I finally found a new partner to train with. The conversation is pretty much one sided between us with me doing all the talking. He hardly speaks. He is not one of those guys who has to have constant stimulation during the run. He is very task oriented and focuses on surviving each grueling training session except when something diverts his attention like a jack rabbit in the bushes. He makes up for his silent demeanor with heavy panting. The weird thing about his breathing pattern is that it's always the same intensity regarless of how fast or slow he is running. I sometimes feel like he is working too hard on such an easy run, but then I remember guys who I used to run with in high school and college. Some of whom couldn't tie their shoes without letting out a few grizzy breaths. These were the same guys who were right there or faster than me during track repeats and races. Similarly, I have raced against guys who never made a sound, just controlled, quiet breathing, who I could dismantle in the later stages of a race. So my conclusion is that breathing volume just doesnt correlate well with finishing place. With my new running friend, nothing seemed to correlate.
We met yesterday while I was running my standard "easy" day route. The route bipasses the vast majority of the town (aka paved roads) and traces an old, dirt ranching road at the base of the airport mesa. This section of the run ends approximately 1.5 miles from my apartment where it spits you out into a neighborhood. It is in this neighborhood where I met my new running partner. At first, I did not want him with me. It was just something else I had to worry about: him getting hit by a car, him being beaten by his owners for leaving his home, or him dying on me 6 miles outside of town on some old ranching road that no one ever travels. I attempted to convince him to return home but he wouldn't budge. He wanted to run. He wanted the freedom that so many people crave that only running can provide. I gave him that freedom and then some, the choice to feel the lovely fatigue after a hard workout.
As much as I tried to put him away I couldnt. At first he thought he was the top dog, literally. He led the way for our first two miles together galloping with his head up high smirking as caged onlookers howled. I geuss jealously got the best of me after trailing this new runner so I decided to make a run for it as we hit the start of the first big hill climb. I just blew by him and didnt look back until I reached the top. I saw an animal possessed, poised to reach the top. This guy is pretty good.
We regrouped at the top and started along the rolling terrain where I typically do tempo runs. The pace started out moderate and soon progressed rapidly as pride once again got the best of me. He and I found ourselves cruising along side eachother on this rolling ridgeline under an orange and pink arizona sky. I glanced down at my watch to check the mile pace: 5:57. Not bad for an easy day and for taking the first half of that mile slow. This was my scheduled turn a round point but we continued on silently into the next mile. I felt a little spunky so I turned it up a notch and increased my stride frequency. Everything in my legs felt smooth finally after battling IT band problems all winter. Unfortunately, my new partner wasnt feeling as well. He started to fade back. I glanced at the defeated canine who was struggling to hang on and I growled, "come on." I kept pressing on and on until the next mile point which meanders uphill for the second half. The watch read 5:28. I let the legs wind down to a stop and looked back for my new friend. There he was finishing as strong as he could 25 seconds back. I gave him a pat on the head and some words of encouragement. He gave it everything he had. That's all you can ask for. Thats all anyone can ask for.
I started the run back home easy feeling satisfied with the effort. My legs and lungs, heavy and tight, I steered the course for home. We could relax now until next time as this cycle continues forever with all runners. . .