VOTE: Tales of a Virgin Athlete Contest!

>> Sunday, March 15, 2009

The field of 34 contestants has been narrowed to 10 for you to vote on! Remember the prizes?

1st place will win 24 pairs of assorted Drymax Socks
(around a $240 value)

2nd place will win 12 pairs of assorted Drymax Socks
(around a $120 value)

3rd place will win 6 pairs of assorted Drymax Socks
(around a $60 value)

Also, the top “local” entry (MPLS/St. Paul) will win a spot in Charities Challenge 4th Annual MN State RRCA 5K Championship at Lake Como in St. Paul on April 4th.

Enough with the prizes. On to the finalists! Read the following 10 stories, and then vote for your favorite. The poll will only allow each computer to vote once. You can vote for 1, 2, or 3 people. Enjoy the stories! I know I did!!

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“Skin Tights” by Dori Mack

Standing in the dressing room of the local sporting goods store, I wriggled into my first pair of running tights. At age 49, the days of showing off my body were long past and I didn’t need my mother to tell me that these left nothing to the imagination. The mirror was outside the dressing room and I knew just how the girl of the “Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” song felt: I was afraid to come out of the locker because somebody would see. Two… three… four… I stepped outside the door.

Click. I was locked out! Cheeks flaming, I slipped past golf clubs and camping gear in search of a clerk to re-admit me to the haven of the dressing room. It was like that dream where you’re naked and everyone else is dressed--I felt so exposed! But winter was coming, so I bought the tights.

Perhaps there should be a class to teach new runners how to dress. For my first marathon, I modestly wore shorts over the running tights. A friend snapped my picture as I ran past and gave it to me later. Horrors! I had about as much style as Britney Spears in rehab. What was I thinking? And did I really wear white crew socks over black tights? Who let me out of the house looking like that?

Sometimes, despite how low we’ve gone, our experience can benefit others. I smile when the newbie women in my running group fret over their running tights or Capri’s and reassure them by relating how self-conscious I felt when I wore my first pair. Now I run in tights or shorts but not simultaneously, wear no-show socks, and never leave the house before first checking the full-length mirror.

“Me, tragically unhip while running my first marathon--Twin Cities 2003.”

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“My First 5K” by Marie-Claude

I got infected by the running virus in October 2007. At first I laughed about it because... me? A runner? I'm far from the skinny-long-legged stereotype, especially the female one. My friends and family tried to discourage me by hanging the Damocles’ sword of injuries and wrecked knees. But before I knew it, I bought shoes, found a training program and went out the door. I was probably running at walking pace for some of you real athletes out there, but I was having fun.

It didn’t take long until I caught the racing fever too. At first I signed up just to see if I could finish the race within the time limits. But deep down, I wanted to prove to everyone, especially myself, that you didn't need to be a skinny-long-legged person to be an athlete.

Fast forward to race day, in March 2008. I made the typical beginner’s mistake of starting out too fast and I had to walk after just a few minutes. I resumed running after a short recovery, but I could feel that something was wrong. My head was pounding, my chest was hurting, my legs were burning. I kept on alternating running and walking intervals. At the 4km mark, I was ready to abandon. Then a woman in the crowd looked at me in the eyes and said in a soft voice: "You can do it, you're almost there!" Her words electrified me! I cranked up the pace and there it was... the finish. I felt a surge of adrenaline like never before as I sprinted faster than ever in my life. I made it to the finish line, all thanks to the encouraging words of that woman from the crowd. And that's how I became an athlete.

“Final sprint of my first 5K - March 15th 2008, City-Pier-City West 5KM Loop, The Hague, Netherlands”

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“From Heroin to 26.2” by X-Junkie Judi

I used to be addicted to a nasty drug called heroin. I had been strung out on it for about 8 years. Heroin was a bitch to quit. I got sick from withdrawals, but I made it out alive.

That was 9 years ago. I switched my addiction from heroin to running. I started out running by going to the high school track and I made it 4 laps around one day. After a few months I was hooked. Running gave me the same release that heroin did in a weird way and I loved that endorphin rush.

