Tag: Friendship

The Original Badass Betty

At 5:30 in the morning, small talk doesn’t flow easily. It can take years to get to know your poolmates, one incoherent sentence at a time. But over time friendships are made, your tribe expands, and you sometimes find inspiration in people who were once strangers.

The Original Badass BettyBetty Weaver is one of these inspirational forces (not just because of her name). Betty’s a feisty 89 years old. She’s been a pool regular long before I joined. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30am, she’s at the pool with her duffle bag ready to swim, almost without exception.

As with most of my heroes her accomplishments are many, but her attitude is what I find most remarkable.

She makes all of her own swimsuits. (I didn’t even know this was possible) Most days she climbs in and out of the pool on her own and on days when her back is bad, she uses the chair. She doesn’t love this, but it’s better than not swimming. Once she’s in, she swims laps in the first lane for 45 minutes.

Once in a while, not very often, she has falls. When she gets up – on her own or with help – she’s usually laughing and calling herself silly. She claims that she’s getting better at falling, because mostly she falls forward, which is much better than backward and bumping her head.

When she was 74, she started collecting swimming medals at the Senior Olympics. (She notes that she would’ve started a year earlier, but her daughter had scheduled her for a white water rafting trip) She’ll joyfully tell you that her secret to winning is outliving her competition. And if you stay on the topic long enough, you might learn that last summer, she gave her medal away to another senior athlete who hadn’t won a medal before.

She’s always been an independent spirit.  When she was 2 her favorite thing to say was “I do it, myself.” She had her own role model for aging happily; a friend who lived to 103. Despite losing most of her sight,  wearing uncomfortable braces because of her horribly arthritic legs, and developing mouth cancer in her late 90s which forced her to eat baby food until she died, she was always happy and had a great attitude about life. “She took things as they came and made the best of what she had. She smiled all the time and was so nice.”

When I see Betty in the morning, I always hope I can be just like her. I told her so once and she sloughed off the compliment and broke her strategy down to the most simple process…

“When I wake up in the morning and I check to see what still moves. Whatever’s still moving, I move it as much as possible that day.”

Simple. And then she smiles and laughs.

Betty’s one of the biggest benefits of early morning swimming. Her smile is as inspirational as her discipline. She provides the most colorful commentary about my Betty Designs swimsuits; seeing her name everywhere and having her own team delights her. She’s  especially silly when it says “badass” on the butt.

Me and Betty WeaverMy Betty Teammates and I decided that Betty really is an original and should have some Betty gear, so we recently gave her a visor. She loved it! But the next time I saw her, she was concerned. She’d gone home and looked up what “badass” meant and it sounded awful to her – “someone who’s difficult to deal with and mean-tempered”. That didn’t sound good to her. I explained it was more of the “distinctively tough or powerful” part of the definition that we’re talking about. That she was OK with and was happy to be a badass again. 

Betty turns 90 in November. She warned that we better not do anything for her birthday. (She’s fighty, sometimes.) I think it would be impossible not to celebrate. Not just making it to 90, but for being a beautiful badass at 90 – and for the  wonderful possibility that we could be, too!

Plunging into 2016

The 1st Annual ISLAGIATT New Year’s Day Backward Xterra Triathlon

The plan was hatched in the usual way 2 weeks earlier.

Last year we celebrated with a Sufferfest, which was the perfect start to a year in which we would quest for Knighthood of Sufferlandria. With new goals and schemes, we needed an appropriately epic kick-off for 2016

For Kristin, it’s The Year of Dirt – gravel rides, Xterras, CX, plus the full 3 Day PMC. For Nancy, it’s The Year of Epic Cycling, including theBattenkill & PMC. For me, it’s The Year to Bring it All Together – all 3 disciplines, better nutrition & injury prevention. This terrible idea brought it all together and the plunge into the icy, cold water would seal the deal!

As usual in New England, the weather necessitated plan modifications. Recon on the course the day before, revealed too much ice on the trails to make the run leg hit our minimum fun level – so it would be a road run. The crunchy trails were fine on mountain bike, so Fatbikes would be perfect.

We met at noon and it was on! This was actually the first time we had all run together. We pretty much crushed the hilly run, each setting a PR for the number of times we stopped to play with items on lawns along the way.

After the second longest transition in history, we were in the woods, crunching through the snow on Fatbikes. (Special thanks to Anders for letting me borrow his Xmas present.) We covered every trail we could find and following Kristin’s lead, we opted for riding across streams despite the availability of a wooden bridge. We discovered beautiful structures crafted from fallen trees and only a single set of footprints in the first snow of the winter. It was colder in the woods than we expected based on the run, so we determined the ride duration by the discomfort of Kristin’s hands, knowing that body heat was required for the final leg.

We peeled off our warm layers and waited in the warm cars for the arrival of the life guards, Jason & Steve. (Safety is a priority, even amidst craziness) Once the men arrived, we forced ourselves from the warmth out into the cold air. (For her first plunge, Nancy was the most prepared with the awesome robe) Just to add to the shenanigans, we added a shot of Irish liquid courage and started the swim lap on our Garmins. Kristin and I set up for a last pre-swim picture and realized that Nancy was marching stubbornly into the reservoir muttering, “I can do this, I’m a triathlete, dammit.” We dashed in to catch her and take the plunge into the new year, together.

The water was just frickin’ cold – stupid cold, but exhilarating…life affirming… adventure commencing.

It’s amazing what epic adventures you can create with friends who are willing to jump in with both feet with you. Not just in sport, but in all aspects of life, I feel lucky to have many wonderful friends who are willing to jump in with me! We support each other. We rely on each other. We humor each other. We challenge each other.
Together, we live the kind of life you feel; where there’s no doubt we’re alive.

Polar Bear Roar