Some years ago I decided to train for my 2nd triathlon. Swimming forever was boring as fuck. Back and forth, back and forth. So I figured, hey, why don’t you plan a book while you’re at it? Swim time is quiet time, tranquil time. Meditative, to the point where the imaginary becomes real. They swam with me, they biked with me, they ran with me. Occasionally I even catch a glance of either Jesse or Sebastian in my peripheral vision. Once I was so deep in my own story while crossing the pool back and forth, I had to pull over on the way home and sort out what was real and what wasn’t.
That freaked me out, but I let the guys stick around.
Jesse was the one who’d give me a nod when I struggled. He was the one who’d crack a grin, toss his head, and call, “Hey, showing up matters! You can do it. You’re doing it now!”
Jesse was my inspiration as much as I was his creator. Sebastian just gave me a reserved nod of acknowledgment. You know how he is.
And that’s how “SwimBikeRun” was born. I wrote it as a companion piece to my training efforts all those years ago, but when I penned the last chapter after the race was done, the story had still had felt unfinished.
I let it sit on the drive for a long time. It languished. It had a few excited readers, and you all know who you are, but truth be told, once I was done training and racing, I’d sort of lost interest in the story. I picked up horseback riding and met Attila and Kai and Brent. Sebastian and Kai got left in the pool, swimming, forever forging ahead through water with their perfect Total Immersion form.
When I decided to publish the SwimBikeRun series and started to go through the words I’d written before I knew what horse manure smells like, Jesse and Sebastian roared into my subconscious like old friends, and I’m finishing their story now. Book 2, “Hard Climb,” has a lot of biking in it. Because, duh, it’s triathlon. It’s coming out in few days. The guys, well… they were happy to see me again.
“Where have you been? You’re signing up, right? You’re racing, aren’t you?”
Yes, Jesse. It took me forever, but I’m back in the pool, crossing back and forth, just two lanes away. I can’t really see you or Sebastian, but I know you’re there. When I bike on my indoor trainer, I think of you and Sebastian being tougher and braver than I am and being out there with the rest of the Pittsburgh Triathlon Club, riding in all weather in your bright and shiny outfits, braving the cold wind off the river. When I do my walk-run along wooded trails, though, you’re elsewhere. I have my dog for company and minding her, training her as I run along, pacing my breath and counting steps – that’s all my mind can take. There’s no space left for my imaginary training buddies.
I’m in the present. Step by step, past barren oak trees and over their protruding roots, through the swish-swish of fallen brown leaves. I forge along. The dog catches scent of deer and gives chase and I stop and call her, and she comes back, excited, adrenaline coursing through her veins. She’s my running buddy. My real, flesh-and-blood companion.
And yes, I signed up for a race. Thank you, Jesse and Sebastian, for still being an inspiration. Thank you, my dog, for helping me run.