That first year I kept my runs to 3 miles. I signed up for a 5k. I had a blast! Something about the adrenaline, my heart pumping full of nervous energy, ready to explode when the race started.

That winter I got my runs up to 4 miles, then 5 miles, then a 10k. I ran my 1st 15K about 3 years later.

The next winter I entered the 2007 Flying Pig marathon and trained all winter. I followed a schedule and never missed a day. I bought a mountain bike and started swimming laps. I registered for a triathlon.

The day of the marathon I was ready. I ran to my heart's content for 5 hours. It felt so awesome to complete such an amazing goal. To think that a decade ago I was walking the streets of San Francisco, homeless, with a needle hanging out of my arm, and now I am crossing the finish line of a marathon! A true miracle.

Today I am training for Ironman Louisville. Life is good.

“1991, a seedy hotel room in San Francisco - 2007, with my Mom at my 1st marathon finish line”

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“Coffee & Cacti: A Crappy Tale of Woe” by Kym

I have two loves in my life: coffee and running. For some unlucky runners, you may know that these two things do not go hand-in-hand very well. After the birth of my daughter, I decided to become a runner and got a jogging stroller.

For those not familiar with the terrain of the desert, trees in southern Arizona are just tiny twigs about 10 feet tall and with tiny leaves, scrubby little shrubs are few and far between and the cacti are plentiful. My usual after-work run consisted of jogging down a 1.5 miles road and then turning around and running back up.

Before one such particular rookie run, I happened to drink an iced latte. As I started out, I felt fine. But as I approached the halfway point, I began to feel panicked. I really, really had to go. And worse, I still had 1.5 miles to “go” (ahem). I was a beginner runner pushing 40 pounds of stroller all uphill. I was not going to make it home in time.

I distinctly remember weighing my options: I could go knock on some stranger’s door and ask to use the bathroom. Option 2: I could go in my shorts. Option 3: Go into the dessert and hunker behind a stick and hope my large behind would not be seen by a passing car.

I am horrified to tell you (five years after the fact), I chose option 3. I ran out into the desert, found a pleasant little patch of prickly pear cactus, and maneuvered the jogging stroller just right so I could try to at least hide behind it and not be seen by cars. And down came the shorts. To this day, the run comes before the coffee. But I haven’t given either up.

“The photo is of me snowshoeing with my daughter this winter in Mt. Rainier Nat'l Park. To this day, she still joins me on my mostly un-eventful runs.”

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“Too Much” by Anastasia

Im Anastasia and im 10 years old. this a funny story about a triathlon I did in 2007 called the miracles of Mitch. the miracles of Mitch foundation is a non profit charity that raises money for kids who have cancer and helps pay the families medical bills for their kid. I go door to door raising money for the kids. unlike most triathlons where you have a number on your body they put a kids name who is fighting cancer on your leg and arm. Its not a timed event every kid gets the number 1! The first year I raced it was cold and rainy. I was doing good until I was on the bike course it was so cold I started crying and I wanted to quit sooo bad!, but I knew I shouldn’t quit because I thought about the kids in the hospatil.I was so cold I forgot I was supposed to only bike one loop and I accidentally did two! I would have been the first to finish the race if I didn’t do that second loop! After that I also started running with my helmet on! My parents were laughing so hard and stopped me to take it off.

After the race I felt really tired and good because I raised a lot of money for kids with cancer!

I also did the race in 2008. The announcer joked about a big rain storm coming but it was actually really hot. After the swim I was the second person into the transition and I was biking so fast that I accidentally did an extra loop again! I was in first place when I biked passed my parents and I did a second loop! This time at least I didn’t run with my helmet on!

“Here we go again!”

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“For Love (of Running)” by Joselyne, aka “Jawsome”

I decided to try out for Track and Field in High School for two reasons. First, the soccer team wouldn’t have me (apparently they like people who have actually played soccer before – who knew?). Second, I was in love. You know, the kind of all consuming can’t live without him OMG he made me a mix tape kind of love. The object of my affection was on the track team, so I had to be as well. I loved going to practice, because the girls always went out after the guys and I could stare at my love-object with googly-eyed intensity all I wanted. After all the close contact, I finally convinced him to hang out with me. Our first “date” consisted of doing pre-meet hurdle drills on a Saturday afternoon. It was bliss, I’m telling you. Sweat is so romantic.

