Scott Anderson's Olympic
Trials On-Line Journal:
A Dream Deferred or A Dream
This is the fourth installment of miler Scott Anderson's Olympic
Trials Journal. If you missed his eye-opening installments #1 or #2 or #3 we strongly urge you to read them
before reading this installment as they provide background information
which makes things a lot easier to understand (especially #1)
. Click here
to be taken to Installment #1.
#4 - Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2000:
Saturday morning - July 1st - Portland Maine - Morning of
Race - I wake up late after another fitful night of sleep, but
I feel good. My legs feel fresh and my head is clear. I usually
sleep pretty well in hotels, but this one has the most uncomfortable
bed I've been in since my college-issue twin. Evidently, the
management spends its funds on the lobby accoutrements, which
include a ping pong table, a badminton net, a croquet course
(which Honerkamp, Rhodes and I see as a good omen), and an extensive
tropical bird collection. My roommate for the weekend, Terrance
"The Arm" Armstrong, and I watch Deuce Bigelow on his
computer as I eat frosted mini-wheats and grape nuts for breakfast
(the one redeeming factor of the hotel room is its refrigerator).
I reflect on how pathetic my life is that this is the second
time this week I have watched this juvenile movie. To my credit,
neither viewing was my idea. Actually, maybe that's even more
pathetic. I realize I can't remember the last time I suggested
watching a movie. Or suggested participating in any activity,
for that matter. Am I just a follower?
After the movie, we migrate to the lobby for a noon-time meeting
by the GAG (Reebok Enclave coach - Frank Gagliano). About 25 of
us are seated on the ledge bordering the croquet course. We take
bets on what kind of inspirational sound-bytes GAGS will produce.
I predict that he will tell us to do six 150 meter strides on Monday.
After 4 years in the Enclave, I know better than to expect a loquacious
speech on what we've sacrificed and how ready we are. The GAG is
short and to the point. He is famous for his ten second phone conversations:
"Thursday, 4:30, six by 800, 2:10, byeclick." But his
efficiency of speech earns our respect. Every phrase he utters drips
So when he starts out his pre-race speech with "The vans
need gas," we exchange glances searching for a deeper meaning.
Is this a metaphor for how we should run our race? Apparently
not. He wants Andre Williams (self-appointed driver and Olympic
5k hopeful) and Jim Hopkins (another Enclave coach) to fill up
the vans with gas before we return to the airport tomorrow morning.
Why the whole team needs that info is beyond me, but I find its
inclusion in the motivational speech funny enough to relieve
some tension. He proceeds to tell us not to think about Canada;
all of the guys who need Olympic Trials qualifying times (which
is about 90% of us) should focus on this race as if it's the
season finale. We'll talk about Canada afterwards, he says. And
then, oblivious to the irony, he gives us something even more
mundane to focus on: he tells us to run easy Sunday, do six 150m
strides on Monday (my accurate prediction earns me acknowledging
glances from Honerkamp and Rhodes), and meet at 11:00 on Tuesday
In giving what is supposed to be a motivational speech, most
people would be
afraid to dilute its potency by including trivial logistical
details. But not GAGS. He treats us like adults; he knows that
at this level, athletes are self-motivated. He can provide us
with reminders of what we're here for, but he knows the fire
comes from within. Once again, a reason we respect him.
I look at the heat sheets. The top 25 guys have been divided
equally into the 2nd and 3rd heats of the 1500m. My heat, the
2nd, starts at 8:30 this evening and also includes Sammy G (3:40.7
this year), Terrance Herrington (3:40.3), Dan Wilson (3:39),
Kip Ortenburger (3:40.5 last year), and The Arm (3:42). Rumors
float around about Herrington (who already has his Olympic trials
time) bringing a rabbit who will help him go for the A time of
3:36.8. That would mean 2:54 for the 1200m split. I know better
than to count on it, though. Gags reassures Sammy and me that
some of the Enclave 800m guys will come back to rabbit the second
heat. Matt Holthaus (who already has the time) will keep the
third heat honest.
