13 July 2011

This is Not Retirement, This is An Opportunity

Pro sports players hangs up their cleats or skates or racquet and move upstairs to become announcers. It’s so common that it’s a non-event. It’s the graceful – and profitable – way to retire. This Sunday I had my chance to pick up the microphone. But I’m not a pro, there was no upstairs, and I’m not retiring. Still, I had a wonderful time.

Cut back to Maine, noting last week’s posting, specifically, the month’s first incursion into Maine, to the conference in Portland. It’s day’s end and, speaking engagement long over, we’re packing up the trade show booth as it’s time to go home, or at least down to the ship-turned-restaurant docked at the waterfront for a little après-conference chit-chat (which, as I noted, turned decidedly toward running, much to my amusement). But first, in the mayhem of moving those boxes, the cell rings.

While it rings…make a sudden badly edited cut to a few weeks after the Maine trip. I’m walking through downtown Marlborough with Dearest Daughter the Younger, having just overstuffed myself on tasty samplings at our fine city’s restaurant festival. I’m stopped by a somewhat older gentleman who introduces himself by telling me, “You don’t know me…,” but in short, he’s noticed my recent publicity surrounding Run Marlborough 2011, he was a member of the original version of our club many years back, he’s run over fifty marathons, and oh, did you hear that person shouting out, “Go Marlborough!” at mile fifteen of the Boston Marathon? I had, and was puzzled as to who it was. Yes, that was him, he saw my club jersey, and unbeknownst to me I had an additional rooter.

I spent the next few minutes after this most pleasant conversation explaining to DD the Younger how these things really only start to happen when you’ve planted yourself and resisted the American Urge to never stay in one place for too long. In two days it’ll be twenty-six years since I moved to Massachusetts, and nineteen here in Marlborough. Connectedness brings joy and serendipitous meetings, and sometimes interesting opportunities.

Back to that phone call in Maine. This was one of those moments; connectedness paid off. It was Chris, or Run Marlborough fame. Yes, I know I’ve only known her for six months or so, but the chances of these connections increase exponentially with time. Her offer is one of these things you’d never see coming. How would I like to be an announcer for the upcoming Marlborough Triathlon? She knows the guy who does it, his partner is unavailable, and he needs help. She told him I’d be perfect for the job. And get this: they’ll pay me.

This is the kind of question that makes you say, “Huh?” The Marlborough Tri, though only three years old, is a pretty big event in town. And while I know swim, bike, and run, and have done a miniscule amount of the first, a decent amount of the second, and of course you know about the third, I’m not what you’d call a triathlon expert. Heck, until this came along I hadn’t really figured out that there’s no vowel between triath and lon. But would I do it? You bet, sounds like fun. And get paid? Heck, if you stretch the definition of running to this event, this would only be the second time I’ve earned a dime from my vice, the first being when I sold my blood for science a few months back. And to be fair, when the day was over and the speakers and amps and cables were lugged and packed, said pay was no doubt justifiable. Do what you love, the money will follow so they say. Well, I could never live on it, so this surely can’t be retirement, but it’s a happy bonus.

Sunday morning dawned perfect at Marlborough’s boathouse on the Fort Meadow Reservoir. This wasn’t moving upstairs, it was moving down the hill, since water has a tendency to gather in low spots. Four hundred athletes filtered down from the high school at the top of the hill to rack their bikes and prepare to take a dip. And I honed my announcer voice, not too smooth per Steve’s advice, calm down, take it slow, clear, enjoy it. In truth there was quite a number of things that had to be broadcast to the wet suit crowd while spinning the tunes to set the mood (can you still call it spinning on an iPod when there’s no longer even a CD, let alone an LP, in use?), so the corny cracks I’d thought up about being allowed to cross the border into neighboring Hudson on the bike route without clearing customs had to be shelved. No worries. All fun.

The fact is, I love to be in the middle of things. I look back thirty years to high school (yes, it’s been that long) and recall how I had much more fun at the church bazaar when I was working than I did when simply attending. And that’s never changed. And, like connectedness, involvement gives rise to unique experiences. Like the chance to help a hero.

There’s little more than can be said about the Hoyts. Dick and his disabled son Rick are known globally and an inspiration to millions. Dick, working on his eighth decade, pushes Rick in the run, carries Rick on a special two-man cycle, and tows Rick in the swim. And for that swim, Dick’s inflatable boat was leaking, apparently damaged in its previous outing. The floor wouldn’t hold air, which wouldn’t prevent it from floating, but Rick would be a bit less comfortable sagging into the drink. A few of us pounced on the situation, and I can’t minimize how good it felt when I found the leak and donated my ever-present duct tape (which makes the world go round…) as a temporary fix. Minor event? Absolutely. Symbolic impact? Priceless.

And the main event? Utterly cool to watch. After the first wave start (there were five waves), Steve headed up the hill to the bike-to-run transition and finish line at the high school while I called the action at the lake. My ever present Ace Support Team worked the iPod and helped pack the gear once the swimmers were beached, at which point I joined Steve up the hill to call the run transition and the finish. Steve’s audio setup was impressive, with wireless mikes and speakers everywhere, to the point where my wife commented that my voice was everywhere but she had no idea where I actually was! Steve’s engineer-mentality precise methodology in everything down to packing his trailer might drive a Type B personality mad, but to my Type A engineering mind, it was comprehensive, effective, and a thing of beauty. And calling out the finishers, especially the home-town athletes, including Chris who (Woo Hoo!) won her age group, was pure schmaltzy fun.

Would I do it again? Time availing, you bet. Am I, as Chris insisted I would be, itching to do a triathlon? Ah, the complexity, the equipment, finding the venues to train, the this, the that, the jury’s still out.

Photos from the event can be seen here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Humor me. If you read it, if you liked it, even if you didn't, let me know!