Finally, time came for our biggest meet of the year. My love and I were both signed up for the 300 meter hurdle event (by this time we were serious – I had the mix tape to prove it). I pounded the blocks in thinking how amazed he would be as I leapt over the hurdles like the gazelle that probably only existed in my imagination. The gun went off and I SOARED. It was one of those races where everything just comes together and it’s easy – like breathing. I crossed the finish line well ahead of the next runner, and looked around. My man was nowhere in sight. It turns out that the object of my affection was actually a terrible hurdler, and my time in the women’s race was actually faster than his. Awkward. Our relationship was never the same – but it didn’t matter because I had fallen in love with running. Even without a mix tape.

“Still in love, ten years later.”

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“Please Don’t Stop... Please Don’t Beat Me!” by Gabriel

This happened last year in a small 7 kilometer race near my home. It was one of my first competitions and besides the sport itself I was fascinated with the spirit and camaraderie we can see in this kind of event.

So I was finishing the race and less than a kilometer before the finish line I saw a guy walking, looking really, really tired. Trying to be a good person, inspired for all the good people I’d seen, as I was passing him I put my hand in his back and said “Vamos, faltan solo unos metros para llegar” (“Come on, just a few more meters to get there”), and feeling a little bad for him I continued running.

When there were just 50 meters between me and the finish line I saw that everybody started cheering. It is really common to see people cheering in that situations, I know, but I wasn’t one of the first ones and they weren’t just applauding, they were screaming.

When I realized what they were screaming it was too late.

They were screaming: “come on, you can beat him”… and there was nobody ahead of me.

Yeah, the guy who I had tried to motivate seconds ago appeared out of the blue, running like a bat out of hell, beating me when we were 10 meters away from the finish line.

He got 5th in his category (that was also my category) and got the last trophy.

In the picture you can see the last second I was ahead of him (I’m number 510). Real picture, meters before finishing.

The end

PS: Greetings from Argentina. I really like your blog, and I’m sorry for my lousy English… I did my best.

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“From Half Dead to Half Ironman” by Big Mike Wimmer

Andy Dufresne from the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" said "Get busy livin or get busy dyin".

For 25 of my 38 years, I was getting busy dying. I lived a selfish lifestyle. I ate what I wanted, I did not exercise ever because I didn't want to, I probably drank too much and I really only cared about me. I did not care if I set a poor example to my two sons. I did what I wanted, and when I wanted to. I laughed at people running or biking past the house as I sat on the couch eating.

In January of 2006 my wife and I went on a very low calorie, medically supervised diet. The doctor told us that we should do 15-20 minutes of exercise per day. We owned a treadmill already and began using it in conjunction with the low calorie diet. My wife and I discovered that exercise was a way to get busy living. After a few weeks, I could walk a mile. After a few months, I could run a mile without stopping. After 6 months, I could run a 5K. The exercise became addicting. We couldn't stop. We discovered biking and bought road bikes and a trainer. We biked and ran all winter. By the following January, my wife and I lost a combined 365 pounds. We did our first triathlon the following summer and joined a local triathlon group. We ran a half marathon. The following year 2008, we ran a full marathon, and did 2 half ironman triathlons. We signed up for Ironman Wisconsin 2009.

I have had the chance to meet some amazing people because of exercise. I would not be writing this had I chosen the selfish path.

Get busy livin or get busy dyin indeed.

“Mike and Jenny Wimmer - October 2005 and then May 2007.”

