|Scott Anderson's Olympic Trials On-Line Journal:
Part 9 - Communism, My Bedroom, and Oh Yeah Running.
This is the ninth installment of miler Scott Anderson's Olympic Trials Journal. If you missed his eye-opening installments #1 or #2 or #3 or #4 or #5or #6 or #7 or #8 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) . To make a long story short, Scott has spent much of the last 4 years preparing for the 2000 Olympic Trials, which he unfortunately didn't qualify for, but after the trials he ran a huge pr of 3:38.70 for 1500m. Click here to be taken to Installment #1.
Summary of trips/races since return from California on July 30 (Sunday):
August 3 (Thurs) Ė Blue Ridge Mountain Running Camp Mile
August 4-7 (Fri-Mon) Ė Catskills with the Ainsworth relatives
August 10-14 (Thurs-Mon) -- Chicago for Rockford mile and visit to family
August 19-20 (Sat-Sun) --Cape Cod for Falmouth mile
Thursday, August 10
Always an adventure when the Johnsons are involved. My flight home to Chicago is at 11:59 AM. I wake up at 7:00 and have a couple thoughts I mistake for being important enough to get up and write down on my dry-erase board. Mistake number one is having a dry erase board in my room. My room should be a haven, free from the worries of my daily mundane existence. So why did I put this hideous thing on my wall? When I got back from California two weeks ago, I was greeted by a dysfunctional toilet, a sauna-like refrigerator and a pile of bills strewn across the massage table in our living room. In addition to these inviting tasks, I suddenly became aware of several less immediate but more serious issues: 1) housing -- we are moving out of our house at the end of August and I have no place lined up to live; 2) running -- In the short term, I should try to take advantage of my fitness and race some more, and I am putting off the long term decision of whether to continue running; 3) job -- I need to find one. In short, I was overwhelmed with stuff to do, and I decided I needed a massive to-do list. (I confess that I used the Microsoft Word thesaurus just now to find a more descriptive synonym for the rather vague word "stuff," but the retrieved word "substance" fails to capture the tedious nature of the tasks that comprise my list. In fact, "substance" is more like the antonym.)
The giant dry-erase I had bought and hung in our common room last year in a futile attempt to promote reliable message-exchanging between the housemates was the perfect tableau for a to-do list, so I absconded with it to my room. The outdated text I had to scrub off the board (after 6 months or so, the marker ink becomes resilient to the provided eraser) included an old darts scoreboard, a tally of the debts owed to my former roommate Weldon (who left last December and still has yet to be paid in full), and a list of names and phone numbers. Midway down on the phone list, the name Scott and the adjacent number 261-5572 jumped out at me. I looked at it for a few seconds, puzzled. It was definitely my hand-writing but it wasnít my phone number and I donít know any other Scotts. Then I noticed a phone number with the same prefix next to the name of my former boss at the Urban Institute. For someone who once prided himself on his ability to memorize Pi to (what I now think of as) an obscene number of digits, this was a surprising memory failure. Only 3 months after my resignation from the Urban Institute, I had completely forgotten my work phone number (I had put my number on the board so that my roommates could alert me to their philosophical musings as well as other important developmentsóie happy hours, parties, etc.) This forgetfulness is indicative of two things: 1) my numeric memory is context-based and 2) Olympic trials was such a big focus of my life (not just because it was the chance to make the Olympic team, but because it has symbolized what I envisioned as the culmination of my career) that everything prior to it seems like a whole different lifetime ago. Alternatively, maybe the accomplishment of a goalóin my case, running sub 3:40óputs a figurative bookmark in oneís life so everything prior to the accomplishment of the goalóin my case, having a jobóseems like a different chapter and thus more distant.
