I got a Twitter DM from a great and old friend one morning last week. “I’ll be in Orlando Jan 9-13. When are we rolling?” I immediately sent him back a message letting him know what our class schedule is.

Dedicated readers of this blog (basically, just me) are aware that I’m currently obsessed with BJJ. Dedicated followers of @svandyke will know that he’s a newly minted blue belt who was a couple of years ahead of me in discovering how awsum BJJ is.

When I started playing rugby in college, Shawn was already there. Going forward, he was there a lot more than I was. My dedication was a roller coaster, but he was one of the most dedicated attendees at our Tuesday/Thursday training sessions. He never let his rigorous school schedule, faith-based objections to our general behavior, or the fact that he was an understudy to an All-American for much of his career stop him from being a loyal and reliable part of the team. We suffered a lot together during those days (“YOU’RE NOT TIRED! YOU JUST THINK YOU ARE!”), although it may not be fair to say we were “partners” since he never had to carry my big boo-hind up the hill at Fulton Bottoms.

After college I started taking rugby a lot more seriously while Shawn eased off the rugby gas a little. He moved away for a while, but when he came back and started being involved in the men’s club more, he was my preferred choice as a weight lifting partner. I’d had intermittent stints with other partners who would either flake out routinely (Space Monkey) or try to convince me that the Shoney’s Breakfast Bar was a better idea than the squat rack (BFR).

Shawn showed up. Every morning. And he showed up to work.  We rotated who led each session, and when his turn landed on a shoulder day there was hell to pay.  We even made it to yoga classes together. We were among the first dudes to figure out that everyone else in the class was going to be female, and would crack each other up by doing pushups as punishment conditioning opportunities for falling out of balance poses. Our yoga teacher was the first to use, “this is not a competition” in that setting.

Almost everything was a competition. Competition–pissing contest–whatever. And when it wasn’t, it wasn’t.

I don’t remember the last day Shawn and I lifted, but I do remember the day after that. Both of us showed up to the gym on time and sat on the couch to enjoy our first cup of coffee. We ended up talking for about an hour instead of working out, then decided that we were done. We weren’t going to do this any more. I haven’t lifted with any real dedication since.

Not long after we stopped lifting, I decided I was going to run a marathon. The problem with running a marathon is that it takes a lot of discipline and dedication early in the morning. I’ve gotten much better since, but at the time I was standing on shaky ground with both discipline and dedication. But I’m smart about this kind of stuff, so I called Shawn and floated the idea to him. Getting him on board to do the race was the key for me to train and finish. I knew he’d be there to meet me every single day to run. No doubt about this guy. And I didn’t want to let him down, so I was always there too.

I don’t think he missed a single run until he got hurt. He had to bail on the last half of the training program because of an injury, but still showed up and did the race. When he was training, we were on the same pace, but there was no way he was going to be able to do that pace on race day, so we didn’t get to run together. I remember seeing an ambulance go by during the race and thinking of him, hoping they weren’t going to pick him up. I knew he wouldn’t quit. He’d either finish or they would carry him off for medical care.

As expected, he finished.

I can’t wait to train with Shawn. Seriously…I can’t wait! This is one more in a long line of things I get to train with Shawn. One more way we get to grow together. When I look back on the majority of my athletic endeavors since the Fall of 1993, Shawn has been an almost constant staple.