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#DUwork

I’d rather die while I’m living then live while I’m dead. – Jimmy Buffett

I don’t even know where to start with this post. Dustin Bernatovich, my rock, my best friend, my person passed away in the early hours of January 28, 2019. He was a good man, a fierce competitor, an American hero, & the love of my life. His Dad talked to me about this Jimmy Buffett quote and Dust lived life just that. Time just wasn’t on our side.

I’ve not slept well. Training has been hit or miss (which would upset him). I’ve looked through pictures. At all of the living we did together over the past 9.5 years. I smile. I laugh. I cry. I remember all the memories and great times. Sometimes he pushed me out of my comfort zone and for that, I’m a better person.

There were certain things we always talked about going to do, or going back to do. This year, is about seeing those things through for US. I look at this as doing what we loved and knowing he’s still my biggest cheerleader so I’m heading out to #DUwork.

Galveston 70.3
I was already registered for this one and I’m sure it’s going to be a tough day for anyone who knew him, but it especially will be for me. This is my first tri of the season and he’s the reason I got into triathlons. I still remember him saying, ‘it’s harder than it looks’ and me just giving him that whatever look.

I’m excited to share the course with so many people who loved him and his spirit. We’re going to celebrate him that day and go out there and give it our all.

Tchoupitoulas Barathon
Because 6 miles, 6 bars, and 6 beers is a good idea in New Orleans in May. It happens to be the same weekend as Crawfishman. We had a blast at this race with our friends. The best part was going back to the house after and watch those who maybe stayed at the first 4 bars too long and had to get their friend’s push them in a buggy from Rouses. Of course we would still be having a beer but so much fun!

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Crawfishman
I’m heading back to Louisiana where I watched him at what was one of my first times spectating a triathlon after we got together. They actually called the race early because of a torrential downpour. I raced it in 2011 with him. I can’t wait to toe the line with some of our favorite Louisianan’s.

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Atlantic City 70.3
Dustin was stationed in AC from 2011-2013. I moved up at the end of the school year in 2012 from Mississippi. When this race came about, we talked about going back, several times, to race it. We loved running on the boardwalk, fishing (jetty, beach, & he’d spend time with Jake and his boat after work), a little gambling (he liked his craps), brewing beer, & we were literally everywhere on our beach cruisers! We lived a block of the beach and with this course, I’ll get to run past it 4 times and the jetty’s where we fished 4 times.

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Mardi Gras Marathon
In February, 2020, I’ll head to New Orleans with my Mom. That’s where our life together started in September 2009 at the Balcony Bar. I ran my first marathon, this marathon, in 2011 – with him meeting me around the course on his bike. He was even at medical early on in the race when I was having foot issues. I drank a lot of alcohol that day between the ‘aid’ stations and his pit stops at the bars on his bike – I had to taste what he was drinking! Haha. I can see him now leaning on his aero bars with a cup in his hand smiling at me. I’ve always loved New Orleans and our time there so I’m excited to head back and I’m sure I’ll be picturing him on the course with me.

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Puerto Rico 70.3
Last thing will be Puerto Rico 70.3. It’s no question that we have a love of islands and pretty water. When we went in 2016, I had a terrible race. I had my feelings hurt when everyone we were with left the race while I was still out on the course. When I was coming in, I asked where they all were and when he said they went back to the Air BNB, he saw how sad I got. I hope no one feels disappointment like that. But on the flip side, I hope everyone gets to have a Dustin in their corner who cheers you on even on the crappiest of days. He walked with me in the microwave. He hugged me when I finished. We ended up going off on our own that night and we had a great time. A little sore and sunburnt but it was one for the books.

Anyways, we had talked about how we would like to go back there so when my friend Sabrina asked me if I’d like to go race PR, I said absolutely yes.

So here I go… this weekend I start in Gasparilla with my family and friends in what is sure to be an emotional weekend. I had been fretting a lot about this race because it will be the first time I will not have had a call or text from him before and after the race. Yea, I know he’ll be with me in spirit but it’s just not the same. So over the weekend, for what reason, I do not know, all my deleted voicemails reappeared. In there, there was one I hadn’t even listened to from the Houston Half Marathon race morning. I had called him back so I just deleted it (and I go in an clear out the deleted voicemails, too). I started crying when I heard his voice telling me “good luck, you’re going to do great”.

This year is about making something positive out of something tragic and full of sadness. There are days I struggle because I love and miss him so much but I know this is something we should have been doing… together. There’s a couple other things planned for the year but I’m not releasing those just yet. Don’t put anything off. Go out and live while your living.

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If not now, then when?

I recently became a Bike Law Foundation Ambassador and although I thought I knew a lot; my mind has been shocked over and over with statistics. I know I’ve had close calls… not just on my bike but while walking and running too.

Did you know that the number one cause of death amongst American teens and the greatest threat posed to Vulnerable Road Users; to people on bikes, is distracted driving? 

I’ve literally placed my hand on the hood of a car because I thought I could stop it! I had to tell my coach that morning that when he saw the heart rate sky rocket it was because someone was on their phone, making a right, while I had the right away. I was over half way in front of that vehicle and I’m pretty sure when my hand hit her hood, I had her attention.

I’ve had close calls on my bike too. Some of them due to ignorant drivers who think it’s cool to scare someone on a bike. Some due to a distraction I’m sure… and I wasn’t the distraction, I promise that.

I had a friend, at one time, who I later found out I was their last call or text before hitting someone head on. There was a father in the other vehicle, he did not make it. I remember that like it was yesterday. A week after the crash, I was the one people were asking if I knew anything. Let that sink in. It took me a long time to realize I didn’t make that choice. It took me a long time to realize the impacts distracted driving has, not only on the person making the choice, but those impacted; the families, friends, those working the scenes. 

While I know I talk a lot about my triathlon adventures, not all close calls are with vulnerable humans. Fact is, I’m sure all of you have had some close call due to a distracted driver. Or maybe, you know of someone who died at the hands of a distracted driver.

Would you admit to driving distracted?  Probably not. I know as I get older, I realize that I need to pay more attention to the road… that’s what my Dad always said to me when I was 16. And when I was 16, I only had the radio as a distraction. No phone. No DVR player. But you probably don’t think about the radio being a distraction… or the hands free mobile device your using… guess what, it is.

Living in a touristy town, we get visitors all the time. And guess what, there’s a ton of people on bikes down here and we need to do our best to protect those coming to enjoy our city. To rent our bikes. To run on our seawall. And yes, I know, people get frustrated when people are going the wrong way on the road with their bikes and yes, we need to educate those people. And yes, I know people get frustrated because they have to go a little slower however, we can start by putting our phones away. Enjoy the moments of solitude while paying attention to the road. Let them enjoy what we get to enjoy everyday here in Galveston, Texas.

I want to ask you to do one small thing not just for me, but for your community. For that neighborhood kid (or maybe it’s your kid) who loves to ride their bike around. For your family member who likes to visit areas and take it in by renting a bike or a nice long run. Or even your friend who enjoys cycling to get outside. Pledge to #ArriveAlive by stating you will not drive distracted. We need to do this. We need to take accountability. Only we can create change and the time to create that change is NOW!

Sign the pledge here: https://goo.gl/forms/Xk1vjKa8TcIx8kJ72