I worked myself silly the summer of 2002. I was excited for a chance to run on a Division I cross country team, even if it meant sitting out another semester because I transferred. I knew it would be a big leap from a bad Division III team, even moreso with a year off in the meantime.
I woke up at 5 am to do my long runs before it got too hot.
I dropped my 5k PR to 16:12 from 16:50. I competed well in road races and fought hard. None of that prepared me for what awaited in Richmond.
The first practice of the season was a chance for everyone to show off how much they had worked in the summer. Our initial run, I don't even remember how long it was, or how fast it really was, but it felt like the fastest run of my life. It didn't help that Kevin Rhue was trying to show all of us how fast he was. I'm going to go ahead and blame him. Trying to show everyone that I belonged, I tried to stick in there, but it rarely worked that well. The heat and humidity of our post-dawn workouts was getting to me.
I started dropping from the workouts, sooner and sooner each day. When I fell back during a long run in Pocohontas State Park, I wound up being the guy who got lost that year. It would have been one thing had I trained in Virginia all summer, so I would at least be used to the climate, but stepping up my game while also rearranging my schedule to train before dawn meant a bigger leap when I got to school.
Every morning, I felt like I had fallen down the stairs when I woke up, yet came back for more. In the middle of the second week, we ran to the field hockey field and football practice fields for a workout- 2x15 minutes hard, with five minutes rest, I think. The first interval took all of my strength to stick with the pack, by the time the second started, I was a human wasteland. I kept slowing, my feet soaked in sweat. I kept pushing, because I knew giving wouldn't help anything. I worked on the assertion that I should be pushing my body to the limit. I hadn't, however, put myself in a position where I could grow from each workout. I severely underestimated the amount I sweated, which is a lot on a normal basis, but in the new humid summer, I was killing myself by not forcing myself to drink water.
I ran my afternoon runs like the confused boy I was, trying to prove to anyone who saw me, and myself, that I belonged, hammering away. When Pat Barkhuff saw me, he implored me to slow down, but I didn't have a year of DI running under my belt to tell me that, or the firsthand knowledge of what it takes to compete at that level.
As the second 15 minutes progressed, I slowed down, yet I couldn't force myself to go any faster, which is amazing because I was going so slowly, it would normally be easier to go faster than to go slower. At some point, I got dizzy. Then I was on the ground, then Steve had run over to me, yelling to never give myself a way out, that I was ruining the workout for everyone who was still running, and probably some other things that I couldn't understand because I was so out of it.
I'm not sure if embarassed describes how I felt. Demoralized, not with the verbal lashing- it wasn't even a lashing- everything he said was meant to teach, not punish me. I was more confused than anything. How could I work so hard yet regress to far? I stumbled to finish the 15 minutes, I don't even remember how I felt when I finished, but I dragged myself back on a cooldown. I came across the then-injured Jon Lauder near the pier. I don't remember much of what he said besides "what's happening?" I kept him up-to-date on my training over the summer, so he knew what kind of work I had put in. He told me later that he thought Steve was going to cut me, and at that point, I would have agreed. I was pathetic.
The worst part was that my neglect had put me in that position. I wasn't drinking enough water, or fruit juices, so I was constantly dehydrated. I had suffered from dehydration once in high school, so I already knew it was a problem, but I didn't address it vigorously. I got on that immediately and I showed immediate improvement, which I will detail in a later post.