6:30. Sit-ups in bed to wake up. Un-prop my swollen feet from the pillows, find my uniform.
In the kitchen, there’s the rest of the big fattoush salad I made for dinner, Rick’s oatmeal from yesterday. I shovel some of it into my mouth, pack the rest in plasticware. We have to get going.
I wince as I pull on my orienteering shoes: the back of my right heel is pretty torn up. The stiff rubber cleats give great traction, but the padding on the back pills and rubs. But this is what I’m wearing. It’s this or my rain boots, and I can’t run in those.
The air is cool on my bare arms. The yellow of sunrise makes the mountains extra blue.
It’s a holiday here, so there’s no bus. We’re walking to the shuttle stop: around the airport, down the big hill from the cliffs, across town. I dodge the path, take the mountain bike shortcut around the stairs. Habit: save my joints the shock of pavement. I’ll ask a lot of them later.
“Certainty,” I mutter to myself. It’s been my watchword on this technical terrain: if you lose contact with the map, you find yourself in some vague patch of woods, thick running, identical litte hilltops and depressions in every direction.
If you lose track, you have to bail out: find some trail, power line, big hill, attack back in again. You’ve lost if you have to bail– it takes too long. But the only thing worse is not bailing out, continuing to poke around and hope and wander.
I haven’t run clean races the last two days. Sometimes I’m on, but I’ve had to bail out on several controls, get certain again. I have to do better today; I’m running for the USA. I have second leg on the national B-team, so everyone’s watching. The third leg runner will be waiting for me.
Keep your head. Focus. Slow down if you have to, just stay certain.
My muscles are sore but not tight: I waded into the lake after yesterday’s Middle distance course. The cold water numbed my ankles, calves, thighs, all the way deep enough for those little muscles by the iliac crest. I stood there, soaked, stretched: recovery.
We make it to the 8am shuttle, set up on the bleachers. It’s a stadium setup; our map is the site of the biathalon trials. We’ll be running around ski trails, and the start/finish area is the rifle range.
This place is also a bowhunting range, the course notes inform us. There won’t be anyone shooting…