The way it was.............running and lifting in the 1980's

I am a child of the 80’s. Have ya’ll seen that “I love the 80’s” on VH-1? The 80’s ruled; I lived it as a teenager and it was a blast. So, much different than today. As teenagers, we didn’t have as much on our plate as kids do today. We seemed more carefree and had more time to enjoy things. When I first started running in 1986, track (and weight training for that matter) was not mainstream for the typical teenager in my area, much less actual “training” for such things. For those few of us who actually knew anything about track, Carl Lewis was king and we started hearing about this guy named Ben Johnson, who was fast coming on the scene. For those of us who played sports, baseball in my case, the belief was that too much extra training, running and weights, would hinder performance. The only folks who lifted were some football players, however, some of us baseballers were sneaking in the weight room.

Even though I was pretty skinny back then, it didn’t take long for me to put on some solid muscle. Not the big bulk as we call it now, partly because we just didn’t eat much around my house, and most folks didn’t eat as much as they do today. There was no such thing as “super-size” meals. I was strong but in a wiry kind of way. I was considered kind of strange since hardly any of the average kids my age lifted. I worked out, running and lifting with a few guys named Charlie, Scott, and Troy. We benched, curled, pressed, and squeezed those store-bought grippers.

We would go to Troy’s house and drag some weights outside and would workout and run four or five days per week. We knew nothing about rest days, which seem to be so important nowadays, and we still made great progress. We would do push-ups, sit ups, weights, sprints, then we would run 2 or 3 miles after we worked out, it’s just the way we did things because we didn’t know any better. We didn’t know that running distance would hinder our sprinting ability! There were hardly any resources available to us; and there was no such thing as the internet. I know it’s a shock to some of you to know I made it through high school and most of college with no internet.

Anyway, I went on long trip, across the country to California, and while on the trip, my cousin said he heard about this 10k race on the 4th of July and he challeged me to run in it with him. The only running I had ever done up to that point was running wind sprints for baseball and challenging kids to races in PE class at school. I was always one of the strongest, fastest, and best coordinated, so naturally, I thought a 10k would be easy. While out in California that summer, my cousin and I “trained” for that race. Our silly teenage-lack-of-resources/information on running–logic was to be able to run 6 miles, so that’s what we did every day for a month leading up to the race when we got back home. In those days, I was back and forth between KY. and Florida, where most of my family is from. The searing summer heat/humidity in the deep south didn’t matter to us, so what if it was 92 degrees and humid, screw it, let’s go out and run! We would run on the side of an old country road in the grassy shoulder–three miles out, three miles back in. We finally came to race day and both of us staggered and stumbled our way to the finish line in 53:03 and that was my introduction to running.

Troy, Charlie, myself, and Scott continued to lift and run. When it came to running, sprints or distance, I was the man among my circle of friends. I didn’t know that distance runners weren’t supposed to be sprinters and vice-versa. Looking back now, I should have just ditched the distance running!! I was natuarlly strong, fast, and could always jump and I would later get up to 36" vertical. Troy lived in the ghetto part of town, and we had these two friends, Antonio and Willie who would use me for bets, since white boys weren’t supposed t be fast or be able to jump. He would set me up in a basketball pick up game, give the guys a taste of my jumping, then make bets with others that I could dunk a ball. Of course, a 5’8" white guy who could jump that high was very rare, so he would alley oop the ball and I would jump up and slam it in. The black guys loved it and I got instant street cred and was welcome into their neighborhood from then on.

Often times, girls would come by to watch us lift, but we didn’t mind. We had our boomboxes blaring out some of the metal bands of the day–Def Leppard, Metallica, Van Halen, and our favorite country music songs since the girls liked that better. As we cranked out our reps and just talked, and shot the breeze between sets. We would have little contests and, with the girls there, we thought this would be an opportunity to show what we could do. We would go on forever, then do it again the next day. LOL, over training did not exist back then!

This was only the beginning and was before my track days, which would come soon, almost by accident. Scott dropped out of running and got into the bodybuilding scene and Troy would later be one of the best hurdlers in the state…to be continued, anyone?

I vote for it to be continued, talk about Troy, the hurdler. What did he do to train for the hurdles back in the 80s? Also, what happened DURING YOUR track days? This is all very interesting, and thanks for sharing, it’s really cool.

Good stuff - though growing up in Norway I can relate to it.

