Scott Anderson's Olympic
Trials On-Line Journal:
A Dream Deferred or A Dream
June 28, 2000: This is the second installment of miler Scott
Anderson's Olympic Trials Journal. If you missed his eye-opening
installment #1, we strongly urge you to read it before reading
this installment as installment #1 has background information
which makes things a lot easier to understand. Click here to be taken to Installment
#2 - June 28, 2000 - Preparing
for a big race is similar to trying to recover from a cold. You
have two goals: rest your body and build your confidence. The
means to achieve these ends conflict, however. In order to build
my confidence, I need to feel good on my runs. I inevitably am
caught in a dilemma: do I speed up my runs to convince myself
that I am in shape, or do I hang back and take it easy? This
week I am going to try to do the prudent thing and take it easy.
Graff (Scott's housemate, Reebok Enclave teammate and Olympic
hopeful at 10,000 meters) wakes me up a little after nine, worried
that I might have forgotten to set my alarm to do my usual preparation
for the scheduled 11:00 work out. The Tuesday workout has been
a staple of my life for the last 4 years (I started running for
the Enclave back in the fall of 96 after I graduated from college).
Always the hardest of the week, it's usually a strength workout
of long intervals. In the fall, it's at 4:00 on the polo fields
just south of the Lincoln Memorial near the Mall. In the winter
and through most of the spring, we meet at the Georgetown track
and start at 2:00 to take advantage of the daylight. (We started
working out at 11:00 recently to avoid the heat.)
As on being unemployed, my feelings on such a regularly scheduled
workout are mixed. On the one hand, it gives me a structure and
something to look forward to. After I quit my job, and even a
bit before then, Graff and I developed a pre-Tuesday workout
routine that starts with a light snack around 10:00 (giving us
the optimal 4 hour digestion period before go-time).
After breakfast, I usually go back up to my room and read until
around 11:00, when the aroma of Graff's coffee calls me back
down, and our preparation begins in earnest. Over the next 2
hours, we drink a couple cups of coffee, talk to Jim Tuxbury
on the phone, play darts, and share light-hearted banter about
our recent bar adventures. Jim runs with the Enclave and used
to live with me at the Tunlaw house, as we affectionately call
our residence, but his girlfriend decided we single guys were
a bad influence on him and pressured
him to move to the more sedate Virginia. So Jim, who works as
a consultant and is the only full time worker in our training
group, tries to live the single, unemployed life vicariously
by calling before workouts and asking for the details of the
previous weekend's exploits. By the time 1:00 rolls around, our
giddiness level has escalated dramatically; we head to our respective
rooms and begin our stretch routines. Graff plays AC/DC and I
play Trance; both have the effect of exciting us even more. On
our 2.5 mile warm-up to the track, we usually have to hold back
so as not to drop below 6:00 pace.
Save it for the workout, we say. The pre-workout routine is a
fun process, but the downside is that perhaps I focus too much
workouts and don't save enough mental and physical energy for
the races. But today, as with most pre-race workouts, is different.
I decline Graff's offer of coffee and join him and Pete Sherry
(another Enclave member and 5k runner), who has come over to
participate in the pre-workout routine. As talk turns to this
past weekend's Pre and Portland meets and rumors of injuries
to the top contenders in the 5k and the 10k, I retreat to my
Without the luxury of an Olympic Trials qualifying time (which
Pete has for the 5k and Graff has for both the 5k and 10k - Graff,
in fact, has the Olympic time for the 10k and Pete would have
had the time for the 5k had he not been tripped by one of the
Hausers with 350 to go at Stanford), I need to focus on myself
and not worry what other people are doing around the country
are doing. Also, I don't want to get too psyched up for the workout:
save it for Saturday is my theme of the week.
I warm-up solo to the track and immediately miss the coffee.
My legs feel a bit stiff (I've been out of bed for only an hour),
and, even if I had wanted to get excited, I may not have been
able to, as I generally have trouble mustering any enthusiasm
for a workout I know will just be a tune-up.
