Friday, February 8, 2013

XC Regionals 1999 and My Father the Truck Driver

I just had a chat with one of my Coaches from College, Mark Haug.  He took notice of my recent 5000m track race.  So we reminisced about the "old days". Mark was Coach for seven yrs or more before he handed the reins over to his assistant James McCusker. Mark and James were teammates in their own College days at Ramapo.  They were terrific guys, both of them.  They motivated me, and made our team feel like it was a band of warriors.  Tonight, Mark referred to us as "The Bad News Bears of the NJAC", and I can say that was fairly true.  We had crappy uniforms, no real warmups, old busted vans with no team insignia, and an old tattered bag that carried our first aid and spike kit. Mark called it..."Red Bag". As we boarded one of the anonymous white or grey 15 passenger vans that Ramapo had in it's stable of vehicles for its Athletic teams, Mark would shout "Who's got Red Bag?!" Just like that.  Not the Red Bag...just, Red Bag.  Mark would make us do 10 pushups if he heard us cursing.

I liked these things, strange stuff like the importance of a team member grabbing a Red Bag named, Red Bag, Punishment Pushups, just quirky stuff that was unique to our team.
 Workouts were rough, and while some may argue that it is not a best practice to keep your athletes in the dark, he wouldn't tell us what the workout was going to be.  On two occasions I made the error of asking "So, what's the workout today?" My teammates would sharply object, "Are you kidding? You don't ask what the workout is! Now it's going to be more!"  Again, if this was true, we could say...bad coaching.  But I think the point was, that Mark would enjoy toying with our minds a bit.  Keeping us on our toes, to keep ourselves ready for workouts, and not prejudge how your were feeling about the effort you were going to give.  Just that you were going to run your guts out.  As you all may have gathered by now, I enjoy the trial by fire method.  The Fall of 1999 through the Spring of 2000 were trying times in my life, and most of what mattered to me was fighting the good fight on Tuesday, Thursday, and most of all Saturdays...Race day!

Letchworth! The Grand Canyon of the East!
I had some breakthrough moments during that Cross Country season and a couple during the track season as well.  Perhaps the best moment in all of the mayhem that was my Freshman yr of collegiate running, was the Regional Championship at Letchworth State Park in Upstate New York.
 I'd been fighting cold/flu syptoms for a few days, but it wasn't bad enough that I would have bowed out on the trip. So, naturally, I was nervous that I would run poorly.

The drive up there was long, riding in a Coach USA bus, we watched Orgazmo on VHS(for real), still one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.  Back in the day before cell phones, we used calling cards.  I called my Mother before leaving Campus and told her where and when I was racing.  It just so happened that my Father, the truck driver, was possibly going to be in the area the morning of the race.  I dismissed this as a non-factor.  I mean, what is the likelihood that a 48' foot tractor-trailer is going to drive into a State Park to see a Collegiate DIII XC race?!  But he did it!  One of the biggest surprise of my lifetime!  My father pulled that truck in there, and made well in time to see the race! 
My Father, George Anis, the Line Haul Driver

Maybe this is 53ft? Well, you get the point, Dad drives these.

Much credit to my Dad, a guy who isn't a runner or all that much into sports, and most often was so exhausted from his work, wasn't too energetic about seeing me run races.  He went along  to see me run a few times in the last couple yrs of HS, and I recall the previous yr, he and My Mother came to a race in Delaware, he missed the entire race, standing on a line to use a Port-a-John...brilliant!  We butt heads, and generally have a rough time, "getting along".
But there he was, and I actually saw him before the race, we chatted for a couple minutes, he may have joked that he had plenty of time to hit the head this time! Most of the rest of it all was a bit of a blur in all honesty, but I recall hearing my Father's voice several times as I ran by. And it made all the difference on that day. I ran a PR by more than 30 seconds, my time of 29:34 for 8k felt impossibly fast for me then! I finished as the team's 5th man!

Dad congratulated me afterward, paid me some compliments of which details have long since been lost in my memory.  My teammates' parents had come to meets that were nearer to home, but my Dad somehow timed it just right, and managed to see us run in the biggest meet of the season hundreds of mile from home!
 The details of that weekend will remain in my memory for the rest of my days.  Mark shouting through the walls from one room to the next, "Anis, that's ten pushups!", after catching me cursing the crappy TV; the weird bus driver(let's just say he was weird), Orgazmo, and my crazy teammates...bunch of whacko's! And my Dad, and his New England Motor Freight truck rolling into the park, how surprised I was. He knows, that I appreciated this, and I'll be sure to tell him again the next time I see him.  People can redeem themselves, so be ready to be glad when they do.  I'll always remember all of this.