Friday, February 26, 2010

Run, stressed boy, run!

In August of 2008, my employer asked me if I would be willing to move to Amsterdam for 6 to 9 months to hire, train, and manage a support team focused on EU customers. After several long talks with my Wife, I agreed and we both flew out in November 2008. I hired someone from Hungary, Italy, and France to get a good mix of native languages that they could support in addition to English. Training went well, sales reps are excited to be able to tout local language support and things were generally upbeat.

We were at a sporting goods store and I saw a flyer for a 12K race at a nearby beachfront town called Zandvoort in March of 2009. With a bit of ramping up (and commitment on the treadmill) it sounds totally reachable - so I sign up. This is my first race and I am very excited, we reserved a B&B for the weekend of the race at Zandvoort which about 20 miles west of Amsterdam. I hit the treadmill religiously and learn that I have an ITB issue I need to keep in control, what REAL blisters are, what music gets me pumped up - all the things that you learn as you make a transition from "occasional runner in the gym" to "prepping to run for real".

Most agree that the economic conditions were painful in 2008 and 2009. The CEO of the company was replaced .. and then replaced again over the course of a couple of months. In February I was told that I would not be staying through July as planned but was to come back in April. More importantly, the new CEO decided to shut down EU Operations in my office. This means firing the team I just hired and trained - people who had left their home country just a few months earlier to come work for me.

I was a mess. I stopped working out and pretty much ate junk food all the time. People would ask me how I was dealing with it and I would say "I don't care if you are building a Lego castle for 6 months, if someone comes along and kicks it all down - it hurts. And I am dealing with people's lives here. I'm not in a good place."

After announcing to Wife I am not going to race since we have to pack and I have to close down the office I just built, she reminds me that we have a room reserved and that we should at least go and try to clear our heads- even if I don't run. It sort of makes sense, so I agree and the day before the race we go out there.

She notes that I should at least show UP to the race, just to watch, even if I don't feel like running - and maybe I should wear my gear just in case I feel like running part of the way or something. She continues to make sense, so I put on my running gear and go.

Arriving at the race location I get my numbered bib and look around. There is a lot of energy- dancers, drummers, all kinds of activity so I sit down and start stretching.

The race course is separated into three parts. Zandvoort is known for Formula 1 racing and our race begins on the race track for the cars! It does a loop around the track, then up to a beach where it proceeds for a ways and then back through downtown to finish at the track across the finish line (where the Formula 1 cars would finish with the checkered flag.)

I decide to at least run the race-track portion and get into the starting bin with all the other runners. The door opens and we all go. I am not used to running without music but something about being in a crowd keeps me going. The course leaves the racetrack area and toward the beach - I am hurting but don't want to "just quit" after all - I keep going.

I tell myself that I'll run up the beach and bow out at downtown. I see Wife sitting on a log on the beach snapping pictures and try to smile. I keep going.

I get up a hill leading to downtown and see people everywhere. Dutch is the native language of Holland and I can't understand a word they are saying, but I have my name printed on my bib and every once and a while I can hear someone call out my name in encouragement - it works. I keep going.

With about a mile left my ITB is hurting badly and I start to walk. A woman who had to be in her 60s slows down, pats me on the back and says something to me in Dutch. I have no idea what she said, but the message is clear: "Don't give up." I keep going.

Entering the race track area there is a chaos of sound. I start jogging, and then running. The next thing I know I see the finish line and all the pain is gone. I pick up the pace and smile when I hear the announcer say my name.

I go through the exit area and they give me a medal - something I was not expecting at all since this is my first race and I had no idea that there was swag at the end. I move to the side and put my hands in my face as a flood of emotion brought on by the events of the past five months just slams me.

After pulling myself together, I find Wife who tells me I deserve a pint. It's quite possibly the best idea I have heard all year.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Even more proof that the Wife knows best! Nice post!