December 9, 2012

At the end of every single day I lay down in bed and I feel an overwhelming sense of privilege. For many things. For my family, my health and for what I get to do each and every single day. Sunday was no exception.

I jumped into an indoor triathlon at one of the local YMCA’s. Ten years ago local legend Bill Hearne began this tradition at the downtown YMCA. I remember him so painstakingly calibrating spinning bikes with weights and bike computers. He loved that race and I did it a few times, because of him. He was about community.

We lost Bill a few years ago, he passed away climbing a mountain. It was  a loss this community has never recovered from, and in a way…. I hope we don’t. His absence leaves a hole in our hearts and I don’t want that to heal. Knowing him made me a better person.

Sunday’s indoor triathlon was for a bigger purpose. The proceeds all went to the educational fund for Heather Boyum, a friend whom we lost this summer so tragically. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I see her brother fairly often. I am inspired by the smiles on her children’s and husband’s faces as they tread through their new reality. Without her. There is a hole in my heart for her as well, again one that I don’t ever want to heal. Because knowing her has made me a better person.

I traveled to the YMCA with somewhat of a heavy heart. Bill and Heather both weighed heavily on me and this heart of mine that is so full of holes. Indoor triathlons are fun in so many ways and so many athletes stay away from them. They consist of a 15 minute swim, a 15 minute ride on a spinning bike and a 15 minute run on a treadmill.

Athletes can be afraid to race when they are not in their peak, and then there are the ones who maintain their peak fitness all year long (that only lasts 2-3 years then they succumb to something). AS I am just beginning my road back and this road to Ironman (which is in August) I am admittedly still so off my game. I am not defined by a result earned in December….. I am proud of it. I know where my fitness is and rather than hide it…. I need to be out there supporting and competing because it’s the mental side I am working on so hard.

For a race like this I will use HR to pace myself. I keep my HR at a certain level on the bike and try to exceed that on the run. I pay no attention to bike speed or bike calibration or run pace on the tready. For me a HR of 170 running means something today and will be 90 seconds or two minutes faster when I am at race weight and at peak fitness. So I don’t try to race a speed and pace I am not fit to be. I don’t try to bust out 6:30 min miles because I don’t have the durability to back it up today like I will in coming months.

So I pace by HR, feel the feel of competition and allow the cards to fall where they fall. I gain so much from getting out and competing and that’s what happened for me today. The race was so well-organized, the volunteers and the competitors were simply awesome and the cause….. there was no better reason to be out there today.

While on the bike a woman came up to me, and immediately I realized it was Becca. Becca from college. from Stony Brook. from a whole separate chapter in my life. I wanted to stop riding and just hug her, it’s been too long. We all dispersed throughout the country so far and wide that even facebook has only reconnected some of us. Later on in the day I reached for my phone and began to dial Dave, our college coach. I stopped myself before I hit “call”. He died this past May, of Cancer. But not before he scolded me for challenging Lance Armstrong to a kick race, as I was a distance swimmer.

Another hole in my heart that I hope never heals. I am a better person because of knowing him.

After the race I got in my car and I drove down the road. Just down the road from the YMCA was Heather’s memorial site. The place where she was killed. I had been carrying around a lei from Hawaii that I wanted to place on her site. This was my real reason for coming here.

heather's site

Last time I was here was in August. With 120 other people. Today I was alone. It was cold and it felt more real than I wanted it to feel. The cold harsh truth was right there in front of me. This world is not the same without her in it. In a way I hope it never is because I never want to forget the beauty of this woman.

I completely lost it standing there on the side of the road. When they say things happen for a reason and that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle I still shake my head. I am still faithless and faithful. I can’t even fathom what that reason is for her husband and for her children. How could that possibly, possibly be true. Her children will wake up Christmas morning in a few weeks and spend first Christmas without her, for the rest of their lives. How is that…. for a reason? I have a few questions to ask God. As I got in the car the carol “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” was playing. Judy Garland’s hauntingly beautiful voice pierced me and the tears….. they just kept coming. And in a way I want this to always remain fresh. I want to remember her laugh like I do now… forever. I want to remember her smile like I do now….. forever.

I got to come home to my family and my home and be with my guys all day. I felt as I always feel…. so incredibly grateful. I feel like words are never big enough to write or say for this life that I get to lead. Sometimes I have such incredible survivor guilt for it. For many things, not just each time I have made it home on two wheels. There is nothing here that I don’t consider a privilege. Nothing.

Later Sunday afternoon we joined in the Teens Living With cancer Christmas celebration at Lauren’s home. It’s been one amazing year for these Teens, and I have had the …. again….. privilege to become part of their family. The whole Teens Living With Cancer family.

When you walk into anything TLC, there are not handshakes there are hugs. We just hug one another each time because…. well when you have been on this side of it all…. you know that a handshake is never enough anymore. You know that life is precious and there are boundaries and lines that just need to be thrown out.

Once the party got underway Lauren and her husband welcomed everyone, and Leah handed out strips pf paper that on the back, had written things we were grateful for this year. As we went around the room and read…. family…. small miracles…. health….. friends….. we joined those pieces of paper together in a chain that we later placed on the tree.

I love these kids. More than they know, more than anyone could understand. I am a better person because of them. They have no idea how they have changed my ENTIRE LIFE.

TLC christmas

Later on in the evening, Lauren’s husband Doug sat with Curt and I and a few others and told the story about the beautiful garden that is their backyard. He so eloquently told the story of how their daughter Melissa had chosen where her ashes would be spread. How she so bravely faced death in a way that I don’t think I ever could.

I sat there enthralled not only at the courage and wisdom that Melissa had at the end of her life….. but the poise, humor, and gentleness her father had as he told the story.

I don’t know how you even breathe again after you lose a child. I don’t know how you ever stand up again. Over the past ten years….. they have built something that was born out of tragedy….. but has brought so many of us together. I looked around at these kids and I thought….. because of Melissa you are here in this house. And while that’s too big a price for anyone in this world to pay….. the aftermath is something I just can’t believe. These teens….. have something they otherwise would not.

We came home and built a fire in the wood stove. I feel this day to my core and all of the different emotions it held within it. Loss… grief…. remembrance….. hope.

I don’t know what I possibly could have done to be able to live like this. To be able to experience all of this is beyond an honor. I don’t know how it all came to be but man…. this is something special. I don’t know what I could have possibly done to deserve to have such rich and amazing experiences….. but I promise I am trying like hell to earn this.

As I travel this road that I travel I have experienced so many wonderful people. Their loss has left holes in this heart of mine. Like I said I hope those holes never ever heal. At the same time I have come into the company of so many amazing people. Who I want to experience 200%. I want to take a piece of everyone with me each and every single day.

I hope…. I hope…. that I am a better person….. because I have had the honor and privilege to know the best.





  1. Thank you for sharing you heart, Mary.

  2. If you weren’t on the bike it would have been a full body hug. Talk soon. Xoxo

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