Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving, as its name suggests, is a time to give thanks and to be thankful for what we have in our lives. With that in mind, it seems appropriate to express my gratitude to a number of people who helped me get to the finish line on Sunday. Don't worry, I'll get to the race report later, but this is way more important.

The biggest thanks goes to my parents and brother and sister. My parents have always encouraged the three of us to do the things we're passionate about, and they supported me as I struggled as a slow, freshman cross country runner. They watched as I began in the sport of triathlon a decade ago, and I know there was no way they understood it at the time. Shoot, I still don't think they completely understand it, but they know what it means to me and they'll always support it. When I got hurt, they were there to help however possible. When things went south, they were there. And when I tried to start training again, they kept me motivated. There aren't many things I can give to them, so this race was like my gift to them for being great. I wish my mom, brother and sister had been able to get out to see it, but I was really happy my dad made it out. When he told me on Wednesday that he was coming, I was very excited - I wanted him to be able to see me cross the finish line. The only thing dads really have is the ability to brag about their kids, so while it's completely embarrassing to have your dad tell your life story (and your brother's and sister's) to total strangers, you earned this one dad. Thanks for being there, like always. My brother, you've amazed me with how far you've come as an athlete and seeing your enthusiasm for it keeps me going a lot of days. I'm proud of all that you've accomplished in your 25 years. And little sis, I love watching you follow your passions and can't wait to see what is up next for you. Mom, well, thanks for everything.

(The rest of the thank yous aren't in any particular order, just as I'm thinking of them...)

It's hard to believe that I'm 29 years old and I've only now just done one of these races. Obviously that wasn't the plan, as I should have gotten it done last year, but man - I feel like I'm behind the curve. But if it wasn't for the work of a few professionals (not hookers), I wouldn't have even made it this year. My amazing surgeon, Dr. Torpey, let's just say I hope I don't have to see him again - but if I have another reason to see a surgeon, he's the only one I would go to. I've never met a doctor who spends as much time in a visit with a patient, or who has cared that much about understanding what it is that I do, and where I needed to get back to. My lawyer, Tom, thanks for getting all the things taken care of that allowed an uninsured liability to get the health care he needed to not be crippled for life. Obviously you're getting paid, but thanks for caring enough to help me out.

I've been going to physical therapy now for a year and a half. That's a long time. In that time I've seen 3 different therapists. First was Robert Incitti up in Red Bank, for the month after surgery that I was in NJ. There are people who are passionate about their work, and then there's Robert. I wish he was closer. Then I went to Stavros, who got me as far as he could before I switched to Brett at LifeStrength in Towson. Gamechanging performance. As a triathlete, Brett understood where I was trying to get to, and each week we figured out how to deal with what was going on. More than making my knee better (because it's still not, not really), he started giving me the confidence that we could get to this race. Thanks to all 3 of you guys, and Argie, who works with Stavros, because she was helpful as well.

For all that he's done, I've got to also thank Brian Shea. He's a competitor, a great father, a coach and an advocate for the sport. He was one of the first calls I made when I got hurt, and he's my go-to guy for all things triathlon.

Thanks to my friends from the Maryland Multisport Club, circa 2001-2003 - Larry, Peter Hibbs, Lisa, Dzul, Courtney, Peter Feret, Katie Ka, Astrid, Ron $ Willoughby, Tom Stott, Lindsay, hell even Tri Guy Tommy. Never has a more random crew of people been brought together by sport. From age and status, we couldn't have had more variety, but triathlon connected us. Peter Hibbs was mostly responsible for the club, so I guess you could say without him coming to MD from Cali and starting the club, you never know if I would have even gotten into it. And we have entomology to thank for that. Peter is such a laid-back California dude, but was secretly super competitive, and more than anything a great leader. Tri Guy Tommy was the complete opposite, but was a great competitor and truly terrific training partner for the time we trained together. His guidance and discipline was invaluable in helping lay the groundwork for my future in the sport. Lisa, my teammate on team Skeet Skeet (Lancaster!), and my friend, even though you still have my Scooby Doo pajama pants and probably got rid of them, I am glad to have joined you finally on the ironman bandwagon. Katie Ka, one of the truest runners out there. She runs because she honestly likes running. I wish there were more of you! Big Peter Feret, you're the man. I thank you for your uncanny life wisdom. You are my guru.

But the real mascot of that group is Larry. Larry has kept all of us connected over the years, and always provided perspective. Larry is a pioneer of the sport and has a thousand stories that will illustrate just how long he's been around. He's been one of my biggest supporters and as I crossed the line on Sunday, I wished he could have been right there. That one was for you, Larry. Thanks for everything.

