I arrived at the Austin airport ridiculously early this morning and ran into Alicyn, my doubles partners from my days of junior tennis. What are the chances that I would run into Alicyn on my way to New Haven, where I am going to visit my doubles partner from my boarding school days? Those sorts of coincidences make me think I’m doing the right things with my life these days.
Heading out to see Sarah and running into Alicyn totally got me thinking about my days of playing tennis. I spent hours and hours, both before and after school on the tennis court. I was living in Corpus Christi at the time, and Mom and I travelled constantly on the weekends for tournaments in Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, Wichita Falls and eventually to California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri and elsewhere, as I became a national player. We were always on the go. I regularly packed and unpacked, always hoping I hadn’t forgotten anything important, like my tennis racket, shoes or bloomers. (Yes, I wore skirts and, therefore, had to wear bloomers. Tennis clothes weren’t terribly cool back in the day.)
I realized that, in many ways, I’m still living that life. I workout before and after work. I travel lots across the country, and many times, Mom still travels with me. I’m constantly making lists so I don’t forget my bike shoes, gloves, race belt, lucky hat, or lucky socks. The differences are that I’m doing triathlons and running, rather than playing tennis. I’m making the plans instead of playing whatever tournaments Mom signed me up for. And I’m competing only with myself. (The clothes are still pretty uncool, except for the finishers’ clothes. Those are super cool.)
I wonder if I would have embraced the races I do now if I hadn’t been an athlete as a little kid. I’ve always juggled my activities. I’ve always loved being physical in some way. I’ve always enjoyed working hard and then putting my feet up with a good book. As a kid, I put my feet up in the back of the car while Mom drove me home from tournaments. These days, I’m putting my feet up in hotels.
Then and now, I’ve made incredible friends through my sports. In my youth, tennis was about Alicyn, Sarah, Michelle, Teri, Anne, Heather, Jennifer, Tina, Ericca, David, and others. Today, triathlons and runs are about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda, Robin, Catherine, Kerry, Poppe, Jenny, Fred, MJ, Judy, Betsy, and so many more. My tennis trophies are in boxes in my garage. I suspect some day, my race medals will be too. (Maybe not the Ironman medals!) But the people I met along the way remain in my heart as the best part of what I did then and what I do now.
I remember being in Hurst-Euless-Bedford are playing a match with Alicyn. I had just screwed up a point, and we stood at the back fence trying to rally one another’s spirits. I stood with my back to the fence, and I got so angry at myself that I banged the edge of my racket against the fence behind me. Little did I know that we stood right by a pole. I heard the crack of my racket when it hit the pool. Oops. That broken racket would be a tough one to explain to my mother. At that point we laughed so hard. I don’t remember if we won or lost the match, but I remember that we laughed.
That I recall laughter that took place more than twenty-five years ago tells me that I was doing something right then. And that I see my friend today and still feel the same warmth towards her that I did when we were kids trying to find our way on the tennis court tells me that what came out of tennis for me was not a skill or a drive to athleticism. I ended up with sweet and wonderful friendships. Lots of sweet and wonderful friendships.
I remember the day Jeanie called me in 2007 and told me to log onto ironman.com. I remember the cheerleading she did. When I reminded her about the size of my ass, she quickly assured me that it was the size of my heart that mattered. I remember the shock and the joy of registering for that first Ironman, and I remember all of the laughter and the occasional tears shed along the way as we trained that first year. I remember the race, but mostly, when I think about Coeur d’Alene in 2008, I think about Jeanie, Erin, Malinda and Robin and the friendships that grew out of that race.
I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met along the way. I’m so grateful for each and every partner through my adventures. Then and now.