April 13, 2015
Sunday, April 12th was the Rebel Man Sprint Triathlon in Oxford, MS. I kinda signed up for this thing on a whim, and was not real sure how to feel about it. I signed up while lying in bed surveying facebook. I saw a few people that I know, and thought, “that sounds like fun”. I learned the hard lesson that there are lots of things that “sound like fun” when your fata*s is snuggled in bed reading facebook at about 8pm, but that’s the breaks. The day after signing up I began to put the hard sell on a couple of friends of mine in hopes of catching them at a weak moment and getting them to verbally commit to the tri. Brian Williams decided to “think” about it, so I knew he was a bust, but Michael Shelton nibbled on the line. I couldn’t believe it! Ole Bubs Shelton was actually sounding like he was going to make the event with me. Shelton has been my best friend for almost 25 years. He has been through the wringer with me. Everything that defines a friendship, he embodies. We have been through laughs, tears, fights, fears, hardships and loss together. His family is my family, and they have always treated me as such. His dad taught me most everything I know about tools, and a helluva lot about honesty, decency, and and hard work. His mom was my very best friend, who would do, and did just about everything for me up until the day she died. To get the opportunity to spend the day with Michael made this event really special. It also made the event much more than just a triathlon, but a reason to come together and spend some quality time. Just like probably whoever is reading this has experienced, life gets in the way of relationships, and it gets easier and easier to let the bullsh*t get in the way of what is important. That would not be the case this day! I had Amanda and the kids, Michael, Hope, and the Tennessee Jackhammer (you oughta see the Jackhammer. He’s a good looking little joker) heading to Oxford to compete (term used loosely) in a triathlon! I absolutely could not ask for anything more.
Race Day 4:30am- I role over only to find that Amanda is already up and kicking a*s in the kitchen. I have never met anyone so dutiful in my life. She has snacks packed, outfits organized, and breakfast in the oven. Michael is due to be at the house at 5:30am, and I had no worries about his punctuality. I could already hear him loading his bike on my bike rack (which neither of us had ever used). Being that rule #1 of any sporting competition is to not eat or drink anything that you don’t normally eat or drink, I had Michael bring me a V8 (which I had not had in 4 years….and I have NEVER had without Vodka); Amanda also cooked a spicy sausage and cream cheese in croissant recipe, which was INCREDIBLE. This was absolutely the antithesis of a pre-race meal, which seemed perfect for me. The individually wrapped croissants were of good portion, so one was plenty…which is why I ate four. With Michael riding shotgun, and Amanda in the back with the kids, we departed for Oxford. Hope and the Jackhammer were going to meet us at the event, so they could get a couple of hours more sleep.
Upon arriving at the event, we checked in and everything went smoothly. I ran into Shawn McKinney, Cindy Clark, and Stephen Waldrip, all of which are legit competitors. They have each been very supportive and helpful of Beefcake and my overall lack of attention to detail, and propensity to just start signing up for sh*t without knowing what I am doing. I also saw Samantha Elliot, who is a fellow teammate of mine on the Full Motion Race Team. It is calming to see friendly and familiar faces before a race. I need all the calm I can get, because I have “issues”. These “issues” have never been accurately diagnosed, but lets just say I am a weird muther fu*ker. First, I have this strange anxie-hack/gag/sneeze that sounds like a mix between hurling from appendicitis, coughing on a pine cone, and sneezing from pollen. People usually “bless me” and I graciously say thank you., but the people close to me know and understand that it is a weird tic of mine. I am also VERY particular about the clothes I wear and how they “feel”. A shirt that is too loose, and I feel like I am running in a bed sheet, fearing I will somehow get caught up in it and die of strangulation. If the shirt is too tight, then I feel that I will become stuck in it if it decides to contract like a boa constrictor. The amount of room in between my socks and shoes must be perfect or I will layer socks, which is why I wear these goofy a*s red socks with my Hokas, and I totally look like a stooge, but I feel like a champ. My shorts did not have pockets, which is something that I think should be outlawed based on the amount of mental anguish that this gives me. I don’t know exactly what my problem is, but it seems as if the people around me are pretty good at accepting it and helping to coach me through it. Truthfully, they just roll their eyes and laugh at me. If I was trying to tell a psychiatrist what is wrong with me, which I have and also told them what was wrong with them, I would describe it as taking Rain Man, Karl from Slingblade, Forrest Gump, a touch of Autism, and a lot of Chris Farley, blend them together and pour. Out comes me. On top of all of the drama regarding feel, it is also paramount that I use the restroom two times before any event or activity. Today was no different, and we were running out of time. I had about a dozen miniature, short-lived panic attacks silently in my head before finding the locker room in the pool area. Everything was good, except for my shirt. OH GOD! I had worn my shirt over my tri-suit into the swimming area and I did not know what to do. The logical person would just set it down and remember to pick it up, but I have ZERO short-term memory and a hellacious case of ADD, so this was a friggin deal that had to be resolved. I took the tee shirt to my friend Kathy Kramer who was willing to keep an eye on it, even though it was just a tee shirt. Finally the race got underway and the first few people were in the water, with a new entry every 5 seconds. That’s when we saw all the family above us in the risers. When I saw Amanda, I saw opportunity, so off I went. I proceeded to waddle my fata*s all the way around the pool to retrieve my shirt, so to give it to Amanda. Amanda would later tell me she thought I was warming up or something. I looked like a cross between Jack Nicklaus if he would have taken a victory lap around the green after hitting his hole in one at The Master’s last week, and Super Mario. I was barefooted, in a tri suit, and just a waddling.
