Training With Koolaen, Part 5 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

Up ahead, on the trail, the rest of the players had filed back into line. They were about 30 yards ahead. Kældurn looked back, to check on me I assume. I lowered the water bag down and gave him a thumbs up. He shot me a salute back. I sprinted a few steps to tewkKyoo’ihf and the trusty waterbearer, handed her back the bag, helped her swing it over her head and shoulder, then grinned at them, “Come on, we’ve got a little catching up to do.”

We bolted forward, the team and the hills gaining ahead and leaving the city back below to the right. It wasn’t a dead sprint by any means, but probably a good solid 5 minute-a-mile dash.

“You made it, survived one of the toughest parts.” Kældurn welcomed us back.

I huffed and puffed, “One of the toughest parts? That wasn’t the toughest, Tomawsh?”

He laughed, “Hah! No, well, I guess it depends. Wait until we get the sprints going. The first few aren’t bad. But after about five of them, it can be pretty brutal.”

He turned back to the youths, “Ahr’pahn’ro, pass the bag on up for the players.” The waterbearer lifted the pack of water up, handed it to me. I looked to Kældurn to offer it to him and he said, “Just pass it on forward.” So, I politely nudged the player in front of me, an outside midfielder in the starting eleven, Mehrwee kom Ahnsesh. He looked back and nodded sort of an oh, swiveled back a little, still in his trot and took the bag from my hands. All the players took long draws of the water and then passed the heavy bag along. The bag eventually made its way to front.

The team was cruising along, freshly hydrated after our last urban climb. We were probably at a solid 7 to 7 1/2 minute-a-mile. It was tough for me, but this is about what I expected, considering the elevation. I couldn’t help but think of the classic cartoons I watched growing up. We seemed like a band of elves running along happily into the mountains. It was a perfect crisp day. The romance of our perfectly synced strides and breaths with the song of the pipes resumed. Clouds were sparse up here. Mostly rich sunshine and rich blue sky. Occasionally a patchy cloud ran into the mountains or hung over a peak.

To our right, low below, the Pros’sholth River pummeled into a green hilly valley. Further ahead I could see where it started to bend into the east, where just about 12 miles east of Koolaen the river originated. All along the banks and slopes down to the river you could see rich vineyard land of arstol and grapes.

Exasperated from our recent ascent, my head was pounding again and already my legs felt burned out. I remembered the feeling from my playing days. But, also from my playing days, I remembered how in a way, the pain felt comfortable, cozy, and good.

Mirial tried to convince me I was addicted to pain back when we were together and I was still playing and managing an over-30 men’s team in Awborne. I’d play my heart out on Friday nights, then drink heavily and sleep all Saturday. The pain I was trying to sleep through was more than tired legs. But, in a way, she was right, I did enjoy the raw burning feeling of mortality. I knew my family came from a long line of physical work horses. In the same sense, we were also serious drinkers. I’d lived long enough to know, these were all different notes of the same song.

As I chugged along with Koolaen F.C. on that mountain trail, I thought about my roots, could feel the visceral core of my body. I’m not sure if it was the breathtaking surroundings, the brisk pace, or the intensity of training with pros again, but I remembered what it felt like to be a young midfielder, controlling a game, with my dad looking on proudly. He didn’t make too many of my games due to his dutiful working class package deliverer schedule, but the ones he did make, he took serious and felt pride in watching his son lead on the field. We were such a serious breed, us Myeurnawns — and also such a deeply indulgent mold. My father was now a burned out alcoholic in the slums of Awborne… and here I was burning through a hangover, high in the mountains of Kyrum, on a training run with pro footballers.

The trail gradually sloped up. We had climbed some ways above Koolaen at this point. It sat behind us in the open gorge of the river valley. Smaller trails on occasion rolled off to the left or right, down to farms or vineyards or who knows what. Kældurn was right. It was definitely the most beautiful backdrop I had ever “trained” in. Something about the breathtaking aspect of the vista eased the pain and stress to my body. I felt uplifted to press forward.

The music of the pipes helped too. tewkKyoo’ihf had upped the pace and the piece a bit. It was quicker and more rushed and choppy sounding. No longer the long drawn out pushing calls of our climb earlier. It felt like a song of bees being busy, out doing their work.

