When I look back on my highschool career, there is only one thing that carried me through the 4 year long roller coaster. This thing was there for me at a moment's notice, almost as if it was waiting to be used. This thing is not just any old thing, it's a part of me. It's an extension of my legs and a connection to my memories. This thing has been through hell and back, even after all that it's still there for me.
All day, for two days straight. Constant raining in a small town running into spring. After hearing the showers of rain on the windows all day in class, the bell that dismissed me to sounds of freedom. Straight from spanish class I open my stride as I walk down the hall way with excitement in every step. I am rarely excited for track practice, but today is special. Making my way to the locker room to change into my running attire with some of my best friends at my side. We are babbling about how much fun we are going to have in the rain today. Suddenly, we hear a screech from outside, telling us that we are warming up inside. Warm up goes as normal, then the excitement begins. I lead the charge to the outside world, not knowing how hot or cold the weather outside is. Opening the door into a whole new planet it seems like. I can feel a nice chill shooting through my body and little raindrops smacking on my skin. The sky as grey as an elephant's body, with a subtle bone shaking thunderous booms coming from the sky. An anonymous decision to run straight into the woods with high hopes of mud and deep puddles to run through. We shot out of the school parking lot and onto the service road and ran straight to the yellow gate, where there is small hill that leads into stomach high water. With a quick glance at my best friend, he was off down the hill into the raging river without a second thought. He fell half way through a face planted into the water, with a brief second on silence there is a burst of laughter as he shoots up from the water. “Come on now, it's your turn” with a huge smile on his face and a loud ear piercing laugh. Without a second thought, I race down the hill into an ice bath of water, mimicking my friend exactly. I come up out of the water drenched in a light brown water. After we have a couple more laughs, we explore the vast woods. Looking straight out of a video from Animal Planet, the woods looked like a different environment, almost like we were exploring the Amazon. Looking ahead all I can see is life; with the rain drops falling from the leaves, the little squirrels that dart across the path, and these puddles that look about ankle deep. So we thought, sprinting through the knee high puddles; splashing like we are little kids again.
Camp, this is one of my favorite words. For a week the high school cross country team traveled to Glen Arbor where the is a school that rents out cabins. You walk into a wooded path then there it is; the classical welcome to camp sign. This is where the fun begins; it's a race to get your favorite cabin with all of your best friends in it. Beds with bags on them with in seconds of arrival. The first half hour is a chaotic panic to get a fun cabin. After everything settles, you walk out of your cabin and you are surrounded by about 6 cabins, with each one being named after a bird. A picnic table oddly placed in the middle; and a soda machine to your left that does not work. After a brief minute to take it all in, you are rushed to get your running clothes on for our first run of camp. Our first run consists of a 5 mile run through the town; it's awesome to see people's reactions to all the runners. We are at camp for 5 days, and they are the best 5 days of my life. Five days surrounded with my best friends, and a lake that is walking distance from where I sleep. The best feeling is when you get done with a 10 mile run in 90 degree heat and immediately take your shoes off and bolt to the ice cold lake. Not only is it great training, but you really get to know all the new freshmen, and you get to bond with the entire team. You run in not knowing anyone and you come out with 32 new friends. The fun doesn't stop with night time, the night is filled with raccoons under your cabin, and late night conversations with your cabin. We came up with the saying, “what happens in the cabin, stays in the cabin”. Everyday we able to take an hour out of our day to go to town and buy a bunch of stuff we don't need like: 40 dollar sweatshirts, over priced food, and tons of snacks for later. The worst part of camp is leaving; it feels like you're leaving behind a part yourself there for next year to find.
After waking up two hours earlier than normal I get in the car for the 2 hour road trip to Portage. Portage is the fastest race of the year, with tons of competition. Portage is held at a small middle school that backs up to a bunch of land. As a little freshman running with upperclassmen I was pretty scared to be running with all the “big kids”. After walking through a maze of team tents we finally make it to our team, and because I was late we went straight into the warm up; which consisted of talking about goals and strategies for the race. There is one key element to every warm-up, going to the bathroom; the worst feeling is when your running and you have to poop. Before I have time to blink i’m on the line. Looking to my left then to my right, all I can see is my team and then I hear the whistle. You could only hear the breeze smacking the leaves together; then a “On your marks”, with another 10 second delay then the gun. I sprint as fast as I can so I don’t get stuck in any groups but it happens anyways because there are more than 300 people in this race. Feeling good up the first hill, with only slight breathing we make our first turn where I do everything in my power to avoid spiking someone. Still with only slight breathing my legs start to feel a little tired, but nothing I haven't dealt with before. Seeing the first down hill I start to speed up so I don’t have to slow down on the hill; at the crest of the hill I see at least 50 kids already at the bottom and 50 more in between. Getting about halfway down the hill there is dust everywhere, nearly impossible to see your own hand; then there is an immediate right turn after the down hill. There is a clock that has your mile time and it read 5:02, which to date is my fastest mile time ever. All I can think about is how was that a mile, it felt so short. Feeling more tired with heavier breathing I pick up the pace so I can run a consistent second mile. We repeat the exact same loop, but this time is much harder because we are about a mile and a half in. At this point I’m starting to feel the pain set in, but I just keep pushing. Finally we get to the 2 mile and I see 10:32 which is the fastest 2 mile I have ran to date. All we have left is a long downhill and a half mile straight away. I’m starting to speed up and I get this weird feeling where if feels like i'm gonna throw up and my nose is bleeding at the same time. We are on the last straight away into the finish and all I can hear are screams of the crowd shouting to run faster. I can barely make out what the clock says but it looks like 16:45; so I give it everything I had and more. As I'm crossing the line, I see 16:58.
As a cross country runner we run everyday and during prime season we probably run about 10 or so miles every day. Most of them are the same, nothing really changes, but there are those workouts that you will never forget. As of right now, today 10/04/17, the worst workout was 9/22/15 during my freshman year. I remember this entire workout, it is branded into my brain. It was my freshman year and Earl was training us for states this year, not regionals like the past years. This workout was a total of 12 miles. It started with 2 mile warm up, which was common and normal. Then we get into the workout; Earl didn’t tell us the entire thing like normal, he just said know your mile R time. For me this time was 5:45, which isn't super fast but it was fast enough. One after another we did mile repeats, we did about 4 when we started to complain about not wanting to do anymore. Low and behold Earl he gave us 4 more mile repeats. For every single mile we did I was under pace by at least 5 seconds. I remember the feeling when it was all done, so we thought. Earl told us to get back on the track because we had the awful,dreadful, horrifying Vo2’s. If you don't know what Vo2’s are; they are where you run as fast as you can for 20 seconds and then get a 10 second break. We did 8 of them on that dreadful day.
There's a musty old sweat smell coming from the floor. Those are my running shoes but they are more than just shoes, they are my memories. That stench is a reminder of all 1,000 miles of track workouts, and long mileage day where I would run upwards of 10 miles. Those holes in the side are from the constant running motion. You might think to yourself, “I would have thrown these away a long time ago”. By throwing those stinky, hole infested, train wreck of a shoe away, you're throwing away a part of me. I carry my running shoes, they are going to remind me of that time when we ran through giant puddles in the rain for an hour, they remind me of camp and all the glorious days at camp, they remind me of the first time I broke 17 minutes for a 5k, and most importantly, they are gonna remind me of all the hard work it take to be successful. When I look at these shoes, I will be looking back at my highschool cross country career.