An old friend once told me that coaches come in…and then out…of our lives for a reason. No coach is going to be the right fit forever, and it’s only human nature that we move on.
I wasn’t ready to move on from you. But I can’t call all the shots, I guess. I should know that by now.
When Faye offered to make the intro to you in June, I haphazardly said, “sure, that’d be cool,” and totally didn’t expect her to follow up on it. But she did. Because she’s Faye and she’s awesome. And then I didn’t expect to really like you. After all – I was coming off an injury, why did I really need you? But then our personalities meshed so perfectly. When I told you I had run 3 marathons in 2016, you bluntly said, “well that was stupid, why would anyone let you do that?” and I knew we were a match made in heaven.
Once you got back from your summer trip with Finn, I was excited to get started. I was doing a little running, but as the weeks rolled into months, it was pretty clear that my long-term injury wasn’t going to easily subside. But you didn’t balk at all at the situation. Instead, you educated me on how to be a smarter, more prepared athlete. You became enemies with my PT in Westport (he was definitely an idiot), you threatened to throw my pink elliptiGO into the ocean, you refrained from calling PETA when I gave my cat a haircut, you educated me on how long a pool is, and you made me add you to HIPAA for every clinical office I visited.
When I told you I was starting my own coaching business, you immediately started passing on wisdom about owning a business and how to be successful. You were the perfect example of what a strong–but compassionate–coach should be like. I always told you that I felt weird having a coach, being a coach myself…but you never thought twice about the situation. Once you said, “I could never give up the reins, but maybe someday I’ll ask you to coach me…” and then you laughed at yourself, because you knew that would never happen.
Beyond the XT workouts, you taught me how to handle a long-term injury, and how to be my own biggest advocate. I knew, before working with you, that chronic pain was not an answer…but having you on my side reaffirmed that belief, and helped me keep fighting. Remember the time you told me to go into my doctor appointments with a pen and paper, and a list of questions I needed answered? I remember how impressed my doctor was with that. You taught me to never stop questioning, and to always be skeptical. We talked after every single PT appointment in the summer, and I remember being so thankful when you told me that “fuck it runs” were occasionally ok.
“Just keep leaving no stone unturned, constantly ask questions, and never settle,” you wrote to me in an email in October.
You kept me level-headed every time I called you in tears. One time, before we knew you had cancer, you called me FROM THE HOSPITAL. From the hospital. I heard beeping and booping of machines, and you nonchalantly said, “eh, just running some tests, not a big deal.” I was so upset that day – hyped up on wine and hysterically crying – because of a shitty PT appointment, and the fact that I was in pain. I’m sure you thought I was insane. But you calmed me down.
And remember that time I told you I was going to quit running and take up knitting? You literally said, “oh fuck you, no you’re not, you haven’t even begun to exhaust all of your options” …to which I said, “fuck you, why not?” And then, once again, you walked me off the ledge and proved you were right.
Then we found out you had cancer. I remember that day. You had left me a really awkward voice message and told me to call you back – I still have it on my phone, but I don’t like listening to it. It doesn’t sound like you in that message. After you told me, I went to work and tried not to cry for the rest of the day. You told me you were going to be ok, and I thought that, for once, you weren’t right. But even when I talked to Faye, she said you sounded optimistic. So maybe you would be one of the lucky few that would survive? Hope was the only thing that we could have for you.
I remember reading the post you published to Facebook about your diagnosis. I was boarding the flight to San Diego for the ElliptiGO race, and the post brought me to tears. (And, more importantly, I was befuddled that you had posted it with so few grammatical errors.) I texted you and immediately apologized for bitching so much about my own injury; everything else seemed so insignificant compared to what you were going through. But you said, “no worries, we all have our own battles.” (You also let me in on the secret that someone edits your FB posts, you clever cat.) So then I made fun of you for being bald, and told you that you’d need to expand your assortment of hats this winter. Faye and I talked about getting you a fuzzy bear hat with panels for your hands this Christmas. I wish you had made it to Christmas so we could’ve gotten you that.
I’m so glad I insisted on visiting you in November during the marathon weekend. As I drove away from your house, I wondered if that would be the last time I’d ever see you. You had offered your couch and a car for the marathon weekend, but then said, “you’re probably like me when you travel, though, and like to be independent.” I think you wanted me to stay but understood why I decided not to. We have a lot in common…I think we both knew that from the first time we talked to each other, which is why we quickly became friends.
Before my visit to your house, you warned me about your purple face, but it didn’t really bother me…it was just another thing I could make fun of you for. 🙂 During my visit, I helped you make Finn’s bed and I watched you be so gentle, kind, and patient with him. It was so obvious how much you love him and I’m so happy I was able to see you both together. I quietly asked if he knew what was going on with your health, and you said yes, “he knows it’s more than just a cold…he kisses me and touches my face and holds my hand more often these days.” There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Finn is going to grow up and be as loving, caring, and intuitive as you were.
To Finn – hopefully, someday you will be ready to read this, and all of the other amazing messages people have left for you. Know that your dad was so selfless, and loved you so so much. You were his lifeline. He strived to live in the moment whenever he was with you, and he is an example for us all.
Jason, I wish we had more time together. When I was thinking about taking a pause in running a few weeks ago, I’m so glad you convinced me (not once, but twice) to keep going with you. It seems fitting that our last phone conversation, 6 days before you passed, was me admitting that you were right. And it seems even more fitting that our last texts to each other on Thursday were you being sassy to me. I had no idea that you would be gone 3 days later.
I wish I could’ve called you after my first track workout back yesterday, but I know you were watching. I’m sure you’re pissed I ran that last 200 in 35, just like you were pissed about that 5k from 3 weeks ago. But I promise to control myself and to continue to listen to my body. I promise to keep seeking answers, to keep thinking critically, and to keep training smart. We both wanted me to break 3 so badly…but at least now you’ll be able to watch it happen from heaven, right? I promise to make you proud.
We might not have been able to run any PRs together, but because of you, I have kept the faith in this crazy sport of running…and for that I am so thankful. Thank you for being so much more than a running coach to me. I’m going to miss you so much.