Why Run?

Chapter 13 , Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Geri and I walked the last mile back to Glendale Boulevard. The workout had refreshed her – and nearly finished me. I wondered out loud what drove a 17-year-old to climb out of a warm bed every morning to punish herself. Her confident demeanor evaporated. She looked perplexed, maybe conflicted. I didn’t think Geri would answer. Or could. But after about quarter mile of forced silence, she chose to reply.

“When I was little, maybe a year old, maybe 14 months or so, I had trouble walking,” she said. “In fact, they thought I couldn’t walk.”

“Wow,” was all I could say.

“The doctors never did figure it out, maybe ten thousand neurons failing to fire here and there. Something like that,” Geri said with a dismissive wave of her had. “My mother still says it’s a miracle I ever did walk, much less run.”

“Some kind of weird polio, huh?”

“I don’t know. Could be.”

Geri shook her head and gazed skyward.

“My parents took me to therapist after therapist until they found one who said she could help. Can you believe it? Not even 2 years old and in therapy.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“That’s why I run so methodically, like a crazed robot.”

“I don’t think you run like a robot,” I said.

“No?”

“More like an android.”

“Shut up, Wells. I’m trying to be real here, and you’re giving me crap.”

“Sorry.”

“So the short answer to your question – what motivates me, why do I love to run?”

“Yes?”

“Because I can.”

“I like that.”

What else could I say? I was embarrassed I had asked in the first place. I was trying to be conversational. Instead, I got a confessional. For sure, I thought I would hear a shallow “I’m just good at it” answer or “I did it to meet guys.” Perhaps, “I’m just an old-fashioned masochistic girl.” Now I was ashamed. Yes, ashamed I took my God-given talent for granted. Why didn’t I take more pride in it? I put my head down and trudged along, wondering why I was like that.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Day Two

Chapter 12, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

And, of course, I was right.

When the alarm clock rang Wednesday morning, I got up and was the tin man walking. Geri and I had planned to do 10 miles of roadwork up and down nearby Silhavy Road. I considered calling her and begging off. But my coach had warned me that it would take at least 10 days to get acclimated. Until then, I would have to suffer. If I called off, I would just have to restart the clock.

So I crawled out of the house and wobbled the three blocks to Silhavy and waited.

… maybe, just maybe, if you’re lucky, her alarm will malfunction, and she won’t get up, and you’ll have to bag it, you can’t work out without a coach, it would be dangerous, and, and …

And there she was, right on time. Was there a doubt? Really?

Coach did have mercy on me. She jogged most of the way while I limped along on wooden legs that refused to loosen. But the limping slowly smoothed out. My legs came around, and I trotted the last three and half miles. Along the way Geri filled the one-sided conversation with horror stories of what I could expect as my body morphed into a mean, running machine. Predictably, I was speechless, gasping for air.

… where the hell do they get this  …

As we retraced our path on Silhavy, the soothing glow of the early morning sun tossed a few rays over the horizon that landed on us. It was glorious. It was inspirational.

It was only Day Two.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Death Wish

Chapter 12, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“Anaerobic training, Wells. When you run long distances, your muscles can’t remove the latic acid they build up fast enough. So ya get that burning feeling. Ya become fatigued and can’t kick those last 20 meters.”

“Kind of like the city trash haulers,” I said. “Too much trash.”

“Trash haulers? Whatever.” Geri said. “Interval training helps overcome it. Or at least, builds tolerance.”

I had read about intervals in my first issue of Runner’s World now that my subscription had kicked in. But I wanted to hear Coach explain it. For me, it sounded like nothing less than torture.

“Are you going to run intervals, too?” I asked.

“Of course, it’s Tuesday.”

“So what’s Wednesday?” I didn’t care. I just wanted to postpone intervals as long as possible.

Geri was happy to elaborate.

“Sundays and Wednesdays are distance days, about 10, 11 miles each.”

… GULP! You might need a new coach …

“Mondays, we’ll do 200s at pace; Tuesdays, 400-meter intervals; and Thursdays, a variety of intervals. Fridays, we’ll do some special stretching and a handful of 200s.”

… DOUBLE GULP! You DO need a new coach …

“And Saturday … ”

“We sleep in?” I hoped.

“Nah, that’s fun day. We race.”

“Race?”

Geri gave me a good, pained look.

