By the end of sophomore year, following the First Training Plan, I was running 7 days a week to and from the wall, biking 5 days a week minimum, and feeling pretty awesome. I wanted to ride 7 days a week, but the Northwest is notorious for its lousy biking weather -- in Port Angeles, this is especially true mid August through late June -- and I was often stopped by the prospect of a rainy day ride to nowhere.
That’s not to say I didn’t have rainy day rides to nowhere. Indeed, I remember one such ride in particular that featured a highway overpass, a high-speed gravel truck, and a flat tire that I just rode home because I was too exhausted (and probably wasn’t carrying the needed kit) to stop in a persistent rain to fix. Rides like that can start out exhilarating and end up nigh-annihilating.
But when it came to attending to work, I had no problem making the trip in the rain and showing up sopping wet, because I was just too awesome for anyone else in the newsroom to object. Either that, or it was the night shift in the sports department, and I was usually alone or just there with the editor, who mysteriously put up with an odor that would make a whale's blowhole move off. Other days, I would ride 10 or 15 total miles on back highways and feel like a badass. Because I was.
You can see the pattern, reader friend.
Then there was eating. Oh, the eating! The terrible, delicious, soul-crushing and life-affirming foods of youth! My friends and I camped out in the computer lab over lunch and ate microwave burritos and candy bars, and drank such gloriously healthy beverages as Sunkist (the orange kind...they didn’t have other flavors back then, you choice-saturated hooligans!) and Mountain Dew (the piss-yellow kind...refer to previous crotchety admonishment!) It was in this environment that I learned one of life’s most important lessons:
Mountain Dew and Rollo’s don’t mix.
Take that one to the bank. Or the grave. Depends which way you want to play it.
We would make fun of the jocks and what we called the ABADs (“auto-body all day”, now known as “the people without whom our lives would fall apart because our cars and air conditioners and probably things like whole city sewer systems would no longer work if they weren't around to fix them”), pick on one or more of our friends on any given day, mock haircuts, make snide remarks about the stupidity of various people, and just generally sound a lot like Beavis & Butthead & Company, if one could imagine B&B with company.
At one point, we grew mold on a burrito in an almost-never-used drawer and had a standing -- and expanding -- betting pool for the person who would eat it. Nobody did. I don’t know what happened to that little guy, but it was probably left to some poor janitor to clear out. May said janitor live a longer life than we detritus-keepers deserve.
God, we were terrible people. Teenagers in general are pretty terrible, and I guess all that terribleness did make the human paragon who sits behind your screen, on the other end of some wires, and in front of another screen, typing these words. But still.
Wait, was there a point? Oh yes. I ate like crap. More specifically, I ate vegetarian crap.
All this is to say that underpinning my gluttony was daily athletic excess. Running with my lacrosse stick to the wall, throwing the ball around and with friends, running home, and capping it with a bike ride, with or without a break for work.
Something had changed in those runs, too: I was bringing back speed work, this time without the walking. At first, I was just jogging, slowly chugging along the streets and making my way to the destination. Then I started adding a sprint to finish the run -- a block of hard effort that would make the run feel “complete”. Then I decided to add a sprint halfway through. Then a sprint up each hill. Then a sprint on each east-to-west block. What mattered was finishing the sprint and not stopping, churning on like I hadn’t done anything different.
Sophomore year was also when lacrosse coalesced into something more organized. We went from a ragtag group using crappy, childish sticks and throwing a ball around in our back yard to being a ragtag group using crappy-but-adult sticks and throwing a ball around in a school yard. Our team found a pseudo-coach (a 30-something guy who hadn’t played in over a decade and, according to the women on our team, was extremely creepy to them; he didn't last long), and we started practicing.
We had our first season that spring. I think our CF (if you're unfamiliar with this term, I refer you to The Internet, where there are answers) of a team scored a few goals. Maybe we weren't exactly a team, actually, because we were still learning how to play. We were more like a soccer "team" full of 5-year olds running around with little purpose or skill. There were probably people staring at airplanes or looking at the flowers. It was messy and fun and completely new, and for most of us, it was as close to organized sports as we would ever get in high school.
Over the following summer, the athletic habits continued. But I would only run with a stick; anything else felt unnatural. And still, it was for lacrosse, not for the sake of running itself, that my training program built up endurance. By the end of the summer of 1995, I was down to about 160 lbs, and I could power up hills with impunity. Hills could not impugn me. I was unimpugnable.
I see your hill, and I raise you a me.
Next up: High-Flyin' White Guy. (Bill Nye gets it.)
Mash out. Spin on.