By the time Michael and I were to get in the water, we were pretty close to the back. I was starting 5 seconds behind him. We were not doing this to be competitive in any way, but something came over me. I think it was the swim team that I was on THIRTY YEARS AGO. Something told me to blow right past him. I had the adrenaline of the race, the participants, and my family up there pulling me on. I had that feeling that I could swim forever. I was gaining ground with each stroke, each one more powerful than the last. My lungs felt like they were the size of watermelons, and my feet were pistons displacing water like an engine does air. This was one of those times were superhuman characteristics come over the average human. It was possible I would finish in the top 4-5 of the group when it came to the swim. I felt that it would be beneficial to call the press so they could begin writing about Beefcake’s magical 400 Meter run on the campus of Ole Miss. I began to wonder how long this feeling of euphoria could last, until I got my answer…..about 30 fu*king meters. That’s how long, 30 meters, and I was ROCKED. I felt like one of those college guys on youtube who accidentally inhales the alcohol while it’s still on fire. The burning sensation in my lungs felt like I was on a 2 foot ladder hitting a 6 foot bong, There was a side of me that felt like I should suck in a bunch of liquid just to cool my lungs down. At the wall, Michael said, “go ahead”, and I replied, “holy sh*t, no” (it was the best I could do). Needless to say, I slowed it down and was able to tadpole my way to the finish. Getting out of the pool was going to be potentially tricky, seeing as what I had already been through. There was a ladder about a quarter of the way down the pool, which would have been SO handy, but also very unsexy for someone who is attempting to appear to have SOME athletic ability, or shred of dignity. I beached myself on the side, kicked my big ole hamhock over, dropped a couple of F-bombs and was bumbling to the bicycles.
Getting to the bike transition was fun, because I got to see everyone , and they all genuinely looked happy. My kids were having fun with Jack and they absolutely adore any time that they can spend with Amanda. She provides a calmness to all of us that is very reassuring. As I was getting on my shoes and getting ready to pull off on my bike, I explained to Hope that whomever coined the phrase, “like riding a bike”, had not spent the very vast majority of his last 20 years not riding one….because you DO forget. I decided to eat a Honey Stinger for nutrition. I feel Iam extremely fortunate in the fact that I feel I can continue moving forward, albeit at a VERY slow pace, for long periods of time, assuming I don’t get hungry. I also have zero problem eating solid food while exercising. I have often been teased about the plethora of PB&J sandwiches that I bring on longer trail runs. I could eat Shoney’s breakfast buffet at about 12 miles into a trail and feel perfectly refreshed. When I get hungry and bottom out, I AM DONE. I thought the Honey Stinger would be a good idea, even though I had Tailwind mixed in my water bottle. Turns out I was wrong. I would have been better off grabbing a teaspoon of sugar, mixed with a wheelbarrow of dry mortar, and dumping it all in my pie hole. I spent about the next 6 miles trying to decide whether to swallow the last bite, or throw up the whole thing. Overall the ride went well though. The volunteers were very supportive, and I tried to express my gratitude right back. There were a couple of really nasty hills, one in particular. At one point I honestly could not tell if I was moving forward, or just pedaling really fast to avoid going backwards. It looked like a scene from Tommy Boy. My Wal-Mart helmet had cocked over to the side of my head covering my left eye. I was hunkered down too much in the struggle to fix it. My gear was so high that my feet were doing about 100 revolutions per second, but my tires were doing one a minute. There was a nice volunteer with a heavy country accent who said, “I know you can. I KNOW you can, big man, my money is on you!” and it just sounded so good. I think southern women encourage greater than anybody in the world. I’m partial, of course, but my mom has an accent and a way of encouraging, that when she would holler, I would just know I was about to get it done. That single lady probably yelled for 200 people that day. If she only knew how much difference she made just for me, she would sleep well tonight. I hope I can be that kind of positive in someone’s life. I hope that given the opportunity, I can get past my bullsh*t vanity and discomfort, and not be afraid to hoot and holler WHENEVER someone needs any kind of encouragement. I made it over the hill and was on the home stretch. I felt like I biked really hard, and was pleased with the way that I felt. I was not in comparison with any athletes, but basing my feelings on how I felt at the Mity Mite Triathlon last year. I was excited about getting off the bike and seeing how my running legs felt.
