Cyclists, drunk drivers, a life lost………….

Posted: August 19, 2012 in cycling, Triathlons
Tags: ,

To those in the endurance sports community, triathletes, cyclists, and runners, the tragic loss of  Heather Frazer Boyum is all too painfully known. The circumstances are equally upsetting as the loss of her life. Personally, I did not know her or have the privilege to meet her. Yet, as I read about what happened, and some of her life story, the obvious conclusion is that a positive contributor to the community and all those around her had been loss.  A wife, a mother , a teacher, and a triathlete.  Affirmation of the phrase “Only the good die young.”

By all accounts Heather was following rules of the road, and was a victim of gross negligence of two alleged intoxicated and irresponsible young adults. My gut response to that is very uncivil, and I’ll refrain from taking you down that path.  The comments made on facebook in defense of the two individuals driving is enough to stir even the mildest of personalities.  The lack of compassion and sheer ignorance is appalling.  Our legal system is currently engaged in the matter, and it is desired that justice be served.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, there may be some good done in Heather’s honor that may make it safer for those of us cyclists who share the road with motor vehicles.

Like many my fellow athletes, I was upset by this for many reasons, and on different levels. Lately I find myself thinking about the reasons I felt affected, and why I participate in the sport.  Yesterday, Mary Eggers published a speech she made  at the USAT Age Group National Companionship in Vermont http://ironmomma.com/2012/08/18/in-memory/  Her speech has been a catalyst for this post

During the nineties I was hit by a car on two different occasions. First time I was cycling to work. A car making a right hand turn, turned into me. I went up over the hood.  I was lucky. No broken bones, just a swollen leg. Second time, it occurred while I was a tour guide for a charity ride in Syracuse. On a quiet Sunday morning, a car turned left, striking me. I went down on the pavement. The driver fled, and when they found him less than ten minutes later, he had showered at his girlfriends apartment around the corner, changed into different clothes, and shaved off a full beard. I was mad as hell about that. He was arrested on the spot (outstanding warrant). No broken bones, just a swollen leg. Medical bills were paid, and I had some expensive bike parts replaced. Like Heather, I was obeying rules of the road, and wore bright clothing. I was very, very lucky.  Unlike Heather, I survived mostly unscathed. The very thought of what if, is a serious one. Very fine line when it comes to a two ton argument.

One of the avenues of thinking I have gone down is along the lines of the following idea: Each person has the potential to be a beacon of light.  For my purposes here in expressing it as something to be embraced, I  am speaking of a positive light. I do acknowledged the dark realities of the world. I think that the greater loss we have in losing Heather (and those like her), is in the opportunity to encourage, impact, mentor, and inspire others. Her recent accomplishment of crossing the 70.3 finish line is an example of goals made and completed.  I would bet it as a safe assumption, that her half ironman goal would have been followed by many more, race related and life related. Her vocation as a teacher would suggest many possibilities that could have been. We all have the ability to be a part of the ripple effect that comes from positively influencing others and the lives we touch. Unfortunately we lose bright and inspiring people all to soon from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Is it worse when we lose an inspiring triathlete?  For those of us in the sport- Yes, as we can relate on so many levels. In general we are driven, goal oriented, only as good as the most recent race. Always have an eye on the next race. We learn and grow through the process as we push ourselves to do bigger and better things, in the triathlon world, and in our daily lives. The experiences of training and racing translate into our jobs, family, friendships. We understand what a beacon a person can be and the positive influence for others. It is my opinion that the triathlon community shares many of these things. Loss of one of our own just feels worse because we appreciate the active and engaged living the sport promotes. “A life worth living” as the saying goes.

Why do I pursue the sport? -For me personally, it has been a path back to better health, and hopefully changing the outlook for the third quarter of my life.  Despite the potential risks, it is no different than many other pursuits. Whether in a race, on a training ride, or for a solo walk in the woods, I feel very much alive, and enjoy being a participant much more than being an observer. When we watch the Olympics, does it not inspire us to go out and do something greater than we did the day before. It sure did for me, and again, doing was much more exhilarating  than watching.  I train a little harder because of it.

There will  be much effort to change current laws that pertain to cyclists,and I would suspect there will also be events to honor Heather, and to raise awareness of car/cyclist collisions. Mary Eggers is putting forth a big effort in this and you can find out more at http://ironmomma.com/

Heading out for a training ride in a few moments. This blog will be in my thoughts as I crank out the miles today. Very thankful and fortunate to enjoy another day back at it as I work towards the next goal.

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