There were two reasons I actually wanted to get in shape. Baseball and high school girls. I started high school in 1987 and really, even though I was a track fan (one of very few my age) I didn’t have any desire to go out for our track team that year, but I did want to be fast for baseball. I loved sprinting and I would race anyone anytimme anywhere. I didn’t weigh more than 130 lbs in 9th grade, but so what? Since I was a baseballer, I loved to read about how Mickey Mantle could run from home plate to first base, a distance of 30 yards, in a blazing 3.1 seconds; I also started to follow the exploits of Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson. I actually met Carl after the 1988 olympic games when he came to my area for a book signing. he acted just as strange in person as I had heard about from the media. Troy and I tried out for baseball, which was during the same “season” as track, so all our practice time was devoted to baseball. We made the team and I was one of the fastest. This senior football star, named P.J. was actually a little faster. Troy was a great all around athlete. He was about 6’ tall, a lean 160 lbs., and a red-haired country boy, but he was very strong and fast in a speed endurance sort of way. He could throw the ball so hard that the catcher would have to have an extra glove on so it wouldn’t hurt so bad. We have a saying down here—you just fly by the seat of your pants–which means that you do things in a random sort of way with no organization. That’s how troy was–he did his own thing and often got into trouble with coaches for not showing up for practice, etc…One time, he and half the team got suspended for skipping practice to go to a REM concert.

Fast forward to my 11th grade year now. I had this good friend, David, who ran cross country and him and I got to talking about this girl that I liked, named Jen. She dominated cross country and track with the distance events. Well, I liked her and thought that I would try to run cross country to get a little bit closer to the action, I mean, come on, how hard could cross country be? About a week before practice started I decided to go out and run two miles in the blistering heat/humidity just to see what I could do–and it wasn’t pretty. I had been slacking on my running and just focused on lifting. I was much bigger and stronger than anyone else on the cross country team from all my lifting and I had grown a little up to around 5’9" and 160 lbs. The XC guys were all little and frail looking. The coach even thought it was a little strange for me to be out there but he let me on and I made the roster as the 7th and last runner on the squad! I had no idea that this cross country running would hinder my sprinting that I was to do the next spring and the coach, who knew I was fast, never said anything!! Me and this other guy, Patrick, got into an argument over "what would Carl Lewis be able to run a 5k (our xc distance) in? We agreed that Carl would be able to run around 17:30 for a 5k, so that settle that!

Jen and I got closer and we even started dating a little bit. Her performances started to slip a little and the coach blamed it on me and her dating. He said that I caused her to lose concentration and true enough, she didn’t do as well that year. This coach moved to Alabama and we got this replacement coach to take us through the rest of season. I did terrible at cross country and I staggered my way through the races–I was just not built to be a distance runner no matter how hard I tried–too much fast twitch I guess. I later found out that she was experimenting in some “recreational” drugs from some notes I found in her locker at school. I had my own locker, but I also used Jen’s and Troy’s for my classes that were in that particular part of the building, so I had books/materials scattered throughout the school. Jen and I broke it off and she started dating this guy who was clearly on drugs. Opium and ganja were the two big ones at my school back then. I said good riddance to Jen and moved on to chasing other girls with some moderate success. Jen ended up quitting track and just ruining her life. She went from one of the best high school runner in the state to nothing in one semester and to this day, I don’t know what has become of her.

1989 turns into 1990 and the spring semester. I had a falling out with the baseball coach because he show preferential treatment to those who would brown nose him and I wouldn’t do it. I told coach I was running track instead. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision and one that got me started in the track game. Troy agreed to join me and off we went to the first practice. I immediately knew that I was more of a sprinter/jumper and Troy was a natural hurdler…

One problem we had with my high school track days was that–we didn’t have a track!! After school we would pile into a bus, or cars for those of us who drove. I drove an old VW rabbit that would seat me and three others and often, I would let this girl I liked, Allison, drive my car. She wanted to prove to me that she could drive a standard shift and she got in and took off like Dale Earnhardt down that old country road that led to the college where we would “practice.” That small college had a 400m gravel/dirt oval around a soccer field. That was our track–dusty, chalky, loose gravel that was a pain to run on. It was rare for anyone to have a rubberized surface in my part of the world back then, especially at a high school.

Troy showed us immediately that he could hurdle! He naturally glided over the hurdles and made it look easy so he got the nickname of “Frog” because of it. We had some small hurdles that were beaten all to hell that would be used for practice. Troy was a free spirit like myself and we took advantage of the lack of structure in practice. The problem facing us was that we didn’t have a coach who knew jack about how to train us. The basketball coach served the role of “sprint” coach, lol!! So, most of our time was devoted to running laps on that dirt oval–the “coach” was only 5’8" and 150 lbs. soaking wet but he would yell and scream “run hard on the straights and jog the curves!!” I would practice some run ups for the long jump though, but as for techinque, nobody knew how to train me or what to even work on.We didn’t practice top end speed, no drive phase training, and block starts? are you kidding me? We didn’t have any blocks to practice with. There was no tempo work and we ran with whatever shoes we had. In those days, we didn’t have the staggering number of shoe choices that we do today. I borrowed some shoes from this guy on the cross country team–a pair of Asics Tigers–that I would use for every event I would ever perform in. I just didn’t know any better, nobody did. Troy and I would often just skip practice, get in the rabbit, and go over to his house to work on his car, which was an old MG midget, cherry red, or we would go meet Antonio and Willie to shoot some basketball. I savored those fun times with Troy and little did I know that years down the road he would lose his life in a tragic way…

I showed up at my first track meet and I was entered in the 100m and long jump. The only 100’s I had ever run up to this point were on that dusty oval, on the straights. I had never set foot in a set of blocks and I just couldn’t get comfortable, so whent the gun fired, I stumbed out and ended up running 11.71, which I didn’t know if that was good or bad. I’m sure my first ever experience with blocks didn’t help my time any. This guy named Chris Jackson, who ran for the host school won in 10.95. So, it was over to the long jump pit where, in my first ever competiton, I won with a 20’5" jump. I believe I was the only white guy in the event and, once again, I got instant credibility with them and I would become great friends with two of these competitors from other schools. They said that they had never seen me before (since most folks had run track since 8th grade) and asked “why haven’t you done track before now?” Most of the rest of the season was similar; we just did the best we could on whatever ability and training we could muster. I didn’t run anymore 100’s that year and just focused on long jump–topping out at 21’5" and running a few 200’s and mile relays.

Troy won his 300m hurdles easily and would later become one of the best around in spite of his poor training. Troy lived in poverty but despite all this, he was very smart and won the governors scholar award as well as a state title in drama presentations. Going over to his house was like going into a smoke-filled honky tonk bar. His mom and her live in lover, a really cool guy named Virgil, and his sister all smoked so much that you couldn’t see very well. There was always this fog in the house and when you left, you’re clothes would smell for days like cigarettes. When I would complain or choke on the smoke, Virgil would yell our, “well, hell-fire, son, don’t come in if ya cain’t take it!” I can’t imagine how much second hand smoke Troy took in on a daily basis, so I had no idea how he ran with such good speed endurance.
Anyway, we did pretty well for not knowing how to train and I actually finished 6th in state finals long jump my junior year, so I had something to build on. Boy, how I wish we had internet and access to all this training info back then…well maybe there was some from other sources, but I didn’t know how or where to get it. Blind, blissful ignorance.

Fast forward to senior year…

Yes,1990, seniors!! Cheers was the top tv show, we had Janet Jackson, Metallica, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, and MC Hammer, New York Giants in the superbowl, and Cincinnati Reds won the world series. Finally, my senior year and I was ready to take it on. The sports, the friends, the cars, the girls, bring it on! Still oblivious to any sort of training methodology, I ran over the summer–distance of course because I just thought it was “getting in shape” that mattered. I worked out with some football players when my high school opened up the weight room for us in June. Bench, squats, power cleans, curls. Our weightlifting teacher used to say that curls were useless in most sports and that we were “doing curls for the girls” as he said. What in the blue-hell was I doing? Lifting like a football player yet I was going to run cross country in a couple of months!!

Looking back now, some of the things I did probably could have counted for GPP as we know it now. Weight training, jogging, mowing lawns, and working in the tobacco fields in blazing summer heat/humidity all helped to get me in shape. I even went over to Alabama to pick some cotton. Troy even skipped the whole first week of school in order to harvest tobacco. We had to pick it, load it on a truck, then hang it in a barn. Brutally hard work!!They paid $8 dollars an hour, which we thought was a million bucks back then. We were so amped up to get that kind of $$$. I was oblivious to how CC would hinder my sprinting/jumping but I didn’t know and I didn’t care; I was more worried about girls. I didn’t do any better at cross country–I still sucked, but I did manage to get a PB of 17:59 in my last regular season race. Our team made the state finals and I was so pumped up, I crossed the first mile in 4:38 and I wasn’t even going all out. Then, as usual, I faded fast after the one mile mark. I don’t broadcast this much, but I could also run a 800m in less than 2:00 if the conditions were right.