I exited the bike and began changing into my running shoes. I made Grayson stand beside me and I used his head as a balancing beam, like an elderly lady uses a young man’s arm. I had seen Samantha’s Full Motion yellow shirt during the bike, and was sure I would get to say hello, or blurt out some curse word. I would be WRONG. She took off like a shot from a gun. The next time I would see her would be the finish line. I was amazed at the engine she had burning. This made me happy, and so did just about everything else. I was content with my legs, my pace, and certainly my life. I was putting out about all I had, or cared to give, and just kind of reflecting on all the ways that my life is so drastically different today than in the past. I saw a gentleman who had been just in front of me throughout the bike, and he was really cramping. We had played leapfrog a couple of times and he was on a mountain bike! He was obviously more physically fit than I was, which most people are, but the bike and the heat just ate him up. I told him that he owed it to himself to finish strong and that he had to keep going. As soon as I said that, I felt a cramp pop in both of my calves, and I thought, “great, I just told this guy to muscle through it, now I’m gonna peter out”, but I was fortunate it went away. I strolled along at a nice pace and was at the 2 mile point before I knew it. By this time my feet and legs had adjusted to getting off of the bike and I was pretty settled in. My legs were most certainly beat up, and I was very tired, but I felt pretty stable in my gait that I could make it whatever distance I needed to make. I got to the finish line and there they all were, the prettiest looking bunch of people that you can imagine, and life was good.
At the finish line, it was nice to get some water and a banana, but it was really nice to see Amanda, the kids, and the Shelton bunch. Amanda asked me how I felt, and I told her I thought I did really well. She interrupted and said she meant from a health or injury standpoint, and that is when I felt the best I had felt all day. The realization of how lucky I am to have my health, and no major injuries is really a gift. She did not care how I performed, but how I was. I tend to miss the big picture because I get lost in the details. I can miss the whole race, because I am trying to keep up with a stupid tee shirt. I took a moment to think of all the good things, not in my life overall, but just at this one spot! I have a raging hot girlfriend, who happens to be one of the smartest and nicest people I know, along with my very best friend (who happens to have an extremely attractive and extremely sharp wife), and healthy beautiful children. Part of what makes all of this so fun is my ongoing support from my friends at Olive Branch CrossFit, and my new family of friends from Full Motion Running and Cycling. To be asked by Matt Hall to be part of the Full Motion Team has been one of the greatest honors I have received, specifically because of the mission behind it. The people on this team are some of the greatest athletes in the area, but this is far from the sole purpose of the team (you generally don’t load up two or three 250lb dudes if your strictly looking strictly to dominate speed races). It is an honor to be part of a real life movement. The movement is centered on creating an environment where people are healthy, happy, and safe. From what I have seen, there has been more attention to making sure that my children feel included and a part of the group than my ability to run a fast 5k. The mission seems to be less about getting members to win races and events, and more about the residents of North MS participating in them. I feel that I owe a great deal of gratitude to the management and members of the Full Motion team for accepting me for who I am, and helping me to lead a healthier life and teaching me how to involve my children in a life that they might not otherwise be exposed. It is nice to know that I am on a team with a group of people who are FAR more interested in hearing about your walking your first 5K, than winning your last dozen. Thanks Full Motion, family and friends. I am a blessed, blessed man.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related.