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Sunday, October 1, 2000

Sydney, Stadium Australia - Closing Ceremonies

The Games are officially over but the party has just begun! I've just returned from the Closing Ceremonies (WOW) and am too exhausted to join the rest of the athletes in late-night partying and carousing.

It's already well past midnight and the Village is surprisingly quiet. Everyone must have gone downtown to the Opera House or Darling Harbor to find the night clubs and pubs. Dancing and pubbing have been added to the Olympic program, it seems.

The Closing Ceremony tonight was pretty darn spectacular. Using all sorts of props, dancers, and music, the show highlighted Australian movies, entertainment superstars, and sports heroes. There were "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" drag queens, "Mad Max" road warriors, and "Strictly Ballroom" ballroom dancers. Paul Hogan, Elle MacPherson, and Greg Norman rode parade floats around the stadium before joining Midnight Oil, Men at Work, and several other "famous" Australian rock bands on stage for a rousing rendition of "Waltzing Matilda".

The best part, though, was parading on to the field for the second time during these Games. Instead of the orderly procession of each nation, all the countries came in together all mixed up in a jumble of colors, flags, and national emblems. I walked in with Canadians, Malaysians, Cook Islanders, and Belorussians. And everyone was smiling, taking pictures, dancing, and jumping around (we were excited, but it was also really cold so we had to move around to stay warm).

As the show moved from one stage in the center of the field to another along the side and back again, all the athletes drifted around the infield trying to get a closer look at the action. I wandered around talking to people I had met and recognized from earlier in the Games: people I raced against, met on a bus ride to the Olympic Park, or sat next to in the cafeteria a few days earlier. Many athletes were trading their uniforms, jackets, and pins. I saw two women who had practically stripped in order to exchange their t-shirts. There was so much else going on, no one even noticed.

Each athlete from the U.S. was given two tickets to the Ceremonies, so my parents were able to get in and have a great view of the festivities. I was even able to track them down up in the stands. I called them using the cell phone that I have on loan while I am here, and they were able to see me standing on the infield waving my little American flag up at them.

During every Games, the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron is a really big deal. This year, Cathy Freeman had the honors and it was awesome. The dowsing of the flame is often less climatic, but the Aussies had something special planned. The young girl who was featured in the Opening Ceremonies came back and sang a special "Goodbye Sydney" song (or something like that). Just as she finished singing and everyone's attention was on her and the flame above her, a Royal Australian Air Force fighter jet flew low over the flame. As it passed over the cauldron, the burn-off from the jet burst into flame as though the flame had jumped from the cauldron to the jet, and then the jet soared low over the stadium and rose into the sky, just a slowly fading orange beacon in the dark night. It was pretty cool.

It's nearly one in the morning and I have a busy day planned tomorrow. Packing, moving out of the Village, and visiting some of the sights here in Sydney. The Olympics may be over, but my Australian adventures continue....



Friday, September 29, 2000

It's over! I'm done! I finished!

Sydney, Olympic Village

Today's Olympic Village Headline:

It's over! I'm done! I finished!

What an amazing, exhilarating, and thouroughly exhausting experience. I am so tired now. (Or as they say down here in Australia, "I'm stuffed, mate!" The Aussies are full of odd little sayings.)

I don't know where to begin telling my story of today's 50k race. Let's see. I'll start at the end and then jump around to the beginning and then just try to piece together a jumbled narrative.

I finished 28th out of 56 walkers who started the race, right in the middle of the pack. My teammates Curt Clausen and Andrew Hermann finished 21st and 31st respectively. My time was 4:03:10 which was the second fastest 50K I have ever walked and the fastest this year.

During the race, there were several disqualification for breaking one of the two racewalking rules. Several other athletes dropped out before the finish because of the weather conditions. It was hot. The sun was up early and the humidity at the start was pretty high. By the end of the race at noon, it was nearly 30 degrees celsius, about 90 degrees fahrenheit.

Okay, to the beginning: I woke up this morning at 6am (after my roommate shook me awake because I didn't hear my alarm going off... oops, that would have been bad). After a wake-up shower, I ate a Clif bar, a banana and wandered over to the cafeteria for some toast ala PB&J. At 6:30 I was on the bus to the staging area, a training track adjacent to the Olympic Stadium. Two of our athletic trainers were there to help stretch out the U.S. walkers (thank you!). Suddenly it was 7:20 and time to go through the check-in process.

All the walkers were ushered into a tunnel that runs from the practice track to the main stadium. Coach gave us out last instructions and a hug. And then my Irish racewalk friend, Pierce O'Callaghan, wished me good luck.

When I walked into the Opening Ceremonies two weeks ago, I had expected to be overcome by so much emotion. I thought that all the years of work, all the painful workouts I had endured, all the memories of training with so many wonderful people, all the joys and failures of my walking career would come rushing in a torrent of emotion, tears, laughter. It happened today when Pierce said, "There are so many people who would kill to be in your shoes right now as you enter that stadium. Go get 'em!" I laughed and then the enormity of it all hit me and I had to wipe the tears away as I walked down the long, quiet tunnel.

Once underneath the stadium, I had a few minutes to collect my thoughts, change into my racing shoes and uniform, and do a few warm-up strides. Then we were introduced to the audience in the stadium. Because of our 8am start, the place wasn't full to the gills, but the people who were there made plenty of noise.

The three Americans were lined up on the front row. It was a bit nerve-racking since I was ranked 55th out of 56 starters, but hey, if I was going to be scared it would have already happened when I entered the Olympic Stadium.

Bang, we were off on five laps of the track inside the stadium. The crowd cheered in a wave as we came around and around the track. Then we walked into the tunnel, up the ramp, and one kilometer alongside the Stadium and SuperDome to the 2 kilometer loop where we would spend the next three plus hours sweating it out.

My plan was to walk very steady, consistent splits for each 2k loop and finish up in under 4 hours. After the first 10k, I was right on target, 47:33, and had gotten into a nice rhythm. In a 50K, it is critical to establish a good steady pace and put your brain on cruise control. So I was focused, relaxed and feeling pretty good by 10k. At 20k, I was still feeling loose, was trying to stay well-hydrated and cool. I could tell that it was getting warmer but I tried not to think about it too much. I put ice in my hat, ice in my shorts (brrr!) and kept drinking my electrolyte solution and water.

By 30k, I was getting tired (wow, big surprise!), but I felt good, relaxed and was still clicking along at my goal pace. People ahead of me were starting to struggle. I caught a few people and then a few more dropped out. The heat and an ambitious early pace started to take its toll.

At 40k, I started to have some problems moving my legs the way I wanted to move them. I kept saying, "Okay legs, keep the pace, keep it moving, let's go." But my legs had stopped listening. They had their own ideas about what would be fun, things like stopping, lying down, soaking in cold water. They began to voice their opinion more and more vehemently and I kept having to tell them to "be quiet, do your job, walk, one foot in front of the other." I slowed down to about 5:15-5:20 per kilometer over the last 8k and fell off my goal time. But I was still gaining on other people, surged up the last hill onto the road for home, and cruised into the Stadium to the roars of an appreciative crowd that had grown to near-capacity.

