Last Thursday, I took a flight to Houston with The Parents and my brother in law, Mark (and two of his children.) Houston was home of the Olympic Trials for 2012, and as it happens, my sister Lindsay and her fiance, Timmy, both qualified to run in it.
Mark put together all of the reservations for hotel and travel, so after we got off of the plane in Houston, we headed over to the Enterprise car rental agency and picked up our minivan. Also, as it happened, Kara Goucher was on the shuttle that took us there. However, I didn’t have the wherewithal to say hi to her or even bother with an autograph- here’s why:
I’d been sick for days before this trip. It started with an incidental brush with dog dander. My asthma and allergies flared up, as they are wont to do, which turned into a nasty flu-like monster, which would not end up releasing me from its grip until the next day. But I had a plane to catch and an Olympic Trials event to make, so I did my best to convince everyone around me that I wasn’t sick (no one likes the Sick Guy on the plane.)
I spent the entire flight just tucking myself away into the smallest position possible, keeping to myself and sweating profusely. Sweating eventually gave way to chills and cold, and I chattered as quietly as possible (again, because I didn’t want anyone to start getting nervous- although, in retrospect, everyone probably should have been.)
Once in Houston, we found our hotel, where I curled up and, for the sake of conversation- died.
On the day of the Olympic Trials, I felt much better. I could function. I could hold a conversation for upwards of 12 seconds. I was definitely feeling better. And here’s the part of the story that you’re interested in…
If you’ve never been to a marathon as a spectator, let me tell you how this works. You show up, way too early, with kids who are exhausted and (with all due respect to kids) unholy. Kids are terrors at marathons. They hate standing, waiting, holding cute signs that they didn’t create for runners that they can’t see, not eating or drinking, because Daddy can’t get his act together and run a marathon in under 5 hours and 50 minutes (sorry!)
But the Olympic Trials are different. You don’t get into the Olympic Trials unless you can show that you can finish your race before the hot chocolate gets cold, the sun hits a 35 degree angle in the east, or your two hour and fifty-minute playlist ends. You. Have. To. Be. Fast. So spectators don’t set up tents, small log cabins, or sunbathing chairs. These events are over before an entire Star Wars movie can play through (including credits and some extra features, maybe.) If you had to endure the same type of thing during my Saint George Marathon, you’d be queuing up 7-8 Seinfeld and Simpsons episodes, and (again, sorry), James Cameron’s Titanic- with all of the extra footage. I hope this puts the Olympic Trials into some perspective.
So as we watched the runners as they ran their loops around the course, I was able to see people that I only get to read about in Runner’s World, or the news. Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, etc. These are amazing runners, and it was a privilege to see them.
But here’s the kicker. It was WAAAAY more exciting to see Lindsay as she’d come around the loop. She’s got (roughly) the same DNA that I do! And not to change the subject, but I’d like to answer the age-old question that has been plaguing me for years. People ask me- “Nathan, why is it that you have disgraced your family with your below-average marathon times, thereby paving the way for a much slower band of Nelsons, such as the children that you have cruelly brought into this world?” The answer to your question, people, is this- and listen closely:
I don’t like pain. Lindsay runs through some pretty terrific pain and anguish. All of those Olympic Trial breeds do.
Take my almost brother in law, Timmy, for instance. After his Olympic Trials marathon, he had a toe with a mushroom cloud, atomic bomb, hat-looking thing on top of his toe. He didn’t care. In fact, after the marathon, he suggested walking around, here or there. When I finish a race, I’m done. For weeks, perhaps. I milk those races for all of my worth. Days after a marathon, I still ask Wendy if she’d mind dragging me to the kitchen so that I can see if there’s any Frosted Flakes left (she does mind.) But not Timmy. He’s tough. And that’s what it takes to be Olympic Trials material.
Bottom line: I’m so very proud of Lindsay and Timmy. They have worked hard their entire lives to get themselves to the point of this level of competition. It was a privilege to witness their Trials debut. I feel like I’m closely related to a couple of minor celebrities.
But the next person who asks me at a race how it’s even possible that I’m related to Lindsay Nelson, is going to get an earful from me- probably sometime in the evening, just as soon as I cross the finish line.