The day of the Panther Invite was a beautiful Colorado day with very little wind and bright sunshine. Bill enjoyed the drive to Colorado Springs. When he arrived at the track he sought out Charlie Gladwell and the 4x800m team. He wanted to advise them of a few things, particularly to stay out of the sun. Shade under the stands was their best bet.

“Don’t be like the sprinters,” he said, “who walk around without their shirts on, showing off their stuff. These adolescent displays are folly, but also instinctual, the way an ape might pound his chest, or a bull stomp the ground and snort dust into the air. A show of force. You’re more evolved than this,” Bill joked, half seriously. “You’ve stood up on the Savannah to chase your prey with stereoscopic vision. You’re distance runners.”

The 4x800m was the first race of the day and came with the benefit of engaging the body before the mind could play too many games. Sitting at a meet all day waiting for a race can be torturous. A race has a similar effect to the first hit in a football game, it calms the nerves and sets the mind at ease, giving an outlet to pent up energy and reminding the mind that the body knows what to do.

Dan felt snappy in the Competition warm up and is wise enough to reflect that he will definitely need to hold himself back in the first 450 meters of the race.

To change it up, Bill has Dan third and Phil Charriere will anchor. The first and second legs for Green Mesa, Sam Robbins and Phil Morrow, both run poorly against very good Arapaho and Rampart legs. Dan is 25 meters off the leaders when he receives the stick from Phil and yet proceeds with control, not nearly as aggressive as Bill expects him to. He reels in the prey methodically. After 320 meters Dan has made up the deficit and gears down, breathing on the necks of the two race leaders. It is a three way race with the rest of the field far behind. Dan has completed the first 400 meters in a controlled 58.8, nipping at the heels of the leaders along the backstretch. Bill splits him for the third 200m in 31.1. The leaders are beginning to wane on the third leg and Dan is taking it conservatively.

Bill stands at the 200 meter start line.

“Go now, Dan.” Bill says, over the top of his hand resting on his chin.

Dan crisply bumps the pace and surges past the two leaders, putting 10 meters on them around the last curve. Dan arrives in the hand off zone 20 meters in the lead, which may or may not be enough for Phil Charriere, depending on how strong the anchor legs are for Arapaho and Rampart and how well Phil runs. Bill notes Dan’s final 200 meter split as 29.2. What’s more impressive is the command Dan carried through the final 50 meters. He is ready to run a few seconds faster.

Phil finishes with a personal split of 2:00.56, and 8:05.01 for the team, holding off Arapaho and Rampart for the win.

Dan, Sam Robbins, Phil Charriere, and Les Morrow take three laps on the infield following the race, joking and laughing as they go, feeling the ebullience of victory. The Lunge Warm Up follows the jog, with Gladwell on duty, assuring small lunges are employed. The foursome finish with Myrtl before retreating underneath the stands to rest.

It will be three or three and a half hours until the 3,200m, enough time to eat a piece of fruit, perhaps raisins or an apple, maybe a handful of crackers, and replenish with fluids. Each runner knows what they can eat through trial and error. Bill doesn’t much care what they eat, but discourages junk food and soda sugars that cheat the body. Les Morrow the sugar fiend, fishes out a bag of animal crackers, popping the white and pink speckled animals one after another. He blames his sweet cravings on his blue eyes.

“A dead giveaway for a sugarholic,” Les says, as if it were a medical fact, and he no more than a lousy victim of an involuntary condition. Everyone receives one or two. Dan audibly observes the addictive quality of the animals and is cut off the supply by Les. The bag empties to crumbs in minutes.

The foursome cat nap, play cards, and text back and forth with friends. Later, Dan, Phil, and Sam, all juniors in Gladwell’s American Lit class, decide to do some reading and take turns reading aloud from Dan’s copy of The Scarlet Letter.

The meet is predictably behind schedule, and the four, all running in the 3,200m, begin their Competition warm-up routine twenty minutes before the scheduled start time of the race instead of 30 minutes.

Bill suggests that the four include a couple of 100m repeats at pace, 18.5 sec per 100m. The pace feels super slow to Dan.

At the gun Dan goes to the front. Bill and Gladwell stand at the 200m mark and Gladwell calls out the splits as the Green Mesa runners go past.

“34, 35, 36.” Gladwell says, marking Dan’s pace.

“Too fast.” Bill says.

Dan slows his pace and comes through the 400m right on schedule at 74 seconds. After making an initial adjustment on the first lap Dan does a tremendous job of hitting splits thereafter. At each lap Bill simply calls out “right on” or “that’s right where you want to be.”

Dan’s lead extends a second or two with each lap and with two laps to go it is evident that no one will catch him. Dan doesn’t accelerate in the last 600m, 400m and 200m, which would have been ideal, but continues in a steady 74 pace to the tape finishing in 9:44.3.

Sam, Phil and Les finish in 10:14, 10:16 and 10:27. Respectable times given their shallow aerobic foundations, Bill observes to Gladwell, quite pleased with all four of the performances.

After five minutes of walking and chatting, the four begin the warmup for the mile relay with three easy laps on the infield. Dan leads the group through Myrtl leg swings, then 2x120m In-n-Outs, hitting 95% for the middle 40m, a primer for the pace of the 4x400m. The foursome comprise the “B” 4 x 400m team

The four warm up on the infield. Les carries the aluminum baton.

Dan will run the second leg, allowing him to chase a bit from this spot. Bill wants to see what he can do, especially given the fatigue of the 3,200m living in his legs. The important thing about running the 4x400m, from Bill’s perspective, is that his distance runners will receive the benefit of fast twitch stimulus and will have to ask their nervous system to get out fast and metabolically hold on and endure a fast pace for 400m. Somehow this is always easier to do when taken in relay form at the end of a meet.

The distance team looks skinny and pale next to the other teams at the starting line. Les runs the first leg and does a commendable job for a sophomore just minutes removed from a two mile race. Les hands off to Dan in last place but only a few seconds back. Dan punches the gas and by 300m has closed the gap and is running just off the back of the tightly bunched group. On the homestretch Dan passes the Green Mesa A team’s 2nd leg and a couple of other runners, positioning the Green Mesa B team in the middle of the pack. Sam receives the baton from Dan and is summarily passed by the entire field in the first 30 meters. Green Mesa B is back in last place where they will remain.

Dan splits 53.2, but the key in Bill’s mind is that he went out in 25.2. The last 100 meters dove a bit, but this was only a function of not having the buffering capacity to deal with the lactate that a hard run 400m produces. Dan will receive treatments for this condition in future training sessions.

Following the race the group of four run two laps barefooted on the infield and finish with the Wharton AIS 10 minute routine. There is no blurring hard and easy on this day. Three races and significant warm-up and cool-downs have made for a demanding day of training, with some pretty good race results to go with it.

On the bus home Dan receives instructions for Sunday from Gladwell: a light swim in the pool or a short 40 minute hike on Green Mesa. His choice. A day Willoughby terms active rest.

Dan opts for a swim and a hot tub at his parents’ health club. Crane has to convince his son that while he would love to play him in a match of squash, it is not in Dan’s best interest to play. Certainly not in Dan’s legs best interests. Dan concedes with a minimum of griping and teases his Dad that he isn’t worried about his welfare, he is worried that he might lose if they play. Crane doesn’t take the bait.