Over the years I've made tons of friends, mostly through sports/the sport, and each of them has left me a little better than they found me. Cara, thanks for teaching me how to do flip-turns, and for helping get me really, really drunk in New Orleans all the time. Mike Prada, my friend and roommate, I'll always think back to our morning runs from Cumberland, our runs in Greenbelt, our runs to DC, our runs around University Park. 90% of our time together was probably spent running, and I'm glad I can finally run with you again. My girl Kristin Lubas, I'll probably never call you your new last name because Lubas is just so much better, but thanks for always supporting me.

My guys from home - my best friends since freshman year. Koot, Vic, Chima, Sgrizzi and P. We've had some great times over the last 15 years, and I hope to make it at least 15 more. Thanks for following along online on Sunday and for the shout outs afterwards. It meant a lot that you guys did that. My thanks also extends to your significant others, so pass along to Reese, Susie and Lauren.

Moving to Baltimore was the best thing for me at the time I moved here, and continuing to live here is still the best thing for me. It's almost staggering the number of people I've watched come and go, and the "group" has become an extension of my life. I wish I hated you guys more so I could feel okay leaving. But, I like you all, or at least most of you, enough that I stay put. Now, with 150 or so people that I consider part of the team, I'm not going to go through and mention you all by name, so don't take offense if you're reading this and you're like WTF where's my name!

OJ - you are the man. When you made up a 20 minute gap on me at Columbia 2001 en route to winning, you were my hero. I didn't know you, but I wanted to be as good as you were. And never in a million years could I have guessed that 4 years later our paths would cross. It's hard to believe I've known you now for 5 years. You are, without a doubt, the best training partner I've ever had. Never an excuse, always up for going hard, up for riding in 20 degrees. You brought light to my world as a cyclist when you took me to Frederick some years ago. Without you, I would still be driving out of the city to ride. And, even though I am really sick of Route 40, without you there would be no Gunpowder Loop, Mt. Vista loop, Aberdeen, Rocks, Leone Spring, whatever. And there would be no Wednesday Night Run, from its humble beginnings as a showcase of the shittiest parts of Baltimore to its slightly more sophisticated route. I absolutely could not have gotten to where I was before, or where I am now, without your help. Thanks a lot buddy. You are still an inspiration, and doing a great job as a new father.

Tom Stott - friend, training partner, de facto Physical Therapist, fellow Tour Crasher. We've had some pretty amazing adventures over the years, and I suspect that will continue. I'm grateful for all you and Patty have done for me, and for what you do for everyone you know. Two of the most genuine people I've ever met, and I'm proud of how well you're doing.

Team CYB - Zero, Pat and Alyssa. Three people who have known what I've been up to over the last few months, and knew what I was trying to accomplish. Zero, I wish it could have been last year and we got to race the whole thing together, and for that matter, could have trained together. That was a huge disappointment for me to not be able to do that. I wish you could have made it out this year, but thanks for sticking by me. And also for the super late text message Friday night while I was asleep. Ha, don't worry - I was smart and turned my phone off!

Pat, my bike sponsor and a blossoming champion. It's been a fun year and a half watching you get faster - and I say it in all seriousness, not like "man I hate that Pat's getting faster while I'm on the sidelines." It's tough to see our own growth, so being on the sidelines I've been able to see just how far you've come. Thanks for letting me borrow your bike for the race, and for helping me get back to where I am. From Luray to Red Bank, it's been fun to race with you and I'm looking forward to our synched schedules next year again.

Alyssa, how can I thank you for all that you've done for me? This little note won't be able to express it all. Thanks for coming out to the race and all the help during the week and weekend. Following the bike ride with my dad back in June, it was our Oregon Ridge ride that made me believe I could come back. Inadvertently, the rides we did to get you ready for your Ironman were what allowed me to do mine. Thanks for the prodding. It's amazing to see how committed you are to being excellent at what you do, and while I know you don't need anyone to say it, it's motivating. Here's to a great 2011 for you.

Clarkson trio - Arjun, Melissa and Brennan. My thanks to you guys is actually less running/training related, even though that's what brought us together. (Side note: I can't remember the last time I ran with Brennan, though, ha!) You are three of the best friends anyone could ask for, and probably the three nicest people in Baltimore. Your commitment to your family and friends is amazing, and what you did for me, particularly in the beginning of the year - I can't thank you enough.

