I am starting to get caught up on emails and correspondence from a year that has been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. I found the following note from David Frank, aka Frankie, about a post I did on the late Ryan Shay.
I think it something worth passing around. This community, campagnie that we call running is amazingly diverse and vibrant. We are very, very lucky, in good times and in rough times…
Ryan Shay Bench, November 4, 2012, photo from Iphone
Larry – just read your piece on Ryan Shay… I went back and looked at my recap from our State Meet in 2007, the day that Ryan died..
Got a little teary eyed…
OREGON STATE MEET
LANE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
3 NOVEMBER, 2007
a day in the life of a distance junkie
As an admitted running geek my State Meet Saturday began a little after 5am. The US Men’s Olympic Trials Marathon was available via webcast beginning at 4:35am, but I made no effort to catch the early action. Rarely does anything of note happen in the first 10 miles of a major marathon, but on this day I could not have been more wrong. I awoke without the aid of an alarm clock or wake up call as the prospect of watching this race was all I needed to rouse myself.
By the time I got my first glimpses of the race, a five man group had separated themselves from the pack: Meb, Abdi, Ritz, Hall, and West Linn‘s hero, Dan Browne. Former WR holder Khannouchi was making an effort to bridge the gap, while others continued to bide their time well past the 10 mile mark. The lead quintet continued with each man taking their turn at the front. Khannouchi continued to move up; at about 16 miles Hall said he could see Khannouchi coming on one of the large screens on the course. KK was only 14 seconds back so Hall responded. In a very large way. His seemingly effortless move immediately severed the fivesome with Ritz pulling away from the others as well. A couple of miles later Browne had dropped Meb and Abdi, and it looked as though the team might be set.
On Friday evening I had received an e-mail from my high school coach, Wes Cook, with a link to a video of Hall as he completes a training session.
His workout is certainly impressive, but the discussion of his journey and his faith made this piece excellent pre-race viewing for the team, and many in our group appreciated it. His running on that day, a tempo run at 7000′ elevation, looked very similar to his effort over the final ten miles of the Trials race – as he simpl
y ran away from our nation’s absolute best distance runners. His 2:09:02 was worth, in most experts’ opinions, 2-3 minutes on a faster course such as London or Rotterdam orChicago; he certainly has to be considered a serious medal threat for Beijing.
Ritzenheim was 2nd in 2:11, fulfilling some of the great promise he has shown for many years while Browne struggled with calf problems and faded to 6thplace; while it was disheartening to see Dan falter, it was equally inspiring to see Brian Sell take his place on the podium. Sell has long been a favorite of the “blue collar” crowd, having not been a high school superstar (10:06 for two miles!) or Division 1 college All-American, yet competing now at a very high level.
As the coverage ended it was impossible not to be excited about the prospects for Beijing and the state of distance running in America, but, just before signing off, NBC’s Toni Reavis told us that Ryan Shay, a many time All-American out of Notre Dame and USA Road Racing champ, had collapsed on the course and been taken to the hospital. At the time I didn’t think much of it.
The Ram boys were up a bit after 8am for their morning jog; in previous years I would have already been out for a long run, but on this day my yearly hamstring injury would limit me to just the two mile run with the fellas. While they don’t really need to me on this run – and my sore leg made it fairly difficult to stay with them – I needed to go with them. During the race itself, I have absolutely no control over what happens; at least here I can tell them to slow down – as they inevitably try to run much too fast. We use this fifteen minutes to talk about the race (just a little), discuss the previous night’s football game, talk about the Olympic Trials, tell a few jokes, and hear – for the umpteenth time – Coach’s stories about any number of previous races. It’s pretty fun – for me.
Back at the hotel the boys go through a short set of drills and stretch while I go to the lobby to pick up a paper. It’s here that I run into the group from LaSalle HS and hear the news that will permeate our day – and many days to come I’m sure: Ryan Shay was dead. He had collapsed just after the five mile mark; bystanders had performed CPR and paramedics were quickly on the scene, but this unbelievably fit 28 year old man had had a heart attack – and was not able to be revived.
