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Teri The Curious, Cutest, Triathlete

By embracing the pain, by looking into it and beyond it, I have come to see God's presence in even the worst situations." Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, The Gift of Peace

Today, a colleague I recently met emailed me about her interest in doing Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga in May 2024. At first I got excited and even signed up to be notified via email when the registration opens. Why not? I need to get in shape and races are a proven way for me to get my act together. Shortly after, I felt an emotional rush of sadness. This email reminded me of the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon we completed together in June 2019. We had such a great time in the city that weekend, just the two of us. We even agreed to consider training for IM 70.3 Chattanooga in the future. Yes she was open to a half ironman distance. How fun would it have been if we did that race together.

I'm so proud to say that Teri made it to the finish line of not just one, but two sprint triathlons! That was our beloved Teri, and this is just one story of many more to share. She was always down to try new things, all thanks to her curiosity. She loved to take me out of my comfort zone, always encouraging me to be more curious about everything in life.

For those reading, I'm sure I've personally tried to "sell" you on doing a triathlon with me, which is still my way of taking people out of their comfort zone. Teri's curiosity made it easy to sign up, even when the circumstances were personally difficult for her. She barely knew how to swim! In early 2018, she signed up for her first race one month after completing chemotherapy (check out her post) and then went to complete the race in June 2018.

Looking at our photos posted here from her second race in Chattanooga really makes me smile. How blessed I was to have someone who not only encouraged me to race, but also raced with me. It didn't hit me until that email that I didn't just lose my wife on April 2, but one of my former triathlon training partners who was ready to fill up our calendars with racecations throughout the rest of 2023.

Grieving the loss of Teri reminds me of training for an Ironman triathlon for a few reasons:

  • 🏊‍♀️ 🏊 Emotional Rollercoaster: Grieving and training for an Ironman has been an emotional rollercoaster. In many ways, they both feel like part time jobs and can consume so much of me that I have capacity for. In grieving, I've experienced a wide range of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, and acceptance. Similarly, training for an Ironman has pushed me to my limits physically and mentally, leading to highs and lows, moments of doubt, and a constant need to push through challenges.

  • 🚴‍♀️🚴 Support and Community: Both benefit from having a strong support system. I'm so thankful to have opportunities to share her story with groups and individuals on my calendar in the near future, some I haven't seen in several years. I really have some "best in class" friends that have made me feel so loved because of their genuine care and empathy during our walks with Mayo around the lake. Similarly, training for an Ironman involved me organizing several group training sessions where I can find advice, encouragement, and camaraderie from fellow athletes who are going through similar experiences.

  • 🏃‍♀️🏃Growth and Transformation: Grieving and training for an Ironman has led me to "forced" personal growth and transformation. When I feel the tidal wave of emotions during the most unexpected times, I tell myself that this is so good for me and will help me grow even closer to Jesus. The times when training was the most difficult (a friend cancels, its raining, the hill never ends, the ocean is cold and I forgot my wetsuit, etc. are what comes to mind when I'm halfway through a race and want to give up. While I love community during this time of grieving, most of the growth has been on the nights I'm alone, diving deep into her journals, photos, and videos. Those are the nights I "feel" the pain the most. Grieving allows me to confront this painful loss, gain insights about God, myself and my relationships, hopefully leading me to a new norm.

The big difference grieving and training for an Ironman is that grieving does not have an end date. And as of recently, that is OK with me. I've learned from my therapist that I shouldn't put an end date to this season. Instead, I try my best to embrace this reality and make the most of this time. It's also what Teri would want me to do. Just be in the moment and not overthink or plan what's next.

My last triathlon was scheduled for April 1, 2023. I was ready to race that day, but God had better plans once it was clear that Teri's health was declining and needed to be rushed to the hospital the Tuesday before the race. He allowed me on race day to be with Teri. What a privilege it was to hold her hand until she took her last breath and crossed the finish line into the arms of her heavenly father, free from physical suffering.

As of now, I don't have a race on the calendar. I'm usually anxious about not having something to train for, but not this time around. I'm thankful for my friends that have been patiently waiting on me in this area, still wanting to train with me. Perhaps in 2024? We will see. Thank you for reading.

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