“That’s why we’re out here, Wells.”

I wasn’t used to having young girls call me by my last name. It felt odd. But again, this whole arrangement was peculiar, bordering on Ripley’s.

“OK, Coach. What’s first?”

“We’ll do a 400 in 65 seconds, jog for 50 seconds, do another in 64, jog for 45 seconds, do one more in 63 seconds, jog for 40 … ”

“Hey, who’s going to time us?”

Geri pointed to her wrist.

“Don’t give it another thought. I have the stopwatch right here. Let’s go. It won’t hurt you a bit.”

… isn’t that what your dentist says as he reaches for his drill …

In high school, we ran intervals as a group of six or seven. When we were on the far side of the track, we bitched like prison lifers and called old Rockard names I can’t repeat here. I was a juvenile then. As an adult, I was much more mature. After each, I just cussed under my breath.

Once we got started, though, my legs got with the program. They didn’t like it, but they responded. I ran intervals with Geri and I was totally surprised that I could still do it, knowing full well I would be dead the next day.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Simply Suicidal

Chapter 12, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

The next morning I reported to the high school track by 5:30. Mirroring the same stretches that Geri did, my 48-year-old body was a dead maple tree in a windstorm, ready to snap at the first deadly gust. My 17-year-old coach, however, ran through her warm-ups as if she were made of new taffy. Her legs grew longer with each stretch.

“I bet,” said Ms. Smarty Pants. “If ya did a little yoga, ya might, I’m jist sayin’, ya might be able to get within five inches of touching those toes.”

I ignored her.

With that she scooted down the front stretch. Me, I sat on the ground, bent like a half-baked pretzel. Yes, I could touch my toes. No, I couldn’t put my feet behind my head – yet. Yes, I could do all the normal runner’s stretches. No, I couldn’t do all the ones a high school track star could.

… we’re not kids anymore …

The voice knew what buttons to push. But I pushed back.

“Ralphie already said that, dumb ass.”

That shut it up.

I wrestled my right leg back and then my left, stopping centimeters short of tearing muscle fiber. Instead, my legs sizzled with that burning sensation you feel when you stretch to the limit – and past. My legs were smoking. Geri cruised around, and I joined her.

“You’ll get used to it,” she said and smiled her wicked little grin, but then looked puzzled.

“Ya smell smoke?”

“Maybe.”

Overheated but loose, my joints moved like cooked spaghetti.

“So what’s the program for today, Coach?”

“Today’s Tuesday, and that means intervals,” said Geri. Pumping along and talking as if she were out for a stroll. “Did they have interval training back in the Dark Ages?”

“Depends,” I said. “Exactly what do you mean by intervals?”

“Intervals,” she said as if anyone would know what she meant. “Intense, easy, intense, easy and so on. You’ve heard of it, right?”

“OK, I guess so. Rockard made us do something like that, but we didn’t call it intervals.”

“So, what did you call it?”

“Suicides, of course,” I said. “They sucked. What’s the big deal?”

Geri stopped and stared at me as if I were from Jupiter. Coach didn’t like it when I played stupid. Problem was I wasn’t playing.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Bang! You’re It

Chapter 11, Blog 4

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“And that is … ”

“State Champs, of course.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right.”

Dumbfounded, I tried to recall how many track state champions the Vikings might have. I counted the ones I knew on one hand.

“Small club, for sure, Girl. How did you know about me?”

“The sports editor looked it up for me last year. I was thinking about doubling this season. I’m looking for a new challenge.”

“A new challenge?”

“Yeah. And your name came up.”

“You’re going to do the 800, too?”

“Nah, 3,200. 800’s for wimps.”

“Thanks.”

“Ya know what I mean.”

“You’re a junior, right?”

“Yeah.”

“You’ve got way too much ambition.”

Geri laughed in a high-pitched hee-haw. I wondered how I would get back to my training  without seeming rude. I needed to get to work by 8:30.

“And speaking of ambition, what are ya shooting for?”

Without thinking, I said, “I’ll take anything under 1:47.”

That froze Geri in her tracks.

“1:47? For an 800?”

… way to go, Motor Mouth … ”

“I misspoke. Probably anything under two, you know.”

“1:47? That would qualify you for … ”

“A Master’s performance meet, right?”