So where to live? And when to move? California? NYC? DC? Boulder? Flagstaff? My parents have generously offered to house me rent-free in Chicago while I "de-compress," but I suspect they have ulterior motives: they too are about to move out of their house in September and they probably hope that I can be a little more discriminating in which of my childhood toys and mementos make the cut to the new place. As my mom likes to remind me, my current collection of "save" boxes in our basement outnumbers my siblingsí combined total by about 2:1. Itís not my fault my parents raised me to be acquisitive, raised my brother to be Spartan, and raised my sister to be fashionable (thus, she can dispose of last seasonís wardrobe). Two of my "save" boxes contain all of the various and sundry medals, plaques, trophies and ribbons from my pre-college glory days. My personal favorite is the 6th place team trophy I received in 1982 from the Welles Park T-ball league. There were only 6 teams in the league and this trophy dwarfs anything Iíve won in the last 8 years. Look to youth sports leagues for a lesson in ego-building. No wonder I never pushed myself in baseball Ė there was no incentive.
And my long-term plan with running has not changed, although I am certainly more enthused about continuing my career than I was 6 weeks ago. As I said earlier, itís very hard to go out on top. After my final race (which probably will be a mile in Falmouth this weekend), I will take a couple weeks off and then I will run 70-80 miles a week for two or three months without working out. I imagine that by December I will decide whether I miss competitive running enough to continue. So I look at the high mileage without workouts as buying an option. Itís relatively inexpensive compared to working out intensely, but I can see which direction the stock (my enthusiasm about running competitively) is headed after a couple months. If itís going up, I will exercise the option (start working out/competing); if itís crashing, the option may be worthless and I may forget about the stock (start jogging or quit altogether) or buy another option (continue running high mileage).
But my main concern is the short-term. When people ask me what being "sponsored by Reebok" entails, they are most impressed by the fact that everyone in our club gets free equipment and travel. Itís this post-USATF season that makes me appreciate the other benefits the Enclave provides. The most valuable (and underrated) service, besides the coaching and facilities, is the organization of travel and meets. All I have to do is show up in Georgetown parking lot and board the bus. Gags calls the meet directors and enters us into the races, and Carole Heffernan, the enclave business administrator, organizes the logistics. Iíve had a "Iím not in Kansas anymore" feeling ever since I got bacof pants, I need open only one catalog, J.Crew, the only retailer to sell khakis with a 36" inseam. Obviously, there must be other mainstream retailers with clothes that would fit me, but ignorance is bliss.)
Then thereís the issue of finding races, or in some cases, making the race. The first week I was back from California, I spent the better half of a couple days trying to coerce teammates into running in an exhibition mile at the Blue Ridge Mountain Running Camp. I would be a horrible meet director. It was worse than trying to recruit girls to come to one of our parties, and there was a lower turnout. Jason Gibbons, Mike Grant (two recent Columbia grads and new Enclave members) and I toed the line along with Marc Davis to form what must be a record for the smallest field ever assembled to chase after prize money (and, of course the glory of running fast in front of 350 cheering high school campersócome to think of it, this may have been the best attended meet I ran all year, and it probably had the highest ratio of fans to participants of any meet in the country). And there have been my attempts to get in touch with agents or other connections who could provide me with guidance on getting over to Europe. Craig Masback suggested that I get a comprehensive list of races, fly myself over, and petition the different directors in person, offering to rabbit if necessary. Sage advice, but I donít know if I am still "feeling it" enough to merit putting my money where my mouth is. Steve Holman was less optimistic, advising me to whore myself in the states. ("Road whore" is the good-natured term used by track runners to describe their perceived weaker brethren who have sold out and actually make money by running road races. True track runners take a sick pride in not being appreciatedómonetarily or otherwise.) Nor was my teammate Matt Holthaus high on his chances of getting over to Europe, and he is faster than me, has an agent, and placed 8th in the Trials. On the other hand, I saw Darrin Shearerís name in the 1500m results at Linz. Masback is probably right in suggesting that I take the initiative, but I am still going to wait to hear back from the agents Mark Wetmore (not the CU coach) and Tony Campbell. Itís easier to leave it in someone elseís hands.
