GROOVY GUEST POST: One of these things is not like the other….

A guest post from our friend of a friend, who has become our friend, John. John and his family kindly hosted us for the indoor triathlon in Muskegon. Enjoy and make sure to comment!

I have been reading the exploits of the Groovy Girls for some time now.  Like you, I follow the stories of running in the snow, up hills, in the dark, up (and down) mountains and wonder to myself “where the girls will end up next?”   Their adventures entertain and motivate me to do more…to be more…to “go” more.

So when Kacey asked me to “guest blog” on the Groovy Girls, I was both flattered and perplexed. You see, I do not consider myself to be the least bit “groovy”.  Also, I’m not even a girl! Not close!  Truth be told, I resemble a bear.  I kind of look like one while running too.  What could I possibly offer up to an audience following the exploits of our beloved Groovy Girls?  My story…my trail…is very different.    Besides, my own orphaned blog, “A Tortoise off on a Wild Hare”   (shameless plug alert) desperately needs to be updated.

Well, here it goes….

Me:  Hi, I’m John.

All:  Hi John.

I arrived late to the party as it comes to living the physical fitness lifestyle.  Growing up, I was a typical kid.  I played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring, and whatever we could garner enough kids to put together a game of during our summer vacations.  In high school, it whittled down to football in the fall and track and field (Shot/discus) in the spring time. I grew into a man that looked like he should play offensive tackle and be throwing heavy implements for sport.   Distance running was basically done as training for other sports.  Other than a period of about a year during college days when I was running consistently…partially out of boredom, I looked at those souls accumulating miles as “loners”.  I liked being part of a group…a team.  Running offered me none of that.

During my twenties, I was introduced to rugby.  It combined the physicality of football with everything I was looking for socially.  I was quickly hooked.  Given my size and athletic skills, I developed into a solid player.  Rugby became my passion and I played until I was almost 40.  Rugby, however, is a young man’s game.  As I grew older and settled in to being a Dad to two boys, I realized that chapter of my life needed to close.

For a couple of years, from a “sporting” perspective, I was lost.  That part of my identity was gone.  Nothing had filled it back up.  In the void of two practices per week and a game on Saturday, I added 30 pounds to a body that was already carrying more than I needed to.  The additional weight, and wear and tear inflicted on my body through rugby left me physically heading a direction I did not want to go.

I began to work out.  Initially I lifted weights.  Almost by accident, I found myself swimming lengths at a local pool while my boys took swim lessons.  Growing up, swimming was basically playing in the water.  I never was on a swim team.  I found that swimming was a great low impact cardio workout.  I quickly built up to where I could go a mile on a regular basis.

A few years back, I saw a posting for an Indoor Triathlon.  The IronBAC was an event held at the Bronson Athletic Club that included 20 minutes of swimming, 20 minutes of stationary bike, and 20 minutes of running.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  All I knew was I thought completing would empower me somehow.  It would prove to me that I could do something extraordinary.   I entered.

I competed against men and women that were a variety of ages and sizes.  Some were young, lean and impressive.  Some were older and looked very…ordinary.   What impressed me was each was driven with a passion.  They each had their own goals.  Some wanted to win.  Some wanted to beat a goal time.  Some, like me, just wanted to see if they could do it.

I did!

I had a pretty solid swim.  The bike and run were ugly but I got through them.  I had completed the race. I had proved to myself I could do it.  I was satisfied…until I wasn’t.   Deep inside I knew that my bike and run could still be better.  I sought out more races.  I found one at the Battle Creek YMCA.  I found another closer to home at the YMCA in Kalamazoo.  Year after year, I found more races.

I found out other things as well.  The participants in these races were far from being “loners” I imagined the runners I saw years ago as.  In fact they were highly social.  They were gracious with their time and advice.  They were ordinary looking people doing extraordinary things.  They were teachers, police officers, students, grandmothers and retirees.  There was camaraderie between participants.  I found myself motivated as I learned of their journeys.

Eventually, my wife decided that she wanted to challenge herself and join me in a race.   She joined a training group organized by Gazelle Sports, an amazing West Michigan based retailer supporting runners and triathletes.  This proved to be a tremendous resource.  Our first tri together turned out to be a great success.  Her experience in the group convinced me to join and train for my first outdoor sprint triathlon, which I completed last year.   I have even participated in indoor triathlons where after I complete my individual race, I get back into the pool to swim again as part of a “team” with my sons Max and Sam biking and running.  Competing with them has been some of my most rewarding experiences.

John and his sons, at the Irondog 2013

John and his sons, at the Irondog 2013

John's wife Kim with her training team, after her first half marathon

John’s wife Kim with her training team, after her first half marathon

Along the way I have been exposed to alternate forms of exercise.  I have learned many things about myself.  I have been inspired by others and have been humbled by being told I have inspired them.   I have learned that my journey is simply that.  I still have goals to rise to.  I still have experiences to live.  I still have challenges to overcome.   I still have mountains to climb.

So what do I have in common with our Groovy Girls?  I think it comes down to a couple things.  First, as I see it, an appreciation of “the journey”.   When it really comes down to it the journey is all we are really given.  We need to make the most of it.  Secondly, I believe that we share an inherent curiosity as to what’s around the next bend.  What’s over that next hill?  Where does the journey lead us next?

Let’s GO!

Maybe we’re not so different after all.


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