September 11, 2011

A week later

I am back from Korea. My jet-lag seems to have worn off slowly. It really kicked my behind! Now we are back in the swing of things. This fall, its rugby season, which means Bethany (and I ) will cover the Seattle Rugby Club as they compete in the BC 1 League, and Bethany will be at practice as usual.We are using OptoJump to gather some baseline concussion screening data along with our usual SCAT II. Hopefully we have no concussions to speak of, but if we do, we want to be prepared for care management of those varied and often subtle brain injuries.

The current BIG SPORTING EVENT is of course World Cup Rugby in New Zealand. This 45 day tournament should be great, but its going to be hard to watch the games live since they are often at 1:00 am. TIVO for sure for the big games.

Also on tap this fall for Sports Reaction Center athletes is the Ironman World Championships where 8 of the V02MultiSport athletes we cover are qualified! Congrats. We are going to try to have one of us there for the event. Also in the fall is the Club Northwest XC season. We will try to be at every event there if possible too culminating in the National Championships here in the Seattle area. So it should be a very busy fall for Sports Reaction Center sponsored athletes. And we aim to help all those athletes achieve competitive status at the starting line or the kick off whistle.

September 5, 2011

A Korean Reflection

I am back from a whirlwind experience in Daegu Korea. The World Championships were out of this world as a truly great experience to witness and in some small way, to be a part of. The highlights for me included being in the stadium at key moments in Track and Field history…namely Jenny Simpson winning the 1500, something that has not been done in 28 years, and also seeing Matt Centrowitz collect Bronze in his 1500 meter race…these were truly great moments to be present.

I really enjoyed meeting coaches, agents and athletes from all over the world. To get to know people we see on TV personally even a little bit was special for me. A couple of highlights were meeting Bernard Legat and Mo Farrah and getting to know them personally and then watching them compete with each other in the 5000 made that race so much more meaningful for me. But meeting athletes I might never see again and having them be so generous with their time with me, like the Kenyan Marathon Team or Susana Felter, the Portuguese race walker who befriended me, made the experience special.

I made great business contacts. I met coaches and agents from all over the world, including the USA that were and will be outstanding connections professionally. This includes the US medical staff. I am very grateful to have made their acquaintance.

The Korean people could not be any sweeter, or kinder or more friendly. This made traveling in a country where very little to no English was spoken (at least in Daegu) much easier and more comfortable. I enjoyed the food experience (although I found myself craving good old American cuisine by the time I left). I enjoyed the efficiency of Korea. The cleanliness of the underground, the efficiency of the high speed rail (man do we need this in the USA), the commitment to technology from little things, like the 3-D cell phone, to the super airport with an ice skating rink, the Koreans seem to have a love affair with technology. Although it drove me a bit crazy, the Koreans commitment to lighted signs everywhere was, well, interesting at best. The Koreans put on one hell of a good competition. I chatted with one of the IAAF officials at one point, and he agreed that outside of one or two early glitches, the competition went off very well.

Although the weather was sweltering, and humid to the point of ridiculous at times, it was really great to be in a sunny place for a week considering the extended winter we had in Seattle this year. Seattle is fully 10 degrees cooler, and although it feels great, I really liked the hot weather.

Working with Mike was wonderful. He is such a good guy, with such a good heart and a very level head on his shoulders. And he is one hell of an athlete. I was truly honored to be invited in the first place and to have him place his trust in me to be his PT at the event. It is an honor to be invited to run in an event of this magnitude, and Mike was smart about taking it all in. He and I had a blast together, and I am delighted to have spent time with him there sharing experiences together. The one regret I have is that I could not stay for the after-party. I would like to have had a beer or two with Mike to toast him for a job well done. Mike closed the race as well as he could, and although he didn’t tun his PR, nobody did. I remain very proud of Mike.

I thank my staff at the office for keeping the office running while I was gone. It is a wonderful thing to be able to go away and know that behind you things are being done properly. And of course I missed my wife Melissa, and my daughter Mia while I was away. It was a tough week for them because Quinn went to DC, I went to Korea and Josh went to South Africa all at the same time. The house pretty much emptied out. Luckily Sam, the oldest brother, moved in while he is looking for a place. This softened the blow of the boys leaving for Melissa and Mia.

I’m really glad today was Labor Day. I needed the extra day to overcome jet lag. This is also the day we arrived in the USA in 1977, so I had lunch with my mom and Mia to celebrate. And now, its back to work! We have a lot to do.