The distance runner in me has trouble respecting any workout
where the longest interval is less than 400m. This lack of respect
screws me on deceptively hard workouts, like the 12*300 we sometimes
do at race pace with 100m jog. But when I get to the track, Gags
(Frank Gagliano - the coach of the Enclave) informs me the workout
is 6*250 at 28 second pace with 1:30 recovery, nothing worth
getting excited for. I exchange puzzled looks with a couple teammates;
who's ever heard of a 250 interval? But we quickly do the math
and realize it adds up to 1500m. Siv (Mark Sivieri) remarks sincerely
that Gags is a genius.
We split into two groups to do the intervals. Honerkamp, Myers,
Siv, Jordan, and I alternate leading intervals in one group.
I feel okay but certainly not as peppy as I'd like. On the last
one, Gags tells us to go 26 point for the 200. Honerkamp leads
it and immediately, he and Siv open up a gap on the rest of us.
Seems like faster than 26 to me. I think about my earlier vow
not to run too hard and I coast in. Sure enough, 25 for the guys
up front and 26 for me. It may not have looked good, but it was
definitely the wise move.
After Gags delivers a brief pep talk to the team, he pulls me
aside and says in his deep Italian voice, "God forbid, if
you don't do it in Maine, I mean God forbid [dramatic pause]
you'll stay up and go to Montreal from there."
So the next dilemma is whether to pack for a weekend or a week-long
trip. I probably will pack for the week-long trip, using the
insurance policy philosophy: if you bring an umbrella, it won't
As we cool down through the Glover Park
woods above the Georgetown track, Fogs (Chris Fogorozzo) breaks
the pre-race taboo against asking teammates how they feel. I
break another taboo by telling the truth and saying that I feel
crappy. He dutifully consoles me, "Everyone did." I
debate in my mind whether it was a good idea to vocalize my doubts.
On the one hand, it serves as a therapy.
Once it's said, I feel a little relief, like a weight is off
my shoulder. I
have nothing to hide. But at the same time, when I vocalize the
doubt (or record it in my journal, for that matter), I make it
more concrete and risk making a mountain out of a molehill. What
might have started out as just a paranoid doubt could escalate
into a self-fulfilling prophecy. These doubts, I find, proliferate
the most when I am fit and healthy and know I have no excuse
for not running fast.
Back to the taboos. Maybe I am wrong.
I think there is a taboo not against saying you feel bad but
one against saying you feel good. This phenomenon reminds me
of school when the most common phrase the week before final exams
was something to the effect of "I'm so unprepared."
These "unprepared" students quickly lost their credibility
by earning high marks in all their classes.
But there is a certain logic behind understating your preparation,
whether it be for a race or for an exam. The first is to lower
expectations (yours and your audience's) so that your eventual
outcome is not a disappointment. The second motive, to put your
peer at ease, can be malicious or benign. If you hope your peer's
reaction will be to study less for the test or to develop a negative
attitude towards the upcoming race, then your intent is malicious.
You are thinking of him as a competitor and trying to put him
off guard. But if you are trying to calm him so that he 1) does
not get demoralized by his own nagging doubts about his fitness
or preparation or 2) develops a positive attitude, then your
intent is benign. Fogs' comment was clearly an attempt to calm
me and improve my morale. The third and most practical of all
the motives is that no one likes a braggart (except for a coach,
which is why we always feel pressure to tell the coach how good
we feel). But enough of my amateur sociological musings.
After, the cooldown, I took my ice bath
and talked about writing with my roommate's brother Dwayne, who
is staying with us for a while. He is only 20 but has written
three books. And I think writing this journal is difficult. It's
nice to take a break from talking and thinking about something
besides running. There'll be enough of that in the next couple
(Editor's Note: Unless he's too groggy to remember (and this
is very possible as he has to get up at 4:30 a.m. to head to
the airport to catch his flight to Maine), Scott tells LetsRun.com
that he is taking his laptop to Maine, where he will regularly
update his fans on his progress.)