Scott Anderson's Olympic Trials On-Line
Being a Part of History.
This is the eleventh installment of miler Scott Anderson's
Olympic Trials Journal. Scott's
journals have become quite popular with both runner
and non-runners alike as they run the gamut in terms
of topics discussed. Ever the philosopher, Scott
is guaranteed in each journal entry to talk about running
at some point, but it may or may not be the focus of
each entry. Scott's journals are always entertaining
and definitely will make you think.
Jan 19—Jan 20:
at the Armory in NYC
should have mailed Mitch his shorts instead of delivering
them to him in person here at the Gin Mill, but I don't
see him often and he won't be able to make it to the
race tomorrow. Besides, this armory mile is just my
opener—nothing at stake, so a couple beers the night
before aren't out of the question. Mitch is my best (and only) friend from
high school. He graduated from Columbia law school
last year and now works in the city.
Tuxbury, with whom I am staying here in NYC, and I show
up at the Gin Mill around 11 to meet some of his law
school buddies (Tux just finished his first semester
at Columbia). Everyone, including me, is dressed in
khakis and button-downs—very collegiate and preppy.
I can't wait
for Mitch to arrive: I have yet to see him in non-leather
pants since he moved to NYC. He does not disappoint. Around midnight he shows up in leather
pants and jacket, his hair dyed platinum blond.
I can't help
but feel a bit cool by association. So this is what you guys are going to
look like in three years I tell Jim and one of his cohorts.
Jim is a pretty sharp dresser, albeit due to his girlfriend
Lorrin's fashion tips.
hang out for about half an hour, chatting about his
recent romantic interests, my business school thoughts
and his plans to retire by the age of 40 and devote
the rest of his life to travel. Mitch appreciates the good life.
and I take a taxi home with one of his classmates.
me if I'm a healthy eater like Jim and I tell her that
my only nutritional goal is to consume lots of red meat.
to me how, as athletes, we have a skewed vision of what
it is to be healthy, so even if we don't think of ourselves
as healthy, compared to the average Joe, we are.
I ask her
about Jim's eating habits and she characterizes him
as a "chicken guy." Jim and I exchange incredulous looks.
"Chicken guy? What's that supposed to mean?"
I ask. She
obviously doesn't realize it was an insult, and neither
of us can articulate what a blow it is to our manhood
to be associated with chicken. I console Jim by telling him I've always
thought of him as a steak guy.
get back to Tux's pad and he insists that I sleep in
his bed, but I know I will feel guilty and sleep poorly
if I accept the offer. Besides, my therma-rest cushion served
me well on my road trip this fall and brings back good
memories. Around 9, I wake up and feel good despite
only 7 hours of sleep. Cup of coffee and a power bar to get
the morning started as we watch the pre-inauguration
talk shows. I forgot what it's like to live with
a political junkie, or at least one who's open-minded
enough to at least listen to and consider his political
opponent's views before dismissing them (sorry, Rojo).
hear that W's inaugural speech starts at noon and will
last less than 15 minutes and decide to delay my departure
till after the speech in hopes of hearing some patriotic
message that will inspire me to run fast.
I head out
to Broadway and jog up three blocks to the 116th Street 1-9 subway station—the train
should take me to 168th, right next to the armory.
As I run
down the stairs and just miss an uptown-bound train,
I ask myself why I'm so cheap. A taxi would probably have cost me about
five bucks with tip. Maybe it's principle. Maybe taking the train gives me the illusion
that I'm toughing it. I like feeling like I'm not pampered.
And the MTA
is cooperative: after a few gratuitous strides up and
down the platform, I board the next train, only to find
out the Armory stop is closed for construction.
exits the train at 135th to take a shuttle bus the rest
of the way up Broadway. If Andre Williams could only see me now:
he's always giving me grief for showing up at the last
it all works out, and I get to there at the same time
as Holthaus and Honerkamp, who drove in from Long Island.
We set up
camp right off the track and start to stretch.
(and now New York civilians) Tom Nohilly, John Trautman,
Ted Towle and Tanya Baker meander over. My mentor Jason Rhodes and eskimo brother
Eric Wills from Princeton also join us. Usually I don't think of the social aspect
of running as a valid reason for continuing to compete,
but this reunion reminds me of how fun the track scene
is; I'm especially appreciative of the friends I've
developed through track. I remember Tuxbury justifying the social
motivation for competing: "People join softball
leagues, what's wrong with joining a track club just
comes over and tells us that Mark Carroll has scratched
but that Alan Webb, a high school senior, is going to
be in the race. Great, sounds like a no-win situation
to me. I
recall the Maine Distance Festival mile in 1997, when
Sam Wilbur, Erik Nedeau, Andy Downin, and I all agreed
that our only goal was not to get beat by then-high
school star Jonathan Riley, who was also in the race
and who had just run a 3:43 1500m. (I think we all saved face by running
in the 4:00-4:02 range while Riley turned in a respectable
I signed up for the race I had been optimistic in telling
meet director Ian Brooks I might be in 4:02 shape.