After XC season, I was looking forward to track and improving my long jump and 400m. Troy swore he would go far in the 300 hurdles and even break 53 seconds in the 400. We took two months off and entered this indoor meet, in which I was to go 55m dash and long jump. I had never run a 55m dash before and, with my troubles out of starting blocks, I was nervous. I was a little intimidated being one of the only white boys in this event, but anyway, I placed third overall in a piss-poor time of 6.6 seconds. I came in second in the long jump with a 21’ even. The guy who won was this HUGE black guy named DeWayne and he jumped 23’2" and made it look easy. I don’t know whatever happened to DeWayne–I never saw him again at any track meet. He could have dominated if stayed with it. As for me, I never ran in another indoor meet.

In the first outdoor meet of our senior year, Troy smoked the competition and won by 3 meters over the second place man. I won the long jump and was routinely near 22 feet. Me and this other guy named Dominico usually pushed each other in the long jump. Dominico would later go on to be one the better triple jumpers around our area. Our coach tried to “recruit” some kids at school who he thought would be good track athletes, and we did have a few just roaming the streets. This one guy, named James would have been the fastest if he would have run track. He was faster than me and proved it a couple of times and he could jump out of the gym, but he had no interest in track at all and ended up joining the Army after high school. This other guy, we called him “Plunketti” played baseball and was a heck of football player. He would have dominated in the 200m if would could have gotten him to run, but he got caught up with this girl and his beer/cigarettes and just didn’t care. I could run a 200m in 22.xx and I know for a fact David was faster than me. In baseball I would race him around the bases and he could be me by two full strides. Remember those two black guys I told you about who became good friends with me after my first meet? We got together at another meet and I beat them both in the long jump and they asked me if I could dunk a basketball and I said, yes. They started hootin’ and a hollerin’ and challenged me to see if I really could. So, after the long jump I didn’t have another event for over an hour, and we sneaked off away from the track and went into the school’s gym. I told them to alley oop me one, they did, and I put it down for them. Why don’t people believe me when I say I can do it? Both of those guys would go on to play college football.

Meanwhile, Troy and our coach were starting to into some heated arguments over his missing practice and even not showing up for some track meets. Our coach was pissed because Troy missing meant that our team was losing valuable points in the hurdles. This would all come to a head a little later, but first, spring break!!!..

Spring break, I went over to Panama City, FL with some friends and we did all the usual spring break beach stuff. I was tanned, strong, and ripped, and ready to go tear up Thomas Drive, which is the main drag that runs through Panama City. I did have to be careful though because this was my Mom’s hometown and, knowing my luck, I would do something stupid to embarrass her. In the midst of our good time, one guy in the condo across from us got wasted! We have another country saying down here…“that boy was three sheets to the wind”…meaning drunk as a skunk. Anyway, he fell out of the third floor window, broke his neck and died at the Panama City hospital later. A wake up call to all of us, even though we didn’t know him. I really liked this little blond girl that went with us, Melissa, and she really liked me but we never really went any farther than friends. She even snuck out on a few dates with me while her boyfriend went off to Georgia Tech, but really nothing serious ever became of us. Maybe she was just a little too shy and reserved for my taste. That was a recurring theme for me. There were plenty of promiscuous, over-sexed girls that made it clear what they wanted, but in those days, girls weren’t as open and forward as they are now. Girls are much more bold these days and are not ashamed of as much. Why is it that the girls who liked me were not my type and I was not as interested in them?

I got back to school and was ready to resume the final stretch of track. Troy qualified for regionals and made it through easily and ended up qualifying for state finals in the 300 hurdles. I developed a fracture in my left shin and was forced to drop out of my usual quota of events. I had to tape up my leg when I ran or long jumped. Looking back now, it was foolish for me to run/jump on a fractured shin. Even so, I managed a 22.74 200m dash but could not do any better with our great “training” program,lol, and my leg problem. I decided to just go with long jump and the top two at regionals would go to state finals. I got second place! My PR long jump was 22’5" but I should have done better and I regret not pursuing the 100m more often, but with our pathetic training and lack of knowledge of training methods, I was spinning my wheels. We did have a guy named Mike on our team who ran 11.35 and, in practice, I could routinely beat him by two full strides, so whatever that’s worth, I’m not sure.

Troy could be a volatile type of person with a fiery temper. Right before the state finals, he got in another huge argument with the coach and quit the team on the spot–but he had a spot in the 300m final. He didn’t care. At the state meet, he was in the bleachers cheering me and a couple other team mates who made it to state. It was funny to see, when the 300m hurdles final came around, there was an empty lane 5, which is where Troy should have been!

I ended up winning the state final in the long jump, which is quite strange since I had little to no guidance, proper training, or encouragement–not to mention my fractured shin. When I think back on this, and knowing about training like I do now, I see how running XC, then trying to be sprint/jumper wasn’t the best combo. Oh, how I wish I had not run XC and, instead, had done sprining GPP!! But, we didn’t know any better. Dominico got 3rd in the triple jump and our team did OK after all. That was the end of my official competition in track but Troy kept on when he entered the Merchant Marine Academy.

Those were fun, care-free days. Now, today, with training, I’m finding out that I ain’t as good as I once was, I got a few years on me now, but there was a time back in my prime
when I could really lay it down. Man, how the years how flown by. It seems like yesterday and, in track, I may never be as good as I once was, thats just the cold hard truth, but I still throw a few back, talk a little smack when I’m feelin bullet proof. We’ll see what happens.

After graduation, we all went our separate ways to work/college David and Charlie ran XC in college, Jen went off into oblivion and unfortunately, Troy ended up becoming a very heavy drinker after his long time girlfriend broke up with him. This alcohol and his fiery temper would eventually lead to the bizarre accident that killed him later on. He is one of the biggest wastes of talent I have ever seen and his life and death should be a lesson to all of us.

I might add more detail about all this later on if you want…I haven’t even scratched the surface on some of the crazy times back in the late 80’s-early 90’s. Some of the stuff I can’t put on here, this is a family friendly site, right?

In addition to wanting to be better at sports, me and the guys lifted to impress the girls. We thought that if we had good enough muscles, that the girls would be ours for the taking. I like this girl named Bobbi and I made sure that I sat next to her whenever I could at school. She ended up moving far away, so it was fruitless. I became a regular in the weightroom at my high school and lifted with the football team. We did tons of squats, bench, presses, and power cleans. I got up to around 400 lbs. in the squat even at 160 lbs. bodyweight. My bench press lagged behind and I just couldn’t get past 185 lbs. Troy didn’t believe in squats or bench press. and he thought we spent too much time in the weight room. He claimed that he had natual strength and didn’t need the extra work, although he did plenty of arm bicep curls and tricep work. Also, he had an iron grip and could crush anything with his grip, which he claimed got strong from working on cars. Troy couldn’t lift as much weight as me in the weight room, but, he seemed to have more functional strength for everyday activities.

We knew nothing about nutrition compared to what kids know today. These days we have high schoolers who are practically nutrition experts. Not us. Growing up the south we ate everything and many things that would horrify some of you all who watch your nutrition. I’m one of the fortunate ones who could eat whatever, still have a hard body and not gain weight. My family genes are in my favor also, we all look a lot younger than we really are and we live long and strong. It’s tough to be strict on WHAT I eat, so I just tried to control the portions, you know what I’m sayin?

We ate sardines, chicken gizzards, gator tail, fried chicken, all kinds of fish, swamp cabbage, sweet potato pie, and any kind of veggies. I was raised on BBQ ribs and grits and would take that meal in a heart beat. Thrown some gravy on there, son. Wild turkey, country ham, I love it with a dash of Tabasco. Of course, I put Tabasco on everything, including ice cream. I learned that if something don’t taste good, keep adding Tobasco sauce until it does, or until your mouth gets so hot it won’t matter no how. Don’t forget the boiled peanuts. We didn’t care about grams of fat and nobody watched their “carbs” back then, at least we didn’t. We just ate good food (hey, it was good to us, anyway) and didn’t know much about supplements or protein powders, even though they did exist; just not the mind numbing number of choices like there is today. Lots of the guys took amino acids to supplement the already protein heavy diet that most of us ate.

We ate bad but we worked it off as teenagers. It seems like people were more active back then. There was no internet, no x-box video games, and cable tv was only a few years old and didn’t have the crazy number of channels to choose from. Back then, our cable had 30 channels and we thought that was really nuts. So, really, kids got out of the house more often and played more games. None of us just sat in front of the tv all day and, of course, we didn’t have the kind of computer stuff that we do now, so that option wasn’t there either. We always had some kind of neighborhood game going on–basketball, pick-up baseball, riding our dirt bikes, lifting our weights outside in the drive way, running, just getting out, and of course, football. In the south, football is like religion. My mom was afraid I’d get hurt and wouldn’t let me play for the high school. The coach even called and begged her since I was one of the quickest runners and since I had been lifting with them. Sometimes we would pile into our friends old, dirty, beat-up truck and go down to hang out somewhere. We would blast our country music when we had girls with us, since most of them liked that the best and we wanted to please them. I actually ended up marrying a country girl myself, so we always have it playing. Once, while in Chicago, she had to repeat her self everytime she spoke because none of the northerners could understand her southern drawl.

