High school graduation—and we’re off into new, fun territory.

In 2018, my friend Katie and I did a little ditty of a race called Casco Bay Swim Run. You race in teams, and every team, of course, comes up with a catchy name. Our team name—#COBAMRS—was nothing compared my favorite one on the roster: It Doesn’t Have to Be Fun to Be Fun. (Can I get an Amen, endurance athletes?)

I’ve thrown that line out at AMR Retreats, on the podcast, and probably plenty of other places. And now I have adopted it as my official mantra of June 2021. I am stating this with as much official pomp and circumstance as my keyboard allows: June Doesn’t Have to Be Fun to Be Fun.

“Fun”: Exhibit A: Sending a Kid to College

You might remember my daughter Amelia from Run Like a Mother as a preschool hedgehog who was so shy, she wouldn’t get her picture taken before the dance recital.

As kids are prone to do, she has outgrown her hedgehog costume and, in fact, outgrown me. My self-proclaimed baby giraffe will be 18 at the end of June, and shortly thereafter, she will head off for college.

Trading the high school black and yellow for collegiate purple and yellow, and her smile says it all: she is going to have a blast.

The early report date is because she is going to be a Pirate: she’ll be playing volleyball for East Carolina University. Because it’s a fall sport, athletes head to school early to lift weights, complete captain’s practices, and otherwise find their athletic groove before academics get thrown into the mix.

So right now, her spare time is filled with finding extra-long sheets that will coordinate with the Pinterest board she and her roommate have started, getting to know her new teammates over social media, comparing the merits of different shower caddies, and otherwise doing the fun, anticipatory stuff that polishes up her independence. She is ready.

I have fun digging into the details of how to loft a bed with her, and I am proud that she is ready—the different kind of fun. The Type 2 fun, as one commenter called it on an Instagram post recently.

Type 2 is the more emotional, more deeply fulfilling, yes-this-is-the-right-move-for-her fun. Type 1 fun is chasing a chubby-cheeked girl around the kitchen island as I sang “I’m Gonna Catch You,” by Laurie Berkner. Type 2 fun is standing at the kitchen island knowing that, in months, she’ll be back sitting at the island as I chop vegetables, telling me all about her new adventures.

Move-in day will be fun—new beginnings just bring good energy—but just guessing that coming home to a house empty of one baby giraffe will most definitely not be. That’s OK, because I’ve got something to take my mind off of it.

“Fun”: Exhibit B: Serious Athletic Expectations

I am officially 15 weeks into training for the Aquabike National Championships, which happens also to be a neat 15 weeks away. Part of the reason I picked this late-September event is because the bulk of the intense training will hit in July and August, which conveniently fills a baby-giraffe-sized space.

As I get closer to race day, I will take a deeper dive into my motivation (mark your calendars!) for this race, but for now, suffice it to say: my main goal is fulfill my current athletic potential.

If a genie randomly appeared from a water bottle and asked me what endurance events my oft-injured 49-year-old body could do best right now, I would answer swimming and cycling. (And then I’d ask for two more wishes: trip to Hawaii, please, and a year’s worth of dinners with zero planning or prep required.)

Anyway, back to my my current athletic potential: I want to put in the training to go as fast as I can, and, when I get to the race, compete as smart and hard as I can.

As most athletes know, once you put some serious goals out on the table, the fun quotient can fizz away like a Nuun tablet. Numbers—splits, watts, heart rate—move to the forefront of most workouts, while the more auxiliary, memorable aspects of workouts—snapping pics, chatting with friends, deciding to randomly change up a route—are more easily overlooked.

(The good news is that I don’t really have a ton of race-relevant numbers to use as a relative gauge. Because of COVID, various national champ race locations, and the small—but growing!—field of aquabikers, it’s hard to know what qualifies as a top time. In this case, ignorance is fun.)

I haven’t really scrolled through training numbers since I did Ironman 7 long years ago. It’s fun to have data to obsess over again.

Is staring down 3 x 9-minute intervals on a bike at threshold pace at 5:45 on a Monday morning “fun”? No, not particularly. What about swimming a FAST 200 after already logging 1,800 meters? Yeah, not so much.

But here’s what is definitely Type 2 fun: Seeing that my threshold pace is getting faster, watt by stubborn watt. Feeling like my kick is stronger in the water than it was 10 weeks ago. The cumulative improvements of any training cycle more often than not elicits that deeper kind of fulfilling, yes-this-is-the-right-move-for-me fun.

More days than not, I feel downright giddy (Type 1 all the way!) after I nail a workout. Afterwards, I randomly review the numbers a few times during the day for no other reason than it’s fun—and a friendly subconscious reminder that yes, it’s worth it to get up and do it again tomorrow.

If I didn’t love Amelia so fiercely, I wouldn’t have to brace myself for her departure—but then I also wouldn’t feel the keen joy of watching her launch. And if I wasn’t engaging in the sweat and toil that leads to small-but-important gains, I wouldn’t feel the explosive joy of nailing my race.

With about three weeks left of June, there’s plenty of time for more fun of all stripes. I’m ready.