A Typical Day at the Trials
Now that we’re back from Eugene, Oregon, also known as Track Town, U.S.A., I thought I’d share what our typical day was like during the Olympic Trials.
My wife, Malinda Walker, was willing to make her ninth trip with me to a major track & field meet (2008-Olympic Trials, Beijing Olympics; 2009-Prefontaine, USA Champs, Berlin World Champs; 2010-USA Champs/Prefontaine (Des Moines & Eugene on the same trip!), 2011-USA Champs, Daegu World Champs; 2012-Olympic Trials). London will be our tenth trip. Joining us for the 2012 Olympic Trials was our friend John Gieng. Poor John had to put up with the antics that only an immature forty-one year old track coach and his going-on-five year bride can deliver.
Our typical day began with coffee from our Holiday Inn hotel room coffee maker with coffee bought at the Starbuck’s down the road. The capacity of the coffee maker was four cups. The caffeine requirements of the three of us combined was more than four cups. We had to empty the filter and make a fresh brew a couple times. Did I mention that at the Olympic Trials Fan Festival, official Olympic sponsor Chobani was handing out free samples of their Greek yogurt? I would frequent their booth multiple times every day and thus would have a good selection to pick from out of our refrigerator every morning.
After fueling up, we usually went for a run. Sometimes we would join one of the many group runs happening around town and sometimes we would go it alone. After the run, we needed more fuel so it was usually a stop to get brunch and more coffee then back to the hotel for a shower. Any time back at the hotel meant checking my e-mail, Facebook, blog stats, and LetsRun.com, to see what happened while we were out.
That usually brought us to one or two o’clock. At that time, we started planning when to head to the track for the meet. This year, getting ready to leave for the meet meant John checking the weather on his smartphone. What was the chance of rain? What was the expected temperature? This would lead us to the important decision of what to wear. Six out of the eight times we used our rental bikes to bike to the meet. Sometimes the chances of rain were so high that a glance out the window answered the question. We ended up taking the bus once and driving and taking a shuttle once. We don’t mind biking in the rain but it’s no fun to sit for four hours of a meet in wet clothes.
Biking to the track was always an adventure for me. While John and Malinda casually pedaled the five mile/25 minute ride to the track, I had to focus to keep up. If my mind wandered to Shannon’s upcoming race or I started writing my next blog in my head, I would look up and find myself a block (or more) behind them.
We had to go through security to get in. Plastic water bottles were allowed. Water in said plastic water bottles was not. No umbrellas. No outside food. Bags were inspected. We all had to walk through a metal detector. Once inside we would visit the Fan Festival for free stuff (did I mention the Chobani yogurt?), buy more coffee from Allann Bros., or visit the USATF appreciation tent. After the Chobani booth, the USATF appreciation tent, which offered USATF members free ice cream, coffee, and kettlecorn the last three days of the meet, was my favorite.
Our seats were in the west grandstand, Section F, row 19. We were on the final straightaway, with the long jump runways right in front of us. For the short sprints, directly in front of us was probably 60 meters to go. We did have an overhang above us but when it rained and the wind shifted we were close enough to the end of the overhang to get wet. At this point, I need to give a shout out to the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders (LMJ&S) because the seat cushion they gave out to all participants of the Woodminster race, while at first seeming to be a silly giveaway, was a valued commodity on the wooden seats of Historic Hayward Field (my dry and comfortable rear end thanks you, LMJ&S!).
When Shannon wasn’t running, there was lively banter between the three of us – who had the A standard, what underdog was going to surprise everyone, who’s uniform was the dorkiest, etc. When Shannon was running, there was nervous tension in the air. The Olympic Trials is very well timed so every event gets its time in the spotlight. The announcer keeps you informed of what’s happening. The scoreboards on the field and the two jumbotrons help you keep track of the field event marks and who’s in what place. On the rare occasions when there was a break in the action, I reached into my backpack to pull out a snack from Chobani.
After the meet the main questions were: Where are we going to eat? and Are we going to have coffee or beer with dinner? Some nights we stopped by the local watering hole favored by Northern California coaches and track geeks, the Wild Duck Café. Other nights we ate healthy food somewhere else.
After biking back to the hotel, we had a pretty standard evening ritual. John would update the Pamakids Olympic Trials Game Standings and we’d have lively discussion about how various people were doing, who made good picks and who made horrible picks (horrible ones being the more entertaining of the two), and who Noe’s Moustache might be. I would formulate the next question to be sent out (with suggestions from the peanut gallery of Malinda and John). Once the Google Doc was updated, I would send out the nightly e-mail to the Pamakids Racing Team list serve.
Then we would have more discussion about the meet we just witnessed or what we were looking forward to seeing the next day. The night USATF released their dead heat procedures was by the far the most entertaining evening for discussion and comedy in Room 623 at the Holiday Inn in Springfield. When we’d had enough of LetsRun message boards, FloTrack interviews, RunningSpace videos, and USATF tweets, it was time to turn off the lights and go to sleep….so we could start this whole wonderful cycle all over again. Yes, it was Track Heaven.