Inside the Olympic Village – Final 5K Preparations

Aug. 7: Final Preparations, A Different Side of Things, Million Dollar Decisions

In the last two days, the
volume of our training has been reduced considerably. Saturday was the
last hard track workout with an easy shakeout in the afternoon. From
Sunday on, it’s just easy runs without as much volume. Basically, the
goal of the runs now is to just keep Ruben in tune and ready to run a
personal best on Wednesday morning. Even the physical therapy is getting
easy and less time consuming. It seems like we are on track and
hopefully it all works out on race day. The heat sheets and start lists
for Wednesday races will be up tomorrow. It looks like it should be
three sections, and once we see the sections we’ll try to put together a
race plan.
On Sunday, we watched the
women’s marathon which was an extremely entertaining race with a big
group through the first 18 miles, then the top three sorting themselves
on the final mile. Unfortunately, Benita Willis (Ruben’s
training partner) came to London with a hip injury unsure she could even
finish. But, this being her fourth Olympics, she wanted to gut it out.
Benita was able to finish in 100th place, way off her ability, which is
really to be somewhere in the top 10 and on her best days as good as
anyone in the world. We watched as she limped in the last 250 meters and
both Ruben and I felt just awful. After the race, they were so
concerned about her they wouldn’t allow her to leave
for the trip back to the village without putting her in a wheelchair.
Benita did recover enough to
hobble over to Cape Verde HQ (our apartment) to watch the Sunday evening
Athletics session. We have it set up so we have the TV and computer
going a the same time to watch multiple events. On our television, there
are six channels just for Track and Field, so you can watch any field
event all the way through every single attempt; or just watch the track
events – all of it commercial free. It is really the best coverage I
have ever seen for the sport. I am truly being spoiled. Going home to
NBC coverage of any Track and Field event after this is going to be a
let down. We had a blast discussing the races and making predictions for
each race. It’s always good to be surrounded by track nerds while
watching a meet.
This morning I got up early for
a little run then headed over to the Stadium to watch the heats of the
men’s 800 and the women’s 1,500. I met up with John Evans, the head
Track and Field coach from Brandeis University, who also doubles as the
elite athlete coordinator for New Balance. He is over here to watch the
meet and take care of business for New Balance. I definitely got to see a
side of the sport you don’t get to see very often. I was sitting in a
row with the three representatives from New Balance, and in front of us
was the coach for Jenny Simpson, the 1,500 meters world champion. Behind
us were the coaches of the Australian and New Zealand  teams. The 1,500
sections got on the track and everyone around me started to get a bit
tense. They all had either athletes in the races as a coach or sponsor.
The first section went off and everyone was pretty happy Lucy Van Dalen
(from New Zealand and a New Balance athlete) from Stony Brook ran very
well. Even though she missed an automatic spot to the finals, she looks
to be in pretty good shape to advance on time.
The second section was when
things began to get very tense. Jenny Simpson, basically the poster girl
for New Balance, was in that section and her coach in front of us was
decked out in New Balance clothing. This section went out extremely slow
and after 800 meters it became very apparent that no time qualifiers
were coming out of this section. So, as always happens when it’s this
slow, people start to push to the front going into the last lap. Jenny
was boxed in and not in good position with everyone starting to fly in
front of her. She improved slightly in the next 200 meters, but hit the
final straightaway still in ninth place with alot of work to do. She
inched up bit by bit and lunged at the line. Nobody was sure in what
place she finished: sixth, with everyone breathing again; or seventh,
which would of been devastating for many of the people I was with.

As soon as it finished, we were all looking at the scoreboard for the
results. It came up with everyone in order except sixth and seventh
places which resulted in a photo finish. Race judges had to take some
time on the computer to figure out who was in front. It was about a full
minute, which must of felt like a lifetime for those directly involved,
before it finally came up that Jenny Simpson finished in sixth place
and qualified for the next round. I am quite sure her coach and
the representatives from New Balance grew a few grey hairs in that
minute. In the last section, an Australian and New Balance
athlete advanced without a problem. In the end, it worked out very well
as all the Australian, Kiwis and New Balance athletes advanced from the
three sections.

It was really exciting to see a
side of the sport I rarely to get to see: How much the sponsors and the
people who make the decisions on who they are going to spend their
sponsorship dollars on are affected by what plays out on the track. I
always get to feel and see how it affects coaches (nearly every
weekend), but to see it at this level with the money and time people
have invested was really a glimpse behind the curtain. It was not
something I expected when I came to just watch a meet with a friend,
then to literally see the million dollar decisions played out in front
of me. It was pretty humbling.
Tonight and tomorrow Ruben a I are just laying low and letting him get some rest.
I will not blog again until after the race which is 10:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. Eastern Time). I believe you can watch the race live online at NBC sports Olympic coverage page.
Thanks again for all your support.

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