k from California. The members of the Enclave have disbursed: the 800m Olympians, Woodward and Kenah are bouncing back and forth between Europe and Georgetown, Holman is in London, his base of operations for the summer, and everyone else but Holthaus has hung the spikes up for the season. Gags still gives me workouts, only one of which Iíve done with Holthaus, but Iím on my own for everything else. Booking a flight or reserving a rental car is something you take for granted until you have to do it. If Iím not surfing the net looking for flights on my super-slow phone line connection (I miss my Palo Alto hostsí DSL connection), Iím worrying about finding them and deciding when to go. Do I fly to Chicago on Thursday and spend time with the family before the Saturday race or do I wait till Friday so that I can cross more things off my to-do list? Do I take the meet-provided hotel and go out to watch Joe Newton (York HSís legendary coach) give a motivational speech the Friday night before the race or do I sleep in my own bed and make the 90 minute drive out to Rockford the day of the race with my family? If Gags were in control, I wouldnít have to worry about these choices. He would tell me what to do and I would do it. And Iíd be happy. I can see the appeal of communism. Having too much choice is stressful. Wouldnít it be easier if there were only one style of blue-jeans available? (Hereís an example of lack of choice simplifying and thus, improving, my life. People often ask me if itís hard to find clothes that fit. I am 6í5" so yes, it would be extremely difficult for me to walk into a typical store and find clothes, but to their surprise, I look at this situation as a blessing in disguise. In spite of my strong consumer instincts, I am able to throw away most catalogs and avoid clothes shopping. If I need a shirt, I go to Nordstrom, which is the only placeóbesides Big and Tall stores, which I refuse to patronize because I am in denial of my freakish heightóthat consistently sells shirts with a 37" sleeve length. If I need a pair
Everyone in California knew someone who knew someone. Ernie Lee got me an informational interview with a Princeton grad who runs a Venture Capital company in San Fran. As the modifying adjective suggests, the purpose of an informational interview is not to size up a job candidate but to provide the interested party with information and insights on an industry. In my interview, I basically learned that being proficient with Hotmail and an expert with the auto filter function on Microsoft Excel are not considered skills in the venture capital industry. If I want to get into VC (somehow this acronym does not flow as easily off my tongue as it does from the hipstersí of the Peninsula), I should go to an investment banking or consulting and get exposed to a bunch of industries and pick one that interests me. Is that going to be a good move for my running career? Steve Liona, a former Heps competitor, said his company was looking to hire some quantitative guyóhe gave me his email. And how could I forget Kevin Kramerís girlfriendís brother, who knows some guys in the finance department of his company who might know of some leads. And I still have yet to check out, let alone put my resume on, any of those web-sites that match employers with job-candidates. All of these leads are on my to-do list.
Back to the Dry Erase board
The Dry Erase board contains six different lists, most of which have remained depressingly static since their creation. "Job leads," "Running," "Cleaning" (which I have decided is like packing and will take as long as I let it, so I will wait till my last day in the house tackle this one), and "Admin" dominate the more fun categories of "Other/leisure" and "Roadtrip," but this is in part because I use some discretion in what I write on the to-do list. I am reluctant to put up somewhat enjoyable activities which have task-like qualities. Not only are reminders of a fun task unnecessary; once they are up on the board, I am more likely to look at them as a chore. Take writing this journal for instance. Although I still have pages and pages of notes about my trip to California to convert to readable prose, I left this activity off my list. The exception is my "Other/leisure" and "Roadtrip" categories, which, tellingly, are crammed up against the left wall of the board. I included these categories so I wouldnít forget the fun ideas. A keg/croquet party sits atop the "Other/leisure" list, followed by a tubing excursion. I will help organize these events after the running season ends, but Iíve knocked the "Oís Game" and "Twilight" off the list already.
