Today I run INTERMEDIATE!
I know, I know. It’s serious. I’ve never run INTERMEDIATE before. My friend, triathlete Mark Boyd, energetically tries to dissuade me.
“I know. I know. It’s really serious.”
There is another problem. The ADVANCED group is canceled tonight as the top runners are expected to do a 5 km. time trial, instead. However, many of the racers don’t want to do an all out 5 km. sprint in the sweltering Saskatchewan heat. It’s +29C at 6:00 pm. The top guns must stoop to run INTERMEDIATE if they want to run distance tonight.
No matter. Tonight I run with Angie Pratt (a natural if there ever was one) in INTERMEDIATE. Angie is strangely quiet when I tell her my plan.
Forty-five minutes of 7-8 minute miles. How tough can it be?
I’m psyched. Despite my obvious obesity, lack of training, and inadequate running gear (my cross-trainers are duct-taped together), I’m certain I can make it. After all, I’d done blistering 30 minute runs for the last 3 days in series. I shot 89 at the Willows this morning, by far my best round of the year. This is my day. 🙂
We begin with a relaxed jog. Is this warm-up, or their pace? Though I know I should conserve energy, not talk, I can’t resist asking Peter (the “showboater”) what he has strapped to his chest. It is a remote heart rate monitor sending data to his wrist watch display.
“The highest I hit was 217 beats / minute at Provincials. The heart could do more but my legs were gone.”
Pete had qualified for the world Triathlon championships in New Zealand last year.
So far, so good. Steady pace but not too fast. I wanted to wear my “Pain, Sweat, Agony — Love It!” t-shirt today, but it was far too hot. Instead, I wear the lightest shorts and wife beater I own. No socks.
As we hit the river the pace increases. I drop to the last spot in the pack to acknowledge my rank in the pecking order. This hierarchy is as rigid as the castes of India. Indiscriminate of race, religion, education, or income, everyone is slotted by running ability. The group dynamics are fascinating in this other world.
Sh!t. I overhear that we’re doing two hill sprints instead of the railway bridge. Should I suggest to Don, the volunteer run leader, that I do just one?
The queue slows to a walk fighting through the tenacious bushes overgrowing the river path. This offers a chance to catch-up. I run the path, relishing the flagellation of the branches like some neo-Jesuit running martyr. Embrace the pain!
Thank God. Railway bridge.
$hit! INTERMEDIATE “surges” the railway bridge. I fall way back for the first time.
In my proper group, BEGINNER PLUS (the most incorrectly named of all the wrong-named ability groupings in this club), the lead runners circle back to pick-up stragglers. The speedsters shout encouragement to their lessors.
But everyone knows that INTERMEDIATES DON’T LOOP. If you can’t run 7 minute miles, why the Hell aren’t you in BEGINNER PLUS? The unspoken policy in INTERMEDIATE is to offer up silent embarrassment for assholes stupid enough to find themselves in my situation.
Yes! Don stops the group for water at the end of the bridge and I catch-up. This is the most he can do for me within the real rules. The better runners are understandably frustrated with this delay. They are trying to train.
Bad news. I reach a stage where I can run well for a couple of minutes, but then need to slow to recover. One guy drops back, feigning fatigue, to motivate me. It helps, but we both fall still further behind. Finally, the good Samaritan has to dash up to his friends. He tried.
At every level, every night, these runs are very competitive. No one ever admits this. Interesting. What can you expect when you put so many fitness freak over-achievers together?
Pain. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.
At least I don’t have a runner’s cramp. I take solace in that I’m running about as well as I possibly can.
Unbelievably, the group stops again at the Gordie Howe Park water fountain. Damn! I hope this is not another stratagem to help me! BEGINNER PLUS never stop.
Still mystified, I run through to communicate that I don’t want to slow down the group. If there was someone running behind me, I’d abandon them. After all, this is INTERMEDIATE.
All of a sudden I’m in the lead. What? Which route? Do we return over the low level bridge? I feel like the guy who sprints the start of the Boston marathon just to get on TV before being engulfed by the real runners.
No worries. Someone will quickly catch and pass me. One guy does but he doesn’t know the route either. We take the low level bridge. Wrong. The rest of the runners race on towards the Broadway bridge, no doubt relieved by my departure.
I stick it out to the top of the hill but then quit 2 blocks early, limping back to the store. My feet are scraped, my soles bruised. I slump into a chair for about 20 minutes, drained, but kind of proud.
Rehydration, shower, and a quick coma — then it’s off to hear Charlie Sexton with Mark and super-woman Michelle. Beer. Tequila. Scotch.
I’m going to hurt tomorrow.