Maybe I’ll crank out some more of this junk later if you all want…

Keep it up, I enjoy reading it.

this is entertaining interesting, i like it.

Hey Heatwave, these stories are really interesting man. I had a similar childhood to yours. Playin bball, running just for the fun of it and to impress girls, eating whatever and still being fit as hell, jumping rivers and going on countless adventures. St. Vincent was years behind in technology so until i was about 10 years old (year 2000) that we were fully influenced by the technolgy boom of game consoles, cell phones, high tech computers etc.

Well as for athletics,we are still years behind, understand the woes of horrible training grounds, but what did we care? We would run on anything.

Before they were few and far in between so most of my childhood was spent much like yours.

Please continue, very interesting. You had real “boy days” man, I could relate to ya. Want to hear what happened to Troy? Thats real sad man…

Going back to some 80’s training points I touched on earlier; one of the biggest regrets I have was not knowing the principles of specificity. For myself, Troy, Charlie, and all the rest of us, it was a case of the blind leading the blind. A lot of kids back then played multiple sports and didn’t specialize as much as they seem to these days. It wasn’t unusual for some of us to play football (american style) in the fall, basketball in the “winter” (as if we actually had one), and baseball, or track, in the springtime. Then, you had idiots like me, who although I was a good jumper and “decent” sprinter, I was screwing myself by running cross country when I should have been lifting and doing mobility drills.

I guess the interval training we did wasn’t too bad, but there was just no direction, no guidance, no expertise for us jumpers/sprinters. Occasionally we would have time trials on that dusty, gravel oval. I can remember clearly running a 300m time trial. It was hotter than hades that day. Several of us lined up, and as the coach, blew his whistle (like the referees use in football), we were off, leaving a trail of white dust and sand in our wake. I had on a pair of those thick soled jogging shoes like you would wear for a 10k road race and I crossed the line first in 37.7 seconds. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. Troy came in around 38.1 seconds, which is good considering the incredible amount of second hand cigarette smoke he took in. He always had good speed endurance, but I eventually would overtake him in 300-400 meters. The reason I know this is because, in our mile relay splits, I usually nipped him by .3 tenths of a second. One day he got very pissed at me because my split was better than his.

One time at this early season meet, I decided to experiment with some caffiene pills known as “vivarin”; do ya’ll know what I’m talking about? Back then there was this commerical that said, “Revive, with Vivarin!” and it was suppsed to be loaded with caffiene. I popped a few of those before the meet thinking it would get me all amped up for the competiton, but really, all it did was made me a total non-stop talkin, laughing, hootin’ and hollerin’ fool. I was acting this way with total strangers. I’m sure some thought I was three sheets to the wind that day. I wasted valuable energy on laughing and carrying on and I ended up 5th in the long jump, which sucked for me, but I did come to run a 52 second 400m 4x400m relay leg that day, I believe. This guy I knew showed up at the meet to watch me run the 400m. He was bragging how he used to run a 50.00 back in his day and he told me to go out and see what I could do. This was my first 400m of the season and the last one before I developed that break in my shin. It was around 11:00am and I thought the 400m didn’t start until 1:30pm, so I axed him to go out and get me something to eat. He brought me back a huge hamburger, fries, and a large Mountain Dew and I sat there and ate it all—then I hear over the loud speaker…“first call…boys 400m…” which wasn’t good. Todd, the guy who got me the food, started laughing, shook his head, and just said, “good luck…”

Well, I ran my a$$ off in that 400m. No strategy at all (remember, no coaching!!) except to run the whole thing like I would a 100m. At 300m, around the last turn, I about passed out; lactic acid was flooding me out and my legs felt like concrete, not to mention my stomach from eating all that food just 10 minutes prior. I passed the line in 53 seconds, went over to the fence, bent down, and hurled for 5 minutes. What could I have run that day if I had a good strategy and balanced out my energy usage and didn’t eat all that crap beforehand?

Note to self: pay attention to schedule and don’t eat big right before sprinting.

