Coming off the Miami weekend in January of 1983, I got caught in the rain during the first run back and came home feeling dragged out, with cold symptoms haunting me all the next day. “I’m resting tonight to see if this is how to cure a cold. Lot’s of Coca-Cola today. Laundry night. Nose is sinus sensitive but the running’s stopped, no pun intended.”
Years later I would discover that for me, the use of zinc tablets knocks out colds in the early stages. I also learned that extremely dry air contributes to sensitivity. And so does late-night masturbation when I was already tired. About that, I’m not kidding. As a perpetually horny young man, those rituals were simply part of life. But there was a yin and yang response in my body at times, that I could feel almost instantly. Something about the additional fatigue of a session was enough to shove my body over the edge.
So I learned to be judicious. If that sounds crazy, so be it. I beat the cold for once and lined up for a race the last weekend in January. It was a five-mile road race. I wore a pair of new Nike Mariahs, a new racing shoe with a full air insole. They felt light on my feet, but my toes went numb from the air soles. They were an interesting cream color that matched one of the pale yellow hues in my watercolor set. I wore them a few times and retired them to comfort shoes because my feet felt terrible every time I raced in them.
However, the race itself went well. I went out fast in 4:45, through two miles in 9:45, and three miles in 15:00. Then I hit some hills and came through four in 20:35, still a fine time for a four-mile race, before finishing solidly in 25:39. “Not bad for January,” I wrote. And, “Dick Hayden went by me.”
That was the humbling part of racing for the Runner’s Edge team. Almost everyone was faster than me. But the best aspect of that truth came back to the training. If it doesn’t crush you, running with superior athletes almost always makes you better.
On February 11, I got a call from a former Luther College teammate, Keith Ellingson, who was in Philadelphia on a coaching seminar. We went for a short four-miler together in Philly, and got to catch up on life some too. I had not seen him since the previous New Years when Linda and I traveled to Decorah to go skiing with Keith and his wife Kristi.
We got a killer snowstorm in the middle of February, nearly 20 inches overnight, so rather than run some road race, I found an indoor track meet and blasted through a 9:29 two-mile, running miles of 4:40 and 4:49. The next day, I ran a measured 15.5 mile run in 1:37:30, or 6:00 pace. But through it all there was a nagging knee problem, a bit of tendonitis that would not go away. Part of the problem was the training shoes I’d purchased at the start of January. The Saucony Dixons I tried were just too stiff and hard.
And in late February, I was facing other stiff concerns. “Linda ground me out by phone,” I wrote. “I still can’t make a commitment.”
On January 29th I’d written in my journal, “Is this confusion, fatigue or lovesickness racking my body this time through. My stereo keeps clicking off. Nobody better read this is they don’t want to know the truth. 3 hours of sleep. Restless sleep with a green-eyed lovely next to me. Her camisole was so damn cute, better than I ever imagined her body anyway. Firm breasts and a round, solid pair of glutes. And loverly. Oh so companionable. But she will probably never orgasm until her daddy-went-away (and I don’t blame her) complex is dissolved. I didn’t try to perform miracles, but my love is heartfelt for you. Your name will never change to me, green eyes. I hardly care if I am first or last or even best. I have been yours and that is enough yet never enough. I’d like to spoil you. Simple yet complete girl and woman. It is a lonely house. Doctor My Eyes. You must help me if you can. Was I unwise to leave them open for so long? I’ve learned how not to cry.”
That woman and I would see each other again after we were both married, but nothing was ever mentioned about that night between us. It did not need to be. Who says that sex between two people cannot be about connections that need never be explained? Certainly, the prudish Christian world sometimes times insists that love outside marriage is some kind of sin. In some cases, I believe it is the exact opposite. Sex between two people that love each other yet know their futures are not meant to converge in matrimony is both the ultimate compliment and the penultimate complement. It is the bodily confession of departure, the form of goodbye that lasts forever. And frankly, I experienced that with a previous green-eyed woman, and have no regrets.
So while my path seemed aimless at that time, as if I could not make up my mind about anything, in truth the entire journey was a wide-awake attempt at finding out who I really am. I’d also sit at the easel most days painting like a fiend, in love with the process, and trying to make something real out of nothing. It was all so parallel: the running, the loving, the painting, and the writing. To this day, I make no apologies. In some insane way, I really knew what I was doing.