And they were out too, dancing from crop to flower to crop. Dragonflies buzzed all around as well. Rolling down hills and slopes you could see red and white deer and on occasion, wild roaming horses. On some of the mountains and hillsides were even lone ramblers here and there. Folks doing who knows what. Maybe living amongst the flowers and animals. Maybe just out wondering for the day. Maybe doing some research or study of some sort.

The two mountains ahead weren’t the tallest in Kyrum by any means. Maybe 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Much larger mountains rose off to the west. Some bare and rocked-topped at their summits. Some snow-capped. Woods mixed of giant cedars and hardwoods entwined all across them, with an occasional jagged cliff, open meadow, mountain stream, or small village. I felt silly looking at it this way, but it was a backpackers or campers paradise. Or, it just is paradise.

Two villages sat up on the peaks ahead. One on each side. Our trail continued to rise up between them. I estimated they were probably about two miles ahead. I was hoping Osadahsh was just around the bend of the peaks.

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Not too far up, just a couple hundred feet, another trail climbed up from the left and merged into the thoroughfare we jogged along as finely tuned thoroughbreds — aside from myself of course. I’m sure I was spewing out fumes of ethanol as I exhaled. In fact, I could smell them myself.

But, up from that side trail ahead, suddenly people on bikes came vaulting up onto our path. One after another. It was like watching kids scramble up a dirt mound in a BMX rally. A gnarled competitive scrum. A couple folks even almost vaulted down the other side of the hill, skidding a bit off the slope and path… It was the coaches and trainers. And there was old Froy’yees wild blue eyed, bald bushy hair puffed up under his headband, and smiling devilishly at us approaching them, brisk and focused, in the zone with the pipes. He waved his hands at us like a conductor a bit, then clapped heartily. The rest of the staff gathered their bikes. They were lining up to continue on ahead.

Simultaneously, the posture in our already focused group stiffened up, got more stern and tight. Froy’yees yelled something. I think it was, “Koolaenatho, dahmahth eh’vethahd!” — let’s go, Koolaenatho! He raised his hand then dropped it. The bikers were off ahead of us. tewkKyoo’ihf fumbled with the pipes a bit. They let out an odd shuffling sound — like ducks honking and such.

Then… Kældurn tagged me on my arm, “Dahmai, Myeurnawn, dahmai!” He bolted off to his left.

“Shit!” I thought, “It’s the sprints!” My lungs sighed deep. My heart jerked up. I lunged out. Made one deep dig into the trail with my right foot, then was off after Kældurn. He was easily 10 feet ahead by now. tewkKyoo’ihf piped over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. How he knew this, I’lll assume the mad Froy’yees hummed it in front of him one day. I had no time to chuckle, but it was fucking funny.

I gained on Kældurn a couple strides but never caught him. As I got to the front of the line, he held his right arm out to reel me in. I tried not to stumble or lessen my pace. We continued on back at the brisk jog with group. It was a smooth delivery, aside from the fact that I probably looked like an old man run ragged to the young pups. I felt like my lungs were going to fall out. My head was about to explode with pressure. Kældurn asked me, “You alright?” I just gave him a sigh and an oh through my mouth. He laughed.

It wasn’t but maybe 5 seconds later that the next sortie of runners arrived. “My god,” I thought, “this is gonna be painful. Hopefully it’ll go quick.” The line continued on rapidly shuffling as we approached the peaks. Kældurn and I made it through five more rounds. His intensity didn’t let up until the last one. I could taste blood and alcohol coming all off my breath. Only the brilliant sunlight and mountains, and the spirit of the team kept me going.

On our last sprint, we were rounding the bend and could see Osadahsh. All the bikes were gathered at its main house and the staff were dismounting. The main house was an earthen dwelling, built into the side of a hill coming off the mountain, with bulbous stonework and arches in areas, broad glass views in, what looked like solar panels of some type, then a waterway ran out of its center to a fountain or drinking well out front.

We had a couple hundred yards to go. Kældurn and I were in the sprinter spot. I tapped him on his arm. He looked at me, as he did I bolted. I gave it everything I had. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my legs fell off or my knee blew out. But I chugged, hitting muscles in my hamstrings I hadn’t felt in years. We were on a mix of cushy turf and gravel. Bits of earth flew up behind me as my steps dug into the ground. tewkKyoo’ihf piped on. It sounded like a righteous rock and roll solo.

