The first time I met Caleb was at a race. Actually it was during a race. It was a winter racing series 10k at a nearby lake. It was in January or February - so, I wasn't looking to run a personal record - I just wanted to have a nice hard effort.
After the first mile Caleb and I were alone at the front. In that situation my competitive instincts took over - I no longer cared what month it was - I just wanted to win. So, I increased the pace a little bit to see if I could get a gap on him. Unfortunately it didn't work - he stayed step for step with me - although I noticed that his breathing was getting pretty labored. So I made another little push - but again he stayed with me. Now I was getting annoyed - this guy, who I didn't even know - was apparently taking this race pretty seriously. Finally I was able to gap him at around the 4th mile.
It might sound like I'm bragging that I beat him - but really I should have beat him. I was a D1 collegiate runner - whereas Caleb had not run a step until a few years before we first met in 2012. Not only was he not a runner - he had weighed close to 250 pounds, was addicted to alcohol and drugs, and was even homeless for awhile.
What I recognized that day - and have seen him demonstrate since then in numerous workouts and races is his tremendous will. Most people who come to endurance sports after college are unable to push their bodies into the same zone of pain as those of us who competed in college can. Caleb is the rare exception to that. I don't think I've been in any workout or race where I felt like I was working harder than Caleb.
Caleb did something very brave this last winter - he told his story to a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald. In February they did an article on his struggle to overcome his addictions and his accomplishments as a triathlete. I remember talking to him briefly before the story came out. He was actually ambivalent about the story coming out - not because he was worried about people knowing about his past - but because he didn't want the focus to be on himself. I'm glad that he did that interview though - I'm sure there are a lot of people who need to hear that it's possible to overcome those kinds of problems.
I decided to write about Caleb because he has had an incredible string of performances in the last month. He was second in his age group at a large triathlon in Minneapolis, then he got second at the Omaha triathlon, and then yesterday he won the Cornhusker State Games triathlon. These are not trivial accomplishments. He is going up against the best triathletes in the area and beating them. That's pretty incredible for someone who was a prisoner to drugs and alcohol less than a decade ago.
People like Caleb are very rare. I can't say that I've met anyone else like him. I'm proud to call him my friend and fellow triathlete. He reminds me of why I enjoy endurance sports and competition. It does something good for the soul. I can't speak for Caleb, but I know that for myself being an endurance athlete is most important when I feel weak. When I feel like life is beating me down I can go out on run and feel strong.
Caleb has survived and endured much more than I ever will need to in my life. But Caleb does not revel in his accomplishments. He talks about all the poor decisions he made that led him down his path. He takes personal responsibility for where he ended up. We all make bad decisions - luckily for most of us they don't have such terrible consequences. Caleb is a great reminder that we can take responsibility for the mistakes we make in life without allowing them to define us. And if we dig deep - we can find a strength that we didn't know was there. Keep it up Caleb! You are an inspiration!