I met Ryan Shay in Palo Alto a number of years ago when he was just out of Notre Dame. He was the NCAA 10000m champ and had just competed at the USATF Championships at Stanford. He seemed, during my short time with him, to be a pretty good guy. But more than my chance meeting with him, Ryan Shay’s death shook me because he was one of us. A distance runner. Part of the brotherhood. I found out much later that evening that Ryan had been Kenny Klotz’ roommate last spring during the World Cross Country Meet in Kenya – which brought his death even closer to us, but, even without any connection whatsoever, this was incredibly sad news.
Our group at CC has been incredibly lucky over the years to understand that the distance running community is a pretty special “club”. Our membership goes a great deal farther than just training here and racing in our own little pond but extends to other high schools and colleges and beyond. We’ve been fortunate to be in Alberto’s world and to have traveled and met national and world class runners on many occasions. We’ve become friends with runners and coaches from many other schools. We’ve trained side by side with our rivals – and become better athletes and better people from the experience. Ryan Shay’s death made me think of all these things and appreciate how truly lucky we have been.
As we prepared to leave for the course, we discussed Ryan’s death, our place in the world of running, and what we might do to honor Ryan’s memory. The boys chose to write Ryan’s initials on their arms for a couple of reasons: 1) as a symbol of brotherhood and 2) as a way of recognizing the kind of runner they knew he was and the kind of man they knew he must have been to achieve at such a high level in this sport.
We arrived at Lane CC about 90 minutes before the start of our race, just in time to see the 5A boys compete. This race was of particular interest to us as Crater was the #1 ranked team in the Northwest and #5 nationally. We’d be seeing them the following weekend in Boise with a berth at the Nike Team Nationals on the line, and our boys were curious to see how they’d run today. In the early going the Comets appeared to be dominating the race, but by halfway it was clear that Hermiston was
making a spirited run for the title. As they hit the track with 300m to go, Crater still appeared to have the edge, but it was impossible to know for sure given the fact that the individual qualifiers would have to be removed from the team scoring. Of great note to us – and to this distance addict in particular – was the performance of the two teams’ sixth men. Having witnessed more than a few ties broken by the sixth, I was in awe of Hermiston’s sixth man scorching stretch run, nipping the Crater runner just steps before the finish line; if this were the difference in the race, that boy would certainly be the hero. Alas, Crater was the winner by a scant two points… and it was time for our boys to head off for their warmup.
Throughout the week we had talked about our plans and expectations for the race. We knew that Jesuit – the only legitimate threat to our group – would run an inspired race; Coach Rothenberger never fails to get his boys ready for the most important meets. We also knew that we did not need to have seven (or even five) spectacular efforts, only the same kind of efforts which we had been producing over the past month. That type of solid run, coupled with the emotion of the day and the tapering in our training, should, we felt, be enough to hold off the Crusaders.
Despite this, I was as nervous as I’ve ever been before a meet. PETER SLAUSON ’10 had been sick following the District Meet ten days ago and still had a nasty cough; he continued to tell me – between hacks – that he felt fine when running: “I only cough when I’m not running.” I told him to keep running.
JOEL TURKHEIMER ’08 had gone home early on Thursday feeling a touch under the weather, but appeared to be completely over it on this day. Junior SAMOT TURINA’s Achilles tendon had been sore since District, but he assured me that it would be fine. Lastly, MUSA AHMED ’10 had a tight back, exacerbated by the muddy conditions at the District Meet; he, too, told me that he was fine and dandy.
After our prayer before the race, which had a great deal more emotion given the Ryan Shay situation, I left the group on the starting line with my traditional encouragement: “Fellas, have fun,” I said. And they did.
We had drawn an outside box, #5, for the start and got out reasonably well. In the first 600m Joel, TAYLOR MORGAN ’08, and Musa positioned themselves in the lead group, along with Jesuit’s top two, while Samot, Peter, and our no-longer-secret weapon AUSTIN JONES ’08 ran comfortably in the mid 30s, just behind Jesuit’s remaining five. Ever improving soph CURRAN CARLILE was 20-30 places back but in a reasonable spot.