My racewalk buddy Elizabeth Paxton, a promising Junior (under 19) girl who trains with us occasionally in San Diego, had dared me to finish into the stadium with little American flag deely-bops on my head (I don't know what they are called, but they look cool). So I wore them the last kilometer into the Stadium, just for Elizabeth.

So that's it for now. I need to meet my family in town and then get some rest.

Cheers to you all and thanks SOOOO much for your emails and support.


Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Let the Games Begin!

Today's Olympic Village Headline:

Let the Games Begin!

The Olympics have been in full swing for 12 days and today for the first time I really really feel like they have started. The reason for that, I think, is that all of my friends and family have arrived. My parents and high school track/cross country coach got in two days ago. My brother arrived yesterday. And my girlfriend, her mom and two sisters, and my cousin arrived today. Now we can start this party!

The past three days have spun by pretty quickly. I've gotten into a nice routine of training, eating, sleeping, visiting with my family, more eating, more sleeping.

My typical day in the Olympic Village begins around 8 am when I wake up. My two roommates, Jason Pyrah (1500 meter runner) and Pascal Dobert (3000 steeplechase), are usually still asleep. I get dressed, walk up the hill to the main road that runs through the center of the Village. Within 30 seconds, a bus comes by, stops to pick up me and other athletes and takes us two stops down to the main cafeteria (open 24 hours a day). I walk into the HUGE white, circus-like tent where hundreds of other athletes have been eating breakfast since dawn. This morning, it was raining, so I hurried in, found some hot cereal, a banana, yogurt and some orange juice. Normally I just have cold cereal, maybe some toast with peanut butter and jelly.

By 9 am, I am back at my house ready to go to practice. Curt, Andrew, and Coach arrive and we walk back to the bus stop, take the bus to the International Zone at the other end of the Village. We walk outside the Village fencing, down the hill, and to our two kilometer loop along a flat, paved bike path. Today, Andrew and I were met by Matt Zaffino, the reporter from KGW TV back in Portland, OR, who did a short interview and then left his cameraman to film us stretching and training for 45 minutes.

After the workout, two young girls rode up on little scooters and asked all three of us and the Hungarian walking team for autographs. They were excited because the new development that they moved into a year ago is adjacent to the Olympic Village, which will be turned into a lovely suburb once the Games are over.

Once back inside the Village, having survived the accreditation badge scan, the airport security bag x-rays and metal detector, I jump on another bus that takes me back to the U.S.A. area. After nearly every workout, hard or easy, I try to get in to the Sport Medicine clinic to get some help stretching out and loosening up my muscles. I spend from 15 to 45 minutes there before going back to my room, showering, and by then it is usually lunch time.

After eating a high-carbohydrate meal, I waddle back to my room and lie down. I met one of the mountain bike riders from Colorado earlier in the week, and she summed up the three rules for endurance athletes prior to a major competition: 1) If you are standing up, sit down. 2) If you are sitting down, lie down. 3) If you are lying down, put your feet up. To that I usually add, eat lots of carbohydrates and drink plenty of fluids.

In the afternoons I sleep about an hour, read my book for another hour, and then sit up to watch some of the Olympics on TV. The great thing about being in the Village is that we can watch any of the events, live, at any time. There are 25 different Olympic channels piped in from all the different venues around Sydney.

The past couple days, I have been over to the Olympic Park to meet up with my family and friends in the late afternoon. Yesterday, I went into downtown Sydney to meet Mom, Dad, Malcolm (my twin brother) and Coach Bailey (Lincoln H.S. Go Cards!). Today I met up with the same group and my girlfriend and her family who arrived today. It's nice to spend a couple hours outside the Village relaxing and talking with the people who came all this way to see me.

Dinner at 8pm, relax and read for another hour, and then to bed around 10pm (now!).

My race is less than 36 hours away and I am starting to get a bit nervous. I've received lots of emails from school kids (THANK YOU!) who have asked me if I get nervous before a big race or not. Of course I get a little nervous, but I have also been in many big races before. I know that if I get too nervous, I will begin to worry and not be able to relax and race as well as possible. The key to racing well is being excited and confidence, and maybe a bit nervous, but not anxious and worried. In order to have a great race, you have to care about how well you do. If I went into this race thinking, "Oh, it's just any old race, whatever," I wouldn't do very well. I need to think, "This is a great opportunity for me to really get out there, have fun, stay relaxed, and walk super fast!"

It's time for me to get some sleep now. Let's hope that the U.S. baseball team doesn't wake me up when they get back to the Village carrying Tommy Lasorda on their shoulders.

Cheers from Sydney,


Cheers, mates!


Sunday, September 24, 2000

Sydney, Olympic Village - Chess Champs

Today's Olympic Village Headline: U.S. Racewalker battles Australian Chess Master and says, "Check, mate!"

Who says that the Olympics are just about flexing your muscles? In order to be the best athlete in the world, you need to exercise your mind as often as your body. In an effort to prove that athleticism and intellect do mix, I took the Olympic Chess Challenge.

While two of the world's chess grandmasters battled it out in two short-play chess games in the Olympic Amphitheater, I tried my best to outwit Australia's youngest chess master. Since he is only 14 years old and has a much younger and nimbler mind than my own, I decided he needed some kind of handicap. The way the tournament was set up, he had to play me and 19 other athletes and officials at the same time. After choosing his opening move against me, he proceeded to make 19 other opening moves and return to my board to answer my first move.

There were a few tense moments when I had him on the defensive. I did get to say, "Check, mate!" to him a couple times, but he got up a pawn late in the game and was able to outlast me for the win. I was happy to be one of the last players standing, though. All those games of chess for the Lincoln High School Chess Club finally paid off.

It was a big media event for the Australian chess community, so I may even be featured in their monthly newsletter or the local newspaper. Photos were taken; interviews were given. It was all very exciting. I think I made reference to the mental concentration it takes to walk for four hours in a 50 kilometer event, comparing that type of cerebral task to the rigors of a chess match. I'm sure they were impressed.

This morning's workout was much less taxing than the chess match, just an easy 10 kilometers at just under 8 minute per mile pace. It's nice to feel very comfortable and smooth now that I am cutting back on the mileage. Over the next few days, I will continue to do some short workouts and rest up a good bit.

I rested most of the afternoon and then went into downtown Sydney tonight for the first time. Wow! There is a ferry that shuttles athletes from near the Village directly to an area called The Rocks in the heart of Sydney.

In order to get there, we passed directly beneath the famous Sydney landmark, the Harbor Bridge. Mounted in bright lights across the entire span of the bridge are the five Olympic rings. It's an awesome sight, especially cruising slowly underneath with the glow of the city lights all around. And then, as soon as you pass underneath the bridge, boom, there is the Opera House lit up in blue, then gold, then red, and white and a mosaic of colors. I've seen so many photos and so much TV footage of the bridge and Opera House that I expected to be disappointed when I saw the real thing. Nope. It was really amazing.

Many of the swimmers and athletes in other sports that have already finished were drifting into the downtown area to celebrate and enjoy the post-competition aspects of the Olympics. They may or may not be back to the Village later tonight. Many of them were with family and friends who had made the trip over from the U.S. to see them compete.

It's gotten late and I need to get on my pre-race schedule: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a walker fast, faster and fastest!"

Cheers, mates!


