Thursday, April 23, 2009

Winding Down, Winding Up

My eyes itch and burn now that Spring is blowing in. I submitted to seasonality a long time ago. Never really left the school schedule. The early morning sunlight reminds me of waking up at Amos house in Providence, RI. The first hard glinting rays of sunlight raced across the Atlantic like a laser into my second floor room. During the semester I met up with several other runners in the pre-dawn darkness for our morning run. They sportingly ventured into slums of South Providence where I lived as a volunteer in the homeless shelter. The late Spring and Summer sunlight pierncing into my room, even when I didn't have to get up, was welcome, though. It was bracing, like a new razor blade. That was 20 years ago.

Today I "slept-in," waiting for the very first glimmer of light to glow from behind White Top Mountain. Just as the sky conceded a hint of grayness, I rubbed my puffy eyes and rose to once again lace up running shoes for a morning run. It's almost automatic. I don't do it every morning. This afternoon is a workout, though, and I generally run on the mornings of workouts. I reverted to an old route around campus. It starts down the gravel road I live on, spans the golf course, loops around the athletic fields, then returns. It doesn't feel too much like an out-and-back, since I never have to stop and turn around.

The workout this afternoon is a modified tempo run. Run 20 minutes, surge for 5. Run 4 minutes, surge for 10. Run 4 minutes, surge for 15. Run 4 minutes, surge for 10. Run 10 minutes. The object is to get tired, of course. My heart has to beat hard and fast. The air has to pass through my mouth fast enough to burn the back of my throat.

I don't dread this. It does remind me of my first indoor track race, though. A half-mile at the Mason Dixon Games in Louisville, KY at the age of 14. I thought my throat was bleeding -- I could taste the rawness. The discomfort was more penetrating at that age. It wasn't just my throat, or legs, or heart. It was me. Ah, but the reward was so sweet. I didn't win that one, but it reminds me of the same meet the next year. The mile run. The crowded track and spectators were still so new. I was careful, as ever. Stayed out of traffic in the back. Probably remembered the sensation from last year. The 200 meter wooden track was stoutly banked. Runners were bouyed by its springiness and the rhythmic thunking of all those adolescent feet. For several laps runners jostled and splayed across the track. At just past the half-mile something happened. From my vantage in the back it took on a mystical quality -- like the parting of the Red Sea. Just as I was getting restless, the pack began to flatten, beginning in the back. As I passed runners, my view to the very front opened wide. Every runner in front of me adhered to the inside line of the inside lane. The more runners I passed the stronger were the forces propelling me forward. I accelerated like a surfer at the foot of a monstrous wave. In one lap I went from last to first and rode the momentum to a heady victory. Thinking about it still makes my hands sweat. That was better than a quarter century ago.

My workout today is one of the last in preparation for the Miwok 100k. I recognize the phase in my training. My body is not as jumpy. Fast doesn't feel too fast, and even brutally long and treacherously mountainous runs fail to cause the kind of fatigue that indicates room for improvement. I am running more than I would, though, if I were just preparing for Miwok. I ran twice yesterday, and twice the day before that. Last Sunday I ran 35 miles of rugged single track. I have not made my peace with the Western States 100.

This will be the story of my preparation to run that particular 100 miles in 1 day. Not just to finish, as I did 2 years ago. But to run well. I want to do more than illustrate 8 weeks of endurance training. I will try to narrate a whole story that ends in Auburn California on June 27th, 2009.


  1. Eric, Oh how I remember those indoor track days when you burned your lungs and you could taste blood. We just blew it off and went at it again. Good luck at Miwok next weekend and I look so forward to reading your story as you head to Western States. Rick

  2. Definitely bookmarked your blog to follow your exploration.
    Glad we'll be seeing you at States. I know a thing or two about unfinished business and 2nd chances and recognize the hunger.