Wednesday, November 11, 2015

You Can't Separate Life

You can't separate out your life no matter how hard you try.  Just as I was beginning to process all the craziness of this year and prepare for next year,  my world was upended by the loss of one of my best friends and training partner, Cameron "Cron$ity, Magnum" Bean.  This blog was supposed to be a recap of the highlights of my most exciting season of racing, but before I knew it all I could write about was memories with Cameron.  One thing I have learned over the last 8 years of my tumultuous life and running career, is that you can't separate life out into different categories, they all end up affecting the other, despite how hard you try sometimes.  As much as I have tried at times, they are too intertwined.  So the only justifiable way to write this blog is to intertwine the ups and downs of a great year that ended tragically.


Fighting for a top 10 place at USATF Road Mile Champs

This year
First sub 4 min equivalent in the Furman 1500m
was by far the best and most consistent year of my post collegiate running career.  Not only was I able to compete well in every race that I was in this year, but I ran my first sub 4 min equivalent in May with a 3:42 showing for 1500m and then running my first official sub 4 minute mile in August this year.  I managed to notch my first top 10 finish at the USATF National event at the USATF Road Mile Championships and didn't finish outside the top 10 in any race this year.  With almost a year of health (no auto-immune related issues) I really started to enjoy competing again.  The
Introduction at Hoka One One Long Island Mile
most exciting part of the season was being able to be apart of the of the best grassroots races in the country, the St. Louis Festival of Miles, Sir Walter Miler, and the Hoka One One Long Island Mile. Everyone of these races brought between a 1,000 and 2,000+ people to watch a bunch of skinny guys and girls run in a circle.  These races are making new fans of the sport every single year. Which is exactly what the sport of track and field needs.  My last 4 races in July, August and September, were my best of the year.  I beat loads of people with better credentials, more resources and more experience.  But unfortunately my worst race of the season turned out to be the one that feels much different months later.

Cameron and I took at trip to Indianapolis, ID in mid June to run what was a last chance race to get a qualifying mark for the USATF Track and Field Championships.  The meet turned out to be a complete wash after a storm blew through and many competitors chose to ditch the competition and settle on their times.  Well not Cameron and I.  We were there and we were gonna race.  We both missed the qualifying standards that night, and we both returned back to the High Country with very sour tastes in our mouths at the lack of competition compared to years past.  It was sour because I had spent over $700 on travel and accommodations for the trip.  I would have been happy to spend had it produced a qualifying mark, but to not get a chance to race solid competition and poor rabbiting (I won by 7 seconds), I was very upset.  I was bitter for weeks as I awaited my next opportunity to race at the end of July.  Looking back now though, I am grateful for this trips since I got to spend those 3 days traveling and lounging around the hotel with Cameron.  We always managed to do an amazing job of entertaining ourselves and keeping the mood light, despite the stress of the race.  We wasted away hours taking near naked snapchats together and sending them to our girlfriends, we had nap offs to see who could sleep the longest, and of course watched hours of SportsCenter and chick-flicks.  Of course the topic of the future for both of us was always something to discuss.  We both always had some sort of crazy new idea or venture we were chasing after.  Over the years we spent hours bouncing idea after idea off of each other.  I'd say 99% of them have never seen the light of day, but we were always scheming.  Looking back now though, I'm so happy that I got to spend those 3 days together.  We made memories that I will always cherish.

I come to realize how lucky I was with Cameron and so many of my other friends.  As a professional (or semi-pro in my case) athlete, we get the chance to spend thousands of hours with some of our closest friends.  Most young adults in their mid and late 20s don't get that chance to spend so much time with their friends because of jobs, family, and the other things that bog down life.  Right now I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten to spend a large part of the last 4 years working, training, traveling, going out and clowning, with Cameron.  I'm not saying that people don't get to spend time with their friends, but when you live near and spend hours a day, many of those hanging your guts out, you develop a bond with certain people that runs deep as blood.  When Cameron said I love you, and I said it back, we both meant it, with all the weight those words carry.