Saturday, September 23, 2000

Sydney, Olympic Village

It's getting down to crunch time here at the Olympic Village. Today was the last of the intense speed workouts before the race and it went really well.

As I prepared for this morning's workout, the drama of yesterday's 20k race was still fresh in my mind. The tension and fatigue of watching yesterday's grueling race made it tough to focus on the intervals that I had to do today. What made it easier was seeing that 20K gold medalist, Robert Korsenovksi, and my training partner, Jefferson Perez, were out on the course for a workout the day after such a hard effort. If they could do an easy workout after a hard race, the least I could do was my tough workout.

Now that the men's 20k is over, the focus at the practice loop definitely shifted to the men's 50k. All of the heavies were out in force: Korsenovski (Poland) will be a strong contender in the 50K (he'll have seven days of rest between the 20K he just won); Jesus Garcia (Spain), 1997 World Cup Champion; Valentin Massana (Spain), 1996 Olympic bronze; Tomaz Lipzig (Poland), 1999 World Cup silver; and the guy from Kazakstan who won the World Cup last year. Not to mention a couple Russians who walked really really fast earlier this year.

I did some of my workout with Curt Clausen, my U.S. teammate who finished 4th at the World Championships last year in the 50K. Usually no one pays much attention to the American walkers, but all the athletes were keeping a close eye on us. They were looking at our technique, our shoes, how relaxed we looked, how fast we were going. Several coaches would check their watches when Curt went by to see what kind of splits he was walking for his 2Ks. It's nice to see the U.S. walkers being taken seriously.

On the way back to the Village, we were stopped by a pair of journalists who wanted to do a quick interview. It turns out they work for NBC and were at our 50K Olympic Trials in Sacramento back in February of this year. They promised to send some coverage back to the NBC affiliates in Portland, OR, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. It may be brief-lived, but being somewhat famous is fun.

It would be easy to get carried away here at the Village, too. There are always media people roaming around outside asking for interviews and trying to meet with the athletes. It would be so hard to be someone like Marion Jones or Michael Johnson who is always being asked for an interview. I'll take my fame and fortune in small doses, thank you very much.

Well, it's time for me to get a shower and dinner. I'll try to stay away from the free McDonalds, but those apple pies are just so tempting.

Cheers, mates!


Friday, September 22, 2000

Sydney, Olympic Village, Men's 20km

What a race!

I've just gotten back from the men's 20K racewalk and I am so tired. It was exhausting! I never thought that watching a race could be so physically taxing, but here I am with sore muscles, tight shoulders and this heart-ache that won't go away.

My friends and teammates, Tim Seaman (USA) and Jefferson Perez (Ecuador), both raced incredible races and came up short of their dreams.

I've trained with Tim for the past three and a half years and it was so hard to watch his race get taken away from him. From the very beginning, he was walking so well. He was strong, confident and had an easy rhythm that he looked like he could have continued all day. He started in the middle of the pack of 50 walkers and was simply beautiful, keeping pace with the world's best.

Then he got a red card for loss of contact (in competitive racewalking, judges monitor all the walkers to make sure they aren't violating the two rules: 1) you must maintain continuous contact with the ground and 2) your advancing leg must be straight on contact and stay straight through the vertical support phase). By 8K, he got another red card. If you get three red cards, you are removed from the course and not allowed to finish. He was on the brink of elimination.
I could see the anguish on his face. Physically he could go faster, but his technique was limiting him to a certain speed. The judges wouldn't allow him to go any faster. Rather than quit, or slow to turtle-like speeds, he kept going and raced a very tough, brave race. For the last hour of his race, Tim was within one red card of being eliminated and he pushed through to a respectable finish. Of course he would have liked a faster time, but he survived his first Olympics.

Jefferson, at the age of 26, is an Olympic veteran. He competed in 1992 and didn't do very well. In Atlanta in 1996, he did everything perfectly and was able to destroy a talented field over the last two kilometers and win Ecuador's first and only Olympic gold medal. He is one of only a handful of Ecuadorian athletes here at the Games and he carried the hopes of a nation on his small shoulders. Yesterday, he entered as one of the favorites for a medal, but his competition was fierce.

By ten kilometers, a pack of eight or nine guys had separated themselves from the field. Poland's Robert Korsenovski (forgive my spelling) was at the front pushing the pace from the beginning and slowly the pack begin to disintegrate. By 15k, there were only two Mexicans, Bernardo Segura and Noe Hernandez, a Russian, and Jefferson trailing Korsenovski.

Of the group, Jefferson probably has the best closing speed, so I was optimistic that he would do well. But I could tell that he was laboring. Usually when Jefferson is racing, he has this tranquil look on his face. He may be walking 4:00/km, but looking at his face you would think he was reading a book or playing cards. With 5K to go, he was either reading a very intense novel, or he was losing at poker.

Korsenovski kept pressing the pace and he and Hernandez made a break from Segura and the Russian. With three kilometers to go, Segura was out of the hunt for a medal; he was way back. Jefferson was holding his own but had drifted to a distant fifth position. Over the next two kilometers, miraculously, Segura closed the gap on the leaders. Entering the stadium, he was challenging for the lead, and coming across the line, he out-sprinted Korsenovski. It was too good to be true for Segura as he was DQed after the race. He had gather three red cards in the last few kilometers.

Jefferson maintained his position and crossed the line in fifth, moving up to fourth after Segura's DQ.

I talked to Jefferson afterward and expected him to be despondent and upset with his fourth place finish. He was happy. He was pleased with the way he had raced and said that he had given it everything that he had. There are some races, he said, that you won't win, but as long as you give your absolute best you should be happy.

He was impressed by his competitors and gave them credit for racing really well to take the three medals in front of him. I'm sure he would have liked another gold medal to go with the one he won in Atlanta four years ago, but he was so gracious after not having made it onto the podium. He has always impressed me as a great athlete, but today he demonstrated that he is a true champion.

Now that the race is over, I am exhausted from all that excitement and drama. I may not have raced, but I need to lie down now and take a nap.



Thursday, September 21, 2000

Sydney, Olympic Village

Greetings from the Village.

It's been a long day and I'm finally settled into the Village for the second time. This morning, I had my last long workout before beginning the official pre-Olympic taper. I'm down to eight days!! Yikes!

After training along the Brisbane River for the last time, I finished packing up my bags at the Marriott. Andrew, Curt and I caught a taxi to the airport and flew down to Sydney. It's been fun traveling around prior to the Games because everyone asks us about our sport and what event we will be competing in. Before dropping us at the Brisbane airport, our cab driver wanted to know all the details and then get our assurances that we would be back to visit Brisbane some day.

When I was down at the Village a week ago for the Opening Ceremony, I moved into my room and left a bunch of stuff, mostly clothes. When I got here today, I found out that my room had been taken over by two other U.S. track athletes. For whatever reason, the bed I had slept in and was returning to today had been given away to someone else. I half expected my stuff to be out in the driveway. Thankfully, one of the coaches had gathered all my stuff into a box. So now I am in a new room with new roommates. It's all a bit crazy, but I'm trying to roll with the punches.

It's getting late and I need to get some rest. Tomorrow at 12:50pm, my friends and training partners Tim and Jefferson will be racing 20K and I need to be well rested for my job as cheerleader.

Cheers, mates!


Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Back in Brisbane

Howdy Philip Phans!