“No … ”

I could see her crunching the numbers in her head. If Geri were a true aficionado of everything track, she would guess what I was targeting just by that number. Within seconds, her eyes widened. Her mouth flapped open.

“I think you need to be 50 for the Masters. If you ran in the Seventies, you would be under 50. Unless you flunked or … ”

“You can see I don’t do well with math.”

“The Olympics? You’re … ”

“No, I’m just trying to get into shape.”

“I’d say. 1:47? Who’s your coach?”

“Don’t have one.”

“You’re gonna need one. 1:47?”

“Got anyone in mind?”

“Do you want a coach?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know.”

Geri whirled in front, pointed her index finger at me and pulled the trigger.

“I said I needed a challenge.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Price Is Right

Chapter 11 , Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“Didn’t Rockard tell you? I got permission from him yesterday.” I dug for my note.

She stopped and shot stares of total disbelief at me.

“No, Mr. Rockard didn’t say anything about letting a bum stay here. What’s your name?”

“Wells, And I used to own this track.”

That made Pigheaded glare a hole through me.

“Look here, Mister, I own it now.”

She tossed her cellphone in her gym bag and started what I thought looked like a series of stretches straight from Neptune. At one point, she had her feet behind her head, and I’m sure something went “Snap, Crackle, POP!” The human pretzel girl freaked me out.

“Now, let’s see what ya got,” she said.

She darted down the track. I followed. The pace proved quick. It took a supreme effort, but I kept up with her. She had a machine-like stride with no wasted motion. “All legs and arms” knew how to use them. After two quick laps, she slowed to a brisk walk. I hurried to keep up, breathing hard. She breathed without effort.

“So, training for the Masters season?” she asked in a businesslike tone.

“Not exactly.”

… Masters? Jeezer, geezer, how old do you look …

“I’m just seeing what I can do.”

“Sorry I yelled at you,” she said. “Had some trouble with a homeless guy last fall. Tried to follow me home. My dad said the next time just call the cops. So … ”

“So that’s all right. I know. I get that a lot lately.”

“You ran for Valpo, huh?”

“Yeah, Chuck Wells, 880.”

“880?”

“It’s the 800 now. When did everything get so metric?”

“Don’t know. Long before my time. That’s for sure. You ran in the … ”

“Seventies.”

“The Seventies? Dude, that was way before I was born.”

“Don’t rub it in. Say, what do you run?”

“Are ya kiddin’?”

I stopped. Thought for at least a Eugene, Ore., minute. And then I remembered.

“Price. Geri Price, right?”

“Si, senor.”

“State champ in the 1,600.”  Now I was embarrassed. “You went undefeated last year. You’re always in the paper.”

“Yeah, Wells, you’re not as dumb as you look,” she said. “And I suppose, technically, I should treat ya better. We do belong to the same club.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Kick In The Ass

Chapter 10, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

“Damn, Ralphie, it’s barely 7 o’clock.”

“Jist kiddin’.  Here, I brought back yar ball.”

He whistled the basketball at my face. I caught it inches from my nose and threw it back harder.

“That’s not my ball,” I said.

Ralphie snagged it easily but appeared confused .

“Ya sure? My ol’ lady’s tired of trippin’ over it.”

“It’s not mine, and you know it.”

I decided to be proactive.

“So what the hell do you REALLY want?”

Caught off-guard, Ralphie shifted his weight back and forth. The black eye I gave him had almost disappeared.

“I wuz thinkin’ … ”

“That’s a change.”

“Shuddup! Don’t make this any tougher than it already is.”

“Well, what do you want?”

“I’m sorry.”

It was rare as an Indian head nickel for Ralphie to apologize. But I was still minus a tooth and angry. So angry, I would have hit him again if I didn’t have my foot in a bucket.

“Sorry? Sorry for what?” I yelled.

“About whut I said. Ya know … ”

“And … ”

“I didn’t mean it.”

I sighed.

“That’s all right,” I said.

We paused. My anger dissolved. I guess he meant it. Ralphie slouched, hands in his pockets, staring at the floor. For Ralphie, that was as sincere as it got.

“So why ya doin’t dis?” he asked without looking up.

I exhaled long and loud.

“Why am I doing this?” I asked rhetorically.

I pondered the question, a question I had answered only in bits and pieces.

“I really don’t know.”

