Dream On

Chapter 43, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Groggy, I could hear myself mumbling, trying to wake up. My bed felt odd, hard. Straining through the haze, my eyes could not focus. I was stuck in that twilight land between sleep and wakefulness after suffering through the stupidest dream imaginable.

Lifting my head, I …


My whole body snapped into a spasm.

“MAN! That was some nightmare.”

I turned my head to see if Melinda were still asleep – and saw two faces stare back.

… you’re still dreaming ….

The faces lit up.

“Hey, Princess.”

“Wh-wha-what the hell …” I stammered.

It was a little black man with a gold earring, grinning at me.

“You poor, pathetic excuse for a human being,” he said. “You did it.”

He shook my hand.

“I know you?” I asked.

“Uh-oh, doc,” he said over his shoulder. “I think he’s still out of it.”

“No, I’m just kidding,” I said. “I’d know your ugly face anywhere. What’d you do? Hit me with a bat?”

“Guess I should have let you practice lunging for the tape after all,” he said.

“Your name’s Henry, right?”

“Mr. Wells, I’m Dr. Wagner,” said the young man. “I think you have a concussion. You hit your head hard on the track.”

“Yeah, I do have one helluva headache,” I said. “I hit it on the track?”

“Yes, you knocked yourself silly,” said Harry. “The EMTs had to scrape you up, so they could run the next race.”

“No victory lap?”

“HA! You’re lucky you’re still alive, you big dummy,” said Harry. “After you hit your head, they think your heart may have stopped.”

“I don’t think it’s restarted.”

“You almost screwed it up by dying,” said Harry, stroking his chin. “On second thought, think of the symbolism. You could have been a legend like that warrior who ran the first marathon – and died.”

“No, thanks,” I said. “You knew him personally, right?”

“Now I know he’s OK,” said Harry.

“Where’s Melinda?” I asked.

“They are sitting in for your sorry ass in the press room,” Harry said. “Congratulations, you finally ran a decent race. First one of the year!”

“And the last one, too,” I said. “I think I’m paralyzed.”

Like a turtle on his back, I rocked and tried to get up.


Melinda walked in with Shannon and Jessie. They were all smiles and kisses. Jessie wore my third-place medal.

“Can we get a pizza, Dad?” asked Shannon.

“Go ahead,” I said. “What took so long?”

“I think we picked up another endorsement,” said Melinda.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Defibrillators,” my wife the agent said.

“Are we going to China, Daddy?” asked Jessie, pinching the medal.

“Not today, Sugar.”

Only then, did I realize some of my fan club was still missing.

“Where’s Ralphie and Nicky?” I asked.

“Uncle Ralphie’s still at the press conference,” Shannon said, confirming my fears.

“That’s great,” I said. “What lies is he telling?”

“He’s not,” said Melinda.

“But Uncle Fred sure is,” said Jessie.

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang


Racin’ Fool

Chapter 42, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



The start proved crystal clean, and we slingshot around the turn, sprinting the first 30 meters.

… is THIS the 200 …

I ran ragged.

… focus, man, FOCUS …



The running scrum hit the blend line at 90 miles an hour.

… what place are you, what place …

Everyone pulled away.


A disappointed murmur rippled through the east grandstands as I flailed by.

“Hey! It’s the best I can do!”

… just shut up and RUN …

Near the end of the back stretch, Ralphie whirled his arm like a windmill.

“Da Zolvinski kid’s beatin’ ya!” he hollered.


… even the Zolvinski kid …

“That DOES it.”

I flashed back 40 years to the Games in my backyard when I beat Zolvinski – and everyone else. My legs shook the knots. Through the second turn, I uncoiled.

Harry liked what he saw. He shook his head yes.

My strides lengthened. My shoulders loosened.

But I was still four meters behind.

My back pain flared. But I fed off the pain – and picked up the pace.

Now I was three meters behind.


Bell lap.