By 1200m Samot and Austin had moved just past the Crusader bunch, and, although the race was far, far from being over, I felt awfully good about our chances. The race plan called for Samot and Austin to go out well within themselves and move up – and both appeared very relaxed still. Just after the mile both were into the top 20, moving further ahead of Jesuit’s group. Slauson was still right with the boys in green and white while Morgan, Turkheimer, and Ahmed were among the lead group. Carlile, shooting for a top 40 finish, was running strongly about 55th. Leading the race at that point was the eighth Ram in the race, Zach Marx, running for Clackamas after a mid year transfer a year ago.
Circling the ponds our MHC rival Leo Castillo moved to the front, effectively splintering the large lead pack. By the time they exited the ponds at two miles Leo had a clear gap of 10m on the chase group. Morgan followed Franklin’s Bryce Burgess with Ahmed, Turkheimer, and hard-charging Turina all in the top 10. Jones was about 13th at that point, with Slauson in the high 20s and Curran still moving up, about 45th now. Cresting the short hill with one mile to go the individual race was clearly on, but, barring a huge collapse from our boys, the team title was decided.
Over the last mile the runners disappeared from my view for about 2 Â½ minutes; when they emerged from behind the baseball fence at 650m to go – the same place where Morgan and Turina were 1-2 a year ago – Burgess had forged a 20m gap on Morgan who was followed closely by a pair of Rams in 3rd & 4th, Turina and Jones! It was a breathtaking sight. As for Morgan, 20m was a distance we’d seen Taylor close many times before. Alas, it wasn’t to be on this day as our Southeast Portland rival and summer training partner, Burgess, moved smoothly to a five second win, 15:44 to 15:49. While Morgan could have shown great disappointment to have lost his individual title – and have CC’s streak of winners end at five – his face was one of joy and contentment given what his teammates had done: Turina held on for 5th (16:01), Jones – having given everything he had over the final mile – was 8th (16:07), passed in the last 250m by teammate Ahmed for 7th place (16:06). Turkheimer had run his best race of the season in 13th (16:15), outkicking former teammate Marx over the final 150m. Slauson, still hacking and wheezing, ran spectacularly to finish 21st (16:31) – ahead of Jesuit’s third runner – while his classmate and fellow All Saints grad Carlile had moved very well indeed over the final loop to finish 31st (16:40). Whew.
In our first meet of the season at Wilsonville, Lakeridge’s Dave Marks had won the race; on this day he ran well to finish 12th, just ahead of our fifth man. Last week at the MHC District Meet, Leo Castillo had run a very strong race, holding off all but Morgan in finishing 2nd. Today, four Rams took his measure with Leo just four seconds clear of our fifth. At Stanford in late September North Medford‘s soph star Drew Jordan had beaten all of our boys; today he narrowly edged our #6. Just before the Stanford meet, Grant’s Nathan Knutson had beaten our #1, Morgan, by 38 seconds; today, just in front of our #6. What does this all mean? Simply that our boys understand that our goal is to be at our best at the State Meet – and they are convinced that they will, in fact, have their best race of the year the first Saturday in November.
Earlier in the week I had suggested to the boys that I envisioned a Fibonacci finish; a Fibonacci series is one in which each succeeding value in the series is the sum of the previous two values. Although I had certainly hoped for an individual win for one of our boys, my Fibonacci looked like this: 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. We finished 2, 5, 7, 8, 13, 21, 31. In other words, my vision was way off.
We scored 35 points raw score, 32 when the individuals were tossed out; two years ago, when we scored 23 adjusted (no individuals) our raw score was 49. South Eugene’s incredible 1975 team had a raw score of 41, adjusted to 32.
Jesuit finished 2nd with 67 – a score which would have won this meet many times – and there was no question that they had run well. Amazingly, we would have won the meet without our top two runners; on the drive home one of our boys noted how well Zach Marx had run in 14th after having a particularly difficult run a year ago (112th). Another of our boys noted that we had run so well that Zach would have been our sixth man on this day!
