Here we are. Less than 30 days out and I find myself questioning my training. Questioning my ability to finish. Questioning EVERYTHING. This race won’t just be physically taxing, but also mentally; not because of the race but because of all our memories in Atlantic City.
When Dustin was leaving New Orleans early, he was PCS’ed to Atlantic City with 2 years left. As soon as he found out, I believe it was around October, he asked me to move with him. I was in Missisippi at the time and we were making it work as I had a promotion opportunity and it was only a 5 hour drive. I told him I needed to finish out my school year and then I would be there, in New Jersey.
While we lived there, we saw TRI AC but I never really raced in our time up north and he hit the majors, New York City, New Jersey State, & the Philadelphia Tri. I mostly did half marathon’s while we lived there.
I started thinking last night about how we would always go out on our runs together on the boardwalk. I’m going to run past our old house, past the old entry to the boardwalk. I’ll go past the bench where I will always remember him sitting waiting for me to get done. The beach where we fished and took our dogs. Riding our beach cruisers, me running into a trash can one night (I think that only happened once) coming home from Robert’s Place, or him picking me up from work and I’d ride home on the handlebars of his Villy Custom. We have so many memories, great memories. He was supposed to be with me; we planned on doing this race together.
I know I’ll finish and I know it’ll be a hard day. It isn’t just about the line, it’s about something bigger, it’s about doing something we always said we would do… TOGETHER. He will be there, no doubt; but I assure you, it’s not going to be the same.
This is my first tri this year and it’s largely in part because of my fears. I cried a lot at Gasparilla, and I’m sure I’m about to head down that path again but I also know, because we talked about this, I need to find a way to heal and to move on. Triathlons were a large part of our relationship, our partnership. And so that is my chosen path. So… Atlantic City, I’m coming home.
Sometime over 6 months ago, I planned on heading to Tampa for the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic. This was in the midst of a large grant writing project that was to go in in January… that is now going in in April. I had also decided Siesta Key was the place to be for some rest and relaxation before the race. So I booked the flight, booked the rooms, registered for the race and the weekend was set.
I got in Wednesday. I was doing okay until I wasn’t. I got off the plane and saw Cigar City Brewing immediately and instantly thought back to those layovers that Dustin and I would go there for a beer (or 2) and Cuban sandwich. I could see us there after Puerto Rico 70.3. I remembered what we talked about. I teared up. They were good memories.
I headed to Siesta Key, checked in to my place. Realized I am an awesome hotel picker (aside from that one time for Augusta 70.3) and headed to the room then straight to the beach! Took a little walk and just relaxed. I live like a half mile from the beach now and I rarely do that now. But Siesta Key has beautiful water, even on a bad day.
Katie joined me – I also picked this place because I knew it was pretty close to my friend Katie’s house. We kept it low key that night. Went to a great little coffee place the next morning – Lelu’s. It’s been a while since I had coffee that good! We shopped around for a while and then I needed to get an open water swim in… of course I packed my Roka wetsuit… I brought the sleeved one since I hadn’t worn it yet – Waco 70.3 was canceled and it still had its tags on it! Oops! haha.
I headed into Tampa on Friday. Checked into the race. Got the goods and then went for lunch with my parents. My Mom decided to do the Lime Cactus Challenge (15k & 8k) while I was in for the Pure Gold Challenge (15k & Half Marathon). Dustin would always refer to these as my “dumbass races”. haha. Mom’s friend, Shawn, also came up to run it all – it was good to see her too! 🙂
15k – It was humid which I’m used to; but, we have winter here in Galveston and while most days it is 100% humidity, it was also kind of warm in Tampa. It was weird, I am used to getting a call or text from Dustin saying have a good race, you’ll do great, etc. I knew I wasn’t getting that but I also was thankful my iPhone had that glitch and I had his voicemail from the Houston Half Marathon morning. I listened to it, I cried. People probably thought I was crazy.
I was having a pretty good run (aside from random tears) until I realized I blistered up my feet. This girl hates socks. I have NEVER sweated the way I sweated this weekend (and thank goodness I packed my Aloha bags for the wet clothes). That was around mile 6… at mile 7, I got the push I needed when Caleb (one of Dust and I’s friends) texted me, “Good Luck! You’ve got this” – we had had a little talk the day before about stuff. That came in at the most perfect time though… I pushed through and when I got to the finish Katie and her husband, Jeff were waiting on me. I became so emotional coming into the finishing chute. I ugly cried in Katie’s shoulder and told her how much I miss him but how much I loved them for being there for me. I had 5 blisters to deal with.
Half Marathon – Sunday came and it was EARLY. We had a start of 6:00am; that’s 5:00am Texas time. I had moleskinned up my feet that morning & put socks on. Hoping for the best but prepping for the worst. It was HUMID. I knew I should have opted for a different top – cotton on a hot, muggy day is not your friend. I felt a little more at ease starting the half marathon. According to Travis, I had my second fastest 10k since he started coaching me and this was on tired legs. According to my Garmin, I had my fastest mile time since 2016. No clue where that came from but I was happy to hear it!
Halfway through, I spotted a couple triathletes and talked to them a little bit. You know, the usual, oh what Ironman’s have you done? To hear them surprised I’d been out there just as much as they had been – ugh. The best surprise on the course wasn’t Meb – I mean that was cool but it was seeing Heidi! I met Heidi in New Orleans when her husband, Scott, was at the same USCG Air Station as Dustin. Dust and her trained for Ironman Florida at the same time and did those long 100 mile rides on the levee together! I had a moment with her and I should have put my glasses back on for our picture! ha. That gave me the last little push to finish it out and call it a day.
I finished, not the way I planned but none of my training went the way I planned for the past month. I ended my trip with heading to Publix for the Cuban’s to bring home with me. Dust and I would always bring them back with us and freeze them (they do really well). I had planned on bringing a couple back for him but we know that story. At the airport, I went to our spot at Cigar City Brewery. I had my Jai Alai and thought of our good times there. I was texting with one of my friends, Greg, and started tearing up. The bartender asked if I was okay and I told him about Dustin and I’s tradition. And I felt some peace in that.
I know there are good days and probably some not so good days ahead. But I know I am surrounded by the best people in the world. Knowing that Dustin told a couple of our close friends, if anything ever happens, look out for her; they’re doing just that and I love him more for thinking about something like that – no one should but that was his line of work. It’s still very surreal. It’s already been a month since he left ALL of us. I always knew he was special but to know how he left different impressions on each and every person’s life, he has a legacy.
I’m going to continue being raw and vulnerable on this blog. I want you all to know more about him, about us; you know – only the good stuff though. Grief is a strange thing and everyone processes it differently. I’m going to harness the pain and go about it the way I know he would want me to; through training and racing.