… and whom does the bell toll for …

When I entered the turn, a buzz built in my left ear. Exiting, I saw the east grandstands rise as one.


Wild dogs had taken over the home of Steve Prefontaine.

I thought I would burst out of my skin.

Instead, my legs responded and damn near left me.

Luckily, they kept attached.

A runaway train, I switched into lane three and hurtled down the back stretch. The barking exploded into a deafening roar.

I passed one, two, a pack of four more and sliced to the inside of the last turn.

Next in third, guess who.

All arms and legs, Franz cut the air like a fan.

I hugged his heels.

Franz clung to his life-raft lead.

My legs cooked in hell.

Who would give first, Franz or my legs?

… my bet’s on German boy …


I had but one kick left.

If I could pass him … Beijing beckoned.

Forty meters from the line, I veered two lanes wide.

Franz followed, pushing me farther out.

Then he pulled away.

Twenty meters.

I had nothing left.

Ten meters.

The fans saw and understood.

They refused to quit.

With one gigantic yelp, the crowd lifted me.

Past Franz.

My feet never touched the ground.

I flew headfirst over the line.

Sprawled on the track.

And out cold.

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Fight Or Flight

Chapter 42, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Harry rolled off to the north turn. Ralphie headed for the back stretch. Nicky would man the south turn. My coaches were to yell split times and appropriate encouragement. As I dragged my feet over to the starting line, the second guessing lurched into gear.

… you know, C.H., you really suck …

“What’s YOUR problem?” I muttered under my breath.

… YOU …

“Hey, I don’t care what you say …”

… that’s a news bulletin  …

“Whatever, I’m going through with this.”

… like hell you are …

“You have a better idea?”

… you are so stupid, stupid, STUPID! How did you get into such a mess …

I stopped, grabbed my right ankle, stretched it up behind me and touched my heel to my back.

“OK, what’s really wrong? Spit it out.”

… scared …

I stretched my other leg and grinned.

“Last time you said that, wasn’t I getting married?”

… see how that turned out …

“Funny, very funny. If you’re scared, that makes two of us,” I said, touching the palms of my hands on the ground. “What are we going to do about it now?”

… run for it?

At the starting line, I found nine jitterbugging kids, fueled by nervous energy. None of them dared to stare at me. They knew who I was. Of course, one couldn’t keep his pie hole shut.

“Stay out of my way this time, ya ol’ asshole,” said Franz.

“Get a good look at my face, Bitch,” I said. “You won’t see it again until after the race.”

The others stirred.

“You mean you won’t see me,” said Franz.

“No,” I said. “You won’t see ME.”

The starter stepped in between us.

“Let’s get this thing on the road, Boys,” he said, eliciting snickers from the others.

Franz hunched in lane six. I straddled the line between lanes two and three. With 10 runners in the final instead of the normal eight, no lanes were assigned, and the start would be an organized stampede at best. Between Franz and me, there were guys like Symmonds, Robinson and Solomon, world-class runners we had to shadow to have a chance. I would have to beat one of them to qualify.

… piece of freakin’ cake …

“Now, that’s more like it,” I muttered.

… I was being sarcastic …

During introductions, the emaciated guy on my right frowned at me.

“What is this? Senior Citizens night?”

… load trash talk torpedo No.2 … FIRE …

“Are your diapers bunched up, Sonny, or are you just happy to see me?”

… yyyeeeccchhh …

“Runners, take your mark,” the disgusted starter shouted.

I inched my left shoe within millimeters of the line, closed my eyes and held my breath. Then the one thought every runaholic worth his Nikes has at the start squirted out.

“Jist shoot me,” I whispered.


… damn, missed again …

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Can Ya Hear Me Now?

Chapter 42, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Even though Hayward Field was a couple of discus throws away, it took us 15 minutes to get there. Harry and I pointed our fan club toward Gate 12 where Melinda and the girls, and Uncle Fred and Dedra would climb near the top of Section M in the East Grandstand. Harry and his new assistant coaches, Ralphie and Nicky, escorted me to the Bowerman Building. Surprise, surprise, the guard knew me. I had a full two hours to get loose – and fret. My nerves radiated like quasars as I sat in the middle of the warm-up track.

