Sunday, June 29, 2008

In Honor of Babette

I just have to take a moment here to mourn a lost athlete. Although I barely knew her, she inspired me greatly.

When I tell the story of my first-ever triathlon last Summer - of how I started in the "leftover" wave filled with first-timers, Athenas, mountain bikes and age 40+ women - it often turns into a comic display. I explain that since each athlete's age is marked on her calf, I knew that the woman next to me in the corral was 64. Babette introduced herself when she could see how nervous I was and told me that I would be just fine. She gave me some tips on how I should be warming up and then took her place at the waterline.

From there, the story painstakingly details how Babette clobbers me at each stage and how she is in fresh clothes by the time I cross the finish line. Babette is the reason I signed up for the next Key Biscayne triathlon a month later. She is the reason I vowed to go to spin class twice a week and why I bought fins to train better in the pool. And after she trampled me effortlessly again, she was the reason I signed up for the third and final race of the Trilogy.

But although it was disappointing to be bested by someone over twice my age, Babette's poise merited utter respect. She contested atrophy with each climb into a new age category. She was at once motivating and formidable; youthful and seasoned. She loved the sport for the sake of the challenge and for the community that builds itself around it. Babette makes you remember that "Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Babette Kulka
died last Wednesday, training in the choppy ocean waters of Hollywood, Florida.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about your loss. It is truly amazing how we all have the opportunity to change someones life or to make a difference in one, by just being kind.

N.D. said...

This is a nice memory of her and she will continue to inspire you. Sounds like you were meant to meet her and for her to leave this imprint on your life. Sorry for your loss.

houndrat said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. A reminder that we all need to be careful in the ocean. It's the same out here in California. We just had a triathlete in training get attacked by a shark.

carla said...

my condolences as well.


Pkokay said...


My name is Paula Kulka Zeeman and Babette Kulka was my mom. I was on Google today looking for a recent article written about my mom and I found your website. I was so touched to read your article. My mom was an amazing person who touched so many lives. I was so happy to hear that she touched yours. The quote that you added describes my mom to a T. "Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing." - Oliver Wendell Holmes. If you need to get in touch with me you can email me at Thank you for remembering my mom in such a beautiful light!!!