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Copyright 2012 Carolyn Gage

The Triathlon of Love for Kathleen from Carolyn Love is like a triathlon. No, I mean it. There are some who treat love like a sprint. I call them the dashers. Because theyre always dashing. As in 40-yard dash. As in breathtakingly romantic. As in hopes-and-dreams dashing. And then there are those who treat love like a marathonpacing themselves for the long haul. Faithful, dependable, and frequently capable of a surprising sprint toward the finish. But my experience of love has been more like a triathlon, and specifically a triathlon involving open water, meaning ocean. There is the plunge, the bracing immersion in a vastness as intimidating as it is invigorating. And as the triathlon adage goes, The first one out of the water rarely wins the race. Because the ocean is exhausting. One must resist both panic and exhilaration, and the impulse to dominate the waves. The goal is a simple one: Just keep moving forward. Never mind speed. Do not even try to guess what the other swimmers are doing. Just keep moving forward. Love is not a swimming pool. Love is not a lake or pond. Love is enormous, mysterious, erraticfilled with hidden currents and powerful tidesand, yes, completely indifferent to the swimmer. One takes ones chances in open water. One is on ones own. This a heady, alien, and temporary environment. Keep moving forward, and

dont be too thrown by the transition to dry land. The transition is called T1 and it requires practice. Stripping down and suiting up for the next phase. This time its all about speed. There is nothing to be gained by lingering in transition. So now there is the bicyclingthe engaging with the mechanical, or what I like to think of as the rig of love: daily living, finances, shared housing with all the shifting and derailing involved. And, of course, there is the need for frequent and labor-intensive maintenance. Best to love the machine. Best to learn to love the machine, or else the maintenance can become a chore. Appreciate how much further and faster the individual can travel, how smoothly the miles unroll, when one is engaging with the machinery of relationship. This cycling, this meshing of smaller rotations with larger revolutions, is by far the longest leg of loves triathlon. The open water was about survival, but the cycling is all about distance. And, for better or worse, because there is machinery, privilege does lend an advantage. And there is the second transition, called T2. T2 is easier than T1, but it has its own challenges. These are primarily psychological. The exhaustion catches up. The injuries, no longer overridden by adrenalin or momentum, are making themselves heard. Against the aggressive suggestion, I dont think I can make it, T2 is executed. The focus shifts to the argument, This is the last leg. Weve come so far; were two-thirds done. No overwhelming force of nature. No well-oiled mechanical facilitation. Just the runner, alone, pounding against the pavement. Mercifully, the distance is not so great as with the cycling. Coming to the end: What is left? What has one learned? Was all the long training adequate preparation for the final test? The miles are labored now. The pack has thinned considerably. There will be no surprise

come-from-behind miracles at this point. One hopes for a respectable finish. One is grateful to be still in the running. One is proud of the endeavor, and if one has managed a better time than previousits a victory. And in this triathlon of love, one hopes to see the faces of ones friends at the finish. And maybe one or two will even come alongside in those final yards, in a burst of camaraderie, and run the runner home. The triathlon of love is holographic. Its many races in the one; the one in many. The course repeats itself, doubles back. There are many endings, many beginnings, multiple plunges, multiple mountings, and many stretches of running and more running. The triathlon of love never ends. We join it, we drop out, we get outof-shape, we train, we come back to it in master classes. Different strengths, different goals. And at the best ones feasting for all at the finish!