My Last Day…aka Mike’s Big Day: The 2011 IAAF Worlds Marathon

My alarm woke me at 5:00 am. I was rummy, but I managed to get up and throw on some clothes and head immediately to the train station. My morning routine included me filling my water bottle, adding my NUUN flavor and then taking my JP on the way to the train station…but this morning, I just ran out the door to get to the Athletes Village on time. The team decided to leave early by taking the first bus to the event..that meant I had to get there by 6:20 for a 6:25 departure.

I got to the Metro, and went downstairs to find myself alone, save one or two others. It was early Sunday morning after all. 10 minutes passed and no train. I was starting to panic a little bit. One other fellow there, deep into his ebook, looked scholarly, so I asked if he spoke English…”A little” he said, and told me that the first train would be 6:47. OK, I thought, this should be enough time.

Arriving at the Village train station, I was disappointed to find no bikes present. So I walked (as quickly as I could) to the Village, hoping that they didn’t leave early. I arrived to see the medical team loading up the bus and the athletes arrived soon after. They seemed relaxed. The bus ride was mostly quiet with the athletes listening to their headphones. It was as if we had our own team bus…none of the other teams went out that early. In addition to the athletes, there were 5 members of the medical team as well as the Environmental Specialist with his ice jackets.

Arriving at the venue, we wandered into the warm up tent where there were treatment tables set up, and mats for stretching as well as baskets for the athletes to leave their gear during the race. One by one the teams started to arrive: Ethiopia, Kenya, Australia, Great Brittan, China, Romania, Japan…and on and on. It was pretty awe inspiring. The Kenyan runners I hung out with at the track greeted me warmly with a hand shake and a hug. I went searching the venue for coffee…none. Mike wanted coffee, so I persisted…but it was a Sunday morning and so there was nothing open. Too bad.

Back in the tent, the athletes were putting on their numbers, and getting their ice vests one. The ice vest strategy was to wear three vests. One to cool down, one while on warm up run and one while waiting for the start. Correctly managed, the protocol allows the core temperature to come down by 1 to 2 degrees even while the legs and arms are warming up. The coach indicated that the reporting from the athletes throughout the week was generally positive for the use of the vests. Plus Mike and the other runners seemed to like them.

Mike got a little bit of a run down, he said his foot felt good, and the guys went out for a warm up run in the warm up area. Mike and the other runners went to get a final check on their numbers and then went out to the start area.

There were 66 athletes registered for the marathon, Mike was hoping for a top 30 finish.

I stationed myself a short distance from the start, and with Mike’s long camera lens, I positioned myself for the race. The gun went off and the athletes surged forward as a group. After snapping several pictures, I left the start and made my way to the 10K mark. The runners were still bunched by then, but there were people starting to fall back a bit. Mike came through as the 5th American, 2 minutes behind the group. He looked uncomfortable. I was a bit worried for him at that point. I went back to the start area around 40K so I could watch the Big Screen TV’s.

The runners had thinned out considerably by this time. The front three had separated and the runners came by one by one. Mike had picked off Sergio, one of the American runners by this time. As an aside, Sergio runs about 140 miles a week, week in and week out! Mike looked good as he ran by. I yelled out his place number to him (about 47th at the time), and he looked up in recognition.

I worked my way to the area before the finish, and went into the coaches area so I could have access to the street. If you look to the side, you can see me taking pictures on the left side (black shirt, light shorts), I was taking photos of each runner as they came through and counting….The first American, Mike Morgan, came through close to 30th place and collapsed two meters before the line…He staggered up and made it across the line. A few runners later, Mike came in looking strong. He had picked off about 10 runners the last 10K! He finished on 2:22.49, still his seasons best run even though about 10 minutes slower than his PR. The conditions were very difficult. The results show that almost every runner was slower than his PR.

I made my way to the press area to see Mike after the race. He was being interviewed by the FlowTrack reporter.

Mike came over and we chatted about the race. We said our goodbyes, and I made my way to get out of the race area. It was a bit of a race against the clock for me to make it back to my hotel, pack, get to the train station and then to Seoul, to Incheon and then home.

The train was crowded but I made it back. Took a shower and packed up and hoofed off to the train station. I made it with enough time for one last meal. There was great little Korean restaurant in the train station where they made BiBimBap, which I enjoyed as my last meal in Korea.

