When Life Happens, and Then Doesn’t

I know I’ve been a little quiet as of late. Perhaps you haven’t noticed. It’s been a rough several months for me and my family. I’ll try not to dwell too much on the things that have gone wrong, however, I think mentioning them helps me keep focused on moving forward, with brief pauses for reflection.

Things started to unravel back in November when the health of my mother in law and father in law began a slow and steady downhill spiral. For several months they bounced back and forth between home, the hospital, a nursing care facility, and finally hospice. The family met frequently to discuss future plans and needs which addressed all areas of concern and covered solutions for all possible outcomes. While the meetings were very necessary, the mere fact that they were needed placed additional stress on everyone. We didn’t want to have those conversations, but we knew we needed to. All of this was happening while we were also regularly visiting my 90 year mother in her nursing home. We knew she didn’t have too much more time with us, but we weren’t too concerned with her immediate health.

The spring brought a rapid fire onslaught of loss and despair. In April we lost my father in law. In May we lost my mother in law. And then in June, after an abscess developed requiring surgical removal, we lost my mother. In less than 70 days, we became the oldest generation of the family. Couple that with life’s normal struggles and stressors and let’s just say that things took a toll on me, and the rest of our family. It was a dark and painful time, and one we are still trying to navigate through.

Through good times and bad, fitness, and locomotion have always been very important to me. Movement has been my therapy, my happy place, and my chocolate. Movement has been my therapist, my guru, my counselor, my teacher, my mentor, and my inner voice of reason. Fitness has been able to lift me up when I needed a boost and provide a healthy escape from some of the demons that can haunt us. Unfortunately, fitness also took a little bit of a hit during these past few months. In many cases, I was just too busy attending to the much more pressing issues at hand. But even when I did have time, motivation suffered and training was difficult. I salvaged enough to keep me afloat, but not without feelings of inadequacy and shortfall. I was forced to back out of a couple of races due to family priorities. Believe it or not, that made me question who I was or possibly even who I used to be.

It’s taken some time, but I seem to be working my way out of the hole, little by little. I’ve come to the self-realization that I still AM what I was. I needed to take some time to heal, and the process is nowhere near complete, but I still AM. I’m still that same person inside. Events may have left a mark on me and slightly changed my perspective on life, but in spite of everything that has happened I’m still sitting here writing and in (relative) control. In my book, that translates to me winning this battle.

While the summer hasn’t gone exactly as planned, life has given me many hidden blessings that I will embrace for the silver linings that they are. On the racing front, I am quietly and unassumingly reloading my attack on Ironman Maryland. I’ve still got a few key races on the calendar before the end of the year; hopefully these will help keep some of the air in my sails. As I’ve always said, I prefer quiet and subtle accomplishments. I’ve been racing long enough to be able to live with my accomplishments for what they are. In my years of racing, I’ve learned that it’s pretty easy to dedicate time and energy to a race, have all of the stars align, and turn out a good experience. The challenge is doing all of that when the stars are colliding into one another, and colliding into you.

The size of your footprint is far more important than the sound of your footsteps.

Be proud, but be humble.

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  1. Posted July 21, 2015 at | Permalink

    You’ve done well, Pilgrim. Keep walking.

  2. Janet Papale
    Posted July 21, 2015 at | Permalink

    They have all lived a full life .., it is your time to enjoy your family, health and personal goals.. We believe in you. Be healthy!
    Love, Vince and Janet Papale

  3. Robyn Arters-Vietro
    Posted July 21, 2015 at | Permalink

    A true hero knows when to fight and knows when to give it up to a higher power. You have always been good at doing that and inspiring others to do the same. My prayers are with you and your family. You will always be my hero.

  4. Posted July 21, 2015 at | Permalink

    Great post Steve and yes, fully grasp what you and your family are going through. This part of life isn’t the best but like you typed, you need time to be you and though some might stab you with it, take the time you need to find who you are and live that life. Things change. Change is ok.

