If you can’t handle it, go bowling | PostIndependent.com

If you can’t handle it, go bowling

Mike Vidakovich
Staff Photo |

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the present, that’s why it’s a gift.

I have nothing against people who bowl. In fact, I spent much of my youth in bowling alleys watching my mom and dad roll up a storm. I even worked in a bowling alley on weekends at college to earn some extra money. The Classic Lanes in Greeley, Colo., employed me as a pinsetter on Friday and Sunday evenings for a year of my college life. An interesting job, indeed.

Mostly, being a pinsetter involved handing out various sizes of bowling shoes and spraying them thoroughly with Lysol when they were returned later in the night. I also cleaned out ashtrays and disposed of empty beer bottles. One thing I will say for bowlers, they consume more alcohol and tobacco while engaging in their chosen sport than any other athlete I can think of.

Oh well.

The unquestionable, and without a doubt highlight of my job was when a pin would be smacked so hard, it flew out beyond the reach of the fan shaped sweeper device that gathered all of its knocked down brethren, and could not be retrieved to be reset. The main desk, where I was stationed, would get a buzz from the residents of the lane that was in distress, and I would race to the rescue, balancing myself as I ran down the narrow board that separates each lane, to slide the lonely pin back safely to where it belonged. I believed those Olympic balance beam girls had nothing on me as I deftly spun around and trotted back up the narrow slat to safety, sometimes to the amused applause of the gathered onlookers.

My days of working as a pinsetter came rolling back to me recently when I happened to start thinking of a late spring Friday evening in 1992 at the old Glenwood High School Auditorium.

I was sitting next to Bob Willey as we listened to race director Bob Julich address the gathering of runners for the following day’s 35-mile Doc Holliday Trail Run, and Julich’s shorter offering on the race docket, the 15-mile Quick Draw. The race date was the first Saturday in May, and there was still plenty of snow along the Lookout Mountain and Red Mountain trails where portions of both races would be run. The footfalls of runners would be dicey at best.

To make matters worse, a spring snowstorm was forecast for the day of the races, making the arduous runs even more of a challenge.

As the information session drew to a close, Julich was becoming visibly agitated as several front range flatlanders peppered him with questions and complaints about what they may encounter up in the mountains the next day. Some observers, including Willey, would even say the Denverites were being a bit whiny about things.

What happened next has stayed in my memory of epic and comical running stories since that evening in ’92, and I’m sure the thought of Julich’s semi-controlled outburst will continue to entertain me for years to come.

When Julich’s fraying emotional rope finally snapped, he let loose on several members of his audience with the following suggestion: “This is Colorado. You’re in the mountains, and it’s an ultra-trail run. There’s some snow up there, and the weather is going to be bad. If you can’t handle it, go bowling!”

I couldn’t contain my laughter as a hearty contingent in the audience cheered Julich’s admonishment of the faint-of-heart complainers. Never one to shy away from taking center stage, my friend Bob Willey stood up while applauding, and turned around to face the majority of the crowd and yelled, “Yeah, go bowling!”

The following day proved to be just as miserable as Julich and the weather forecasters had warned. It was chilly, and the snow was coming at us sideways. The conditions didn’t seem to phase Willey much. He would always let everyone in his running circle of friends know that he was a “junk runner” and a “mudcatter.” He proved it that day in the 15-mile Quick Draw, racing away from all of us in the mud and ankle-deep snow to finish high up on the race leader board.

I really can’t say if any of those folks who were having second thoughts about running the night before actually skipped the race. Probably not. The entry fee was pretty steep, so I’m guessing they at least tried to start the race and get their money’s worth.

So now you know, all of you who are standing at the starting line of a race and begin to have last-minute, second thoughts about running. Maybe the course is too tough. Maybe the weather is bad just like in ’92. Maybe you haven’t trained properly or your new shoes aren’t broken in enough. When all the excuses that are ringing in your head become unbearable, remember you do have an alternative.

Go bowling.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance writer from Glenwood Springs. His column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

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