I went down to the platform and sat watching the Koreans as they came and went until my train arrived. I took the KTX High Speed Rail to Seoul at 300 kilometers per hour! It was a really smooth ride. When I arrived at Seoul, I followed signs to the Airport Train and found myself talking to a Chinese woman who looked as bewildered as I did. We eventually figured out which train to get and we were both a bit worried about making our flight. Nevertheless, we chatted about life and our observations about Korea (she said that she couldn’t understand Korean either, and that Koreans all look the same to her!). We arrived at Seoul and it was strangely not well sign posted. The airport is HUGE, it even has a skating rink! We asked around and eventually figured out where to go to check in, and I literally had to run because my flight was only one hour later. I arrived at the Delta area to be told to go to the Korean Air area. I ran over there and arrived to find that there were 1000 people in line ahead of me! AARG! So I asked about getting to the head of the line, but the agent told me my flight was delayed so I had time to stand in line. Phew!

I went to the gate and arrived there in time to board. We flew back on a 777, a huge plane. I recommend that if you fly Korean Air, you choose the Korean grub.

I slept most of the way home and arrived at my 4:00 am…. I went through customs, picked up my bags and met Melissa on the curb. It was nice to be home after my great adventure!

September 3, 2011

Day 8….the Penultimate Day

So I took my time getting going, and I went to the J’s Motel for breakfast (my little place was not open). I had a semi Western breakfast…a couple of eggs and dumplings soup with rice and kimchee on the side. Not as tasty as the typical breakfasts I’ve been having, but still unusual. I made my way to the Village almost by rote. I don’t know the names of the streets, and it’s all really a blur of color, signs, flashing lights and billboards. Korea, it seems, is a nation of shoppers. It gives me a headache.

In the Cafe, they are showing the 50k walk on TV with English commentary, so I parked myself there to take it in.

Sitting here this morning, watching the 50K walk, I find myself thinking about what great hosts the Koreans have been. The event runs like clockwork, and any time a little thing goes wrong, they fix it immediately. For example, and it’s just a little thing, but since nobody speaks the same language, the athletes tend to crowd onto the buses both to the track and back home again, after they leave the stadium. This was upsetting to the Koreans, so a day later, they had barriers and volunteers, keeping everyone in single file so the buses were not crowded. To ensure that nobody was left behind, they brought in extra buses, as well.

The Koreans themselves are sweet, friendly, and very willing to help. It’s difficult, but they try to find someone to interpret if they can’t understand you. There are so many volunteers here, it’s crazy. They have either red or pale blue shirts and they are all over the stadium and at the Village. Some of them have a big button that say “English” or whatever language they speak.

Mike was working on getting Kenyan gear, so I scheduled to meet him after lunch.

I decided to go on a quest for Japanese food. I got the food map out, and I headed off to the Metro. I selected a restaurant not too far away because I had scheduled to meet Mike at around 1:30. Two Metro stations away I found myself exiting the Metro station into a throng of uniformed primary school children. (Keep in mind, it’s Saturday….I remember reading once that Japanese kids get a whole extra year of schooling than American kids do by the time they graduate high school, and the Koreans think the Japanese are lazy!) As I walked through the throngs of kids, I tried to follow my not-very-user-friendly map, which located the restaurant in the middle of a condo development. I couldn’t find it, so I started asking people to help. I quickly remembered that nobody speaks English! Eventually a young mom carrying, her groceries, with 2 little school boys in tow, came to my aide. She wasn’t sure where the restaurant was, but she took me in tow, too. Quite a sight we made as we walked around and through the school. Little boys playing baseball ran over to say “Hi!” and give me a high 5. We went around the school and arrived at the restaurant to discover that it was CLOSED! Darn it!

I thanked her and we took pictures, and I headed back to the Village. On the train, I sat next to a red-shirted volunteer who spoke English, and she and I laughed about the funny experiences I have had here. We rode bikes back to the Village, and I ended up back in a Korean BBQ for lunch. Now I’m really done with Korean BBQ!!

Sitting on the deck, I met the Australian Race Walker, Regan Lamble, who took 15th, and who commentated the Sky broadcast of the Mens 50K racer, and her coach Brent, who are keen to learn about OJN. They gave me the contact info for the Australian Institute of Sport biomechanist.

