I joined Team in Training (TNT), SF in 2012 to train for my first triathlon, in honor of my mom who passed away several months earlier from fucking cancer. I met so many others through this who understood where I was coming from, and consequently helped me raise my spirits.
One of those people was this guy named AJ Jabonero, one of the mentors. At first sighting, I didn't meet him. I'm kind of shy so I would just see him at all our training sessions and would just acknowledge his attractive humor and endurance in the sport from a distance. I thought, "AJ huh.. seems fun, everybody seems to gravitate towards him… I hope I get to meet him soon.".. "hm, filipino too.. nice!"
He was one of the faster people on our team, he had the sweetest gear, and the coolest style–not afraid to don the loudest colors. I loved it. I wanted to be friends with this guy! Seriously, at Wildflower 2012 training weekend, I remember just observing his side of the campground with his cool bike, cool tent, and all the fun people hanging around his area thinking, I wish I could hang out there too. (you know, don't get me wrong, I easily could have. I was just too shy, or maybe intimidated? by his coolness and I thought I wasn't cool enough? lol) I don't remember the exact moment of when we formally met, probably months after the season started, but I believe he came up to me (finally) and complimented me on my bike (which wasn't that nice, but it looked nice haha). And that's when he said, "it's not about how fast you are, it's about how good you look out there!" Laughter ensued, and that was the start of a common bond.
As time went on, we'd chat more… about gear, about our background, racing, our relationships, what motivates us… The obvious reason(s) for what motivated him was Izzy and his father. Ultimately, to be a better human being, training and racing to strengthen his body, his mind, and his family/friends (I categorize this in my book as Inspiration). Both stricken with cancer, Izzy the fortunate one to still live and tell about it. She was still a baby then. Now, she's growing to be this charming little lady that wins the hearts of every one she meets, just like her dad.
We would continue to train with TNT heading into 2013. And because he was so motivated by how he'd realized his talents and inspiration with triathlon was legit and by how he can continue to inspire Izzy and others in this same fight against cancer, he came up with his own team… Team Cancer Sucks.
He came up to me at one of the training sessions with TNT and told me about his idea, and that he wanted me to be a part of it. Shut up! me? Not long into his talk about the details of it I had already committed to it in my head because heck, the fact that he wanted me to be on his team?!… um yeah buddy! It was him, me, Louis (his long time friend from college days (right louis?)), Darren (close TNT homie to AJ), and Chris Douglas (a recent friend of a friend, who now is one of AJ's BFFs). We were all friends who loved endurance sports and wanted to share in the same mission of inspiring others in the fight against cancer through endurance sports. Although the "official" org never commenced, the spirit of the Team still lives (and hopefully one day soon, we'll gather again to make some essence of it come to fruition… for you AJ).
|Darren, Izzy, AJ w Levi in arms (sorry i cut u off Levi) at FedEx signing 501c docs for TCS|
And that was the last time I saw/talked to him till I got a text from my friend Troy (who knows AJ through his sister who knows … something like that. you see, AJ knows everybody) who said "have you talked to AJ lately?" I said not since a couple weeks ago. So, I hit him up… and then I looked on FB (I rarely go on FB)… man. Shot to the heart.
Through all our proceeding texts, his FB posts, and just by how I know how strong his inherent spirit is, I truly believed like he did that this was "just another bump in the road" and "God has great plans" for him.
God STILL truly has great plans for you my brother. I don't know if you really realized how much you impacted my life; how much you are an inspiration to us all. Melissa, Izzy, Levi, and your beloved family and friends are all so lucky to have you in our lives. I'm at a loss of words… I just miss you, and like I was telling Joanne last night after we heard the news, I don't know how to pinpoint my feelings right now except that I feel like I want to do everything I can to show you how much you mean to me.
I love you baddy. RIP. Say hi to my mom. Please work together to keep making me better.
(Damn I can't wait to train… You'll be the reason why I might win my next race)