Ready for adventure.

My best girlfriend Ann has been working her tail off for months, training for her first half ironman triathlon, which was last Sunday. This feat had her swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run a half marathon, all in blistering temperatures. She earned every mile of her 70.3 mile race. I’m so excited for her to have achieved her goal!

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This is Ann. She kicks butt in everything she does, including her half IM last weekend. Here, she’s paddleboarding after a 6.5 mile run. Did I mention she’s a cancer survivor? She rocks.

Ann’s had a lot of training on her plate, and fortunately, she has had many great training partners. But when we made time to spend together, I was not about to be left behind, even though my endurance lagged behind hers, and I knew I was in for a whuppin’.

Half ironman training is pretty fun when you don’t actually have to do it.

One Friday night about a month ago, I found myself in the middle of Falls Lake shivering and wondering why I wasn’t in a boat. Thirty minutes earlier, I had stood at the edge of the dock. Ann said, “you’re going to jump?” “Yeah, it’s pretty much the only way I’m getting in this lake.” My shrieks echoed around the quiet cove when I surfaced, and the turnaround point wasn’t even in sight. I hadn’t done an open water swim in at least a year and had to swallow some fear. Once we got going, it was okay. We swam along, cracking up because Ann was zigzagging all over the lake. It was more play than workout.

On Memorial Day weekend our families headed to the coast. I put on a pair of 20 year old cycling shorts and hopped on Andrew’s mountain bike–outfitted with road tires–and we rode from Beaufort to Harker’s Island and back, about 35 miles. I struggled to keep up on the return trip, and my butt was killing me.

But I couldn’t stop smiling. It was so much fun. It reminded me of the adventure rides I did in high school—pick a destination and go. Along the way we passed the Piggly Wiggly, bait shops with handmade signs, farm stands, an over-large statue of Blackbeard, and a small heart –shaped sign  that said Laura+Tree. Our nostrils were assaulted by the reek of dead fish strewn across the highway from a lost cooler and the rotten, organic earthiness of the salt marsh. Our reward was views of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse before turning around to head back to Beaufort.

We came back and slogged through a couple of miles of running on rubbery legs before heading to Bird Shoal with our families to play for the rest of the day. Ann paddled the kayak, telling Jeff that her legs needed a break and that he needed to take the paddleboard. I rode in the motorboat with Andrew and the kids, but took the paddleboard out to cruise the shallows once I’d rested a bit. From my vantage point above the water, I could see fish and the occasional ray cruising the shallows and the one million shades of blue of the estuary. Later, I flopped on the sand and passed out from happy exhaustion.

Ann and Jeff had to leave early on Memorial Day. I jokingly begged her to go home, because I was having so much fun, and she was killing me.

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Even the kids were pooped.

The evening of our lake swim, we passed a woman in her 70s, alone in her kayak. She cruised back to the dock and pulled out a stool so she could load her boat on top of her car all by herself. As we dried off and watched, she turned to us, beaming. “I know it’s late, but I have a new toy and I HAD to get out here to try it out!” We watched her in awe as she tied down her boat, loaded up her gear and took off. Then we looked at each other, thinking–then saying–the same thing. “I want to be THAT woman one day.” Once again, I’m reminded that the journey can be as rewarding as the destination. Sometimes even more so. I just hope I’m always ready for whatever adventure awaits.

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Training the next generation of adventure seekers.

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