On September 26th, 2004, my life changed forever. I was on the third date with a guy I met at work, who I knew was a good person, but he was older, much older, and after our second date a few head-scratching details of his life were revealed, so this third date was either going to be the end of a fun flirtation, or the beginning of forever.
After a few hours of deep discussion, I realized this guy was "the One," and about an hour after that realization, I met his daughter, Hannah.
That's a jump. I had no business becoming a parent. I did not have nine months to prepare for it, (I had an hour), but I said, "Yes," to being a part of Marion's life, which included Hannah, because even though I had no idea what to do, (I was barely twenty-five), I trusted my instinct, and followed it.
I am so glad I did.
Just to clarify, it wasn't like Marion and his ex-wife, Johanna, turned over Hannah to me in that moment, but my point of view shifted, and the nearly fifteen years I have been one of three parents to Hannah Spates, the most amazing person I know, have been the ultimate adventure and honor of my life. But, I didn't seek out being a step-parent, in fact I never saw myself ever becoming a parent, but from the second I said, "Yes", it felt natural; hard, but right.
I had a similar date with destiny on July 29th, 2013. I was celebrating a third place overall female finish at Vineman, (the original), and my younger sister Sarah's birthday, at our adorable rental house in the quirky Russian River Valley town of Monte Rio, when out of the blue, Sarah asked me to coach her for her first marathon. She had signed up for the famous California International Marathon, (CIM), held in early December. I had run many marathons by then, but I had never coached anyone, so I mulled over her request for about 0.00001 seconds, and then said, "Yes!"
Sarah went on to run the CIM in a blazing 3:51 time, a spectacular finish for any marathon, but especially for her first-time running it. In the years since, Sarah has run a handful of Ultra-marathons, and qualified for and finished the Boston Marathon, all fantastic feats that have made me a proud sister, but even more so, a very proud coach.
On a late Thursday evening in April, 2016, I received an email from a friend that I used to work with years before, I was thrilled and surprised to hear from him, but he wasn’t interested in talking about visual effects, (he is an exceptional compositor), he wanted to know if I would coach him for his next marathon, the CIM. Honestly, his request threw me off. I was flattered, but my stomach dropped, because although I had been coaching Sarah for years, we had kept our programs loose, so the thought of stepping outside of that and start coaching formally, and charging for my services, freaked me out. Again, I trusted my instinct, “No” was nowhere in my vocabulary, and I started coaching Ned that following May.
Ned has shed over forty minutes from his marathon time since we started working together, and is blazing a path toward reaching his ultimate goal, earning a bib for the Boston marathon.
I have always thrived on being coached. I had wonderful and not-so wonderful coaches over the many soccer and basketball teams I played on growing up, but the one coach that stands out was an assistant coach for the club soccer team I played on when I was thirteen. Jen was tough. She was also a really good player, and an even better coach; I thought, anyway. I never had an issue when she made us run laps, or when she carried on a drill relentlessly until we all got it right, even if that meant our parents were stuck waiting in their cars since practice dragged on passed the scheduled time limit, I knew she was making us better, and every agony was worth it. Unfortunately, I was one of the few players who felt that way. Jen was fired a couple months into our season.
Still, I never forgot what she taught me, that progress is earned through hard work, and that coaches can be tough and caring. All of my teammates thought Jen was too tough on us to care about us, but I believed she cared. Why else would a hip twenty-five year old spend her free-time with a gangly group of talented, whiney teenagers? Of course she cared.
However, the athlete ego is very sensitive in any sport. In my opinion, the great ones believe in their potential, have the courage to ask for help, and will do whatever their coach asks of them in order to reach it.
Ever since that late July Sunday all those years ago in Monte Rio when Sarah asked me to be her coach, I have leapt at the opportunity to coach runners and triathletes, because although coaching is challenging, (every athlete is unique, and deserves a specialized design to reach their goals), the bond forged in the process is unlike any other.
I know how it feels to hand over my trust to a coach. More importantly, my coach, the amazing Hillary Biscay, has not only helped me reach beyond what I believed I was capable of as an athlete, but through her example has instilled in me that the only feeling greater than reaching my own goals, is helping other athlete’s reach theirs.
That is what made last weekend so special. While I was pushing my limits in my own training, swimming, riding, and running from sun up to sun down, my athletes were out there pushing themselves, too. Every single one of them, my runners and triathletes, achieved milestones in training and racing that made my exhausted heart burst with pride.
I take great responsibility in following through with whatever workouts my coach gives to me, I value the time and effort she puts into crafting each one of them, which is why I appreciate it when my athlete’s follow through with the workouts I give to them. I know each workout will help them grow into a stronger and more confident athlete, but what gives the process meaning, is when they complete those workouts, and start to realize that growing strength in themselves.
I believe we all have potential for greatness, and I believe we'll each fall down a million times along the way, but it’s those who ask for hands to pull us back up, that will ever come close to reaching it.
This week's song and video is from my girl, Pink! It is her new sing, "Walk Me Home."