It arrived in yesterday's mail - a simple dog tag on a chain. Along with it came a sheaf of notes and mementos from the members of the TRI-DRS list. They had encouraging words, and dates and signatures - but the individual identities aren't as important as the collective message:
"May the tag bring you a constant tailwind and many easy miles."
"Undertrained + overweight + dog tag? = 3:53:27 - PR, BABY! May your two legs never tire! November 24, 2002" on a piece of a Philadelphia Marathon brochure
"28 Nov 04 4:10:48 Jim B___ US Army Best time in 4 years" on a race bib reading "Bagdad Marathon, Camp Victory"
"IM USA - DNF @ mile 127.5. If you ever hit bottom, experience despair or fear in a race - take my advice. Do yourself a favor and sit down and eat. 5 minutes or 10 - then try again. Decide if things still look black. You may be very surprised." on an Ironman Lake Placid bib number.
"I got my Mickey medal! You can reach your goal too! Good luck!" on a scan of the dogtags with a bib number and a medal from the Walt Disney World Marathon
"M&Ms / Trail Mix / Potato chips in water bottles" on a program from Ironman Lake Placid
"A battle that was won when I crossed the finish line! 11:39:36" on a bib number from Ironman Canada
"May you enjoy the power of a thousand smiles. Wear the tags with pride and race with joy." on a smiley-face card.
"The legend of the tag continues. May it bring you as much strength and stamina as it brought me. Race well." on a bib number from the Around the Bay 30km
"IMLP 2003 - 'The Monsoon IM' The TRI-DRS tags got me through the rain and wind and cold and hills and so much more. Use them well." on an item from Ironman Lake Placid
"TRI-DRS dog tags rule! PR by 5 min." on a Buffalo Springs Half Ironman bib number
"Character lies in conquering fear." on a Ironman Hawaii postcard
A birth announcement of a 10 pound, 11 ounce baby boy with a photograph of him wearing the dog tags
"The magic of the TRI-DRS dog tags continue! It brought me energy from Hopkinton to Boston on my very first Boston!" on a scan of a race bib and race photos from the Boston Marathon
"The legend of the dog tag continues. A new 1/2 IM PR by 16 min. Could not have done it without the group." on a flyer from the Gulf Coast triathlon
"The dog tag did it again! 11:58:47" on a postcard from Ironman Hawaii
"Use the dog tags. They work. 13:34 IMLP 'The Monsoon IM' with NO training." on a race map for Ironman Lake Placid
I'm overwhelmed. I love these people. They have entrusted to me their holy relics, still bearing stains of their sweat and tears. I'm honored that they've welcomed me into their numbers. I can only hope to do the tag proud on race day.