I am one lucky human being.
I’ve been given the chance to pursue a sport I love training for and competing in to the highest level I’m capable of. It’s an unconventional pursuit. I won’t receive a diploma when I’m done. And best I can tell, there won’t be a huge financial reward at the end.
There are days when I ask myself, ‘how did I get here?’ And there are days I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I should to be doing, right now.
For that, I have a few people to thank:
My husband, Lath
My husband, Lath. I married a man who’s crazy enough to think this is a good idea. Without his support, I couldn’t be here. We met while I was juggling a demanding full-time job, random out-of-comp USADA testing and training. We both knew together we could accomplish great things. The irony being that, for the moment, we’re often apart.
But he’s never wavered in his support. I can’t begin to explain its’ depth and breadth, because that would be way too personal here. I know for a fact he’s the biggest piece of the puzzle for me.
My mom & dad. I grew up in a small town where sports were what we did. From the time I can remember, we were either out back playing, or my folks were carting us off to swim meets, ball games or golf matches.
Dad (left), Number 44
My dad was an accomplished athlete himself. He played football and basketball in the Air Force, then at Mansfield Teacher’s College after the service. My mom loved to swim and spent her summers teaching kids to swim at the Valley Hunt Club in Lewis Run, PA.
Together, the two of them loved to play, teach and enjoyed exposing their kids to everything. My mom’s a gifted pianist and music teacher, who’s filled with enough passion, drive, heart and emotion to fuel a small revolution. My dad is the logic behind the madness. He was a math teacher, a hunter, a gardener, respected coach and strategist who knows how to stay the course and get things done.
Between the two of them, they’ve personally touched the lives of thousands, most of whom were our coaches, friends and teammates.
In a small town, you don’t have to specialize in one sport as you do in large cities or suburbs, so we did it all: swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, tennis, wrestling, baseball, football, track and field, golf, basketball, skiing . . . you name it. I never once got tired or bored, and came away with a wide skill set & plenty of game.
Not only am I blessed to have grown up in a house where playing sports and being active was just what we did, somehow the union of these two great people crafted a girl who’s rhythmically coordinated, fast-twitch faceted, compulsive enough to take risks, calculating enough to work the numbers and who clearly inherited her mother’s thighs.
Mom (far right) and her siblings, Chataqua Lake
Because of my sister Karen, I learned how to be a tomboy. She was the only person–girl or guy–daring or talented enough to do a gainer off the diving board. And she swam the butterfly. Karen was also an accomplished basketball player. She had a real command of the game by age twelve, was a natural-born leader and good student, which made her the perfect point guard.
She’s 4 years older than me and I idolized her.
I followed her around like a puppy and did everything she did. She played point guard. I played point guard. She threw javelin. I threw javelin. She taught me how to do a proper lay-up, and I still plant my left foot, extend with the right and follow-through to the basket.
Karen became more of a girly-girl as we got older while I held onto our athletic roots. But I always had someone to play 3X’s with and look up to. She led the way, and has encouraged me through competitive sport as an adult. For that I’m truly grateful.
My brother TJ is 4 days shy of 1 year older than me, and best I recall made me pay for being born well into our teens. TJ was also an exceptional athlete. He, too, possessed a mean butterfly and was a master of the cannonball and jackknife in the greatest splash contest at the Memorial Recreation Center.
By the time he was 15, TJ had invested that magic number of years (7-10) in the sport of wrestling and won a Pennsylvania State Championship title. For those unfamiliar with wrestling, Pennsylvania ranks up there with Iowa in taking rural farm kids and turning them into little mortal combat machines.
Growing up, TJ was a lot like this:
TJ, after a day in school
You never knew when he was going to strike, then you had to act quick and decide if this was a fight, flight or play dead situation. Sometimes he had back-up (The Burdick Boys) so you had no choice but to take Craig–Don’s younger lightweight brother–for your teammate and pray for the best.
One minute I’d be watching Happy Days, the next, I’d be dragged into a full-on, tag-team, death match on the living room floor. TJ would pile drive me into the carpet, my face smashed into Play-Doh stains from earlier times. I’d end up screaming, hair matted and brush-burned. Eventually, he’d climb onto the piano bench channeling Macho King Randy Savage before executing his final move.
But I regress.
My first coach used to call me a fighter. I was so green to bike racing, I didn’t know it was a compliment at the time.
Now I get it.
And I have my brother to thank for that.
I could go on for miles about the many amazing people I know and have met who have it in their hearts to help aspiring competitive cyclists, but this is a good place to start and end for now.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, enjoy the feast!