Mike showed up and we watched the Ti Kwan Do demo. Very impressive. Guys breaking boards at least 10 feet off the ground with flying spinning kicks. It went on a bit, so Mike and I went up to medical for his last treatment. The rooms were quiet, just trainers, chiro’s and LMT’s hanging around. The games are mostly over, and just a few races remain. There were days where all 9 tables were loaded, and three people were taking ice baths, and three people were in the recovery pumps. So it was a little strange for just Mike to be the only athlete in treatment. After treatment, we went up to his room to make sure his water bottles got to the right place on time.

We hung out a little with Bernard Legat, who races tomorrow night, talking about the 1500. Bernard felt good about Cipro’s chances to podium.

I left for the track, and arrived with about a half hour before the start of the meet. In the row in front of me was a Dutch high jump coach. Since it was the woman’s final, it was cool to hear her opinion on each athlete. As the evening went on, a Portuguese race walker sat next to me. She spoke good English, so we chatted about what it’s like to be on the circuit. She took 6th or 7th in the competition.

The events of the evening were great, especially the 1500, where Cipro took third in a really well executed tactical race. The Woman’s 100 hurdles were great too, with the Aussie who was featured on the program winning relatively easily after smoking the competition in the Semi. The highlight of the evening though had to be the men’s 200, with Bolt mugging for the cameras before taking care of business without much trouble. It was almost as much fun watching him run from the gaggle of reporters who surrounded him…he jukes thus way and that to wrong foot them at one point.

The other person I sat next to was a French physio who could not speak one word of English. Big surprise! I only mention it because on the bus back the village I sat next to a Croatian Physio…just seemed a coincidence.

Once back to the hotel (walking, biking, train travel and more walking) I pretty much went straight to bed with the Marathon in the morning calling for an early start.

September 2, 2011

Day 7

Mike had other plans through lunch, so I made an easy start to the day. I ordered a new breakfast surprise…this one seemed to be a blend between two other dishes plus a fried egg on the side in addition to the plate of kimchee items and a bowel of rice. Very filling and quite savory. But I STILL have not been able to order the item I had on day one!

I walked to the J’s Hotel on my way to the train station, and stopped in at the IAAF information desk there since they have an English speaking agent there. I asked her where I caught the high speed rail and guess what, same station as the bus station and as the Metro station. Cool. Then I asked her wher I go to buy fabric (Melissa asked me to bring her some back) and she directed me to the other market. I also asked her to write down what I was looking for since there would be no chance of success without a visual aide (have I mentioned that nobody in Daegu seems to speak ANY English?)

I went too the train station and managed to buy a ticket for the high speed rail for Sunday after the marathon finish. This gives me a little more time to celebrate with Mike after his race.

A couple of Metro stops down the tracks, a transfer to a different line, and I emerged into Pike Place Market on steroids. Block after block after block after block of stalls selling everything you can imagine from snakes to suits, from veggies to motorcycles, new and used. Getting my desire written down turns out to have been a stroke of pure genius BTW, because there is no chance that I would have found anything in that maze once I arrived there! In addition to the morass of repetitive stalls, there were throngs of people. Throngs and throngs. And just to make it a little exciting anda bit life threatening, dudes on Vespas ride way to fast in those crowded quarters delivering htis and that, causing one to quite literally jump out of the way of certain contact with a speeding vehicle.

I was quite an attraction asking one then another woman to direct me toward my target… secret piece of paper came in very handy! Little by little, I circled closer and closer to my destination until eventually a man led me into a giant fabric store. Now what?

I made my desire known and made my purchase, and headed back retracing my steps past food stalls, handbag stalls, shoe stalls, vegi stores, fish mongers, and on and on and on. Back to the Metro, back to the transfer station, back to the Village, and onto the deck of the Cafe unti Mike showed up.

When I met Mike on the deck of the Cafe, he was excited because he had been trading gear – He had his heart set on a Ukraine shirt…anyway, we went up to the Medical rooms for treatment.

There I met Holly from Portland who is asociated with Nike, and Iain from BYU, a bionechanist who works with Steeple Chase, both of whom will help me get OJN connections.

After Mikes treatment, we went up to his room so he could show me the cool stuff he traded for. He got Ukrainian, Spanish and Italian gear. I remember the trading of gear when I went to Germany as a kid. Way cool.

In Mikes room, I chatted with Bernard Legat about the steeplechase result, and about Ezekial Kemboi’s celebration. He said “I told him he is too skinny, he needs to eat”, but he also was very complimentary. Bernard said he traveled in a cab with Ezekiel before the race discussing strategy with him because Ezekiel “really wanted to win”. “I told him to go fast that last 250, get clear, have a clean water jump and then go!”

I left Mike to have dinner with his teammates, and I left for the track…lots of great events were scheduled tonight, and Mike wanted to lay low to conserve energy.

The track meet was cool. I sat with the Kenyan Marathon team who was there in mass to support their 5000 M contestant. In addition to the 5000, which she won, there was also the Womans 200 final, the Shot Put Final, The Long Jump Final, the Javelin Final and a series of heats including the Womens 800 and the Mens 200. It was the first time I got to see the Jamacian Lightening Bolt in action…OH MY is he fast….He was well in the lead by the time they hit the straight away, and then he just coasted in to get through to the finals. It was also nice to see the guy I met from Bahrain (although he is really a Nigerian) in the first 200 heat. It was inspiring to see such dramatic Javelin throws and Shot Puts…I am constantly amazed by the performances here. Quite astounding.

One performance stood out though…it was by the South African “woman” in the 800. I say “woman” because all the Kenyans and I agree that she stands taller, has broader shoulders, bigger thighs, no breasts and literally she looks every bit a man. Although her chemistry is not her fault, it is really not fair to have her compete against full blooded women in my opinion. When she got on the bus, my feelings were confirmed. She is a he!

Tomorrow is the USA Marathon Team meeting where the athletes will discuss logistics. Then on Sunday its game on!

Another perfect day in Athlete Heaven!

(while I am writing this the commentators on TV are reviewing the track meet events of the day…both reporters are wearing baby pink jackets but one has a burnt orange tie the other an emerald green tie…and they seem quite happy with their outfits!)

September 1, 2011

Day 6 IAAF World Championships

There was a little urgency this morning because I had to get to the Village by 9:20am to catch the bus to the Stadium to watch the 5000m prelim heats. Mikes roommate, Bernard Legat, and Mo Farrah were both competing – a must-see heat!

I started the day at my usual breakfast place, selecting another breakfast surprise. It’s been really interesting every morning because each item on the menu is slightly different. I will say this though, it is a really healthy way to eat breakfast, and there aren’t too many overweight Koreans!

After breakfast, I walked to the Metro station, and was sad to see that there were no bicycles for me to grab when I arrived at Yulla (my Metro stop). So I walk/jogged to the Village and made it onto the bus by the skin of my teeth.

Once at the Stadium, Mike and I went to the athletes seating area and took up a good station for the 5000. Both Bernard and Mo qualified, making me sorry that I will be flying during their race. At the same time, the men’s Shot Put qualifiers, the Womens Javelin, the women’s High Jump, the women’s 800 and the women’s 200 as well as the 400 relay qualifiers were going on. We watched a couple of sprints after the 5000, but it was too hot to sit there in the sun, (around 100), so we took off to the concession area.

It was really great to watch the Shot Put qualifiers having hung out with those guys in the medical room. They are funny guys, so it was particularly satisfying to see the whole American squad qualify for the finals.

As I write this blog, I am sitting on the deck of the Champions Plaza coffee shop next to the German women’s team as they talk strategy, on my right the Spanish team coaches are drinking beer, there is a Swedish athlete plugged into her ipad, and a couple of Chinese coaches are watching the goings on. In the plaza, there is a traditional Korean band playing music. They have performances there every day all day. Tai Kwan Do, music,
theater and tea ceremonies. The Village is really a little peace of heaven on earth. It’s an idyllic place for the athletes with everything laid on.

This afternoon, Mike met with the Sports Psychologist to talk about the race. I was invited to sit in and listen to the conversation. Very interesting. Mike is in a great frame of mind for the finals, and he is starting to get his race strategy together. The biggest issues will be the heat and the humidity. The course itself is relatively flat. After that, Mike and I went up to the Medical rooms so I could treat his foot and get him taped up for his run. While there, I met Monique Burton, a Children’s hospital doc who is really interested in working with us on concussion screening and management. Another GREAT connection that could really only happen here.

Tonight Mike and I plan another round of Korean BBQ before we head to the track, or after if we are running late. Should be a great night.

My favorite track events are the middle distance events. Tonight is the womans 1500 final and the mens semi’s. I am excited!

On the way to the track, I met a South African athlete, and we talked about who I should connect with in SA for OptoJump…Very Cool!!

Turns out that my excitement for the 1500 proved well founded. Jenny Simpson, who I tested on OptoJump when I was at the Olympic Training Center back in April…actually ran a fantastic race to capture the World Championship Title! Wow, what a great race she ran. I don’t remember ever when an American medaled in the middle distances, never mind took the gold. I have a great picture of her celebrating to post when I get back.

