Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chapter 16: Milers

Beads of Sweat is a book about a cross country team's adventures.  This chapter chronicles a workout of repeat miles.  To access prior chapters, click on the Fiction tab at the top of the page.

Hartman jogged over to the team from the far side of the track.  He sidled up next to Spidestrom, “I just chalked out the mile markers on the XC course.  Are you guys ready for milers today?”

            The upperclassmen knew that this was one of Hartman’s touchstone workouts and if the sophs and frosh didn’t know it, the coach’s ebullience made it lucid.  This workout allowed him to compare performances across and within a year, for he’d been assigning repeat miles year after year at least two times per season.  Three times this year and today marked a statistician’s dream: an opportunity to record some baseline data.

            -We’re doing the repeats in three groups today.  Listen closely.  Group one: Jenkins, Spidestrom, Hamz, Torres, and Smitty.  Group two: Coetaine, Kimihara, Galiozzi, and Paws.  Group three: Wallan, Lee, Sellberg, and Buck.  Got it?  Now Wallan, you’re in charge of making sure none of the PFB’s get lost.

            -Sure thing, Coach.

            Irked by his placement, Coetaine walked away in a long circumambulation before exhaling audibly and mumbling something to Paws under his breath.

            -Listen up.  We’re doing the milers on time.  Group one will start a mile every ten minutes.  Group two every eleven minutes and group three every twelve minutes.  The faster you do them, the more recovery you have.  Everybody’s doing three.  No more, no less.  Jog the first mile of the course out and back so everybody can see how I chalked the miles.  Meet me at the starting line.  Coach Pereira will meet us there too. 

            -Is he our new coach?

            -He’s helping out when he can.  On big day’s like this.  For workouts.  Now no more questions.  Git goin.

            And with that they headed over to the softball field.  Springfield High, thanks to Hartman’s assiduity, was a cross runner’s dream.  With his own two hands and those of other countless runners and boosters, he carved out three of the sweetest, most rolling miles a high school harrier ever got to traverse.  After much pleading, petitioning, and convincing, Hartman saw to it that the course could travel over a piece of state protected land that bordered the far perimeter of the outer campus.  He had his eye on the parcel for a long time and his vision had come to fruition ten years prior.  Now he spent his time tending to the trails, cutting back encroaching boughs, and removing troublesome rocks.  He lined a good 100 meters of the course’s second mile with those stones.  His runners knew not to touch them. It was unspoken but they understood this quiet thing was somehow sacrosanct.  They also knew never to rebuke or reprehend his baby in any way and absolutely never ever in his presence.  The oblong oval measured out to be five kilometers on the nose.  Part of its genius was its shortcuts.  An ambitious spectator could see runners at the first and second mile and the finish line if he was fast enough.  Hartman and Pereira would have to be such spectators today if they intended to bookkeep the splits of their team. 

            Seventeen minutes passed and the team started gathering at the backstop behind homeplate to stretch. 

            -It’s hot.
            -I feel dehydrated already.
            -I know.  Me too.
            He ignored their nervous commentary, “Okay guys.  Finish stretching.  Group three is going first.  You have five minutes.”

            Huddled about Spider, the team only half listened to their coach.  Spider didn’t come back with the team.  Hartman simply attributed his lag time to a pit stop in the bushes.  But the huddled throng enticed him to move a few steps in its direction.

            -Those are sweet.
            -Where’d you get ‘em?
            -I got them at running camp.  They’re the latest ones from Nike.  Not even in stores yet.  They even have drainage holes in the back of the heels in case it rains.
            -That’s unbelievable!
            -Or in case you run the steeplechase.  Those are track spikes, Hartman said as he grabbed up one of Spider’s feet in a way that made him stumble with his balance.  What the hell are you thinking Spider?  Get those spikes off.  Save them for a race.  This is a training day.  No spikes! 

            -But Coach I need to break them in.
            -You can break them in in a duel meet.
            -Aww, come on.  I’ve been dying to run in them!
            Spidestrom, chagrinned, ran back to the locker room. 
            -Hurry back now Spider, Hartman said, you only got three minutes.
            -Maybe he can break them in now, Deo said.