In my quest to complete the sports spectating equivalent of winning all four grand slam tennis events, I want to watch a professional hockey, basketball, baseball and football game all within a 12 month time frame. I know. Itís a little ambitious, but shoot for the stars and you might hit the moon, right. In any case, after witnessing Tuesday nightís resounding defeat of the hapless Orioles at the hands of my newly-beloved Chicago White Sox (yes, I am a fair weather fan, and no, I still can not name a single player on their roster besides Frank Thomas), I am three quarters of the way towards my grand-slam goalónow all I need is to land some tickets to a Redskins game. What made the baseball game especially satisfying was that I saw it with my friend Christy, a die-hard Orioles fan. Of course, the problem with being a fair-weather fan is that you donít really care about the teamóyou just want to be attached to the its successóso you donít feel truly inspired to taunt the opposing teamís fans. Thus, Christy was spared my gloating.
The first weekend I was home from California, I drove up to the Catskills to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins at their summer house in Twilight, NY. I had never visited the often raved about setting, and I wanted a break from my to-do list. Indeed, there were phenomenal views of the nearby Kauterskills Falls (the inspiration for many of the Hudson school paintings) but my most vivid memory was of Uncle John cliff-jumping at Fawnís leap. The twenty-five foot height pales in comparison to the heights achieved my legendary cliff-jumper Darrin Shearer (whoís also noted for his steeplechase abilities), but the dramatic fashion in which Uncle John entered rivaled Darrinís trademark gainer. As we approached the overlook into the pool, I paused to remove my shirt and put down my towel. When I turned back towards the cliff, Uncle John was already in mid-air, arms extended, booming shout echoing through the canyon below. I had expected us all to stand on the cliff in trepidation, but John had put us young ones to shame. Round two of the jumps restored some of my dignity, as several tourists waited for me to jump to take their action photos. At the time, I assumed this was because I had the best form of our group, but in hindsight, I realize that maybe they thought I was most likely to miss the pool of water below.
As for my goal of getting an escape from my to-do list, I predictably confounded it by bringing along my laptop and the three Economists that had been delivered while I was in California with the idea that I would pursue some job leads and catch up on my Economics Focus reading. Needless to say, I didnít read a single page or even check my email over the weekend, but the fact that I knew I could work on them if I were so inspired detracted from my enjoyment trip. When am I going to learn my lesson? Ever since college, I have been guilty of taking along tons of books on overnight track trips with the idealistic goal of getting some work done. And the same thing would happen every time: I would wait till the last half hour of the bus ride home to open my reading material. And what takes 30 minutes on a dark bus full of guys playing cards and watching "Big Daddy" on video would only take five minutes in the library. How much more enjoyable would my trips have been if I had just accepted that they were solely for running and hanging out with my buddies? And how much more effective would I have been when I sat down to work if I knew that when I left the library I would not have to worry about my work?
Flight home to Chicago
And thatís why I should remove the dry-erase board and maybe even the desk from my bedroom. My bedroom should be a sanctuary from the stresses these items represent. This dry-erase board stares down at me from the wall and prevents me from immediately falling back asleep. I realize now that the to-do list symbolizes what is wrong with my life in DC and what was right about life in California. The best thing about staying at Ernieís and Kramerís place in Palo Alto was that I had the conveniences of home but I was on vacation from the stresses. I could prepare the food I wanted, and I had Kramerís pickup to roam about at my leisure, but my hosts kept the house clean and I had no bills to worry about. In an attempt to put myself back to sleep, I imagine little arrangements of spheres that represent random series of numbers. Iím tempted to get up and find my toiletry bag which contains the melatonin pills I first used to alleviate my insomnia the night before my race in Stanford, but Iím afraid these might make me sleep through my alarm. I know better than to read anythingóthat puts me to sleep at night but wakes me up in the morning. Instead, I fall back asleep trying to figure out the prime factorization of 538 (I tried to pick a random number but these 3 digits also happen to be the prefix to my parentsí phone number). As I drift off, I conclude it must be 2*239, exhausting successive odd number candidates.
