Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Old Man and The Pool

I am the type of person people like to talk to.

You know, random people I don't know. 

It happens to me in grocery stores ("Excuse me, but where do you guys keep the Pop Tarts?"), in hotels ("Could you let your staff know my room - #232 needs towels?"), and in other random public places where I really don't want to talk to strangers, but they come to me to chat anyway.

It doesn't even matter how dirty I am or how badly I smell, people just like to talk to me.  I was in Phoenix, Arizona after my 18 day Grand Canyon trip.  There were 12 of us, and we had just gotten off the river.  We were over tanned and had sand and silt in every orifice you can imagine, and had just ridden in a dusty van the 30 hours or so it takes to get from Diamond Creek (on Hualapai land) to Phoenix.

Maybe it wasn't 30 hours.

Anyway we got to the hotel, and it was late, all of us had flights home the next morning and wanted things we hadn't seen in 18 days - like showers and flushing toilets.

We were all checking into our rooms, 12 of us crowded around the reservation desk - and this lady walks in and just starts talking to me.  There is no way I smelled good enough to randomly approach, but she just started blathering on and on about...something.  It took me about 5-10 minutes to extract myself from her, and I even felt a little guilty as I backed away and said, "Well nice talking to you, you probably noticed, I need a shower. Bye!"

I generally come out of these situations wondering what it is about me that makes me so...approachable.  I have never been thankful for that trait even if my friends find it hilarious that I collect people.

Which leads me to yesterdays swim.

I arrived later than normal, the roads were crappy and I wasn't into the drive (90 minutes for those who think I am being a wuss for not being into the drive).  I got there at the time when I am usually leaving, so the parking lot was full.  There were approximately 7,000 screaming kids in the three lanes that have the lines pulled for public swimming.  The other 3 lanes, saved for laps, each had a swimmer in them.  Two of the lanes had fast looking swimmer dudes in them, the other had this 80ish year old man kicking on his back wearing Teva Sandals.

The lifeguard put me with him. 

Actually, I figured it wasn't a bad idea, I was going to be there for more than an hour, and was willing to bet that this guy was on his way home within the next 15 minutes.  Then I would have the lane to myself which is what I am used to and really wanted anyway.

I begin my warm up (12 x 75 with 10 sec RI).  As I reached the end of my third 75, the old man was taking a break too.  I smiled hello as I looked past him at the clock.

He just started talking.

"I was run over with my tractor and was stuck under there for 8 hours.  My neighbor found me.  He saved me.  I used to swim like you. They said I wouldn't walk but I kept trying anyway.  I can walk now, I am not strong yet though. Here, look at my leg."

10 seconds more than blown by, I take a look and am shocked to see most of his right lower leg muscles look like they were shaved off.  I could see some damage on the upper part of his leg too.  His left calf was pretty muscular, so I can only imagine that the other was once the same.

I am suddenly looking at this "old man" kicking on his back much differently than I was before, and am much less annoyed (and a little embarrassed that I was annoyed in the first place) that he interrupted my swim to chat.

"Holy cow!  That looks nasty! So you are doing PT here?"

"Yes, it is better than it was.  I am lucky to be alive. I am 80 you know.  I had to tell my neighbor where my skidder was and he had use that to pull the tractor off of me."

I cringe.  Holy crap. That poor guy.  I just shake my head as he continues.

"It was my fault, I wasn't paying attention.  I had the blade down and I was working on (something mechanical that I do not understand. So I nodded as if I did).  And it just slipped and got me.  I protected my other leg with the one that got mangled. I was pinned to the ground and just couldn't move."

My swim is forgotten for the moment, I am immersed in this story, albeit it completely random and from a complete stranger, I am pulled in.

"I knew I was alone. I knew there was a chance that no one would find me. I could move my upper body though.  All I thought about was how to get out from under that blade, because I just didn't want to die there.  I was about to give up when my neighbor came.  Now I am just trying to get better and back out working on the farm."

I admire that man's spirit.  I would like to think I have that much fight in me - I mean, I think I do. But you never know until you are tested what is really in you, what you really have got inside.  I think that is why I love endurance sports - it allows you to push your limits and test yourself without having to be dropped in a crevasse or something that actually causes horrific injury (hopefully).