Ralphie looked up, mystery draping his face.

“It’s not like no one’s makin’ ya,” he said.

“I know.”

“So?”

I shrugged my shoulders,

“All I know is I’m waking up in the middle of the night, calculating what I need to run in my third split.”

“Ya can’t sleep?”

“I’m stuck,” I said. “I can’t do anything without thinking about it. Yeah, I’m obsessing.  Can’t help it. I’m obsessed. Or just crazy.”

Ralphie took a tentative step toward me.

“Chuck, we’re almost 50,” he said. “We’re not kids no more. We’re … ”

“What are you saying, Ralphie?” I blurted, knowing full well where he was going.

“Face it. Ya got no chance.”

… hey, Dummy, maybe you should listen, you might learn something …

“What ya mean?” I growled.

“Ya got a better chance of landin’ on da moon, dude,” he said. “Jist give it up. It’s a waste of time.”

“GIT OUT!”

“Chuck … ”

“GIT THE HELL OUTTA HERE!!”

Ralphie took a slow step back. He opened his mouth to speak.

“GO!”

I pointed to the door. Without another word, Ralphie left.

But he had just kicked my ass.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Sorry, We’re On Strike

Chapter 10, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

The pain shot up my leg straight to my brain.

…. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHH!

All I needed was Cujo to complete my all-too-real nightmare. For a long minute, I sprawled helpless on the cold, crumbling backtop. It was unanimous. My muscles declared a work stoppage. No way they would reconsider. Outnumbered, my brain grappled against the rest of my throbbing body, now in full mutiny.

It was no contest.

“Git up! C’mon, guys. Listen to me.”

No response.

“For Pete’s sake, just don’t lie here.”

“Knock, knock.”

“WHAT?”

“We said, ‘knock, knock’.”

“Christ! Who’s there?”

“Abused.”

“Abused who?”

“YOU abused US for way too long.”

“Please, can we take this over to the sidewalk? We’re going to get run over here.”

“Forget it.”

“Please.”

“Not on your miserable life.”

Finally, a compromise broke the impasse: No training for one day with an option for two more. We had a deal. Work stoppage lifted, my muscles put me back on my feet. The bat I left. I couldn’t stoop and take the chance of toppling again. Dragging my bad ankle home, I dreamt of the speed I burned the day before. That’s all I could do because I was crippled. Sure, the bastards took the option. I knew they would when I made the deal.

But what could I do? They held all the cards.

On the morning of Rehab Day No. 3, I had my left foot chilling in a bucket of ice up to the knee, next to a bucket of scalding-hot water. Ice for two minutes, then hot for two minutes followed by ice for two minutes, hot again and finish with ice. You can’t get any more old school than that. In high school, when you couldn’t work out because of injury, you had to do therapy. Back then, coaches did not recognize that muscles had rights or even options.

I was almost done when there was a knock at the front door. Unable to move, I yelled “Come in” and hoped it wasn’t Cujo making a house call. Worse, it was Ralphie. He stood there gaping at me and my buckets. In his hands he tossed a dribble-worn basketball.

“So whut ya doin’ now, Butthead?” he asked.

“What the hell does it look like, Ass-wipe?”

Ralphie smirked at the ice bucket.

“Got any beer in thar?”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

One Vote Of Confidence

Chapter 9, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Afterward, my wife had a few questions.

“Let me understand this,” Melinda said as she struggled to sit up in bed. “ Any time I get horny, I can just call Cujo and … “

“I don’t know his name, but I don’t think it’s Cujo.”

“All I know is since you started this workout nonsense, we haven’t made love. That is, until now. You always roll over. Say you’re too tired.”

“If you say so.” What else could I say?

Yes, my early morning jaunts of training had derailed our love life. I wondered how many athletes were divorced. Would their percentage be higher than the average dysfunctional couple? How does someone like former baseball star Nomar Garciapara and ex-soccer queen Mia Hamm cope? Before Mia retired, surely they had to book their sex life months in advance.

The sex had done its job and taken me down an adrenaline notch and a half. In spite of Melinda’s babble, I began to doze.

“Daddy, get up.”

It was Jessie, our precocious 5-year-old daughter. Like her sister, Shannon, her sparkling, blue eyes sprinkled joy everywhere they aimed, even into my dark, sleepy ones.

