Friday, February 3, 2012

Time Machine: May 13, 2006

Editor's Note: This running (b)log entry is from May 13, 2006, back in the day when I was rocking a MySpace. Note that I did not use MySpace to pick up girls. I just posted my running stuff on there. I thought it would be fun to repost this in conjunction with my 12-week recap of the Sub-15 project. I'll warn you that this is one deep cup of tea that you're about to read.

I'm pretty sure that this is going to be my last running (b)log entry. This may come as a shock to some of my more faithful readers (I've been getting about ten reads per day even during these last few meager weeks and who cares if at least half of them come from Will Seidel?), but I feel that it's time to put the chronicles to rest. Aside from the fact that I never felt like I meshed well with the Myspace format, I don't know that I'm going to have another competitive race for a while. How long is a while? At this point, I can't answer that with any high degree of certainty. There's a chance I'll race a few meets with Central Park later in the summer, though I'm not sure about the details or if I'll have the desire to do so when the time comes. That said, I see training as a vector to racing, so I'm not going to waste my time (or yours) writing about a casual morning jog or a half an hour of laps put in at the pool.

To tell you the truth though, I consider this--that is, the proclamation of being done with the (b)log--a feat in itself. Most running logs that I've come across--or even written myself--end with a day that reads like a hundred others: "Today I ran 5 with Ross in the morning. Did a workout in the afternoon: Three sets of 600, 200, 200...Pushed it on the last set...felt smooth..." Felt smooth, indeed. And there you have the transition into the black. The following day was probably a medium paced 10-miler, but we'll never know for sure, and maybe that's a good thing: The mystery ingredients to running fast, a secret recipe that only the runner and his coach can recall. Still, as a man who appreciates closure, I want to have my end written down in script.

So here it is: Today was the last race of my collegiate career. I ended it in the first heat of the IC4A 1500 with a 3:51.11. It was a mediocre race, fittingly capping off a mediocre season--one with initial promise but mediocre nonetheless by the time all was said and done. That was apparently the career theme picked out for me by God--if he follows track at all. Still, in some ways, I feel as though I'm more fortunate than most runners in the NCAA. Even if it did come at the hands of a freshman year injury, I got the chance to run for five years instead of the usual four. I saw two very different programs in the process and gained the perspectives of three widely disparate coaching programs. I took fourteen seconds off my best high school mile time. Our 4x8 team won IC4A's. I won one individual conference title, which to this day I consider to be the race that I'm the most proud of (even if it was indoors and even if it was a diluted event and even if the first place guy was DQ'd for cutting the curve). I was a part of five team conference titles. I'm fortunate because I remember my good races more than my bad ones.

I have to thank track for a lot more, though. Not doing so would be selling the experience short. Most importantly, all of my best friends are my college teammates. I know we may take circumstances for granted, but I can be such an asshole sometimes, I really think my options would be far narrower in some other constructed social pool. I can thank track for weeks worth of inappropriate laughter and countless stimulating conversations. Running also brought me to the girl I love. I love her more than running so how could I possibly not see the entire experience as worthwhile?

Still, track and field is a sport for the masochistic. I don't mean this in cliche terms that distance runners thrive on pain but rather that they thrive on frustration. Most of the time, you will not get what you want in this sport. Once in a season (if you're lucky), you'll have the performance that you're truly happy with. Once in a couple of years (again--if you're lucky), you'll have the performance that changes who you are. After today's race I told Brad, my UD teammate, about the race in which I ran my PR 1500. It was at Heps my junior year--day one in the trials. I was first heat matched up with Gerry Groothius, Ben Stern, and a few other names from around the Ivy League. We went out at a moderate clip: 60-point then 2:02 at two laps. With a lap to go, Groothius, the class of the field, took off as I had expected. Really, I had just been waiting for it. Since the top two advanced to finals, though, and I was feeling good, I hung back. At the 200 mark I was on Stern's shoulder and feeling relaxed. Groothius, barring total meltdown would win the heat. (He eventually did.) In the last stretch of curve before the homestraight, I moved into second place. Fifty meters from the line, I turned my head to check position and shut down my body ever so slightly at my coach's beckoning, conserving energy for the final ahead of me. The time was 3:50.20. I had no inkling that would be my collegiate best. While I tend to view that sort of ignorance as cruel, I can't imagine how disappointed I would have been had I known that I would never run faster in the two years to follow.

I've seen the same thing in many of my friends' running. Oliver's 3:46 as a sophomore remains his PR to this day if I'm not mistaken. I don't mean that in a negative way since I doubt he loses sleep over it (he was far more consistent later--especially senior year), but it does support my case. Ross ran a 1:52 800 when Taylor botched up the entries and accidentally put in him there instead of the 1500. Despite working harder than most guys on the Cornell team to the point where it frustrated others to watch, he never improved. Why is this the case? Becuase running is cruel...

Did Oliver or Ross or I or countless others ever see that coming? Hell no! We're driven by expectation! A promise that we make to ourselves at some point (no one can remember when) that we're going to be better the next time around, that we're going to scorch the track with the same feet that took us over a thousand miles of trails during the summertime. Why? Because that's the way it works. At least that's the way it should work in a fair world.

I know the world isn't fair. I have more running talent than the majority of people out there. The better I get, though, the more I race against people who are more talented than me.

Still, even armed with that seemingly defeatist knowledge, I cannot leave this crazy, frustrating sport behind me just yet. Even though I didn't come close to realizing my dream this year, the dream is still nibbling at me inside. I named this (b)log "primefixation" because, even though it's a cheesy name that Will gives me ridicule for, that's what running was to me from this past fall onward. That's still true. Running still encompasses the biggest goals I have in my life because those goals are so simple and concrete and worthy of being fixations. In terms of the future, I probably won't achieve those goals, looking at this thing objectively (which one is allowed to do during retrospective end-of-the-year moments like this one), but I'm going to try my damnedest to allow myself to not to be objective but instead run within the construct of the dream. Maybe it's a religious thing, who knows? Running is the only time I feel God--a sort of internal prompting to follow along with what I unknowingly started as a fourteen-year-old. If I fail, it will be frustrating, but if I fail, I'll know that I listened.

Sub four,

Sam Mackenzie

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