Preface #1: It’s been five weeks since my last post. It was nice to take a break, yet I’m looking forward to more frequent posts. I’ve decided that I’m going to put fewer constraints on my self in terms of content, posting more personal stories and worrying less about keeping things strictly to training. Hope you still enjoy the blog, but regardless I need to make this subtle move in content.
Preface #2: If you’ve not read Running with the Buffaloes you might not want to read the post below as it just won’t make much sense.
Preface #3: There will be at least one curse word below and if you’re offended by curse words please skip this post. It’s quite rare that a curse word appears on this blog, but today it definitely does.
…on with the post.
For the past twenty-four hours I’ve been hearing the laugh of my dead friend Chris Severy. Chris had a great laugh, with just enough “laughing with you” energy to make it sincere and just enough “laughing at you” energy to give it an edge. I’ve never heard a laugh like it. I’m hearing Chris laugh because for the last few days I’ve been planing that on Wednesday I would drive up to Boulder and run Flagstaff mountain and, if feeling well enough, run the Poorman add-on. I wanted to do the run because I always think of Chris when I run Flagstaff and because this year October 13th happened to fall on a Wednesday, the day we typically ran Flagstaff in Mark’s Tues/Wed/Fri/Sun schedule. While I’m a good 20 .lbs over college training weight I was hoping I could pull off the Poorman add-on, which made the run all the more enticing. Run up Flagstaff on the anniversary of Sev’s death, Wednesday, October 13th.
…problem is that the anniversary is on the 12th. Thus the laughter. But hearing it makes me happy, and if me mis-remembering the date elicits the sound of Chris’s laughter in my head than obviously I should keep making this mistake annually. I can see him too, throwing his head back a bit as he laughs. He never gets old, though more and more that fact makes me sad.
I don’t know where the “what would they want” aspect of death falls in Kübler-Ross steps of grieving, but to me it’s the step that was most important about my grief after Chris died. “What would Chris want?” How the hell would I know. He was the most irrational logical thinker I’ve ever meet and likely will ever meet. I know he would want the wind to die down in the spring, as he clearly stated on a long run by flipping off the wind and yelling, “Fuck you wind” as he and I slugged through a 20 miler. Granted, this was Sunday and just 24 hours early on Saturday he and I had raced 3,000m in Lincoln, Nebraska and rode on bus back to Boulder, hamstrings close to locked and motivation to train very low. Oh, and on Friday we had both raced 5,000m in Lincoln, me scoring a dismal point and him scoring not at all. Anyway, at some point after he died I realized I couldn’t say what he would have wanted to happen and once I got over that I started to move on. The reason I bring this up is simple. During the few times I’ve run Flagstaff on Chris’s anniversary I let myself have more of those “If Chris was here….” and “I bet Chris would have…” . But just for this day as it is, in my humble opinion, stupid to do it throughout the year, if only because Chris would have rejected that type of thinking.
On the run up Flagstaff my first thought was, “Chris would have given me crap for even calling this Flagstaff. I’m starting from Eben G. Fine and not from Balch…or Potts.” This simply means that I started from the base of Flagstaff and didn’t start from campus, shortening the run and taking off some climbing at the start. (If my Garmin would transfer the run data to the computer I would post a map with velocity data, but alas it won’t work). However, the majority of the run is the same – after getting to the top of Flag, you run down the fireroad, then run down the canyon, run up 4-Mile canyon to Poorman, run (slowly) up Poorman road and then run down Sunshine Canyon – with just the most minor change in my run being a different trail at the top of Flagstaff (which had a great view of the Indian Peaks wilderness). So that’s the run. The thoughts? Mostly stories of how Chris was unique. The word unique, as our college track coach taught us, cannot be modified. I could go into detail about all of the stories that came to mind, but that’s the basic feeling. He was unique and he’s gone. And I still miss him.
Mike Friedburg said something at Adam Batliner’s wedding last weekend. He said he doesn’t buy into the deification of Chris Severy. That’s what I’ve been trying to articulate for years, but didn’t come up with that elegant statement. I loved seeing Chris melt down a bit because it was funny and you knew that he didn’t mind you laughing at him. I loved that he flipped off the wind because I was dying on the run too, hating every moment of it and thinking “I can’t believe that after running two races it has to be windy on our 20 miler” (Note – This was the 30 MPH with gusts of 60-70 MPH type of wind). Mark did an amazing job of getting us to accept each other fully, and I remember on that day thinking “he’s nuts” AND “I wish I had the same energy after the indoor conference meet to curse the wind.” By the time we were fifth year seniors all of us knew, though it was unspoken, that we were lucky to have one another. While we never would have said it this way, we loved each other, unconditionally.
Next weekend CU has a track and field reunion. An endowment for the team was set up in Chris’s name soon after he died. While Chris was in many ways a rugged individualist, he attended every birthday dinner throughout the year and he was always giving little pep talks about your racing turning around, starting with your next race. On one hand he was someone for whom an individual sport was the only option for his temperament, yet on the other hand he was a great teammate. It’s been nice to have memories of Chris circulating in my mind the past few weeks and while I don’t know what Chris would want to in terms of the endowment, I do know that he’d be there. I have no doubt about it.