FHR/TNT - It was the Fed Hill group that got me started here, meeting runners, forming the group that exists today. It is, in fact, how and why most of you are all part of it. We have Susan Sperry and Susan Kim to thank for FHR. But that allowed me to meet Spider and Tim, Godsey, Kip, Kris, Ben, Chrissie, etc...and most of all Jim Adams. Jim is the greatest advocate for sport I have ever met. Thanks for continuing to support me, and for all that you do for everyone else. That goes for pretty much everyone at Falls Road - Pete, Karen, Dan, Eric - it's like my 2nd or 3rd or 4th home. TNT over the years has seen so many amazing athletes, each just out because they like to run and want to get (or stay) fast, and each of you has helped each other achieve some tremendous goals. The TNT folks were the first ones to see me run again, and have been super supportive along the way, so quick thanks to all you guys, including (but not limited to) Seth, Suzanne, Diane, Denise, Eileen, Alex B, Terence, Collin, Dr. J, Spence, Dave P, Meg McNew, Dusty, Lisa, Doug, Kyle, Becky Parks (both of them!), Steve, Jeff, Tom Stewart...

Big thanks are in order for my old Friday crew, that really made running fun again when I got here - Mike Prada, BG, Andy, Jake Marren, Kris, Justin, Kip, Chrissie, Adami, the others that have come and gone. Kris, I thank you for your sage wisdom. I don't know anyone that old, except for Ben, so the knowledge the two of you impart is very valuable to me. Plus I just like running with you.

Justin, running misses you man. Amazing how we both got dealt real shitty cards. But, just as I have come back, so too shall you. And, like you've been there for me, I'll do my part to get you to where you want to go.

Alex, you're my boy Blue. Always good for a diversion, pumping some jams, having fun when fun needs to be had, riding when you need someone to ride with. Jen Koshy, the funnest Jen around. You too know what it's like to be out of commission, but keep smiling and having fun, so I try to keep that in mind too. Ben, even though you're gone, I still love you. And your insight on training and racing is profound, so I appreciate that.

Thanks to my little buddy Cheese, you descended upon this town and since you've lived here you've been a great friend. You've kept me motivated on the days I don't want to do things, and have also kept me in line when I should know when I need a break or perspective.

Then there's thanks to general posse members, like cousin Emily and Bryan, for putting up with me and the crazy sport. Sara Spears for being a great friend over the years, and because she continues to surprise me with her nonchalant ability to just go out and do road races or duathlons. Jennifer for her positive and unique outlook on life, LByrne for her constant excitement about things I do and for sending me Lucky Charms, Ryan Schmidt for his excitement and support from afar. My R2W friends - Carmitchel, Leyendecker, Brew, Clark, Bartlett, Hoya, et al., for keeping me on track. [Amended] I would be remiss to not mention Pasta Mista, my official dinner sponsor as I eat there twice to three times per week most of the time. Your pizza fuels me.

I realize this reads like an acceptance speech at an awards show, and I would be way beyond the WRAP IT UP point, but I wanted to try and express whatever small amount of appreciation I could to all of you who have helped me on my way. I consider all of you part of my family, because I lean on you for help when I need it. They always say that the Ironman is a family affair, that your family sacrifices just like you do. Sometimes I got to train with people, but a lot of it - I'd say upwards of 90% this time around - I did on my own. I can certainly do that, it's not a big deal. But I wouldn't want to do it if it weren't for everyone's support. My relatives are proud and I don't think they even know what it is I did.

I wanted this race for me, not that I even care so much about what the race "means" because shoot, I don't need a race to validate myself as a triathlete. I just like racing. I wanted to do this race as a way of repaying all of the support that is graciously shown to me from literally hundreds of people. So, to finally confirm what I have known for years, I am an Ironman.


fbg said...

Hell yeah, dude. We all knew you were an ironman, whatever that means. That's why I've probably never acted like it was a big thing, you running an Ironman race and all. That's just what you do. It's awesome to see you happy about a race and a performance, though. Congratulations, and well done.

THE KRIS said...

thanks for being the straw that stirs the drink. now get back to work.

Senior_Slug said...

Ryan I hate leaving a quote from a Dukie that was about a Tar Heel on your blog but I think it hits the nail on the head about the Two Years to Tempe

"His will is greater than his skill. And his skill is considerable"

Anonymous said...

I am vain enough to be hurt by the fact that you didn't mention me. I should get my OWN post. ON Christmas day. I want a whole blog created in my honor! This is a deal breaker, Ryan.

Sara said...

Aw - so honored to get a mention in this post! You are light years ahead of me in your sport, but you still (at least pretend to) get excited for me when I get a PR or try a new distance. I, like your dad, will live vicariously through you and tell strangers about my awesome friend who was hit by a car and then came back a year later to rock an Ironman.