Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"THE WALL"

I learned something today. Or maybe I should say I remembered something. Something I had long since forgotten. It took the punishment of "The Wall" to make me remember. The Wall is what I call Hualalai Road. Proper pronunciation is something like "who-ALL-a-lie" but most people pronounce it "who-WALL-a-lie" I just call it The Wall. Try running or biking up it and you'll see what I mean.

Today I ran up The Wall to Paul's Place in Holualoa. From my house it's about 8 miles round trip. Four miles up hill, four miles down hill. And it seems to get steeper the farther up you go. Today I did pole sprints while trudging up The Wall. I would sprint from one power pole to the next, then jog to the next, then sprint to the next and so on. It's brutal. And trust me, my sprinting up hill isn't much different from my jogging up hill. But it's the perceived effort that counts.

Because of my leg injuries (and because I'm just plain old) I can't run all out on level ground and still be expected to have full use of my legs, so running hard up hill is the best I can simulate an all-out sprint.

So today as I was running The Wall, I started remembering back to when I was "a runner." When I went my whole senior year undefeated in cross country and track (the mile and two mile.) But it wasn't that year that I was thinking about so much as it was what it took to get there. It actually started four years earlier, when I was a freshman.

I was at my first big cross country meet in Portland, Ore. It was called the Champoeg (pronounced shampooey) Invitational. There must have been 300 to 400 runners. We were lined up by teams along the starting line. The fastest runner had his toe on the line, the second fastest was right behind him and so on. And there I was. A freshman and the fifth fastest on our team of seven.

I remember it was cold and sunny. I was scared to death. I was positive I was going to get trampled. The gun went off. Elbows and knees flew as the pack took off across the huge field. It took several hundred yards before we spread out enough so you could take a full stride. (Sounds a lot like a triathlon swim start huh?) When the race was over I was still shaking. I promised myself that one day I would win that meet.

Fast forward to the last day of my junior year. Those of us who were returning to the cross country team the next year made a pact. We would run 10 miles a day for the next 100 days (every day during the summer and then some). We called it the 1,000 mile club. And out of the seven varsity runners, five of us held to that commitment and ran 1,000 miles in 100 days. If we missed a day, we made it the next day.

It was during that time that I discovered a place deep inside myself that if I went there mentally, I could run as hard as I could, for as long as I wanted. The pain was still there, but it didn't matter. It was like the mind was disconnected from the body. I would hit my stride and fly. It was wonderful. Magical.

That year our cross country team went undefeated and I fulfilled a promise I made to myself four years earlier and won that meet that I had once been terrified in.

Today's run for some reason reminded me of my home town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range. The rural feel of The wall. The cows, the climb, the curves, opened a flood of memories for me today. And for a brief moment, I was a runner again.

"Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion." — Lorraine Anderson

4 comments:

Bruce Stewart said...

I remember the time at college when I ran ten miles for the first time successfully and was able to sprint the last 1/3 mile or so. It was a great feeling. However, I never really got beyond doing it that once, although I did a lot of shorter runs. Looks like you are pretty well set for Honu. All the best.

BreeWee said...

That is my FAVORITE run ever in the world! You are gonna do so well at Honu... way to go Randy!

debbie said...

Hey love the shoes, they look reaaly fast. hope you do really great, i am cheering for you long distance. I am veryb proud of what you have accomplished. keep yup the good work "bones".

Electra said...

Well written article.

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