See Cameron and I were a bit of out cast together when he first moved to Blowing Rock, NC to pursue his dream of professional running with Zap Fitness.  He was the kid with no contract and goofy outgoing personality and I was the crazy kid from App State, who both loved to party as much as we loved running.  I first meet Cameron my first year at Appalachian State, he had been the cocky, longed haired dude wearing a girls jersey at Samford, the we all at App hated.  But we hated him because he was good and showed it.  When he moved here he was full on Cron $ity, and unapologetic.  He was exactly who he was and he wasn't going to change that just because he moved to the mountains of North Carolina with a bunch of meek skinny distance runners.  It wasn't long after he arrived that we both hit it off.  I must say quickly became one of his biggest fans and pulled hard for him to make a splash at Zap and Nationally on the track.  I still remember some of my old teammates giving me shit for hanging out with him.  Cameron as an opponent was a guy you loved or hated, I just so happened to love him now.  But guess who stepped up to the plate to help me stay in the high country and continue to chase my dream when I decided to keep running after college?  He got me a job waiting tables and assisting the Inn Keeper at Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock where he was waiting tables.  Cameron showed me that you have to do what you have to do till you can do what you love to do, and we both loved running.  And over the next 4 years, despite me moving away for a year and a half, we remained very close.  At times talking on the phone almost weekly.  He was also one of the reasons I moved back up here.  Being around him and training with his energy was something that was contagious and something I had missed being back home.

Just one of our many goofy selfies after a tandem mo 
When I arrived back up the mountain in 2013, I was fat, bloated, and recovering from a month of chemotherapy as well as learning to cope with my newly diagnosed anxiety and depression issues.  Cameron would swing by where I was living on my friends' couch and hang out for hours.  He and I even took a trip to a waterfall outside of town on his motorcycle, with me hugging on the back.  The picture on the left was taken that day.  It was a time where I was exploring other options and didn't know if I wanted to keep running, but as soon as I took some of those first steps, he showed up and slugged away with me.  As he had always been, he was super encouraging through the whole process and was there the day everything finally clicked for me and I realized I could and wanted to still chase my dreams.  Every fall before Zap Fitness would leave for the winter, I would grind out long runs, tempo runs, and fartleks as we all hammered our way into shape.  These were his bread and butter workouts and he would always put me in my place.  Falls were also times for things like Hot Tub Sunday, Thursday nights out on the town, Halloween parties, and fires down at Zap.  It's a time when most distance runners are a little less keyed up with the spring and summer track season still a few months away.  So for Cameron and many of us, this was time to have some fun, while training our asses off.

I also think back to many of those long runs over the years where we would talk for what seemed like forever.  Neither of us has ever been one short for words, so it was almost a fight for one of us to get our thoughts out.  If one of us was on a roll about something we eventually learned to let the other one just go, because we obviously needed it.  Over those 4 years we both grew up a ton, going from shithead post collegians with huge dreams to weathered men who have spent years chasing a nearly unattainable dream. While we both grew up a lot over the last 4 years, I can honestly say we were both still true to ourselves.

James Snyder, Ryan Vanhoy, Cron$ity
Losing someone never gets easier.  I have unfortunately lost too many already at my young age of 28.  In fact, I realized that I have been to more funerals than weddings, and that is a lopsided statistic for someone my age.  What's even more strange is that I didn't know any different.  I thought that most people had experienced death in the same volume I had.  It wasn't till recently that I realized so few people my age had ever lost anyone in their life, much less several friends and loved ones.  Of course to cope with all of this and not end up in a dark depression I was drinking a lot.  My normal 2 week break at the end of the season turned into a 3 week break then into 2 more weeks of attempting to run, but just not having the energy to get started.  This was accompanied by drinking other bad habits every night so that I could even get some sleep. Definitely not the best way to start off my training cycle for the 2016 Olympic Trials.  It's what I felt like I had to do to cope with the numbness from the loss and the lack of excitement and adrenaline from racing and training.  For me this is easily replaced with extreme behaviors that become hard to break.  Just a few days ago I had to finally stop drinking every night or my runs were going to continue to be lackluster at best, and my performance would suffer.  That day marked over 6 weeks that I was drinking heavily everyday.  It honestly wasn't till I was spending some much needed time with Mom and Dad that I realized how much I needed it to get through a day.  It's funny how little things like that can be the things that flip the switch in your mind.  That switch went off, but I wasn't able to control it till I realized that I wasn't going to be able to reach my goals this year if I didn't get my head out of my ass and get back out there.  Besides Cron would've been pissed at me for not getting out there and training.  That's the last thing I want to do this year is waste it because that's not how you honor your friend who lived life with no excuses.

Cron $ity had so much energy left to share with the world.  I know people all believe different things about a person's soul, but regardless of those beliefs I know the laws of physics says that energy is neither created nor destroyed.  So, since he can't personally share that energy with the rest of the world, it's his friends' and family's responsibility to share that energy with the world.  Cameron may you Rest In Peace with dubstep blasting and your car horn blaring to announce your arrival into the afterlife.