Friday, August 23, 2013

An Inspiring Friend

More often than not this blog shares stories of what I am doing with my students in the classroom as a way for me to process and reflect. There are a few "how to" posts thrown in as well with the hopes of helping others master a skill I've found useful to have.  But today my post has nothing, or every thing to do with teaching. It certainly has impacted me in ways I'll never truly be able to describe.  It's about my friend Tammy.

Tammy and I met in 2003 after we both signed up for our first Ironman races. As you can imagine signing up for an Ironman is a serious commitment and training for one demands a lot of your personal time.  To add a bit of purpose to my training  I applied to be a part of a program called Iron Child. At the time it was a mentor/fund raising program that matches up first time Ironman athletes, with children dealing with chronic illness.  Tammy, who at the time had I never met before, also applied to the program and both of us were accepted. That is where our friendship began.

Tammy and I on a training ride the day we received our Iron Child race day clothing.
You have to understand at the time when we met the only thing we had in common was triathlon.  Tammy and her young family lived in Surrey, and I was single and living in Vancouver. Without the Iron Child program I doubt we would have ever met.

As it turned out Tammy didn't live too far from the school that I worked at and so we started doing some mid week training together. We rode inside and out, chatted, walked, and ran some too. Along the way our friendship became stronger and stronger.  I listened as she talked about how she organized care for her children so she could be out training, and she listened to me talk about some of the challenges I was having with my class. Our friendship continue to grow.

Me and my wonderful Iron Child ladies.
Tammy and her wonderful Iron Child ladies
By the time August 2004 Ironman race rolled around Tammy and I were very good friends.  I was blessed to have her in my life.  Our year of training together paid off and we were able to celebrate one another's accomplishments. She was a huge part of what got me through the training, and together we made it fun.

Tammy and I post Ironman 2004 Iron Child celebration banquet.

In 2005 we took the year off from racing Ironman but continued to train together. I continued to see her regularly even though we had no big goals, except a half ironman race.  In Aug 2005 together we signed up for our second Ironman race for the summer of 2006.  Training began and we continued to train with one another when ever we could make it work. We completed a half ironman race together in early June.  In mid June Tammy was helping out a friend who has interested in signing up for an Ironman but didn't yet know how to swim well.  This friend asked Tammy if she'd do the swim portion of the race which in Tammy style she said, "sure".

The day before the race Tammy went out for a bike ride on her own.  That was the day her life changed for ever.  While riding, Tammy was hit by a car travelling at full speed.  While I may not have the exact details correct I think she cracked her skull, fractured her neck, and shattered a leg. When rushed to the emergency in Victoria they were surprised she had survived the impact and tribute her survival to her incredible fitness at the time.  Tammy is a fighter.

It was a few days before she was stable enough to be moved back to a trauma hospital in the Vancouver area.  It was bad, really really bad and the saddest, hardest thing for me to see.  Here was my very good friend Tammy, my training partner, my confidant, barely alive in a hospital bed.

At the time they doubted she'd ever be able to do another triathlon again. The damage was too severe and the goal was to get her functioning well enough to allow her to be independent again. Tammy had none of this nonsense though. From day one she was determined to race in another Ironman.

A little extra motivation for Tammy standing next to the lead female vehicle a couple years later.
Fast forward seven years. In these past seven years Tammy has been to zillions of appointments around her health and her recovery and to this day she continues to regain her body back.  But the thing is Tammy is a fighter. She is one of the most determined people I know. Lying half alive in her hospital bed Tammy set herself a goal to do another Ironman, despite the fact that so many were telling her it wouldn't be possible with her new body.

Along the way I watched Tammy learn how to walk again, how to read, how to handle light and sounds. I watched her do what ever she could to regain her brain, and body strength.  Tammy had many set backs, but she continued to pick herself up deal with what needed to be dealt with. She stayed focussed and determined.

So why am I telling you this story?

On Sunday, Tammy will be completing her second Ironman.  She HAS come back stronger than ever. I cry just typing that sentence because I know what she has gone through.  She has taught me so much about determination and perseverance, something we all need to reach our goals.

Rows, and rows of transition bags for Ironman athletes.
Tammy is an incredible woman who has faced odds most of us would never have the strength to deal with. She is truly inspiring. So this Sunday, August 25th please do me a favour and think about my friend Tammy. Think about her giving her very best proving to the entire world that any thing is possible!

Bikes in transition ready for the Ironman athletes to ride them.

On Sunday I hope Tammy will race happy, race strong, and enjoy every minute of her day! While I can't physically be at the race site with her - it's my nephew's bar mitzvah - I will be with her in spirit every swim stroke, bike pedal, and run.  I could not be more proud!


  1. Wow, what an amazing story. People never cease to amaze me. Thank you for sharing and tell Tammy, I'm sending strong vibes.

    First in Maine

  2. Wow! The human spirit has the potential to be incredible. May your friend Tammy (and her family) have a glorious Sunday.


  3. WOW....Thanks Baggio....And Kimberley....Tammy KICK ASS....All the best!

  4. Wow! Thank you for sharing this story, Karen. Tammy you are amazing and an inspiration to everyone. Good luck on the race tomorrow.

  5. Wow, what an amazing story. People never cease to amaze me. Thank you for sharing and tell Mommy, I'm sending strong vibes

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