Runner Without A Race

Chapter 34, Blog 1

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Harry spent more than three hours on the phone. He got up early the next day and called some more. He did the same for a week. My coach called everyone he knew on the U.S. Olympic Committee. Then, Harry called the ones he didn’t know. He talked to everyone he could in the U.S. Track and Field kingdom. Many sympathized, but they had no power. The ones with power proved immune to Harry’s charm. He had stayed away too long and had little clout left.

All I had to show for his marathon effort was an Olympic-sized phone bill. As the days dwindled, I still trained, drifting through my Tai Chi. I stretched. I visualized. And I ran and ran. But my heart was not in it.

The visualization part was easy because I didn’t have to pretend much. All I needed to do was rerun my last race – and win it. That I did every five minutes since Iowa. It was the same every damn time. I could have won that race. I would have won that race. I should have won that race.

So why didn’t I?

Did I warm up too much? Was it a poor choice to run only a handful of races? Did that cretin who beat me use steroids? Should I use steroids? Did I need a better pre-race ritual? Maybe different shoes? Maybe a kick in the head as Harry had suggested.

…does it really matter. Just pull the plug …

“You know, I’m really tired of your attitude.”

… you want a lobotomy …

“Don’t go there.”

… in your case, it won’t make much difference …

With less than a week to go before the Trials, Harry asked Times Sports Editor Sheila Beaven, my old girlfriend at the local newspaper, to do a story on my plight in the hope several news wires would pick it up. Can you say long shot? Sheila had a better idea.

“I’ll call my old boss in L.A. and see what he can do,” she said.

A day later, a reporter called. Harry told her the whole story. I talked to her for about eight minutes and said it was nothing but age discrimination. It sounded funny when I said it out loud. But what else could it be?

A day later my story was out there. We got a handful of calls, a few more interviews, but it was a dead end. The window was closing. The Trials would start Friday night – without me.

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Mr. Good Track

Chapter 22, Blog 3

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

Being an ass was natural for Harry.

No pancakes for me. Just granola, and some orange and apple slices. If I were lucky, maybe a pear. And milk, lots of milk, with consequences I don’t need to tell you about. Yeeech.

In the 17 years since he last coached, Harry discovered what he thought were the benefits of alternative training. So we started with Tai Chi each morning. As you know, it’s all about the chi and not me.

“Tai Chi is an ancient, defensive art that every athlete should strive to perfect,” said Harry. “I regret not utilizing it sooner. It could have saved Wottle from himself.”

“Should I grow my hair and wear a golf cap, too?”

“QUIET!”

Harry wheeled his walker over and got in my face. Despite his recent acceptance of new methods, in many ways, he was still old school.

“Here, Sir, I do the teaching. You do the learning. I am the teacher. You are the student. Do we have an understanding, Charlie?”

I hated like hell being called Charlie, but I kept my mouth shut and nodded.

Then we practiced visualization. It taxed me mentally and emotionally. In other words, I was goofier than ever.

“Close your eyes. Focus. The starter’s gun rises, on your mark, BANG! You explode off the line. What do you see?”

“Darkness, Master.”

Harry rolled his walker over again, his nose stopping centimeters from mine.

“If you call me Master or Yoda, or even Hop-Sing one more time, I promise I will surgically remove your testicles and feed them to the pigeons. Do you comprehend, Sir?”

I nodded.

We practiced this malarkey until my mind melted. For the few minutes I got to run, I felt giddy. Harry had me jog a lap, maybe sprint the next, then visualize another until I achieved the Zen-like optimum he wanted. It was the same crap, over and over and …

“Stop, listen, feel your inner runner. What is he telling you? What does he want?”

Then …

“Sprint one circuit. Fast. Faster. Shed that tired, old skin.”

Then …

“Stop. Close your eyes. Feel your soul weep. Do not give in to those negative notions. Go ahead. DISMISS THEM.”

And …

“Jog another circuit. Nourish your inner runner with rich, positive energy.”

More …

“Circle the oval, again, again … ”

And …

“Center yourself. Rrreeaaacch down deep. Close your eyes. Visualize the process. Own the process.”

And …

“Lie face down on the track. Listen. Listen to the track. Smell. Smell the track. Taste. Taste the track.”

… DO WHAT …

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

Gone Fishin’

Chapter 21, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang

chuckwells2008@gmail.com

 

Rockard stopped tugging junk out of the bottom of his linen closet and peered at me as if I were a true orphan. Sadly, he shook his head.

“Ya goofball. I’m tellin’ you I wouldn’t know what to do. I have no experience with that, zip, nada, zlich. I work with children, not old guys.”

“Thanks,” I said sarcastically. “Thanks a lot.”

“You know what I mean,” he said “With kids, you can run the piss out of ’em. You? Ya might need a specialist.”

I searched that craggy, bearded face. Indeed, he told the truth as he knew it. Dejected, I turned and shuffled my feet toward the door.

“You know what …” Rockard started.

I spun around.

“WHAT?”

“Wwweeelll …”

“Well what?”

“There’s, uh, well, uh, naaaaaaah. Jist forget it.”

“You know, I could come up there, too. I bet it could be a lot of fun. Gee, I haven’t fished since third grade. Do they still use worms?”

Fear jumped out of Rockard’s eye sockets.

“DAMN! All right, already. Uncle. There I said it.”

“Great, who is it?”

“There’s this guy. Gawd, please have mercy on my soul.”

“Who? Who is it? Do I know him?” I asked with all the patience of a kid on Christmas morning.

“I think, I think he’s, well, in a, uuuuummmm, nursing home? Over in Michigan City.

“A nursing home? Who the hell … ”

“As far as I know, said Rockard. “Truth be known, he could be dead by now.”

“Coach, I’ll take that chance.”

“Still has his mind, I think. Jist can’t take care of hisself. Know what I mean? Physically.

“Has his mind?” I asked. “Certainly a plus.”

“Shuddup, Fred. I don’t have to tell you nothing.”

“OK, OK, please continue.”

“Anyway, last time I heard, I think it was Mylar’s or Sylar’s. Something like that.”

“And?”

“This guy – he coached during the sixties and seventies. You know. When you were a kid.”

“The sixties? He coached in the sixties, and he still has his mind. You sure?”

“Are you gonna lissen or not?”

“Go ahead. I’m listening.”

“Nurmi. His name’s Nurmi. Harry Nurmi. And, Fred, be careful. He’s a little different.”

“Never heard of him.”

“That’s because back then, nobody this side of Doc Counsilman, gave a shit who coached who,” said Rockard. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure Nurmi coached Carlos or Smith. You know, those guys who got kicked out in Mexico. Maybe both. I don’t remember for sure.”

I was stunned.

“You mean, THE John Carlos and Tommie Smith? Mexico City 1968?”

“Are there others?”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang