The Agony of Defeat

I arrived at the airport in Adana, Turkey, a city of about 500,000 Turks. I departed the airplane, which was scary because it was full of Arab speaking passengers, and I thought I was in the middle of a CNN segment on the Middle East war (there was always one there). They couldn't read, so they were exiting randomly, unable to know what "EXIT" meant. After waiting in line, customs officials asked me for my military identification and military orders. I checked my pants pockets, my coat pockets, my luggage, and as a dread grew inside, realized I didn't have my military I.D., or my wallet! AHHH!!! This was not good!!!
I persuaded them to let me reboard the aircraft and ran to my seat. My wallet was lying in the overhead compartment, having fallen through a hole in my self-destructing coat. I thanked God for weeks after getting out of that mess.

My ride to the base was my old friend from Fairchild, whom I hadn't seen in 2 1/2 years, BOB KOWOLCHUK (the dude in uniform below). He was waiting for me, anxiously, because I was his replacement. Since I was 30 minutes late, Bob left, and when I got outside the airport, dragging a ton of stuff, all I saw was a bunch of Turks (it was very scary) and no Bob. A line of pushy taxi drivers tried to get me to take a ride but I didn't have any Lira, only dollars.
I ran around the airport, and saw Bob, walking away. We hooked up, I got back to my lovely tent, unpacked and fell asleep. The next morning I awoke to the sound of Muslim prayer chants over the public address system on base. It was pretty scary at first.
The tents were very nice...heating, air conditioning, a closed circuit TV with 24 hour videos, microwave, refrigerator, and they had built crude,thin, six-foot high wooden walls between the four occupants for privacy. The U.S. had been in Turkey with Operation Provide Comfort for so long, the occupants of these now-old tents had done upgrades over time. Nice...we are truly spoiled.
After training me for three days Bob was off for the United States. Sadly, I would never see Bob again.

Bob Kowolchuk, my friend...and a nerd who misses his fishing pole>>>
Being in Turkey four months with no bicycle, I decided to enter a few runs at Incirlik Airbase. The first run was on November 9th, 5-kilometers, and I was 2nd with a time of 19:07, my worst performance ever in a 5K race. Nevertheless, my office, unaware of my past, applauded me when I showed up for my shift that night.
On November 24th I ran another 5K, held the lead for the first two miles, and some guy wearing bright red shorts passed me. He was 30 seconds ahead and rounded a corner. As I rounded the same corner and reached a long, straight section, I didn't see him. I found it strange that I couldn't see him, considering he was perhaps only 160 yards in front, and dress in bright attire. His finishing time was 16:26, and mine was 18:44 (I was improving). Pretty humiliating for me I guess, and they printed this embarrassing article in the base paper complete with me giving an ugly finishing face of pain.

I pondered how strange it was that he'd taken so much time out of me in such a short distance. He was fast but not that fast. I calculated that he had to run a four-minute mile in the last mile of the race to amass such a lead. I told the guys at work that I thought perhaps he'd gone off the course by accident and taken a short cut...but I was careful not to look like a sore loser. Anyone at my level who could break a six-minute mile was personal fastest for a 1.5 mile run was 6 minutes 56 seconds and that was only running a 4 minute 37 second mile. To run a mile in four minutes flat at my level was unthinkable. It was world-class.

Before Christmas I went to the base post office to mail gifts with co-workers, and the guy who won the race was in line. We spoke about racing, and in the middle of the conversation he said,"Hey, you know what? I cut the course in that race. I found out last week. They declared you the winner". YES! I was vilified! I never claimed the prize because Stephen was clearly ahead and pulling away, so he would've won anyway. But now, 11 years later, I think of that beautiful bright-yellow CTF Sports T-Shirt that I don't like to wear because along the bottom it says "Runner Up", translation: LOSER!
I re-calculated Stephen's time to 17:43, which was, for me, attainable (at my peak I could've taken over a minute out of him). However, I should've written the paper and asked them to apologize for making me look so bad. It wasn't the only fact they had wrong (note the date).

Hey hurts when I press here>>>
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November 24, 1996