I wanted it. I wanted it so badly I was making myself sick. A thousand terrible scenarios bolted through my head, so I rushed into Tai Chi mode and soaked in every bit of earth chi and heaven chi my feet and head could hold.

I tried to visualize winning. I couldn’t do it. I tried again.

… who are you foolin’ …

“C’mon, you gotta believe. Please.”

… why now …

“Because I need your help.”

… good luck with that …

I conjured Russian long forgotten from the CDs Harry had made me play at night.

I hummed “California Dreamin.’” Oregon songs?  I didn’t know any. I did have an ancient U. of  O. track jersey on, thanks to an equipment manager, who dug it out of a locker-room closet. As Harry said, the Trials honchos didn’t appreciate my advertising diapers on my jersey, but I wasn’t going to give up my lucky T-shirt. Instead, I wore it underneath the green and yellow singlet.

… now you do look like a racing senior …

“Thanks for pointing THAT out.”

Ralphie saw I was struggling.

“OK, Asshead, lissen to me,” said Ralphie, “Dis is da only time I’m goin’ to admit it.”

He pulled a piece of cardboard with red, white and blue ribbons from his pocket.

“I stole yar gold medal for da 100-yard dash from our kid Games,” he said.

I took the tattered cardboard and ribbons, and studied it. In big, black letters, it read THE WELLS OLYMPICS 1968.

“You know, I always wondered what happened to that,” I said.

“Da hell ya did,” Ralphie said.

“OK, maybe I didn’t. What about it?”

“Jist pretend it’s yar backyard and ya’re runnin’ against da  Zolvinkski kid again,” said Ralphie. “Isn’t dat why we’re here anyway?”

“Because we held the Olympics in my backyard?”

“Dat and ya’re tryin’ to relive yar childhood,” Ralphie said with a wink.

“Well, if you hadn’t stolen my medal in the first place …”

“Jist pretend it’s yar backyard. Ya’ll be fine,” he said.

Harry’s message was simpler.

“Just let her rip, Princess.”

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

A Little Common Cents

Chapter 41, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



Sensing my frustration, Harry took me for a walk while Melinda, Ralphie and Nicky took Shannon and Jessie for a swim in the hotel pool. As we strolled along Sixth Avenue, I waited for my coach to put everything in perspective.

I’m still waiting.

“They don’t want you to wear any advertising,” said Harry.

“Well, they’re going to have to take that up with my agent,” I said. “You brought me out here to tell me that?”

“No, that was the prelude,” he said. “My real question is can you just relax and enjoy the moment? Why do boomers have to overanalyze everything they do?”

“Could it be because your generation is so critical?”

“Narcissistic to the end, I see.”

“Damn right,” I said.

“Be careful,” my coach said. “Only a fool is certain.”

At 4:30, we ate at a nearby steak place, everyone except me. I was too nervous to eat. Harry took some honey out of his doctor bag and insisted I’d have some. With all the food dancing about, my stomach started doing the Twist. I needed to distract myself and quick. And I didn’t need any more well-wishers. I sneaked out and got in the car. My mind raced angst – and lost.

… those old spikes don’t dig in enough …

… please don’t fall at the start …

… can those legs go 800 meters …

I closed my eyes and chanted.

“Calm, calm, calm …”

… can’t, can’t, can’t …

A knock on the car window startled me. It was Shannon. I unlocked the door, and she crawled in.

“What are you doin’, Dad?”

“Having a minor breakdown, that’s all.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am. I don’t want to go.”

Shannon stared at me and smiled.

“Remember when I started first grade, and I didn’t want to go to school that first day?”

“No, I don’t,” I said. “That was long ago – before I was born.”

“And what did you tell me?”

