Thursday, July 15, 2010

My First Post: getting acquainted

Im kind of starting from scratch here. I could backlog my entire, albeit short, running career, but I hope theres more to come than there has been in the past 4-5 years. To sum it up, I'll just explain how I got into running in the first place, and a few of my favorite experiences. I feel like a self indulgent ego maniac talking about myself like this, but "If the shoe fits..." or something like that.

I graduated high school never having run one continuous mile. My only running memory was "the fitness test" in 6th grade. It consisted of some sit-ups and push-ups, which were easy enough for a fat kid like me to fake his way through(collapse on the gym floor when the teacher had his back turned- Sorry Mr. Olsen). There was also the timed mile. For me, it may as well have been a marathon. Not exactly the biggest ego booster for the overweight athsmatic kid with Osgood-Schlatter's syndrome(bone spurs near the knee joint). I huffed and puffed my way to what I'm fairly certain was a 12 minute mile. Another bad experience was my attempt at junior varsity soccer. I was cut for being in piss-pour shape and not being athletic in any way.

Fast forward to the year after high school. I was taking summer classes at community college while working full-time. Math, along with running, was my nemesis at this point. For help, I called my cousin and lifelong idol, Mike. The athletic, smart, outgoing, charismatic childhood hero of mine was a doctoral student at Michigan State University. 4 years my senior, he was everything I ever wanted to be. Every girl I knew talked about how good-looking he was. Every guy I knew talked about how cool he was. I offered him a beer before we began our tutoring session. He declined in his freshly acquired Australian accent(he spent a few months there studying abroad) and explained that he was training for a triathlon. "I've heard of those," I said enthusiastically, glad that we'd found some common ground. "That's with running, and swimming and stuff, right?" He confirmed my answer and began to tell me about his training. I was so impressed and inspired. "There's one in town. We should do it together next year!" He told me enthusiastically. "That sounds great!" I said through my teeth. The thought of sustaining any tpye of exercise for 1-2 hours(sprint triathlon) seemed absolutely impossible, but how could I say no to my hero?
I bulshitted my way through the conversation, knowing I'd never be good enough for such endeavors. We continued on with the study session, I feigned an understanding of algebra and Mike met a group of friends for a round of golf. He was good at everything he did, but calling Mike a "natural" is a disservice to him. He put the effort and the thougt into everything he did.

Time passed and Mike continued on with his adventures, then thanksgiving came around. I hadn't seen him since our tutoring sessions, and was looking forward to seeing him and hearing of his latest adventures. The phone rang at my house at 3am thanksgiving morning. My mother, who's bedroom was across the hall from mine, rolled over and hit the speaker button to answer the call. I'll never forget the sound of my Cousin Jill's(Mike's sister)voice when she told my mother over the speaker phone that Michael, my hero, was dead. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from a bachelor party. He hit a tree with his car and was pronounced dead shortly after. Each member of my family would pass this tree on our way to work daily. I would never see him alive again, and I would carry him to his grave two days later.

It was then that I knew what I had to do. Energy can not be created or destroyed. Mike's charisma and zeal still existed, in me now, and I knew that the only thing I could do for myself and my family was to fulfill that half-assed promise I made that summer. I would finish a triathlon, come hell or high water. My Aunt Diane, with tears in her eyes, gave me slightly oversized Trek 1000SL road bike(Mike was about 2 inches taller than me).

I'll save the race report for another time, but the day finally came. I nearly gave up in the swim, but crawled onto shore, covered in weeds. I emerged from the water next to an 80 year old man. He looked better than I did. It was from that point on that I pedaled as hard as I could and never looked back. The course was on a route that Mike and I spent many days on: At the beach with our families, playing on his father's boat and camping, riding sea-doos on the lake, riding bikes in his old neighborhood. I rode 14 miles faster than I ever had smiling and thinking about the good times.

When the run started, I was so emotionally charged that I never felt the "brick" feeling associated with the second transition. My run training consisted of a handful of 3 mile runs at 9 minute mile pace. Little did I know(I didn't even own a watch), I was running at a sub-7 pace. With one mile to go, I knew I wanted to run until I collapsed. My lungs burned and I resisted the urge to grunt and groan like a wounded animal. I came into the finish line and collapsed into the arms of Michael's mother Diane. I told her that we did it. She told me that Michael would be proud, and that I reminded her of him with my determination. I've never been so proud in my life, and I still have yet to be. I didn't care where I placed, all I cared about was that I filled my obligation to my fallen brother.

Unbeknownst to me, I placed 3rd in my age group and ran a 5k that I wouldn't beat for 2 years. After a year of training, I would return to run the race a mere 3 minutes faster.

I have been given a precious gift, but at a tremendous cost. This is why I love running, but refuse to let it turn into a chore or a job. It will always be a gift. Every time I'm out, I smile and think of the reason Im enjoying the air in my lungs and the road beneath my feet.

It was then that I fell in love with all three sports, but running would always hold a special place in my heart. I worked my way up to marathon distance within one year and began to love trail running more and more with each outing. Im assuming that this blog won't attract too many who don't know me, so I'll just post race reports from now on as they happen, Not retroactively. I'll post a link to my race report for my 12 hour ultra, which is over on the forums. I'll also try to post some pictures from this story once I steal them from my parents computer at home.


  1. you have a great writing style. i'll add you to my friends list- but my blog is quite boring, as it's mostly a day to day account of my BFR transition.


    [[Yellowpens on RW, btw]]

  2. Glad to see you made into the Blogosphere... Can't wait to read some more

  3. thanks, both of you! See you on the forum!

  4. damn it jess, it's too early in the morning fer cryin'. what a moving story, thanks for sharing it

  5. Oh man,

    "There was also the timed mile. For me, it may as well have been a marathon. Not exactly the biggest ego booster for the overweight athsmatic kid with Osgood-Schlatter's syndrome"

    brings back memories of my own childhood!

  6. Really inspiring and moving. Thanks!