In May of 2005 I had a wreck that almost killed me…I came out a changed man.
I woke up to a sweet voice whispering my name. When I opened my eyes I knew something was extremely wrong. my whole body was stiff, my throat was raw and the hospital room was a dead giveaway. The voice said hey, you had us all worried and then asked if I knew who she was…”you’re my wife”, I said. "No, what’s my name?"...I whispered ”Amber”.
By this time I knew I was in a bad bad situation but I couldn’t remember what had happened. Amber told me that I had been in a wreck and they had induced me into a coma. I had been out for almost two days. My first question was if anyone else was hurt? Then I remembered..only a tidbit but that I’d been fishing. My next question was, “Is my fly rod ok?”
Going fishing almost killed me that day and later on it would be a huge reason that I’m still alive…literally and figuratively.
After I had recovered from a fractured neck, two dislocated shoulders and a scalping that a Blackfoot warrior would be proud of I began to reflect. I thought about just how quick life can be taken from you and it scared me to death. Not because I’d be dead but because there was so much I wanted to do…I decided to live. Another change happened and I can’t begin to understand why it happened..fears that I had were no longer there. I felt free.
I was preparing for a two week vacation to the beach by taking my kayak to a local lake where I’d paddle laps. Three laps were roughly six miles, I’d do it in intervals like distance runners train and my reasoning was I’d need to have the endurance for an off shore trip into the Atlantic, the second was that I figured I’d end up towing my eleven year old daughter in her Kayak in the slack backwaters. While paddling my laps I couldn’t help but notice the runners along the path around the lake so I decided to try mixing my own workout up with running.
Two miles was the longest distance I had ever ran when I started my initial lap on foot around that lake. I walked over halfway that first time but I kept pushing. I’d go over there three days per week and each week I saw progress...one whole lap without stopping and within a couple of months I was bored with that scenery and sought a new path. Before long, I was a runner albeit a very slow runner. In six months I had lost forty pounds and had a few 5k’s under my belt. I had Steve PreFontaine quotes memorized and had set goals for my self.
What I most liked about running was that I viewed my body almost like a toy that I never knew I had. It was surprisingly a pretty damn tough toy too, I’d push it to the limits but it was always ready to go on my next run day. Every time I ran, it was a race against the old Jim. He didn’t have a chance against me and those Pre quotes…(Steve Prefontaine was the greatest American distance runner, undersized and full of determination.) He had sayings like, “It’s a good day to die” and “somebody will have to bleed to beat me.” I needed all of the motivation I could get and after a year and a half of pushing myself to run intervals, sprints up rollercoaster hill and distances up to 16 miles all while jamming to Metallica's "Kill'em All"… I put myself up to what I considered the ultimate test…I ran my first half marathon. I had a goal that only my wife and myself knew about. That was to run the 13.1 miles in less than two hours. That’s not world class by any means but it was a time that I had never dreamed I could reach. With Amber and my sweet mother at the finish line I crossed it at 1:56:58…and like a switch, I was done. I had proved to myself that even at the age of 45 I had the drive and determination to do absolutely anything I set my sights on.
I loved the competition of running races although I never even won my age group, I did enjoy the comraderie and seeing the passion and drive that each person put into a race. You see, most were like me, they weren’t racing anyone but their selves.
I had missed fishing and spent a lot of time in my kayak which eventually led to fishing kayak bass tournaments. I figured, what better competition am I suited for than for fishing. I’ve been obsessed with it since I was a kid and here is a chance to compete in what I truly love.
I train just as if I was going to run a race, not with intervals (although I do paddle sprints and time paddle distances) but with the same philosophy that I used when I ran…if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. I don’t know if anybody or if everybody trains for kayak bass tournaments, I’ve never asked, but it helps keep me motivated and adds a little flavor to it.
I still haven’t won a big tournament and with the competition I’m up against I may not ever win one but it won’t be because my heart wasn’t in it…I hear people say, “it’s only fishing.” To some it isn’t, to some of us, it’s rock and roll, it's our drug...our passion and our way of life, it is much more than "just" fishing. Peace