Summer 2003 started with my first triathlon and ended with my first overall win at the Emmett Triathlon. I did one triathlon and caught the bug, racing everything within driving distance of Boise that summer. I was a 28 year kid searching for more meaning in life. I found it in movement. Finding myself that summer allowed something far more profound to happen. True Love. After all, we’re all just looking for love.
When I started I was an overweight, weekend warrior spending summers kayaking and playing water polo with winters chalk full of snowboarding and skiing. Life was grand but too comfortable; missing the challenge that teaches you to be better. I went from floating on the breeze of life to taking the bull by the horns and digging in.
My first triathlon in April that year I ended up 4th in the Y Spring Sprint. I had a big lead after the swim but I’ll never forget when 50+ year old Gar Hackney road by after 10 miles like I was on a tricycle (and I had a brand new TT bike). I was amazed at the youth and vigor a 50 year old could have. It opened my eyes to breathing more.
I learned a lot from Gar that summer. The two of us drove up to Coeur d’Alene, a 9 hour plus drive from Boise. It was hot but we had the windows down the whole way. I tried a couple times to implement the comfort of air conditioning but he wanted the 60mph warm summer breeze. I picked his brain and he willingly shared his experience as a multiple World Champion. As interested as I was in the details, it was the simple attitude and persona that rings true to me today. He had a laid back, this is fun, take it with a grain of salt, yet I’m going to rip your heart out when the race starts kind of attitude. He was going to show himself and anyone that was paying attention what was possible. He enjoyed being outside, the people and the challenge, it was that simple. Triathlon was an outlet for an existence that taught you to be humble, grateful and to be in constant search of your best self.
I did not finish the Olympic distance race because I tried something new on race day, after well over 100 races it is one of only 5 races, I have not finished. Gar had already warned me about ‘nothing new on race day’. I put some new inserts in my running shoes, thinking that wouldn’t matter, and had blisters in both of my arches that felt like I was running in a pool of blood. I stopped at an aid station and asked a volunteer if I could borrow her socks. I ran 300m and had to stop because it was way too late for socks. It felt like if I kept going I would be running on stumps which would rule me out for the next Triathlon in Emmett.
My main training partner that summer was a two year old pup named Milo. Back then there were fewer people and no leash laws in the Boise foothills and we roamed them with all the freedom of two boys at play. He was more like a Black Panther with his athleticism and grace and it overflowed me with joy to feel his joy of running free. He got me out the door on many occasions and taught me about the importance of the precious moments we had together. He was ‘all in’ when we played.
I took my newfound wisdom and foundation for the sport of triathlon, thanks in large part to Milo and Gar’s counseling and applied my passion in a robust way. Getting a large lead in the swim and holding on for dear life the rest of the way.
I’m grateful for winning the Emmett Triathlon but what I’m even more grateful for was winning the raffle after the race. I won a super sweet full suspension mountain bike. It was my lucky day.
Winning the mountain bike allowed me to enter the Big Blue Lake Tahoe Adventure race with my friend Hortense who had put together a team with her brother. Our training consisted of climbing Mt Borah, riding single-track and camping in some great Idaho locations. Milo took a quick liking to Hortense just like his dad and he was the best wingman a guy could ask for. He knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
By the time we started the race in October, Hortense had damaged her elbow in a mtn bike crash; she still went on the trip but couldn’t race. So we went from a coed team to an all male team and won that category, even though Hortense would have made us stronger.
We bonded in the training and on the trip; afterward Hortense and I were an official item. Milo played his role. The rest of October and November were like a dream, I don’t know that my feet ever touched the ground. On December 5th at a beach in Lincoln City, Oregon I proposed to Hortense. True love took us by storm.
As Hortense and I approach our 9th anniversary on Sept 11th I reflect on the good fortunes that brought us together 10 years ago. Thank goodness I discovered a passion that focused my life and made me a better man. I found myself and my direction that summer, without this foundation I never would have wooed a beautiful French woman into an adventurous life with a good ole’ Idaho boy.
Gar and Milo are no longer ‘with us’ as they say, but their vibrant soul’s are alive within each person they touched while on their short journey here. I feel them both alive and well; playing inside of us and reminding us to breath more. With the power of hindsight, it’s clear to me that without the imprint of their soul at that time in my life…Hortense and I might not be. A trajedy to be sure. Funny how life has a way of working things out. I am amazingly grateful for those experiences and the bond they helped create for Hortense and I.
Here’s to an adventurous life enriched with the sweet nectar of joy.
Love your HONEY