            This workout was as much one for the coaches as for the athletes.  Hartman and Pereira would have to run hard over the deer paths that acted as cut-throughs.  Staggering the groups helped.  Putting Pereira in charge of Wallan’s group helped too. 

            Hartman sent the slow group off and Pereira booked it to the marker.  A minute later he discharged the middle group, which left him alone with his top five for a few moments. 

            -Jenkins, I don’t want you pr’ing today. 
            -I know, I know.
            -And watch that headbob.
            Smitty mimicked Jenkins’ telltale bobble.  Jenkins shoved him.
            -Don’t be heroes on this first one, men.  I want you to finish the workout, understand?
            Head nods.
            -Jog lightly on the recovery.  Keep moving.  I don’t want to see you doubled over with your hands on your knees…Okay, it’s time.  Three, two, one, go!

            Hartman clicked his watch and the five took off in a northerly direction while he headed out north by northeast.  He reached the first marker in time to see Kimihara, Coetaine, and a step behind Paws coming up on Lee.  Sellberg crossed fifteen or twenty seconds ago and was shouting encouragement.  Kimihara and Paws looked sweaty but alright.  The same could not be said for Coetaine. 

            -You alright, Pereira asked him.
            -My right knee hurts.
            -Where’s the pain?

            Hartman watched Coetaine point to his knee and knew it was an IT-band flare up.

Twenty seconds later Jenkins crossed the chalk.  Only six seconds later came Spidestrom.  Then another eight passed and Smitty and Torres crossed together.  Hammond was two seconds behind them.

            -Okay, now.  You guys are all a little fast.  Especially you, Adam.  Good thing you took those spikes off or you’d be setting my trail on fire.
            -Damn right!
            -Make sure you finish the workout, Jenkins told him.
            -I will. 

Off went the groups again.  Coetaine looked ugly from the start and Paws was breathing heavy on his neck.  Jenkins set out on the second one as if his goal was to decimate Spider and his group.  Torres and Hammond looked like the only ones listening to their coach. 

He sprinted the last hundred yards, but Hartman made it to the second marker.  Wallan was already jogging.  Sellberg was with him, and Hartman liked seeing that.  Maybe he’d have two prizes in the freshmen class.  Buck and Lee were nowhere in sight, but he wasn’t concerned.  Torres had struggled like them when he was a bluebird. 

-Finish strong, he yelled to Paws and Deo as they finished in tandem.  Another twenty seconds later came Galiozzi.  Where was Coetaine?

Sure enough after Jenkins’ group has finished in came Coetaine hobbling up to the coach.

-Coach, my knee is killing me.
-I know.  I can tell.  Do you think you can walk back to the trainer’s room?
-Tell the trainer I think it’s your IT-band.  Ask her what she thinks.  Put some ice on it.  When you get home too.  At least three times a day.  When it settles down a bit, I’ll show you some stretches. 
-Yeah, maybe it is my IT-band.
-Do you know why IT-bands tighten up?
-Overuse.  Usually happens when you go from low mileage to high mileage in a short period of time.  Say a week.

Coetaine didn’t say anything.  He fumed at being called out in front of the team.  The junior walked toward the trainer’s room, emphasizing the halt in his gait.

-Alright guys.  One left.  Let’s hit it.  Run fast.  Run controlled.  Per aspera ad astra. 
-What’d he say?
-The guy’s crazy.  He’s lost his marbles.

They took off for the last time.  One two three.  Sixty sixty sixty.  The second mile was the hardest, so Hartman’s interest in the third mile split peaked. 

When he arrived at the chalked three, he was happy to see that Galiozzi sucked it up to finish with Paws and Deo.  Both of them ran strongly and to see the erratic junior buckle down for a mile made the coach happy. 

Jenkins’ punishment of Spidestrom started in the second repeat and continued through the end of the third.  He put a hurting on the kid.  The senior gapped the sophomore by eighteen seconds on the second one and thirty on the third one.  Jenkins didn’t say a word to Spider or Hartman and he didn’t have to. 

Once the string of runners caught their collective breath, they grouped into one large mass for a cool down.  After that, it was off to Cinder’s for milkshakes.

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