“Daddy, are you going to get out of bed soon?”

“No,” I said.

“Yes, Jessie,” answered Melinda. “You want breakfast, don’t you? Go ahead and get dressed. I’ll send Daddy to McDonalds.”

“OK.”

Off she scampered.

“Breakfast, huh?” I wondered out loud. “Can we just skip breakfast today? Cujo didn’t get his breakfast.”

Melinda stifled a giggle as she tossed on a red-and-white polo.

“Maybe you could get Cujo an Egg McMuffin.”

“I think he prefers a Wells Burger Happy Meal.”

For that I got a face full of pillow. At the breakfast table, I got interrogated.

“Daddy,” started Jessie. “Why are you running every morning?”

“I’m in training.”

“Why?”

“He’s trying to make it to the Olympics,” said Melinda. “Pass me the milk, Hon.”

“The Olympics?”

“Yeah, the Olympics,” I said. “You know, daaaa, daaaa, ta-da-da-da-da, da-da-tada-da-da-da-da. They award medals. Remember, we watched it on TV.”

Jessie’s eyes blazed blue.

“The bobsled? You’re going to be in the bobsled?”

“No, Honey, the Summer Games. Track and field,” I said.

Disappointed, Jessie looked down and flipped over her breakfast burrito.

“It’s Daddy’s latest midlife crisis, Honey,” Melinda said. She sipped her coffee. “It’s not really serious. Just humor him.”

I ignored Melinda and focused on Jessie.

“Track and field. It’s fun. When I was in high school, I won the state title in the 880.”

“Yes,’ said Melinda. “About 80 years ago.”

I ignored her again. Jessie’s eyes opened wide.

“Daddy, can I have your medal?”

I laughed.

“I have to win one first. Mommy and some others don’t think Daddy can do it. They think I’m too old.”

“You’ve got that right, Jackson,” said Melinda. “I think I have a hundred years of history on my side.”

“See what I mean? Maybe they’re right,” I winked at Jessie. “But I might give it a try anyway.”

Jessie squinted and studied me for a hot 10 seconds.

“I think you can do it, Daddy.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Think Again

Chapter 8, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

One of a hundred million negative thoughts weaseled its way in through my firewall. They always do. They’re worse than malware.

… could THIS be a one-time deal … just asking …

Like Bob Beamon’s 29-foot-plus long jump in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City? Twenty-nine feet is nothing today. But in ’68, it was like someone beside the cow had jumped over the moon. Some said it was the thin air. Some said a mysterious gust of wind carried Beamon a few extra feet. Some said it was a burst of …

ADRENALINE.

All I know was … The barking dog jumped. My adrenal glands pumped.

No rocket scientist need apply. As long as I had run around the block, I didn’t see that beast. He would be hard to hide, too. I never saw any dog. Whose dog was it? Where did he come from? Was he alien? Or just German? Had he stalked me all this time? Waiting for the opportune moment when I was too tired to put up a fight? Thinking about it made my heart quiver. That dog, he had crazy eyes. The eyes of a demon.

More importantly, did I need to find a new place to train?

… WHOA!

… Did you say “train?” Didn’t you just retire? That’s gotta be the shortest retirement in the modern history of track and field …

All right, I didn’t think I could sprint a record quarter mile every time Satan boy tried to put the bite on me. Nobody has adrenal glands like that. But you know what?

This is my neighborhood. This is my block.

That is my street. I paid for that street. Taxes laid that asphalt. My taxes.

“Should I let bow-wow take a nip out of me?” I asked out loud.

… uh-huh, who’s the crazy one …

“Someone owns that monster. Someone with a homeowner policy and a sizable liability provision.”

… hey, Mr. Victim, you’re talking a perfect 10 on the Imbecile Scale …

“With that kind of potential settlement, I could finance my training, stay in the best motels during meets, hire a professional coach. Depending on where the dog bit me, though, it would take a while to heal, especially if it were on my leg.”

… I KNEW IT! You are crazy …

“So what? You really think I’m going to get bitten, so I can stay at the Hilton?”

… WHEW! You had me going …

I plopped on the sofa. I tried to talk myself down, but the adrenaline still trickled. I tried meditating.

“Grrrrrrrrrrrrr … ”

Nope, no use.

Maybe some sex would calm me.

“Oh, Melinda.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang