Saturday, October 11, 2014

Do you catch my Tokyo Drift

Across the mist strewn oval of lake, a group of runners sets off on their morning run, muscles straining in ostensible rigor mortis, tendons popping and cracking, their collective movement painfully gaining momentum like some great steam engine finally shuddering to life.  A swan's diverging ripples agitate the reflected image of autumnal fire advancing daily now to the water's edge.  Burning blood red across the descending spines of ridges and still greenish-yellow in the bottoms of ravines, fall reveals topography like a cartographer summarizing the relative social order of trees in their endless clamber for sunlight's favor and a stronghold in the stone studded soil below.  In their nostrils hangs the scent of damp and rotting leaves, pungent as morning light melts the overnight visit by a first frost and releases their imprisoned perfume.

That was an attempt to emulate the imagery heavy prose of Cormac McCarthy in his first novel The Orchard Keeper, which I found in Zap Fitness' extensive library while stretching after a run one day.  McCarthy also wrote The Road and No Country for Old Men which of course have become movies, but this first work describes the Tennessee mountain region, its wildlife, and an older, simpler way of living like nothing I've read before.  It's helped me appreciate and describe the setting we live and run in daily in the High Country, a backdrop that continues to grow on me. (literally)

The big news this week (this year) at Zap is Tyler's winning the Twin Cities Marathon and 2014 US Marathon Championship in his debut at the distance on Sunday.  While the team watched him in his final miles of "Glorious Isolation" from the champion's own man cave that morning, a palpable sense of excitement and cementing of purpose fell upon us then and afterwards.  A team mate winning big goes far beyond his or her own race.. It elevates everyone else's training, goal visualization, and belief in the program. This, combined with the fresh arrival of new team members John Simons, Andrew Colley, and Griff Graves has created a very real buzz at Zap Fitness.  The team chemistry is practically stoichiometric - and if we could improve our Appalachian Mountain Brewery Tuesday trivia game, look out.  On a given run we have milers, marathoners, and in-betweeners in the same pack.  In times of the year when our workouts match up, strength runners like Tyler and Cole compliment the anaerobic, speed based guys well (on our fashion of course) and vice versa.  It's a unique dynamic compared to most American professional teams, which tend to favor one side of the spectrum or the other.

Speaking of marathons, Sarah runs Chicago this weekend and we're all very excited to watch her.  She's been killing training and looks very ready.

I'm writing from Shimane Prefecture, Japan and will be racing in the Izumo Ekiden road relay on Monday.  I ran this one a year ago (preview blog) and had a blast experiencing Japan and the unique Ekiden format.  The race is 45.1 kilometers in total and is separated into six legs of 8.0k, 5.8k, 8.5k, 6.2k, 6.4k, and 10.2k.  Instead of a baton, runners carry and exchange a sash. (think beauty pageant sash) The American relay unit is an Ivy League select alumni team, so I'm traveling with former team mates / room mates and rivals from college - not sure if you could ask for a cooler opportunity.  My experience from 2013 will help a lot, especially during the race: I can visualize the course and competition and know what to expect (ball$ out running from the extremely tough Japanese.)  Last year I led off on the 8k leg, went out a little fast, and faded disappointingly.  This time I'm seeking redemption on the 5.8k second leg.  Our team of six's 5k PBs average 13:43, the best in the field of 21 teams, 20 of them Japanese - but we'll be up against their experience, home country advantage, and our travel.  But if Alabama Boy can win in Tokyo Drift, we can too.  There is another element at play affecting all teams equally: super typhoon Vongfong is bearing down on Okinawa to our Southwest tonight.  It will diminish in strength as it heads our way, but on race day there could be heavy rain and 40mph winds on the roads.  Just another tale to tell the grand kids.

This year's Izumo Ekiden race art

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