I wake up at around a quarter to ten, a good 45 minutes before my alarm is due to go off. This gives me the illusion that I have a lot more time to get some things done before Weldon (who is staying at his brother Robertís place a mile up the road) picks me up at 11:00 for the 11:59 flight. I log on to email and write Graff (whom I have not seen since the Friday night after his 5k finals at the trials) to alert him to the bad news toilet. Annoyed by really bad sideburns and some hair hanging over my ears, I suddenly find myself in front of the mirror with a pair of tiny pink scissors I found in my drawer. Where do I get these ideas? Midway through this ill-advised haircut attempt, after butchering the left side of my head, I look at my watch and realize Weldon will be here in 15 minutes, and I have yet to pack, shower and eat. My dad says I inherited from my mom this tendency to overestimate how much I can accomplish in a small period of time. I leave the other side of my head untouched, hoping my mom will bribe me to get a haircut in Chicago, and hop in the shower. I have packing for weekend trips down to a science. Out of habit, I throw my spikes in my backpack but in a stroke of luck, I happen to catch myself, remembering this is a road race not a track race. I quickly replace the spikes with a pair of flats and Iím fully packed by 11:00. No Weldon yet, which is okay. I can make one last Ultimate Meal before we depart. I wonít be able to prepare a sandwich for lunch as I had initially planned and I wonít be able to clean the kitchen after I leave (not that anyone would notice), but the Meal is the most important thing. I clean the blender and pour in two cups of water, several frozen mango chunks, a few frozen strawberries, and a ripe banana. On top of this motley fruit medley, I sprinkle the last of the unappetizing Green Powder from the Ultimate Meal canister, trying not to let the freshener packets tumble in. By the time Iíve poured the concoction into my big blue cup, itís almost 11:10. Still no Weldon. I dial Robertís number just to make sure heís awake. The answering machine picks up Ė he must be on his way. As I start cleaning the dishes, I get a little nervous. My flight is at 11:59; with no traffic, the airport is 15 minutes away. Robert should have picked up the phone. Maybe theyíre both still asleep. Sure enough, when I call back at 11:13, Robert answers the phone with a groggy voice. Without enough urgency in my voice, I ask if Weldon is there. I hear Robert get up and knock on some door. Since when is Robert polite enough to knock on someoneís door, let alone Weldonís? This is not the time for courtesy. Weldon is not stressed as he says he can be down to my place in 5 minutes. I know this is an optimistic estimate. Just last night, I watched him spend 10 minutes looking for a shoe. And then heíll have to walk at least a couple minutes to get to his car. I refrain from doing the "how much time do I have left" calculations in my head. Beating my expectations, Weldon pulls up to the house at 11:23óto his credit, he can move quickly when he needs to. Itís going to be a close call at the airport but itís a moral victory for me, as I think this is the first time I have ever been completely ready when someone arrived to pick me up. As Weldon cruises through stop signs on the way down to the Key Bridge, we rehash the events of the previous evening.
I have never flown ATA (the only cheap airline that flies out of nearby Reagan National) before, and as we pull into the Airport with 25 minutes to spare, I half expect not to see ATA listed under any of the Terminals. But there it is: Terminal 1. Weldon drops me off and I pass through the metal detector and arrive at Gate 6. To my relief, there is no line at the ticket counter. I walk up and ask for an e-ticket to Chicago for Scott Anderson. She asks me whether anyone unknown has asked me to carry anything or if my baggage has been out of my control since I packed. Lately I think I have noticed that the ticket booth operators look me in the eye when asking these questions. Maybe the regulators have directed them to ask the questions more sincerely in hopes that travelers will be less likely to lie. In this case, I am telling the truth when I respond in the negative to both of the questions, but in most cases, I canít honestly say that the bag has not been in my possession. Sometimes itís sitting out of my sight by a seat on the other side of the terminal as I answer them. So what do they care, anyway? The bag made it through the metal detector, right? And what procedure would they follow if I responded that yes, in fact, I had left the bag outside on the porch while I went in to go to the bathroom? She gives me my ticket and I sit down. I look at my watch: 11:43, twenty minutes for the whole process. Already quite pleased with myself for getting away with being reckless (itís a sad reflection of my life that leaving my house late for a flight qualifies as living on the edge), I realize that my hand is still in my pocket on my wallet ready to pull out my driverís license: the ticket attendant never asked to see my id. This breach in security should disturb me, especially considering my disheveled appearance: one half of my head is missing big chunks of hair, an asymmetry that is only accentuated by my backwards Reebok baseball hat, a style that I usually employ when I want to get carded buying alcohol. But for some reason, it only increases my feeling of self-satisfaction.
