Friday, July 1, 2016

2016 Olympic Trials - Day 1

When I attended the 2008 Olympic Trials as a volunteer, I never thought I'd be an integral part of this event someday.

Never, ever. Yet here I am, an official official!
The bleachers, the track, and my thumb...
More track (and more thumb)
Tough morning at work yesterday, mostly because of anticipation. I lit out of there at 1030, and the trip to Eugene flew by. Upon arrival, I made short work of dorm check-in and credential pickup; I was warned to avoid the masses, as gear pickup on Sunday was 300 people deep. Not me; in and out in 10 minutes.

Right badge, wrong shirt
Leaving the dorm, I see a car pull up and a woman get out. I yell, "No Long Islanders allowed!" She sees me and cracks up. It's Sue, our assistant Chief Umpire and resident of the Empire State. Huge accent, too. She gives me a big hug...I notice her luggage could be described as 'cruise-worthy,' simply enormous!

Buddy Nate got permission from a neighbor for me to park my car in their driveway; the neighbor's house is unoccupied and they like it looking like someone is there. A quick bike ride down the hill to the pre-meet briefing. And the swag....


6 shirts, nice ones. And a really nice jacket.

I love track.

Everyone's favorite Starting Line Clerk is there, looking much better than at Indoor Worlds when he had a near permanent out of body experience.

Starter Tom arrives: a good New England Irishman who's also the Finish Line Marshal for the Bahston Marathon. He told me he'd be renting a bike, so I brought mine. When he returned with the bike, he realized he forgot to get a helmet, so another trip to the shop!  We had a nice 10 mile ride along the river...


and we somehow managed not to hit this eye-level tree branch across the path...


But I need to work on my underway selfies....

At least I didn't take an unplanned header (as if a header is ever planned).

We passed UO Sophomore Raevyn Rogers, who is a wildcard in the women's 800. She carries a big bucketful of attitude when she runs.

Lots of bike racks on campus, but they have signs saying "all bikes will be impounded." ???? Meanwhile, the dorm lobby says 'No bikes.' Make up your mind, people: in the meantime, I'm keeping my bike in my room (not the lobby, so I'm not breaking any rules, right?).


Yesterday, the 20k race walk was held in Salem, an hour up the road, with 2,000 curious spectators lining the course. Great idea by the organizers; they've pushed hard to get the public more involved in track. For example, the Fan Festival at the Trials, where anyone can watch the event live on the JumboTrons for free. Or the athlete introductions at the World Indoor Championships, complete with fog machine and fireworks like an MMA event.

Anyhow, the race walk was not without its controversy. A local woman was red-carded 3 times for bad (cheating) form, but the judges didn't properly update the status board during the race, so she screamed bloody murder. However, she was also yellow-carded at least a half-dozen times by different judges. Of course, the newspaper only printed her side of the story.

Regardless, I don't like subjective criteria (judging) in sports. Makes it tough to get it right all the time.

I'm also violently opposed to golf in the Olympics: the Olympic motto of 'stronger, higher, faster' doesn't apply to that activity....but that's another story.

Went to the grocery store: in the energy bar section, right next to Clif Bars and the like, I found this:


Not sure how I feel about that. Expecting sweet, and instead get animal protein?

This morning: up at 0450 for a quick bike ride to the Amazon Pool and an hour's worth of laps. Then another ride with Tom. Gotta justify my appetite somehow.

At early meal today, the sign next to the breakfast ham said, "Contains pork. No gluten."


The first of many briefings...



Feel Good Story of the Day: Adam Nelson qualified for the shot put final. That doesn't mean much except that Adam Nelson was the runner-up in the 2004 Olympics. Turns out the guy who beat him was retroactively busted for steroids; today, Adam is going to be awarded his long-overdue gold medal!  And he's fighting for another Olympic berth at age 40.

A local volunteer whose husband does wood working had done me a tremendous favor. A gift that every umpire should have....


Not the hat, but the restraining device. When the wind kicks up, these hats go airborne very quickly. Bev's husband put some foam inside for a snug fit, then added grommets and a sporty looking shoelace to tie under my chin when conditions warrant.

I need to remember something: it's the little things that are the big things.

Another friend works for the events company that does Monday's Butte to Butte 10k run. Packet pickup starts today and runs through the weekend; I thought I'd have to hustle downtown to get my gear and then get back to the track, but security around the Trials venue could mean a long wait. And that could make me tardy for the events. Instead, Jeanne volunteered to pick up my stuff for me, saving me an hour and a ton of hassle. I told her I'm buying dinner for her family after the race.

Before the running events, there was a parade of champions. If you're not a bonafide track geek, you might as well skip this part.

Otis Davis, the first University of Oregon athlete to win Olympic Gold: 1960 400m in Rome. O....M....GAWD! I have been reading about this man since I was 10 years old! (and if you don't believe me, I'll tell you WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP that his full name is Otis Crandall Davis).

Dave Wottle, 1972 Gold Medalist in the 800 meters, and owner of one hellacious kick!

Francie Larrieu, member of 5 Olympic teams ranging from 1500m to the marathon....and some guy named Shorter, who was also a pretty good runner.

After seeing these folks, it took me awhile to stop hyperventilating (and genuflecting).

Next door at the Fan Festival, where folks can watch the meet for free...


This is how Nike originally sold shoes: out of a van.

I can't remember why I took this picture...


My guy Adam Nelson was awarded his 2004 Gold Medal in a very nice and bittersweet ceremony, followed immediately by the National Anthem played on trumpet by a UO professor. Had a HUGE lump in my throat for those few moments, because the melody was played absolutely perfect, with amazing tone that was so full, round, buttery, Lobster-Benedict rich. I really hope someone uploads the video: that performance, and the perfectly timed fighter jet flyover on the last note. 

I freakin' LOVE track!

Duane Solomon, 4th in the last Olympic 800 and owner of a 1:42 800m, runs the stupidest race I've ever seen in the prelims. He's the class of the field, yet he leads with a slow pace and then EASES up at the end. This allows three guys to sneak past him: the number of heats provide automatic advancement for the first 3 in each heat, along with the next four fastest overall. Did I mention his heat was SLOW? He ran a 1:48, a light-year slower than his best, and didn't advance. 

Nike sued 800m stud Boris Berian over a lame/weak contract dispute, then withdrew their suit when they realized the bad press wasn't worth it. Boris then went to New Balance. Meanwhile, freshman phenom Donavan Brazier decides to go pro after breaking a 50-year-old college record, and Nike quickly snatches him up, probably for a king's ransom. Then Donavan has a bad race and also gets booted from the rounds. 

Nike had a bad day. Some would say it was well-deserved. 

I saw the end of a lot of great careers today: Sanya Richards-Ross, Reese Hoffa, Adam Nelson, Bernard Lagat, Phoebe Wright, Maggie Vessey, Nick Symmonds (who didn't start his race), and the soon-to-be-done Jeremy Wariner, who is hanging by a thread. All those folks have been at the top of their game for a long, long time. 

During some long-forgotten heats, I'm standing trackside, minding my own business. A female athlete materializes in front of me, squealing, "I HAVE TO PEE!!"  I resist the urge to say, "that's the best news I've heard in years!"  She's looking for an escort, not an umpire. Can't help you...

Shot putters crack me up: these huge guys, wider than they are tall, and all with massive layers of chalk on one side of their necks. 

Stephanie Brown Trafton, who wanted to be Mary Lou Retton when she grew up. Except Stephanie kept growing well past 6', and currently has an Olympic Gold Medal in the discus somewhere back home. 

Between the 400m heats and the men's 10,000m final, I take a very short break from the track and head to the weight room...the very empty weight room, where I continue my pull-up regimen. 


Already 100% more reps than when I started 4 weeks ago, and rapidly closing in on my lifetime best from the Naval Academy (17.99999, and yes I'm still mad about the one that got away. It cost me a perfect score on my last Physical Readiness Exam!). 

Great day out there!

I love track.

Olympic Trials - Day 2

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