The past two days have been a bit of a blur now that I'm back here in Brisbane and on a regular routine. I've been spending lots of time glued to the Channel 7 Olympic coverage. It's a bit frustrating because they have this fascination for Australian athletes and don't give the Team USA results after each event. Oh wait, I'm in Australia--now it all makes sense! Besides being a bit Aussie-centric, the coverage has been pretty good. Unlike NBC, they actually show lots and lots of races and events. They don't spend 30 minutes telling you how Marion Jones decided to choose her shade of eye-liner or some other insipid "human interest" story.

The excitement and drama of the Opening Ceremonies and Olympic Village is slowly beginning to fade from my consciousness as I return to a predictable training routine. All of that will change again tomorrow. After a hard training session in the morning, I will check out of the Marriott (goodbye five-star luxury) and fly down to Sydney for the last eight days of preparation for my race (hello Olympic mania).

I'm getting very excited about competing. On Friday, the Athletics events begin (or Track & Field as us "Yankee blokes" like to call it). And the first gold medal to be awarded on the track will be in the men's 20 kilometer racewalk. My good friends Tim Seaman (USA) and Jefferson Perez (Ecuador) will be facing some stiff competition from the Russians, Mexicans, and Spanish. There will be 50 walkers in the 20k. In my race, there will be 54 starters.

The great thing about getting to watch the men's 20k on Friday is that I will get a great preview of the course. I'll be able to see Tim and Jefferson battle it out over the same 2 kilometer course that I will be walking on a week later. Right now, I am more excited about their race than I am for my own. I'm sure that will change as the days tick past.

When I woke up this morning, I realized that the count is down to only 9 days! That seems like such a small number after so much preparation, so many days, months, and years. I've known that I was on the 50K team since February, seven months ago. And I first made the commitment to train full-time to make an Olympic Team back in 1993, seven years ago. (Seven may be my lucky number... to make the Olympic Team, I had to finish in the top three at the Olympic Trials and walk under the Olympic "A" time standard of 4:00:00 for 50 kilometers. In Mezidon, France, last year, I walked my personal best of 3:59:53 a whopping seven seconds under the "A" standard.)

There are a few things that I still need to do here in Brisbane before tomorrow's departure. One thing I would like to do, if I can find my way to City Hall, is ride to the top of the historic Clock Tower. Since I haven't done hardly any touristy stuff since I've been here, it will be my one indulgence. My pre-race taper has officially begun if I have the energy to walk five blocks down the street to ride an elevator to the top of a tower. It sounds sad, but I rarely have the energy in the afternoons to get out of the hotel and see the sights. Yipeee!

That's all for now. Thanks to everyone who has sent an email and who is cheering me on in their own special way. I really appreciate my growing fan club.

Can you all do me a small favor? If you have never tried racewalking, get out and try it. If you don't know how, check out the How-To-Racewalk site on the links section of this webpage, or just go walk around the block a few times, as fast as you can.

Cheers, mates!


Saturday, September 16, 2000

Opening Ceremonies Recap!

Oh my goodness, I am here inside the Olympic Village!

Let the Games begin!!

Wow! If you didn't see the Opening Ceremonies yesterday, you really missed out. It was huge, spectacular, awesome, massive, outstanding, impressive, and a whole bunch more adjectives that my mental thesaurus is currently lacking.

On Thursday night, I flew down to Sydney and checked into the Olympic Village. It was a long, tedious process but all of the security checks and extra precautions made me feel very safe. My new roommate in the Village kept me up late telling me about all of the U.S. Track & Field team politics surrounding the selection of team captains and flag bearer, and a multitude of other coach vs. athlete issues.

The next morning Tim, Andrew, and I tracked down a great training course inside the fenced-off Village. Just a few hundred meters downhill from the U.S. Team housing, there is a 800 meter long bike path, flat and paved. By the time we got there on Friday morning, there were already several other racewalkers working out on the circuit. Russians, Greeks, Poles, and Latvians sped past us as we stretched on the grass adjacent to the path.

There were athletes from other sports that used a large grass field nearby to run, shadow box, skip, roll around, and generally be athletic. The whole area had a very festive, carnival atmosphere to it. Every athlete wore his or her country's colors: yellow, blue and red for Romania, white and blue for Finland; red and white for Austria. On one side of the path were the athletes adorned in bright colors, and on the other side each house was swathed in banners and flags boasting the national emblems and colors of France, New Zealand, or Spain.

I started playing a game as I walked along the path: Think of a country whose flag or athlete you haven't seen yet: Iceland, Mongolia, Ivory Coast (I tried to think of small, obscure nations that might have only a few athletes). Within a few minutes, I had seen an Iceland flag hanging from the third floor of one of the buildings. Then a coach walked by with a jacket with "Mongolia" lettered along the back. As I started my speed workout, two runners from the Ivory Coast jogged by. It was amazing.

After the workout, after lunch, after resting every so briefly, I got ready for the Opening Ceremonies. I ironed my shirt, dusted the lint off of my official USA Olympic blue blazer. I tied and re-tied my red, white and blue tie (I can't remember the last time I wore a tie... athletes don't often have to dress up, we just wear t-shirts and shorts wherever we go).

Buses took the entire U.S. delegation, including all of the famous types like the Dream Team and the tennis superstars, to the SuperDome where we settled in for a long wait. At 6:30, the Opening Ceremony began in Stadium Australia, half a mile away. All the athletes from all the countries sat watching the silent big-screen monitors from the SuperDome seating. Without the sound, it got dull. We had to guess at what was actually happening. Eventually, people got restless. The Australians started to sing a song about Matilda. The Dutch got up and shouted a bunch. Then the U.S. Team clapped and yelled "U...S....A...U....S....A..." No one else seemed to like that. We were booed. Then the New Zealand athletes all stood up, took off their blazers, and did an elaborate Mayori chant and dance. Everyone cheered. It was much more creative and inspired than "U...S...A...!"

Once the dances and music and theatrics in Stadium Australia were over, they began to usher the athletes out of the SuperDome and over to the track at the Stadium. Starting with the team from Greece, we all filed out of the SuperDome. The United States is right near the end of the alphabet, so we waited for Angola, Botswana, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Ghana, Haiti... you get the idea...

Then we marched. We marched through the tunnel under the stands and into the Stadium.

The stadium was huge. There were so many people. It was almost overwhelming, too much visual stimulation. The people seemed far away like they were watching from another room or something, almost surreal. Cameras, lights, and people screaming everywhere.

I remember when i walked in to the stadium for the World Junior Champs in Bulgaria. It was spine-tingling, tear-jerking, WOW! And I expected the same here in Sydney. In fact, the idea of walking into the Olympic Stadium as an Olympian has been one of those images that has motivated me over the years. It's one of those things that I have always said, "I want to do that some day. I am willing to work really hard to do that." I expected to be overcome by emotion, swept away on a tide of joy.

It didn't happen.

Maybe I was in shock, maybe I couldn't comprehend it all at that moment. But it just didn't hit me the way I thought it would. I didn't get all teary-eyed. I didn't get too many tingles (just a few). In a way, I felt like I had done it all before. As if I knew what to expect, here it was, and gosh, that was nice. Perhaps I had envisioned it in my mind so often that now that the moment was here, it was as though it had already happened and I was prepared for it all to unfold just so.

