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Monday, August 11, 2008

Celebrity Camp in Dalian

Going to the Olympics is a dream that so many athletes share. Competing with the best in the world, walking into the Opening Ceremonies, wearing the red, white and blue of Team USA.... Well, there are other perks.

Let's go to training camp, Olympic-style.

Day one: You are met at the airport in Dalian by USA Track & Field officials, receive a short briefing while your luggage is loaded into a truck for you and you walk to an air-conditioned shuttle bus. You're thirsty, so there is water handed to you as you get on the bus. Sit down, notice that no one else is in this section of the airport parking lot except for Chinese security and police personnel. Two police cars escort your bus as it pulls out of the airport on to a road that is completely empty of cars, buses or trucks. All traffic in both directions has been stopped. You are driving down the main street of a city of five million people and there is no traffic. You don't stop at stoplights. You don't slow at intersections. You simply drive. You feel like the president.

Check in to your resort. You have your own room, queen-size bed, cable TV (though the BBC station is a bit fuzzy), and a view out over the Yellow Sea. Life is good. You wander down to the dining room of the hotel and are greeted by the chef. He is an American chef who teaches at a culinary institute in Colorado, caters for professional athletes, and knows that what you want right now more than anything is a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. And it's hot. And melty.

Day two: Eat a light breakfast in your room, stretch out a bit, and then take a short ride from the resort down the hill to the public beach access road. You are planning to walk two loops of the 11km road course that has been closed for you today. You've never been here before, but that's okay because you will be given a police escort for the entire workout. If you come to an intersection and don't know which way to go, a police office standing at the corner will direct you right or left. Every 100 or 200 meters, there will be a plainclothes security guard keeping watch over you. There is also a police escort that consists of three cars. One follows Ryan Hall as he begins his 17 mile tempo workout in preparation for the Olympic Marathon. The other moves between a group of Dathan Ritzhenheim, Deena Kastor and Jen Rhines. The third positions itself behind the racewalkers as you head down the road. There's a view of the beach and the Yellow Sea to the right, hotels and restaurants to the left. No cars. No bikes. When pedestrians step out into the road, security guards holler at them to get back on the sidewalk until after you have passed. At a few intersections, there are cars backed up waiting to cross. People out for a stroll crowd around the corner and cheer for you as you walk by. In English they yell, "Go go go!" Your USATF coach jumps out of the van every 20 minutes to hand you water or give you a fresh bottle of Vitalyte or a PowerGel.

You finish your workout, stretch out, get a ride back up the hill to the resort, shower, and then go to the training room. Your athletic trainer stretches you out, hands you a towel, and then you go sit in the ice bath for 15 minutes with Ryan and Dathan. You chat about Ryan's race at the London Marathon where he ran the second fastest time ever by an American. Dathan tells a funny story about a trip to Europe.

At lunch, you get more delicious food piled on to your plate and sit down with Ryan, Bernard Lagat, Jorge Torres and Ian Dobson. Someone asks Lagat what his workout is for the day and he says he's headed to the track in the afternoon to do a 1,000 meter time trial. His plan is to run 2:20. You do the math and realize, that's awfully fast. No wonder he won the World Championships last year in the 1500mt and 5000mt.

In the afternoon, you can take a nap, go for a swim in the pool, stroll over to the temple looking out over the ocean, or sign up for a massage. It's training camp, so you can also go out and do a workout. Enjoy.

1 comment:

Race Walk Planet Radio said...

Man, you just described my day here in Laguna.

Except for the police escort, melty grilled cheese samich, hangin' with Ryan and Dathan, and the massage.

All the rest was the same though.