Her race came hard on the heels of what had to be the most incredible finish in the mens Steeple Chase that I have ever seen, with the winner literally running away from the field in the last 150. He won by a comfortable 30 meters. It was truly incredible to see. Add to that two outstanding heats in the mens 1500 to close out a great evening. Of course, there were other track and field events…the finals of the Mens High Jumo, won by an American that I met the day before, the Womens Triple Jump also had its final (no Americans) and qomans 200 (Alyson Felix the great American sprinter took second) the Mens Javelin held prelims for Qualification into the final. As we were leaving the track, the mens and womens 400 hurdles took place. Also amazing races.

I was telling Mike as we ate at our Korean BBQ together after we left the stadium that for me, this experience has to be one of my top 5 if not the top 3 in all time. Its hard to quantify, but I would say that our wedding and dive honeymoon in Hawaii ranks, as does when I represented South Africa in gymnastics in Germany, also my Emigration to the USA at a critical time in my life, and of course, the birth of my children are all on a par with this amazing experience.

Its winding down. The week has gone quickly by and the big race is Sunday!

August 31, 2011

My day 3, but actually day 5 of the Championships

Today I ventured out into the heart of Daegu. I walked to the subway station on faith (I had heard it was in a particular direction) and on my way there ran across a bus station where I booked a ticket to the airport on Sunday. I made my way into the subway station. They all pretty much look alike around the world, so I figured out which was the station I needed to get to for the Athletes Village and I jumped on the next train. The coaches credential I have provides me with a free transportation card, so that makes it easy.

When I got off the train, and went upstairs, I snagged a bicycle; the Athletes Village has loads of bikes around for the athletes and coaches to snag for short trips. I picked up a bike and rode the few blocks to the Village. There is a great little coffee shop with a nice deck with umbrellas that I have met Mike at before, so I went there not sure when he would show up (we had left it sort of loose the day before). While I was sitting there, I met an Australian fellow who is a sports agent and we talked about him becoming a distributor for our product for us in Australia. So that was cool…could be a significant relationship. Mike showed up and then immediately disappeared again.

I met Mike at the Medical rooms a little later, and treated his foot in preparation for the days run. Then we went down to the practice track and met with the Special Conditions Coach who presented the Marathon team with ice vests for their pre-race warm-up, to help them lower their core temperatures. This is very cool (no pun intended) because the conditions here are so very HOT. The guys went out for a 20 minute run to ‘test drive’ the vests. While they were out, I chatted with one of the Jamaican sprinters while she stretched and did calisthenics. After that, Mike and I went back up and I treated his foot again, this time a little more thoroughly given he was done for the day. I chatted with the medical team guys, making friends.

After the medical tent treatments were over, we went to the downtown market. That place was disgusting! I will post pictures soon, but the market almost made me puke. There was a ton of raw food on display, along with snakes, frogs, turtles AND DOGS! Honestly… it was horrible! So we bailed and went further downtown to Daegu’s version of NYC’s “Times Square”, except that it goes on for BLOCKS and BLOCKS, and is enough to give you a seizure. It’s really a less impressive version of Times Square, but on steroids, if that makes sense. We ate very traditional food and Sergio, the US Champion, who was with us was unimpressed. Mike wanted more food. I thought that our meal was too much work for not much protein, but it was very tasty. We walked a bit more and eventually I had had enough and voted we leave. Back to the subway, and then a walk back to the hotel. I was bushed so went off to bed quickly.

Today was a light day at the track with only the 20K race walk for women scheduled. I spent some time with Maria, an American, after her race when we were in the medical suite, and we agreed that I will work with her from afar (she is in NYC) but I will put her in contact with one of my OptoJump clients there to help her.

So a good day, though it was strange in so many ways. Tomorrow, back to business as usual.

August 30, 2011

Day Two

Breakfast Surprise

Wow…already Day 2! I quickly eat breakfast next door again: $4.50 for a bowl of broth with vegies and an egg, and a lot of Kimchee. After breakfast, I hail a cab and quickly realized the cab driver doesn’t understand where I am headed, and he drives off in a random direction! Wild gesticulating and gesturing on my part, and repeating over and over again (in English) “Athletes Village” while pretending to sleep…eventually he gets it, re-routes and we arrive at the Athletes Village.

