Thursday, November 26, 2009

On the Run - Fall 1973

I worked hard in the summer of 1973.  I put in a lot of miles, many with K.U. steeplechasing great Kent McDonald and Pittsburg State mile stud Doug Schreve.  Kent would just roll on the flats while Doug would hammer the hills.  I would just hang on for dear life.  When it got really bad I would try to get them to engage in conversation and that would always cause the pace to slack off.   Rarely did the workouts turn into an all out race.  Kent and Doug knew the point of summer miles was to build strength. It wasn't about what I like to call, "who has the biggest dick" running.  There would be hammering but never any racing.

By early August I had a good indication of my conditioning by running the Lake Atwood Ten Mile in a hair over 60 minutes.  I went through the first six miles at 58 minute pace but died a slow agonizing death.  I was done in by the heat but I was pleased with the effort.

When cross country started it was business as usual.  Coach Steve Sublett would have us run intervals right out of the gate.  The early weeks of training showed that I was in great shape and we had a very good senior laden team.  But the first sign of trouble came when Keith Armitage caught mono a week before our first meet.  Then the weekend before our first meet I caught some sort of bug that left me with feverish that Saturday and Sunday.

I went to school Monday feeling weak but running no fever.  I figured that the best idea for practice would be to warm up and call it a day to rest.  Coach Sublett had a major workout in mind, 20 quarters.  He pleaded with me to run the first quarter and I reluctantly did.  I felt horrible, wheezing and coughing across the finish.  He kept begging me to run one more before leaving practice and again reluctantly I did.  Surprisingly I felt 100 percent better after that quarter and continued on through the entire workout, averaging a shade under 70 seconds.  It was a monster workout and it showed that I was in great shape.

Two hours later I was flat on my back feeling like a ton of bricks had fell on me.  I was sicker than I had been over the weekend now with a sore throat.  The workout had been a major mistake and would cause me to miss the next two days of school.  I made it back on Thursday knowing full well that I had to race on Friday in Manhattan.  It was an unseasonably cool misty day in Manhattan.  I was the favorite and took the field out hard.  I led through the mile and then I could feel the strength leaving my body and I was having trouble breathing.  First Northwest's Mike Mueller rolled by me then another and another and so on and so forth.  I ended up 13th feeling as weak as a kitten.

The worst was yet to come because Sublett had decided to run us in back to back meets and we traveled to Wamego the next day.  I had finished third there the year before and again figured to be the favorite.  The problem was I couldn't breathe and after taking it out hard I was in trouble by the mile.  It was a replay of Manhattan and again I hung on as best I could to finish 13th again.

The rest of the season was pretty much downhill from there.  The highlights, a 3rd place finish at Seaman behind Hayden's Dennis Weber and Tim Powell from Topeka West.  I remember Coach Sublette telling me I looked like a ghost coming into the finish.  My lungs were so screwed up my body was getting enough oxygen. 

A history making race followed at Shawnee Mission East.  It was the first time a girl had run in a boy's cross country meet in Kansas.  Tammie Gilpin from Wichita Southeast won a court injunction allowing her into the race.  It had rained all day and the course was a complete mud fest.  Gilpin ran in the junior varsity race and I'll never forget the look of fear on the face of Barney McCoy when he realized Tammie was trying to kick him down in the last 100.  Barney turned on the jets to save face.  I think she finished in the top 40.  As for me I was somewhere in the top 25 and ended the race covered in mud head to toe.  The bus ride home was a messy one.

I got sick again and missed our home meet.  I was running a fever for a couple of days and probably could have gutted it out.  I caught a lot of heat from my teammates for skipping it.  League and regionals followed and I managed top 25 finishes.  Regionals was the icing to the cake as both Clay Kappelman and Tom Reynold beat me.  It was the first time a teammate had beaten me in any race over a mile in almost two years.  It was a sign of things to come.

As for my lingering illness, it wasn't mono, the doctor believed it was simply a stubborn lung infection that wouldn't let go.  I figured a month of rest would put me on the road to recovery so I looked forward to a winter of training in hopes of salvaging my senior year.

1 comment:

  1. John, your text is making for a great "Journey Through the Past" and the tales you relate date from the same epoch as Neil Young's album and film. And your writing has a gritty authenticity similar to Young's work during the year of 1973.
    That lung infection was very unfortunate; After reading the previous installments, I expected to hear that the young Rinkenbaugh would be vying for a state title. Shakespearian demise. Kind regards, Marc-Antoine

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