Once we were settled and the speeched were made and the Olympic flame entered the Stadium, I took the time to stop and think a bit more. That was when the significance of the moment hit me. As I saw the flame circle the Stadium, a small but bright beacon of the Olympic spirit, it began to sink in. I thought, "I am in the Olympic Games. This is my dream."

Cathy Freeman, Aboriginal-Australian and 400 meter World Champion, stood at the base of the Stadium steps and looked up into a torrent of water that roared down from the top of the Stadium. With the torch held high, she stepped up and up and up and into a pool of water that had gathered. She faced the crowd and then she surprised me. She took the flame, the symbol of the Olympics, and she placed it in the water at her feet. I'm still sorting out the symbolism, but instead of dousing the flame, the water appeared to erupt into an arc of fire that encircled Freeman. Slowly, the fire rose up around her and the Olympic cauldron was revealed and lifted into the night sky above her head as water poured down over her.

It was spectacular. At that moment, it all hit me. This is real. Not only am I an Olympian, but this is it, this is the Olympics. The whole world is watching this moment and holding its collective breath. And I am a part of that moment. Wow.

As you can imagine, I had a hard time falling asleep after all the excitement. It took us over an hour, though, to shuffle out en masse from the Stadium, through the security checks, and back into the Village. At 1am, I finally drifted off.

Today was quite dull in comparison. I just woke up in the Olympic Village (wow!), went and ate breakfast at the Olympic dining hall (wow!), and worked out with hundred of other Olympic athletes (wow!).

Andrew and I had decided awhile ago to avoid some of the craziness in the Olympic Village and come back to Brisbane to finish our final preparations. It is quieter here, less stressful, and we can rest without being kept up by other athletes running around at all hours.

So, I sign off from Brisbane after another very exciting Olympic adventure.

Cheers, mates!


Thursday, September 14, 2000

Olympic Village, Sydney!

Oh my goodness, I am here inside the Olympic Village!

Under cover of darkness, two of my racewalk teammates and I made it into the Village. We were met at the Sydney airport by an official Olympic escort who ushered us on to a waiting charter bus. All three of us, and one 4x400 relay runner from Ireland, rode the huge bus through the darkened streets of Sydney to the Olympic Village.

Once we arrived, we were asked to wait on the bus while our bags were unloaded and sniffed carefully by a team of drug-sniffing dogs. We cleared the first checkpoint and were escorted into the second security check. All of our luggage was sent through an X-ray machine, like the ones you see at the airport. We had to walk through the metal detectors.

Then we were loaded onto another, smaller bus that would take us the 5 minutes to the Olympic Village itself. Several athletes from Belgium and Germany joined us for the short ride. At the entrance to the Village, we were stopped again and a uniformed police officer stepped onto the bus to check our credentials. Everyone was cleared... except the bus driver!! He was told he could not enter the Olympic Village because he was missing the necessary OLV on his Accreditation Card. The truck that was following us with our luggage had an extra driver who jumped in and chauffered us the rest of the way.

Once inside the Village, we were confronted with a suburban maze. All the houses look identical and, at night, are only distinguished by dimly lit national flags hanging from balconies and out windows. There were a few street names and complex numbers visible but only when there was a well-placed street lamp nearby.

After a tour of the neighborhood, we were able to locate the German then American areas. I have just dumped my bags in my room that I will be sharing with Tony Cosey, U.S. steeplechaser, and Curt Clausen, one of my 50K racewalk teammates. It's much too late for me to be up typing emails from the nearby athlete lounge, but I don't know that I am going to sleep real well. Afterall, I'm in the Olympic Village! I must really be an Olympian. How cool is that?! Wow!

Tomorrow is the Opening Ceremonies and I need my rest, so off I go. Once you get into your rooms and don't realize where you are, all of the bedspreads have huge "Sydney 2000" logos on them.

Sweet Olympic Dreams!



Wednesday, September 13, 2000


G'day, mates!

It's another sunny, breezy day here in Australia's River City. Nearly all of my U.S. Olympic Track & Field teammates left yesterday for Sydney and the Olympic Village. The four U.S. racewalkers, our coach, and our training partner, 1996 Olympic Champion Jefferson Perez, are all that remain here at the Brisbane Marriott.

This morning we took two taxis down to our 4 kilometer loop course on the Brisbane River Bikeway. The plan for me and my 50K teammates Andrew and Curt was get in one more good, tough distance workout (coach may surprise us with another next week, too). On today's menu we had 30 kilometers, zone 2 heart rate, which was seven and a half laps of the bike path.

Every day in training I use a heart rate monitor. The monitor has a watch and an elastic band that goes around my chest and sends a signal to the watch. With a heart rate monitor, I can keep track of how many beats per minute my heart is beating. It gives me a very good idea of how hard I am working. A week before we left San Diego, we did very detailed sports science testing to determine our target heart rate zones for certain lactate levels.

(Basic sports science lesson: When you exercise, your muscles produce lactic acid, that burning sensation you get when you are climbing a flight of stairs or running hard. At slower speeds, the body has the ability to flush out any excess lactic acid from your muscles and you can continue to run or walk comfortably. That's called training aerobically, with enough oxygen. As you get going faster and faster, your body produces more and more lactic acid. Eventually, your body can't remove the excess lactic acid and your muscles fatigue and cramp. That level is called the aerobic threshold. Suddenly your body doesn't have enough oxygen to give to the muscles and it begins to work anaerobically, without oxygen.)

So, based on the lactate testing and using the heart rate monitors, we can determine our aerobic threshold and walk just below that level. That way, we can walk for a very long period of time without cramping up and slowing down. As you can imagine, there is always a margain of error and sometimes you go over the threshold and have problems.

Today, I was able to walk within my zone and go faster than I had gone in any previous workout for 30K in many many months. I was a bit nervous because I wasn't positive that my muscles would be able to endure the speeds I was going, but I finished very strongly.

Now I am very tired. I swam in the hotel's swimming pool a bit this afternoon to loosen up my muscles. I ate an extra helping at both lunch and dinner to make up for all the energy I used during nearly two and a half hours of continuous walking this morning. And now I am getting ready for a very very good night's sleep.

Tomorrow is going to be a BIG day. Andrew, Tim and I fly down to Sydney, check in to the Olympic Village (oh my goodness, it's all very real!), and on Friday we march in the Opening Ceremonies. Wish me luck!



Monday, September 11, 2000


G'day, mates!

Today was a bust. I've come to realize after years of training and racing at a high level that there are going to be good days and there are going to be bad days. Today was a bad day.

We were scheduled for a hard speed workout at the University of Queensland track. During my warm-up, I was laboring with my breathing and I felt a kind of tunnel-vision dizziness. And it just got worse when I started going faster. Rather than do the 5 kilometer intervals, I went out on to the adjacent road and did an easier steady state walk.

When I got back to the hotel, I fell asleep for nearly an hour. I was just exhausted and had no energy. Perhaps I haven't completely recovered from last week's workouts.

I can't remember if I wrote about the fun I had two days ago. Brisbane is going to be hosting next year's Goodwill Games (the first time that it will be outside of either the U.S. or Russia). The organizers had a bunch of us athletes over for a media day where we got to meet a velvet python and fuzzy fuzzy koalas. They were both super soft and smooth. The koalas didn't pay much attention to all the people there, they just kept eating eucalyptus leaves.