When Troy and I would skip practice, we would go into Troy’s neighborhood and play basketball with Antonio and this guy named Willie Brown. Willie was a fullback on the high school football team. He was tough, strong, but humble as can be and just like to chill most of the time. I mentioned how they would use me for bets, betting the other black folk that I couldn’t jump up and dunk a ball. Willie asked if he could call me “Cracker” and I said that was fine. He would say, "if cracker can jump up and put this ball down, ya’ll owe me a…____(fill in the blank) and I would usually be able to do it. That was all I could do because I didn’t know the fundamentals of basketball very well. We would have similar games of touch football out in the streets.

Like so many words, “cracker” is different things to different people. To some the word may be an insult but to others, people like me, it is a proud label. It didn’t seem like we were as politically correct as we are now. Central Floridians, especially ranchers and rural residents are usually the ones who wear the label with pride because they identify it with the pioneers it originated from. I hope this clarifies why you sometimes see me refer to myself as a “cracker.” One of Webster’s definitions of “Cracker” is a native of Georgia or Florida used as a nickname. So, that is why I use it, it is a matter of heritage and to honor my pioneer ancestors. Florida has highways named “Florida Cracker Trail”, there is a breed of horse called Florida Cracker, etc. Cracker houses are also common. Anyone with Florida roots that go back several generations knows their “Cracker” roots. I still love to hear the stories from my mom and her brother of their families working on their farm. They owned 150 acres of orange/citrus crop and cattle. We have family recipes we use for cooking that go back to those days.

Lol, i used to be a victim of heavy breakfast before meets, i feel ur pain, thats messed up man. Lol.

I’m breaking this into smaller, more digestable parts, so it’s not so much to read at one time.

This reminds me of another method of “training” style that may have hindered me from my true sprinting/long jumping potential-----bicycling. One summer, I bought a Trek mountain bike, one of their earlier models, and I stripped off the trail tires and put on some of those thin road racing tires like you see Lance Armstrong riding with. I put in so many miles of biking, it was ridiculous and it never occured to me that this was akin to “endurance” training! We thought we were just “getting in shape”, lol :smiley: . Looking back now, it was counter productive to lift weights like a madman, then do endurance based work, but I did get down to 6% body fat, which I though would be good to land some women.

One summer back then, I was working at this hotel near Ormond Beach, Florida and I used to ride that bike everyday to work–11 miles each way in the blazing heat/humidity and with those huge insects we got there. One time, I was going to the University of Florida in Gainesville to visit someone and the girl I was riding with, her name was “Debbie”, let me hitch my bike on the back of her Honda civic. She insisted that I drive, so I took the wheel and, as we got off the exit ramp, her car died, stone cold dead and I coasted to the end of the ramp. We couldn’t get anyone to fix our car very quickly so, it would be a few days, so what were we to do? We prayed for a miracle, then this preacher man happened to find us and he gave us a ride to his place where we played basketball with his daughters and ate a huge dinner with this family. Quite nice of the man, don’t ya thank?

He offered to give us a ride from Gainesville over to Daytona Shores, which is the town we were living in at the time. He drove us down to Ocala, then we cut on state highway 40, which is a lonely, lost highway that goes through swamps and forests over to the coast. Well, HIS car quit on him out in the middle of that road in the swamp. Two broken down cars in a matter of hours, can you believe that? Fortunately, I had my bike on the hitch, so, I got on and rode for 20 minutes, 11:30 at night, in suffocating humidity (those of you from Fla. know what I mean) in pitch darkness through that swampy stretch of road. In the distance, I saw this little light flickering and, as I got closer, I saw that it was a little honky tonk bar. I went in and it reminded me of Troy’s house with cigarette smoke so thick I could barely see. This was a hardcore redneck bar. This was our real, rebal-flag rural Florida, not the tourist trap stuff that you all read about in the glossy vacation brochures. I told the bartender my problem and he gave me the number of this ole’ boy named Charles Lee, who he said could fix the preacher man’s car. I cold-called this guy and woke him up (remember, it was after 11:00pm), he was pissed and said I’d have to wait a while. So, i rode all the way back on my bike and when I got back, peddling with all my might because I was afraid Charlie would show up at the bar and find out that I left meaning that he came out for nuthin; the preacher had managed to start the car up and me, Deb, and the preacher drove on to the coast with our parking lights on, but we made it and I was glad that I was “in shape” enough to ride.

Later, I’ll say more about my “beach sand” training and more on Troy’s tragedy

Hey man great thread.
It makes me sad to read it though. My youth wasnt much fun at all for a lot of reasons and i hate thinking about it. I hate nostalgia and thinking about all the things i missed out on. In fact the word hate used to be the only word i understood. I was a very angry quiet teenager. I think i’ve grown out of that now.