As we neared the front of the line, headed towards the club house, Froy’yees stepped out from the coaches. He held both his hands out, perpendicular from his chest. Damn, he wanted us to run it out. Kældurn drew even with me. I clawed through every calorie of energy I had left, called every muscle to duty. I could feel the taughtness of my chest and neck. Everything I had. Then, I had the most random thought, “What would Amelle do? Well, she would win! But how? It doesn’t matter, she would just win!”

Setting my eyes dead cold zeroed-in on Froy’yees’ left hand, I imagined his hand was a magnet, pulling me faster than any human could run. I pulled ahead of Kældurn. I kept thinking of Amelle and the magnet. I was not letting go. I kept thinking, thinking. Froy’yees was 20 feet away, 10, five. Bam! Slap! The coaches and staff behind him caught Kældurn and I. I’d beaten the old pro barely! Probably by a quarter of a second on the hand slap. The staffers were clapping along and singing a song. It was a Koolaen football chant, “There goes Koolaen, with a toke and a song, a pass short then long, like smoke that’s gone, there goes Koolaen, there goes Koolaen!” Hands reaching in, hugs and pats, voices at the top of their lungs.

Froy’yees turned and squared me up, “Myeurnawn, you bastard!” He looked serious. Then, he broke a smile, “You’ve beaten a pro, and one of the fastest ones this club’s ever trained. Nicely done! Now get some stretching in.” The crowd of coaches and staff broke up and moved out to the turf just to the east of the house, where the training fields laid out in perfect almost midday splendor, sparkling in softly dewed crystals of sharp greens.

The team jogged in. tewkKyoo’ihf unceremoniously wrapped up the rock solo. The team looked like they were ready to get down to business, Ahr’pahn’ro carried the water and stolker around. Most took a couple good chugs of water. A few actually gave some hearty draws on the stolker. Mae’dohs being one of them. They all caught some breaths, caught a couple thankful and reflective views of the vista. I could feel them acknowledging the vista with considerate thoughts. It was a subtle Kyeurmic thing. I wondered what their thoughts were. After their moments of thoughtfulness, business as usual, they made their ways to the coaches and staff to stretch.

We laid out on a patch of soft tall turf and stretched for a good 30 minutes. The trainers and coaches moving around to help. As is customary in Kyrum, stretching is regularly a partnered activity. The coaches chatted with the players as they helped stretch them. Asked them how they slept. Talked about dreams they had. Mentioned a play from yesterday or the past week, something new for the player to focus on, or even discussed the principles behind a current strategy the team is working on. Kældurn and I took turns stretching each other.

“Looks like you enjoyed the morning jog,” his voice showed a sarcasm that was aware it was indeed no morning jog.

Me laying back on the grass, I laughed as he pushed my leg towards my head, “Oh yeah, just the regular old casual trot at 7,000 feet.” Changing my tone, “Seriously though Tomawsh, I might be done for the day.” I let out a deep breath on the push of the stretch.

“Nah. Stretching and a light meal will get you sorted out. Aer’loy’ee will also check your vitals and mineral levels. Whatever you need, we’ll just pluck from the garden.” He nodded back behind him and continued, “Then, best of all, you’ll be playing football.”

The run had kicked my ass so much that I had forgotten about that major detail. It had been a few weeks anyway since I’d played football. And so far my play in Kyrum had only been playing in the streets and court football, which I was digging. Everyone’s touch and rhythm, young and old, was amazing. You could feel it tapping the ball around. They all had a subtle dancing posture, slightly swiveling their hips as they moved. As Kældurn reminded me of the basics, I got excited and childlike again, “Yeah, that’s true, the football! That should be pretty damn fun!” On that realization, my mood improved. I relaxed and gave into the stretching.


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1 comment

  1. Reblogged this on tuqMairtin.com and commented:
    Might not be your cup of tea, but some more of my fantasy nonfiction travel writing. This is part 5, there’s 4 parts that precede it if you want to read more context. If you like football / soccer and Hemingway’s vignettes of nature you might like this — though this is probably about 1/16th as prosaic as ol’ Papa Rum.

    Like

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