Last weekend was a busy one. Busy, but great: birthday celebrations Friday, long race on Saturday and a little road trip on Sunday. But what's the point of life if you're not actually living it?
As you may have read in our last blog entry one of my favorite races of the year is Dizzy GOAT. We've done it every year except the first and register annually as soon as it opens up. This year was no different and Ashley, Maddie and I were in for 3 hours of fun on the rockin' trails of Schramm. As per usual, it was hot and humid. Tons of energy and positive vibes greeted us when we arrived and saw us through the entirety of the event.
The gameplan that weekend was, assuming that I wasn't a worthless pile of crap from the race on Saturday, that we would jump in the good ol' family vehicle and drive to Des Moines on Sunday to watch the USATF National Championships on the famous blue oval of Drake Stadium. This would be my birthday present from Ashley and the kids. I have enough crap, I don't need anything else, so why not spend the day hanging out watching something I love with the people I love? Since I didn't feel like trash, it was game on. Gas up the SUV and pack it full of caffeinated beverages and adult diapers because this train ain't stoppin' 'til we hit Drake.
None of us had been to an event like this and I was, admittedly, acting like a total fanboy on my way into the stadium. Even better, Maddie (at the ripe old age of 11) was pretty jacked about it, too, and was hoping to meet some of the pros and Olympians competing for a national title.
We plopped down in the first row on the first curve about 80m from the finish line. Not the best place
to sit we initially thought, but the stands were crowded where we wanted to be. We arrived right at the start of the men's 200m semifinal and it was tough to see since all of the action was taking place at the opposite end of the track. Good news was that we had prime seating for some high jump action. Despite not seeing the 200m well, we were pleasantly surprised to get Ameer Webb's attention as he walked to the athlete staging area and he was able to sign Maddie's Team USA jacket. Pretty cool stuff being up close and personal with an Olympian.
This was a promising precursor to the day. We saw some good action in the men's high jump (including Erik Kynard suffering an Achilles injury) and the women's 800m heptathlon final. Then things really started to heat up.
Maddie was poised to get an autograph every time an athlete walked by: Erica Bougard (heptathlon champ), Phyllis Francis (400m World Champ in 2017) and a few others. As the day progressed the action on the track got more exciting, starting with the women's 800m final, which was won in a facility record by Ajee Wilson. Then, Clayton Murphy (Olympic 800m Bronze medalist) did what Clayton Murphy does and won a title in the same event.
What we quickly realized is that all of these athletes passed right in front of us on their way to the athlete staging area. Cue the 38-year old man-child fanboy giddiness. Wilson, Murphy, Jarret Eaton, steeplechase stud Colleen Quigley and many others graced us with their presence and we got to see and meet each one as they stopped to sign autographs. Maddie was the star of the show asking for signatures and selfies and she loved every second of it.
One of the best races of the day was the women's 5,000m where Shelby Houlihan smoked the field with a finishing kick the likes of which no one has ever seen. Having seen her race on TV, seeing it in person was mind-boggling.
The whole day was a blast until a 3-hour and 15-minute weather delay ended our stay in Iowa. With work the next day and a 150 mile drive home, we didn't want to run the risk of being stuck for too long. So we had to call it and missed the men's 3,000m steeplechase (I was really hoping to meet Mr. Man Bun and Olympic medalist, Evan Jager) and Maddie was hoping to get Houlihan to sign her jacket.
There are a number that would say watching people run around in circles is boring. I'd beg to differ. I'll watch track on TV any given day, but seeing it in person at the highest levels of competition like this is second-to-none. The 2019 National Championships are in Des Moines again over a 4-day span and we've already got it penciled in for next year, hoping to see more than one day of action. Fortunately, I've got a full year to learn how to squeal like a little girl.