Sunday, February 27, 2011

This Week in Running: 2.21 to 2.27.11

The week of the left arch.  Every step I took this week was a hammer pounding into my left arch, down by the heel.  It stiffened right after the race (Foxboro 10) last Sunday and hasn't relented yet.

Monday - 14.5 in 1:45.36 / core
Left arch stiff at start.  Only loosened slightly over fourteen.
Tuesday - 10 in 73:00 / core
Arch not getting better.
Wednesday - 13 in 98:21
Called the chiro post run.
Thursday - off
Chiro visit.  It's not the plantar fascia; it's the tendon that runs from the big toe up into the calf.
Friday - 12.5 in 85:32 /  core
Too ambitious?  Arch still painful but much more manageable until about 7 miles when I brought the pace down.  The pain slowly exacerbated over the next couple miles to the point where I had to cut the run short.
Saturday - 2 hour bike
Arch sore all day.
Sunday - 90 minute bike / core

For the Week
50 1/2 miles in 4 runs
3 1/2 hours on the bike
4 core workouts
Analysis: Really wanted to hit 75 miles this week but the arch wasn't cooperating.  I think I overdid it on Friday when it started to feel good. Overdid it to the point where it now might be worse than before.  It's very stiff.  I will continue to ice, heat, massage.  New Bedford will be here soon so I can't spend too much time on the shelf.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chapter 6: The First OTR

Beads of Sweat is a fictional novel about a high school cross country team.  To read previous chapters, click on the  "fiction" tab at the top of the page.  OTR = Organized Team Run.

         -We’re running on time this afternoon.  Fifty minutes.  That means you’re going to click on your watches when you leave and not come back ‘til you see a five with three zeroes to the right of it.  I don’t want anybody being a hero on this one.  Don’t worry. There are plenty of hard runs scheduled for this week.  Today I want you to do two things:  one, get in a steady aerobic effort; two, explore the campus and adjoining trails.  We have some big meets here this year, so knowing the terrain, the nooks, the crannies, the hills, the corners, will help us out.  Pay attention out there.  In fifty minutes we’ll rendezvous here for some light stretching.  Then you’ll go back to the dorms to clean up before dinner.  After dinner we’re going to the library.

            -Coach, what are we going to the library for?
            -To read.
            A few grumbles.
            -Any more questions…Okay, good.  We’re going in two groups.  Keep the legs moving because Coach Pereira and I will be spying on you. 

            Hartman proceeded to divvy the runners into varsity and junior varsity units.  Pawgoski pouted at his dispensation.

            -Coach, I can run with the first group.
            The team clung to Hartman’s abnormally long pause.  He seemed to be sizing up the frosh. 
            -The first group?
            -I’ve done the summer work you told me to do, and I’ve run with these guys lots of times at captain’s practices.
            Hartman looked over to his seniors.  They nodded.
            -Okay, Pawgoski, if you want to go with them, go with them.
            The bluebird relished a short-lived smile.
            -Wait Coach.
            -It’s not Pawgoski.  It’s Tinkerbellski.
            Snickers from a dozen of them, even Pereira blurted before sucking back in.
            -Okay, now let’s get going…and Tinkerbellski remember that this was your decision not mine.
That last statement there, unbeknownst to Pawgoski, was an open invitation to Spidestrom, Smitty, Jenkins, Torres, and Hammond to push the pace just enough to let the plebe know he was trekking with the varsity crew. 

            Wallan and Galiozzi led the jv group.  They forged out in the opposite direction of the other guys.  Galiozzi, a junior, ran the Starkfield State course twice in each of his first two years on the team and steered his group over to the open athletic fields that also doubled as the invitational’s starting line.  He was fuming.

            -Can you believe that kid?
            -Sellberg.  What do you think?
            -He ran twice a day every other day.
            -He did more than Coach Hartman told him to.
            -He did?
            -He ran twice a day every other day.  Even through captain’s practice.
            -What’s this kid trying to prove?
            -He’s gunna be the real deal, Wallan said.
            -Real deal or not, I bet he’s getting his ass handed to him right about now.

            Jenkins and Spidestrom led the varsity over the undulating hills on the eastside trails of Starkfield State. Brazenly to the others but not to him, Pawgoski began the run on the right hip of Jenkins, who always ran at the front of the pack.  Smitty, Spider, and even Hammond were making him pay for it now, twenty-five minutes later.  They pushed the pace and kept pushing it, and they all eagerly awaited a crash and burn from the freshman.  Spider really rubbed his face in it as his conversational pace was close to the neophyte’s VO2 max.  They barbed him with questions, and Paws stopped answering five queries ago.

