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September 27, 2005 - 9:46 am


So I did a triathlon last weekend. It was just outside Nashville, which gave me the opportunity to visit with my most excellent friend Missy, whom I hadn’t seen in way too many years.

Missy and I were in architecture school together (she was in landscape design) and we were also house mates for a few years. She’s funny, smart, adorable, sweet, and confident. I think I sort of led Missy down a darker path than she would have traveled without my influence, and, consequently, we had some great times in college. We both have the scars to prove it.

The summer we met, we hooked up with a couple of neredowell biker guys who almost killed us doing wheelies on the interstate at over a hundred miles an hour. Not so bright. Missy was left with a nice big burn scar on her hot calf.

Once we had a rave at our house, which is really funny because our house was a sweet little bungalow like one block from campus – not exactly the typical farmhouse/warehouse site you expect a rave to be held in. But it was a smash. We moved all our furniture into the back bedroom, covered all the walls, floors, and ceilings of the entire house with black plastic and set up the DJ booth in our ginormous kitchen. We charged admission. Turnout was phenomenal by anyone’s standards. We rocked the house well into the morning until the cops finally broke us up. We were superstars.

I could always count on Missy to blow off studio once in a while and stay out all night with me at Harry’s Bar, the skankiest pool hall/dive bar in pretty much the entire southeast United States. Coming out of that place at daybreak was like a badge of honor I wore with pride. I’ll never forget the old wagon wheel perched invitingly on the roof or the trough in the men’s room that served as a urinal. I hear they’ve torn it down. What a shame that demolition of a landmark spot like that didn’t warrant some serious protests amongst the college kids. Ah, well.

This other time, we got half naked – I wore no pants, she wore no top – at this bar called Darnell’s and lay on the bar while the bartender mixed shots directly in our mouths. There was group participation. I vaguely recall someone doing a shot out of Missy’s cleavage. Nice. I still have rug burn scars on my knees from some stage diving and erotic dancing on the floor of Darnell’s that night.

Missy married a doctor and now they have two precious kids and another one in the cooker. I guess Missy and I are both pretty domestic now. I bake really nice pies and plan kids’ birthday parties. She’s a stay-at-home mom who shops at gourmet grocery stores and buys expensive handbags.

We’re also both pretty athletic. She’s done a couple of marathons and I’ve done a couple of half-marathons and triathlons. And we’re exactly the same size, which you’ll find out soon enough is very fortunate for me.

In preparation for the big triathlon last Saturday, I stayed out late Thursday night drinking beer, wine, and tequila with Interesting Character. I woke up late Friday morning, brewed a strong pot of coffee, packed hastily, and discovered as I was loading my car that I couldn’t find the keys to my bike lock. After searching around for an hour or so with no luck, I called Missy and asked if she had a bike I could borrow. She assured me we’d figure something out.

Off to a great start! It was about a four hour drive and considering how dehydrated I was I didn’t have to stop to pee one single time. Planning! I mostly listened to Fela Kuti and Morphine and just sort of zoned out for four hours thinking about stuff. Got stuck behind (and beside) a Harley Davidson caravan. That was fun. Hit Friday rush hour traffic in Nashville. Not as much fun.

I made it to Missy’s and found her eight months pregnant and as beautiful as always. We caught up for a while and I tried not to be hung over any more. Her punkin’ little kids are just as cute as buttons. Missy got me set up on her mountain bike with super knobby tires because it fit me just right, and as I’d discovered that I’d also forgotten my running shoes in my morning stupor, cool Missy let me borrow hers which, like the bike, fit me just like Cinderelly.

I crashed out around 11:00pm, slept fitfully, got up at 5:00am and headed to the race site with someone else’s bike and shoes.

The weather was perfect, but the water was greenish lake water, and I couldn’t seem to find my breathing rhythm. I did the backstroke for pretty much the whole 500 yards, and that worked out for me okay. When that part was over I felt so relieved. Not dead yet!

Then I ran a mile and a half run up to the bike transition area. I passed people. I hopped on that big honkin’ mountain bike and started pedaling my little bottom off. I realized at this point there was no water bottle mount and so no water bottle. Oh well, I was sure there would be water stops along the 12 mile ride.

Yeah, no water stops. And lots of hills. 12 miles of hills, to be exact.

By the time I got back to the transition area, the inside of my mouth was sticky and nearly bone dry from thirst. I popped open a HammerGel and chased it with too much water and felt like I was going to wretch. But I knew I was in the home stretch and got my second wind for the final run. Again, I was passing people with my ninja-like speed and agility. I like that about me.

I finished in 1:35:01 which is 22 minutes faster than the last triathlon I did a year ago. Go me with the borrowed shoes and the mountain bike and the hangover and the no water!

I think the skills I developed as a wayward youth have really helped me in some unexpected ways. I learned how to plan well but still leave room for a little spontaneity. I learned adaptability in the face of unforeseen challenges. I developed the drive, endurance, and stamina to finish the task at…

Are you buying any of this? Yeah, me neither.

Mostly I think it’s a miracle I survived some of the stupid shit I did when I was younger. But thank god I did. I guess it’s possible I’ve just learned to channel that idiotic energy a little more constructively as I’ve grown up. But one thing I have always known through the insanity to the mommyhood is that when you see a good opportunity you have to 1) be able to recognize it and 2) take it before it expires. I enjoyed those shots on that bar without a thought of the inevitable hangover the next day just as I’ve cherished every phase of my children’s development without rushing them to grow up.

When I started this mad writing I was at a great big crisis point. I’d just been told by a professional that my husband may have borderline personality disorder and I needed to run and not look back. The writing has been an attempt to work through that possibility and figure out what to do. I came to understand that all the time I was married I hadn’t been able to grab those moments just for myself anymore, to enjoy myself – not as someone’s mommy or wife – without this vague pointless guilt lingering over me. I needed to take care of everyone else first and my care never seemed to fit in anywhere. Maybe I was doing some sort of penance for all the bad fun I had for so many years. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

Because now finally I think I’m starting to feel better. I see opportunities that need to be taken before they disappear forever. And you can bet I’m taking them and running with them as fast as I can.

Next triathlon will be done in under 1:30:00.


reading -Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
viewing - Y tu mamá también
listening -"Let's Start" by Fela Kuti

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