“You didn’t have to go?”

“No, Dad,” Shannon said and giggled. “You said there was nothing to be scared of.”

“Yeah, that’s the standard lie.”

“And you said if I went, I could have 50 cents when I came home and spend it on anything I wanted.”

“Obviously, we were rich back then, and I could afford to bribe people.”

Shannon reached in her pocket and pulled out a dollar in change.

“Here, I’ll pay you in advance.”

I took the coins from my daughter.

“Get it over with, Dad,” she said. “I want to go home.”

“All right, but I think I’m worth more than a dollar.”

“Your agent said you’re not worth that.”

I reached over and hugged her. I felt better.

It WAS good to have my family here.

Even Uncle Fred.

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Fame Nothing But Lame

Chapter 41, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



The gears in my head locked. My mouth hung open, and my tonsils flapped in the wind.

“You can close your trap now, Hon.”

“Why the hell did Uncle Fred do that?”

“You will have to ask him,” said Melinda. “He won’t tell me anything. Just says how proud he is of you. He wanted to do something.”

I went over to Uncle Fred and extended my hand. He shook it heartily.

“Thank you for making the trip,” I said.

“The journey is all my pleasure,” he replied. “I would not have missed it for the world.”

“I appreciate what you did, but we can’t accept it,” I said. “It wouldn’t be right.”

“I knew you would say that,” said Uncle Fred with a smile. “I made reservations for Beijing, too.”

… what a freakin’ nut, he MUST be relation …

“Omigod, I think you’re jumping the gun, Fred.”

“Could be, but I made sure they’re cancelable, just in case,” he said. “I won’t have to cancel them, will I?”

“The way I feel, you better get on the phone now.”

“Should I call my bookie, too?”

“Don’t even go there,” I said.

It came out during dinner at Skinner’s that Fred had financed the tickets and hotel rooms with his “winnings” from betting on me. I suppose Las Vegas odds makers took one look at my age and decided like most, a snowball had a better chance of making the final. I still didn’t know much about him, but now I wondered what exactly Fred did for a living. He did know a few more long-lost tales from my childhood and was delighted to tell them.

Sunday night, I couldn’t sleep. The phone kept jangling. Ralphie and Nicky drank and told stories. Harry told stories. Uncle Fred kept asking how I felt …

“You’re not betting on me again, are you?” I asked.

“No, no, of course not,” he said. “That’s too much pressure.”

… he’s bet the farm …

Was it a mistake to bring everyone to Eugene? It didn’t matter. Thanks to the media, everyone in town knew me and my story. On Monday, they couldn’t wait to prove it. Everyone – my new best friend was anyone over 50 – wanted to wish me luck. I knew I should have been grateful they gave a damn.

But it was a freak show, and I was the star. Every question, gesture or cough annoyed me in my sleep-deprived state.

… being famous sucks. Who can stand it …

All I wanted was to center myself, maybe take a nap. Instead, I teetered on the edge. Forget the final. The real question was could I make it through the day without killing someone?

Ask Uncle Fred. He was giving 5-2 odds in favor of murder.

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Chapter 41, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



The press conference that followed spun into a green and yellow University of Oregon blur. My inquisitors demanded to know why dogs could scare me into running like Carl Lewis. So I told the story of how I outran Cujo when he threatened to turn me into dog food. I told it at least a dozen times. My audience was incredulous. All but the Los Angeles Times guy in the front row began to cackle at the absurdity. Instead, he fixated on obtaining a certified copy of my birth certificate for his doubting editor.

I would have to call Melinda to fax it.

Or better, she could bring it. I needed to call her.

… she’ll never believe this …

“I don’t believe it!”

The reporters also appreciated my abbreviated tango with Mr. Genesee. After all, every story needs a bad guy, they said.

The rest of the show featured my coach. Rightfully, Harry took credit for getting me a second chance – again. As soon as I sprawled on the track, he lobbied the Trials chiefs for a do-over. He knew all about Nicole Teter and the three others who fell in the women’s 800 – and advanced to the final. I, too, would get one more race.

