The Musselman is an event near and dear to my heart, for so many reasons. I began my journey with this race in 2004 when I was lucky enough to win the very first 1/2 Ironman there (4:48 #glorydays). I feel like I have grown up, lived, cried, celebrated and mourned at Mussel. Now I am lucky enough to announce the race which is an honor….. I can’t even put words to (and they pay me to talk!).
Through the past three years Musselman has become a celebration of life, specifically Michael Coyle’s life. He was taken from us three years ago here. I can’t believe it’s been that long, but you know how grief and loss are. It never feels better, just further away. You don’t get over it, you try to get through it.
I will never forget the last time I saw him. I remember it clear as day. I can still feel the wooden railing under my hand, I can remember exactly how loud it was and for some odd reason…. I can remember exactly where I was on the staircase when we passed one another. I was heading up to packet pickup. He was heading down he stairs. I had thought I spotted his beautiful wife and darling two daughters at the bottom of the stairs and as I was ascending the stairs I had thought “I think I just walked by Mike’s family and didn’t say hello….”. The next second Mike was coming down the stairs. We paused to say good luck, but it was really loud so we just waved. I stopped for an extra second …. and I was going to comment “Your hair is all black.”. He was known for coloring his hair crazy colors and donning mohawks. But his hair was black. But again it was crowded and noisy and we went along our ways.
Through the loss of him…. we gained the incredible honor… and honor isn’t even the proper word… I need a word much bigger and with more gravity…. we have all been graced by the entire Coyle family. There are A LOT of them. Their way of celebrating his life was to become involved. Each time you come to Mussel you see Team Coyle growing, and growing up. They all come. There is never good things that happen when we lose people. But the chance to be able to know all of them…. has been a gift.
So I now eagerly await Musselman, knowing they will be there. So often you lose someone and something disappears. With Team Coyle…. they get bigger and more daring and more…. more awesome. Their answer to loss is to rise up, with holes in their hearts yet giantdoses of courage and grace. They let the tears fall but they smile through them. They came together like no other family I have ever seen.
And like I said…. it’s an honor…. to be able to wear Team Coyle each year that I announce.
If there was a way I could somehow talk to Mike right now…… I would tell him all about it. I would tell him that each time I see his daughters in a photo they resemble him more and more. I would tell him that his wife is the most beautiful courageous and strong womanI have ever seen in my entire life. I would tell him that his mother is all love, and she’s got her arms around this family. And his Dad….. he’s the Dad of this clan. His sisters and brother…. they teach me to throw my arms open and run straight after my dreams. The kids…. oh man the kids. They are just amazing. They are growing, they are daring, they are creative.
I know Mike would be proud of what he’s left behind. He made all of us better. He helps me be better every single day. That’s a legacy.
None of them want to be in this position, but can’t change the fact that they are. I don’t know that if I were them I could do what they do. They are the most amazing family I have ever known. It’s such a privilege to know them. I can’t wait to see them all this weekend.
It’s my Christmas Eve tonight.
Team Coyle….. I hope you are ready for me… because I am definitely ready for you!!!!!!! And I am pretty damn sure … that Mike is still laughing his ass off when he learns his brother is swimming!