It is with an appreciative heart and a full stomach (I had a delicious casserole for dinner) that I am writing to express my gratitude for the opportunities that have recently been presented to me, allowing me to lift myself out of the darkest of days, prove my worth to myself and others, and reclaim my position as one of the "Elite Eight" high school and collegiate-level cross country pace cart operators in the greater Midwest region. Fasten your seatbelts (though commonly, gators and pace carts are not equipped with seatbelts) because I will detail my mental and spiritual journey over the past two years.
My name is James, but I was formerly known in the business as "Pace Cart" Jim. I had earned this title from friends and family (NOT mutually exclusive) alike due to over 20 years of dedicated service in the cross country pacing space (also known as the "Pace Space" as I'm sure you're aware). My resume was long and hard, and my elite passion for driving pacing vehicles was unmatched. As my old man once said to me during a game of Mahjong: "If you like your work, doin' other work ain't gonna work." Driving pace carts was my whole life. That is, until the accident.
As many of you already know, I made a fatal mistake at the 2019 Division III "Pre-National" Louisville Classic Cross Country Meet in the Women's Silver 6k race. I neglected to make a predetermined turn on the course and ended up leading the women astray, some for multiple hundreds of meters. It's especially unfortunate that this error happened during a woman's race considering how fragile they are. The race had to be scored at 3.9k, an unprecedented decision that brought shame to the cross country and Pace Space community. I publicly humiliated myself, my family, my cats, and my peers. I failed the runners, the coaches, and homo sapiens as a whole. I started receiving hate mail on the daily from runners and hobby joggers alike, pressuring me to hang up the gator keys and walk away from my dream profession. I obliged, and only days after the race I formerly stepped down.
The following months were the toughest I had ever experienced. My wife of 34 years left me for Pace Cart Bill. I lost my cat Gator to arthritis, but my other two cats are still doing okay despite some slight struggles with asthma and seasonal depression. I suddenly couldn't stand the taste of strawberries. My libido went haywire. My dishwasher broke and it took nearly two months for Sears to come out and fix it (and by golly, who would have thought a lady technician would figure out the issue with the belt). I had hit rock bottom, and it was hard as a rock. It's funny though - at rock bottom, you don't only meet yourself, but you also meet every version of yourself that you've ever been and every version of yourself that you've wanted to become.
The pandemic gave me time to think, reflect, and try out Zumba (which has started doing wonders for my lower back issues - all those years of sitting and steering will really take a toll on your longissimus). I decided that I could not let my past mistakes define me, and I vowed to come out of this experience a stronger man (if not physically, again my lower back still isn't great, surely mentally). I picked the keys back up and got back out on courses, pursuing continuing pace cart education for hours on end. I started memorizing the layout of over 4 distinct cross country courses in the greater Louisville area so that I would never make the same mistake again. I held focus groups with athletes, coaches, meet directors, and other pace carters to get first-hand valuable feedback on the current cross country environment. I even took apart my (now ex-) wife's 2002 Toyota Corolla and rebuilt it into a customized retrofitted pacing vehicle. I believe that this is the second example of a custom built pacing vehicle with FM radio capabilities, which makes me even more proud of the accomplishment.
After a grueling 15 months and over 920 hours of training, I finally felt ready to prove the world wrong - to prove that I'm not just James, not just Jim, not just Jimbo Limbo (I was much better at limbo before my lower back issues arose) - I was Pace Cart Jim, and I was always meant to be Pace Cart Jim. I had a superb conversation with the Louisville Classic meet director and demonstrated my newly-found skills and techniques that would place me in the upper echelon of pacing authorities in the greater Louisville area. We shook (hands) on it, and the job was mine once again.
As I'm sure you've seen by now, my pacing at this competition was my best work of all time. The way the corners were rounded, the consistency of the gator speed, and the quality of the conversations that I had with my copilot William Briant were, to put simply, art. No mistakes, no slip-ups, no spilled decaf coffee, just pure bliss across 16 events behind the wheel of my favorite machinery, pacing high school and collegiate men to excellent performances all around. The women also raced. Coaches approached me after the event and commended me on the execution, and one fella even complimented my smile (I highly recommend Crest white strips to those who are interested). But seeing the smiles of fully energetic young men as they cross the finish line and reflect on their new achievement is truly what makes this profession so rewarding.
So, to conclude, these past two years have been the most difficult of my entire life, but I'm thrilled to assert that Pace Cart Jim is back in business and excited to be an integral part of the Pace Space for many years to come.
James "Pace Cart" Jim
P.S. If you'd like my casserole recipe, it can be found at: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/southwestern-casserole/
P.P.S. Ellen, if you're reading this, don't bother coming home. I've found someone else, and he appreciates the man I am and the man I've always been. But please return my favorite Harley Davidson jacket like we had discussed.
Dear Pace Cart Jim,
It sounds like you have been through a tremendous journey filled with self reflection. I want to applaud you for taking care of all the hard working boys out on the course last weekend. Undoubtedly, one of the finest performances the Pace Space has seen in some time.
If you're ever in New York, I want to invite you to the "Safe Pace Space" where you don't have to worry about the scorn of athletes, coaches, real people, or homo sapiens. In the Safe Pace Space, its an opportunity to surround yourself with people who think like you, look like you, have back problems, and can't handle the pressure of reality. This would have been the perfect escape for you after the 2019 Live at Lou Non-Male Silver 6k race. I'm thrilled to hear about your personal growth and know that you could be a great resource to help other pace carters manage the anxiety that comes with the profession.
Pace Cart Paul aka "PCP"
Hang em up, Jim!
You're old and washed up! Admit it, Jim! You ruined those young non-male persons lives that day.