Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Started by Sport

I've met some of the best people through the various sports I've done over the years... relationships that have withstood the test of time and distance. People I would have never met, if it hadn't been for cheerleading, swimming, running, triathlon. Friends that share a common passion for athletics - an interest that's formed strong ties between myself and many others.

Without Lindsay & cheerleading, I don't know if I would have made it through high school?! Admittedly, I was not so cool. High School is notorious for cruel cliques, and since they didn't accept our applications, Lindsay & I formed our own. Now, she's a mom. However, if you asked her to bust out the SNL Jim Carrey Cheerleading Skit... I know she'd perform like a champ.

Along with my HS squad, I competed on an all-star team: SuperCDA. Now, that was a crazy bunch. A rag-tag group of hyper-jumping-ADD-sleep deprived-acrobatic high school kids from all over Illinois. We weren't just a team - we were a family. The core group is now spread all over the states (with real jobs, spouses, and kids) but I know that I could call any one of them… and we’d talk for hours. While in HS, we competed… then, when we moved on to college, we became summer camp staff. The stories about those days could go on forever. Love to Kate, Becky, Brooke, Ryan, Travis, Gracie, Krista, Jeff, Ben, Craig, Gina, Jared, Rich, Woods, JT, “D” himself, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone…

After HS I moved to Athens, GA to cheer on the DAWGS! The UGA squad became my sorority/fraternity. It was an instant group of friends… our own little troop in the big bad world of college. Clif and I quickly bonded as I made him help me move into my dorm (he he, well… he had a truck!). This group had my back: what classes to sign up for, what professors award the most A’s, the best apartment complexes off campus, cool parties, great hang-outs, secret parking spots, etc… Actually, 2 girls I cheered with (Erica and Kim) are now both living in the Greenville area! Recently, I discovered this while running my usual route, they were walking near my house (one was wearing a UGA cheerleading t’shirt).

Because I didn’t want to be a cheerleader for life, (yeah, it’s really not cool as you move into your mid-20’s ;) I found running to be a great way to stay in shape. I’d always enjoyed running on my own, or as cardio during cheer practice. In college, I raced some 5k’s & 10k’s… finishing pretty well for a NON runner.

It didn’t take much persuasion when Mom asked me to join her in racing a triathlon in 2003. I dusted off the mountain bike and we headed to Greenwood, SC. (wow, funny that I’m back here). I had NO idea what I was doing before or during this race. Pool – snake swim, then I run where? Get on my bike (after disabling the kick stand)… ride 12 miles?! That’s seems far… get off my bike and start running? Well, the whole thing was a disaster. I wanted to die after the swim (luckily, I do have some history in swimming… thanks to my Dad), but I hadn’t actually raced 400 meters since I was about 10 years old. My bike was… well, something you wouldn’t catch me on today. And, to top it off… I dropped the chain at mile 9. So full of frustration, I actually broke 20 min in the 5K for the 1st time in my life. After that race, I was hooked… I knew I could do better! But, I needed HELP.

Enter the MANY friends I’ve made since 2004. Triathlon was a catalyst for many friendships I cherish today… but, it’s the personalities that keep ‘em going! Karyn, a phenomenal athlete/coach/friend, who taught me what organized training is all about… and is now almost a family member (thanks for taking care of Sally!). Jen, who demonstrates that you can be a mom, friend, wife and Ultra Competitive triathlete. Connie, Elizabeth, Jim V…

Training for triathlons also pushed me to swim with my Dad & his cronies! Not quite as competitive as the tri-crowd… but, so much fun. What a great family bonding experience: The Long Family Relay… Dad-Back, Sarah-Butterfly, Me-Breast, Mom-Freestyle. (kinda went from fast… to not so fast, but we had fun).

In moving to SC, I really didn’t know anyone. But, by searching out contacts through the “race network,” I’ve now got some amazing friends and training partners: Noel, Peter, G, Dean, Ana, everyone at Run-In, Jay, Chris, Sarah Oliver, Robin, Keith, Mike, and then list continues to grow!

Being athletic has lead me to run around the island of Nevis with Tom Nelson, ride through Rocky Mtn. National Park with Mom & Karyn, swim off the coast of Kona with Jen, Jerome, and Connie, run up Table Rock trail with Ana and Noel, ride over 100 miles with Peter through the Carolina Hills, do “bleachers” on ancient ruins in Mexico…. And I know the fun times will keep coming.

I love triathlon for what it is, how it makes me feel, the people I’ve met, where it takes me, and the adrenaline rush I get at the start of every race. Keep the adventures coming!


Sally said...

Ashley thank you. You capture the emotion of friendship and love very well and I appreciate it. love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Oh Ashley!! This made me MISS YOU A TON!!! I am so glad that you made some good friends down in SC...because up here in Illinois, we love ya and miss ya!! :) Please come home and visit (yeah, yeah, Karyn and I need to come to SC and visit, slackers!). But, now we need to come during our brutal winters!!! Love! Jen :)xoxo
PS are you going to Connie's wedding? I may be going SOLO....please come w/ me!