I like to bet. For those of you who have read the story about how I was a professional gambler, this is obvious. What I don't like to do is exercise. At one point in my life, these two activities joined to provide an interesting story.
I have a friend named Hayden. He likes to bet me. For a while we had a running string of bets, and I was down overall because I failed to get 10x his score in a Tony Hawk competition. At one point I was one of the top 10 Tony Hawk players in the world. That lasted for about 5 minutes until someone from Japan beat my score.
Hayden and I sat across from my kitchen table.
"I never exercise. I'm going to train and run five miles."
"Sure you are..."
I wasn't known for my physical prowess. I never worked out, and probably hadn't run farther than a few blocks. Running five miles was out of the question.
"Oh yeah? Bet me."
A typical conversation. Back then we could hardly have a chat without the challenge of a bet.
"But it has to be more than five miles. I bet you can't do 10."
"Sure I can. Give me a year to train."
We shook, and the bet was forgotten for months.
Soon I had only three months left and I hadn't even begun to train, unless as, you count buying expensive running shoes, which I did.
It was time for action.
I put on my running shorts, Nike Coolmax socks (not best in the land... don't buy them), and an old t-shirt. I strapped on my GPS watch (as I alluded to, I had already bought all the gear I could find.) My feet hit the pavement and I ran a mile with relative ease. I could do this.
I had twelve weeks left. If I just increased by one mile each week I would make it. I decided to run a mile and a half in a few days, and two miles a week after the first mile.
The next week I ran two miles easily. This was a piece of cake.
A few days later I attempted two and a half but just couldn't make it.
Pushing back my schedule, I tried again the following weekend. Still couldn't make it.
My friend Jake discovered that I was training and was eager to give advice. He was training for a marathon, which he later completed, and knew everything there was to know about running. The problem was that when he gave advice it seemed very condescending. He constantly offered to train with me and help me, which I declined.
At my next scheduled running day I decided to motivate myself. If I didn't complete this week's run, I decided to surrender and take any and all advice Jake gave me. I did the two and a half with flying colors. This makes me look like a total asshole friend - sorry Jake!
Progress continued steadily. I hated running more than anything. It was boring, and brought with it a gradual agonizing pain. I had a crappy MP3 player that could hold 11 songs on it. Each one still reminds me of grueling jogs through the neighborhood to this day.
I kept my training a secret. Every asked how far I could run, but I refused to tell them. With the deadline approaching, everyone took my silence as admission that I hadn't yet begun.
I had dinner with Hayden.
"You haven't trained at all, have you?"
"I've done some training. I won't tell you how much."
"I bet I'M a better runner than you."
He was in track back in the day, but hadn't run in years.
"There's no way you're better than me. I promise."
"Want to bet?"
"Ok. A thousand dollars for the fastest one mile time."
"Fine, but you run first and I get to beat your time."
And so I now had $1500 riding on my running ability. We scheduled our race to be a week after the 10 mile extravaganza.
Eight miles was excruciatingly long. Forget this, I thought. I'm close enough. The adrenaline will get me past the last two miles.
I took the next week off.
My mother didn't know about the running bet until the day before. She criticized me in the past for my "sedentary lifestyle".
"Hey mom, I have a surprise for you."
"What is it?"
"Come to the high school track tomorrow at 10am."
She was confused, but agreed to come.
The morning of the race came. My mother and my sister showed up. My friend Austin was there. Hayden brought hot cocoa for everyone. He knew that he was going to win, and he was rubbing it in.
If there's one thing I can count on, though, it's my stubbornness. I was equally confident.
The first few miles were easy. I timed my progress to make sure that I maintained our agreed upon 11 minute mile pace.
Austin and my sister Kelsey took turns running with me. This relieved the monotony of listening to the same handful of songs on my mp3 player. Mile four passed, then five, then six, then seven, then eight.
I was in uncharted territory.
Hayden was concerned. He didn't expect me to make it past five. He ran with me for part of mile nine. I was doing fine, but after a lap or two I noticed him having a tough time. The one mile sprint seemed like it was in the bag.
Finally I had half a mile left. Victory was surely mine. My mother jogged up next to me.
"Tynan... Hayden said that you're about to run out of time. He thinks he's going to win. You should hurry up!"
I looked at my watch. I had half a mile left and eight minutes. It seemed like I could walk and win, but maybe I had messed up the timing.
I broke into a full sprint, which was difficult for my overtaxed body.
The finish line was in sight and I charged through it. I won with three minutes left!
That week I ran a practice mile. I did it in eight minutes, which seemed like it would be better than Hayden could do. I decided not to train more.
We met again at the same track. Hayden was up first. His pace was faster than I expected, but hey - a thousand dollars was on the line. He finished with a time of 7:31. That was 30 seconds faster than I had done. I was slightly worried.
I planted my feet and leaned forward into a lunge, waiting for the go.
"Three. Two. One. GO!"
I bolted. There was no time to feel pain - if I didn't run MUCH faster than I'd ever run, I was going to lose all of my 10 mile money, plus an extra $500. Losing wasn't an option.
I pushed myself as hard as I could. Seconds felt like minutes. I had no time to look at my watch. I could taste blood in my mouth, but I ran harder. After what seemed like a tortuous eternity, I sprinted across the finish line.
"How did I do?" I panted. My vision was turning black and I could hardly breathe. I clung to the bleachers to prevent myself from collapsing.
"Just kidding. Six fifty nine!"
I beat Hayden and even ran a seven minute mile. That's how I won $1500 from running. I didn't run for several years afterwards.
Today's story is dedicated to my good friend Austin. I moved from Boston to Austin my freshman year of high school and of course had no friends here. On the very first day I made friends with the people who remain my best friends to this day, and I consider that to be perhaps the most fortunate event of my life.
One of those friends is Austin. Now in the military flying whirly-copters, he used to be the one guy (well, actually I could pretty much always count on Terry too) who would always be in for a crazy plan.
This scheme fell right into our laps.
This is a local run which goes up our vicious hills, the foothills to the Santa Cruz mountains. I love it!
I ran it once before in 2009 when I was at my fittest ever having successfully trained for and completed a marathon. My finishing time then was 55:55, or an 11:11 pace, a bit slower than the pace I maintained for the whole marathon. Does that give you a clue how tough it is?
You start at the local high school, and run round the track. Of course, everyone hare's off too fast. People always do that at a race, but when it starts on a track, it seems to be even worse than usual. As soon as you leave the track though, you're right on the trail. About half a mile of flat, and then you climb. Gradually, for a mile, then there's a steep bit to shock you. You get a brief respite of flat and downhill and then you really start to climb and it just gets steeper and steeper until nearly mile 3 when you're well over 800 ft up. And then you run down down down down down. Until you're back at the school and haring round the track again. And by the way, a lot of that trail is quite rough. There's usually blood.
Things went a bit downhill on the health and fitness front after my first attempt in 2009, I didn't expect to do anywhere near so well this time, especially as I hadn't been training for this and hadn't run more than 3 miles since the half marathon in June, nor had I been running the hills. Nevertheless, when we heard some friends of ours had signed up, Philip and I decided on the spur of the moment to join them. I like attending the local events, and this one in particular has a very laid-back old-school vibe about it, despite attracting some seriously fast runners as well as enthusiastic slow-mos like me. Unusually for nowadays, this race also attracts lots more men.
It was a good day for a hard run, blessedly cool. It served our friends well, they both placed in their age groups. Philip had a good time, he took it easy for him. I had fun, gave it my best shot on the ups, ran hard downhill, and BOY! did my quads feel it over the next few days!