Sunday Morning Musings: Track Burn

I eyed the starter's gun between the shoulders of the dozen or so runners in front of me.

Standing not-so-tall and just over a buck, it was the first 3,200 of my sophomore year of high school, and I was coming off a monster winter where I averaged just over 45 miles a week - monster at the time.

It was the Duluth Invitational in early March of 2001, and it was a massive 3,200 field that went three deep behind lane 1, and stretched along the curve out to lane 8.

When the gun shot over two dozen 2-milers stormed the curve, and within 60 meters I was tumbling beneath them.

It was like getting turned around and around when a wave crashes over you.

One second I was striding within the crowd of fish, just inches from disaster, the next, disaster.

I tumbled along the track in the sea of runners for a bit, and when I finally came to a stop they were halfway up the track, or so it felt.

The field was so big that the starter never saw the fall, so the race went on.

I quickly jumped up and started sprinting - that worst thing to do.

I tried to catch the back of the pack as quickly as possible, and by the time I caught one person the adrenaline from the fall was already beginning to wear off.

I was still running laps faster than I ever had before, so I kept on rolling.

By the time I hit the mile I was moving up within the field but running on fumes. I passed the last person I would in this race around Lap 6, and then was immediately passed back, and the backwards spiral began.

One by one nearly everyone I caught early, caught me flailing underneath the Georgia sun in the latter stages of the 3,200. But I was determined to finish, regardless of where. 

I survived all eight laps, running 10:34 - in a 15 second personal best at the time. And when I finished I finally had something other than my burning chest to consider.

After crossing the line I dropped to the grass on the infield and felt a cool substance streaming down my arm, leg, and hip.

When the haze from the race had finally passed and I could see out the slits of my eyes I noticed red streaks down the sides of my body.


As result of the fall, I had endured the final 3,140 meters of the 3,200 with visible battle wounds.

Track Burn. 

The wounds quickly turned to scabs, and within a few weeks, scars.

Scars, like memories, have a way of standing the test of time, and right now it's hard not to imagine the scars coming from the track burn of a season washed away right as it was starting.

CHSAA officially called the season off Tuesday, which in some ways, seemed inevitable.

Colorado going down made it 29 states across the country that have canceled their seasons due to COVID-19.

And while it seemed inevitable, it still doesn't take the sting out the burn.

Every coach and athlete across the state, seniors in particular, had to endure the burn, and watch COVID-19 wash away the remaining hope they had for toeing the line one more time.

I can only imagine what it would feel like to put together your own monster winter in preparation for the spring, only to have the season pull back like the tides before you could even get your feet wet.

With COVID-19 sweeping the rug out from underneath us, it leaves us with the track burn that there will be no four-peat for Remington Ross in the 100, or Mia Manson in the pole vault, and Rich Martinez's 39 year-old 1,600 state record of 4:10.98 will "officially" live to turn 40.

The 2020 season, and some of the record books will have an asterisk from here on out. 

Sure, some saw this coming a month ago, but that never extinguished the optimism fully, even if it was blanketed more often than not.

We're built to have hope, even if you give us a 1% chance, we'll linger on that 1%.

What was it that Loyd Christmas said when given one-in-a-million odds?


Well, now that slither of a chance washed away in the COVID-19 tsunami that raged across the globe this spring.

Now what?

How will we look back on these times?

What will we remember of them?

Steamboat senior Maggi Congdon wrote a beautifully written - and emotionally powerful - essay that published on the site yesterday.

She wrote: "I believe what defines you as an athlete is not how you act when everything is perfect and goes the way it is planned. It is how you act when nothing goes as planned that shows the kind of athlete and the kind of person you are."

This is where we are.

We're in the phase of the the storm where we decide how we'll move forward, and determine what we learned from this experience.

We adapt.

And I'll admit that it's sometimes hard to realize what we're supposed to take from all of this when it feels like we're constantly being pelted by the rain, but it'll come.

These are the times that build character for the future. Because there will be other challenges - rain delays, wind or snow.

Anyone remember the 2017 State Track & Field Championships?

This is Colorado, so take your pick.

The only difference now is that we're dealing with something new - we're in uncharted territory, which makes all of this feel more challenging. 

But consider this: any personal best came when we pushed ourselves beyond a previous limit.

And as any athlete will know - a challenge is a challenge. The only way is through it.

One lap at a time.

The scars from that fall all those years ago are still very visible on my skin. But they're also a visual reminder that I got up, and finished the race.

I think Sydney Holiday is all of us right now...