Sunday, November 02, 2008

I was recently asked by Kirk Reynolds, Women's XC and Track Coach at Pomona Pitzer, to say a few words about the final decade of Pat Mulcahy's career as the Head Men's XC and Track coach at Pomona Pitzer from 1969 until 2007. He was my coach from 1997-2001. Below are two versions, one I read at the actual P-P Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony before 250 people, and one for the after-party of the "Pat Faithful." I hope that anyone who knows, or knows of, Pat appreciates them.

Toast #1

Pat is a close friend and was my coach for 8 seasons of XC and Track ending in 2001, but tonight, I want to start at the beginning: Pat played soccer at Pomona, and in track he threw javelin, where he saw distance runners and thought to himself "Wow, I want to spend my career yelling at guys just like that."

Many years later, I was a high school senior when I met Pat outside of Baggage claim at the Ontario Airport in February 1997, and I couldn't believe the person in front of me was this Head XC and Track Coach with a huge, storied resume. He was wearing a polo shirt covered with stains, shorts, and orthopedic shoes. His hair was messed up, and he was driving a beat up Ford Probe covered with dirt on top of primer. I spent the entire ride back to campus Reeling with doubt, when this "alleged coach" took to practice, pointing out campus highlights along the way, including the ocurtyard where he had just gotten married. We arrived at practice where he got out of his car and –I say this with a lot of love-where I first saw that Pat shimmy, which although great for picking him out of a crowd, was a little hard for a green teenager to understand was the trademark of a running coach. I thought- "This can't be right. The actual track coach must surely be someone else. This man is obviously insane, and maybe homeless."

But I also remember clearly that first day: I could see how he spoke to his athletes, and more importantly how they spoke to him, like a respected peer- an odd mix of equality and reverence. Nevertheless, I was still puzzled. It was like watching Stephen Hawking give voice lessons, or say, a rabid wolverine teaching etiquette. Very disorienting, but he seemed to be good at it, and I liked him, realizing there was so much past this odd, eccentric exterior. I asked myself, was he crazy? Maybe. Great coach? I'm willing to take a chance, and at that point I knew I wanted to go to Pomona and train with him.

But I still couldn't reconcile this claim about supposedly being married.

He even introduced his wife to me, with the actual words- "Adam, come meet my wife." I remember thinking to myself: no, this isn't real. How could this disheveled madman get a woman to be seen with to him, let alone marry him? Especially a woman like Barbara, who is charming and has seemingly good judgment? I want everyone here to understand how first impressions are deceiving, and of course Pat turned out to be a fantastic coach who amazed me by the things he got us to do on the track, but I am blown away that he got Barbara to say "I do."

Pat had high expectations, but also knows how to help people meet them. I suspect to him the only thing I really did right over my career was in 99 when I somehow squeaked in and made All-American, which REALLY REALLY surprised me, but not Pat. At 20, I was moody, self-absorbed, overly intellectual, doubtful of my ability, marginally depressed, constantly dealing with injuries-real and imagined- and incredibly sensitive.

In other words, your normal distance runner.

Pat taught me how to let go of my fear, to be present, to expect more of myself and- a lesson many of us have heard him repeat - to explore my limits, the real, not imagined ones. It all came together for us that crisp day in Wisconsin, and I still feel more lucky than really capable, even if Pat always saw it differently.

A little side story about that time: When I got back for spring term that year, Barbara pulled me aside-and I am paraphrasing- "Adam, I need to thank you." I said "Um, Barbara, that's great, but why are you thanking me?" "Adam, you don't get it- I Have to LIVE with this man, and you KNOW HIM--- since Nationals he's not cranky, he's listening- he has never been so easy to get along with. No pressure, but I'd appreciate if you kept this up." In other words, Pat –and Barbara- have always had an enormous personal investment in the success of his athletes.

I feel so lucky to know Pat and to have had him as my coach and friend: He is a brilliant, insightful, and invested coach who helped me, and many others here, go farther than we ever thought we could. As for the All-American thing, I can only take so much credit- I might have crossed the finish line in a place high enough to get the distinction, but it was you, Pat, believing in me, putting up with me, caring for me, and sharing your immense wisdom with me, who got me there at all. I love you Pat, and Congratulations!