Getting out of the cab, I walk straight into Robles, the great Cuban hurdler. He is adorned in his usual gold chains, but he is very friendly and accepts my congratulations (even though he got DQ’d for his race the night before). I wait for Mike, but because we had a miscommunication about the time, I missed him, so I headed to the Stadium to catch the morning session: Women’s 3K heats, Mens 1500 heats, Women’s Long jump and Triple jump qualifiers and one or two other events like the Heptathlon Javlin…seems like a long time ago.

Triple Jump Qualifiers

I finally catch up with Mike at the medical center and we set about treating his foot. So far so good. His Plantar Fascia is holding up! We head to the drug testing center where they take his blood (they are testing all the athletes here) and then to the local mall to see what that is all about. I have to say this about Korea as a result…people here LIKE BRIGHT COLORS! It’s pretty much all western stuff, except the colors are almost cartoonish, they are so bright. This is true across the city, even in my hotel room (which is adorned with sconces that emit rotating pink, blue and purple accent lights). If I didn’t see the same commitment to garish colors all over the city, I would think you could rent my room by the hour!

We ate in a food court of the market, which was interesting. They have a cabinet of the plates on display, as an example, and they are all numbered. Essentially Korean, Chinese, and Japanese styles. So you select a number and then you pay for that number. Then you go and sit down and wait for your number to show up under the neon sign near the kitchens. Once your number shows up, you go and pick up your food. Compared to the Korean BBQ we ate at the night before, this was a step down, but worth doing once.

After dinner we head for the Stadium to watch the mens 800, the Womens Steeple Chase

Womens Steeple

and Pole vaulting, and Discus for the men. We go and sit down by the pole vaulters because one of the girls we met the day before in the medical room is jumping and has a good shot at a medal. We hang there for a while and watch that event plus a couple Heptathlon 800 heats, as well as the 1500 semis for the women before we try to reposition for the 800. We end up on the wrong side of the stadium, but still have great seats for the home stretch (opposite side, level with the finish) and the winner pretty much runs away with the field. We move again for the Steeple Chase and are at the first hurdle – a perfect position for the finish and an amazing performance. The Pole vault winner sets a personal best, a South American Record, and Meet Record and wins the gold, while the Steeple was won by a Russian woman who sets another Meet Record running the fastest time in the world this year.

After the steeple, we went back to the Athletes Village to avoid the crush as the athletes try to squeeze onto buses.

Tomorrow is the Shot Put. I hung out with the Shot Putters from the USA today while I was waiting for Mike in the medical rooms…really good guys, huge for sure, and FUNNY too. Also Bernard Legat runs and that will be a site to see!

This is really so exciting…I told Mike it is sort of like crack for track and field junkies. None of the distractions an Olympic Games offers (other sports, multiple venues and so on). It’s simply all track, all the time, with the entire center of the Track and Field universe right here.

Mo Farrah and Mike Sayenko

For example, walking into the Stadium tonight, we found ourselves walking next to Mo Farrah, the great British 10,000 meter runner who just barely lost his race on day one. But we quickly discovered that he is an Arsenal fan and was actually more upset about Arsenal losing to Man U, 8-2, than he was at losing the race on Sunday! Love it.

Day One

I started the day trying to find food. I was directed to a tiny place around the corner…I mean like two-tables-tiny. And since neither the host nor the menus could communicate in English, I just pointed at the menu and rubbed my tummy like I was hungry. What I got for breakfast was a bowel of beef and vegetable broth with Kimchee on the side. Very tasty, but unusual. I’ll do more of the same each day. I finally figured out how everything worked in my room, and they have a computer too, hence this blog, but the OS is in Korean so I have to guess at everything.

After getting situated, I took a cab to the Athletes Village, and received my accreditation card which gives me access to almost everything except the warm up track and the dope testing area. I went into the Village and waited for Mike to surface. We had arranged to meet – it was just a matter of figuring out where. While I was waiting for Mike, I met the coach of the UK Para-Olympic Team. He was really nice and made a lot of good suggestions for me for meeting the Canadian coaches.

Once Mike showed up, we went and picked up my official backpack and the schedule for the day, and we made a plan. First we went to have lunch in the athletes Dining Room. The place was ENORMOUS with literally 1000 athletes in there eating. The food was good but very mixed up (beef stew next to kimchee next to pasta next to something that tasted good but was not recognizable). It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, of course, and my goodness, can some of those athletes eat! We sat next to a GIANT thrower from Spain who literally ate 6 plates of piled high mixed food stuff. Impressive. While were in the lunch area, Mikes roommate, Bernard Legat, (one of the the worlds fastest 1500 m runners) came over and joined us. What a nice guy. He talked about possibly moving to Seattle, which would be ultra cool!

