There was a lesson I learned not too long ago in a meditation class about presence. It wasn’t so much about being present in every moment (although that was the key take away from such a practice). No, it was more about the energy of people who were truly present in your lives. At this meditation class, our teacher talked about group dynamics. Everyone who shows up and who is truly engaged brings something completely different to the group. Much in the same way my tri training team works, everyone brings a different level of experience, a different attitude, and different goals. What happens when you single one person out into a group of one? The dynamics completely shift. When you add one more person into the mix, and then another, and then another, the dynamic that results can be powerful.
I quickly revisited this lesson a few weeks ago at our first ever tri training session. My coach, William, was so incredibly excited to get us all together for our first group swim. I remember feeling exhausted from my work that morning at the gym, and my work during the day. By the time the evening rolled around, I wanted nothing to do with getting into the pool. But, because I had made a commitment to William (and effectively, the team that was just now forming), I certainly wanted to be present. I knew that the team would start off small, but in building a foundation it was important that every single piece of the puzzle was accounted for. So I showed up. Turns out, no one else showed up. It turned into more of a personal training session for me in the pool. I still benefitted from the session, and William still got to work with me, but the dynamic was completely different than if everyone had showed up. That was the power of group dynamics.
So, over the weekend, when I found out that someone from my RunKeeper circle of friends had unfortunately passed away, I was pretty devastated. RunKeeper serves as an app that helps me log my training, which is very utilitarian in of itself. However, it has grown into something more than that to me. There was a community of people there — real living beings, people with goals, just like mine. People with incredible finish times. People with incredible stamina. People who had an uncanny ability to log an insane amount of activities in each day — those very people who, in fact, had the very same number of hours in a day that I had. That’s where Ron came in.
I can’t remember when it started or who reached out to whom, but Ron was a kind soul who gently encouraged me in ways that I can only hope to help someone else. He was a constant fixture in my social graph as his enthusiasm for life, health, and adventure permeated all of his updates. This guy, in between working full time and having a family, was able to squeeze in an inordinate amount of life in between those spaces. I admired his commitment and his time management skills. His goals and achievements were incredible. I wanted to be more like him. A week ago, I had been biking along the Burke-Gilman trail just about 7 or 8 miles from home base when I thought to myself, “Wow, Ron bikes all this way to and from work each day? Maybe I could do it too.”
On Friday, I descended into Phoenix Sky Harbor, looking forward to a sunny race weekend away from gray-skied Seattle. I landed quite hungry and late into the evening, and after almost an hour of driving around, I ended up empty-handed in my drab hotel room somewhere after 1 in the morning. After a quick call with my boyfriend, I comfortably drifted off to sleep looking forward to the race expo ahead. When I woke up about 9 hours later, I realized that I missed the hotel’s free breakfast so I stayed in bed to catch up with the interwebs. It seemed like a lot of people were out racing that weekend and I wanted to get a handle and see if anyone I knew was at the same race. I found myself tagged on a Facebook post, and generally one to ignore those types of things, went ahead and clicked through because I saw it was from another triathlon buddy. And it was probably the saddest post I had ever seen in all of my time I’ve spent on Facebook. Ron was gone.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I was reading. I was confused. Ron was like, Superman. He couldn’t just vanish or pass away. That was unlike him. He lived life to the fullest, in such a way that people half his age probably never would. And somehow, he was involved in an accident. Initial reports stated it was a hit-and-run, but later his wife had clarified that it was indeed an accident and assured the community that no vehicle was present. In the hour proceeding that news, I had began to cry, trying to piece together what was going on and my emotions. I quickly logged onto RunKeeper to check out his profile, to see when his last status update was. I dashed off an email to the RunKeeper team about the news. I flipped to my Facebook profile to see the last time he had liked something. It had been a day or so. I remember toying with the idea of commuting to work on my bike and investing in a beaten-up roadie so that I, too, could log in some miles before and after work in the saddle. And now, this. It was a sad weekend for me. I felt helpless and very alone, crying in a foreign bed and wiping my tears with foreign towels. I called Shant and told him the news and he too was taken aback by it. He had jokingly referred to Ron as “that guy who likes everything you do” a few times. I think he was sad because I was sad, and sad at the entirety of the situation.
I went on to run my race on Sunday morning. In my race recap, I will go into more details of the race, but I thought about Ron for most of the 13.1 miles. I got choked up a few times around miles 8-10, and in racing “with” Ron I managed to shave about 16 or 17 minutes off of my last half marathon time. It was bittersweet, but I would’ve taken a slower time any day of the week if it could have meant that Ron would be able to like my post at the end of the day, and I, his.
I guess that’s what my teacher had meant by presence. Ron’s absence is felt worldwide because of the presence he graced us with. He could’ve racked up all those miles without interacting with anyone. We could’ve all just existed in our own little world. But, we all came together for a reason, and even in his death, it seemed like we were coming together in droves. He meant so much to all of us collectively while he was alive and well, and in his passing, he brought out a very humble side to our training community.
Recap of week 9 base training:
12.3 hours; 3,080 yards of swimming; 39.45 miles biking; 17.77 miles running.
Monday, January 14: Solo morning workout. Treadmill warmup 10 min, Free weights – 2x10lbs, Squats on bosu ball 3×20, Lunges 3×20, Chest press 3×20, Bicep curl 3×20, Shoulder press 3×20, Butterfly kicks 3×20, Planks 1minx2, Treadmill cool down 10 minutes. In the evening, I trained in the pool…1 hour swim with the team. Still working on my core and my stroke.
Tuesday, January 15: 1-hour core session with the team and coach.
Wednesday, January 16: 1.5 hours in the pool in the evening with the team. In the afternoon, I headed out for a run around town. 46 minutes, 4.49 miles around downtown Seattle.
Thursday, January 17: Lumped a few workouts together. I know that’s generally a no-no but I did it anyways. 3 hours on the bike, 39.45 miles. I wish I had known I was so close to 40. I would’ve wanted to round up. There’s always next time.
Friday, January 18: 1-hour core session with team and coach.
Saturday, January 19: Rest day. Consisted of eating waffles, pho, and lounging.
Sunday, January 20: Race day. 13.1 miles, 2:29:39.