Parsec Time & Distance on Pearl St. reached full capacity with the audience seated and intrigued at the film 5,000m: Nothing Comes Easy glowing on a high-def flat-screen perfectly suited to show former CU National Champion Adam Goucher’s strained war lines across his forehead and tribal tattoo on his chest. One guest tonight, Chris Lear, production advisor for the film, knew that there was something special about Adam Goucher long before he was a National Champion at CU. And certainly, there was something special about this place called Boulder, Colorado.
Guests Steve Slattery, Jorge Torres, Ed Torres, Dathan Ritzenhein, were all at one point integral parts of CU Cross-Country success. Chris Lear’s Running with the Buffaloes (featuring all but Ritzenhein) was a product of his fascination with a locale and a Coach named Mark Wetmore. Lear knew Wetmore as an assistant volunteer Coach in a New Jersey high school; well-reputed, but couldn’t cut a break career-wise before CU.
With regards to the book, Lear says, “The ingredients were in place to produce something special.” Such a book, ironically reviewed as “A Season on the Brink for Cross-Country”, was borne from Lear’s tireless searching for exactly that type of book on running. “Everything written was about training,” Lear says. “I was frustrated when I couldn’t find what I was looking for.” Lear had to convince the 1998 CU runners, as well as Mark Wetmore, that he really wanted to do the book. Lear story’s of chronicling the team laden with voice recorders and notepads in his backpack, fully loaded with gear, pedaling up and down arduous hills on a hefty mountain bike trying to keep pace, drew copious laughs. Crashing “superman style” over the bars, but then getting up again, the team realized his dedication; they saw his desire and knew Lear wouldn’t quit on them.
Steve Slattery, a freshman during the time of Lear’s writing, spoke of the differences he saw in Boulder, the CU team, and Wetmore. “Like Lear, I knew Wetmore back in Jersey. He called me on the phone and basically told me that there was no scholarship money.” Slattery looked elsewhere, but was intrigued and arrived in Boulder regardless of money after looking at several other schools.
Jorge Torres, 2002 National Champion for CU, remembered cresting the hill over US-36 with his brother Ed, thinking, “This place is heaven!” Jorge and Ed looked at other schools as well, but as Ed says, “We wanted to help CU win a national championship.” Jorge replied, “let’s give it a shot.” The brothers, now sponsored by Reebok, still live in Boulder. “Lo and behold,” stated Jorge, “we’re still here.”
Dathan Ritzenhein, whose recent success against world-class athletes in Europe has the running world’s attention, discussed how and why he came to CU (and then won the NCAA Cross-Country title in 2003). “My high school Coach said, ‘write down your Top-10 choices for schools,’ and they were all the NCAA ranked Top 10 teams.” After his notorious recruiting visit (discussed in Lear’s film), Dathan was sold not by impressive workouts or facilities, but on the synergy that was emanating from CU and Boulder. “There was no synergy at other schools like there was at CU. Lear’s book showed the daily grind of the runners here. Boulder was the only place big enough to fulfill my dreams: wanting to be the best runner in the world.”
The audience was packed with CU runners new and old, local elites, and the Boulder community. A silent auction was held for sets of racing flats and spikes autographed by Dathan and Jorge, and Lear sold copies of 5,000m and signed autographs. The entire contingent was slow to filter out the doors, which did not upset Parsec’s Brad Hudson in the least.
“I really appreciate the support from the community for this series,” said Brad at the conclusion of the evening. “I want everyone to know that we are more than just retail – we want Parsec to be the center and the focus of the Boulder running scene; we want to do all that we can to support the sport.” Brad mentioned that group runs will now be leaving from Parsec Thursday nights at 6pm, and unveiled the new “Parsecian” membership plan featuring a host of benefits for $50 a year.
Chris Lear’s future projects are uncertain. Asked, “Will there ever be a sequel to Running with the Buffaloes,” Lear replied, “I definitely considered doing just that in recent years, but why reinvent the wheel? I accomplished what I wanted to do with the first book. But if there are any aspiring writers out there, something similar focusing on a women’s team is something still waiting to be done.”