  5. Edie Allen
    Posted July 21, 2015 at | Permalink

    Art and I love you, Steve. True strength to me has always been what happens when you’re hit the hardest and take the time to reflect – and then take action on – priorities. Sometimes that means to just sit your butt down and just BE. That’s how we find out who we really are inside and that’s what matters most to those we love and those who love us – that we take care of ourselves. I love that you’ve once again reached into the depths of darkness and pulled out that spark of Hope and Inspiration for yourself and, thus, for us all. Our hearts are always running with you, even when you’re standing still.

  6. Susan
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink

    Steve- I relate to what you are saying so well- it is life, my friend. The point that we are – with being able to see the future in our grandchildren and at the same time all of our past that floods us when we become the caretakers and then the oldest generation… it is life – the journey and the passages… some frustrating with doubts that we could have, should have done more – the memories of those who we touched or were influenced by….. I think, as a cancer survivor it takes on a more powerful voice in our soul… more pressing doubts, more poignant memories. It is life … and each day I try to remind myself to be present today- to FEEL to LIVE … because I survived – so there must be a reason – a purpose .. one more person to help, to listen to, to be there for/with. It is life, my friend – enjoy – relish each moment .. for we have not just survived – we have prevailed. WE ARE. Namaste

  7. Matt
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink

    Steve, you and your family have been an inspiration to myself and many throughout the community. I am truly blessed to have grown up around you guys and to be able to call you ‘friend’.

    Keep on going-climbing out of that hole can be sheer hell at times, but you have a wonderful family-let their love wash over you and help you all heal. And if you guys ever need anything, I’m just a stone’s throw away.

  8. Nancy Boucha
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink

    You have had a rough several months. Your mother and your in-laws will live forever in your mind. You have a good attitude. You shall survive.

  9. Larry Arata
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink

    You have been through a great deal of emotional strain and you have felt (are feeling) its effects on you. You are a strong, caring person who ministers to others first and probably have not even noticed the extent of your own wounds. Your sensitive reflection on these last difficult months is an important part of your healing process. I admire you for facing these tough emotional scares and sharing your experience with others so they can be inspired to endure as well. You are a disciplined, competitive athlete who is frustrated that this season of healing has interfered somewhat with racing season. A slight variation on your metaphor might be that It is not the speed of your foot that counts most my friend, but the size of your footprint. You have have walked among many lives and we are all blessed as a result. God bless you through your healing process.

  10. Patrick Schaffer
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink

    You are a strong man and can weather anything. I am very sorry for your losses.

  11. M.L.Sicoli
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink

    Actually I was thinking of you and wondering why no update. What a shock that you lost so many loved ones in such a short period of time. I am glad you stepped back and are taking time to heal. I too have had a rough year( though not nearly as rough as yours) and was feeling guilty that i hadn’t followed up with you to see how you were doing. I will continue to pray for you and for your family and hope that you are restored physically, spiritually,and in spirit.

  12. Sister Madonna Buder
    Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink


    This seems to be a year of transition for many of us. Yours, of course, is extreme but you have found the grace to carry on. While repairing from a torn meniscus in mid December
    resulting from 3 attempted Ironman events I did not want to undergo surgery so prayed,
    “GOD help me do my Best and YOU do the Rest.” No surgery, but realization that at
    85 Ironman events are no longer my life’s blood as they have also been for you these
    many years. My guts tell me there are occasions of much more importance that lie ahead for ALL of us. Thank you for sharing your Courage. Keep forging ahead with God’s grace
    to endure!

    Blessings, Sister Madonna

  13. Posted July 22, 2015 at | Permalink


    I’m so sorry to hear about your losses. You are one strong individual keep on writing.


  14. Posted July 23, 2015 at | Permalink

    I was very sorry To hear of all the loss you and your family have endured. We very much missed your strength, wisdom and kind heart at Eagleman this year. We will be there to cheer you on at Ironman Maryland. This time to reflect will only build your strength, faith and gratitude for all that you have accomplished and what you have yet to achieve. All those you have inspired & supported are sending their love, prayers and support to you and your family.

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