I’ve never considered myself a particularly brave person. Sure I’ve ridden my bike through the streets of New Delhi and I’ve gone a solo bikepacking trip. But I’m actually a very risk adverse person by nature and the courage required to accomplish such things has taken a lot of very careful cultivation. Luckily, I’ve had someone subtly and not always gently pushing me to reach my potential.
When I was eleven years old I joined my community swim team. We practiced during the summer months on weekdays at 7:30 AM. My mom, Laura, realized that I needed to become more self-sufficient and brave so she insisted that I ride my bike to practice each day. The ride from our house to the high school pool was an easy two miles on safe neighborhood streets with very little traffic. Each morning after breakfast my mom would help me get my swim cap over my pony tail then I would strap on my helmet and backpack and head out towards the high school. Born with almost no sense of direction I was always carefully considering each turn until I found my way to the bike racks at the pool entrance. I can still remember the day I was riding home from practice and stopped at the four way intersection of Roundhead and Cromwell Drive, less than half a mile from home. An older, overweight man with a gray beard pulled up to the intersection on his loud motorcycle. As I quietly waited from him to ride away he instead started talking to me, smiling he asked “Are you running away from home like me?” He must have been looking at my over-sized backpack stuffed with a wet towel. Terrified I quickly crossed the street and pedaled home as fast as I could fighting back tears until he was out of sight.
Despite my irrational fears my mom knew I would be safe, and knew that riding my bike to swim team practice would improve my sense of direction and increase my independence. Of course this didn’t stop me from incessantly complaining. Sometimes I even convinced my friend’s parents to put my bike in the back of their car and drive me home. I didn’t realize at the time that this was crushing my mom, I made her cry and even wonder if she was a bad parent. Thank goodness she stuck to her guns and I continued riding to and from practice each summer.
While Laura is not an endurance athlete she has endured grueling, challenging and sometimes downright scary life circumstances with more peace, resolve and grace than I have ever seen. It always amazes me. Despite the challenges she faces herself, she is one of the most selfless people I know. She has been my constant confidant and sustainer, supporting me in the pursuit of all of my dreams. When I decided to do my first triathlon she went with me. She helped calm my nerves before the race, ran all over the course cheering me on during the swim, bike and run and helped me clean myself up and drove me home after the race was finished. Since then she has been at almost every other triathlon I have done and even traveled to Idaho to be there for my second Ironman. No matter how big or small the aspiration she is there helping me reach my dreams, she even started editing all of my blog posts!
When I think about the girl that will receive the bike in Laura’s honor I have to hold back tears. It saddens me to think about a young girl growing up without a mom like mine to help her reach her dreams. I know that this bike will be one way to provide her with encouragement and hope. I hope that when she faces difficult circumstances she can face them with an ounce of the peace that I have seen my mom face challenges with. And I pray that there will be people she meets along her journey that provide her with the love and support to make her brave.
“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” – Abraham Lincoln