Honesty, friendship and personal growth

The plan was simple, but I knew it wouldn’t be easily executed. Mary and I were both doing the sprint distance triathlon at Musselman in Geneva this past July. That was her feature race of the weekend. Me? I was doing the half Ironman the next day on my summer tour of ridiculous races. So technically I should have taken the sprint race easy.

But where’s the fun in that?

So here was the plan: Mary is an excellent swimmer. She also is a few years younger than I am putting her in an earlier wave. I am slightly stronger on the bike. So Mary would swim her normal race and I would catch up to her on the bike. But here’s the thing — her wave went off about 6 minutes before mine. Add that to my swim deficit and this was a ridiculous amount of time for me to make up in an easy race. But I did. Every time I saw someone wearing a yellow top I put the hammer down to try and catch that person, hoping it was Mary. It usually wasn’t But finally, I caught her — the final few miles of the race. I was more spent than I wanted to admit.

I bullied Mary into doing her first tri last year. And she’s still my friend.

We took off on the run staying together, doing more of a walk-run than anything else, chatting with each other the entire time. We crossed the finish line and did our Buzz Lightyear dance to celebrate and laugh. (The Buzz Lightyear Dance is best explained over pancakes, but suffice it to say, since it involves me, it is on this side of ridiculous.)

After that race, Mary decided her next goal was the Finger Lakes Triathlon. She did that race the previous year, her first at the intermediate distance, and while she finished, she struggled on the run. She wanted to take that race on again to do it the right way. And so tomorrow she’ll line up, ready for the challenge and more prepared than ever before.

Indeed, it’s a big weekend for my friends and yes, that means a big weekend for me writing about my friends.

And over the course of 2012, Mary has become one of my best friends. Life threw both of us massively unfair curve balls this winter and the silver lining of all the crap has been a stronger friendship. We’ve road tripped to Vermont to visit friends and, frankly, just get the heck out of Dodge. We’ve texted. We’ve vented. We’ve laughed. We’ve watch each other grow from brokenhearted girls to confident women who move forward with their lives and dream new dreams.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary this week since I won’t be able to be in Rochester for her triathlon triumph. She is one of the most honest people I’ve ever met. She will let me whine and get the crazy out of my system before gently offering her blunt observation which forces me to see the situation from another vantage point. Truth be told, this immediately doesn’t sit well in my head, but it is exactly what I need to hear. Mary is the friend always in my corner yet calling me out on my bullshit, even if she doesn’t realize that’s exactly what she’s doing.

This year, I picked three incredibly difficult endurance challenges to train for and right about now, two weeks away from Pain in the Alleganies, I’m ready to be done. I’m ready to amp down the intensity. I’m ready for my easy mid-week run to be shorter than 7 miles. I’m ready to sleep and plan other autumn activities since this is my favorite time of year which often goes by in a blur of track repeats and brick workouts.

But what this year of constant motion and long, intense training has shown me is how much I have in my life. I’ve created and strengthened friendships. I’ve ironically learned balance. I’ve seen what it is I love and moved toward doing more of that. I’ve learned to approach those things I don’t exactly love with a smile and detached sense of humor which make those crappy life events not so horrible after all. I’ve learned that going out and messing up is not just OK, but what makes the journey so much fun.

Mary is going to kick ass on Sunday. Of this I am sure. And I know that my own journey — as an athlete, as a writer, as a teacher, as woman — has been made infinitely more enjoyable and meaningful with her friendship.

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