But well done anyway. Going to enjoy getting through it all…

Hey Jo, I also have plenty of sad tales as well. One thing that promted me to start that thread was a recent trip to visit my parents. While at their house, I was dinking around in the basement and found an old dusty bag full of my old medals and newspaper articles where they wrote about me. I was also going through some old photos of my high school days and it made me think.

Then I started thinking back to what we used to do, the conditions we had, and compared that to what kids today have, with the internet and a cournicopia of expert training ideas at the click of a mouse. But, yes it’s just all in fun. We were just a bunch of country boys having a good time.

One other thing me and some of my friends used to do in the summer was “beach sand training.” After work, after riding my bike home, if we had time, some of us guys would go out to the beach and run some sprints in the sand–the loose sand that you get at high tide. That was brutal and would make your legs tire out in no time flat. Another idea was to get into the ocean to where the water was up to your knees–then try to run with the resistance of the water and waves hittin’ ya. The ebb and flow of the waves made this tough as well. Me, my friends Art, Damien, and this guy named Brent would do this a few times per week.

Remember that girl “Debbie” that I told you all about? Well, her and a friend worked at another motel about 6 miles down the beach and would walk to/from work everday and they would often be coming back the same time us guys were doing our runs, or we may have just been out riding some waves–anyway, they sometimes would try to walk/run with the resistance of the water, but mostly they would just think we were crazy but we just payed them no mind. It went on like this for a while and I had no clue that the “other girl” with Debbie would later become my wife.

Troy wasn’t really a beach person since he was so “white” and couldn’t get into the sun, so he didn’t like the beach scene much. I’m kind of a “darker skinned white guy” if that makes any sense to you all. That is, I can be out in the sun without much trouble and I become quite tanned complected. My wife’s like this also and, in the summer, she looks kinda like a spanish girl with her dark hair, tan, and dark eyes. Anyway, those are a few more things we used to do to stay in shape.

Troy had some good bodyweight strength training ideas that were not done by most of us. He was big believer in bodyweight training and had a system he called “walking sets” of pushup, dips, and pullups. We would be out in his back yard working on his car engine with Virgil, blasting out some Guns-N-Roses or Metallica on the box. Virgil hated that heavy metal music and he would start cussing and moanin’, so we would sometimes give in and put some country music on instead; which was cool with me, since I like it. Virgil liked Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings. Virgil was super strong in spite of his bad habits. I swear, that guy smoked four packs of cigarettes per day. His voice was all muffled from the cigarette damage, so you couldn’t understand him that well. We all have the southern or country accent when we talk, so I was able to understand Virgil. He and Troy got very strong also from working on cars and doing manual labor type of jobs that I mentioned before that we used to do.

So Troy and I would take a break from working on his car engine and he would say, “well, hell-fire! let’s do some push ups and dips” and he would crank out 50 push ups, walk across the yard and do 40, get up, walk back and do 30, and so on and so forth, thus earning the name “walkin’ sets” of bodyweight movements. Then, he would start over with pull ups. He would do 10, wait a minute then do 9, wait a minute, then do 8, and on until he got down to 1. He could do these all day long, and honestly, I couldn’t keep up with him. I’ve always been more inclined towards heavy weight, low reps, and could get a great 1-rep max. Troy, however, had better strength-endurance. He would often elevate his feet for push ups, do hand-stand push ups, use close grip, wide grip, or ask me to put a concrete block on his back while he did push ups, increasing the resistance.He was training to prepare to enter the merchant marine academy. While at the marine academy, he would start his downward spiral toward ruining his short life…

hey carryon, did this Troy have a amazing physic, was he intimindating.

Troy wasn’t an overly imposing speciman, but he was very strong. He was about 6 feet and 165-170 lbs. at his best and was hard as stone. He was stronger than most in the arms, especially his grip. He had an iron grip! You didn’t want to shake hands with him or compete in arm wrestling with him. As you saw, he was big believer in bodyweight exercises.

He might have been faster in the hurdles if would have lifted some weights, but he just didn’t like power cleans or heavy squats. Despite his poor practice habits, hard lifestyle, and incredible amount of cigarette smoke he took in, he still had a PR of 41.02 in the 300m hurdles, I believe.

“I’ve been livin’ in fast forward…Hillbilly rockstar out of control…I’ve been livin’ in fast forward
Now I need to rewind real slow”