Showing posts from September, 2010

Ten Miles

Ducking into some bushes down from the track, I dropped low to answer the call of my churning insides. "Ah, that feels better," I thought after a few awkward minutes of hoping no one was watching. Continuing the short walk to the growing crowd, my mind picked up on the churning action. The first of two times I made this walk was in 1996. I was 39 years old. The last time was 1997. The race was a big deal to locals and many from afar. Back then, I was running strong. Not so much anymore. But, the Virginia Ten-Miler, now in its 37th running, pulled in nearly 3,000 runners this year to run the hilly course. So, what in the world was I doing toeing the line? I am not a road runner. I am an ultrarunner, much preferring the rocky ribbons of trail traversing mountainsides. But I am also a coach; a middle and high school cross country coach. Many of my kids had signed up for this race or the companion 4-Miler. And my assistant coach, Mr. Speedy Gonzales himself, was shooting for an

The Rocky Ridge

Rebekah, Joy, Sue I really wasn't counting on the rocky route across the ridge.  But there we were; three woman in their fifties ambling along. We were three-fifths of the girl contingent that converged in the mountains of Virginia. Joy, my sister-in-law, discovering she had an open week at her timeshare, had her sister, Jackie, fly in from California for the occasion. Joy's friend from childhood, Sue, flew up from Florida along with her sister, Jackie's best buddy from yesteryear. A full week of lounging, reminiscing, watching movies, cooking dinner, and other stuff one only does on vacation was planned. I was invited but could manage only a single-night sleepover and one day of fun. Still, it was better than nothing. But I digress. The three of us more adventurous types decided on a little hike. The trail descriptions were read over and over again, trying to decipher what we were getting into. We didn't want a paved path through the woods but Joy and flat-lander

Pushed to new limits

"To the line, Group 1. Ready? Go. Keep it steady. Hold that pace!" Group 1 took off on their appointed task, leaving Group 2 on deck and Group 3 in the hole. I held stop watches in both hands, trying to time laps and rest periods for the twenty-some teenagers making their way around the track. Lap after lap, they started, stopped, and sucked down gallons of water on command. Their faces told the story. After casual running throughout the summer, this practice was the first true test of so many things: fitness, speed, endurance, motivation, discipline, and of course, attitude. I tried to prepare them mentally for this difficult workout: a ladder run at tempo for 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1600, 1200, 800, and 400 meter distances. The rest periods were slim at 1, 2, 3, or 4 minutes between the various rungs. It was tough; I proved that in the surreal fog of the early morning hours prior to practice when I ran the workout alone. I had told the kids I would never ask them to do wh