On Grief

Two weeks after my last blog, things got all sorts of turned upside-down in the Biscay Coaching family. Our dear friend/coach/ironman/ultraman/veterinarian and all around amazing woman, Mary Knott, was taken from this world in a tragic and senseless crime. In those first weeks it felt like a cloud of disbelief: this is something that belongs on Dateline. This isn’t something that hits close to home. But, Mary is gone. It is close to home this time. 

I hope that no one would ever have to go through something like this but I know that, unfortunately, domestic violence is all too prevalent in the world. I was going to give a statistic to show how prevalent DV is, but I couldn’t even pick just one from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – you can read them for yourself here.  This is going to happen again, and it will happen to someone you know. I am pleading for you to educate yourself about domestic violence. You will never regret being over-vigilant. As a team, we had a marathon zoom session where one of our amazing teammates, who is a Special Victims Prosecutor, lead us through an educational session on DV. Unfortunately this knowledge is coming now, after the fact for us. After it feels too late. But remembering that while for Mary it is too late, it doesn’t have to be too late for another friend, is important.

Aside from learning about Domestic Violence more closely than I ever wished to, I have been learning about grief. As a team, we also had grief counseling sessions. These were psychoeducational in fashion and allowed people to learn about the process of grief and have a sounding board. I absolutely recommend finding a counselor who can provide professional guidance on grief if you are ever in need. 

Grief is laced with worry. It’s laced with guilt. It’s laced with roadblocks. It is going to be an individual path and each person will travel at their own speed. For endurance athletes, this is a tough pill to swallow. We can’t just power through and the check the boxes. I’m not sure grief ever ends, but as I write this I am able to recognize that with each day that passes my own grief is at least laced with more positivity and warmth than it has been in prior weeks. 

Mary’s legacy is a special one. She taught so many of us in the triathlon world about what it truly means to put your mind to something, and work to achieve that goal. She put on a clinic for hard work and grit, as she grinded away for twenty ironman races before qualifying for Kona. She taught us to never settle. Some of my favorite memories of Mary are from camp training sessions. And these aren’t memories where we were jovial and cruising around on bikes, happy as can be. Most of the memories are of biking with Mary, often tears in her eyes, as she battled to push herself outside her own comfort zone in these camp environments – learning to ride the TT bike well in the wind. Pushing the last bit of a ride when your body is oh, so tired. Multiple trips up Mt. Lemmon. She was vulnerable and raw with our team, and I appreciated her willingness to be that for us. She showed that you can wear your fears on your sleeve, and conquer them anyway. I also had the pleasure of being with Mary in Kona in 2016, the first year she was racing there. Hillary had a new baby and was unable to make the trip – so one of the very important coaching duties was passed to me: I would be meeting Mary for a ride from Mauna Lani resort, up to Hawi, and back, with a little run off the bike. We wanted Mary to do this descent ahead of the race day, to feel the wind, and to practice being brave in those conditions. I’m pretty sure Mary and I said all of 10 words to each other as we rode up to Hawi! I could feel her anxiety, the same as it is for many athletes who have spent years thinking about this stretch of the ride and what the infamous winds would feel like on our fragile TT bikes. We stopped for some fueling, and started our way back down. I spent the next few miles riding behind Mary, encouraging her to go at her own pace, stay relaxed, trust herself. The tears in her eyes turned to a big massive smile as, eventually, we were back on the Queen K and headed “home”. On our brick run, I believe it was maybe Meredith Kessler who we ran into and snapped this picture:

Mary had a huge heart, and she had unwavering support of me in my professional dreams even early on when we barely knew each other. Her support through Cadence Running Company was invaluable in those early years for me — going so far as using airline points to fly me to Coeur d’Alene one year so I could make the trip to race. She was a champion for women who chased their dreams, and while I know she didn’t like the label of “feminist,” knowing that always made me laugh a little, because Mary, as such a champion of women, in my mind you were one of the biggest feminists of us all. 

Mary’s life was stolen before she had a chance to finish so many of her dreams. I will be racing with Mary’s initials on my sleeve this season, as a constant reminder to push a little harder and never stop chasing dreams. I also have some bigger adventures in the works for the years to come, with Mary in my heart. As a Biscay Coaching family, I know we can finish the dreams that Mary wasn’t able to. 

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

2 comments on “On Grief”

  1. Wow, powerful words for a powerful woman. I didn’t know Mary, but your words make me wish I had. Thank you for sharing this.

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