If you follow my Twitter feed (@martinjdugard), you’ll have seen a recurring photo of my office white board counting down the days to the State Meet. It's always 154 days from the first day of practice to that last Saturday in November. Right now the number is at four, which means State is getting close.
As stress reducers go, you would think that something so simple as planning the day wouldn't make much difference. But there are so many mornings I wake up overwhelmed. Before my feet even hit the floor I feel the burden of juggling all the things I want to do, need to do, and would maybe like to squeeze in. Sometimes, when things are really hot, all that juggling leads to a feeling of being frantic. Rather than get the whole mental list of activities accomplished that day, I just shut down. The governor has been reached and the machine dials it all the way back.
The first time I ever got passed by a woman was December 21, 1975. I was running the Christmas Relays, a fifty-mile team event from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay. If you drive that highway, as I did just a couple months ago, it's one of the most scenic stretches of road in America. The pavement parallels and overlooks the Pacific Ocean in many spots. . . . All of that was lost on me back in 1975. I was running a ten-mile leg in a cold winter rain, feeling very sorry for myself and not at all enjoying the view — particularly those rolling stretches of highway that seemed to climb forever. I was fourteen. My dad was off in Vietnam.
There are thirty-seven days to the State Meet. Five weeks and change. Take away Sundays, which cross country's local governing body has declared "no practice" days, and we're down to thirty-three days to get better. Consider that we'll have at least two recovery days per week, and that lowers the number to twenty-three chances to improve.
I try to keep these missives non-topical in order to give them an evergreen quality. But last night's loss by the men's U.S. national soccer team to Trinidad-Tobago needs to be addressed. The immediate sense of confusion is that America will not have a team playing in the World Cup next year — not that anyone will miss them. They are three and out at best, a nice sideshow to the real competition.
I don't know what triggered the memory, but the other day I was suddenly overcome with a wash of humiliation. Sometime in my early twenties, at that point in the wilderness years where I was so deep in the woods that I couldn't remember which way I came in and couldn't possibly see a way out, I decided that the most logical way to fix things was to . . . wait for it: join the French Foreign Legion.
My teams are in trouble. Not deep trouble, but we need to iron out some issues. In cross country, the top five runners from each school constitute the score. Each runner gets a single point for their finish (one point for first, fifty-one points for fifty-first, etc). Low score wins. Perfect score is fifteen points: 1-2-3-4-5. From a time point of view, it's best to have as few seconds as possible between the first scorer and the fifth....