ast week, I took a detour from my typical humor columnist shtick. Instead, I wrote a pretty heavy column about my best friend and his fight against cancer. Within minutes of publishing, my computer, cell phone and doorbell were ringing with athletes offering support. It still hasn't stopped.
Some of you wanted to provide gear for Carlos so he could continue training through his treatment. Others offered donations of frequent-flier miles and hotel stays so he can travel from Phoenix for treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. One reader even sent delicious homemade treats! And to top it all off, there's endless good wishes, prayers and love.
Every time, when we expressed the deepest of gratitude, the response was the same: "Of course. This is a family. We take care of our own."
Truer words have never been spoken. We see this every day in the endurance community, from the athletes who stop their own race to assist an ailing runner, to the New York City Marathon runners who turned a canceled race into an opportunity to aid the recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
Newbie runners take in the advice of the seasoned veterans. Professional racers share the course and post-race celebration with age-groupers. Twitter, Facebook and other online communities offer an endless well of information, encouragement and motivation.
Even if you attend a race alone, you are not really alone. There are hundreds of people cheering for you; each one squinting to catch your name on a race bib so they can encourage you to the finish line. When you get there, you can collapse in the arms of a volunteer, who will wrap you in a mylar-filled hug and share your post-race euphoria.
If you ask any of these folks why they do it, they won't have an ulterior motive. There's no tit-for-tat in the endurance community. Competition is healthy, and usually left where it belongs -- on the race course. Helping others just seems like the right thing to do.
Of course. This is a family. We take care of our own.
The events of the past week have served as a poignant reminder of just how much good exists in the endurance community. Support alone will not cure the cancer Carlos is fighting, but it's a most excellent ace up his sleeve.
I promise, I will go back to sophomoric humor in next week's column. There will be jokes about pee, neon running shoes, snot rockets, accidental moonings and who-knows-what you crazy people will send my way in the next week.
But right now, in this moment, all I can do is sit here and watch the outpouring of support from my fellow endurance athletes, mouth agape and heart bursting with appreciation. This is a family, indeed.
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix with three animals: A Labrador, a cattle dog and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke