Thoughts From Three: November

After the success of Jim Vermeulen's XC Journal in the many falls of Cross Country, we've asked again for him to provide some news and notes once a month. Think of these as the thoughts that cross the mind of your average coach. Up from Section 3, we present you with "Thoughts From Three."


Today is Monday, and all that's left of them (them being our total teams) is Carly on the girls side, headed to the state championship, and that same boisterous group of guys, the ones who enjoy each other's company enough to enter NXN regionals for the hell of it just so they can extend their season three weeks and keep the afternoon arguments going.

          Today, from the sounds of what reaches me through the trees, the topic is something complicated, but I don't know for sure because they are too off far to listen in on as they navigate the soggy training trails on a 10-10-10 fartlek. No matter where you are on the training grounds this day, we've had too much rain in too short a time.

With little to monitor, I'm out walking and munching my apple, checking the paths, considering the trees, the weather(which is at least dry today) and how this Inner Loop trail I created almost two decades ago has smoothed with years of footsteps and mowing. Back then, after I'd flagged the eight hundred meter serpentine route around the back field's insides, and after maintenance made the first cuts through weeds and wildflowers, Coach Delsole and I would drive the circuit one or twice in our vehicles following each practice, punishing leaf springs so there would be less teeth-chatter by the runners later. "You can stop to throw off the big rocks," we'd regularly instruct them once the loop was open for training and racing. All around that loop, though, a large percent of the land once thistle and goldenrod has now obscured itself with trees and shrubs, those victors of field succession. I feel old just looking.

          I hear the runners coming through the woods trail, and, assuming they will finally stay straight and climb up the Inner Loop hill to where I'm positioned for a picture, I wait. But they bypass the entrance and head back toward Three Corners, never noticing me standing nearby. They're too occupied with gabbing and arguing.

          Whatever. It's a few more moments to appreciate our school training area, now that it owns a history wider than weeds and wind. Tunnel Hill, The Terrace, Narnia, The Void--everything has been named and thus grounded in human memories. There's even an alumni band titled after one of the trails, though our Outer Loop will probably outlast that band. Regardless, you can't argue a lack of natural beauty here, though that benefit might ironically be lost on the runners who created this very essence of 'place' with their sweat equity. Or maybe not. Maybe the memories of woods and trails, of light and shade, of hard days and exhilarating achievements will come back to them years from now at odd moments, like refugee echoes.

Soon, however, the last leaves of this season will parachute to resting places and the field flowers and weeds will blanch to their lifeless winter colors. It's a long way from June. For a short while, though, probably into early December and after the runners have moved on, the grass in the trails will flaunt its green, those last pencil lines of summer, admirably stubborn until even that defiance will simply be snowed under.