Sunday, January 18, 2015

Double Trouble, Explained

Act IV Scene I:
In a cavern, somewhere in Scotland, three witches chant

Double, double, toil, and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

The hell-broth mud cauldron boiled coldly under our feet, squirming its way through shoe mesh  and plastering down leg hair (if you had it) through four circuits of Holyrood Park's two kilometer course in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Nothing (especially the hotel showers) escaped the bubbling black mud, and no tourist could we have immersed themselves in Scotland as we did.  The wind screamed and whipped us from the West, streams lapped at our ankles, and the sizable crowd bore witness to a dominating performance by team USA over the likes of Great Britain and Europe.

Kicking home in Scotland
At the post race trivia game, my team won best name with "We Kilt It", though "We Got Bag Piped" would have been a more appropriate description of our quiz performance.  It being my first ever senior US team berth, this brief trip to Scotland was especially memorable.  As runners we're measured greatly by US team qualifications, performances at international events (read: medals), and trivia prowess.  With USA blazed on my chest for the first time, I feel I've broken the ice.  I'll admit, Edinburgh is probably the easiest team to make, but (raises voice) I MADE IT!  You have to start somewhere.

The race was like nothing I'd ever experienced before in cross country.  The course put  many of the grass track-like venues in the US to shame.  It had rained for days leading up to the day of competition, and the junior races before ours made the 2k loop nice and sloppy.  Every lap featured two small but sharp uphills, a longer hill, two small stream crossings, one of which contained a boulder that only allowed one body through at a time, and plenty of ankle deep grass and mud mixture.  ("He must be a King."  "Why is that?"  "He hasn't got shit all over him.")  15mm spikes were the fashion of the day.

Team USA senior men before and after the race.

They say in Scotland that if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.  It was sunny during our race but began snowing during the women's senior race.  It wasn't unlike Heps 2010.  It all created a very surreal cross country experience, one that made me feel happy and very alive.  I didn't finish up where I would have liked to in the field, but I'm concentrating on the positive of having fought hard in difficult conditions on a big stage.  Tough races never are easy to swallow, but I think you get over them more quickly as you grow more experienced and mature.

Perhaps my favorite part of the trip followed the awards ceremony.  Zap team mate Andrew Colley pointed to a distant volcanic peak, barely visible through the snow, and said "Letsrun up there."  My legs were tired from the race but I couldn't pass up the adventure.  We walk-jogged to the top of Arthurs Seat over rocks, mud, and snow and were rewarded with another abrupt change in the elements: the sun erupted through the clouds and we saw all of Edinburgh below; the castle, the sea, the cross country course, and surrounding pure green countryside.  We didn't bring phones (so did it really happen?) but we kept the image in our memories, which is sometimes better anyway.  On the way down some strange women asked if we had any fillets of fenny snake, but alas, we'd run out.

On the flight home I reflected on where I'm going and what's at my tail.  I'm on the cross country plunge: no indoor track, many and frequent miles, lots of strength workouts, and four (count em!) four cross country races by February's end.  Then I'll run the US 15k Championships in Jacksonville, FL in March.  Only after all that big boy work will I step back on the track and roll, and if all goes as planned, I'll have lifted myself in strength and toughness.  I think it's good to try and make every year a little different in terms of racing calendar and training to keep the body and mind from dragging, pitching out the things that don't work.  I'm excited to see where it propels me.  (sorry please don't mach me)

Zap Fitness is fully inundated (that is not appropriate use of that word) in winter training camp in Tallahassee.  For those who don't know, Trailahassee is secretly an excellent running location for its extensive and beautiful parks and trails.  Don't tell anybody though, because I like the lonely sound of footsteps on grade 10 crushed limestone laid over red clay dirt in silent prehistoric spanish moss-adorned woods.  This time of year, our lives consist of running, eating sweet potatoes and quinoa, napping, going to coffee shops, running again, eating more sweet potatoes, and sleeping.  Ok, we eat and do more than that, but the point is we're focused.  I just hope I run into an alligator this year while we're down here.  Not literally though.

Andrew and I are training for the US Cross Country Championships in Boulder, CO on February seventh.  After that we'll return to Tallahassee for a few days then head to Zap for a week, and finally begin training camp beta in Greenville, SC with the Furman Elite crew.  Here's to doubling for a charm of powerful trouble and a Packers win today.

The Zap Fitness crew working out on the grass in Tallahassee.  L-R Joe Stilin, John Simons, Cameron Bean, Chris Moen and the beard, and Andrew Colley hiding.  I ran this entire workout with my eyes closed.

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