See What I Mean?

Chapter 25, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

On my way home, I called Harry to ask him to make dinner for three. When I told him that Sheila the sports editor was the third, all he could do was whistle.


Seated on the patio for after-dinner coffee, I told Sheila about the Super Bowl party/fight, the killer dog trying to catch me, and finally, how I met my coach. She shook her head and beamed. Sheila was easy to talk to, and she was more beautiful than ever.

“So, you really think you can make the Trials?” she asked.

“Ask my coach.”

“Honey,” said Harry, eyeing Sheila. “If Charlie would close his mouth and listen to me just one time, we would be halfway to Beijing.”

“Wow! This is going to be some story,” Sheila said.

“Please don’t write about Melinda moving out,” I begged. “I’m still hoping she’ll come around.”

“No problem,” said Sheila. “But we’ll need some photos. Can we come by practice?”

“We’ll be at the high school tomorrow,” said Harry.

Now it didn’t matter if I were 48, 58 or 108. I was locked in. I HAD to qualify for the Trials or look like the biggest fool in Valparaiso, maybe Indiana. Harry knew it, too. He was a sympathetic teacher and buried me with homework. Harry said he needed to reset my “psychological clock.” Whatever. All it meant to me was more abuse. Three times a day I had to turn toward the Great Northwest and meditate on track and field’s mecca, historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. I Googled it, studied it and began to digest it.

For you racing neophytes, Hayward is the Yankee Stadium of track and field. It has no peer. Hayward is where track legends are born — or die.

The world’s best track fans live in Eugene, a.k.a. Track Town, U.S.A. At Hayward, spectators don’t have to be told. They know when someone is running a world-record pace. In the huge, green grandstands that flank the all-weather, eight-lane oval, fans stomp their feet and clap rhythmically to boost runners when they need that little extra push. The fans hunger for speed and athletic grace. For years, they feasted when the late Steve Prefontaine ran. They know they were spoiled. Still, they hunger for more.

In 2008, Hayward Field would host the Trials, the gateway to the Beijing Olympics. Just getting to run there would be the greatest moment of my life and probably also induce a heart attack. But before Hayward became a reality, I needed a qualifying time of 1:46.

Thus, Harry made me sit on the track every day and visualize, visualize, visualize. So many times I watched myself slosh through the Oregon rain, water leaked from my ears.

… visualize, smisualize …

It was too much. I cracked.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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