            -Paws, you think you’re gonna run varsity this year?
            -Paws, you gonna beat Jenkins in our first duel meet?
            -Paws, you gonna tell Hartman how to coach us?
            They kept pushing, and Paws kept struggling.
            -Paws, you have any sisters?
            -Paws, you wet your wick yet?
            -He has with his sister.
            -You gonna take that Paws?
            -Paws, what’s your mom look like?
            -I saw her pick him up from captain’s once.  She’s a real cougar.
            -Yeah, she’s a real milf. 

            Smitty turned around, ran a few steps backwards, and thrust his hips out and in.  The chorus moaned salaciously. 

            He would be cooked for the next two days (in reality they would all be a little more spent than they should’ve been due to the impromptu hazing), but he figured it out.  He also realized his own hubris.  The pack of upperclassmen seemed determined to drop him.  He was determined to hold on for dear life.  He didn’t know it, he would never know it, but Coetaine saved his ass that day.  Coetaine had come to camp drastically out of shape.  Nobody knew what was going on, but the junior struggled with the pace and fell thirty meters off it.  Out of respect for his brethren, Torres nudged himself to the front and eyed Jenks to cool it with the machismo.  Jenks got the message, and Coetaine, embarrassed, bridged the gap.  Paws felt the pace slacken but knew enough not to find his way to the front.

            -You okay, Deo whispered.
            Everyone lightened their step.
            -Cramped up on the hills, he lied, still working it out.
            -Exhale when your foot strikes the opposite side of the stitch, Deo instructed him practically quoting Hartman verbatim.
            -Do the damn ab work, Spider uttered under his breath, also a verbatim of Hartman’s.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chapter 5: Conditioning Test

Fourteen teenage boys milled about the high school stadium parking lot making idle chatter.  Hartman sensed their nervousness, eagerness, excitement, worry.  He tried not to smile despite his own giddiness; this was Christmas morning.

            -Morning.  It’s 7:03.  We’re running late.  Before we board the van—if you board the van—we’ll be taking a conditioning test.  To the weight room.

            The boys hesitated for a moment before following Hartman like a brood of ducklings.  Already ten steps ahead and not looking back, Hartman was talking to Pereira, the tennis coach who was acting as assistant for camp week.  The regular season assistant, Fitts, claimed work obligations.  A hushed din of speculation and banter followed Hartman all the way to the Dank Tank doors.

            -What are we doing?
            -Running on treadmills?
            -Maybe the bike.
            -Or the elliptical.
            -He’s giving us some sort of test?
            -About running?
            -Maybe we’re just starting our run from the Dank…

            Jenkins and Hammond didn’t add to the hypotheses.  They soaked it in and took deep breaths.  Whatever Hartman asked the team to do this morning, it would be hard.  He liked to make an impression on day one.  One year of legend, he jettisoned his squad from the team van ten miles from the campsite.  Gave them each a map and directions and told them to be there in ninety minutes.  Another year he made them do intervals while carrying water in their mouths.  If they swallowed or spit the water during the interval, it was back to the start of the workout.  Hartman thought that today’s inauguration was rather insipid. 

            The coach unlocked the door and proceeded to the center of the room.  He breathed in the must of rusty iron plates and waited for the boys to circle round him.  Pereira stayed by the door acting as sentinel.

            -At our June meeting, I gave you all summer training plans.  Those plans emphasized the importance of core work.  Today we’ll be assessing whether or not you did your homework.

            He let his introduction settle over the fourteen runners before him.  Smitty mumbled at a two-foot voice, Well this is a new one.

            -You’ll be tested on the following physical activities: pushups, situps, pullups, plank hold, wall sit, and general flexibility.  Each test will occur over a two minute interval with the exception of pullups.  You’ll do those until you max out.  Any questions?

            Wallan had a question about what constitutes a plank hold, and Deo inquired about what way to hold your hands for the pullups.  Other than that nobody petitioned the coach.  Despite agape mouths, the freshmen didn’t utter a sound.

            -The first thing we do is height and weight check.  Take your sneakers off.  Leave everything else on.  You should step on the scale wearing t-shirt, shorts, and socks.  That’s it. 
            -Coach, my t-shirt is one of those heavy knit ones.  I think I should take it off.
            -Leave it on.

