Back On the Rock

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Miami Miles: Week 2

On Tuesday when the alarm goes off my body refuses to budge. So I swap a gym day for a run. Wednesday: I’m at UWI at 5 am with RM and his group. Unintentionally, I take the pace out fast. But it feels good so I stay there. RM calls me on it on the first of three hospital loops, but his friend M encourages me to keep going. “Do your thing,” she says. “Push us.” This is the best kind of challenge. Not competition, just a mutual agreement to test our limits.

RM and I fall into a hospital loop strategy. On the campus side of the loop, there is an incline where I am tempted to be slow. He pushes me. On the street side of the loop, he tends to wane. I push him. With M, we leave the rest of the group behind, and forge ahead. I feel strong and happy. Nothing hurts.

Back on Ring Road after the third hospital loop, M puts on a surge. I answer. I try to remind myself that this isn’t the end of the run, but still the urge to go all out is there. I push ahead of her, but it doesn’t feel like a kill. Some saner, more rational part of myself processes it more healthily: I have more today; I give more today.

We regroup at the Assembly Hall water break. On the incline past the Students Union, RM and I open up a gap on M. We slow sporadically to wait for her, but once we cut across the field and turn on to Ring Road, it’s every man for himself. I go all out for a final kick too early. Where the backside is Assembly Hall? I have to slow down and RM catches me. But 200 metres out I start to kick again, stronger than I have felt in months, faster than last week’s sprint. RM doesn’t answer. By now, I don’t need him to.

Thursday: I’m infecting RM with my bad behavior. Wednesday night we split a bottle of wine. When we check in with each other at 4:45 neither one of us feels like running. But I have an 8:00 class so I have to get up early anyway. Might as well get a run in.

Besides, I have a date with Long Mountain.

By 5:30 we’re on campus. RM hangs back to talk politics with the CEO. The Flame and I head off down Mona Road. Soon C joins us. But before long, I’m out front by myself. We make the turn unto Karachi and I think about holding back. I need Jen-Laden or RM to drag me up this hill. I can’t punk out again. But something tells me this is my fight. My run. My hill. I have to motivate myself.

Up the first incline, the urge to stop is strong and I beg myself not to give up. C trots past me and lights a spark. Before I know it I’m chasing him, albeit slowly, up the hill. I’m huffing and puffing; rattling like a 35 year old Chevy. C offers me water. I decline. When the incline softens I make my move. Pack leader again. Uphill. This is a new one for me. I push as far as I can. About 2/3 of the way up the hill, I walk. I’m running so slowly it makes no sense. So I walk the last two inclines as fast as I can and keep climbing a couple hundred metres past the Long Mountain gate to cool down. C. runs up behind me. “You’re as fit as a fiddle.” No sign of Jen Laden and the Flame.

RM catches up with me as I make my return to the gate. We run the downhill as fast as we can. I pull away from him on Karachi and manage to hang on to a slim lead down Mona Road. On campus, the will to sprint is there, but the legs are not. I manage a moderate acceleration to the finish. I didn’t exactly conquer the hill, but I did the best I could. There’s always next week.

Saturday: RM insists I run with “real runners”, so at 4:30 am I saddle up to run 10 miles with his group. “I’m not going all out,” I tell him. “I’m supposed to be tapering.” “Right,” he laughs. “That’ll last until the first person passes you.”

We set off down Gloucester Avenue. We are among the last to leave, and the few who start after us thunder past us. This is not good. RM chuckles at my frustration. He lags behind to keep a slow female company and M and I run ahead. Up Charlemont and down Gibson, pride pulls me to the pack. I convince myself that for safety’s sake alone, I need to pull closer. By the first water stop at JTURDC, the gap is less painful. I wait, and wait, and wait for RM. “I can’t leave her,” he says. “It wouldn’t be right.” M and I take off.

Up the incline to Papine, things start to go badly. A blister is forming on my left arch, and my right knee starts to pinch. We pick up the pace slightly coming back down Hope Road and by the turn unto the slip road to Mona, M and I are in full stride. By the four mile water stop we’re in striking distance of a four pack of women. They don’t acknowledge us. There’s a definite divide in this group. It damn sure isn't my happy go lucky company group, nor is it the democratic free-lovin’ spirit of my old New York club. What it is though, is inspiration. The slow plan evaporates.

I run a respectful distance behind them down Mona Road, then pass them on Wellington. But I wait for M at the six mile water stop at Seaview and they catch me. “Ladies,” says their leader. “I’m only doing eight today, so when you don’t see me I’m chipping.” Sounds like a gauntlet to me. M and I take off, and leave them behind. But as we cross Hope Road again on mile 7, things fall apart. The blister is torturous and the pain in my knee suggests that I should cut the run short at 8. But I can’t. Worse yet, I don’t know the route. So I have to tuck in behind a slow runner until I can figure it out. That gives one of the four pack a chance to catch me. And when she blows past me at the 8 mile water stop, my knee refuses to answer.

I leave the water stop a short distance behind another pack of runners and follow them for the remaining two miles. When I finally make it back to Wilshire, I don’t even bother to look at what I’m sure is an abysmal time. Not exactly what I needed before Miami. But oh well, maybe a week of rest will make it better.


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