IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What a Difference a Few Years Makes

Before the Ironman. Before even Half Ironman. Pre-Marathon days. Before I owned a road bike. Half Marathon was "way too many miles at one time". The only swimming I did was snorkeling in Grand Cayman. Before the 10K....there was 5K.

Everyone starts somewhere. I started with 5K. But I didn't start alone. Scott and I met each other while on the college recruiting circuit back in the late 90s. The first time I met him, I found him to be rather quiet and a little geeky. But we agreed on a lot of things. When he sent me a note a week or so after meeting, I knew he was someone I wanted to work with.

After that, every time I went to a college job fair, I made it a point to seek him out and make sure we spent a few minutes catching up. As soon as an opening became available in my company, I called Scott. I wanted this guy on my team. And to this day, it was one of the smartest things I've ever done.

In addition to being one of the most powerful recruiting teams in the Chicago area, we formed quite a friendship, both inside and outside the office. When another employee, Sally, suggested we start a company running team, Scott and I, being the involved slave-to-the-company type employees, there was no way we'd miss it. So we went to the race, myself to run and Scott to take pictures for the company website. So was our first exposure the the running world.

A year or two later, Scott and I both took up running to start getting some exercise. And I think both of us started out at the very back of the pack. Slowly but surely, we kept running and did several more races together. Being competitive people with the constant desire to improve, we watched our times drop and we started increasing our mileage which, in turn, increased our speed. It was Scott that convinced me to do my first Half Marathon. He was convinced it was fate due to the timing and the fact that the course ran right by his alma mater, University of Chicago. Not wanting to be outdone, I figured if he could do it, I could do it. My longest training run up to that race was a lowly 8 miles.

That was 5 years ago. In the past several years, I've moved onto triathlons and more endurance-type events. Scott and his wife started a family. We've both moved on to different jobs and our priorities have drastically changed. So when I found out about a local 5K that fit into my schedule, Scott was my first call.

We met each other in the parking lot, went in to packet pick up - Scott had a little mix up in picking up his packet as he signed up under an alias...which we both giggled uncontrollably at when we said it out loud. We put on our timing chips and race numbers, then walked around the race site, catching up, wasting time to the start of the race. Neither of us had any real time expectations, we just both wanted to do the best we were capable of on this day. I simply wanted an idea of my current capabilities and Scott just wanted to run the entire race.

We went back to the car to drop off our jackets and Scott quickly swallowed down a gel for some extra oomph. We walked over to the start line and stretched a little as we joked about how fast we weren't. This was one of those "rinky dink" races, which I love so much. No pressure, no thinking, it's all just about having fun. It's surrounding yourself in this type of environment that makes you really realize how lucky we are to be able to participate in this sport. No matter what your level, everyone, every size, shape and ability is welcome.

Unfortunately, there was no national anthem, and the race started. I had started near the back so the first half mile was just me running back and forth to get around a bunch of people. But I couldn't be mad, I should have started closer to the front...but it was more important for me to chat with Scott than it was for me to line up at the front of the race.

I could feel the lactic acid already building up in my legs and arms. I wondered to myself "what the heck am I doing??", I was already tired before I could even see the mile mark! My breathing was out of control and I reminded me, though this was a short race, it still was a full 3 miles! I finally came up to the first mile mark and looked at my watch. Not as fast as I would have liked, but I was putting out more effort than was comfortable. I started passing a few people here and there, but the race was pretty small and pretty spread out already. There was this guy, breathing and stomping too close behind me. Part of me wanted him to just pass me already so I didn't have to listen to his labored breath. But the other part of me wanted to hold him off. I knew that if he hadn't passed me by now, he was hurting too, and he was after me.

We came up to the second mile mark and he came up even with me. But every time a downhill came, I gained a little ground on him, so I got right back in front of him almost as quickly as he had pulled up next to me. He continued to breathe really loud and worked hard at picking up the pace just a little to put some distance between the two of us. I noticed my second mile was faster than the first as I hit the split on my watch. I wondered how Scott was doing. I wondered why a 5K felt so darn hard! The sounds of my follower was fading, he's dying. Guess he didn't know he was messing with an IRONMAN, I thought to myself. But then I started looking at my watch what felt like every minute. I now couldn't wait for this to be over. My breathing was getting louder and I felt like I was slowing. Then we came up to a sharp right turn and a volunteer yelled "only 300 meters left." Other runners that were already finished had come back to watch their friends finish and were cheering them on. I saw several people yelling to the guy in front of me to "KICK IT IN, YOU'RE ALMOST THERE!" And no matter how hard I tried to "kick it in", I had no kick left. In fact, I don't think I ever have a "kick." It's like I've never produced a "kick" in my life. How do these people get that and how can I get some?

And as I pondered the thought of the "kick", my heavy breather, heavy-footed follower turned on his "kick." His breathing was even louder and heavier now, but I could hear and feel him getting closer. And with less than 50 yards to go, this guy breezed by me like I was standing still. I wanted to yell out something, but I just didn't have the energy. Let him go by (not that I had the strength to stop him!). I just want this to be over. Happiness was crossing the finish line.

I grabbed 2 waters, one for me and one for Scott, and moved to a place where I could watch him come around the corner. I wasn't watching for 30 seconds before I saw him. He was moving! He was looking so strong! I thought he told me he "wasn't ready" for this race. Talking crap about "it'll probably take me 40 minutes." He was passing people left and right...and to me, those people looked like they had a good pace going on! As he got closer to the finish, I could see he was struggling right at the same point I was starting to fall apart. I yelled some words of encouragement to him and he seemed to increase his speed even more. He seemed to have that popular "kick" that everyone else I know besides me seems to have! He finished with an impressive time and I couldn't be more proud of him.

Scott and I both fight our own demons, but we "get" each other. Each of us had our own special reason for running this race and we probably wouldn't have done the race if we were going alone. I always know whatever problem I'm having, I can talk to Scott and, even if he's never experienced anything remotely similar, I know he gets it. We just understand the way each other thinks. Scott never has and probably never will do a triathlon, but he is definitely one of my biggest supporters. Not sure if he'll even be reading this post, but just in case he does, I just need to say thanks. If it wasn't for Scott those years ago, encouraging me to push further in my running (and other) endeavors, I'm not sure I'd be where I am today.

Really glad we had the opportunity to run this race together today.

1 comment:

C.B. said...

OK, a couple things.

1) My quads look awesome in that pic. Seriously. (don't tell anyone I pulled a muscle squatting down to take a picture of those old ladies)

2) I think you forgot the part where you realized I was not quiet and geeky..... just quiet.

That was a sweet post. It makes me realize that I should be taking more credit for your success.