Beads of Sweat is a novel about a high school cross country team. This is chapter seven. To access previous chapters, click on the "Fiction" tab at the top of the page. Thanks for reading.
When the team returned to the dorms after dinner, each room’s door had an itinerary posted on it.
0700: wake and breakfast
0800: session one: meet on Radcliffe Green
1300: session two: meet at Wharton Academic
1400 to 1600: free time (nap!)
1600: session three: meet on the track
2000: meet at library
2200: lights out
So there they were on Tuesday morning, chatting and yawning on Radcliffe Green, some of them a little sorer than they should have been. Hartman eschewed prate and commenced the first session.
-I’m glad you all got the memo. It’s good to see nobody went awol. Get that sleep out of your eyes Galiozzi. We have work to do… Let me outline the agenda for the week. The am session will consist of core work, drills, and a light jog. The second session will be educational—no running. We’ll use our brains. Running is more mental than it is physical, so our brains need to be sharp. The third session will be the most physically intense. Don’t show up exhausted. Nap if you have to.
The boys spread out on the grass to get ready for their core work. As they did, the Starkfield State Women’s Cross Country team passed through the green. Twenty-eight eyes ogled sans blinking. Smitty let out a long slow whistle. Hammond mimed picking up Wallan’s jaw from the ground. Coetaine, Kimihara, Torres, and Lee silently craned their necks from east to west.
-I know what I’ll be doing from two to four! I’ll be in bed but I won’t be napping!
-You have no chance.
-You couldn’t even pickup that old hag from Cinders.
Pereira smiled. Hartman let the banter continue.
-The core work we do today will all be related to the conditioning test we took yesterday. And yes, there will be a midterm and a final exam. You now know the questions so no excuses. On a rotating basis we will do variations of pushups, planks, and situps. Each morning we’ll do something new. I’m going to ask some of you to do this core work on your own—preferably before school—once the season starts.
-Yes, before school. Stop playing video games and talking to your internet girlies. Go to bed early.
-Can we do it at night?
-You, Hammond, no. You’ll be doing core work with me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. At six am. In the Dank Tank.
-That’s just Hammond, right coach?
-Yes, Deo, just Hammond. The rest of you need your beauty sleep. Hamz is already pretty enough.
-But I’m pretty too, Coach.
-Yes, Smitty, you are. And so are all the juniors and seniors. I’ll be seeing all of you at zero-six on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.
-Are you serious?
-Do I look like a man who makes jokes?
-What about the freshmen and sophomores?
-They’re still growing. Plus, they’re all a little ugly. They need more beauty sleep.
-Isn’t there some rule against this, Smitty asked.
-Yes. The rule of second place. Now let’s get started.
Hartman walked them through the drills: how to complete a pushup (back and shoulders break the plane of the elbows), how to hold a plank (don’t stick your ass up too high or let it dip down too low), how to execute flutter kicks (keep the legs straight and toes pointed outward). He walked around the large circle, talking to each one of them. The upperclassmen knew what they were doing, so he spent most of his time with the yearlings and bluebirds. With many of them he bent down low to their ears and spoke softly.
-Sellberg, when you’re doing the flutter kicks, put your hands under the small of your back. Take your watch off too. It’s easier that way.
His mechanics transmuted somewhat for the better.
-Now Paws, when you do those pushups make sure you’re going down far enough.
It took Hartman and Pereira about twenty minutes to circumambulate the team. Pereira mostly followed Hartman’s lead. In twenty more minutes, they were done with their stretching and drills. Like yesterday, Hartman divided the team for their run. This time he did it by grade level. Four groups headed out in four different directions for an easy five kilometers. They kept it easy too because Hartman told them they were doing a fartlek in the afternoon.
The sun was beating down on the track. Earlier in the day, Hartman had decided to do the fartlek on the soccer and rugby fields located on the outer quadrant of the campus. He told them to warm up together for twenty minutes. It would take them about seven to get to the fields. Off they marched with Jenkins leading the way and Lee acting as caboose. Once they hit twenty minutes, Hartman instructed them to splice into the groups they were in this morning. Pereira made sure that each group had at least one runner with a chronograph. He would blow a whistle to announce the start of the fartlek. One long whistle meant the start of a pickup and two short shrills meant the end of it. He didn’t tell them for how long they’d be running. He just told them to keep in earshot of the whistle and to consider running under the umbrage of the field’s perimeter.
He exhaled into the whistle and let out two short bursts four minutes later. Pereira was on one side of the field and he was on the other. Both men had to shout at the boys to slow down, the interval was over. As troupes ran passed, Hartman would gently whisper for one to relax his shoulders and for another to shorten his stride. Pereira, too, seemed to be gaining some comfort and yelled at Buck to relax his face and Coetaine to keep it up. Coetaine clung to the backs of Torres and Galiozzi but never let them go. To himself, Hartman wondered if Torres was holding back for the sake of his teammate.
-Let’s go Torres. Keep those legs moving.
Torres actually replied with a “Yes Coach” and hardened his cadence on the next interval. Coetaine fell twenty meters back.
As the freshman passed, Hartman had to remind them that the pickups weren’t an all out sprint.
-Pace yourselves, men.
Paws was heading the group but Sellberg held close. Buck struggled but was hanging tough as was the slight-framed Lee. Hartman cut the bluebirds off before the rest of the boys. They did a fifteen minute cool down as everyone else finished the session.
Later that night at dinner, Hartman had a few questions for them. He asked them how long they thought each interval was, how many minutes of hard running they did, and what was the thing that each recovery period had in common. Nobody’s guesses were even close to the actual times Hartman had them run. So much for the chronographs. They had plenty of work to do.