We talked a little more then he swam his last 25 and left and I had the lane to myself.  For once, I was pretty happy to be so approachable. I was given some much needed perspective - my measly 3hr drive that I am always whining about is nothing.  I mean, I am doing this to train for a race - not so that maybe I can walk and get my normal life back again some day.  I drove home feeling lucky and content, my perspective completely reset.

This week:
Recovery Week - Next Week, IM build starts (only 139 days to Ironman Lake Placid!)
Swim - 3500 yds
Bike - 41 miles
Run -  15 miles


Unknown said...

Wow Mandy, this certainly puts a different spin on things huh. Great post and a great reminder to be thankful for our health--I bet you that guy is really glad you listented to him. He is fighting hard right now to come back :) Sometimes a ear and a smile can do a lot to help a person.

adena said...

oh great story.. and I am not going to complain about anything for the rest of the day. Thanks for sharing that.

ps I bet I'd start randomly talking to you but I'd say 'whoa, you smell BAD, where have you been???'.. lol

TreeMapper said...

I admire people like him everytime I meet/see them and wonder to myself "would I have the courage to do those things if it happened to me?"

I want to think so, but it is hard to know unless you have been there....

Great story Mandy, thanks for sharing...


90 minutes to swim??
sounds like my daily commute (1 way)
OK, I have a solution. After all you are one tuff Maine hombre... (or is that hombra?)
Cut a hole in the ice in your favorite lake. About 20 yards away cut another hole. (you get where I am going with this?). Swim back and forth from hole to hole (you may want to tie a rope around your ankle and have a friend spot you).
Glad I could help...

misszippy said...

Ok, you are a very nice person! I would probably have humored him for a few minutes, but then my urge to swim would have made me move on. Good for you!!

Unknown said...

I love how there wasn't even a "hi," he just started talking. :) I am easily irritable, so when I discover through conversation that some people are in fact normal and have amazing lives, It makes me happy that that conversation started. But there are those conversations I wish never happened...:)

Ironman By Thirty said...

Wow, what a story!

It normally drives me bonkers when someone tries to talk to me between laps. There are a couple of chatty people in generally that I purposely avoid by extending the length of a particular interval in hopes that they pick another lane before I take a break. I've seen one guy chat with another guy while dangling their feet in the pool while I did a whole 1200 yards.

Maybe I need to change me perspective... :)

PS: I like Iron Bob's idea! The rope is probably a good idea though.

Unknown said...

Very cool! I have the same issue with people approaching me, but rarely does it end in a story that it so inspirational.

Karen said...

WOW - what a story! I can't believe you drive 90 minutes to swim. That is some dedication!

Anne-Marie said...

Wow - that's an incredible story. And it goes to show how you never know what roads other people have been down.

I've definitely had a lot of weird random encounters, but never anything so meaningful.

Regina said...

Great post! It really does put things in perspective.I'm sure he appreciated you giving him your time to listen him too.

I'm a senior citizen magnet too, at the pool and on the street. Can't figure it out.

7,000 kids huh? I don't think the entire population of Maine covers that! ;)

Looking forward to that hat no matter how long it takes! Thanks!

Unknown said...

Stories like that always put things into perspective. And I'm sure he was glad to have you to talk to as well... a pretty girl in the pool and all.

Now swimming with tevas? I swear Mandy, what is the attraction to older men wearing those whenever they do anything? :)

A Prelude To... said...

I'm that way with kids. I don't particularly like kids - well, my own are ok ;-), but others...meh. Could take 'em or leave 'em (I'm "kinda" joking here).
It never fails, I help out at school or we're at the park or wherever and random kids start holding my hands and jumping in my lap.
I don't get it.

Loved your story!!

RockStarTri said...

Wait a minute.....I'm trying to figure out why this guy would go out of his way to strike up a conversation. My first thought was that he was hurting for pals and then I remembered somthing:
Were you wearing the bathing suit where your boob falls out? Was it the same lifeguard, same pool?

