We used to race from the gut.

We used to race from the gut. At least that’s how it seemed.

We didn’t know about macronutrients or sports nutrition or myofascial release. We didn’t get massages or wear compression tights to bed or have fancy tools to measure our output.

We had a coach. His name was Storksen. He yelled at us while hanging out the window of a VW van.

He told us where to go and how hard to run but, basically, we went out and tried to beat each other. Up hill repeats or running quarter mile intervals around the track we had only one goal – to finish first.

At races we stretched and jogged around for warm up – there were no carefully prescribed regimens or scientifically calculated sequence of events. On the line we prayed together because we were all Jesus-freaks though we raced for a public school. When the gun went off we RAN. There were elbows and a little shuffling during the first 400 meters and then things usually shook out.

During the first race of our Sophomore year, my best friend Sarah G. went down in a start line scuffle onto the jagged surface of a red cinder track. I remember looking at her and holding my hand out to help her up, but when she saw me her face turned into a scowl and she screamed, “What are you doing?! RUN!!”

I left her because I knew she would catch up. Sarah G was always a few clicks faster than me.

We ran from the gut.

I once ran in borrowed shoes because I’d forgotten mine. They were too small and by the end of three fast miles my feet were bloody, the tips of my big toes rubbed off.  I had a good race that day. I went fast. The shoes were an afterthought.

Our uniforms were 12 years old and it was bloody murder trying to get funds for new ones even though we didn’t lose a single league meet for four years in a row. I always wore bright flourescent sports bras that you could see underneath. When people made fun of me I took it a step further and bought flourescent socks with flourescent racing flats. Our team colors were navy, red and white. Nothing matched. It didn’t matter.

During my junior year I had a problem with nosebleeds. I’d get one almost every other workout. They didn’t bother me much and sometimes I would come trotting back to campus looking like I’d just returned from a massacre. After a while, it got annoying to try to stop them, so I just let it flow. It kept my coach entertained.

We used to race from the gut. I didn’t even know heart rate monitors existed and I had no idea what technical clothing was for. We wore cotton shirts and cotton shorts even when it was pissing rain on a long Saturday run in late October.

Technology now is mind-blowing and I love it as much as the next fitness/running/cycling nerd, but there were days when the only thing that mattered was how hard you could make yourself hurt for 45 minutes while keeping Sarah G in your sights on the infamous “Big Fairwood” loop.

Hydration was a water fountain on a path near the golf course and god-forbid you drink too much because you’ve still got three miles to go and everyone knows that Schram is going to put the hammer down as soon as we crest the next hill.

They were good days. Rugged and hard and raw.

I train like an adult now, with charts and graphs and records and measurements and calculations – but when things get complicated  I like to stop and remember what it felt like to know absolutely nothing and feel absolutely everything.

We used to race from the gut. And every now and then we should remember to live that way too.

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  1. Great post, Heidi. I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now but I’ve never commented. Your posts always nail it on the head and help me get my butt out on the bike.

  2. Yeah, how’d we ever get stuck on the hamster-wheel we call “training” anyway? Ah heck, let’s just blame it on Chris Carmichael and Lance! Hmmm, I sense a blog post coming on… but first I gotta go ride in the rain for a bit.

  3. Awesome post. Brings back a lot of high school memories.

  4. Here, here.

    I swam in highschool. Different details, same story. When I am training on the bike now, I get the same feeling: sometimes it is good to get back to basics.

  5. That’s the same idea that made me get rid of my cycle computer for several years. I found it a lot more enjoyable to listen to my body telling me if I were fast or slow than watching some frustrating little number tick up or down. I still use one now or then, but I only let myself look at it after the ride.

  6. You used to. I still do!

  7. This reminds me of two things that should never go together, unless, of course, you are 15 years old. Corndogs for lunch and 400 meter repeats at track practice.

    I felt old at 17 when this combination, for the first time ever, made me vomit.

  8. I’m with Mac — I left my cyclometer in some forgotten shoebox of gear when I fitted out my new bike last year. Best year of riding I’ve done yet. Thinking long and hard before rigging it up this season.

  9. I always race from the gut. Right now for instance, I’m eating delicious chocolate balsamic drops. Earlier it was muffins. My gut keeps me riding everyday.

    Wait, wasn’t there another post recently about that?

  10. I don’t like numbers. I trust my body and so I listen to it. Gut racing (on the bike) is the only way I know how.

    Excellent post.

  11. It’s a sign of the age not the times. Parker (14 year old freshman girl) runs like that now. Borrowed shirts, socks, never borrowed shoes. I ask her everyday how the workout went and there is usually a comment about how she kicked Genevieve’s and Summer’s ass today or how she dominated the hill during the tempo run.
    Only recently have I gotten her to cut out a lot of sugar and eat better, but she is resisting. She’s going out kicking and screaming for the simple life, or as you say “from the gut”…

  12. Eddie? Uncle Eddie?

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