Over the last several years, I have continued to achieve many of my goals. Somewhere along the way, I started having the feeling that I could conquer the world and that there was nothing that I couldn’t overcome. As I trained harder and harder and reached those goals, I began getting caught up with the fact that I could do more and more. Before long, some of the small steps just seemed as if they weren’t good enough. I needed more. I just wasn’t satisfied.
After not performing well at a race, I went to a great friend of mine who is a much better cyclist and asked if he would be willing to ride with me on Saturdays and push me to be better. The first Saturday we rode, he finished almost a half-mile ahead of me on a short ride. The next Saturday, we rode farther and I still finished way too far behind him - much more than I wanted to - but I was riding faster. A couple of Saturdays later, we rode and by the end of the ride, I was to the point that I was exhausted, but I was able to stay with him until the last 100 yards, and I was pumped with the fact that I had stayed that close to him for the entire ride.
A week later, I rode the fastest bike splits that I had ever ridden in a triathlon. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friend Dennis. For me to find an individual who was a great cyclist, who was in far superior shape than me and was willing to go out and push his friend was only something that I could dream about. But Dennis and I had been friends for the last couple of years and he was just a phenomenal person that I had grown personally from just knowing. I have always referred to Dennis as my “GQ friend” to my wife and you know the type: the perfect picture of health, not a hair out of place and I don’t remember him being tired or in a bad mood since I have known him. He basically is the kind of person we all strive to be or should strive to be.
Last month, Dennis had gone through a series of antibiotics for an inflamed lymph node in his neck that was originally thought to be a spider bite. After the antibiotics did not work, his physician thought that maybe it would be a good idea to have a biopsy to rule out anything major. The night before the procedure, I remember being reassuring and telling him that everything was going to be okay. After all, bad things don’t happen to healthy people like him.
The next day passed slowly as I anticipated hearing good news from Dennis. I was finally able to call and check with him late that afternoon and the news wasn’t good. He had been diagnosed with cancer.
Several weeks have passed since then and Dennis is in chemotherapy and now has shaved his head because his hair is falling out. He is tired and but still never complains and is getting in an occasional bike ride which may not be as fast, but he is still getting out there and putting in some miles. Still he is encouraging me even though he is fighting the fight of his life.
You know, this all hit me square in the face. I take for granted getting to train and how fortunate I am to have the health that I have. Life…it doesn’t seem fair and it’s not always fair. But I have decided that I am not going to complain because it rains and I can’t get in a run. I’m not going to complain about the water being too cold at the pool. I’m not going to complain about the headwind blowing in my face for most of the ride. I am not going to complain about it being too hot or cold to train. I am not going to complain, because the run was too long or the water was not cold at the aid station. You see, those things are really not that important. What is important is that I can train and I don’t have any reason to complain.
I hate that it took a great person like Dennis getting sick to put things in perspective for me, but it was a real wake up call.
If you would like to send an email of encouragement to Dennis, send it to me at [email protected]
"All of us get knocked down, but it's resiliency that really matters. All of us do well when things are going well, but the thing that distinguishes athletes is the ability to do well in times of great stress, urgency and pressure." ---Roger Staubach
Copyright When Big Boys Tri 2003
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