And yesterday I saw several famous track & field athletes at an international track meet held south of Brisbane at the Super Sports Centre in Runaway Bay. Merlene Ottey from Jamaica, who has won something like eight Olympic medals won the women's 100 meter dash. Donovan Bailey, 1996 Olympic Champ and former world record holder from Canada, was in the stands. And I saw Hachim El Guerrouj, world record holder in the mile and 1500 meters from Morocco. They were all very normal and nice, which shouldn't have surprised me because everyone I have met on the U.S. Olympic Team has also been very nice and approachable.

Tonight I had a lovely dinner with three Olympic Trials winners: Deena Drossin, women's 10k (and second in the 5K); Adam Goucher, men's 5k; and Gabe Jennings, men's 1500mt. They are all very interesting, smart people, which was refreshing to see. The U.S. Team heads down to Sydney and check in to the Olympic Village tomorrow morning. I will be staying here in Brisbane for a few days longer before I head down for the BIG festivities at the Opening Ceremonies.

That's it for today. Good night everyone...


Friday, September 8, 2000


G'day, mates! It's been a windy, warm day here in Brisbane. Last night there were reports of strong winds down in Sydney, but it seems the winds moved north and hit us pretty hard today.

I got out to the track at the University of Queensland this morning and thought I was back in Northfield, Minnesota in the fall when the wind just won't quit. It was one of those gusty, dry winds, too, that seem to pick up all the dust and leaves and swirl them around at your feet and up into your face. It wasn't the best weather for a speed session on the track, but if it is going to be windy in Sydney it was good practice.

After training today, I had one of my first "Oh my goodness, I am really in the Olympics" moments. I was given my official, bonafide, real Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Credentials! It will be my photo-ID for the next three weeks allowing me to get into the Olympic Village, eat meals at the Olympic dining hall, gain access to the practice track, and (drum roll, please) enter the Olympic Stadium!

I've been able to stay pretty loose and relaxed about this whole big Olympic adventure, but I must admit to getting chills when I put the credentials around my neck. Looking down at my own face and the Olympic Seal stamped across the front makes it suddenly seem very real.

The closer it gets to the Opening Ceremonies, the harder it will be to stay real relaxed and focused. Being up here in Brisbane and away from the Olympic Village, it has been easy to pretend that I am at just another international competition. I don't see the silhouette of Stadium Australia on the horizon. I don't walk into the Olympic Village every day after practice. But next week I will be going down to Sydney for the first time and it will all be there. All the athletes of the world will be there. All of my other U.S. Olympic teammates from 28 different sports will be there. It will take a lot for me to stay calm and not get too excited.

Of course I am excited and nervous and anxious, but I don't want to get too emotional. There is a fine balance between being "up" for an event and being over-excited. I remember the first BIG international racewalking event that I went to. It was in Beijing, China in 1995. I had qualified for the U.S. team competing in the World Racewalk Cup and I would be racing against the five best 20K walkers from every other country in the world. I made the mistake of stopping to think a bit too long about what that meant. I thought, "Here I am on the starting line with the best in the world. These guys are so fast. Look at how lean and muscular they are. They must have trained so hard to get here. Gosh, they are really going to do well today because they are such wonderful athletes." All of that was true, but I forgot to remind myself that I was one of them. I forgot to tell myself that I belonged right there on the starting line with them. I got too excited and I panicked. I had a bad race because of it.

So this time at the Olympics—the biggest race of my life—I will stay relaxed and remember that I belong here. Of course it will be difficult, but then it wasn't easy getting here in the first place. It will be just one more challenge for me that I am really looking forward to facing.

That's it for today. Coach has been kind enough to give us a day of rest tomorrow, so I hope to enjoy it. Maybe I will check out the swimming pool here in the hotel and ride the ferry up and down the river to see the rest of Brisbane that I have missed.



Wednesday, September 6, 2000


Greetings from the busy athlete hospitality area here at the Brisbane Marriott. More than 30 more U.S. Olympic Track & Field athletes showed up today to pack the dining hall and fill the computer and PlayStation terminals. The ping pong table was hopping until someone got overzealous and broke all of the balls smashing them into their opponent.

Today started like most days: training training training. My teammates and I took a short taxi ride down to the river bike path and prepared for a very very long workout. 35 kilometers (nearly 22 miles) and almost 3 hours later, I was done with one of the tougher distance workouts I have done recently. It gave me a lot of confidence to get through a long workout like that in warm conditions.

A few days again, we measured out a 2 kilometer stretch of the bike. Curt brought his special measuring wheel that clicks off each meter as you roll it along the ground. It makes it very easy to measure out a nice flat, paved asphalt course that we can use. The reason we use a short course of only 2k is that we need to stay well hydrated during a long workout. Every ten minutes or so, we can pass by our coach who hands us a water bottle full of an electrolyte solution. We try to drink at least 8-12 ounces of fluid every ten minutes. Every hour or so, we also will take in a more concentrated electrolyte solution like CLIF Shot or Power Gel to boost our energy levels. When you walk a 50 kilometer race, you have to keep taking in calories in order to survive the distance.

I was very pleased with the way the 35K went, especially because I wasn't super tired when I was done. After it was over, I told myself, "I still have another 15K (9.3 miles) in my race, and I feel tired but pretty good now." We have been doing a lot of speedwork recently, repeat 5Ks and 3Ks, but for some reason I always feel more prepared after having done a good long workout like I did today.

After lunch and a short nap, the U.S. racewalk team was asked to do an interview by one of the local news stations. The reporter and camera crew came into our athlete hospitality area and interviewed each of us. When we watched the piece tonight, I was surprised that they cut everyone else but me. So I got to be on TV and talk about how we were enjoying our stay in Brisbane.It was fun.

Now I am going to bed early because I am still exhausted from this morning's walk. Back in California it is 4AM, so I'll just pretend that I am staying up late.



Monday, September 4, 2000


Good evening class!

Today we are taking a geography quiz. Ready?

Where is the nation of Qatar?

Where are the Cayman Islands?

Where is Sierra Leone?

If you can find them all on a map, then you should also be able to find Australia. During today's workout at the University of Queensland track, I met athletes from Qatar, the Cayman Islands, and Sierra Leone. It is amazing to me how many different countries will be sending athletes to Australia to compete in the 2000 Olympic Games.

I've heard that there will be 197 countries represented with over 10,000 athletes competing. To test your knowledge of the world's countries, try to see how many you can name. Did you get more than 20, 50, 100?

I got to ride the CityCat ferry again this morning to get to practice. It was pretty warm this morning, so the speedwork on the track became very difficult for all of us. I managed to get through the entire workout of 5,000 meter intervals. Some of the guys were too tired to finish. Like last Monday, I did four 5Ks and was horribly horribly tired by the time I was done.

It was one of those workouts that was physically brutal, but the real struggle was in the mind. In order to endure a really tough training session like today's, I have to prepare myself mentally beforehand. I have to make a short-term goal. To do that, I usually do a little talking to myself. I decide, "Okay, I am going to do this workout. I know that it may be hard, but I am making a commitment to finish this thing. Let's go." If I have set a goal to finish the workout, then when it does get difficult and my body is screaming for me to "stop, stop STOP!!" I can remind myself of that goal. Then it makes it easier to get going again and finish.