Mike Ryan (3rd heat runner who also needs the time) comes down
to visit. He has grand plans for his post-race celebration activities
- Maine lobster and then a trip to NY to visit his girlfriend,
Ms. Tennessee. I usually respond to such plans with an admonishment,
"Focus. That's bad for morale," but I know Mike is
gung-ho and determined, so I keep mum. Besides, after a 2:21
1000m in practice last week, he is overflowing with confidence.
We talk briefly about his girlfriend's adventures in the modeling
and acting scene down in NY. He asks me whether I could ever
date someone I wasn't attracted to. (Note to reader: skip to
the next installment to avoid more amateur philosophical ramblings.)
I tell him that ideally I would not judge people on their appearance,
as looks (for the most part) are the one feature beyond a person's
control. I go out on a limb and suggest that just as we look
with embarrassment on the barbaric institutionalized racism practiced
in this country 35 years ago, in fifty years, our current practice
of considering outward physical appearance in forming romantic
relationships may be viewed as primitive.
Mike points out that we can't help whom we're attracted to. I
concede this point and admit that I don't even make an effort
to live up to my theoretical ideals, but I like being contrary.
Although we will never be able to program ourselves to ignore
looks and be attracted to a certain type of personality, influential
cultural authorities could certainly start emphasizing other
attributes besides appearance. Hollywood moguls could cast normal
looking actors in the protagonist roles and make the studious
flute-playing band camp-attending girl the most sought-after
prom date in American Pie instead of the gorgeous foreign exchange
student. The editors of Men's Health and Cosmo could extol the
virtues of philanthropy and good conversations instead of advising
us on how to improve our complexion and strengthen our abs.
Rhodes (Reebok Enclave 800 meter runner in search of the time) and
I indulge in hummus sandwiches for lunch. We get a little nostalgic
about the summer of '96, most of which I spent squatting in his
grad-school room at Princeton. It was the summer after I graduated,
and I was, in theory, staying on campus to use the career-center
to find a job. In reality, I took trips to the Jersey shore and
we plotted how to lure women up to his bachelor pad. And most importantly,
I introduced Jason to hummus.
After lunch, Steve Myers stops by and we lament the speed-goggles
phenomenon. Why are women so attracted to the fast guys, oblivious
to their many (we imagine) personality flaws. We fail to acknowledge
the likelihood that consistently winning races builds confidence,
which, in turn, livens up personality and improves interactions
with potential mates. I privately conclude that we are both bitter
because we have never been the beneficiaries of the ubiquitous
goggles. And then I realize the hypocrisy of my earlier thoughts
on the immorality of being attracted to people based on their
looks. Why is there such contempt for women with speed-goggles?
Or for money hungry gold-diggers, for that matter? At least speed
and money, unlike good looks, usually reflect something within
a guy's control, a good work ethic. (Cynics might reasonably
argue that natural talent and inheritance also play a big role
in making someone fast and rich.)
At around 4 pm, I embark on my pre-race shakeout run. I am not as
worried about the status of my legs as I was earlier in the week
because my legs felt phenomenal yesterday. Granted, I was only running
7 minute pace for about 30 minutes, but the rest should make me
feel better today. Sure enough, I feel just as bouncy as yesterday.
Terrance and I run out six minutes and back six on a trail in the
nearby woods. A burned out car, which I remember from last year,
marks the end of our trek; a strategically placed old mattress and
scattering of cans and bottles extend beyond a thin wall of nearby
trees. The scarcity of alcoholic containers impresses us and debunks
the cliché that there is nothing to do up in Maine but drink.
After the run, some active isolated stretching, and a clif bar,
I try to get through an article on technology and globalization,
but my focus is gone. I decide this is a good thing and abandon
the magazine in favor of Midnight Run on TNT. Save up the mental
energy for that third lap.
Editor's Note: After writing
this journal, Scott wrote LetsRun.com and said, "I've been
lacking inspiration since Sunday (when he didn't qualify), thus
the delay and lack of quality of this entry. I am working on
the next part of this entry which describes the build up to the
race and the race itself and should have it to you soon. Also
feel free to edit out all the philosophical crap if you think
it's too boring."
No worries Scott. We find the philosophical
musings very entertaining and haven't edited a thing.