And It Costs What?

Chapter 32, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


Could it be? Fifteen minutes of fame was too much. Liberties I took for granted such as a quiet dinner without interruption vanished. Not that I wanted to eat. After Iowa, Harry took my diet hostage and fed me only eggs, sweet potatoes and almonds. And hot water. Lots of hot water and soup. My coach had read it on a blog. The theory was you should drink nothing but hot and warm liquids. Cold drinks froze your organs, making your body work overtime to heat them. The older you were, the more important it was to keep your organs warm.

When I heard the theory, I thought of only one thing – warm beer?


It was the interviews, however, that really made me want to hurl. They always boiled down to one basic question.

“So, how’s it feel to be 49 and still compete with youngsters?”

In other words, “Hey old man, during a race, what keeps you from stroking out?”

Worse, following my appearance as the June cover boy for AARP, a biology researcher from Purdue called to ask me to donate my body, so scientists could study it. Harry was quick to note the irony.

“As usual, a Baby Boomer is worth more dead than alive,” he said.

Yet, Melinda piled on the interview appointments. She also scheduled for Harry.

“Be a good boy and drive me into the city, Princess,” my coach said. “‘Chicago Tonight’ desires a shovelful of my insight.”

I had to give my coach credit . Without Tai Chi and his other offbeat notions, I never would have made it this far. Later, Melinda wanted to start our own Tai Chi school in Valparaiso.

… if only YOU would have listened …

While AARP tolerated my 15 minutes, much of the national press beat me like a fat piñata. Sports Illustrated had the most fun, whacking my quotes so much that I sounded like a conceited simpleton.  SI’s “What’s-His-Name” didn’t think I had any chance to earn a Beijing trip. I cut out his article and taped it on the refrigerator. Every morning before practice, I tapped it three times with my forehead for extra motivation.

But motivation I had. Up to their old tricks, my 49-year-old legs needed something else. A week after Des Moines, they still ached. Along with the pain, doubt lingered: Would I be ready for Eugene? My Drake Relays time had qualified me for the Trials. There was no guarantee, though, I could reproduce it in Oregon. Even if I could, would it be good enough?

A few of my track peers believed my Iowa race was a fluke. The guy in the chartreuse tracksuit told SI he was certain a microburst had carried me the last 30 meters.

“With that pace we were on, no one would have a kick left like he did,” he said in print. “Especially someone that bleeping old.”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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