Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What The Didn't Tell You: Olympic Trials 1

I'll admit: 3000 Miles to the Trials evolved into something rather different than originally imagined. Initially we thought it would be a great way to be the eyes and ears of all you folks stuck back at home who wondered how "crazy" it would be... how "drunk" Ben would get... how "broke" you would end up from buying people rounds of drinks... how many "female professional runners" one could take home from a Eugene bar during those two weeks... how many of those would be "willing" conquests...

The answer to each of those questions, in order: three and a half. But, sadly, you couldn't tell that from the videos, which devolved more or less into Ben prancing and preening in front of the cameras, and yelling at me for "not making him look good enough," once we stopped rolling. So, for the next few days I'm going to try to paint an accurate portrait of what Trials life was really like in and around Eugene. It's What They Didn't Tell You, only it's things I couldn't make up if I tried.


In case you didn't know, Animal House was filmed in Eugene, and coming to the Trials meant a little taste of that lifestyle: what they didn't tell you is that just about anyone and everyone -- athletes excluded -- seemed to be staying on campus, in dorms called the "Living Learning Center." It meant a return to the joy of college life: the excitement of meeting new people, calling home to tell your mom about the girl from the fourth floor that you got ice cream with, getting some sort of mold on your junk from accidentally brushing against the shower curtain in the communal bathroom.

We, however, missed out on all that fun, by staying in the now-famous hotel room featured in the "Having a Beer with Ross Krempley" video. Despite being ~25 minutes south of Eugene in Cottage Grove, every place of business I walked into around there was also being patronized by visiting track fans -- their fandom made evident by no shortage of USATF gear, usually worn by the entire family. Now I'm OK with some patriotic gear here and there, but your entire family? For track fans, that's basically the equivalent of outfitting you, your spouse, your kids and your pets, in matching t-shirts featuring a bald eagle flanked by a billowing American flag. Maybe one which proclaims "THESE COLORS DON'T BLEED: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT -- GOD BLESS AMERICA."

But I digress. Bottom line: during the Trials track fans were ANYWHERE you went within a 30 mile radius. Maybe more.

As for those who DID dorm on campus, despite staying in Cottage Grove, we spent some time in and around the Living/Learning Centers, and got a pretty good picture of what it was like. For instance, there was convenience to be had in staying LITERALLY steps from Hayward Field. You could hear the crowd in the stadium even with the window closed. In fact, the crowd usually served as my alarm clock, telling me to give up on whatever piece of crap video I was working on and head over to the Festival to watch a particular event on the big screen -- the rooms came unfurnished after all, so no TVs (I'm told West Coasters couldn't get live coverage, anyway). I'd hear a burst of noise, recognize that the 400H must have just concluded, and close the old laptop, knowing that somethings are beyond saving and that the Men's 800 was about the begin.

(The convenience was tempered, by all accounts, by the RA's, who were complete dicks. Shocker It's like they get off on you having a little fun. Throwing a little kegger. Damaging a little university property. On more than one occasion, you'd leave a room, only to see the RA hurriedly walking down the hall, trying to disguise the fact that he had been listening at your door. I swear! We really were playing actual ping-pong in there!)

More to the point, because so many family members, fans, and journalists were staying there (hence, I assume, why we were not allowed to stay there) you never knew who you might bump into.

In other words, what they didn't tell you is that you never know when you may have an impromptu business meeting with marathon Trials-qualifier and Bachelorette-star Josh Cox... in a dorm bathroom.

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