriage or two today thanks to those behind the scene efforts by the McCann’s.
Back in Spring of 2005 Jimmy told me about this great idea he had for a new Tri Club event…. The Aquathlon which has grown into one of the most popular TCSD events and really embodies what Jim’s mission was in connecting people, exercising and enjoy some food and a cold drink with friends and family at the beach with a killer sunset. I recall asking Jim what his goal was for participation for the Aquathlon’s … can you guess? 25 participants was the goal. Jim would be so stoked to know we have to cap attendance now.
Finally I will always remember the FREE seeds for plants, veggies and flowers Jim would give away at every Club Meeting. I didn’t know Jim had “another job” outside of the club. Home Depot Rep.
John Montanile – I think my fondest memories of Jim were how generous he was with his time and knowledge. We did the beginner coaching together and he was so encouraging of anyone who wanted to try triathlon. A very positive encouraging influence on the beginners and me! 1997-99 I think.
Raja Lahti-McMahon – Jim was the man who bound us all together.
I had no idea what it was like running a “club,” but felt his warmth with TCSD and became part of the family. He passed shortly thereafter. The club he left behind was one of the most empowering, friendly, wonderful groups of people I have ever met. I immediately volunteered to help run the sponsorship part of the club after he passed and learned so much along the way.
My memory of Jim is one of complete friendship, no matter who you were… and for the love of the sport. Swim, Bike, Run, Fun. Whatever it needed to get there is what Jim did… and we will.
We all miss you Jim.
Bob Doyle (TCSD President 1995 to 1997) – Sadness but many smiles is best way to summarize life without Jim. There have been many times and situations where I would have wanted to have Jim there or be able to pick up the phone to get Jim’s always unique perspective (whether it was serious or funny). He and I would talk about all things – news, politics, sports, and certainly the Tri Club and the world of triathlons. Every time these conversations always put a smile on my face. Jim was a great observer of people and situations. And Jim had a heart of gold. Jim was always there to help others whether it be people or animals. Jim got great joy from seeing others do well. Maybe it was doing a baseball camp for his nephew and friends, helping someone find a job or their career path, or thinking of ways to make the Tri Club, or someone in the club, better, Jim was always a positive force/motivator for so many people.
Thinking about past times with Jim or future times without – I think of what Jim did or would have done or said – I smile. Of course, I am sad at times that I and many (including my children who never got to meet Jim) can’t be experiencing more of Jim’s unique perspectives and humor. However, I remain thankful for the time with Jim and the many smiles he continues to generate for me and to those who knew him.
Brian Long (TCSD President 2007 to 2009) – In many ways Jim is still a big part of my life. He was very important to me as a model of service to others and the impact one person could have on another. His actions cultivated my desire to help others into a passion to help build an amazing community we call the Triathlon Club of San Diego. I had an amazing time walking with a Buddha and will be forever impacted and grateful.
Rita Reyes-Williamson (TCSD President 1998) – When I joined TCSD back in the mid 1990’s, I had never done a triathlon. I recall going to a couple of meetings and everyone was so welcoming and encouraging. They didn’t care that I was new to the sport. Jim, in particular, was “Mr. Welcome Wagon” although Gurujan was right there competing for that title! Jim suggested that I join them at the Tuesday track workouts, Friday night swims and the Saturday group rides, which I did and EVERY time I showed up Jim made a point of coming up to me and bringing me in the fold. And he did this for EVERY new person who came out. Through the years, Jim was the positive voice in my ear (literally) when I was sucking wind at track, suffering in my granny gears up Scripps Poway Parkway and my faithful draftee at La Jolla Cove – because I could actually swim pretty fast! To me Jim was and is TCSD. He was the heart of our Club and set high standards for those of us who remain to build the most amazing Tri Club in his honor.
Jim Vance – I remember Jim was always giving of himself. I was just an up and coming pro, and he pulled me aside and had a lot of great ideas to help me see the bigger picture. He transformed the Triathlon Club of San Diego, into a program that had so many events, he really knew what was needed to grow the sport and develop a true community. He always saw the bigger picture. We are still enjoying the benefits of many of the things he implemented, and developed. It helped me become the triathlete I was, and the coach I am today.
I remember the day I heard he died. I was preparing to compete at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and I got the news. I had to sit down, and shed some tears. Suddenly, he had taught me the bigger picture again, that what we have in the sport is special, even in ways we don’t know. I miss him still.
Tom Piszkin (TCSD President 1987 to 1988) – Jim joined the club in 1988, during my second term as president. He often engaged me with new angles for the club’s operations.
Always inquisitive and creative never pushy, I could see the wheels turning as he pondered new approaches to how we were serving our then 300 members. Over the next 10 years of his informal “internship” he gradually acquired all of the knowledge and skills that led to the most exponential growth in the club’s 33 year history. He had the perfect personality to foster a decentralized structure. Jim was Tom Sawyer charging his friends for the privilege of painting his fence. His integrity and enthusiasm will always be encoded in the club’s DNA.
Jessica Gehl – I first met Jim at a La Jolla Cove Friday Night Swim of Labor Day Weekend, 2000. He approached me after the swim and invited me to a group dinner. I hesitated since I didn’t know anyone, but he gently pushed me into it. He worked hard to make me feel welcome. During dinner, Dee Dee invited me on a 60 mile ‘chic’ ride the next day, which I also joined. It turned out to be an awesome first weekend in San Diego for this Midwest transplant. That was the beginning of my friendship with Jim and Dee Dee.
He would always try to figure out how to get more people involved in triathlon. Once I asked him why he cared so much about growing the sport. He had three reasons, people’s health, purpose for people to come together, that it got people outdoors in the natural environment. He believed that if people were enjoying nature that they would fight to keep it as it should be.
Jim had thoughtful intention in every action and word he spoke, although we usually didn’t realize it. He was always working to improve everything around him. He is still missed today and forever.
Craig Zelent – Jim’s last name could have been Idea Man. He was always coming up with great new ideas. In 1999 Jim suggested that I create the new TCSD position of Ironman Coach. I had never been a coach before, but I decided to go for it. 18 years later, I have no regrets. I am so fortunate to have served as the club’s Ironman Coach for 15 of those years. I have met a lot of great people in the process and hopefully was able to help them achieve their dream.
My favorite memory of Jim that illustrates the size of his heart was his Adopt a Dog program. Jim gave some time at the club meetings for a representative of the San Diego Humane Society to bring up a dog seeking a new home. I am sure quite a few dogs found their new homes because of Jim.
Thank you Dee Dee for sharing Jim and sharing your story. We miss you in San Diego, but we are all so happy you have found Pete. You deserve the best!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or email@example.com.