Ken Bagan took on his first triathlon this past weekend, the UBC Olympic distance. Here's a post-race reflection, through the eyes of his Ironman-wife, Kari Strutt:
A Painted Line
Races. They start at a painted line. End at a painted line.
Stories are different.
They are about what happens outside the lines...the places we’re not supposed to color.
But that’s where I find Ken - outside the lines and out of the race. He is not a happy sweaty pink. Parts of him are black, others blue. Red. Purple. The right colors, but in the wrong places. I remind myself that colors are better than grey.
Except red. Nothing good comes from red.
He fell off the bike.
His helmet is now shuffling its way to landfill. Thanks helmet...nice save.
Coach Carrie wants to know if a fall will be a problem, wants to know if he’s fallen before.
Ken and I laugh. Ken always falls.
Before we married he wanted a motorcycle. I told him he could get one if he rode his bike for a year, without falling. Twelve years later he gave up and bought a convertible.
I’ve become accustomed to his falling.
But not like this.
This fall was different.
This was a race.
I half-carry Ken from the first-aid tent to the truck. He is still nearly-high on his magnificent swim - not entirely aware, perhaps, that the day is actually done. He doesn’t know that we need to get to a hospital, because his colors are fading.
When I climb in the passenger door I notice he is staring at his legs. They are lean and strong.
“I was passing people on the bike,” he says. “No one was passing me. I had a hell of a swim, eh?”
Then it happens.
His eyes well up with tears.
Mine follow. We are together, crying.
At the moment I think to reach for his bloodied hand, Veronika, our little girl, silent and watching from the back seat, snakes her arms around the headrest, wraps them ‘round his neck.
I turn to the back seat and see that her face is streaked with tears.
“What?” she shrugs, “I’m a sympathetic crier.”
So, for a minute or two, that’s what we do. We just cry. All of us.
When the tears pass we sit for a moment, bear silent witness to absolute disappointment.
...and in that moment I realize that disappointment is not a right, it’s a privilege...that some sorrows are earned, traded for in sweat and effort, early mornings, sometimes late nights, lonely hours, long rides. They are bought and paid for in miles on foot, miles on wheels, in countless lengths in crowded pools...forever following a painted line.
Editor's note: Ken is healing up well, back in the saddle, and prepping for his next race, the Mount Royal Sprint.