Little Girl Run Fast. Little Girl Break Eight. Smash!
I am hitting what feels like a 5:50 mile pace and I think of Schramm.
I never know where the mind will go when I step outside my door and put my feet one in front of another. One second ago I was in a trance and now I am thinking of Sarah Schramm.
Why? Because I’m going fast.
In 1992 the CCP (Cross Country Posse) shows up for the first summer workout and we are met by a new girl. It’s my sophomore year. I have worked hard to establish myself in this group. I am fast-ish. I am competitive. We all are. We know where we stand. Mostly.
Sarah Schramm is new and our coach, The Stork, tells us to be nice. “She’s fast.” he says, “Or so I hear.”
As you can imagine, we have mixed emotions about hearing this. We’re fast too. What does fast mean? How fast is she? Who is this girl? Why didn’t she run last year?
We stretch and chat. We make her feel welcome. We may be 15 years old and threatened, but at the end of the day we are nice kids. Still. We’re dying to see where this is going to go.
Schramm is small. Shorter than most of us and without the long, look of the chronically underfed cross-country runner. She looks like a trackie. Like a good 800 runner. Maybe a miler.
We’ll see how she does with the distance.
A speech from Stork and then we’re off. It’s the first workout of the year. We’re taking it easy. We’re catching up.
Schramm is not.
In fact, she pulls away immediately. We keep track of her for a few turns and then we lose her. She’s gone.
We murmur and try to play it cool.
“Wow. What’s that all about?”
“Does she know how far we’re running?”
We never see her again. Schramm is fast. She runs with the boys. She runs with Nate Fucking Gregory. Not just any of the boys – she runs with the fast boys.
She is standing there stretching with them when we get back to the start. It’s five miles later and she looks happier than she did when she started. Storkson is smirking. He looks like a pig in shit.
The world has stopped spinning correctly and somewhere way out in space the stars are crashing into each other in terrific displays of chaos. I look up and expect to see the blue August sky falling into the fray of us.
This is not the way things happen. This is not how it’s supposed to go. No one runs with the boys. No one runs with Nate Fucking Gregory. I don’t care how fast you are – we run together.
We are all thinking the same thing.
Along with this thought we are all thinking some version of “Yeah – but can she beat Angie Fortner?” and “Shit. I just went from 3rd to 4th. That blows.” We have a state contender on our hands and we don’t know what to do with her.
Schramm has just raised the game.
She leaves. Storkson approaches. “Did you see her foot turnover? Did you see it?”
This is the worst part. Schramm stealing some share of my allotted Storkson love. Schramm displacing me among his favorites. Schramm? With her little legs and curly hair? Really?
“I didn’t notice.”
Of course i noticed. I had a missle lock on her for as long as I could see her – I just never fired because I couldn’t keep up.
We go home. The season roars on. Schramm leads us, then gets injured, then loses focus, then comes back. When she is there, she’s fast.
We come to love her.
I can never run with her, because her legs turn twice as many times as mine do. Even when I’m running in front of her, it looks like I should be running behind. Mine is a stride, hers is Speedy Gonzalez on crack. Her style drives me crazy. I need to fall into rhythm with someone. I need to fall into step. I stick with Gagnier because we’re built the same and our feet love to land together.
Gagnier is who I think of these days when I run.
I have named my HR monitor after her. She is my gauge. She is my motivation.
Today I run with a zeal I’ve not felt in years. My legs are snappy when I leave the house. They feel good. I feel good.
Everything has come together. I know it’s going to be a good day.
40 degrees, light wind. The mail carriers are wearing funny white rain hats that look like they’re on safari. They have capes on. I should be cold, but I’m not.
Head to toe black. Today is the first day that I am brave enough to wear the black running tights. I feel like you should be fast to wear them.
I do them justice.
It’s a comforting discomfort. A steady pushing. A constant acceleration. The heart beating 170 times a minute, sometimes more. The rhythm is a trance. My mind turns off and I go into the vacuum.
When I come out of it I stop the clock and slow down. I have run straight past my house and I am already halfway to Stumptown. Tuesday, on the same route, I hit time 4 blocks away from my house.
I know I’ve had a good day.
I head in the direction of coffee, remembering the cash I stashed in my pocket. Then I flip to the file to get the data.
Avg HR: 167
I have blown through the 8:00min pace mark. I have blown the run into a million pieces.
It’s more than I would have ever hoped for at three weeks into training and it has cracked something open inside of me.