Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Line

There is a line on 89th street. It's at the bottom of a hill and it marks the beginning of a 200 meter distance that ends at the top of that hill. Some nice person measured this distance and was kind enough to paint the lines on the road for the rest of us to use.

It's a big hill, very intimidating when you see it from the bottom. Not big in California or Colorado terms but big by Oklahoma standards.

I have seen this hill and the line at the bottom of it many times. The first time I saw it was at mile 11 or so of a 14 mile run and it looked MASSIVE! Most of the time I see it near the beginning of my runs so it's a little more manageable. Funny how an obstacle can take on a different look depending on it's position relative to your fatigue.

This line has been calling me lately and today I answered. I decided to forgo my usual speedwork and go out and hurt myself as much as possible on this hill and finally make that line a memory. So I jogged out to the line which is about a 1.5 mile warmup and started my 10 hill repeats from this line.

I barely noticed the line at the start of the first one, I was up that hill before my body really knew what had happened. I know this because when I stopped I began to huff and puff heavily. That is my body catching up with itself and wondering WTF just happened! It felt pretty good and Paula agreed as I'd done that one in 48 seconds.

I jogged/walked down the hill and said hello to the line again. It's reply set me back a bit. "You're gonna hurt today!" Guess this line knew something about my day and what kind of mood I was in which was, in fact, no mood in which to start arguing with a line so I started my next interval. This time all cylinders were firing and all body parts had come on-line. Arms pumping, legs working, head bobbing (yes I'm a head bobber when it's hard), every molecule in my body was working together to get every other molecule up that hill. 43 seconds for that one. On the way down I was remembering Oklahoma City 2008 where I first broke 4 hours in the marathon. That wonderful feeling of having worked hard and achieved something. Wonderful feeling.

"Hey, back again huh? You can't win at this you know? I'll always be here and you'll never do enough to make this easy!" Again I ignored this taunting and set out on interval number 3. Each step took me further up the hill and further into oxygen debt. This time I noticed the dips and cracks in the road. I forced myself to stay on my toes and push off hard with each step. Form, form, form, form, keep that head down and those arms pumping. Quick feet, quick feet. 44 seconds at the top. This will pay off later, it has to. This will pay off when I'm tired at mile 20 in Tulsa and my mind wanders. I'll think of this and know I've got it in me to push on.

"I'm still here, and you look tired. This next one will be number 4, that's 1/2 a mile which is good enough for someone like you. Best not to push it too hard you know, you're not made for this." He came at me quick this time and I wasn't ready. Caught me off guard and I stumbled a bit when I realized I had reached the line. I recovered though and got up that hill in 44 seconds again. I was surprised with that time because I had to push every step on this one. I had left that zone where you can disconnect the mind and let the body run free. I was engaged and analyzing each step. Hard mentally to keep doing that.

"You're half way after this next one, starting to worry yet? You could get injured doing this. I'll be here when you're ready to quit." This was number 5 and I'd decided to take a longer rest between 5 and 6 so I wanted to get this one done! Once again he came up on me quicker than I expected but I stepped right over him as I hit the start button on Paula and charged up another 200 yards. Push this one! It's half way and there's a rest waiting for you! Push, push, push. Stopped Paula and saw 43 seconds again. Great time but now I'm really feeling it. I have never thrown up from running before, NEVER! As I walked down that hill though, I was thinking there's a first for everything.

"......wait....." I cheated myself on the break and immediately started number 6 as soon as I reached the line. No rest at all on this one. Screw that line, I can get these done and get home quicker if I stop spending so much time looking at the damn thing anyway. Up that hill, stomach screaming, legs aching, shoulders sore and tired but the body is still moving. This was pain. Good pain that I deserved. Hurt yourself like you've hurt so many others before. When it hurts, it's good. This one was GREAT in that case. 45 seconds though. Started remembering Andy Payne marathon on the way down. Remembered how it was the first time I really hurt in a marathon and how bad it felt to give up and walk the last miles. Real shitty feeling, much like hill repeat number 6!!!

I hesitated on number 7. My stomach was on the verge and something down deep said, "We need a moment here asshole!", so I stopped and bent over. Found myself looking directly at the line. That line, there's one at every race just like this one. I hardly ever notice it but it's there. That line that is the point where the adventure begins. That point where the body is first asked to move beyond itself and put into gear. That line! What is it about that line? Screw this, thinking way to much and I should RUN! Go, get up this damn hill and you'll have only 2 left. Throw up if you must but get these things done. Stop running on your heels! Get on your toes! push those arms! 48 seconds. Way to go.... you sucked on that one.

"Only 3 left, you could call this one the last and have an even mile complete. You look a little green, better watch out I'm not sure you've got 10 of these in you today." I'm not sure I'm even breathing now, just know that I've got 3 more to do and I don't care how long they take me. This hill looks steeper and longer than it did before. I chanced a look at the top and was immediately reminded why that's a bad idea. It wasn't getting any closer and I wanted to stop. Disconnect the brain and push on, do it! 47 seconds for that one but I finished it.

"Hope you don't feel good about yourself for having done 8 of these. That's nothing compared to what I've seen some people run out here." Short rest again and I was on the hill again. Felt like I was going to stop with every step. Pushed those legs to go each inch knowing that any flutter or mis-step would be enough to break the cycle and I'd be done. I was running on pure momentum and as long as I kept the pendulum swinging I'd get up the hill. 46 seconds.

"Last one, but shouldn't you really do 12 of these? Is 10 enough?"

Ran the last one in 42 seconds and jogged home.

Thanks for listening


Meg Runs said...

What ever it takes to get these work outs done, right? Even talking lines, it's all good! It was easy listening to your entertaining post, thanks!

Southbay Girl said...

did you run the last one the fastest? Must be because you wanted to go home!!

Clark said...


Calyx Meredith said...

"The point where the adventure begins" - love it! Great post - and great job with that last hill repeat. You sure showed that line!

cath said...

inspirational line story! just in time for my track work! thanks!

Terri said...

rock star, willie, rock star.

I love how you have these conversations with the road and your Garmin. Crack me up, but so true!

Thank you for writing this blog, Willie. So glad Penny turned me on to it!

Anonymous said...

Dog gone I think you found my hill. Is this hill on the North side of Draper? If so I run my repeats on this hill every Mon evening. Not sure who marked it but you might have to join me sometime and we can suffer together.