I take the train from Midway airport downtown, where I visit my sister Claire at her office downtown. The rest of the family, myself included, lives vicariously through her because she is doing a summer internship at one of those dot-com internet startups we are always hearing about. Granted, itís in Chicago, not Silicon Valley, and itís in a 50 story skyscraper, not the founderís basement, but like any self-respecting start-up, it has no revenues, let alone profits, and it probably does not expect any for the foreseeable future. We have a nice lunch on the Chicago River with my dad, who works in the building next to her. I tease Claire that the quality of her soon-to-be-purchased-belated-birthday-gift will depend on the outcome of my upcoming race and my resulting purse. She tells me that some of her co-workers thought I was her boyfriend. Of course, she is offended that they would think she had such bad taste.
On the train ride up to my home, I marvel that throughout high school, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning for the 55 minute commute to school via public transit. Usually I would take the Kimball bus to the Congress train and get off at Racine, and then walk or run (depending on the tardiness tolerance of my first period teacher), the ~600 meters to Whitney Young Magnet High School. Or I could take the Kimball bus to the much closer Ravenswood train, which would drop me off at Belmont, where I would transfer once to the Howard line and then a second time to the Congress line. Although they could add as much as 10 minutes to my commute, the transfers in the second route greatly improved my chances of running into some of the better looking girls from school. Not that I ever talked to any of them, or even made eye contact with them. I think it was the possibility, regardless of how slim, of interaction that intrigued me. I guess this was before I could go to bars.
One of my favorite things about coming home is going running on Lake Michigan, so on Friday, my mom and I drive the three and a half miles directly east from our house to Foster beach. Itís probably about a nine mile run all the way downtown, but from Foster, I can do a short out and back down to Belmont harbor and still get a nice view of the majestic skyline. On the way down, I briefly depart from the lakeside path to run up the Montrose hill, one of the only hills in Chicago. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but Illinois is the second flattest state in the country, next to Florida. I have always wondered how they measure flatness: perhaps itís the surface area (which takes into account all of the rises and dips) divided by the area (which takes into account only the coordinates of the perimeter), or it could be average elevation. I remember dreading this Montrose hill when I was in high school. Located smack dab in the middle of the site of the state-qualifying cross country meet for the Chicago public league, it was the only hill I ever encountered in high school cross country meets. No wonder why collegiate cross country was a shock for me.
The problem with running on the lakeside path, even in the middle of a weekday, is the number of bikers, rollerbladers and joggers. Itís not that they get in my way: the audience (even when itís not paying attention) brings out the showoff in me, and I canít help but run fast, even when I have a race the next day. Fortunately, I am in the thirty-minute-a-day running mode (I think Iíve been in that mode since May), so I canít exhaust myself too much. After the run, I join my mom at the beach and go for a swim. We both wonder why she took us kids to the Lincolnwood pool instead of the beach when we were younger. We liked the diving boards and we disliked sand in our swim trunks. (In contrast, as I write this, the gritty feel of the sand still in my sandals from this past weekendís trip to Cape Cod pleases me, reminding me of good times I had with my friends.)
