How many of us can say we’re best friends with and share the passion of triathlon with our high school Physical Education (PE) teacher? Well, I’m one of those lucky ones who can. Let me take you down memory lane to the late 1970’s early 80’s (yes that long ago). Pat MacNabb, or Mrs. MacNabb to her students, was a P.E. teacher at Lansdowne Senior High School in Baltimore County. Along with her classes, Pat coached softball, field hockey and basketball. Everyone liked Mrs. MacNabb, she was hard but she was fair. She held us accountable and you knew what was expected.
Fast forward to 2018 and I’m training for Ironman Lake Placid. I joined the Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club (MMTC) after a friend mentioned that they had a mentoring program. I submitted my application and received a confirmation and mentor name, ~ “Patricia MacNabb”. The questions started coming…”Could this be THE same Mrs. MacNabb from Lansdowne? If it is, did she like me? Did I ever get in trouble with her? How is this going to go? Will she even remember me? After all it has been 35 years since I’ve seen her”.
Friendship and Mentorship
You can guess where this story leads…Yes it WAS Mrs. MacNabb and yes she remembered me. I guess that’s good news? She remembered that I was a cheerleader and played lacrosse. She remembers me wearing a pony tail and sitting in the lacrosse coach’s office. Then the work began, she holds me accountable and I know what to expect (not much has changed in her book). Through long rides, swims and other adventures our student/mentor relationship became one of friendship and mentorship. I asked her one day why she was such a hard grader in school and would she give me an “A” now for completing an Ironman. “I don’t ever give grades away; they have to be earned”, she says. I wasn’t surprised… but I’m going to get an “A” if it kills me. Crossing the finish line at Lake Placid, Pat was right there with my family and she gave me that “A” I was hoping for.
I Couldn’t Have Asked For Better
Pat is an accomplished triathlete in her own rite and whose record stands on its own. She’s gotten me to two full Ironman races and she is the first one I talk to about challenges to the course or personal struggles e.g, the phone call to her the night before the 2019 Ironman Chattanooga race where the heat index was in the triple digits or the panicked and I mean panicked call at a 70.3 when I left my racing bag home. She gave me coping skills and things to focus on and got me mentally back on track. “Do your best and call me when you are done.” I know she’s always there and I trust her implicitly. The sport of triathlon brought us together and the sport of “life” keeps us together. She is there to celebrate special events with my family and she even coaches them when they need it too. I’m so blessed and fortunate our paths crossed again. She is simply the best mentor and friend anyone could hope for. I often think back to those high school days and if someone told me then that year’s later I would be best friends with my P.E. teacher, I would think they got hit in the head with a lacrosse ball.