Nervous Energy for Atlantic City 70.3

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.

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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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