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The Road Less Traveled #7
On cross country and trying to stay awake.
Note to new readers: The Road Less Traveled was a journal I started at 17 (2009) to document my experiences at West Point. I wanted to remember as much as possible. On occasion, I’ll share these journal entries in their original form here on Euphoric Recall—no edits or changes or anything like that. If you’d like to, you can read the first one here.
September 15, 2009
I swear that they try to make us fall asleep when we're not supposed to. We just got through another briefing, and this one was by the far the most boring one yet. It was on "safety", and it went into detail about things like looking twice when crossing streets, using your seat belt, jogging, and other completely pointless topics. So dumb.
Don't get me wrong; not all our briefings are pointless. The majority of them are actually pretty informative and serve a distinct purpose. This one, though, was a complete waste of time. And because it was so uninteresting, it was almost impossible not to fall asleep. But, as usual, our NCOs were there to make our lives a living hell if we did.
I cannot adequately describe how difficult it is to stay awake here sometimes. They always seem to pick the time of day when everyone has hit a wall; maybe they've conducted tests to see when and under what circumstances our bodies ache for sleep the most, and then they try to see if we'll succumb to fatigue.
I know for a fact that they did this during BT. They would march us into the auditorium at random times, dim the lights, close the shades, turn the A/C up, and begin discussing the topic of their choice. These rare moments out of the oppressive sun and with A/C on made my body crave sleep. I honestly can say that I would have rather exercised or walked around while they briefed us, rather than desperately trying to keep my eyes open, because no matter what I did, nothing ever worked. And just like they did today, they would prowl up and down the aisles, looking for people who were falling asleep. If you were one of these unfortunate souls, you'd simply be told to stand up, and walk to the back. Then you'd be taken outside, where you'd get the living piss smoked out of you.
I remember one day, I literally bit a hole through the bottom of my inside lip in an attempt to keep myself from falling asleep. Although it bled all day, it still didn't keep me awake. Another time, I just pinched the crap out of my arm - like really hard and for a while; this, too, was futile. I even (and this is the grand finale) took my 2-Quart one day, held it about above my groin, and dropped on my no-no spot. A guy in my company said it's the only thing that works for him, so I tried it. I have to admit, this did wake me up...for about 2 minutes.
Another guy said that when it got bad during BT, he started collecting the tiny Tabasco bottles that come in MREs, and he'd dab a couple drops on a finger and smear it in his eyes. Which reminds me, before here, I’d never tried coffee before, but whenever I'd luck out and get a little packet of instant coffee in an MRE, I'd “dip” the grounds, like tobacco. My buddy Gray told me about this, and it worked pretty well. Now I love coffee. Maybe I'll start dipping grounds again.
It's not like I've never been tired like this, either. At De La Salle, the latest I would ever wake up would be 5:30 A.M., and that was only twice a week. For four consecutive years I woke up at 4:30 A.M. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for football, but I wasn't nearly as tired then as I am now.
I knew it was going to be like this, and I tried to prepare myself in some pretty sick ways during the summer. For example, I would sometimes make myself stay up all day, and all night, making sure that my body was deprived of sleep for over 24 hours. I remember my dad would wake up at 2:00 A.M and find me watching TV, and I'd tell him that I was simply having trouble falling asleep. The truth was, I was forcing myself to stay awake until 4:00 A.M., at which time I would run up Washington and back. Man, did that suck. Nothing like a 5 mile sleep deprivation run at 4 in the morning. I can still remember doing that; I'd be yawning while I was running, and the one or two people who passed me in cars probably thought I was crazy, probably a criminal.
I hate running cross country. It sucks so much. I've never done it before, either. I mean, last year I was an offensive lineman, remember? I lost a decent amount of weight before showing up at the prep school, and wasn't that heavy at my heaviest as it was, but I figure if I'm serious about this then I should get comfortable running long distances. It's kind of sadistic (well, yeah I guess doing the stay up all night then make myself run thing is too, but) on my part because a) it's miserable and b) I’m probably never going to not finish last in the races, so it's also really embarrassing.
But everyone is required to do “athletics”, and being a manager on the football team just wasn't me. It made me miss football too much and it just seemed…weird. It didn't feel right; I felt like I was supposed to be doing something competitive I guess. It sucked leaving though because I made friends with all the offensive lineman guys and they loved that they could ask me what was on the coach's clipboard schedule for practice, and what time it was to see how close they were to being done with practice. Plus I was able to make them laugh a lot. But then when they learned I was leaving to go join the cross country team, they started calling me “Judas”, haha.
So yeah, I'm not even supposed to be on the team, it's supposed to be recruits only. But one day I decided to just try talking to the coach and see if I could some way convince him to let me on. It was awkward. I basically had to flatout say up front that I had no experience whatsoever and I wasn't great running long distances.
He said no. Twice, actually. But then he asked where I was from, and when I said Michigan, he sort of leaned back in his chair and put his hands on top of his head and smiled. “Michigan guy, huh?” His tone was different, like it had softened. “Alright, I can appreciate it.” I didn't know what he was talking about but didn't ask, because he nodded again and said, “Alright, you can run with us, just don't make me regret it by doing anything stupid or being a headache.” I'm still wondering about why he changed his mind. I'm guessing he's from Michigan too? But I don't know.
And thus it was, the next day I found myself at my first practice running way too f'ing far - in the cold, while it was raining - and alone. Alone because I was way too slow to keep up. Absolutely miserable, trust me.