The Flaming Lips put it quite simply:
“Do you realize…
Everyone you know,
someday will die.”
I recently spent a week in the Bay area. I arrived in San Francisco last Tuesday, just days after an accident resulting in the death of two well-known Bay area cyclists. Kristy Gough, also a professional triathlete, was killed Sunday, March 9th. While on a group ride she was struck by a police cruiser when it crossed the double yellow line and struck three cyclists, killing two of them. I attended the memorial with a friend and fellow professional Kelly Couch and her husband John.
Kelly and I talked for a long time about the shock of losing someone so quickly, Kristy died doing what she loved doing, living out her childhood dream. She was happy, but she was gone in an instant. I spent some time that week with Paul Lundgren of Fit2Race who then sent me this video (link attached) of a man named Randy Pausch.
I won’t summarize Randy’s lecture here, it is well worth the time if you get a chance to watch it. Randy is dying of pancreatic cancer and with only months left to live, he said goodbye to his students at Carnegie Mellon University with one last lecture. Randy talks about living out your childhood dreams, something we all spend time thinking about, and something a few of us lucky ones have had the opportunity to pursue.
That Sunday afternoon at Kristy Gough’s memorial, Kelly Couch said something that I will never forget. “I see myself in Kristy, I will remember her forever and I will always race with her in my heart”. I didn’t know Kristy that well, we knew each other from racing and I spent some time chatting with her after the Vineman 70.3 race last year. As a professional triathlete and a superstar cyclist, Kristy dealt with her own set of challenges. She was without a doubt talented, but more than that she was hard working and perseverant. She never gave up, and even from the short time that I knew her; she always suffered with a smile. As Kristy’s mom put it at her memorial “she reveled in the suffering”.
My 2007 rookie professional year was rattled with health problems, limiting knee issues, the challenges of relocating, a new profession, and new teammates. Coming into my second year as a professional I’m now faced with an unexpected long rehab from a recent knee surgery. It can be so easy to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and defeated. But then I remember Kristy and the fact that I am still here to fight for the boundless opportunities that lay ahead for me. And if I lose strength to fight for myself, I will fight for her.
In the world of Endurance sports we become short sighted; achilles tendonitis, torn meniscus, strained hamstring, ruptured disc , crazy work schedule, and even a common cold seems like the end of the world, but in reality these are challenges. How we deal with those challenges not only define us as athletes but as people. As Randy Pausch reminds us, you can either wallow in self-pity and bring down those around you, or you can use that challenge to motivate others and leave a lasting impression.
I know my knee surgery will not be my last challenge as a professional athlete, I will have many more after this, and I find hope in the reality that each challenge ahead provides me the opportunity to step up, define myself and affect the lives of those around me.
Life is a temporary thing, it can be gone in an instant. Kristy reminds us to attack each challenge as if it was your last and to do it with a smile. The Flaming Lips take it one step farther to remind us that life has boundless opportunities, the world will never stop spinning, life will go on “and instead of saying all of your goodbyes,
let them know,
you realize that life goes fast,
it’s hard to make the good things last.
the sun doesn’t go down,
it’s just an illusion,
caused by the world spinning round. “
Lara Brown a native of Portland, Oregon currently resides in Redmond, Washington. After attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs she served 5 years in the Air Force. She is presently competing as a professional triathlete, and works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org