Early, 1982. I'm going through the Sheriff's Academy. My leg is already for shit. I went and asked the deputy that led PT if there was anything I could do to help it. The guy was in his early fifties. Six months earlier, he'd had heart surgery...and then he's leading all three classes(junior, senior, and reserves at night) in PT. Every day. So, like I said, I ask him if there's anything I can do about my leg. The guy was a stud. If anyone would know, it would be him. His response:
It's just these pussy three mile runs we're going on right now. Once we get up to a man sized run, like six, eight miles or so, your legs will stretch out...mine do the same thing right now. You'll be fine.
They said if you could walk, you could run. I could walk...and I was highly motivated.
The day after I asked him about it, my DI came up to me during the daily run. Right along side. Just looked at me for a while. Then he asks me:
Your leg botherin' you, Wonder Bread?
Sir, No Sir!
Then don't be botherin' my PT instructor again. You got that?
Sir, Yes Sir!
We had a routine for PT everyday. Stretch. Push-ups. Sit-ups. Run. We started at three miles. We were at four then. Working our way up to twelve. At the end of each run, we'd slow to a walk in the parking lot. Two laps. Then into the gym for stress-recovery-stress:25 seconds of as many push-ups as you could do, followed immediately by 25 seconds of as many sit-ups as you could do, followed by 25 seconds of as many three count squat thrusts as you could do, and finally, 25 seconds of as many jumping jacks as you could do.
Then you got a 30 second rest...and did it all over at 20 seconds. Then fifteen.
By the twelfth week we were doing 60 seconds, 55, and 50. It didn't matter who you were. It didn't matter how great of shape you were in. If you gave it everything you had during stress-recovery-stress, you were done when it was over. Couldn't even lift your arms over your head to take your shirt off before your shower. Your buddy had to do it for you, and vice-versa. And, you only got five minutes to get out of your PT gear, shower, and be back in uniform in formation.
That two lap walk to cool down at the end of the run was huge. You really needed it.
Starting that day, I no longer got it.
In 1982, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Academy was located at Biscailuz Center in East LA. It's set on a hill. Every day, at the start of our run, we would head out of the parking lot down a serpentine road. On the final turn you looked up and saw what we affectionately referred to as, "The Bitch." It was a road that ran up a hill bordering the Jails on the west, the freeway on the east, and Sybil Brand women's jail on the north. It went up at about a forty-five degree angle for over a hundred yards, leveled for about ten, and then went up again at an even steeper angle for another hundred and fifty or so. There was a gate at the top of the hill, connecting Biscailuz with Sybil Brand. The gate was unlocked by a DI when we got there, and locked behind us after we went through.
It was a security risk. That's why it had to be a DI to unlock it...and a DI to make sure it was locked behind us.
But something changed that day. We get in the parking lot. Cool down walk time. Psyching up for stress-recovery-stress. My DI comes up to me as we're marching.
Sir, Yes Sir!
I don't think DI Massey locked the gate after we went through. I need someone to check it and make sure...you just volunteered...GO!
Cocksucking, ball-licking, punk ass bitch motherfucker...I said that to myself, of course...as I took off down the serpentine road. The Bitch was waiting for me when I turned the last curve. Smiling at me. Whispering. Telling me, in a very soothing voice, to just quit now. There was no way I could do it...and even if I did, I'd never make it through stress-recovery-stress after that anyway. Just quit.
Her voice was soft and cool. Silky against my heart. Seductive.
I told her to go fuck herself, and started up the hill.
I don't know how I made it up there that first time. I tried to keep my head down. Not look. When I finally did look up, I wasn't even halfway. I could feel my knee swelling. Grapefruit size by now. And the Bitch kept whispering sweet nothings into my ear...or was it the wind? Or my own tortured soul...
I finally made it to the top. The gate, of course, was locked. Tighter than Massey's sphincter. I turned around and headed back down.
They were kind enough to wait for me in the gym. Very thoughtful. My DI didn't want me to miss out on the full Academy experience. By the time we were done, I could barely walk. My knee was the size of a cantaloupe. But I didn't limp. Got showered. Waited for EOW. When we were dismissed for the day, I went to the soda machines. I hate sodas. But I was hurting. I bought two Squirts. Drank one on the way to my car. Nursed the other while I sat there and smoked. Tears ran down my face from the pain. I couldn't bend my leg because of the swelling. I thanked God for getting me through it. I thanked Him it was a one time thing.
I didn't hear Him laughing.
Next day we're walking our laps after the run. Here comes my DI.
Sir, Yes Sir!
I don't think DI Massey locked the gate after we went through...
And off I went again. Cursing him under my breath. Cursing God. Cursing the Bitch. Cursing the sweet whispers...
Everyday after that, the same thing. We started with over two hundred people. We lost sixty-five by the end of the second week. More each week after that. By the sixth week, people started to get the handle on things. Everyone but me. I was still checking the gate. By this point, we were up to about six and a half to seven miles on the run. My knee...well, it didn't look good. Still, I kept making it.
And the Bitch kept try to seduce me.
Seventh week. We're walking in the parking lot. I'm waiting for my DI. All of a sudden, they take the class back up to running speed. They start everyone down the serpentine road. The class turned the corner...and looked up at the Bitch.
Half of the class quit before we ever started going up. Just quit. Almost all of the rest quit within the first fifty yards. When we got to the half way point where it leveled off, there were only three other cadets still running besides me. My DI was waiting there for us. He turned the other three back around and sent them down. He smiled at me.
Check the gate, Blake.
Sir, Yes Sir!
And I did.
I'd like to tell you it stopped after that. I'd also like to tell you that I look like George Clooney, but unfortunately, my pictures on the blog. So, I won't lie about either one.
I had people after me while I was going through the Academy. Two DIs in particular. My DI wasn't one of the two.
I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't been running up the Bitch all of those weeks, I would have dropped just like most of the others. That would have been all either of those two DIs would have needed. But, because I'd been doing it, it was no big deal to me.
Don't get me wrong. I never liked it. It always hurt. I almost always cried in pain before I went home. But, it didn't beat me. They didn't beat me. I made it. And, I'm not certain that I would have...if I hadn't been put through the shit first.
We all go through things in our lives. Some, much worse than others. We all have our own version of the Bitch. It's hard to think about it being to your benefit as your running up it...when your legs ache...when you have the dry heaves...when you think you can't take even one more step...and you know that stress-recovery-stress is waiting for you...if you make it.
James chapter one does NOT say that the testing of your faith works patience. Bad translation. The Greek word is for Endurance. Patience is passive. Endurance isn't. It's work. It makes you stronger.
God wants you to be as strong as you need to be for what's coming. He's not doing you any favors letting you sit on the couch eating Bon-Bons if you have a marathon coming.
And this life isn't just a marathon. It's an obstacle course, gauntlet, marathon. And God wants you to do more than finish.
He wants you to win.
You get down when you're running up the Bitch. You get angry. Frustrated. Mad at God. That's all OK. It's normal. But, you don't have to run alone. We're running together. So, when your sucking wind...and you don't think you can take another step...talk to God...and yes, cussing Him out is still talking...you aren't going to shock Him. He expects it.
Then call up a Buddy. Go have a beer together. Howl at the moon together.
Don't run alone.
You can always talk to God.
And, you can always talk to me.
We'll beat that Bitch.