Even so I
can't imagine Webb will be a threat to any of us in
the middle of January.
time is pushed back to 2:20. I wander outside in search of a source
for my double espresso. Apparently not enough yuppies in this
neighborhood to justify a Starbucks. Wait another couple years.
for a café across the street; at least I'm supporting
the local economy. As I retrieve Holthaus and Honerkamp
for a warm-up, enclave teammate Jason Gibbons makes
his first appearance of the day and joins us.
my first track race since college in a non-Reebok outfit.
between Robert's Letsrun.com jersey and a plain white
wife-beater (somehow writing that seems more profane
than saying it) to advertise my unattached status to
potential sponsors, and opt for the former, realizing
that if going blank doesn't work for Olympians Jason
Pyrah and Kevin Young, it's probably not going to work
for a guy who didn't even qualify for the trials.
In a salute
to Tuxbury, I do a few strides on the track with the
"Fast times at Ridgemont High" t-shirt I stole
from him and then proceeded to wear on 17 out of 23
days of my roadtrip this fall. I put on spikes for the first
time since August and feel smooth on the banked track.
introductions for Holthaus, Niall Bruton, Alan Webb,
and some Kenyan who came in 4th last year in the 4k world championships.
The gun goes
off and the Kenyan flies out with the rabbit.
Webb is right
on the Kenyan's tail and a gap opens up immediately.
I lead the
chase pack for about a 100m before Niall Bruton takes
he's an experienced indoor veteran who knows what he's
about two and a half laps, Gibbons surges by us to latch
on to the lead pack. I have only worked out with Gibbons once
since Christmas but I remember that he was in good shape
a month ago. Nonetheless, I can't imagine that move's
going to help his cause. I'm not remotely tempted to go after
feel very comfortable clicking off 30 second 200's right
behind Bruton. We go through 800m in about 2:00, and
although I don't feel like I'm ready to pounce, I do
feel surprisingly strong—maybe those hour long runs
through the snow on the Chicago lakefront over Christmas
were more beneficial than the seven minute mile pace
seemed to indicate. Just as I'm gaining confidence on the
backstretch, Bruton starts to slow—maybe I should have
taken his attire (he's wearing a pair of umbros-like
shorts and "representing" Ireland with a blank
singlet) as a signal of his fitness. I pass him and a fading Gibbons and by
default become leader of the chase pack—this does not
bode well. The rabbit has dropped out and the Kenyan
has apparently opened up a big lead. Webb is in no-man's land at least a second
ahead of us, and looks strong, but I still assume he'll
be coming back to us shortly. As I'm apt to do when I'm not directly
behind someone, I drift into space. Coming into the homestretch, I realize
I've lost track of how many laps I have left—two or
come no one has passed me yet? I have no idea if anyone is with me or
if I'm on a total solo mission in third place, but I'm
vaguely aware of the crowd and the announcer getting
excited, obviously about Webb's chances of breaking
am surprised to hear three minutes flat as I approach
the line—good, only two laps left and I guess I've maintained
the pace in spite of losing focus, but to my surprise,
I see that I have not closed the gap on Webb.
is legit. For the first time, it occurs
to me that he might not be coming back to us.
What a sad
reflection this is on post-collegiate American distance
running. There are probably about 5 or 6 guys
in this field who have run 4:00 or faster and not one
of us is near this kid. I can hear Coach Centrowitz lecturing
me, Honerkamp and Holthaus about how pathetic we are
that we didn't go out with the lead in this race.
as if they went out in 55 seconds for the quarter.
school kid just wants it more than we do.
is Holthaus, anyway? This is where he's supposed to pass me
and lead the charge after Webb. I guess I'm going to have to try to reel
him in myself. With a lap to go I've cut the gap in
half and it looks like he's starting to tie up.
the backstretch, I catch him and pull up on his shoulder,
expecting to pass him, but he responds with surprising
strength and holds me off going into the turn.
of the turn, I misstep, bringing back memories of the
soft spots at the indoor track at BU, except that there
are no soft spots here: I'm just tired. There's Holthaus, finally: "Scott,
move out." Andy Downin told me last year about a
race in Portland in which Holthaus told him to move
out in the last 50m, and much to his surprise, he did.
I too, subconsciously
oblige Holthaus. Webb and I drift into lane two as Holthaus
squeezes in on the inside, passing us like a bullet
(as Tux later described it). Webb holds me off as the three of us
cross the line within four tenths of a second.
Webb and look up at the scoreboard with the times.
is going nuts. He did it: 3:59.86. After a minute or so, my fourth place
time comes up: 4:00.16. Would have been nice to get under 4 again,
but I've done it before so why am I not psyched about
a 2 second indoor pr off of a month of quasi-training?
I am happy
for Webb—he totally deserved that sub 4.
went after it, and hardly even benefited from racing
against an elite field—if anything he made the rest
of us run faster. So why do I have this queasy feeling?
As I watch
Webb get surrounded by reporters and an entourage, I
realize what's bothering me: I'm like the guy guarding
Jordan when he does a 360 degree dunk. The guy who ends up on all the highlight
films and maybe even a poster. This is not how I fantasized about getting
on the cover of Track and Field news, but that's how
it's going to be. I better run fast before the April issue
Editors note: We're
glad chose to wear the LetsRun.com jersey because his
photo has been in many major publications generating
publicity for the site. Thank you Scott.
Feel free to contact
Scott at email@example.com. Lots of people have really
enjoyed his journal and have inquired about contacting
Scott. He's happy to receive your emails.