Awake a good portion of the night, ruminating; the coyotes howling, and feeling resistant, how can I do the triathlon this morning if I haven’t slept? But that was just excuses. At 6:00 a.m. I finally got out of bed and began revising my poem, because one of the things I got in the middle of the night was a new title, better. Just right, I think. And before I knew it, I was running late for the triathlon. This is why I like this triathlon. It’s easy to overcome all my resistances because it’s entirely local. Four minutes by car to the high school and I’m the last one to pick up my number. Then back home, Charlie sulking, as I chew a piece of toast and ride my bike the few miles to the pond where the race begins. I get to the beach, the crowd of athletes is singing the national anthem and I realize I haven’t signed in! Back to the parking lot. And I’m number 69. And the sun is shining, we’re hot waiting for the swim to start. Very nice. It’s a quick swim, a run to my bike, put on my sneakers and shorts, and then it’s the bike ride, and because I did the course backwards two days ago, I know I’m ready, and I’m just taking my time. No stress. No hurry. At the first tough hill, there are too many, an adorable cop directing traffic smiles at me as I pass, stupefied with effort, and says, “You’ve got this.” Yeah, I do. It’s gorgeous. The sky is bright blue, cloudless, for the first time in a week. I’m in my wet bathing suit, staying cool. Everyone’s friendly who passes. I’m smiling. Who cares how long this takes me, I’m doing it. Claybrook Road, passing the river and marsh, it’s a sanctuary, and I’m enjoying myself, halfway there. Sure, the terrible grinding hill on Center Street is yet to come, I try not to dread it, because I know I can do it. And then I do. My legs are killing me. But the swim’s behind me, the killer hill’s behind me, I’m almost to the run, and I can do the run, it’s not gonna feel great, but I’ve done it and I can do it. Who cares how long it takes me? A few more aching smaller hills, they’re mean with this course, and then I’m parking my bike and running, or at least jogging, slowly, on rubberized legs. Yup, I’m on the run now, I’m doing it. I have to run toward all the faster athletes, younger, mostly, all the runners who are already on their way to the finish line as I’m starting off. Then I realize I know the woman behind me, Laura, we raised kids together in this town, and we’re at the same pace, and greeting each other, and she says she doesn’t live in town anymore - and did I know her husband died? No. No, I did not. She says she’s doing the race for him. Then we run on in silence, but in each other’s presence, and I’m glad she told me, and she paces me, she gets ahead, and I’m glad. I hope to give her a hug at the finish line, but she’s nowhere to be found when I come in, and it HAS taken me a long time, but I’m done. I did it! I did it again, and I’m grateful as I quench my thirst and head back to my bike to ride the few miles home, sore, not entirely winded, and delighted, having come full circle.
My dear friend has an opening, her sculptures are in The Flying Horses show at the Pingree School, and it’s a sunny summer afternoon of satisfaction.