I got back to the Marriott at 1pm after riding back on the ferry and spent the rest of the afternoon lying down, sleeping, reading my book, and talking on the phone to my girlfriend back home. At 5pm, I met my teammates for a 30 minute easy walk from the hotel, along the river path to the Botanical Gardens, past the Mangrove Swampwalk, and back to the hotel.

We have a sports medicine staff of six people here helping us out with three athletic trainers who double as massage therapists, two medical doctors, and a chiropractor. We also have two sports psychologists on staff. After a hard workout, I try to go in to the sports medicine area here at the Marriott and get help stretching out or get a short massage to help loosen up my tight, sore muscles. Right after today's second workout, I spent half an hour getting some help from the athletic trainers for a sore quadriceps, sore hip flexors, and a blister on the big toe of my left foot. Now it's time to read a bit before bed, digest my dinner, and get some sleep.

G'day, mates!


Saturday, September 2, 2000

Brisbane River

Today was an easy training day. We went for a mere 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) walk this morning along the river path, over two bridges, and back to the hotel. On the way around the loop, we saw the beginnings of today's River Festival.

Brisbane, Australia has a beautiful river that winds through a stunning skyline. The most impressive structure over the river is the Story Bridge, a massive double arched suspension bridge that reaches across the bend in the river to Kangaroo Point.

Each spring the city hosts a raucous River Festival that began tonight with the most impressive fireworks display I have ever seen. The same group that orchestrated the Sydney and London Millennium 2000 Celebrations put on an ear-shattering, eye-popping display tonight.

Most of the US Olympic Track athletes went down to the riverwalk to watch the fireworks and we were all dazzled and amazed. Two barges parked in the middle of the river went through three series of 10 minute barrages of lights and noises and huge bangs. And then the highlight: they lit the bridge on fire! At least it looked as though the entire bridge was blown out of a cannon, rainbows of light exploding from the highest span, white light cascading down from beneath the roadway. Then, to top it all, an F-16 flew low over the river trailing a pulsing ball of fire.

It seemed that the entire city population turned out for the event. Over the next week, there will be concerts at the South Bank cultural center, outrigger canoe races along the river, and food festivals galore. Too bad that I'll be training for most of that time.

That's all for tonight from Brisbane, the River City Down Under.

Cheers, mates!


Friday, September 1, 2000


Oh my goodness, what a long day it has been! And what an adventuresome day, too.

To tell the story properly, though, I need to give a little bit of background. For the past two years, I have trained with Enrique Pena, former coach of the Columbian and Ecuadorian National Racewalk Teams, and current coach of 1996 Olympic 20K Champion, Jefferson Perez of Ecuador.

In the fall of 1998, Enrique began coaching the US Racewalking Team that lives in residence at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA (I've been a resident athlete since January of 1997). In February of 1999, Jefferson joined us to continue training with Enrique and to be a part of our team. Since that time, he has been an integral part of our program and has served at times as our assistant coach by giving us technique advice and helping with our training programs. He has also been an incredible role model for all of us. He is not only a champion in his sport, he is one of the kindest, most generous people I know.

At the beginning of this year, Jefferson was allowed to live at the Olympic Training Center as our assistant coach. His residency is part of an Olympic Solidarity program, an agreement between the US Olympic Committee and countries like Ecuador that can't always provide the best facilities for their athletes.

When we decided as a team to attend the pre-Olympic camps at Couran Cove and here in Brisbane at the Marriott, we included Jefferson in all of our plans. We informed the staff of the US Olympic Track & Field Team and they had no problems... until Jefferson arrived into Australia.

Olympic solidarity suddenly took a backseat to our Olympic coach's xenophobia and isolationist attitude. The thinking of the US coaching staff is that Jefferson is our competition and can not also be our assistant coach, training partner, and friend. We were told that if we wanted to continue training with him, we would have to find another training venue. Jefferson can not train with the US athletes at the track reserved for the US team. He can not ride on the bus with us. Initially, they even wanted him to find another hotel and eat meals in another restaurant. Of course we were outraged, but they stood their ground claiming that everyone would want to train with the US Team if we made any exceptions.

So, when Coach Pena decided that today we would do speedwork on the track, we had to look for a track besides the one being used by the rest of our non-racewalking US teammates. Thankfully, racewalkers stick together around the world and we had a contact at the University of Queensland who was happy to help.

After a nice breakfast here at the Marriott, we all walked down to the river and caught the CityCat ferry, Brisbane's river transportation.

The CityCat ferry is the way to travel around Brisbane. It runs up and down the river, crisscrossing from the north to the south bank all the way from one end of town to the otherr. Students at the local universities and professionals who work in town use the CityCat as part of their daily commute.

When we arrived at the track on the university campus, we were surprised to see about 400 high school kids arriving at the same time. We hadn't been told that a high school track meet was being held at the exact same time as our practice session. We had to improvise. Instead of doing speedwork on the track, we did our workout on the road adjacent to the track. Coach measured out a course (we had brought our measuring wheel with us for just such an emergency) and we were off.

The 20k guys, Tim and Jefferson, did 15 x 1 kilometer with just over 2 minutes rest. The 50k guys, Curt, Andrew and myself, did 7 x 3 kilometer with 3 minutes rest.

It was an extremely tough workout both mentally and physically. There are so many things that can distract you if you allow them to do so. Because we had planned to do the workout on a track instead of the road, we could have let that bother us. We could have let all the traffic on the campus ring road bother us. We could have let the long ferry ride and long wait before the workout bother us. But everyone did real well and focused on the task at hand.

It wasn't easy, but it was a good test in many ways. When we get to Sydney and are in the BIG race, we will have even more distractions. Perhaps it was better that we did have to face all of those obstacles today; it was good practice.

We didn't arrive back to the hotel until lunch time. After lunch I took a nap because I was so tired. Then at 5pm coach had us go out for an easy 30 minute walk along the river. This evening the whole US Team was invited to a local sports bar for free food and drinks. The local news cameras showed up and filmed some of the long jumpers and staff out on the dance floor. If they had filmed the racewalkers, we would have been the ones sitting over in the corner trying to stay awake.

Coach has promised us that tomorrow will be an easy day. We even get to sleep in a bit and start our workout at 9am instead of 8am! I'm going to get cozy with my pillow now and dream about walking fast and gold medals.

G'day, mates!


Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Report from Couran Cove!

Today was great. I woke up feeling tired and sore. My muscles were still achy and not completely recovered from Saturday's 30K workout here on the island. I knew that I had a real tough track session ahead of me, though, so I put all the fatigue out of my mind and simply thought about walking fast and relaxed. I knew that a positive attitude was the only thing that would get me through.

We got a later start than usual because we had to take a 30 minute ferry ride to the mainland and the brand new "Super Sports Centre". The four of us American walkers and Ecuador's Jefferson Perez were joined by a large support staff that helped by encouraging us, giving us water, and reading us splits.. Andrew, Curt and I, who are competing at the 50 kilometer distance, were faced with the challenge of 5,000 meter intervals, four of them with five minutes of rest in between each. Tim and Jefferson, who are "only" racing 20 kilometers, had 8 x 2k with slightly less rest.

