Two years ago this past April, an acquaintance who worked at a bakery that I frequented commented that she, a self-described life-long non-athlete, “could never do a triathlon.” I disagreed and said that it was simply a matter of deciding to do it and then putting in the work, piece by piece, day after day. If I could learn to swim when the mere thought of water gave me hives, she a comfortable swimmer could complete a triathlon. After a few more back and forth comments on the topic, I said that if she really wanted to do one I would train with her. But only if she was serious about it and was willing to commit to the work.
Long story short, she committed and she completed an Olympic length triathlon by the end of that summer. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always enjoyable – for either of us. We trained in the heat, the cold, the rain and even some snow. There were tears and more than a few ‘I hate this’ moments. We learned that she has exercise-induced panic attacks when her heart rate exceeds 175 bpm while running. So we got her a heart rate monitor and she learned to plan for and work around this condition. But she did it. She met her self-stated goal of running “every step of that fucking 10k”. In addition, she finished her first 1/2 marathon with me two months after the triathlon.
Over that summer, she introduced me to Ragbrai, talked me through my own panic attacks in the water, and on one (particularly ridiculous and awe-inspiring) weekend, we ran her first 10 miler on Saturday and rode my first century ride (100 mile) the very next day. And we became very good friends.
Last year, she moved away to pursue her dream career and I’ve missed her ever since. I especially miss training with her. I miss her determination and the way she shouted “Hell yeah!” after reaching a new milestone. I miss her goofiness and spontaneous laughter. I miss her loud running outfits, headband obsession, and enthusiastic “Let’s do it!” to life in general.
Last Friday on the phone, we lamented that we didn’t get to ride together anymore. So she called me back later and said, “I’m coming out on Tuesday, we’re riding on Wednesday, and I’m heading home again on Thursday so I can get to class on Friday. Think Shan will let me borrow her bike?” And that’s how it went down. She arrived last night after 6 hours on the Mega bus, we put in a solid 45 miles on one of our favorite trails in picture perfect weather today (but alas, no pictures were taken), we had dinner this evening with Jeff (an excellent vegan chili as she likes her food HOT), and she’s leaving tomorrow. Shan is meeting us for breakfast after she gets off work so she can get her own hugs and hellos in before heading off to bed for her ‘night’.
One of the things I’d forgotten about riding with Jess is how well we ride together. That’s a rare and beautiful thing. Our pacing is synchronized, we anticipate each other’s movements, and the conversation and silences are comfortably organic. We just flow. Something I’ve learned is that no matter how much I enjoy cycling by myself – and I enjoy it a lot – I enjoy cycling with her more. I am lucky to have many people I can ride with locally, but those hours and hours and hours we spent training together that first summer gelled something special between us and I’m grateful to have experienced it. May she and I ride again together soon.