And this is the version I gave at the after party. Basically it is all the material I came up with that wasn't quite right for the, let's just say "mixed," audience of the hall of fame dinner. The after party were all alums and old friends, none of whom had any misconception about who Pat actually is. So, in other words, a lot more fun:

Tonight I talked about how Pat is a great example of how you can't judge a book by its cover. In fact Pat is like a great book, full of insight and wisdom, that you can spend endless afternoons with. A great book indeed, just one that happened to get runover a few times and left outside all winter. In other words: you wouldn't know how much he has to offer at first glance, but underneath it all he has a heart of gold.

Three rules about dealing with Pat Mulcahy-

1) Work Hard
2) Play Hard
3) Never Call him Patrick, unless you are trying to piss him off.

I of course, I called him Patrick all the time. Pat is the only person in the world I talk, or more correctly, yell, back to. I felt like his second spouse. Pat and I had a very close relationship: in those four years, I think I might have seen more of him than his own wife, Barbara, did. I am lucky we got to know each other well, and I learned how to annoy him: just call him coach, or sir, but if you really want to get under his skin, call him Patrick. Being to my knowledge I am the only person besides his parents and his wife to call him that and walk away in one piece. that was probably because he couldn't afford to injured me and risk the points at Conference meets.

Be advised, only use the P-word under extreme circumstances- one time I clearly remember having to resort to this was when I came to the track my junior year after separating my hip a few weeks earlier, barely able to walk and legitimately worried about my long term recovery and hip function. Pat started into me about how I needed to start running again, to ignore the pain and how my hip would be fine.

Let's review: Pat Mulcahy, leaning on a cane, advising someone that running through massive hip pain will not have long term consequences. Pat, In which of the titanium tubes that make up what used to be your real hips do you keep that piece of information? I realized that not only does this man have diamond hard titanium hips, but after that comment, there is some substance much harder that makes up his balls.

I did a lot of recruiting for Pat. Pat, you have no business being a track coach. You are impulsive, moody, you love wine and fatty foods, you have the tact of a brick heaved through a window, and oh yeah, you have a gut, a wrecked shoulder, and not only one, but two bad hips. But you always said "Adam, you could sell Ice to Eskimos." I have always wanted to say: look who's talking. You got me to come run for you. But maybe you are right about me: As many in this room can attest, you have to be kinda crazy to be a distance runner, and just like Ice to Eskimos, I was selling them on the idea that they needed Pat, someone even crazier.

In a Claremont Courier article announcing Pat's Retirement, Kirk Reynolds said. "Going to practices or competitions with him was always a great adventure and great fun."

I agree, Kirk, going to competitions with Pat was a great adventure which brings me to Pat's driving:

Any of the alumni here know the van rides with Pat consisted of the following: speeding, occasional and rapid stops, sharp corners, and hitting your head on the ceiling when we went over train tracks- the ones as a Class B vehicle like a Team van was legally obligated to stop at- around 50 gut churning miles an hour. It was never the races I wanted to puke after, just the van rides. Furthermore, Pat's driving really helped me get over any fear I had about competing, mostly because after the van ride to the meet, the race didn't seem so scary.

They say that new cars lose 20 percent of their value the moment they are driven off the lot. I think that any car loses most of its value any moment it is being driven by Pat.

I was with pat through a transition time in his career. To all of the runners who came before me, I not only envy you not only for getting to see Pat as a younger, even crazier man, but also because Pat didn't yet have the stories from those years to tell over, and over, and over again. How many times can Pat tell the story of how John _____ set the school 5K record the day after a pitcher and a whole pizza, or the "Jacques Cousteau" story? Great college students, naked and drunk, in a hot tube, awesome. Wait, I take that back, that IS an Awesome story. God I wish I ran in with you in the 1970's.

Pat: you were the most important part of my time at Pomona, I felt like we were married for 4 years: Like most marriages, you made me crazy but I couldn't have done anything without you-and most of all, I love you old man.

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