            Hartman had them line their sneakers against the wall and queue up alphabetically in front of the scale.  He couldn’t help thinking how vulnerable these waifs looked…

In ten minutes everyone’s height and weight was recorded.  Hartman yelled it out and Pereira wrote it down.  Coetaine came in a bit heavy, and the coach made sure everyone knew it.  Stay away from Cinders, he told him in a loud voice.

            -We’re doing the work in this order: one-pushups, two-planks, three-situps, four-wall sit, five-pullups.  We’ll end with flexibility.  Everybody should be limbered up by then.  You’ll all watch each other complete these tests.  No hiding.

            He didn’t ask for volunteers.  He simply announced who was up, who was on deck, and who was in the hole.  They obeyed like soldiers.  After the first rotation, the boys were all either sweating or on the brink of sweat.  Amazing how a body can change in two minutes.  Part of his doing everything on two minutes was for them to see how long two minutes can feel.  When a runner is sitting against a wall at a ninety degree angle for 120 seconds it can feel like a thousand.  It was good for them to know this.  It would help them race with an internal clock, one to which the competition was oblivious.

            -I’m dying here, Spidestrom gasped.
            -I’d rather sprint ten miles than do this shit.
            -What’s the point of this anyway?  We’re not the football team.
            -Hartman’s finally lost it.
            -My pecs and abs are going to be killing me for the whole camp.
            -I know, me too.  
            -He did tell us to do this stuff.
            -He also told us to run five hundred miles this summer, and who did that?

            Coetaine got some looks from his cohorts.  Many of them had done the core work and the miles, maybe not five hundred but not a hundred either.  Although doing the core work didn’t exactly prepare them for this morning, they still followed the coach’s prescription.  You do abs for five minutes a day, you’ll never get a side stitch again, he told them, and they believed him.  These guys got a whiff of a championship last year and they were hungry.  

            -Okay, we’re on to pullups.  No watch for this one.  Do them ‘til you’re done.

            Coetaine gritted and twisted and pulled his way through five.  Everyone hooted and jeered.  Hammond managed nine and Jenkins twelve.  Smitty and the boys whooped it up until Jenkins kissed each one of his eleven-inch biceps.  Even Hartman cracked half a grimace.  The pullups, however, belonged to Kimihara.  He sailed through the first dozen and didn’t waver until eighteen.  At twenty he hit the wall. 

            -Two more, Deo, two more.
            -It’s gotta be a record.
            -Blackjack! Blackjack! Blackjack, the team shouted in unison.

            Kimihara hit twenty-one and Hartman accomplished his mission.  He was at muscle failure, but Deo quickly recovered to reciprocate high-fives. 

            -Okay, we’re at flexibility now.  Let’s get through this.

            The team filed through the flexibility drills, each one talking to his teammates around him about the ten minutes they just experienced.  They talked about it all the way to the van. 

            Here’s what the clipboard recorded in the Dank Tank on the first official practice of the season:

Wall Sit

Monday, February 21, 2011

Foxboro Old Fashioned Ten Miler

The Skinny
10 mile time - 56:58
place - 15th
pace - 5:42
1- 5.43
2 - 5.21
3 - 5.39
4 - 6.01 (boo)
5 - 5.34
6 - 5.46
7 - 5.54
8 - 5.52
9 - 5.38

Race Report
Met up w/ Martin Tighe and the CMS Crew (Jim Pawlicki, Dan Verrington, Joe Shairs, Greg Ward) for a warmup.  This was going to be a cold and windy one.  After going our separate ways to melt some snowbanks, we reconvened inside for last minute prep.

the race
Ruben Sanca took it out and nobody went with him. A BAA contigent formed a pack, which was led by Justin Fyffe, who I must say doesn't look nearly as handsome in yellow as he did in navy blue, and a few other top local guys.  I felt my best over the first mile.  Feeling good, I was disappointed to see a 5:43 split.  I was hoping for something sub 5:40.  I picked it up going into mile two and with a generous downhill hit 5:21.  That was good but my legs were already feeling spent.  I remember thinking to myself: why are my legs this tired this early?

A little bit after two, the Polish Hammer (Jim Pawlicki) came up on me.  We chatted for a second and ran  mile three together.   We both noticed that Greg Ward was looking smooth and strong.  Then Jim dropped me.  Mile four is an uphill bear and I just couldn't get my legs to move.

