Everybody bonks; even B-town’s best
Bonk (bongk) v. 1. An occurrence during physical activity when the body shuts down. Legs transform into 200 lb cinder blocks, arms lock up, and the trachea seems to shrink to the diameter of a straw.
When I'm at home I run with a group in Lawrence called the Sand Rats. They are a diverse running group consisting of men and women ranging from high school age to 60-year-old running veterans. Every Wednesday the Rats run a 7.8 mile loop through the KU campus.
My first summer with the Rats was after my senior year in high school and it was a humbling experience. I was regularly getting smoked by guys in their 30s and 40s. Of course they were running the regular 7.8 mile loop at about the pace that I raced the 3.1 mile in high school.
Finally last summer I was in good enough shape to easily hang with everybody, but this summer with the bum knee I was back to getting embarrassed.
The Rats kept urging me to bring Matt Noonan up to run with the group. So I mentioned it to him and he agreed to come along after summer track was over.
This was the week for Matt's inaugural Sand Rats run, and while I hadn't took the plunge until after my senior year, Matt was already running better than I did my senior year. Therefore, I had no second thoughts at bringing Matt.
As we drove up to Lawrence I mentally pumped myself up for the run. I told myself, "Matt is your guest. The Lawrence kids are going to want to see if he is for real and really smoke it tonight. Even though your knee hurts and you aren't in very good shape, you have to stay with them because Matt doesn't know the course. You're good enough, strong enough, and gosh darn it you're representing B-town."
When we got out of the car I turned and saw Lawrence high runners staring at the car with competitive faces on. I particularly noticed their top runner's expression (we'll keep him anonymous but use the alias "The Animal"). Matt and The Animal are easily two of the top high school runners in the state, but since Lawrence and Baldwin hardly ever compete together during the season this was a rare meeting. If you will, a clash of the titans.
We started the run and the pace was relaxed for about 30 seconds. The frount group was Matt, The Animal, Steve (the leader of the Rats who is in his 40s and holds about every road race record in his age group around the four-state region), and me, praying that I could hang.
About two miles into the run my shoe came untied and I had to stop to tie it. (I think it may have been divine intervention because I was going to die at that pace ... I'm too young to die).
Two other boys caught me as my shoe was retied and I hopped in with them and kept looking up ahead to see how Matt was doing.
Three and a half miles into the fun we rounded a corner and there was Matt. He was against a light post stretching his calves, and struggling for air.
I stopped to see how he was doing and between gasps he said, "They were (breath) killing me (gasp) David. I thought (huff) we were almost done (pant) and when I asked they said five more miles. I'm in no shape (breath) to do that. I let my competitive side take control and wanted to go with them."
He gathered himself and we continued the run. Even after slowing down we crossed the four-mile mark at 23:30 which was close to the fastest that I had ever gone through that point on the course. I was pretty angry at myself for letting Matt get sucked into the death pace. I just wanted to get him back so he could recover from the "bonk."
Matt gutted out the rest of the 7.8 miles and we even ran the last mile fairly quick. After we finished we hung around and talked with some of the Lawrence kids and after Matt walked away I heard one of them say, "He is a really nice guy." So while we hadn't represented B-town real well on the course, Matt had made a good impression where it counted.
On the way home we decided to that it would be an opportune time to visit the Myrick residence for a soak in the hot tub. In the tub we agreed that it was good to be humbled every once in a while. For Matt it showed he was human; for me it showed I'm getting old.