Sep 23, 2006
When I was 12, my family ran a local golf course. This was a great thing as I was able to play golf 7 days a week. Sometimes I would play 18 and even 36 holes a day. I was always playing with different people. On one particular Summer day, I told my mom that I wanted to play. We were very busy so she told me to join the couple going next on the tee. I smiled, grabbed my clubs and started to walk to the tee. I looked over and saw an older couple that looked to be about 65 each. I turned to my mom and gave her a sour look. How could she put me with these people? I walked over and asked my mom why she put ME with THEM. She smiled and said "you better watch out, she might just beat you today." I laughed, and reluctantly walked over to start.
Mrs. "K" was 90 pounds on a good day, and I'll bet she wasn't even that much. Mr. "K" was a nice gentlemen, that I instantly took a liking too. He was very soft spoken, and had perfect manners. The guys hit, and I walked down to where Mrs. "K" would hit. A few people had gathered to watch and roll their eyes as they looked at Mrs. "K." I could see the pain as they figured Mrs. "K" was going to be horrible and slow everyone down. I continued to walk and stopped next to her. She looked older than Mr. "K" and very skinny. She took a practice swing and lined up to hit the ball. She took a perfect backswing, and hit the ball about 150 yards straight as I have ever seen. Not very far, but perfectly straight. I swallowed hard and that began the lesson I hold near to this day. She made par on the first, second and third hole. I was amazed that EVERY shot she hit was straight. Not far. Just straight. She continued this all day. After 9 holes, she shot 41 and I shot 43.
I made my way up to talk with my mom and just smiled. I was so excited to play the back nine with my new found friends, that I got a candy bar and ran back down. We talked in between each and every shot of that day. She did end up beating me that day. She shot 85, and I shot 87. This friendship continued for many years to come. I loved to play golf with them. I broke 40 for the first time with them. I also broke 80 for the first time with them. So many milestones started with them. I learned to respect and honor so much with them. I also learned the most important lesson. When you look at people, walk in their shoes before you judge. Better yet, walk in their shoes and you might just become friends.
Fast forward to Ironman 2006. As I got out of the car with James (Ironwil's husband) to find Ironwil, I walked across the road to start watching bikes roll past. I noticed a young women that had an orange jersey on. I yelled out "come on, looking great, you rock." Many more people passed, and in the distance I noticed a guy that had running shoes on. No bike cleats, just running shoes. I'm not sure why I noticed this, but I yelled "You rock man! This is your day." Soon after this, I saw Ironwil. She looked great and I screamed and ran next to her for about 20 yards. "You Rock. This is going to be an awesome day." As she passed me, James and I walked back to the car. We drove past Ironwil a few miles and stopped again. I saw the orange jersey and the guy with the running shoes. I screamed. We saw Ironwil again. This process took place about 30 times on the bike. At one point the young women in the orange jersey started to laugh like it was groundhog day. I was amazing how we saw the same group of bikers over and over again. After mile 90, James and I parked the car at the top of the last hill on the route. This was a beast of a hill. A pregnant women had rigged up her car with speakers and played the best music for all. She was dancing and screaming for all the riders. I started to run down the hill, pick a biker, and run with them up the hill screaming "Come on, this is the last hill of the day." This happened to about 100 riders. We knew we had to wait about an hour for the "group" to come, so we helped people get up that last hill. I started to recognized a few riders and I would scream "How are you?" Many would look at me and shake their head. As I ran up the hill, I would say "I would give anything to be in your shoes. This is an honor to have come this far. You are a rock star, come on. This is YOUR day. Remember the prize. You are going to be an Ironman today." I said this over and over and people would smile. A few more riders went past and they would remember me and say "thanks for being there all day for me." I would turn and say "I'm with you until you finish." I was so excited to see these people.
I looked down and saw the orange jersey coming up the hill. I started to scream. "You look awesome. Come on girl! You rock. This is YOUR day." I smiled as she looked over and I said "I will see you on the run." A few minutes later I saw the running shoe guy. "Come on! You are doing it! You are already an Ironman to me. Just go and prove it to yourself." I looked at him and said "I will see you on the run. I'm with you until I see you finish." Not long after that I saw Ironwil and said the same to her! I told her how proud I was to see that she was smiling all day. She looked straight ahead and just kept going. I sat and watched her go.
As the run started and light turned to dark, I had not see the orange jersey or the running shoe guy. I stayed close to Ironwil and watched as she ran mile after mile. At one point of the run, at mile 3 (and 15 if you were on your second loop) I watched as runners ran past and I thought back to Mrs. "K." That was the moment I realized this lesson I had learned. You cannot look at someone and judge what they are, who they are or what their intentions are. At 90 pounds Mrs. "K" could beat most people in golf. She was amazing, but did not look the part. It was the same here at Ironman. People doing the race were young and old, men and women, short and tall. Some did the race "just because", some did the race to heal the pain of losing a spouse. Some did this race to get rid of addiction. Some did this race to support a friend. Some did this race to feel part of something. Some did the race to get healthy. Some did the race to win. Some did the race to finish. Some did the race because people said they could not.
Here is what I learned from the race:
From orange jersey: I wrote down the # for orange jersey women. I sent her an E-mail with a picture that James had taken. I wanted to write this long E-Mail about how I much I enjoyed watching her journey. I never met her and I may never, but I will say that she was a rock star in my book. She wasn't someone like Andrea Fisher. She was just another face in the crowd. I just felt so intrigued to see just what brought her to this journey. What is her story? Why did she do Ironman? I now wonder what her story is. To you “Orange Jersey Woman? - I thank YOU for sharing your journey.
Running shoe guy: He brought back a very important reminder to me. When I first saw him without bike cleats, and riding a bike in running shoes, my first instinct was to say "he will never finish." After seeing him ride past me the 3rd time, I sat on the wet ground and thought about Mrs. "K." You see, running shoe guy forced me to remember the lesson that Mr. "K" taught me. "Walk in their shoes before you judge." He E-Mailed me a few days after the race with his times. He is an Ironman. You rock in my book! As I sit today, I would love to know what his story is. To you “Running Shoe Guy? I would be honored to bike in your running shoes – I thank you too for sharing your journey.
Ironwil: She gave a gift to all of us. She gave each and every person a unique opportunity. She put her running shoes on her doorstep. She put them down and asked a very simply question. "Do you want to walk in my shoes?" Mrs. "K" would be very proud. Lesson learned. She gave so much and asked for nothing. She simply let the world walk in her shoes.
I have no idea where Mrs. "K" is now as she would be almost 100. I just hope she can look down and get the chance to walk in my shoes next year at Ironman Wisconsin. I would love to pay her back for the lesson she taught to me!
Thank you Ironwil, Orange Jersey Women, and Running Shoes Guy!