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Running On A Rocky Mountain High?
Kenny Moore
March 17, 1986
Colorado's Pat Porter, U.S. cross-country champ since 1982, is an athlete truly in his element
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March 17, 1986

Running On A Rocky Mountain High?

Colorado's Pat Porter, U.S. cross-country champ since 1982, is an athlete truly in his element

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"The others were always at the max," says Porter. "But my tests were good. I think on my runs I was blowing it out."

For three summers Porter drove a truck, spraying from 6 to 9 a.m., then inspected standing irrigation water in farmers' fields for mosquito larvae, "throwing Baytex crystals at them," until noon. Then he slept and trained. In the evening he sprayed again.

"On race weekends I took the eight-hour bus ride through the mountains to Denver, raced, got back Sunday morning at 5:30 and went to sleep on my boss's porch. He'd come out in half an hour and take me to work." Porter's reverie contains the pride of having reached unhealthy extremes. "Things like that keep you from taking any of this for granted."

The circumstances of Porter's life have eased. He graduated from Adams State in 1982 with a degree in marketing. Athletics West, the Nike-supported track club, makes him financially comfortable. He has a monstrous black half-ton pickup, which he now uses to roar home to a white stucco house near the college.

Outside, Porter shows off his 1929 Model A pickup, its left front fender draped with a towel to hide the dent where he hit it with his other truck. Lurking in the garage is a huge, malevolent motorcycle. "Zero to 60 in four seconds," Porter says, waving at the arrival of Brent Friesth, a training partner.

Friesth, 25, came from Sioux Falls, S. Dak. to run under Vigil. "A coach more intelligent than I'll ever be," he says. "And a structure to the training."

They sit at Porter's dining room table and examine their training schedule, a 10-day cycle contained on a single white page. Every day calls for considerable labor, from six one-mile runs (for which Porter recently averaged 4:19) to two hours through the sage to 16 400-meter intervals (Porter averaged 59.0 with a minute's rest between) to 10 miles at a five-minute-mile pace. Easy days are 12 miles, which Porter runs at a 5:40 pace. Friesth, with a 10,000 best of only 29:45, is a remarkable man to stay with him.

"These workouts don't change," says Friesth. "It's an eternal cycle. Pat leaves, races, comes home a week later and has to jump right back in."

And everything is done at altitude. Porter will withstand whatever opening pace the world throws at him in Neuch√Ętel because he's used to operating with 20% less oxygen. "Did a 4:01 mile up here once," he says. "I saw God, too, right at the end. Everything got foggy, and there were bright sparkles."

Vigil says, "I consider Pat's 100 to 120 miles a week equivalent to 140 at sea level." So it seems the training at altitude may keep him from battering his legs as much as sea-level trainers.

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