Our boys, parents, friends, and families lingered long after most teams had exited the grounds; there was a great feeling of satisfaction and appreciation for months of hard work and a race run almost to perfection. Smiles were abundant, particularly from Samot who had struggled virtually all season but ran like the champion he has always been here, recording his second consecutive FirstTeam All State Award and his third Border Clashinvitation. His illness last spring (mono) was far from anyone’s thoughts.
Austin Jones too had every reason to smile; a year ago he was 4th in the MHC – in the JV race. Today he was 4th at the State Meet with 450m to go. He has gone from a nice local runner to a young man that many colleges would be thrilled to add to their roster next fall.
Joel Turkheimer was a high finisher as a soph in the Washington State Meet but struggled with illness last year and was just ahead of Austin in our JV District race a year ago. Today he – and Austin – both finished as Second Team All State runners andBorder Clash qualifiers. In fact, we had five BorderClash-ers, matching our 2005 effort. (In ’05 the top 23 runners qualified; today only the top 14.)
Musa Ahmed completed just one race as a Ram last fall; now he is the top soph in the state and a First Team All Stater, albeit a few places behind his brother’s fourth place effort in 2004. His talent has never been a question, but his diligent attention to his body this summer and fall have kept him healthy – and the results have been outstanding.
Musa’ soph classmates were thrilled as well. Peter Slauson had a fine season a year ago, but it’s unlikely that many would have predicted his Third Team All State effort here, particularly in light of his illness just a week ago. Curran Carlile’s rise has been nothing short of spectacular; he showed solid improvement in autumn 2006, but missed almost all of track season last spring. His diligent alternative training during that time – and since – has resulted in a young man whom we expect even greater things over the next two years.
And what of Taylor Morgan? All he did was lead – by example, on the course, and in the months, days, and hours leading up to the race – this group to a performance that we’ll remember for a long time to come. The night before the race, Taylor reminded the group to simply “have fun”. Despite losing his individual title, Taylor was a portrait of satisfaction after the race, and, again, led the group in “having fun”.
We drove to Salem for a celebratory dinner at the aptly named Ram Restaurant, where we watched the Ducks handle Arizona State and USC edge the Beavers. The boys, with their medals draped around their necks, ate well; a few enjoyed the hamburger they’d been coveting for a few days. Many family members – and even some alumni families – joined us, and it was a festive atmosphere indeed. Eventually talk turned to the next stop on this journey, next week’s Nike Team Regionals in Boise. We’re currently ranked third in the region behind Crater and North Central (WA) with Jesuit at #5.
Inevitably we looked at Crater’s effort in the 5A race to see how we stacked up; Joel, our #5, ran 16:15 while Crater’s #1 had run 16:16. Their 5thman was at 17:04. Of course we know that it’s not always a straight comparison between races, but these numbers certainly give us reason to believe that we can finish in the top two in Boise.
We finally arrived back at CC about 9pm. I was home fifteen minutes later, and, after seeing my family and discussing the day’s events (my son’s team lost their soccer game L), I needed another distance fix. I logged on and checked out theWashington State Meet results; North Central dominated their 3A race while traditional power Mead won in 4A. Our training buddy Shane Geiger was 3rdindividually while his Camas team nabbed a trophy with their 4th place finish.
Eventually I made my way to Letsrun.com. Letsrun’s self proclaimed “world famous message board” seems to bring out the worst in many who post, but tonight was different. There were at least 20 threads discussing Ryan Shay. I was drawn to this one:
For the next hour I read hundreds of posts from people who knew Ryan well, people who barely knew Ryan, and people who had never met him. I cried a lot, and, at the same time, I was reminded of wonderful people can be, how innately good people can be. I saw how caring and compassionate and thoughtful and touching people can be, particularly these people in the distance running community. I thought of our Central Catholic boys – this year’s team and teams from the past. And I thought of my Saint Francis boys. And my Stanford teammates. And my Aggie brethren. And the guys I ran with in high school at Gladstone. And I realized how lucky I’ve been to be a member of this far, far-reaching club of distance runners.
Ryan Shay, peace be with you.