Funny how time can all of a sudden move at warp speed. For more than 5 months, I have been pondering all kinds of posts about training, racing, and the new direction I have taken my life and career. Drafts have come and gone in my head, but for some reason, this particular subject has been weighing on my heart. As the year closes out, it seems appropriate to write about moments that have created "chapters" in my life...where it felt as if everything changed.
I am not one of those people who can narrate a detailed story of her childhood. I remember (or think I remember) certain things. I know we lived here or there and I went to that school or this school for a while. I remember our pets. I have a fairly clear recollection of our time in Turkey. But it wasn't really until I reached adulthood that I recall "moments."
The first is when I ran the 1985 Marine Corps Marathon. I made up some crazy training plan based on what little I had learned from my dad, uncle, and running magazines. My college friends were certain I had gone off the deep end when I spent hours on end on the weekends traversing the roads of Westchester County, New York. The original plan had been to run with my dad, but we were separated even before the start of the race, and I was on my own for my first 26.2 miles. While the course has changed much over the years, the finish line remains at the Marine Corps Memorial, and I will never forget the moment I realized I would be finishing my first marathon. It was when I went under the bridge at Arlington Cemetery and I could hear the echoes of the music, announcer, and cheering crowds at the finish. Back then, it was a much smaller race than it is now, albeit, still one of the largest in the nation. And even as I clearly recall that moment under the bridge, I don't have any specific memories of the actual finish line. That was the day I became a marathoner.
A little more than a year after that first marathon, I married my sweetheart. I was young, naive, and completely unaware of what the next 23+ years would hold. We grew up together. Never perfect. But always true. I'm not sure you can ask more of a marriage. All of the decisions made after December 27, 1986, were based on what would be best for both of us. I was not a nervous bride. Excited, yes. Full of anticipation. Happy beyond words. But of the whole day, the moment I remember most clearly is that brief quiet with my dad before we stepped into the church, and he told me I could change my mind if I wanted. All I could think was, "How ridiculous. This is what I am meant to do." And the next thing I knew, I was Mrs. Richard Vesey and partner to my best friend in the world.
Then, we were in the midst of living our life. We probably did what most young couples did. Moved into an apartment. Bought our first house. Changed jobs. Went on vacation. Got older. Bought our second home. Realized we weren't young anymore.
In 2001, I started graduate school. I chose to go back to my undergraduate alma mater, Manhattanville College, on a part-time program. I would travel from our home in Virginia one weekend a month to New York. The bonus was that I was able to spend most of those weekends hanging out with my grandmother. Her home in White Plains was a mere 10 minutes from the Manhattanville campus, and we enjoyed hours of girl giggles and precious time together for which I will be eternally grateful. Grandma would meet me at the door when I drove up on Friday night, beer in hand, and ready to review my class assignments with me. I finished my final class in December 2004, sent in my final project with a videotaped presentation, and waited for the board to approve me for graduation. In May of 2005, I walked across the same stage I had traversed in May 1986, but this time, the moment of receiving that diploma was so much more meaningful. I had worked my ass off. I felt as if nothing was out of reach.
As I pause right now, I find it almost impossible to believe that was only 8 years ago and how life seemed to completely change from that moment forward...again and again. A year later, we moved from our home in Virginia to Mississippi. Sometimes, I wonder if that was a moment where our world went spinning off its axis...
I had just started triathlon before we moved and quickly became enmeshed in the growing triathlon community in central Mississippi. I did several local races and my first half iron distance and finally decided to tackle the full Ironman distance. In November 2008, I lined up at the water's edge at Panama City Beach with 2,000 other Ironman hopefuls and embarked on one of the most amazing journeys of my life. I went into that race fully confident that I could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a marathon. What was unknown to me was how long that would take. I had guesses and goals, but once I was swimming from buoy to buoy, I was only focused on one swim stroke at a time, one pedal stroke at a time, one step at a time. Nearly 13 1/2 hours later (and about 90 minutes faster than I guessed), I was at the finish line. There were lights, there were people yelling, and there was Richard running alongside the chute with a bouquet of roses yelling ten times louder than anyone else. What an incredible moment that was. I was an Ironman.
In August of 2010 I was training for a second go at the iron distance. We were in a good place. But perhaps I should have noticed the shortness of breath and not blamed it on the extra heat and humidity the summer seemed to hold that year. August 21. A Saturday. I went for an early run with friends. Home for a shower and then we both went to work, agreeing to meet for lunch. At 11, I left a message on his phone to say I was heading home. At noon I texted him. At 1, came the knock on the door. And I knew. Moments. The police officer heading me off and keeping me from his side. The EMT trying to tell me without telling me. The heat. God, it was hot. The drive to the hospital. My call to the salon to cancel my appointment. Walking into the ER and hearing what I already knew. And, at that moment, the world ended. My sweetheart was gone, and the words, "Till death do us part," echoed in my head.
It is more than 3 years later, and I am still trying to make the world right again. I continue to find shards and try to fit them into the whole. But the whole is an entirely different shape. There are new people in my life. Many of the old have faded away. I am trying out a new career. My footing is unsure. My steps are hesitant. I frequently stop and think I have completely lost my mind and can't do any of this.
But in the midst of this upheaval (especially this year) there has been one moment. One very special moment. On November 17, I was baptized. Yes, I am Catholic by birth and upbringing and was baptized in the church as a baby. This was nothing like that. This was my decision to take this crazy, topsy-turvy life of mine and give it to God. He and I weren't friends for a very long time, but I started asking Him for some guidance. A little bit of help. And He gave it. Generously. So, while being baptized has not made everything okay (far from it), my quest for a meaningful life has meaning of its own. And I move forward, bit by bit, everyday, trusting as best I can with my feeble heart that the new moments will come.