Friday, June 17, 2011

My Dad and Western States

My Dad, Dale Owens
My Dad spent his last Father’s Day running a 5k at Mount Tabor in Portland, Oregon.  I don’t remember the exact sequence of events and it doesn’t matter enough to do the painful “research”, but I think he was in between 2 surgeries for the brain tumor that ultimately took his life.  Three generations of Owens boys ran that day.  2 things vividly stand out in my mind: Nathaniel was high school track and cross country fit, and ran the first half mile with me at about 8:00 pace, which was somewhere in between where I would run, and hanging back for Dad.  There were runners he knew and had competed against up ahead of him and he felt like a dog on a leash running next to me.  On a long downhill that winds back around itself, I cut him loose and told him to go.  Watching him take off at sub 5 minute pace weaving in and out of 8:00 minute runners was amazing to watch.  The course was a big loop followed by a shorter loop.  You pass by the finish with about a mile to go.  Nathaniel and I had both been finished for quite a while when my Dad and Mom came by the finish line together.  This turned out to be way more than Dad was capable of and with an easy “quit” in sight, I asked him if he wanted to call it a day.  “Nope, I’m fine” was all he said, with a smile.  As we passed the finish chute, a race official called me over and explained that everybody else was in and they were getting ready to take the finish chute down.  I explained the situation and my Dad’s tenacity.  He asked if I knew the remainder of the course as he was going to call the volunteers in, but that he would leave the clock running and finish chute up until we got in.  I assured him I knew the course and off we went.  The finish area was nearly empty when we got back, but a few volunteers remained as did the finish chute and the clock, 1:08 and some inconsequential seconds.

2 weeks before this Father’s Day, I ran Newport Marathon for the 3rd time.  I don’t remember what my goal time was but it must have been 3:40 as I clearly remember hand signaling 1 5 1 and a thumbs up to friends at the half marathon point.  I didn’t run 3:40.  Despite my good friend, Steve, jumping in and trying to “run me in”, my back tightened up and I “quit” around mile 18.  I was shuffling up the last hill (yes, there is a difference between quitting and not finishing) and my Dad was waiting at the top of the hill for me.  There was no parking available up there, so I knew he had walked to be “out on the course” for me.  He ran the last awkwardly steep downhill to the finish with me.  I remember being embarrassed to be coming in late.  I don’t know why I always insist on apologizing if my time isn’t what I told people it would be.  He didn’t seem to care.

I’ll enjoy Father’s day with my kids and their families this Sunday, then head out for Western States, which will be the biggest running challenge of my running life so far.  Dad would have loved this.  Jeanne would not be crewing alone, as there would have been nothing on this planet that would have kept him from being a part of it.  Dad had 2 great sayings, that rattle around in my brain all the time:  “It’s not what you do today, it’s what you do every day, that counts”, has been my training mantra for years.  “It’s not how fast you go, it’s how slow you don’t go”, I have only started really appreciating and understanding lately.

I have no idea what’s ahead of me, in the middle of next Saturday night, I’ve never been there before. But I know what Dad would tell me to do.

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