Before every workout that I do, Coach Pena gives each of us a specific goal to focus on during the training session. A few days before we left the US for Australia, I had done a similar speed workout on our Chula Vista Marina 2.5k loop course. My pace had been about 4:30/km or 22:30 for each 5k.

Right before today's workout, coach asked how my legs were feeling and I told him, "Tired. I feel as though I have already done the first three 5ks and this is my last one instead of my first." With that in mind, coach suggested that I walk the same splits I had walked two weeks ago. "You may still be tired from your travels and the hard workout two days ago, but you can do this workout." I replied, "Okay coach, I'll try. I'll do my best." And then, with a chuckle, but sternly, he said, "No, Philip. You don't try, you will do it. You have no choice. Okay, go." (For a second, I thought I was Luke Skywalker listening to Yoda's words of wisdom.) That was when I knew, despite how I felt, that I would have a good workout. Now I just had to go out and see how good it would be.

During the first interval, for the entire 12 1/2 laps around the 400 meter track, I felt the fatigue and soreness creeping in on me. I had to tell myself to relax, let it pass. And it did. Slowly the fatigue and heaviness in my legs lifted like a fog. My legs felt stronger, my movements more coordinated and smoother. It never felt effortless as it does some days, but over the next two intervals I was able to pick up my pace just a little bit.

At one point, Jefferson, who was resting between his 2k intervals, yelled at me, "Just a little bit more, give just a little more," and when I asked my legs if they had more to give, they just went a little faster. My first 5k was 22:44, just getting loose. The second was under coach's goal pace for me, barely, 22:25. By the third I was over halfway and still alive so I figured I'd go a bit faster, 22:08. And on the last one I decided to just go for it and see how much I could take, see how long my tired legs would last at 4:20/km (6:56/mile), and I came through in 21:35. It wasn't a PR, and last year I may have even done 4x5k faster, but it was the best I have done this year and gave me a lot of confidence. Coach asked me, as I was starting my cooldown, "If you can do that when you feel tired, what will you do when you feel great?" Good question. I have another four weeks to get some answers.

That's all for now. We leave the island tomorrow on the 10:30 ferry for the Marriott in town. We've got a bit of a scandal/problem with Jefferson training with our group. The head coach got a bit wacky this evening about not permitting support staff, use of U.S.A. facilities, etc. We may have a bit of a crisis in the next day or two. I'll let you know more.


Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Report from Couran Cove!


I'm here at the business centre at Couran Cove, the island resort a few miles from Brisbane, Australia. It's awful nice here with so much to do and see and we've had quite a good time already. Coach Pena, Jefferson Perez and Tim Seaman arrive today, sometime this afternoon, so perhaps it won't be quite as relaxing as it has been thus far. The training has been going well, though, as we become adjusted to the new time zone and weather conditions.

When we stepped on to the island from the Big Cat ferry ride, there were "agile" wallabies there to greet us. The island is just off shore from southern Brisbane, about an hour's drive from the airport, but it feels like it's in the middle of the tropics somewhere.

On our first full day here, I got up early for one of the resort's "Guided Nature Walks". We were bird watching... and there were so many birds. The coolest named bird was the Willy Wagtail, a small black and white bird with a long black tail that it wags back and forth in order to stir up insects. The resort mascot, a large bird of prey called a Whistling Kite, was sitting on a big dead tree overlooking the mangrove swamps that encircle two-thirds of the island. It then took off and soared over the gum trees to a more secluded spot. Then there was the pair of sulfur-crested cockatoos that are huge and noisy. While we were walking, we also saw a Golden Swamp Wallaby, larger and more scarce than the ubiquitous Agile Wallaby that can be seen all over the island, even next to the swimming pool.

But the coolest things I saw yesterday were during our two training walks. Just as we started the first walk, we saw a large white king-fisher... except it wasn't really a king fisher because it was HUGE. When we got back to the room, we looked it up and it's a Kookabura, one of the Olympic mascots.

Then while we were wandering off the main trail, we heard a large rustling in the bushes and saw a huge, and I mean six-feet long, scaly and split-tongue flicking all over, LIZARD! It's called a Goanna and looks like an over-sized iguana. It was a bit startled and climbed straight up a tree, straight up like a squirrel, until it was ten or fifteen feet off the ground. Very cool.

During the afternoon workout, we heard more rustling in the bushes and stopped to dig around a bit and found a little spiny anteater, also known as an Echidnea, our second Olympic mascot of the day. It looked just like a porcupine with long quills all over its back. Now all we have to find is the duck-billed platypus.

The weather has been great, sunny and mild. In the mornings, the sun rises around 5:30am or so and it sets quite early at 6pm. I'm adjusting to the jet lag pretty quickly, partly because it is easy to stay up during the day with all of the activities around the resort.

They have a sports center with basketball hoops, shuffle board, lawn bowling, ping pong, and numerous other fun stuffs. There is also a watersports area that offers kayaking, sailing, and hydrobiking. We have yet to try most of the activities, but they offer rental bikes that make getting around the island or out to the ocean side very easy. The food is also excellent. The rooms are large, clean, and offer gorgeous views of either the mangrove swamps or the open bay between the island and the mainland.

Perhaps today I will see a duck-billed platypus, if I keep my eyes open.

Talk to you soon,


Saturday, August 19, 2000

Enroute from San Diego to Sydney

When I was in grade school, I remember reading about Australia's exotic animals, like koalas and kangaroos. I remember finding Australia on a map of the world and thinking how far away it must be. I'm on the plane right now from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, about to discover just how long it takes to fly to the other side of the world.

My Olympic Track and Field teammates and I boarded a plane in San Diego earlier this evening. We are all wearing the same gray sweatpants and white polo shirts, so we are very easily recognized as a team. On the first flight, the captain of the plane announced that the Olympic Track and Field Team was on the flight and everyone cheered and asked us lots of questions. It's great being a member of the 2000 Olympic Team and I am so excited now that the journey has begun. It's suddenly very real. "I'm going to the Olympics." I've been telling myself that since I finished third at the 50km racewalk trials in February, but now I'm actually on the plane to Australia. I'm wearing my official Olympic clothes. I'm surrounded by my Olympic teammates and coaches. I'm really going to the Olympics. Wow!

It began to sink in a few days ago when I went through Team Processing. All of the Olympic sponsors gave us clothes and luggage and other goodies to take along. Adidas gave all of us shirts, shorts, shoes and workout clothes. Nike gave us a bunch of clothes, too. I hardly had to pack any other clothes! It's fun being treated so well. They even offered free haircuts and manicures before our long trip. I suppose they want us looking our best. The flight ahead of me is very long. We were told it would be nearly fifteen hours of continuous flight. They'll show us three movies, serve two meals, and there will still be time to spare. Right now I'm going to get some rest.

It's already been a long day. I raced 20 kilometers this morning with Jefferson Perez, 1996 Olympic champion in the 20km racewalk, and my U.S. Olympic walking teammates. Then I finished packing and began morning with Jefferson Perez, 1996 Olympic champion in the 20km racewalk, and my U.S. Olympic walking teammates. Then I finished packing and began my journey. Now it's time to take a short nap and dream about kangaroos and platypus. (What's the plural of platypus?)