Yes, we had problems. It's called a transmission and it put us on the side of I-5 just outside of Federal Way for four hours.
This may be an omen as I set out on this trip to one of the biggest races against some of the best competition that I have ever run against. I decided to simply look at it as part of the adventure I am going on.
The first 20-plus hours have been everything I expected and more. And the real lesson doesn't happen for another 22 hours, when I line up at the start line of the U.S. Masters' National Cross Country Championships.
This trip down was supposed to be one of the more difficult things I have done in quite some time. And one of the best things for me.
I've heard people say, "Oh, it's only a 6.2 mile race? You can easily do that." Yes, I can easily jog 6.2 miles. It's another thing when I line up with 370 other guys who still have the desire to get the finish line as quickly as possible.
It's the combination of the intensity and the duration of running 6.2 miles as hard as I can that is certainly not going to be easy. This was made obvious to me, as I have had a chance to ride "shotgun" in one of the vans we ended up getting since the bus wasn't going anywhere for a long time.
During the six-hour drive and the night spent in a seedy hotel in Portland, I talked with one of the guys older than 50 who will be leading our "A Team." I'm on the "B Team," more out of default than out of any skill.
The "A Team" runner, Chuck Purnell, is one of those guys who got back into running after a number of years away from the sport. The longer he has been able to stay injury-free, the better he has gotten. And, boy, has he gotten faster. His key to success has been consistent drills and exercises to keep his lower extremities strong; it has not been more miles.
Apparently, less is more. Perhaps I should heed his advice if I plan on a running career of any longevity.
Since we arrived in Bend this afternoon, the hotel designated as race headquarters has been bustling with fit runners jogging in packs all over the place. From Atlanta, New Jersey, Colorado, Boston and all places in between, they arrive at Bend for the big showdown tomorrow.
I've done some preparation for this race, but I know it is far from adequate. This was made obvious to me as I chatted with Chuck in my effort to keep him awake as we made our way down I-5 well after midnight last night.
Considering that, you won't see me standing in the shallow end of the outdoor pool in freezing Bend after my run to get an improvised "ice bath" like two guys I see wearing NYAC (New York Athletics Club) gear.
I have done some of the perfunctory things that real racers do:
1. I've tapered my workouts this week in order to feel just a little fresher at the start line.
2. I went to Run26 and got a sports massage in order to get the little knots out of my muscles.
3. I even bought a pair of cross country racing spikes -- complete with neon green nylon and a neon orange Nike swoosh -- while I was in the store.
4. And to top my preparation off, I went into Everett Sports Performance to have my calves scraped with the painful, but very effective, rehab tool called Astym that scrapes away scar tissue in my calves and arch.
All of this done in a last-minute, desperate act to give myself "the edge." But, it is definitely not enough.
Maybe I should go stand in that ice-cold pool for at least five minutes.
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