The Post Before the Post
I have a race report to write; a very long report for two reasons: 1. It was the longest race of my life. 2. It was arguably the greatest race of my life so far. It's going to be a good report, but here's the thing: I have to write this post first while it's fresh in my mind. It's about the other runners on TeamType 1 who were at the NJ Ultra Fest with me and my family. While I only spent a few hours with these guys, it's important to me that you understand who they are and what they're like.
It seems to me that many times in life, we're looking for role models; people who cause us to aspire to do better in all things. I was blessed to be surrounded by several amazingly inspirational people this weekend, and I want you to know what I learned. Perhaps in this crowd, you'll find someone to think about when the blood sugars suck or the roads are too hilly or the wind is constantly in your face.
What Happened in NJ: An Ironman and member of TeamType 1's record setting RAAM team, Tom completed the marathon in 4:07.
What You Need to Know About Tom: Let's face it; running in many ways is a selfish activity. Before big races, we worry about our own stuff - our clothing, our food, our logistics. As team manager, Tom did all of this for us, planning the flights, the hotels, the meals, the gear, the race registrations, and everything else I'm forgetting. He did that for all of us. And then, and only then, he went out and banged out a solid 26.2 miles. And before and after that, he was a picture taking fiend, keeping the PR machine rolling steady.
What Happened in NJ: Ben finished a career high 2nd in the marathon in 2:55
What You Need to Know About Ben: Ben had just finished the marathon when I checked in at the 32 mile aid station. The timing was perfect and he joined me for his own cool-down run. If you know anything about 50 milers, a friend at 32 is like an angel with wings landing on your shoulder and my time with him flew by like nothing. Like me, he had never been around diabetic athletes before this weekend, and we shared how much in awe we were with the experience. What I will also remember is how fresh he seemed to me after running so fast. Expect this guy to get a lot faster before he's done.
What Happened in NJ: Matt Patrick WON the 100k (62.5 miles) in 8:53
What You Need to Know About Matt: People who knew Michael Jordan say he was more driven to win than anyone they knew. That's the kind of guy Matt is. He went out hard in this race (his first 100k) and didn't stop until he finished. When he passed me at one point, I asked him how he felt. "Horrible!" was the answer from a guy who looked to be doing seven minute miles after 40 miles. The guy just doesn't have an easy pace and his other paces... wow. As one of the guys on the team with kids, Matt also went out of his way to make my wife and kids feel comfortable and welcome.
What Happened in NJ: Ryan Jones finished 4th in the 100 miler in 17:28
What You Need to Know About Ryan: While the team is full of great runners, there was no question that most of us had placed Ryan and Jon on a performance pedestal prior to meeting them; these two amazing diabetics for whom ranking high in 100 mile races is a regular occurrence. What I will remember about Ryan is two things: 1. If you wanted to make a mold of the perfect 100 miler body, you'd use his. It's as if his DNA was fused with a whitetail deer (albeit a diabetic one). 2. The guy is tough: I bumped into him at an aid station during the race. If memory serves he was around 35 miles. I asked him how he was doing. "Eh," he said. "It comes and goes." Do you understand what I just wrote? This was with 65 freaking miles left in the race. It comes and goes. That, folks, is guts.
What Happened in NJ: Jon Obst DNF in the 100 miler. He made it 90 miles in 22 hours before stopping.
What You Need to Know About Jon: Jon did a 100 mile race 2 weeks before this one; one he felt he had to do as he had inspired it in his own town. He wasn't sure what would happen 2 weeks later, but he almost made it 2 in 2 weeks. I had the extreme pleasure of talking to Jon and Cale at dinner the night before and believe me when I tell you that Jon is an amazing person. His feelings are unbelievably close to the surface... so much so that you would think the emotional toll of everyday life - forget an ultra - would be difficult for him, but instead, it's the complete opposite. I've never seen someone just so.... engaged and content. Soon after I passed Ryan on the trail, I passed Jon. Because of what I'd witnessed the night before, I wasn't the least bit surprised when he greeted me with a big hug.
What Happened in NJ: Eric completed his first marathon in 4:26.
What You Need to Know About Eric:
A few months ago, my cell phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize. On the line was Eric. "Hey," he said. "I'm driving across the country to my new job and thought I'd use this time to meet some of the guys on the team." From the very beginning, Eric got how special this opportunity was. To take the time and call a complete stranger on the phone and start a dialog like that was incredibly thoughtful and by the time I hung up 20 minutes later, we weren't strangers, anymore.
What Happened in NJ: After telling me, "I'm no runner," Bobby completed the marathon in 4:28. His other 5 marathons have been on the end of Ironman competitions.
What You Need to Know About Bobby: I have no idea if Bobby drinks, but regardless, I'd wager he's been thrown out of a bar or two in his day. Imagine a smart-alec, hilarious, cut-up sort of guy... the type who could hold his own as a stand-up comedian. Now imagine that guy stopping his performance periodically to ask you how your blood sugar is. That's Bobby. I asked him if he was on Facebook. His response, "Yeah - I'm there, but don't go looking for me to tell you every time I take a ...." Well, you get the point.
What Happened in NJ: Nathan completed his first ultra, a 50k, in 5:28
What You Need to Know About Nathan:
An accomplished triathlete and member of TeamType 1's World Record RAAM team, Nathan's not one to rest on his laurels. Rather than using NJ to complete his first marathon, he used it to complete his first ULTRA Marathon. Most runners, let's be honest, are kind of geeky guys, but Nathan comes across as the star quarterback type. Whether that's true or just fortunate maturing is anybody's guess.
What Happened in NJ: Cale completed his first marathon, despite a nagging Achilles injury that severely limited his long runs, in 3:53
What You Need to Know About Cale: I think my wife has a crush on him. She told me he reminded her of me when I was young, except I was never that tall and never had a Southern accent. But after sitting beside him at dinner, heck, I had a crush on the guy, too. A dynamite triathlete looking to improve his run, you get the feeling that Cale will pretty much accomplish whatever he sets his mind to. He went into the race, claiming to be unprepared, and came out a marathoner with a great time.
What Happened in NJ: Casey finished 7th in the marathon, winning his AG in 3:33. He didn't even look tired afterward.
What You Need to Know About Casey: Casey seems to attract diabetic fans wherever he goes. I know of two diabetic bloggers who drove to see him in NJ (As they put it, "We're going to see Casey.... and TeamType 1." Want more proof? When I called MY coach to brag about MY race, it only took her a few minutes to ask how Casey did. All kidding aside, he's an impossible guy not to like and looked amazingly fresh given his performance in NJ.
What Happened in NJ: Recovering from an injury, Kevin cruised home in the 50k in 7th place in 4:48
What You Need to Know About Kevin: There are only a couple guys on the team who fit into the "old guys with older kids" demographic and Kevin and I are both of them. He took special time to talk to my wife and kids about their sports and their activities and did a wonderful job making them feel comfortable. When I expressed my regret about leaving early to get the family home, Kevin fully understood, knowing the juggling game that's part of our lives.
What Happened in NJ: I finished the 50 mile race in 7:55, good enough for 6th place overall, and 1st or 3rd in my AG, depending on how you count awards. (2 of the top 3 were in my AG)
What You Need to Know: I have never felt more grateful than to be able to tell you these things about one of the most wonderful weekends in my life. I have never been intimidated by my diabetes and have gone so far to say that if you gave me 3 wishes, being cured wouldn't be one of them. But after this weekend, I'm going to go one further; if you called me today and offered me a cure, I wouldn't take it if it would mean giving up my association with this amazing group of athletes. I have always been comfortable being diabetic, but after this weekend - well, I'm honored to be, too.