Did you miss Part I? Check it out here.
When I left off, it was the summer of 2006. Brent and I had been dating for six months. In that time, we’d each discovered the world of endurance sports – marathoning for me and adventure racing for him.
Two key events took place that fall that would lead us on the path toward racing together.
(1) We got engaged.
In August of that year, Brent said to me one night, “You know, I was planning to propose this summer. But I didn’t.”
“Oh… Ok.” How do you respond to that one?
“So when should I do it?” he asked smiling.
“Um… How about October 13?” I responded. A random date for a silly question. But my interest was piqued.
Not long before, my mom and I had had one of the more important conversations of my life. Brent and I had been serious right from the start, but still, I didn’t know how to figure out whether this was really it. My parents had met the day before Valentine’s Day in 1976 and had gotten married in Vegas on a cross-country roadtrip that July (the story is pretty fantastic. Check it out here.) In the summer of 2006, when I asked my mom how she knew that my dad was the one, she told me, “There’s no such thing as ‘the one.’ Marriage is about a leap of faith, a set of common values, and a commitment to working through the hard parts with this particular person.”
Best advice I’ve ever gotten.
A few weeks later, Brent suggested that we plan a weekend away for the fall. “We know the school year’s going to be busy,” he said, “and our schedules always fill up fast. Let’s pick a date and go somewhere, just the two of us.”
We settled on the weekend of October 13, and decided that since it was October, it would be fun to check out the haunted Victorian houses in Cape May, New Jersey. By this point, I had been spending a fair bit of time thinking about our looming engagement, but for some strange reason, I didn’t put two-and-two together. I know, I know…
We continued to talk about getting engaged and I continued to ponder the whens and the wheres. Brent was sure that I would figure it out.
Then, three days before our planned weekend in Cape May, I was in an accident. I was driving to school when a car sped through an intersection and made a left turn right into the front of my little nissan sentra. I was okay – just a few bumps and bruises – but my car was totaled. The rest of the week was a blur of rental cars, insurance agents, and sore backs. Brent suggested that we postpone the trip, but I was happy for the distraction.
We awoke on Saturday morning at a small B&B, and after a few hours of wandering around town (Brent had never been to the Jersey shore and knew Cape May only for the bird migrations… he was a bit dumbfounded by the ubiquitous fudge shops and custard stands), we drove down to Cape May Point State Park, the southern tip of the shore.
It was windy and cold, Brent was uncharacteristically quiet, and I was sore and grumpy. It was a winning combination. We walked awkwardly along for a few hundred feet and then Brent abruptly sat down.
“What are you doing?”
I sat down in the sand next to him, shuddering against the wind. We looked out at the ocean, neither of us saying a word. A minute or two passed.
“Why is your hand shaking?” I asked.
“Because I’m cold,” he replied quickly.
“And because I have a question for you.”
I really have no idea what Brent said or how I responded, but a few minutes later, we were strolling giddily back to our car, my grumpiness lifted. We spent much of the day trying to get in touch with my parents, who knew that Brent was proposing (he didn’t ask for permission, but he did tell them his plans) and decided to go see a show, making themselves totally incommunicado!
By the time we returned to Philly the next morning, we’d set our sights on the following May and were eager to start making plans.
(2) Brent met Ali.
At the same time that he was planning a proposal, Brent was working hard to find well-matched adventure racing teammates. After several pairings throughout the summer, he finally connected with two local athletes over an AR listserv, and the three of them made plans to take on GOALS’ final race of the season: The Edge.
Ali, Matt, and Brent raced together as Suburban Strangers. Though their rank may not have been notable, it was the first time that Brent saw real potential in having sustainable teammates. The three finished strong and quickly began making plans for the following season.
Brent, Ali, and Matt at the Edge finish - goofy smile and all...
Largely due to injury, Matt ended up not racing much more, but Ali and Brent became a dynamic duo.
Brent and I got married on May 27, 2007, and made plans for a month-long backpacking trip to Italy that summer. Before we left, we attended the wedding of two friends in Massachusetts, and on the way up north, Brent and Ali competed in the New York Adventure Racing Association Longest Day, a 12-hour race in the southern Catskills. It was the first time I got to experience adventure racing up close. I connected with Denise, NYARA head honcho, and spent the day volunteering on site.
“There’s no way I could ever do this,” I told Denise partway through the event.
“Just wait,” she told me.
I didn’t believe her.
Brent and Ali powered through the race. They took the course by storm, finishing first in the coed-two person division and gaining the attention of many in the regional adventure racing community.
We left for Italy a few days later, and a week after we returned, Brent and Ali competed in another twelve-hour race, the GOALS Krista Griesaker, with a new teammate, and I did my first triathlon, the inaugural SheRox sprint along the banks of Philly’s Schuylkill River.
I enjoyed the variety of the tri and liked being in the water again after so many years not swimming, so a few weeks later, on a bit of a whim, I registered for the 2008 Ironman Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Brent and Ali had qualified for the Adventure Racing National Championships at the New York race, and wanted to get in a 24-hour event before they traveled to Missouri for the 30-hour nationals. They set their sights on NYARA’s fall race, the Shag, but needed a fourth teammate to race in the premiere division.
Ali had recently shot the wedding of the captain of the GOALS adventure racing team, and after a fair bit of back-and-forth, she and Brent asked Bruce if he might like to join them for the Shag.
Bruce, a seasoned racer who has competed in some of the top races in the world, agreed. He, Ali, Brent, and John (their teammate from the Krista) headed to New York and came home with another win, this time in the premiere division.
The next month, Brent, Ali, and John headed to nationals. It was a disappointing race for them that resulted in a mid-pack finish. Brent pledged that he would return more prepared. He called me after the race to tell me how it went, and as we were getting off the phone, I said, “How would you feel about doing The Edge together?” referring to the last GOALS race of the season, scheduled for the following week.
He was tired. He was cold. He was bruised and battered.
“Let me think about it.”
After months of Brent regaling me with stories of the sport and trying to convince me that I should try it, I was ready to give it a shot. But was he willing to jump back in so soon?
Stay tuned for Part III!