At mile 5, Diana Bowser came up on me.  She woke me up and we ran together, closing the gap on the guy ahead of us (Anthony Keller), for the next mile.  Then I fell off again.  I could see Jim running up ahead with GBTC's Eric Mendoza and those guys were looking strong, but I couldn't close the gap to them.

I trudged through the next two miles, just hoping to get to eight with something left in the tank.  With two to go, I actually started to feel better and picked it up.  By this time Keller was long gone, but Bowser was still in sight.  I made the pass a little after nine and finished the race with a 5:31 mile, the second fastest of the race.

My left arch stiffened immediately upon completion of the race.  I don't know what's up with that.  But after getting back inside to put some more clothes on, I did a nice easy cooldown with Jim, Joe, and Dan.  It's always good to catch up with the CMS guys to see what's new.  My left arch/heel has been very stiff since the race and I'm a little concerned about it.

Overall, I was hoping to be 80-90 seconds faster than I raced.  Yes, the course was challenging and the conditions weren't great (wind), but is it harder than Amherst where I ran a minute faster 51 weeks ago?  No excuses.  I need to train harder, faster, and smarter.

This Week in Running: 2.14 to 2.20.11

Monday - 10.25 in 73:40 / core
Ten w/ Ben.

Tuesday - 10.25 in 68:15 / core
Ten w/ Martin.  We did ten in about 64+.

Wednesday - bike 40 mins.
Chiro visit.

Thursday - 11.5 in 81:57 / core
7, 5, 3, 1 min hard
The 7 min was @ 5:43 pace.  The 5 min I extended out to a mile, 5:17 pace.  The last two I just ran real hard.
Not sure of the accuracy of the splits; I found a random road mile that was marked.

Friday - 3.25 real easy / lift/ leg core w/ calf emphasis
Left arch very stiff when I woke up this morning.

Saturday - 10.25 in 77:07
Incorporated strides into the last mile and a half.

Sunday - 15 miles
10 miles of it was the Foxboro 10 Miler.  Race report to follow.

For the Week
60 1/2 miles in 6 runs
40 mins on the bike
4 core workouts
1 lift
Analysis: Feeling better this week but not hitting the mileage I need/want.  Thursday was the first hard workout I've done in two weeks, and my left foot was sore the next day, but better on Saturday.  The race was a mild disappointment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chapter 4: Christmas Eve

Beads of Sweat is the working title of a novel about running.  This novel chronicles one high school cross country team's quest for a state championship.  But it's also about hard work and discipline and brotherhood.  I welcome any feedback (good or bad) anyone has to give.  If anyone, has an in to the world of literary agents and/or publishing, drop me a line.  Thanks for reading.

      They rambled down Springvale fighting the temptation to run fast.  Smitty on the left, Jenkins in the middle, Hammond flanking the right side.  Running just fast enough for Smitty not to crack jokes, they let themselves listen to the sound of their feet patting the packed dirt road.  They knew Hartman would be taking them here at some point this season, and they knew when he did, it would not be as easy as it was right now.  As seniors, this would be their last independent run before they started the season, before they graduated high school, and they decided to run it together.  It was a bit of a Springfield tradition.  On the eve of the last run before camp week, the seniors would get together and go for a cruise.  Hartman somehow got credit for starting this tradition even though he never once talked about this day or showed up for it.  The boys, some years it was six others three sometimes just two, always ended the run at Cinders and ordered a meal that they would order once in the next thirty years.  It was part of the tradition.  Liver and onions with a side of okra.  The oldies considered this Cinders’ house specialty.  Most if not all high school kids won’t touch it with a ten foot poll.  Rumor had it that Hartman decided the senior send-in dinner, too.  It’ll put hair on your chest, he reportedly said of the meal.

            -What d’ya think it’ll taste like, Smitty said as they brought the pace down to a jog.
            -Don’t know, Hammond said.
            -Mebkay said it’s not that bad if you eat it with milk.
            -Have you talked to him?
            -He said he ran ninety-six miles in ten runs last week.
            -That’s no joke.
            -That’s what a Colorado scholarship will for ya.

            Hammond picked up Jenkins and Smith eighty minutes ago, so now the trio stretched against his old GT.  Moths danced under the neon signage and mosquitoes buzzed and bit down below.  Smitty tried to hurry them along, but Hammond was resolute in completing his stretching routine. 

