Today marks 13 years since I lost my dad. During Ironman training this summer, I read a father's account of his race experience, finishing an Ironman with his daughter. Maybe it was the emotions and fatigue of training that led me to be a sap, but I found I felt better after writing this.
I grew up with a dad who loved to be active. He was always running, rowing, biking, swimming- heck, even building cardboard boats for us to take part in the "Cardboard Boat Race". I have memories of my mom making lasagna for his rowing club to carbo load with. I remember jumping in the car with my mom and sister to hunt my dad down after he went for a run in the dark and it starting storming. When we found him, he didn't see what the big deal was. A little rain wasn't going to hurt anyone. He said that line a lot, actually. Still to this day, when I am getting ready to run in cold, rain, snow, heat, wind, or whatever mother nature throws our way, I remember my dad saying "If you only run when the weather is perfect, you'll never run." And when things hurt, there is always his equally infamous (and not original) "No pain, no gain." I'm not sure how much I admitted it at the time, but I loved going for runs with him. We would do local 5ks and the annual Turkey Trot Five Miler, which was a big feat for a kid. Of course, he made it seem like an even bigger deal when he would take my medal and ceremoniously place it in our "Trophy Cabinet" among his various plaques and trophies.
I remember the day my dad died, he was getting his PICC line out after a long course of antibiotics. When he wasn't answering at home, we figured he had finally gotten out for a swim- something he hadn't been able to do and was so looking forward to. That thought of my dad happily returning to physical activity was still in my mind when I found my father dead at age 49, never to complete another race.
I know a lot of people will say that he has been there, in some form or another, all along, and will be with me on September 8. In some ways, I agree, but it isn't enough. My mom will be there when I cross the finish line, and yes, that does mean the world to me, but her version of a pep talk when I admit how terrified I am of the 140.6 miles I am about to cover is "well honey, I still love you if you don't want to do it." I like to think that back when I was just a kid, my dad taught me to love sports knowing it would get me through the tough times and shape me into who I am today. This year was a tough one for me, and the training was what got me through. I don't have my dad around to offer advice or be a shoulder to cry on, but thanks to him, I have 140.6 miles of therapy.