Upcoming events –

Napa-Sonoma Half Marathon, July 20, 2014
Noble Canyon 50km Trail, September 20, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cheboksary... Thank You!

Four hours, five minutes and ten seconds. That's how long it took me today to walk from Cheboksary, Russia to Beijing, China. I MADE IT! I'm going to Beijing! Whoa-whooo!


Yes, 40th place and I was whooping it up at the finish as if I'd won the thing. No shame in making a fool of yourself when you make the U.S. Olympic Team.

I spent the first half of the race just talking to myself, convincing myself that I was feeling good and moving well. I spent the second half trying not to pinch myself: "Is this really happening? Am I really on pace and feeling great at 35km?" Of course, I had imagined this race a hundred times in my head and it was going exactly as I had imagined it... well, with a few exceptions at the personal aid station, but more on that later. It's just such a cool feeling to feel so good at the end of a 50km. The best races are like that. It's as though the faster you walk, the easier it feels, and not just because you are done a few minutes sooner! The other thing that happens is you have very selective memories from great races, almost as though you cross the finish line and come out of a coma – major amnesia.

But I do remember going through the aid station fairly early in the race and there being a mix-up with Dave McGovern and Steve Vaitones who were working the station for Team USA. I thought they had it corrected on the next lap, but no, we miscommunicated again. And then when it happened a third time... I lapsed into an extremely rare episode of Tourettes and told McGovern exactly what I thought of his anatomy, its relative size, and where he could place it. Or I imagine that's what I said. More amnesia. McGovern was kind enough to tell me after the race that he was the second happiest person in Russia that I had made the Olympic Team because if his screw-up had cost me the Team he would never forgive himself. I made the Team, so it's all water under the bridge. In fact, he can curse at me anytime he wants – free pass.

Two days ago, I got to Cheboksary and felt kinda yucky. Sore throat (probably had something to do with all the smokers in the Moscow hotel and airport) and some extra movement "downstairs," if you know what I mean (something I ate was not agreeing with me). And if you had asked how things were going to go in the race... well, I would have lied and said "Great, just great!" I think I owe my wife and brother an apology for unloading all my emotional baggage on them yesterday. Sorry! It's all better now. We can go to Beijing, it's all good.

Anyway, back to Cheboksary. The people here are awesome. They cheered for everyone in the race and if you happened to smile while they cheered for you, the volume doubled. Sometimes it was just a simple "U... S... A..." chant and other times it was more elaborate, depending on the level of English: "Let's go, you can do it!" or "Good good good!" And there were 60,000 people yesterday and today screaming "Russia! Russia!" at their incredibly speedy athletes. And on the way back to the hotel shuttle buses, we were all mobbed by locals asking for photos and autographs and a chance to practice their English. It's times like this when I don't understand why we all don't get along better in this world. All the people I meet are so nice. We haven't even left for the vodka-drinking banquet yet and we're all friends. Nice place. More later. Gotta go to the banquet. Celebrate, if I can find the energy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Moscow, Russia

The most expensive city in the world. That's what they are telling us, and based on the prices at the Moscow airport's TGIF restaurant, I believe it. $6 for bottled water? Wow, and it's not even vodka – actually, that's probably cheaper than the water.

Late tomorrow night the US team leaves for Cheboksary on a LOC (local organizing committee) charter flight. Until then, I need to get in another short workout, relax and see what I can see of Moscow. Not much luck on the training earlier this afternoon. We're staying in the Novotel attached to the airport and all the roads are swarming with Ladas and Volkswagens. I ended up doing laps in the hotel parking lot, around the back by the service entrance and through the parking lot, again and again. The loop was probably 500 meters and had two small rises. But it was better than getting turned into borscht on the side of the road.

Now it's time to get some rest. I'm so glad I've been over here in Europe for a week already because my body finally feels adjusted to the time zone.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gotta love Gothenburg

One of the perks of racewalking is getting to travel all over the world, and I mean, everywhere. I think I'm up to 35+ different countries and I'm hoping to add a few more some day. This trip won't add any new ones to my list since I was in Sweden and Russia back in 1994 for the Swedish Walk Week (winner!) and Goodwill Games (last place gets lots of sympathy cheers), but I'm very happy to be back in Sweden.

Wow, this place is amazing. Beautiful countryside, well-planned cities, free health care, free education, yummy food, stunning parks, beautiful and friendly people. What more could you ask for? How about a free place to stay with good friends who are racewalkers. I love it!

Andreas Gustaffson and his lovely wife Molly agreed to let me stay with them for a week before the World Racewalk Cup in Russia. I wanted to come over early to adjust to the time zone change but didn't want to go to Russia where I wasn't sure of the food or accomodations. So here I am in Gothenburg, Sweden, and I'm so happy I came.

The Gustaffson's place is right downtown and the first night there was a parade for me... okay, it was a celebration of May Day or something, but I waved from the balcony to keep up appearances. The next night, they had another parade for the local engineering school. This time both Andreas and I waved. Gotta look good.

Andreas is Sweden's top 50km walker who used to live and train with us in Chula Vista in 2003-2004. Now he's doing the same thing I am: preparing to hit a qualifying time for the Olympics at the World Cup. We're on a mission. His is much harder than mine, though. I have to walk under 4:07:00. He has to impress the Swedish Athletics Federation with a top 12 finish or a sub 3:54:00. His PR from last year is 4:00:48. He's got work to do, but he's very fit right now and is kicking my butt in the few workouts we've done so far.

Susan Armenta, one of the top U.S. walkers arrives soon as does Jolene Moore, another top American. We're all headed to Russia together in a few days. Russia. So soon. Yikes.