            -I’m goin in.
            -Me too.
            -Give me two minutes. 
            -F that.  I’m dying out here.
            -Fine.  You know what to order.

The beginning of the meal started with excitement and borderline giggling.  They didn’t know what to expect of the liver and onions or what camp week much less the season would hold.  Smitty, of course, made a few cracks about the meal, claiming his liver came from an alcoholic steer.  I can just taste it, as he spat it back onto the plate.

-You have to finish it, Jenkins said.
-All of it?
-Every morsel?
-If I don’t?
-Season is jinxed, Hammond said.
-For me or the whole team?
-Oh come on…shit…this tastes like shit.  He shoveled a forkful into his mouth.
-Just keep baling that hay, Jenkins told him.
-Shit, you probably enjoyed it Jenks. 
He pulled down his shirt. 
-Three new hairs just came in.

Hammond reached over and tried to pluck out one of the figment hairs.  Jenks batted his hand away and spilt his water over Smitty’s onions and okra.  Smitty cursed and Jenks and Hamz laughed.
-Should’ve eaten it quicker.

Like when he gets serious in a race, Smitty put his head down and plowed through.  There was a silence for a minute or two, then some small talk, then some more silence.  An air of gravity came down upon the booth and it lasted all the way to the Pontiac.

-So what time do we have to be there tomorrow?
-In the am.
-You want me to pick you guys up?
-You’re gonna keep your car in the lot all week?
-Why not?
-Sure then.
-Okay, then I’ll pick you up at 6:20 and you 6:25, he said it just to get under Smitty’s skin. 

            Then that was it.  They just listened to Smitty’s fingers dancing along the presets all the way home.  Terse good-byes and see you tomorrows and then each one was home.

            He dropped Jenkins off first.  He still had pushups to do, so he did them.  Four sets of thirty with thirty seconds rest.  Hartman teased him endlessly his freshman year about his weak upper body, and the upperclassmen followed his lead.  During the cross country fitness test, he could only manage twenty-seven in two minutes.  A team low.  That’s when he went into secret training.  At first, he didn’t see the correlation between running fast and having a strong core, but over a season or two Hartman’s philosophy engrained itself into him.  Pushups, abs, planks, pullups: they were all part of his routine. 

            In bed he picked up his loaned copy of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It was one of the choices on the summer reading list.  Torres told him it was a good read.  But as with every night, the last thing Jenkins read before shutting out the lamp was his goals for the season; they were written in bold capital letters on a heavy piece of oaktag that doubled as his bookmark.

            Smitty marched straight into the kitchen when he got home.  He told his mother he needed something to get the awful taste out of his mouth.  Forever, the youngest of two sisters and a brother, his mom satiated him with a heaping bowl of ice cream.  Smitty devoured it then told himself that was the last gluttonous indulgence he’d allow himself for the rest of the season.

            In bed he tossed a tennis ball up toward the ceiling again and again.  Feeling guilty about the rocky road, he admonished himself, “I can be really good at this.  I could be really good if I get my shit together.”

            Hammond had to finish up the stretching that Jenks and Smitty rushed him through in Cinders’ parking lot.  As he stretched, his dad came in and asked twenty questions about camp week.  The son answered with terse obedience. 

            In bed Hammond tried to block out all that stuff.  To do so, he mentally checked off all the luggage in his dufflebag: trainers, flats, socks, t-shirts, toothbrush, toothpaste, running shorts, mesh shorts, boxers, jeans, a hoodie just in case…until his listing transmuted into prayer.  He prayed for the Lord to give him power and strength and speed and most of all...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chapter 3: Franklin Torres

Beads of Sweat is the working title of a novel about running.  This novel chronicles one high school cross country team's quest for a state championship.  But it's also about hard work and discipline and brotherhood.  I welcome any feedback (good or bad) anyone has to give.  If anyone, has an in to the world of literary agents and/or publishing, drop me a line.  To catch up on previous chapters, scroll down and click the Beads of Sweat label.  This chapter is the first of several intermittent biographies of members of the team.  Thanks for reading.

Seven years old, he boarded the plane holding nothing more than a raggedy velveteen rabbit. 

            -Be a good boy, his madre told him.
            -Si mama, he responded.