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“Longhorn Straw Incident” by Stephen

The Longhorn Triathlon in October 2007 was my first half iron event. Due to my lack of balance on the bike, I had picked up an aero bottle to drink from to avoid messing with the whole reaching down for the water bottle. The swim was what worried me about the race the most. I had never swum that far. I was so stoked to get out of the water. At that moment I knew I would complete the race, so I couldn’t wait to get on my bike. After my transition, I started running out, and noticed my straw was missing from the aero bottle. After a few choice words, I re-racked my bike, and glanced frantically about trying to find my straw. I decided that it was best to carry on and tossed the aero bottle to the ground with the rest of my stuff. Slightly rattled, I settled in and started enjoying the race. I had the biggest smile on my face. After about 10 miles, after my huge smile and quick word of thanks passed a volunteer, he called out, hey nice antennae. The missing straw was found.

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“Heart Disease vs. Cancer” by Carolina John

I am a former smoker - a pack a day for 15 years. I’m also 6’1” and got up to 235 lbs. I ran my first triathlon last year, a sprint that I finished in 2:02:30 and was happy about that. I actually blame my kids for this new endurance push. My youngest girl was born in May 2007 and it created a real turnaround point for me.

But the real push came from my grandfathers. My dad's dad turned 60, and about a week later had a massive heart attack and died in his office. I've got his same body style, attitude, cholesterol, work habits, lifestyle, you name it. My dad is 62 and healthy as a horse. But he's still scared that what happened to his dad is in our genetic makeup and can catch up with him at any time. I'm 33 years old now, and I made the decision in December 2007 that if my life was more than half over, I was going to do anything I could to help fight the genetics that came from my grandfather's side.

My mom's dad died of lung cancer about 10 years ago. He was a heavy smoker too. So really for the last 10 years (at least in my mind) heart disease and cancer were having some kind of cage match to see which one could kill me first. I like to think heart disease was winning. Now I'm trying to beat them both. It's really very empowering!

"I'm still alive!"

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Now, VOTE! You can only vote once per computer, but you can vote for up to 3 people/stories.

Voting is open until late Saturday evening (March 21). Good luck to all 10! And thanks for sharing your embarrassing/inspiring “Virgin Athlete” stories! Thanks Drymax Socks and Charities Challenge for sponsoring this super fun event!!


Trishie 10:42 AM, March 15, 2009  

these are all amazing !!

Kelly 10:43 AM, March 15, 2009  

Very good stories :)

Bootchez 10:47 AM, March 15, 2009  

Really, what a great idea and the stories are ALL so cool and inspiring . . . really nice. Thanks for all the effort!

Run For Life 12:30 PM, March 15, 2009  

I found it really hard to choose three!

bill carter 2:15 PM, March 15, 2009  

Hi Steve

Great, great stories! And a great thing you are doing by allowing such great stories to be told.

You are the man Steve!

joyRuN 3:10 PM, March 15, 2009  

Awesome stories all around!

teacherwoman 3:28 PM, March 15, 2009  

Great contest Steve! I can't wait to see the results! :)

sRod 4:12 PM, March 15, 2009  

Great turn out! Now I'm torn between voting for the funny stories and voting for the serious stories.

Anonymous,  10:33 PM, March 15, 2009  

Great stories. I voted for "Half Dead to Half Ironman" over the heroin because of the writing. Both are incredible. I understand heroin to be nearly impossible to quit; what an awesome turn-around. The before and after photos of Half Dead to Half Ironman are amazing. These are all quite inspirational.

Jess 6:54 AM, March 16, 2009  

the poll to vote isn't showing up for me...strange

RBR 9:12 PM, March 16, 2009  

You are a good egg Steve Stenzel. A good egg indeed. :o)

lindsay 5:36 PM, March 17, 2009  

all good stories! so hard to choose! :) glad all these folks have found an outlet in running/tri's/whatever and are sticking with it.

Beth 9:28 PM, March 17, 2009  

I had my kids read these. In some cases we laughed and a couple really moved us and almost made us cry. They are all winners!

Shilingi-Moja 12:34 PM, March 21, 2009  

Great stories! Great variety! Great idea! I agree with Beth -- they are all winners!

Anonymous,  5:35 PM, March 21, 2009  

Good stories! I liked 4, chose 3 to vote.

I just hope bloggers efforts to "stuff the ballot box" with their own "fans" wasn't successful. Promoting a contest is one thing, but no one should vote unless they are willing to read all 10 stories!

Happy running!

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