State Street Mile in Rockford
I decide to skip the pre-race festivities in favor of spending quality time with family and friends. On Saturday afternoon, my parents drive me out to Rockford for the State Street mile. Last year, I had finished next to last in a surprisingly good (for a road race) field, about 11 seconds in back of the winner. I won no money and wasnít even reimbursed for my expenses, but it was fun to hang out in Chicago. Calling about this road race was one of the first things I put up on my to-do list, but I had procrastinated because of my dismal showing last year. So when I got home from New York this past Monday, I was surprised and pleased to hear a message from John Cook asking me if I would like to come to the State Street mile in Rockford. It wasnít until after I called him back to confirm that I would run that I realized Cookís call had probably been one of desperation. Normally, road race directors start trying to line up a good field months in advance. They donít usually resort to calling in the b-squad until the top choice competitors bail, which doesnít usually happen until the week before the race. My suspicion that I am a backup choice is confirmed when I arrive at the meet headquarters. I am one of only six entrants in the race, the rest of whom all have lower numbers than me. In case I had any doubts about my second class status, the meet director complains that two elite athletes had canceled last week and two more had called just this past Monday to say they couldnít make it (hmmm, was the timing of my call a coincidence?) Not that I expect to be on his A-list after last yearís debacle, but I still feel like I have something to prove.
The painfully slow quarters I had done two days ago on North Park Collegeís new track weigh heavily on my mind, but after my double espresso (the Johnsons introduced me to this 45 minute prior to race ritual at Stanford), my legs feel fresh. One of my competitors, Tim Broe, sings "Iíve got no motivation," a line from a Green Day song, to his girlfriend as he stretches. He just got back from Europe two days ago and drove up from Alabama yesterday. Is he setting us up?
Apparently. The gun goes off and I find myself in the lead for the first 800m. Not my style on the track, but it seems easier on the roads. 55-56 at the first quarter, which is downhill. The next 400m is flat, but I am surprised to hear 2:01 for the split. Did I really just run a 65? I guess it always feels faster on the roads. I feel comfortable but I am definitely not floating like I was at Stanford. Broe passes me and immediately opens up a five meter gap. On the far left side of the street, I see Julius Mwangi hugging the curbódoes he think heís going to sneak by us? The next quarter is mostly downhill, so I am surprised to hear 3:01 for the ĺ quarter split. I had thought sub-4:00 (for which thereís a $100 bonus) was in the bag, but I feel a little fatigued now and the last quarter looks pretty flat. Broe picks up the pace and extends his lead a bit. I follow chase but I canít seem to close the gap. Mentally, I start to settle for second, which I think is wrapped up until I feel Julius on my left shoulder with about 100m left. Damn, Iíd forgotten about him; the cheering of the crowds on either side of the street had drowned out the sound of his stalking footsteps. The surprise sends me a jolt of adrenaline, and my legs respond well to hold off this new challenge, but not well enough to catch Broe, who wins in 3:57.3. Julius and I both dip under 4:00 for the bonus.
I ditch the post-race "party" and join my parents to dine with our friends from Rockford, the Witchers. After a Mexican dinner worthy of a Gourmet magazine cover, we head to the meet headquarters hotel, and I feel like a mercenary as I pick up my prize money. Not that anyone would notice my absence. By the time we get back to Chicago well, itís well past midnight and Iíve lost motivation to call Mitch (my friend from high school) and meet him out.
Back in Chicago
My conversations with my family lately have been fantastic. On Sunday, we sit at our porch table from 9:30 in the morning till 3:30 in the afternoon. I remember when I used to beg to be excused from the dinner table as soon as I finished my meal, and my parents would force me to sit down and tell them about my day. In this session, we talk about what we expect from friends. My parents tell me about their relationships with their families and what life was like in their twenties when they had just gotten married and how they too were uncertain about their future careers. We talk about each otherís personalities. My mom thinks my dad is too critical and jumps to too many negative conclusions about people. My dad, in turn, claims that although he is critical, he accepts people, and he accuses my mom of shying away from criticism. Obviously, I consider myself a happy medium of characteristics. I am open-minded like my mom but I am not afraid to be critical, although I am certainly not as vocal as my dad is.
