I am the type of person people like to talk to.
You know, random people I don’t know.
It happens to me in grocery stores (“Excuse me, but where do you guys keep the Pop Tarts?”), in hotels (“Could you let your staff know my room – #232 needs towels?”), and in other random public places where I really don’t want to talk to strangers, but they come to me to chat anyway.
It doesn’t even matter how dirty I am or how badly I smell, people just like to talk to me. I was in Phoenix, Arizona after my 18 day Grand Canyon trip. There were 12 of us, and we had just gotten off the river. We were over tanned and had sand and silt in every orifice you can imagine, and had just ridden in a dusty van the 30 hours or so it takes to get from Diamond Creek (on Hualapai land) to Phoenix.
Maybe it wasn’t 30 hours.
Anyway we got to the hotel, and it was late, all of us had flights home the next morning and wanted things we hadn’t seen in 18 days – like showers and flushing toilets.
We were all checking into our rooms, 12 of us crowded around the reservation desk – and this lady walks in and just starts talking to me. There is no way I smelled good enough to randomly approach, but she just started blathering on and on about…something. It took me about 5-10 minutes to extract myself from her, and I even felt a little guilty as I backed away and said, “Well nice talking to you, you probably noticed, I need a shower. Bye!”
I generally come out of these situations wondering what it is about me that makes me so…approachable. I have never been thankful for that trait even if my friends find it hilarious that I collect people.
Which leads me to yesterdays swim.
I arrived later than normal, the roads were crappy and I wasn’t into the drive (90 minutes for those who think I am being a wuss for not being into the drive). I got there at the time when I am usually leaving, so the parking lot was full. There were approximately 7,000 screaming kids in the three lanes that have the lines pulled for public swimming. The other 3 lanes, saved for laps, each had a swimmer in them. Two of the lanes had fast looking swimmer dudes in them, the other had this 80ish year old man kicking on his back wearing Teva Sandals.
The lifeguard put me with him.
Actually, I figured it wasn’t a bad idea, I was going to be there for more than an hour, and was willing to bet that this guy was on his way home within the next 15 minutes. Then I would have the lane to myself which is what I am used to and really wanted anyway.
I begin my warm up (12 x 75 with 10 sec RI). As I reached the end of my third 75, the old man was taking a break too. I smiled hello as I looked past him at the clock.
He just started talking.
“I was run over with my tractor and was stuck under there for 8 hours. My neighbor found me. He saved me. I used to swim like you. They said I wouldn’t walk but I kept trying anyway. I can walk now, I am not strong yet though. Here, look at my leg.”
10 seconds more than blown by, I take a look and am shocked to see most of his right lower leg muscles look like they were shaved off. I could see some damage on the upper part of his leg too. His left calf was pretty muscular, so I can only imagine that the other was once the same.
I am suddenly looking at this “old man” kicking on his back much differently than I was before, and am much less annoyed (and a little embarrassed that I was annoyed in the first place) that he interrupted my swim to chat.
“Holy cow! That looks nasty! So you are doing PT here?”
“Yes, it is better than it was. I am lucky to be alive. I am 80 you know. I had to tell my neighbor where my skidder was and he had use that to pull the tractor off of me.”
I cringe. Holy crap. That poor guy. I just shake my head as he continues.
“It was my fault, I wasn’t paying attention. I had the blade down and I was working on (something mechanical that I do not understand. So I nodded as if I did). And it just slipped and got me. I protected my other leg with the one that got mangled. I was pinned to the ground and just couldn’t move.”
My swim is forgotten for the moment, I am immersed in this story, albeit it completely random and from a complete stranger, I am pulled in.
“I knew I was alone. I knew there was a chance that no one would find me. I could move my upper body though. All I thought about was how to get out from under that blade, because I just didn’t want to die there. I was about to give up when my neighbor came. Now I am just trying to get better and back out working on the farm.”
I admire that man’s spirit. I would like to think I have that much fight in me – I mean, I think I do. But you never know until you are tested what is really in you, what you really have got inside. I think that is why I love endurance sports – it allows you to push your limits and test yourself without having to be dropped in a crevasse or something that actually causes horrific injury (hopefully).
We talked a little more then he swam his last 25 and left and I had the lane to myself. For once, I was pretty happy to be so approachable. I was given some much needed perspective – my measly 3hr drive that I am always whining about is nothing. I mean, I am doing this to train for a race – not so that maybe I can walk and get my normal life back again some day. I drove home feeling lucky and content, my perspective completely reset.
Recovery Week – Next Week, IM build starts (only 139 days to Ironman Lake Placid!)
Swim – 3500 yds
Bike – 41 miles
Run – 15 miles