This weekend my daughter Annie and I traveled to Fruita, Colorado so that I could run in the Desert Rats 50 mile race on Saturday, April 16th. I did the race of course and I will write a review of that later but this story is not about that. It is about something else entirely.
The drive to Fruita from Colorado Springs was a long five hour drive with only one stop thrown in there. We arrived about 6:00 p.m. with enough time to check into the hotel, get unpacked and settled in then it was off to the Hot Tomato for their (word of mouth) famous pizza.
The restaurant was crowded when we got in there but we were able to order our pizza and salads. A friendly couple with a table against the wall next to the register were kind and generous enough to save their table and offer it to us. Talk about luck!
As we were sitting and eating our salads I noticed the group of four that had just trickled in and ordered and were taking the table next to us. One of the guys in the group was tall, dark hair, fairly thin but obviously in good shape. Something about him seemed almost familiar but I was pretty sure I didn't know this guy at all. I let it go. Annie and I finished our pizza and got out of there as to get back to the room early enough to do the final prep for Saturday's race get some sleep.
Race day morning I am running and not more than two miles into the trail I pass the same guy that I saw at dinner that night. He asked me if I were running the 50 and I told him yes and I cruised on wanting to get ahead and put as much time in the bank as I could before it got too hot and I would begin to unravel later in the day.
Of course about mile 35 or so, this same guy passes me again. We exchange the standard trail pleasantries but I didn't think much of it past that Fruita is small place as I keep running into this dude.
With the race finished and after Annie and I had enjoyed a great Mexican dinner we came back to the hotel to attend the awards ceremony. We got there a little early to get some decent seats close to the front but also by the door as I knew I would be going in and out a lot as my hydration was coming back on line with a vengeance.
Before the presentation was to begin, this same guy that I was talking about earlier and his buddy came into the room and with so many seats taken could not sit next to each other. So his buddy sits in the aisle in front of us and he squeezes in and sits on the other side of Annie. No big deal but I thought it was funny that I saw the guy at dinner the night before and saw him during the race and now here. I also noticed he had a mild case of trail rash going on too.
When it came time to hand out the awards to the finishers of the 50 mile race, the race director said he would just call names and everyone could come up and get their commemorative rock with the race logo on it. After calling a few names they finally called mine... "Andrew Wooten." I got up and as I was walking to the front they called out the next runner... "John Duda." I about broke my neck as I turned around and he stood up smiling at me and said "I knew somehow it was you!" I just stood there and he walked over. He is my first cousin on my father's side of the family that I had not seen since we were little, whom I saw at dinner the night before, talked to on the trail and was also sitting right next to his second cousin, my daughter Annie for over and hour without anyone having a clue! I'm the older cousin by six years but we did spend a lot of time together as kids and his mom was one of my all time favorite Aunts.
We hugged and realized that it had been forever since we talked, 2005 actually, when our grandfather passed. We never got to see each other then as I was not able to make to the funeral because of working on my Masters at the time. So no way would I have been able to recognize him as an adult.
Afterward we talked some more and caught up some. He's running Leadville in August and I am going to be his pacer. I am so excited to do this.
So... quite the surprise this weekend and if anything this only reinforces the notion that nothing on this planet happens by accident, and there are indeed no coincidences.
Giving it more thought last night I realize what triggered such weird sense of recognition maybe... He has dark, dark hair and a lot of it (yeah I didn't get THAT gene) and blue, blue eyes... a darker more olive skin tone... except for the height he resembles our Papa Wooten a bit I think and I believe it was those subtle similarities that I was recognizing maybe.
Anyway, great to see you again John!