It happened at masters swim practice last week. A new woman came to the pool early in the morning and started off in the slow lane with me (though clearly she was good enough to swim with a faster group).
We started chatting during breaks and in the locker room and I told her that I was training for my first marathon and also for my first Half Ironman.
"You are?" she asked with big eyes and and a bit of awe in her voice. "That's incredible."
It's a scenario that has played out several times in the last few months.
And my response is always the same.
"Well, I haven't actually done it yet," I say. "I've just signed up and started training. When I finish, that will be incredible."
It's a philosophy I still adhere to a bit. After all, my entire life I have heard people close to me say, "Oh I was going to do [insert activity here] but ...."
Often they never complete the sentence.
So what have I really done?
I would ask myself that question.
And then my friend Laurie got in an accident.
Laurie and I met through training with the Buffalo Triathlon Club last year and became friends. It was her first year of triathlon, too, but she went big time and signed up for Ironman Lake Placid.
Over the winter, we lost touch with our schedules. Then I got the email that she was hit by a car while on her bike.
I immediately called her.
A young driver backed out of a driveway without looking and turned right into Laurie. She didn't even have the opportunity to try and miss the car -- about a mile away after an impressive long ride.
In the final tally, she had a concussion and did muscular damage to her shoulder. She's in quite a bit of pain but all in all was a pretty lucky survivor and grateful that her injuries were not worse.
But then there's the question of if she'll be ready for Lake Placid. She's not sure. And a bit of sadness settles in her eyes when she talks about the possibility that five months of solid training may not see the glory of her first Ironman finish.
As we chatted, I pointed that all her work wasn't for naught. First of all, she looked great. Second, her health and strength helped her survive the crash with minor injuries.
Most importantly, the entire process will make her stronger.
It doesn't matter if she gets to Lake Placid this summer or has to defer that particular dream for a year.
She already is amazing. She has an incredible fitness base. She has gained knowledge. She has attracted everything she needs in order to succeed -- we just don't know exactly how the story is supposed to end.
The training -- that's not a means to an end.
It's an end in itself. One that brings its own fun and joy and incredibly unpredictable stories.
Getting to the start line, hitting your goal time -- those are all nice outcomes.
But the journey is so much more fun than that.