            He walked down the long narrow terminal of Internacional Benito Jaurez and felt a part of himself dying.  He kept looking back at his madre; she kept getting smaller and smaller.  He was confused and afraid; he was told that people were only supposed to look like ants once he was up in the airplane but it was happening now, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.  She waved and held a handkerchief to her eyes.  He was a strong chicano but that tableau made him cry.  He tried to fight them but the tears kept coming, and he kept looking back.  One last time and she was gone.  He learned a hard lesson at the terminal that day, a lesson that he would bring into parts of his life that he could never have imagined existed: never look back.

            Franklin Torres ended up in Springfield.  His tio and tia picked him up at the airport and took him to their two bedroom apartment.  They had three kids, each one of them younger than Franklin.  He soon became the little jefe over his cousins.  But jefe only in the way that he was in charge of making sure all the chores got done, which often meant Franklin solomente doing the dishes, mopping the floor, folding the laundry, making the beds, and taking out the garbage.  He would scold and admonish his little cousins; they would poke jokes at his English.  This was how he learned the language.  He learned punch lines, then the jokes themselves, and then finally why they were funny.  That was the hardest part.  Right up there with trying to figure out why he lived on a street, in a town, and at an address.  Muttafooker to the preposition, he would mutter quietly.

            In time the language came to him through more than osmosis.  At the age of nine he started listening to national public radio.  Riding home on the school bus at the age of ten, he found a tattered Ender’s Game with a half chewed library card doubling as a bookmark.  A serendipitous find, for on that day he discovered two great things: the Springfield Public Library and science fiction.  He devoured Ender’s Game and begged his tia to take him to the mysterious address on the library card.  He wanted to see if such a place really existed.  After weeks of nagging she relented one lazy Saturday afternoon.  Now that he was there, he wanted to see if what Oscar told him was true: you could take the books without paying for them.  It was true!  You could!  He could take any book from the library free of charge as long as he promised to return it.  In this world, he wondered, why would anybody steal anything when you could take books for free?  He felt indebted to Oscar for revealing this secret to him.  He offered to return his library books for him because, Franklin bragged, his tia brought him to the library every other Saturday.  Oscar dismissed the offer and accused Franklin of wanting to steal his books, but within the month Oscar’s madre was picking up Franklin and they were both going to the library every weekend. 

            Sitting in big oversized chairs, they would read the backs of the books in a loud whisper.  They would fight over the ones that sounded the best. 

            -I’ll let you read that one first but you have to finish by Friday.
            -It’s 700 pages.
            -Fine.  Give it to me then.
            -Okay, okay, I’ll read it in a week.
            They really hit the jackpot when the SPL had multiple copies of the same book. 
            -Look, look! Dos copies of Star Wars.  Then a four-eyed wide pause.  Dos copies of all the Star Wars.  They held hands and danced in the aisles.  Star Wars!  Star Wars!  Star Wars, they hushed in unison all the way to the circulation counter. 
            -You have to promise not to watch the movie until you’ve read the book, Oscar said.
            -What movie?
            -The Star Wars movie.
            -There’s a movie?
            -Yeah.  You didn’t know that?
            -Well, I heard of it.  I remember it now.
            -Oh sure, Franklin…Well, anyhow, you can’t watch it ‘til you’ve read the book.
            -Just promise.
            -Because it’s my mom’s rule.  She said you can’t watch the movie before reading the book.  She said the book’s always better anyways.
            -You mean your mom thinks books are better than TV?

            This factoid about Oscar’s mom only strengthened the secret crush he had on her.  Up until now, he thought he was the only one in the world who liked books better than TV.  Everybody at school said that books were a fool’s errand when you could just watch them on what the americanos called the boobtube.

            This is how Franklin and Oscar spent the next three years of their lives.  They started with Orson Scott Card and Star Wars and by the end of eighth grade they graduated onto the nonpareils of the genre: Adams, Dick, Tolkien, Asminov, Vonnegut. 

            Oscar was the only kid in school who didn’t mark him an outcast for his science fiction, not to mention his accent, threadbare clothes, and less than desirable address.  He would always be eternally grateful for his first amigo in los estados unidos. 

            So Franklin read and read and read some more.  By the time he entered high school, he had about three years worth of pent up energy that needed an outlet.  He found that outlet pinned on the freshmen class bulletin board:

Cross Country Team News
Freshman Runners Wanted
All Are Welcome
No Experience Necessary
Practice Begins on the Track at 2:30
                                                                                Be There!