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AJ: Someone Who Believed In Me When I Didn’t

AJ, Melissa, Izzy and Levi
AJ, Melissa, Izzy and Levi  (photo from AJ’s Facebook)

Back in 2011, when I was training for my first triathlon, I was a terrified, unathletic 50 year old who could barely swim across a pool, and who fell down every time I tried to ride a bike. I was a mess. I was by far the slowest, most struggling person on our team. Every single time we had a workout, I wanted to give up. I always came in dead last, whether it was a run, a swim or a bike ride.

But this was Team in Training, and we weren’t just training for ourselves. We were also raising funds for those who were dealing with blood cancers. Each team has team captains and honorees, or “honored patients” who remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing. Our team captain was AJ Jabanero, and his daughter Izzy was our honoree. I’ll never forget meeting them both at our season Kickoff.

AJ and Izzy
AJ and Izzy (Photo from Katherine Resnick)

During one of our grueling training days, I reached my breaking point. I had had a panic attack in the open water, feeling like I couldn’t breathe. My legs felt like lead during the run. I was spent and discouraged and feeling like the whole thing was an enormous mistake. I pulled away from the team, sat down on the curb and just cried.

AJ came and sat down next to me. He listened to me bawl and snuffle. I told him about how I’d been trying so hard to be healthy, to do something strong and great with my body. I’d made a turnaround after being overweight and couch-potatoish and being diagnosed with diabetes. But maybe a triathlon was just too much.

He listened to me. He was very serious. He didn’t try to cheer me up right away, or give me a big pep talk. He just nodded and said, “I used to be like that too. Overweight. Out of shape. Not able to do much.” I couldn’t believe it. He said, yeah. He had not always been the fastest guy on our team of athletes. He hadn’t always been in this peak physical condition. Every time we had a team run, AJ was one of the front runners, finishing easily and quickly, and then waiting sometimes hours for the rest of us to straggle in. He was an incredible athlete. “Yeah,” he said. He told me that he’d also come a long way. I saw that he understood where I was. He’d been there. He had so much compassion.

Champion.
Champion. (photo from Facebook)

AJ helped me get up that day. He continued to encourage me through the rest of the season, until I finally crossed that triathlon finish line, one of the very last that day.

I was so shocked at the unfairness of life when I learned that AJ had developed cancer himself, after his daughter Izzy went into remission. I was even more shocked and saddened when he passed away earlier this month. It didn’t seem possible.

What didn’t shock me, however, was the incredible turnout at a San Francisco run in his honor. I was so moved to see many of our triathlon teammates there.

ajrun
photo from Facebook

We walked and ran to the Golden Gate Bridge, and there was AJ waiting to give us a fist bump. It made me cry but it also made me smile. Thank you AJ, for believing in me and in so many of us. We won’t forget. #AJSTRONG

The final fist bump, the eternal inspiration
The final fist bump, the eternal inspiration
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Sharing the Blog Love + 7 Tidbits

Just returned from Los Angeles to find this lovely gift from Shannon.

Thanks, @fabshanneypants!

The deal is that I am now supposed to share 7 things about myself. Seven things you don’t know. And then pass on the BB award to some other great bloggers. So my 7 things are:

  1. I had to really resist buying myself a bowed psaltery last weekend. Good thing I did resist because the one I almost bought at a craft fair in Ohio was $550, and now I see they are like $200-300 online. I have the desire to be able to make music and this thing is so pretty sounding. And it looks relatively easily, unlike the
  2. …lifelong dream I have had to play the banjo. When I get honest about it I have to admit I like LISTENING to the banjo more than I’d probably enjoy learning to play it.
  3. I ate seitan for the first time today, at a vegan Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo. It was not one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life. But I could survive on it on a desert island.
  4. I met Maya Soetero-Ng yesterday! (sister of president Obama) She is one of my new heroes. She is so amazingly articulate, smart, gracious and funny. AND she has a really surprisingly deep voice. She was signing copies of Kip Fulbeck’s book MIXED, for which she wrote the Foreward. Amazing event!!!!!
  5. I’m going to Yellowstone for family vacation this summer. Did you know that?
  6. One of my first published stories, “Origami,” is on the Reading section of the SAT. Ha! I read it at the Mixed Roots Literary & Film Festival in Los Angeles today.
  7. I have a brand new website that incorporates all aspects of my crazy juggling life!!!!!!!!

I would now like to pass on the Beautiful Blogger award to the following bloggers. No obligation necessary, but if you’d like to keep passing it on, that would be beautiful! (no pressure though)

  • Jack Sh*t. (will he blush if I call him beautiful?) I loooooooove his most recent WIDTH notecard project (“Why I Do This Here,” “this” referring to healthy lifestyle) even though I have been too busy/lazy to submit my own notecard (yet).
  • Kalyn’s Kitchen: a neverending source of low-carb and South Beachy or diabetic friendly recipes. With awesome photos.  I have discovered many meals here that are now our hands-down family favorites.
  • One Sweeter Life: because she’s diabetic, and a runner, and likes gadgets like I do, and I love the honesty in her writing.
  • Balanced Body Blog: this a new young blogger with a lot of wisdom and thoughtfulness in her posts. Follow and support her!
  • Opposite Life: my buddy @Pubsgal! And an incredibly inspiring triathlete.
  • Second Helping Online: a great blog about the life of weight loss maintenance – I always learn something new here.
  • FitMindBodySpirit: @dailykat! because who else do you know who has exercised MORE THAN 365 days in a row!!!!!? Super inspiring!

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