3 years ago today my hero and best friend, Dr. Eric Westheimer succumbed to his valiant fight with brain cancer. It was a battle, one which had started nearly a year prior with a sudden and severe stroke. That year I learned both more about my dad and more about myself than I ever thought possible. Even though the rolls seemed reversed at the time (as I was caring for him) - his determination, humor and joy for life through it all will forever inspire and guide me.
As I look back to the last 3 years since I lost him, I see a pattern at first glance, then I quickly realize how spontaneous and non-linear bereavement is. I was lucky enough to come upon running in 2007 - what I hope was the toughest year of my life. My father's determination inspired me to dig deep within myself, take something completely foreign to me (training) and (pun intended) run with it. Enough with the cheese. I'm grateful for this, as running and triathlon continue to expand my soul and remind me constantly to love and embrace life. In a way training has served to be a "surrogate father" of sorts. There's nothing like a solitary run to look within and remember dad.
This may sound strange to some, but hawks and other raptors have come to have a very special place for me. Shortly after my dad died my mom and I began seeing them (or noticing them!) all over. My dad always liked them (and pointed them out as obnoxiously as I do now!) but there's something incredibly spiritual about the graceful way they fly.
I've gotta admit the last few weeks have been a little hard emotionally. I made it through the holidays without much grief but then was quickly reminded a few days after the New Year of the looming anniversary. Today. And this is the first year I haven't been distracted by running in Houston! So on a recovery run last week I was so tired. It was hot. I had to climb Latigo Canyon on the bike the next day. I was so ready to quit 30 minutes in. It wouldn't have effected my finishing the Ironman. So I resorted to a special playlist entitled "Marathon Help." What comes on? "I'm on a Boat." My dad would have loved that song! (Our humors were essentially identical.) I was smiling, and that was the burst of emotion I need to run through the next hour. It turned out to be a great run and I really channeled my dad for the remainder.
The journey did not end two years ago when I ran my first ever marathon. It began. Knee deep into Ironman training I can tell you it's been tough! And I'm (obviously) dedicating that to the man who continues to inspire me from above. (My dad.)