The only reason I excuse myself from this conversation is that I need to go for another 30 minute run before we head downtown to Grant Park to see an outdoor symphony, Beethovenís Ninth (yes, I have exceeded my summer quota of cultural events). I run up to Devon through River Park and then over to Pulaski and then back home via Bryn Mawr. With the exception of recent summers, when I have done most of my runs by the lake, almost all of my runs in Chicago since my freshman year of high school have been a variation of this route. I know it sounds like a cliché, but the nursing home just south of Peterson really does seem less immense, the green fence bordering the Rosedale Cemetery really does seem shorter, and the five foot square cement segments that comprise the city blocks seem smaller. Strangely, the pace of my typical run over the past 12 years has remained constant (at about 6:30 per mile). I remember doing a 12 miler in 70 minutes (about 5:50 per mile) when I was a senior in high school. I can probably count on two hands the number of runs of that length and that pace Iíve done since then. Todayís four and a half miler is probably at least the fourth run Iíve thought would be my last in the neighborhood. Originally my parents were supposed to move into their new pad by the middle of the summer, but after a delay in construction, the move-in date got pushed back to the fall. Each trip home desensitizes me a little more so this run is surprisingly unsentimental.
My flight back to DC is Monday afternoon. My mom comes home from work around noon to drive me to the El (the nickname for the elevated train that I take downtown) so that I can take the train back to Midway airport. After insisting on feeding me one more time, she asks me again about which boxes I want in an off-site storage facility and which I want moved to their apartment (there is an unspoken understanding that as soon as I settle down into a place of my own, Iíll take them back). On the way out to the car, we walk through the old work room that is now filled with boxes to be moved. I tell my mom she can keep all of the boxes offsite except the one with my baseball mitt and snorkel equipment (I may need to diversifying my athletic pursuits soon). As I glance around the room, the trophy boxes catch my eye. Why am I keeping them? I wish there was something creative I could do with this 91 pound assortment of plastic and cheap wood. Maybe I could glue and screw them together to create a hideous sculpture and ironically title it "a soccer momís dream?" (Yes, there are a few soccer trophies in the mix.) The Museum of Contemporary Art might go for that. Or better yet, I could recreate the beautifully choreographed scene from Office Space in which the freshly-downsized disgruntled software programmers steal a printer from their former office, take it to an open field, and bash it to bits with baseball bats. After hanging out with Honerkamp, I realize we both live too much in the past. I look back to my magical 1995 season when I seemed to improve with each meet. From the (already described) IC4A meet in which I qualified for the NCAA championships, to the NCAAs where I made it to the 1500m finals and qualified for the USATF meet. I made it to the finals at the USATF championships and finished a career high 7th, earning a trip to Europe with the USATF middle distance Olympic Development team. I still wear a backpack I bought in Sweden that summer, and I saved a pair of ugly Brooks trainers I wore throughout the end of the season. Honerkamp had a similar year in 1996 when he was the youngest person in the 800m semifinals at the Olympic Trials and went over to Sweden to run several prs. We are both haunted by these successes of the past. Why havenít we lived up to the promise we showed? It seemed so easy to improve back then. I donít remember being stressed at all the whole season. The reason we didnít worry about resting on our laurels is that we had no laurels to rest on. John and I both need to realize that aside from analyzing what we were doing right during these seasons, looking back is only going to stress us out to the detriment of our current running. We need to start living in the present and looking to the future, not the past. Maybe I should give that backpack to my sister and hand over those old Brooks to the Salvation Army.
After a few moments in the work room, I demote my trophy boxes from "save" to "discard" status.