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June 10, 2012

Portland Track Festival

Well this weekend was quite eventful.  I entered the Masters mile at the Portland Track Festival.  My flight from Midway to Portland was scheduled to leave at 8:30.  I took a nonchalant approach to the morning assuming traffic driving and traffic through security would be a breeze on a Saturday morning.  I was 50% correct.  The drive was easy, no train on Central to hold me up and the bus to take me to the terminal from the parking garage was there waiting just for me it seemed.  The bus ride was uneventful and I arrived at the terminal at 7:30.  With no baggage to check, I announced to my self, in George W Bush terms – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  While on the up escalator I felt like Tom Cruise in Rainman, a VIP.  Once I reached the security level, instead of feeling like a big timer experiencing the jest set life, it became obvious that I was a faceless, nameless herding animal in a line reminiscent of a depression era soup kitchen with a cast of thousands.

What to do next?  How will I overcome this problem?  With some quick thinking, remembering that someone, I think it was my brother in law Ed, once said the lines are always faster on the left.  Acting upon this advice, I moved left, with a swagger of confidence believing the system had been beaten.  Big mistake.  While patting myself on the back for a few minutes, it became apparent that, in this case, the advice was faulty.  I knew I should have asked for the studies proving this theory or at least read the article review! The line that was vacated moved at the hoped for speed while my line stalled, and stalled, and stalled. Would explaining my desperate situation to the TSA agent help my cause?  One gentleman tried it did not help him. 7:40, 7:50, 8:00, the trip was now in jeopardy.  8:15.  Whoo hoo, finally made it to the x-ray machine, put the bags on the belt and walked through the screening booth.  Security commotion.  Oh no, the laptop, left in the backpack.  This extra minute might be the deal breaker.  Put the shoes on, pack everything and run to gate 16.  YES!  Made it, last one on the plane, with plenty of middle seats to choose from.

Mike Goodman, York class of 1996, picked me up at the airport and brought me back to his lovely home filled with natural light, not much direct sunlight, after all, this is Portland.  Mike and his wife Jodie were kind enough to let me sleep in their guest room.  We watched the Euro cup, ate lunch and then was introduced to their new baby Charlotte.  She was so little, it reminded me how much my kids have grown.

Eric and Matt Dettman, York class of 2006, agreed to take me to the meet, Mike would come by later, with his friend Bob, just to watch the race.  It was a little tricky getting to the meet, but after a few u-turns we made it.  Race directors are famous for changing meet schedules on the day, a fact that slipped my mind until another athlete in my race expressed his shock that the race was moved up thirty minutes.  Well better get ready!  The warm-up was good combined with the meet falling behind schedule, left me with plenty of time to get ready.

The race had 18 or so competitors, most of whom, I had never raced before.  The gun goes of and I am in a good position, protecting myself in 5th place.  The pace was good for the first 200, but slowed on the homestretch.  We hit the 400 in 64/65.  With a cycling of athletes from front to back, I was able to maintain 4th/5th position through 800m.  A few powerful moves were made on the backstretch, but none were sustained very long.  As we made it to the homestretch I was in second, felt ready to make the move when necessary.  With 450 to go, I dropped back to 4th, but not concerned.  With 220m to go I was in 2nd, winning still felt very possible.  Alas, it was not to be.  The overdrive gear was not available and with 80m left, the new goal became to win 2nd place.  40 meters from the finish 2nd place became 3rd place.  This was not the hoped for place, but it was a fun race and a great opportunity to compete and watch some of America’s finest pro runners.  Dathan Ritzenhein, Evan Jager, Andrew Bumbalough, Brie Felnagle, Lauren Fleishman and others continued their Olympic Trials preparation.  It was also good to reconnect with Elias Gedyon, whom I met while working the first Nike Elite HS camp back in 2010.

Eric, Matt and I left the meet and went to Norm’s Garden, a fine Chinese restaurant in Portland.  We chose this place after asking Siri.  With a name like Norm’s Garden, it has to be authentic.  Eric and Matt explained the jobs, goals and reminisced about their days at York and Oregon.  We drove back to Mike’s place without any difficulty, until we reached a giant hill.  Second gear was not going to get us up the hill, Matt dropped down to first, just then a car appears behind us and Matt has to make sure he doesn’t roll back.  Well he wound that engine up, gets us over the top, but not without a horrific smell emanating form the engine.  As I write this, I am fearful that he is at the mechanic.

It is now past 10:00 p.m., we share goodbyes and well wishes.  Mike invited Bob and Bethany over for dinner and a bonfire in the back yard.  Bob has a beard, but not just a beard, an award-winning beard.  Bob has been growing the beard for 1.5 years.  It is thick, lush and long.  He will be competing at Nationals in November.  My biggest regret of the trip is not having finished 3rd, but my failure to get my picture taken with Bob.  I may have to go back to Portland for this reason alone.

One final note.  I ordered a cab to take me to the airport at 5:40 a.m.  I woke up at 5:42 a.m., looked at my watch and the adrenaline rush began.  I dressed, picked up my bags and walked out the door.  Mike told me not to worry about the door, it will lock behind me, so I pulled the door closed ad walked to the end of the driveway looking for the cab.  No cab.  I better call or I am going to miss this flight.  Upon pulling out my phone, the time immediately displays – 3:42.  What?!  I never switched my watch to Pacific time!  Now what to do?  I am locked outside.  This is my mistake, I can’t disturb these sleep deprived people (Charlotte is less than 2 months old and was born pre-mature!).  Making myself comfortable on the Adirondack chair, I tried to relax and fall asleep.  45 minutes later, lights turned on as Jodie awoke to take care of the baby.  I can’t freak her out and knock on the kitchen window.  My plan was to turn on my phone and play a game, surely she will see the light emanating and ask me to come back in.  No dice.  I sent Mike a text, “are you awake too?”  His response, “Yeah.” I responded, “I am in your backyard.” “Dude, why you chillin outside?”  He then called me a stalker!  Mike then opened the door, laughed at me and let me in.  I slept warmed up for another hour, then waited outside for my ride.  City cab was late and the trip was looking like it might be déjà vu all over again.  Never fear, my driver made up for lost time and my connection was made.  Wow, all that in 28 hours.

Leaving Portland

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