He has probably been working on his story since your "incident." You might be more famous than you thought.

Now it could make sense. Just kidding :)

Molly said...

that totally puts things into perspective! During my run yesterday I noticed a man near me who had a shaved head, with a nasty scar, and ran a bit lopsided. He obviously went through something, but there he was, racing away. talk about motivation. I just realized I should have put that in my race recap, my bad.

Mark said...

Holy crap! That story is completely off the hook.

I never know what to say after someone tells me a story like that.

"Um.. okay.. that's interesting. Hey, I am in the middle of my set, can I hear about how your friend saved you from underneath that blade so you didn't die in a bit, because I am just at my T time + 20 seconds and I need to finish this workout."

We are lucky to do what we do so many times out there on courses and training on bikes out on the road and stay relatively injury free. That is no small miracle!

Aimee said...

I think being "approachable" is an awesome trait to have! :)

That story was amazing! It's little moments like that that really tend to put things in perspective!

Chris K said...

Yeah, I agree with Aimee above. You must exude a very friendly energy that people are subconsciensly attracted to.

Interesting post young lady. I liked it.

DRog said...

first of all great job continuing to drive to the pool for your swims. ur doing it keep on it!

and GREAT story
you got a totally new perspective on this guy in the pool who at first was annoying to be with and in the end had this incredible inspirational story and experience to share. glad he had someone like YOU to share it with :)



Black Knight said...

Very kind of you to spend your time in the pool talking to him. When I swim I don't pay attention to anyone, I don't want to be rude but our time in the pool is short, only 40 minutes.

Jon said...

What a story!!!! Totally had the 127 days flair to it. Crazy!

Unknown said...

I don't realize how blesssed I am until I hear stories like this. Definitely makes you apprecite the gift of health!

Anonymous said...

I am the 'everybody talk to me' person too - thanks for giving me a good perspective on something that often annoys me : ) (and for reminding me to stop and listen!)

*~*~* Tracy said...

Thanks for the reminder to slow down and listen sometimes. That's a great story.

The Green Girl said...

Wow. What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. ::smiles::

Christi said...

Wow, that was an amazing story.

MissFit Island said...

Great story.

I attract lots of people to talk to me too but I'm more of a FREAK MAGNET.

Joel said...

You know, the really amazing thing is that each person has a story - and sometimes they are really compelling (like this one). In those stories are often lessons for us. Glad you took the few moments to chat with this guy, and then sharing it with us!

KovasP said...

Great post! I'm not friendly but I get the same thing, though usually in stores or for directions. Kind of strange when I'm holding a newborn, but sure, I'll help you find the linens.

Unknown said...

loved this story! definitely helps put things in perspective :) i just finished reading the long run, another totally amazing and inspiring story!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Wow, that is a great and amazing story

Matty O said...

Great story! Apparently you and I are the same... Heather gets so pissed when we go out. I think we have an air about us that screams VERY APPROACHABLE!!!!!!!

Sometimes I want to act like a bad ass and scare people... never works though :(

Alexa said...

I also get super annoyed when people try to talk to me mid-workout.. and it happened to me on Thursday during my 2nd swim at my new gym, except the guy was young, cute and he asked me out! WHAT??

Unknown said...

Very cool you were able to let that extra couple of minutes pass and hear the old guys story. Probably meant something to him too!

Oh and WTH? That was like the back page of a magazine article. You had a cool intro that setup the story and then the story and then a closing with a meaning .. well done!

JohnP said...

Workout in progress - Approach at own risk.

Interrupt my workout again and your bad leg will look wonderful compared to what I will do to the other one.

Interesting story, but save it for the sauna? lol :) I don't play well with others in the pool. I just want to swim!

Patrick Mahoney said...

that dude is gnarly. Stuck under a tractor for 8 hours, that's like 5 times longer than it takes you to drive to the pool. And he's 80? Amazing.

Robin said...

I read a quote once about courage being to keep on fighting when you thought there was no hope. I'd say that guy definitely exhibited the ultimate in courage, not just in staying alive until help came but in fighting to get his body back to working. So many people would just give up. Amazing!