Monday, November 28, 2011

On the Finish Line

So, another cross country related post. Hope it all makes sense.

I've done a previous post on a portion of my cross country course. As I mentioned then, our coach had taken great pains to provide a challenge to us and to our competitors. At one point, I heard that he had measured out the entire five kilometer (three and some odd miles for you non-cross country people) course to make sure that it was exactly one third up hill, one third down hill and one third flat.

Running the course could easily help you believe that rumor. There were several hills, each providing its own challenge and given its own unique name. There was Starter (pretty obvious reasons there), Ice Cream (sweet, sweet downhill), JV (cause its playin with ya) Sandy Hill (also obvious), and Mother (Cause it's not playing with you. At all). Each had its own way of confronting you with difficulty and forcing you to tough it out until you got to the top. By the time you got down off of those hills and onto the nice, flat bike path leading back to the finish, you were grateful they were all done.

What you didn't realize, of course, was the fact that all of those hills had been packed into about two thirds of the course. By the time you got down to the path, you still had a full 1200 meters left to go, nearly a full mile. If you sprinted the moment your feet hit the path, you were destined to die long before the finish.

The other thing you have to remember is where our coach put the finish line. He designed the course to loop back through a central area, where spectators could sit and watch the runners go by. You passed through that spot three different times after the start, and the finish line was set up right there. That means everyone is sitting there, waiting and cheering for you for the entire length of that last grueling flat section.

Those of you who run, especially in competition, know that cheering spectators are like crack for a runner. It's addictive; you want so badly to run harder and faster when people are shouting for you. It's an incredible boost, and one that I appreciated many times during my track and cross country days.

I did not appreciate it for the first thousand or so yards of runnning down that path, trying so hard not to sprint too early because I knew I wouldn't make it to the end. In a phrase, it sucked.

It was not an easy temptation to resist. After all, at the end of the race, you really, more than anything, just want it to be done. You want to stop running, cause it hurts. You want to get some water, maybe get your breath back, probably puke if it's been a really bad day. Mostly you want to finish hard, run well, and have the rewards of all the hard work you put in. Coach found a way to test us mentally with that last little trick of his, and I'm glad to say it taught me a lot that I need to know right now.

I say that because as of now, I'm on the last little bike path with Wolfhound. I have all the chapters for the book, I need only to go and look through some of the copy edits, format it and put it up online. There is an incredble urge just to put in a couple of 4am nights and have done with it, because it has been a really long race.

At the same time, I feel that is the worst thing I could do. I could get the book up, sure, but I would miss some of the final, refining touches that need to be made to it in order to make the story really shine. Putting those touches in means that I will no longer get the book up by the end of this Monday. It may mean that I will have to delay it until December 10th or so, which was the original deadline for the book before I started to advertise it around. Yet in spite of how frustrating that is to me, I believe that Wolfhound--not to mention my mental and physical health--will be better off in the long run for doing it.

So yeah, if you've noticed that the book isn't quite up yet, do not worry, it will be soon. I just haven't reached the sprinting point yet, and I hope that you will all have patience with me until I do. See you around!

Picture of the bike path courtesy of Yes, that was where the finish line was in the distance there. Yes, you could hear the spectators the whole way. And yes, Coach Cohen is a mad genius whose course terrified the other teams. He was awesome.

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