Perspective is the key to life

On August 8, my husband George (who also races bikes) and I took a break from our interval workouts and went for a hike with some friends, quietly celebrating Colleen Day.

Colleen was George's first wife, who passed away from breast cancer at the age of 31. She was a wonderful, compassionate, determined woman whose life and inspiration cannot be accurately wedged into one sentence. Except perhaps for the accuracy of this particular statement: Colleen was an athlete. She lived the way an athlete lives -- fully. In the months before she passed, Colleen, a competitive cyclist, rode her bike to and from chemo treatments.

For this year's tribute, George and I decided to climb a mountain. Mountains are wonderfully symbolic. Filled with striving, seeking, summiting and just enough leg cramping to remind you that life isn't always easy, but damn, it sure is worth the struggle. Up we went. Views were absorbed. Friends were with us. Thoughts were shared. Down we came. Colleen Day.

It was truly lovely. August 8 was her birthday, the right day to celebrate. We even had carrot cake, her favorite.

Some people ask me if Colleen Day feels, you know ... weird and all because I'm the second wife celebrating the life of my husband's first wife. I can see how people might wonder that. But I've always been a little weird and life itself is pretty strange, so if this particular ritual is seems odd then that's probably just the norm for me. The truth is I think Colleen Day is awesome. I also think it is beautiful, honest and necessary.

Beautiful because the day is a tribute to a life well lived; honest because Colleen existed in a role that came before mine; necessary because my husband -- and anyone who has ever lost anyone -- deserves to celebrate the memory of someone they loved. So why not create a special day for it?

The awesome part for me is that on this day, I can celebrate a woman who gave her husband happiness, companionship, communication and truthfulness -- all characteristics George was able to bring with him to the next chapter of his life.

Celebrating Colleen Day isn't weird. It's an honor.

This year, Colleen Day fell on a Monday, my weekly rest day during my ramped-up training for world championships. Sunday was a three-hour endurance workout, Tuesday brings morning and evening sessions of difficult intervals. Like most athletes, my brain and body sometimes offer different advice.

At first, my physical side worried that climbing a mountain on my rest day might not be the best choice for my cyclist's body in the middle of speed-specific training.

Then, luckily, my mental perspective punched my physical side. After all, Colleen Day is a perfect training regimen for any athlete's brain, which quietly reminds any tired body how lucky it is to do what it does -- namely, live in good health.

When it comes to the big picture, things like intervals, hiking and endurance rides can -- and should -- coexist. There's not a mountain top in the world that doesn't literally and figuratively offer the one thing we all need most in life: perspective.

So for anyone who has loved and lost, any athlete who lives fully and deliberately and everyone who sometimes needs a reminder of the ultimate gift of good health, happy Colleen Day.

Go out and do something today. And don't forget the carrot cake.

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