When I'm out on a long run or long ride, I have alot of time to think about things. Sometimes it's just small stuff like a "to do" list or remembering an old song I want to download for my i-pod. Sometimes it's about intense, life decision type stuff. The alone time helps me think through it and I try to find the answer to the problem. Often it's about my knee's and why do they have to hurt so much while I'm in the middle of a 3 hour run!
And then there are the times when my thoughts drift to those who can't be here, running, biking or just simply being like I am. Those close to me who had to leave this World and are now somewhere else. Hopefully, in a better place. The alone time will do this to you. You get philosophical. Many times these thoughts will give you the strength to carry on.
At the top of my "rememberance list" is my sister April, who died in a car accident at age 30. I was 20 at the time and a junior at the University of Maryland. I know that she would very interested in these triathlon things I do because that's the way she was. She wanted to be involved with what you were into. But these things I do (swimming, running & biking) are for fun and they don't mean a heck of a lot in the big scheme of life. I would galdly trade all of my experiences and good fortune to have her back. To ask her a question, show her pictures of my children or simply give her a hug. Maybe she's one reason why I do triathlon. Maybe it's not for the whole, accomplishment part of it but more that I'm chasing her memory or trying to out race what happened to her. It's been almost 25 years and the pain has faded a bit. But she's still there on my shoulder as I pound out mile 67 on the bike or mile 20 on the run.
Then there is my mother in law, Phyllis. She succumbed to her second bout with breast cancer 6 years ago. It would have been nice to have her at the Ironman finish line last year, standing next to her husband Al, her daughter and my wife, Sean and my kids, her gradnchildren. She would have enjoyed the atmosphere caught up in the dramatics of the event. She had a flair for the dramatic.
I almost always think of my friends who lost siblings too. Don (and U2's Number 1 Fan) lost his brother Michael in a skiing accident. Rich lost his brother Guy in a car accident (less than a month after my sister was killed). Eddie lost his brother, David, when he was hit by a car in Puerto Rico. I think of all them. And I keep going for their memories.
I often think of my good friend from growing up, Steve. He died at the age of 25. They said it was an accident but many of us feel that it was worse than that. It happened at the South Street Seaport in NYC one hot summer. They said he fell off an escalator. I remember many good times with him. Many hilarious times. All those great memories keep me laughing and smiling. One needs a little humor while running in 90 degree heat.
I remember my high school girlfriend's Dad, Jim. He died of cancer soon after I graduated from college. I remember him because of one simple, caring act of kindness he did for me. He did many of kind things but one really stood out. When I had a bad experience my first few days at college, he drove me back to school and helped me work out the problems. If it wasn't for him, my life might be different right now. Maybe I never would have gone back. I'll never forget him for that.
I guess one of the hardest losses is my nephew, Michael, at the age of 10. Michael was in a car accident with his Mom and two of his brothers. Unfortunately, he was the only one that didn't make it. I often think of Mike's smile when I'm out there all alone and it's just me and the road. Alone and depressed that my knee's hurt and my spirit is down. When the finish line seems so far away that I have every doubt in the World that I won't make it, I think of Mike. What would Michael do at this moment? I'll tell you. He would flash that big grin of his and tell me to get moving. Maybe even kick me in the butt to emphasize his point. Mike's face flashed in my mind during Ironman last year. I knew what he wanted me to do. Just keep moving.
Triathlon is a great sport. It's a great way to stay fit and to be part of your life. But it should never be taken too seriously. We can all accomplish great things. Triathlon proves that. And the people that are dear to us, both living and dead, help us to succeed. Those we hold dear to us in our lives won't be here forever. That's a hard fact of life. But it's our job to understand that and live our lives to the fullest because of it.