But, there was a catch. The chiefs said Franz and another had complained about the guys Harry hired to “motivate” me. There would be no more barking, they said. Harry promised to obey. At that point, I didn’t care. The minute I was done, I called Melinda.

“Forget what it costs,” I yelled into the phone. “You get the kids and get out here. Now!”

I winked at Harry.

“Use the damn Master Card. I don’t care what it costs. Maybe you can extort the diaper company for some more money,” I said. “How many times am I going to run in an Olympic Trials final?”

Harry tugged at my sleeve.

“Yeah, yeah. Harry’s lonely. Bring Dedra, too.”

Late Sunday afternoon, we picked up my fan club, complete with assistant coaches Ralphie and Nicky, at the Eugene airport. Uncle Fred was there, too.

Uncle Fred?

“What the hell is he doing here?” I whispered to Melinda as I hoisted her two massive pieces of luggage off the carousel.

“Hon, you will never … ”

“Enough is enough,” I said. “I don’t know who he thinks he is.”

“Charles, he …”

“Is he threatening you?”

“You’re close,” said Melinda. “He paid for everyone’s plane ticket.”

“I don’t care what he paid for,” I said and then let my brain catch up. “He what?”

Melinda slowly shook her head yes.

“And he got us rooms at the Hilton.”

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Here We Go Again

Chapter 40, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



“Is THAT your statement?” asked the suddenly impatient official.

A security guard two times the size of Ralphie picked me up with one hand, scooped up the chair with the other hand and reseated me with a thud.

“Finish your damn statement, Sir,” he advised.

Hearing the “Sir” flipped my switch.

“Hey, where’s my coach? I’m not saying anything until …”

“HOLD IT! HOLD IT! I’m right here!” said Harry, wheeling into the cubicle. “Don’t say another word.”

“Where have you … “

“Just this time, Princess, LISTEN to me!”

A bespectacled gentleman, wearing the requisite green polo and khaki shorts uniform, burst in behind Harry. He slammed his mallard green clipboard on the table and sternly motioned for my coach and me to join him in the far corner.

“See here,” he started. “I don’t know what history you have with Genesee, but you both should be kicked out of here and suspended for the rest of your lives for pulling a stunt like that. Understand?”

“He tackled me!”

Harry slapped his right hand over my mouth.

“What about our appeal?” my coach demanded.

The official’s face turned a bright crimson. His lips trembled. He opened his mouth, but nothing rolled out. Harry looked at me and winked.

“I-I don’t like it,” the official finally spitted.

… uh-oh …

“We decided … “

… yes …

“Because of what happened …”

… what …

“To review the race.”

… yes, yes …

“And overturn the results.”

“Overturn?” I asked.

The official glared at me.

“Before yesterday when four women fell in their 800, it was unprecedented,” he said, his face a shade redder.

“Fair is fair,” said Harry.

“I just want you to know,” said the official. “Off the record, I voted against it.”

“We understand,” said Harry.

“You both should be sent home after what happened.”

“On the record?” Harry asked.

Again the official glared at me.

“We decided in fairness to all …”

I could not believe it.

“Both runners who fell …”

Tears welled in my eyes.

“Will be allowed to run in the final.”

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

And It Went Poof!

Chapter 40, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



I got up and jogged the last 30, surreal meters as the crowd sat in stunned, nightmarish silence, just like at Terre Haute.

Franz followed. He cussed at me like he invented it.

“You old, f*%#+&’ sonuvabitch!”

“You’re nuthin’ but a f*%#+&’ asshole!”

“What the f*%#+&’ hell were ya f*%#+&’ thinkin’?”

I should have decked him. What did I have to lose?

Locked in shock, my brain bumped its way through swirling images. The endless visualization sessions, the early morning fights with Harry, the bitching from provincial legs too sore to see beyond the next workout.

