Going to Las Vegas in the middle of Ironman training has its pitfalls. Asking for directions to the nearest lap pool gets a lot of strange reactions, and most suggested I opt for a lap dance.*
I was knee deep in debauchery, searching for a sign from above. Guidance in the form of a supreme being . . . and on day 3 of the trip, my prayers were answered by Dr. Oz.
I was in Vegas for work as part of a television conference. Syndicated programming stars, like Oz, often show up to build a connection with marketing directors of local TV stations so we’ll drop loads of promotion for their shows . Some stand up front and talk, but our favorite TV doctor dove head first in the murky mix by hosting a 5K. A rare opportunity fell to my lap in the form of a showdown with one of the most important television personalities of our time, and I was not about to lose.
A lot of people questioned whether or not Oz would actually “be” at his race, but those doubts were quickly erased when he emerged from the clearing smoke of a fog machine on a custom massage table. As you can imagine, this was more than a little intimidating to a formidable challenger like me, but I anticipated he would face countless pre-race distractions . . . and I was right.I sat peacefully in lotus position near the “Wheel of Fortune” slot machines while he navigated countless interviews. Then, as the throng of runners (nearly 100) made their way down the escalator, I made my move. I was quite sure nothing would throw him off his game like a quick “selfy” with a strange man in black glasses.
Oz shot off the starting line like a Vegas debtor running from the Mob. Suddenly I was out of my element. It was 90 degrees at 6 am and my late night did not mix well with the heat or the onslaught of television cameras. Oz defied the odds by setting a blistering pace while navigating the Las Vegas strip with the familiarity of an MGM concierge.
We darted up a flight of stairs, into a hotel, over a bridge, then down two stories of steps back to the boulevard. He was cooking with gas, but I had him in my sights. When he reached the next corner, I saw confusion in his eyes as he contemplated the next move. There was a major obstacle right in the middle of the race course: A murder scene.
Oz gathered his bearings and swung the route to the right as naturally as baking an egg white omelet. I closed the gap, and by the time we hit a red light, I was right on his heels. We waited patiently while staring at the home stretch. For one brief moment we made eye contact. Sweat dripped from our brows, and we shared an undeniable reciprocation of tenacity. Only a tattered sidewalk and sweltering heat stood between me and a victory over Oz.
The light turned green and he left a trail of dust fellow racers. The mood was now clear, Oz was here for one thing . . . victory.
Two other ambitious runners joined as the four of us crushed the final turn and headed toward the red tape. Oz made a hard right and turned on the jets. His arms pumped in flawless cadence and I was suddenly struck by the moment. All the fame, fortune, and accolades meant nothing. Oz was a competitor and was not going to lose to some hungover filmmaker from Nashville.
I chased with all I had, but it was not meant to be. Two other guys and Oz crossed the line while I staggered in defeated. But Oz was not there for prizes and deferred to officially declare me the 3rd Place winner. He was clearly intrigued by my unwavering passion and graciously offered me this post-race interview.
AND . . . here is a video I put together that includes highlights from the race, including my internal struggle as I realized Dr. Oz meant business.
AND FINALLY . . . here is the new trailer for the inspiring Crushing Iron documentary I’m working on that documents the quest of me and four other normal guys changing their lives by training for Ironman Wisconsin.
* Thanks to Frank Green for this line. And no, I did not partake . . . as far as you know.