Sunday, April 15, 2012

Running Against an Olympic Gold Medalist

There!  Maybe the catchy title caught some new readers' interest!  But seriously, I guess I should follow up a little...

I had the pleasure of running track at Shippensburg University from 1989-1993.  For most of you who don't know, Ship is in south-central Pennsylvania.  It's about a two-hour drive west/northwest from Washington DC.  Included in our alumni (athlete-wise) is Green Bay Packers FB John Kuhn, former Green Bay Packers NG(?) Rob Davis, and 1991 World Champion Bronze Medalist in the marathon - Steve Spence.

Anyway, my first outdoor meet as a freshman was a small meet down at the University of Virginia.  It was us, UVA, and a couple other smaller D-I schools.  Why little D-II Ship was there, I've still no idea.  Heckuva way to start your season.  I remember it started snowing on the way down - to the point where we had to pull over at an IHOP while the coach ran in to make a phone call to see if the meet was still on.  Yes, the weather was THAT bad!

Eventually, we make it to UVA about an hour late.  I was scheduled to run the 400 meters that day.  I report to the staging area only to find out that I was in the fast heat of the 400.

** Gulp! **

Where's the heat for freshmen?

I'm just glad my best friend and future roommate was in the same heat as I was.  Somewhat comforting...

So the marshal starts barking out lane assignments.  Of course, I was in lane one.  For those of you who ran track, you all know how crappy lane one is for a 200 or 400.  Whatever.  I'm a rookie freshman.  I just had to deal.

Than the marshal called out "Paul Ereng!"

Wait.  Who?

Again, the marshal called out "Superman Ereng!"

For those of you who don't know, Paul Ereng was the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 800 meters.  Kenyan.  A current undergrad at UVA.  Whoa.  This is a big deal for me.  All of us from Ship started whipping our heads around trying to get a glimpse of this guy.  But he was nowhere to be seen.  I like to think he was psyched out at the prospect of facing big, bad freshman phenom Rob Wilhelm over 400 meters.  He was afraid to get his butt handed to him by all 6 feet, 155 pounds (at that time) of me.  But I guess the reality of it was the weather was still pretty bad, and it was actually still snowing.  Whatever.  Chicken. 

But seriously, it was still pretty disappointing that he didn't show up.  Not many people from D-II schools can say they had the chance to race head-to-head against someone of Ereng's caliber and pedigree. 

I had to wait until my junior year to get another opportunity to race against someone of that same caliber.  It was at an indoor meet at the Naval Academy.  Only this time I had advance notice of who I was going to run against so there were no surprises.  I was scheduled to run the 55-meter dash that day.  So, who was it that I was up against?

Jamison Reynolds might know this name.  It was a guy named James Jett, a senior at West Virginia University, a future NFLer, and a future gold medalist in the 4x100 meter relay at the 1992 Olympics.  He actually beat Carl Lewis at the Olympic Trials later that year.

** a bigger GULP! **

I remember that day well.  I was in lane - you guessed it! - one.  Again.  He was in lane 4.  I remember getting out well and even with everyone else.  Heh heh heh...  I had this.  About half-way through the race, I clearly remember him blowing by everyone and winning by like five meters.  I slowed up just to admire it.  I was like "dang....."  Look at him go...  It was actually my slowest time of the year in that particular event.  But what a story I could tell my kids years from now.  I can tell little Harry that his daddy got to run against an Olympic Gold Medalist in college, and proceeded to get his butt kicked by him.

But anyway...  I really couldn't find anything else to blog about today.  I did do an 8-miler this morning, and I spend a good bit of the time trying to find something to write about, but nothing really came to mind.  So I decided to use this week to give you all a deeper glimpse into myself and my running "career."  Not much has changed in the past week.  Weight's still the same.  Still not thrilled with the way I ate last week, but it could've been a lot worse.  Been trying to increase my water intake and decrease my soda intake (again) with success. 

And speaking of junk food intake, this leads to my weekly tip.  My wife and I had a chance to attend a coaching clinic back in December at the University of Maryland.  One of the speakers they featured was a nutritionist.  I forget what his credentials were, but they were pretty impressive.  But anyway...  He said if you want to eat something junky and cheat on your diet, the best time to do it is within 45 minutes of your run.  Something about your body is still in a state of trying to replenish what you had burnt off during your run and things being absorbed and burned more quickly since you just got done working out.  My wife can probably explain it better than me.  All I know is that it made a lot of sense when it was all said and done.

Until next time...  Stay tuned...

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