Mike Sayenko with Bernard Legat

After lunch we went to the USA Team sports Medicine area and treated Mikes foot and taped him up for his run. I tried a new taping idea based on his feedback. Mike went off to a meeting and then his run, so I explored the Village.

Team USA Medical Suite

I went to the practice track and watched the Hammer throwers (who had their Final in the evening) practicing. It was good to see how exactly they warmup, and I have to say it is a very impressive sport. So much torque. I also went to the track and watched the Jamaican sprinters warming up and practicing. I met one of the Jamaican sprint coaches and we talked a while about his training philosophy.

Once Mike got back from his very first pain free run (yahoo, the new taping idea worked successfully), we treated him again and headed off to the track. While he was taking a shower, I hung out with Bernard and Mikes other roommates, the rest of the Marathon team and one of our speed-walkers. All really nice guys.

The Stadium in Daegu

We caught the bus to the track and made our way through the Athletes Path to the stadium and we arrived in an amazing stadium. The Koreans have spared no expense. The meet runs like clockwork, there are an abundance of people volunteering to assist and everything is spotless. I am in awe of almost every athlete here.

Every single person here is in the best shape in the world, and they are incredibly disciplined. The track meet was really amazing…kind of like a perfect 3-ring circus…lots going on, but between announcements, on time track performances and so on, I kept pinching myself because in so many ways, its like heaven!

More tomorrow…

August 28, 2011

The second leg: Tokyo to Daegu

The first challenge was finding the gate at the airport since the screen was flipping back and forth between English and Japanese faster than I could read through it. So I wandered around until I came to a Delta gate where there was activity, and asked one of the gate attendants to figure it out… no worries, it was the next gate over!

On the plane, I sat next to two Korean women who were in Japan to shop..they did not stop chatting and laughing in apparent glee as they paged through perfume catalogs the whole flight…even so, I managed to catch a little shut eye.

Once in Korea, I followed the crowd to customs and stood in line with the masses. The girl right behind me was a US college student who spent a year abroad in Daegu, which was awesome since she gave me the low-down on the best way to Daegu from the airport. Following her advice, I made my way to the bus transportation area and figured out how to buy a ticket for Daegu. I then spent the next harrowing minutes (the last bus left in 10 minutes) a little panicked, trying to figure out which of the 10 buses parked along the road was the one to Daegu…

I made it onto the bus and slept fitfully for the 3 hour journey. The bus driver made two quick stops, but I was not sure if I could get off or not, since nobody spoke English, so I just stayed on the bus, even as others ran into the store to get a beverage or a snack.  Keep in mind it was approximately 3:00 am for me…so I was not too swift for sure.

We arrived in Daegu and I retrieved my bag and hailed a cab. I had an address and a phone number, but the cabbie spent 5 minutes debating the location of the hotel with his pals, even though he had a GPS in his car. Eventually we depart and he literally drove around in circles, muttering in Korean (no english). He finally follows his GPS critically yelling at it (I think) and stopping to look at the address again and again, and eventually pulls up, and goes into an all night store to ask for directions. I am sitting in the cab, waiting, when I look and notice that we are parked right in front of the hotel! I guess what threw him was that the hotel had an English name (Motel Castle). We then try to figure out how much to pay him…”$10.00″ ..well I wasn’t sure of the exchange rate exactly, but we worked it out and I went into the hotel.

Once in my room, I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get the lights turned on…everything was remote-controlled and, of course, I can’t read Korean..but no matter what button I pressed, NOTHING (keep in mind it was about 4:00 in the morning for me, and I was operating on about 2 hours of fitful sleep)! In the end, I figured out that there was a fan in the room that worked, but all that really did was circulate boiling air around…even so, I collapsed in the humidity and woke around 7:00am.

I was finally able to get someone up to the room to show me how the buttons all worked. I learned that you needed to insert your key into a magic slot to allow things like the AC and lights to work. Who knew?

I was directed to a little Korean place for breakfast, Korean style…a beef and veg broth with kimchee on the side…as hungry as I was, I devoured it. I took a shower and now I am headed out to meet up with Mike, get my coaches credential and take in the day.

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