The first triathlon Kent did he crashed a borrowed bike on a steep mountain road and showed up at the finish line with killer scrapes on his thigh and bum. He swam fast (he always swims fast), but he labored through the run on thick legs despite the short course.
On Friday, he leaves for Las Vegas, 40 pounds lighter and lightyears faster than he was those many years ago, where he'll compete with a select group of athletes from around the country and the world at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. He'll be racing with other badasses like himself, in other words.
The journey from that small, community-centered triathlon in western North Carolina to an international spectacle has been thrilling to watch. When Diana Nyad walked onto the Key West beach after swimming nearly 53 hours and told the crowd to never give up, I thought of Kent riding alone on a bike trainer in the garage at midnight. When she said you're never to old to chase your dreams and said her dream wouldn't have been possible without her team, I nodded at the truth.
Kent has sacrificed time with the family and we've sacrificed moments with him in order that he can push his body, test his will, shatter limitations and recreate his own idea of himself. I'm intoxicated by people who tackle the impossible - or what seems like it for a time. Not just the Nyad level feats of derring-do either. I mean, swimming the ocean expanse blows my mind, but I'm energized too by the local chef who is reclaiming his health, dropping pounds and competing in his first triathlon; by the stranger on Twitter who boasted of finishing his first Ironman; by a friend who walked all night for a cause close to her heart; by my yoga teacher who achieved a new pose.
Their bravery ignites mine. Their perseverance pushes me. Their triumph fuels me to seek bold triumphs of my own.
Desmond is "the big cheese" at school next week which means he gets to tell the class about himself, show his special treasures and share family photos. In selecting the pictures, he picked ones of himself playing chess, jumping from a rope swing at family camp, playing tetherball. And he picked two photos of Kent - just Kent - competing in Ironman Lake Placid. In July, I got to tick another item off my life list when we watched Kent cross the finish line there. It was an emotional experience and I found myself welled up with tears throughout the day, awed by the strength and beauty of the competitors, by the sheer audacity of swimming 2.4 miles, riding 112 miles over those mountain roads, then running a full marathon. A marathon, for crissakes.
It wasn't just the competitors, though. I felt the love of all the spectators, all of the loved ones and families like us who helped the competitors make it to the start line in one piece, then cheered them to the finish. Those people leaning over the barricades, screaming their fool heads off for the woman racing past, the ones crying and pumping their fists? I know their story. It's mine. It's Desmond's.
We won't get to cheer Kent along the course in Las Vegas, but we'll be pulling for him. Our own Diana Nyad.