HEMPSTEAD -- I asked the front desk if there was a place nearby where I could go running. The hotel (a Marriott my fellow sportswriters would be pleased to know) has a pretty decent fitness center even while the place undergoes renovations but I wanted the chance to run outside before covering the Canisius softball team in their NCAA regional games.
I was told that Eisenhower Park was nearby but I was greatly cautioned about crossing the intersection. Hmm. I don't feel like playing chicken on something akin to the Long Island Expressway so I'll just start running and see what happens.
Out on the main road, I immediately found a bike path that went both right and left. Perfect. I turned left and ran, easy paced, down the path. About 10 minutes later I came to somewhat of a major intersection with a traffic light. On the other side, right in front of me, was Eisenhower Park.
Think of running along Sheridan Avenue and crossing around Niagara Falls Boulevard. Now subtract a factor of 10. It wasn't nearly as daunting as the front desk person made it sound.
The park was beautiful in the early morning with paved trails throughout. I picked easy simple loops so as not to get lost and found myself loving the ambiance, feeling great, and running for an hour.
After a full day of softball and covering the first win for Canisius softball in the NCAA tournament in eight years I was back at the hotel waiting for two friends to arrive.
It was as if the universe had aligned perfectly so that I could see two wonderful women, Michele and Carolyn, whom I met on a cycling trip in Italy with Women's Quest. They were both in my cycling group and together we struggled through the hills of Tuscany and allowed the experience to ignite dreams and passions and individual quests (like, say, training for a triathlon).
Throughout this process I've leaned on them for support and shared my triumphs. They've become my closest friends though we live hundreds of miles apart and seeing them in person was the boost I needed to get through the final three weeks of preparation for Keuka Lake.
And as if sitting around, chatting over a leisurely dinner wasn't inspiring enough, they said they had a surprise for me -- they were coming to Keuka to cheer me on in my first triathlon. Five women from my cycling trip are making the journey to the Finger Lakes to be my official cheerleading team and enjoy pancakes with me once I beat the wizard at his crafty games.
I excitedly told Sherpa that I would have a Women's Quest contingent at the tri.
"Uh-oh. Pressure," he said.
"No, not pressure," I said. "Support. Fun."
"Just testing you," Sherpa said.
No matter what my time, no matter how I doggy-paddle my way through the swim (though I now think of it as polar bear-ing my way through the water), no matter what I look like when I finally drag my butt across that finish line, Michele and Carolyn and the rest of the gang will be there to cheer for me, to be proud of me and to celebrate with me.
To have that kind of unconditional friendship is a blessing I won't take for granted.