2016 starts not with a bang, but with a fizzle- like a firework show, but instead of fireworks, sparklers. No BIG BANGS and awe-inspiring streaks of color to light up the sky…just a fizzzzle. Very disappointing, isn’t it? That fizzle came in the form of an injury- Happy New Year to me! Not the way any of us runners want to start a new year, especially after having a fairly successful year like I did in 2015. No mad screams of “WITNESS MEEEEEEEEE!!!” at the race start lines.
My internal motivation waning, I thankfully have had strong external motivation with the fantastic running community in which I live. The Inaugural Brewer’s Cup, consisting of 19 local breweries (and even a couple of distilleries) making up teams of 15, has been bolstering the local Pikes Peak Road Runner’s races with record turnouts, sometimes dramatic-but-friendly brewery rivalries and beer to be won. Team camaraderie, running and beer–these are a few of my favorite things!
“I strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
After resurrecting a very persistent Achilles injury, I still managed to run little bit to participate and keep my 2-plus-year running streak alive; however, merely participating is difficult for me. If I am in a race, I want to race. So I was not happy about lining up next to fellow competitors and watching them run off into the distance. “Not Happy” are probably not the correct words- maybe “near miserable” are better words to use. After all, as a video states, “I strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Such an event happened at the Pikes Peak Road Runners Winter Series #1. I had to merely “participate” and not “compete” in order not to further injure myself and acquire valuable points for Team Manitou Brewing Company and Team Scrambled Legs. Maybe I should not have done it, but there were points at stake! Luckily, injuries love company with fellow Team Colorado and MBC teammates Alex “Axel” Nichols and Brandon “The Stank” Stapanowich. We all had the idea of running easy, having fun and just getting through it uninjured. Our goal of that day was to just be out there and view some butts! At the start, off the field went and so, too, did my thoughts of competing.
Passing people, being passed, cracking jokes
I settled in the top-third of the pack with my injured brethren and just tried to enjoy the experience. Passing people, being passed, cracking jokes and saying “hi” to people while offering encouragement, and even pulling faces and placing bunny ears on people for Tim Bergsten’s camera. Something I don’t normally do when I’m racing… On second thought, scratch that, I do all of those things when I’m seriously racing. I was just in a lot less pain, so it seemed way more fun.
The MOP is Competing
At several points during the race, my mind would drift to Gates of Valhalla and all of a sudden I’d realize I was running way too fast, and pump the breaks of The War Rig a few times. Amongst my Mad Max ponderings, I began to notice something else. I wasn’t quite sure what it was at first, but the middle of the pack giving off…something. Hmmm? What was it? *Sniff* Was it Axe body spray? *Sniff, Sniff* What is a Christian Dior? I continued on frolicking in the snow with Axel and Brandon, passing people, being passed…
Then I finally put my finger on what it was: “I know that scent!!!! That’s the scent of COMPETITION!!!” The MOP was COMPETING!!! Racing each other, painting their faces shiny and chrome, all while running as hard as the leaders were, if only a little slower. Every time I would get passed by another runner, I imagined they were saying to themselves, “out of the way skinny mustached-dude, I’m on a mission!” And I began to feel embarrassed that I was not running at my fullest effort when everyone else around me was giving it their all.
They. They were working as hard as they possibly could, racing towards the Gates of Valhalla!
I quickly snapped out of my embarrassed teenage phase and forgot about my own personal dysfunctions. The MOP was doing what I wanted to be doing: racing, competing, passing people, being passed… Happiness replaced embarrassment and I watched the war rage on around me between other runners. I was that Coma-Doof Warrior heavily strumming on the electric guitar, dramatically building in intensity as they raced towards the finish.
As I crossed the line in 55th place, forming a 3-person chain with Axel and Brandon, I was surprisingly content. I don’t often live vicariously through other people, I try to save all of the vicariousness for myself, but sometimes you just must. That day I did, through the MOP. I’m confident to say that the pain is real in the MOP. And the beer tastes so much better when you know you have reached the Gates of Valhalla, no matter what position in which you arrive there.
MOP – Middle Of the Pack. Photo Credit: Tim Bergsten PikesPeakSports.us