The Olympics?

… now you see Beijing, now you don’t .. .

I didn’t think I hit my head in the fall, but I had all the symptoms of a concussion. Maybe I did hit it. My thinking felt cockeyed. As an afterthought, I waved at the west grandstands as I walked circles to cool down and waited for Harry to wheel up.

… the old guy must be heartbroken …

… or ready to kick your stupid ass …

Maybe it was post-traumatic shock. I didn’t feel any pain – but my legs felt wet. I looked down to see seeping streams of blood. I didn’t feel the multiple bruises, cuts and scrapes – not yet.

Harry was nowhere to be seen, too ashamed, I thought. Franz was still in my face, begging to be beheaded. I ignored him.

A white-bearded official in a green polo shirt, khaki shorts and University of Oregon baseball cap led me away. The crowd grumbled. Was it disbelief or disgust? A smattering of “boos” serenaded me as I wandered up the front stretch on the way to the Bowerman Building. Off in the distance, I could hear Franz whining, pleading his case. Back in Bowerman, I was led behind the press area to a dank cubicle near a locker room. My guide said I needed to make a statement.

… a statement? For finishing second last…

I didn’t know what to say. I could barely comprehend what had happened. I knew my dream was over, but I couldn’t wake up. I felt something on my left temple. I touched it. More blood.

“I did hit my head.”

My patient host assured me it was a superficial cut and pointed to a chair. Seated, I gazed at the TV monitor while one of the 800-meter finalists taking questions in the press area droned on. I watched the replay of the first heat. It was obvious. Franz had tackled me. I jumped to my feet and knocked over the chair.

“I’m gonna kill him!”

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

I Forgot To Duck

Chapter 39, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang



I was in the first heat, so I didn’t have to wait. The personable starter told us to take it easy, “don’t jump the gun” and added some off-color joke about ducks to relax us. Nobody laughed, except me. Maybe the others had heard the joke before. Or maybe they liked ducks. I don’t know. The starter checked his pistol. His hands quivered.

… he’s not only younger than you but twice as nervous …

“Just shut up!”

Thanks to my pre-race prep, I was in assertive mode. After I said it, I realized others were listening, including the starter. I smiled at him. He frowned.

… great, he heard you, hope there’s blanks in that gun …

Still frowning, the starter glanced at his wristwatch and had us take our marks.


They left me at the starting line.

Mantra time.

… run tall, run fast …

… run tall, run fast …

… run tall …

I was dead last and fading.

“Just shut up – AND GO!”

I shifted up a gear and scampered after the pack. But the clutch stuck, and my track life flashed through my head: Old man throws rod, dies during semifinals.


I did.

I passed a guy. He pulled up lame.

… well, you won’t be last …

Down the front stretch, I could smell the pack. Or was it Franz?


Bell lap. And I wasn’t even at the line yet.

I knew it would take a small miracle.

…. uggggh …


Inside the turn, a pack of barking athletes hunched within centimeters of the track and scared the dog doo out of me. They chased me through the curve. And no doubt cost Harry plenty of twenties. The crowd murmured. A few in the stands barked, too.

It didn’t take much.

My adrenal glands surged. My heart kicked into overdrive.

And my abused legs shifted into high.

Sweeping wide out of the turn, I ran downhill.

I caught the next two and passed.

And set up for the last turn.

Up ahead, Franz clung to fourth place.

To have a chance, I would have to steal it from him.

… DON’T pass on the curve …

“I know. I know.”

I settled in behind Franz.

… draft him, draft him …

Exiting the turn, I ran wide.

He came with me.

“Get out of the way!” I screamed.

I darted inside.

Franz veered inside.

I zigged.

Franz zigged.

I zagged.

Franz zagged.

I faked outside.

And swerved inside.

As I passed, I snagged his foot.

We tumbled in a heap.

I struggled to get up.

It was too late.

Two flew by.

And it was over.

Copyright © 2013 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang