If I'm not running or riding, you'll find me wearing two pieces of jewelry.
On my left middle finger, you'll find a petite ruby and diamond band, an anniversary present from my grandfather to my grandmother many years ago. On my right, you'll find a large, colorful opal surrounded by tiny diamonds.
I distinctly recall my grandmother pulling the tiny ruby band from her jacket pocket to give it to me on a trip to Toronto a few years ago. Soon after, although I can't remember if it was marked by a birthday or other occasion, my mother presented the round sparkly opal to me - also once belonging to my grandmother.
For all of my no-nonsense, tough-as-nails exterior that most people see, there is a part of me - a lot of me, actually - that's pretty sentimental. The rings aren't about the size or the shape or the color. They're about family and memories - and about always having a piece of something meaningful with me.
A few weeks ago, after I cleaned up from a long birthday bike ride, a bright gift bag with colorful tissue paper awaited me on the coffee table. I hadn't a clue what TC had planned on getting me - and to be honest, I hadn't given it much thought. For once, I didn't speculate or ask. Instead, I preferred to enjoy the surprise. After all, it really wasn't about what was in the bag, was it? It really is the thought that counts.
I reached inside the seemingly weightless bag - seriously, it seemed as if nothing was in it - and pulled out a shiny metal container. It was square, much larger and shaped differently than a standard jewelry box.
On the lid, imprinted in the shiny silver top, were the words and logo: Road ID.
I immediately smiled. Road IDs are a line of athlete-friendly identification. They come in wristbands (several kinds and many colors), shoe tags, necklaces. I'd mentioned to TC on several occasions that with all the miles we put on without any identification on us, it might be a good idea to have one.
Inside the box was a rubbery orange band with a small, stainless steel, laser-engraved plate that listed my name, birth year, hometown and two emergency contact names and phone numbers (TC and my dad).
The bottom line read: The miracle is that I had a courage to start.
Tears filled my eyes. It was far more thoughtful and sentimental than any other gift I could have gotten - and probably the part that hit me in the heart the hardest is that it was exactly what I would have chosen. Exactly - right down to the color and quote.
The John Bingham quote appears at the top of this blog and, to me, sums up my life just as much as it does anything to do with training and running.
My reaction surprised me - sometimes that softy inside of me escapes unexpectedly - and as I thanked TC for his thoughtfulness, he revealed one more surprise: a Road ID for him to wear on his rides. (He gets presents on my birthday!)
His was yellow, which matches his bike accents, with the quote: It doesn't get any easier, you only go faster. It's a quote from a professional cyclist that I've heard relayed countless times by TC, usually as I huffed and puffed my way up the hill and lamented that cycling can be hard. Apparently, it's always going to be hard, but I'll just end up getting faster. That's supposed to be reassuring?
The rubber wrist bands seem like a simple gift and an easy way to make me happy. But I was truly touched. I seriously doubt that I would have had a similar reaction had I opened a box containing a sparkly diamond bracelet. Actually, I'm sure I wouldn't have.
Like the two rings I wear, it was about the sentiment. It meant that TC "got" me. He understands my passions for running and riding - and more importantly doesn't brush off the fact that I'm slightly obsessive about getting lost or hit by a car. (Have I mentioned I do not trust drivers at all?)
I'm not naive. I know bad things happen.
It probably doesn't help that I'm a current events junkie - working at a newspaper will do that to you - and hear horror stories of Jane Does in the hospital and crash victims crumpled on the roadside.
It also doesn't help that I'm connected with other athletes throughout the country through various online training sites and hear their real-life, scary mishaps. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to see pictures posted. Sure, just what I need.
Those stories and pictures stick with me - like the TNT runner in Georgia who was hospitalized for three days without anyone knowing who she was after getting hit by a car on her run.
I'm constantly playing those "what if" scenarios in my head. What if it happened to me?
These days, I trade my two rings for the orange rubber wristband on Friday night. I make the switch again on Monday morning, just before I have to get to work. If all goes as planned, I log a whole lot of miles in between.
My Road ID is honestly one of the best birthday presents I've ever gotten. (I should note that TC's arrangements for a horse last summer were pretty over-the-top, too, and that a separate birthday bag this year contained a super-cool camera to replace one stolen from my car last month.)
It's one of the best - but it's also one that I hope I never "need" to use. I'll be totally content wearing it on my wrist and thinking about its meaning for a long, long time.