Triathlete Love: I Would Do Anything For Love (Even That)

In her latest Triathlete Love column, Susan Lacke recalls how she faced her fears and fell in love.

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Love makes us do stupid things — something columnist Susan Lacke knows all too well.

If you’ve ever fallen hard for a special someone, you know that love can be as dangerous a drug as heroin or Double-Stuf Oreos. One minute you’re completely sane, the next you’re jumping on Oprah’s couch like a caffeinated preschooler who just saw Santa Claus.

Falling in love makes us all act like idiots. But sometimes, that idiocy is exactly what we need.

When Neil first asked me on a date four years ago, I had a hard time believing he was actually talking to me, much less romantically interested. He was way out of my league — guys like him (read: insanely hot) typically don’t go for girls like me (read: clumsy and sometimes smelly). But who was I to say anything? Blinded by butterflies and the possibility of kissing a really hot boy, I accepted his invitation to go for an open-water swim in Butcher Jones Cove.

There was one problem, however: I was terrified of swimming in lakes.

Though I knew I would benefit from more open-water swimming, I chose to remain blissfully ignorant in the safe, warm, panic-free confines of a pool. But the hot boy wanted to go to the lake, so the lake (and all its weeds, leeches, and slime) became my new favorite place. I plastered on a smile as I wriggled into my wetsuit on the beach, hoping Neil couldn’t see my panic.

“Ready to go?” Neil said as he pressed his goggles to his face. I froze. Of course I’m not ready to go! I’m never ready to go! Lakes are gross. Lakes are cold. Lakes have fish and snakes and lake zombies who are waiting in the water to eat your brains.

“Sure!” I smiled. And off we went.

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I survived that swim. Somehow, this gave Neil the idea that I liked swimming in lakes, so we made it a regular date. We started hiking — another activity this asthmatic girl typically averse to, but sure enough, I became one of those people who hike, fanny pack and all. And when Neil suggested we ride our bikes 6,000 feet to the top of a mountain, guess who decided she was a climber?

Neil did some pretty uncomfortable things, too, like pretending to love John Mayer when I had third-row seats to his concert.

But I got that kiss one day after a swim. While taking in the view from the summit of a Picacho Peak hike, Neil told me he loved me for the first time. As for John Mayer, I know now it’s better to change the radio before Neil starts up with the cheesy “Your Body is a Wonderland” jokes.

Turns out those stupid things pay off in more ways than one. After a while, I no longer feared swimming in lakes — instead, I looked forward to it. I found hiking to be a fun offseason activity. I’ll ride my bike up mountains, especially if it means I get to look at Neil’s butt the whole way. And when I start to doubt myself, I turn to Neil; he’s believed in me every time, and hasn’t been wrong yet. That kind of faith can power me through anything, whether it’s trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon or simply finishing a difficult race when things aren’t going as planned.

Last weekend, Neil and I went to San Diego to participate in a century ride. The day before we were to tackle the distance, Neil suggested we hop in the ocean for a little open-water swimming, something I had only done once in my lifetime.

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“I don’t know, honey,” I whined, “Those are some pretty big waves.”

“No, they’re not. Once you get past the breakers it’s smooth as glass!”

“Yeah, but those are some pretty big breakers. What about riptides?”

“There are no riptides right now.”

“There could be sharks!”

Neil rolled his eyes. “If I see a shark, I will punch it in the face, OK? Come on.”

I whimpered.

“Let’s do this.”

Reluctantly, I walked out into the cold ocean water. Neil dived in, splashing me with cold salt water. “Isn’t this fun?”

What is wrong with you? This is not fun. This is insane. There are waves. I have salt water in my nose. Why do I do this? Still, I soldiered on; soon, I discovered he was right about the breakers. As I swam through still waters alongside Neil, I thought back to our first date in the lake and smiled. I would follow this guy anywhere.

Halfway through the swim, we stopped to take in our surroundings. Neil reached out and squeezed my hand. As if he could read my mind, a smirk crept across his face.

“Let’s swim to Hawaii.”

In that moment, it was the best idea I had ever heard.

More Triathlete Love columns from Susan Lacke.

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