Sunday, October 16, 2011

The State of the Union

You should sit down for this one, if your not sitting down, I hope you have comfortable shoes on because this one may take a while. If you don’t have a while to read this blog, I suggest you just come back later when your bored.

Still there? Ok, here we go...

I recently had an interview with Tim Huntley, and “My athletics Life” … It pretty much summarizes most of this blog, so if you want the toned down version, go here:

http://myathleticlife.com/?p=655

Wisdom: "A deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act or inspire to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time, energy or thought". You know the saying, with age comes wisdom? Well I never really thought about how accurate that saying would be, until... well...one gains wisdom with age. If you really look at the definition of wisdom, I mean really look at it, I believe that it could be the ultimate goal that encompasses everything in life.

“A deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations” Understanding the people around you, the things that influence those around you, the situations that influence the things that effect those around you...and knowing how to manipulate all of those things and be in control of your own environment so that you are always acting, not reacting to the world around you.

“...Resulting in the ability to choose or act or inspire to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time, energy or thought". That to me sounds like the ultimate goal of all athletics, and equally life as well.

This blog is my last blog, the final blog of my, um… blogging career? I have had a few months to reflect on my last 4 years of writing blogs for In the Arena, and I believe that it is fitting that the 1st thing that I address is how vital and important ITA has been, and still continues to be in my career. I can honestly say, hands down, without a doubt, that Amory Rowe, and In the Arena, has been the single most influential factor in my athletic career. That’s a huge statement, given the amount of people who have helped me along my journey. But of all the help and support that I have received throughout my journey, none go as far as good old-fashioned financial support. Some people offer emotional support, moral support, nutrition support, training and technical advice...but at the end of the day, all of that support is void if you cant pay your bills. That’s where Amory stepped in and took a chance on me. My parents took a major hit in this department as well, delaying their own retirement as they helped me chase my Olympic Dream for almost 4 years. There are no words to describe the depth of my gratitude to my parents and to Amory.

I titled this blog, “The State of the Union” because I felt it was fitting for me to reflect on what I have learned in the last decade, traveling the world, throwing a stick and trying to make ends meet. The State of the Union, if you didn’t know, is the annual address presented by the President to the Congress. The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows the president to outline his legislative agenda. Well, my State of the Union is about the world of professional athletics. And the State of our Union is in total chaos.

Track and Field is dying, and dying fast and the “Olympic Movement” is as weak as it ever has been. One of the best interviews that I have ever heard was from my old roommate, 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist in the pole vault, Toby Stevenson. It pretty much wraps up the State of our Union. The interview can be seen here:

http://www.flotrack.org/speaker/7406-Toby-Stevenson/video/482077-Toby-Stevenson-Life-After-Track


If you have another 30min or so to hear the 2nd greatest interview of all time, have a listen to another one of my old roommates, 2011 National Champion in the Discus, Jarred Rome:

http://www.throwerspodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/Podcasts/jarred%20rome%20%28edited%29.mp3

Since we are on the topic of awesome interviews, here's a piece from my fellow Olympian and Oregon Track Club poster boy, Nick Symmonds:

http://www.flotrack.org/blog/38650-Im-Tired-of-USATF-and-IAAF-Crippling-Our-Sport

In my opinion, the only thing that keeps the sports glimmer of hope alive is the strength in numbers. As Toby said, we have 350 million people in this country. Someone, somewhere will come out of the current system we have, and for now, that seems to be ok for our National Governing Body. We currently have without a doubt the world’s greatest track and field team, so why would USATF change what they are doing? In the words of Woodrow Wilson, ”If you want to make enemies, try to change something” But how good could we really be?

Jarred outlines the difficulties associated with being a USA athlete, a thrower at that. An athlete that makes his or her living based on a competition schedule that takes place almost exclusively in Europe and Asia. Since I started competing “professionally” in 2005, I have competed in the USA a grand total of 20 times, and that includes 6 National Championships, that I am “required” to compete in according to USATF.

** side note** La Shawn Merritt didn’t have to compete at Nationals this year, and still got a free ride to Worlds, and that after coming off a doping suspension… I thought I remember USATF saying something about “zero-tolerance” … remember that?

http://www.usatf.org/about/legal/antidoping/ZeroTolerance_actionPlan.asp

Oh yeah, he didn’t compete at Nationals, even though he was the reigning World Champion, USATF Rules state:


“A reigning World Champion who competes at the 2011 USA Track & Field Championships receives an automatic bye into the World Championships for the event in which he or she is reigning World Champion whether or not he or she has achieved the corresponding entry standard. These athletes are not required to compete in the same event in which they are reining World Champions at the 2011 Outdoor Championships in order to receive the bye. “

I guess the kicker here is the “Other Requirements” section that also states that:

“In order to be eligible to be a member of the Team, an athlete must be a USA Track & Field member in good standing at the time of the 2011 USA Track & Field Championships and for the duration of the World Championships.”


So let me get this straight, we let a guy who didn’t compete at our Nationals, AT ALL, not even in a different event onto the World Championship Team. Furthermore, was he in “good standing” with USATF at the time of Nationals? No, he was serving a doping suspension… Zero Tolerance MY ASS!!



Anyways, back to the meat of the story… I competed in the states a total of 20 times, 6 of which I was eh hem ...” required”. That leaves a total of 14 competitions that where "discretionary" and I guarantee you, yielded no financial return. That compared to over 70 competitions while traveling abroad. As Jarred mentioned in his interview, most of the times the chips are stacked against you as you have to travel over 30 hours, live out of a bag, eat foreign food and fight with jet lag...while trying to bang with the best in the world who almost always have a 2 hour travel day and slept in their own bed the night before. Life as an American thrower is tough, but that’s what makes us who we are, it is what it is and it will never change. All we can do is get ours while we are in the mix and get out and pass on what wisdom we picked up along the way to the next group.

“Making the Team”
Making the USA World or Olympic Team is hands down the hardest team to make, and in some events, harder to win than Worlds itself. Do we send our best team? Absolutely not, we send who was good on that day, which is often a full month or more away from the actual major championship. It happens every year, whether it’s our best sprinter, pole vaulter, or thrower, someone is always left at home when they have established themselves as the best we have the entire season. It’s a system that is broken and needs to be amended. I have my own idea on how to fix the problem, but to save you some boredom, I wont detail it here. I remember seeing a banner in Eugene at the trails in 08 that said “The hardest team to make” … I wonder how many of our European competitors have to see that? They don’t need to make a team, they are the team.

“World Ranking and the Tier System”
The Tier System...it could go down as one of the stupidest ideas that has ever been contrived. It shows the true lack of understanding of how the World Ranking system is implemented. The current US “funding system” is based upon a “Tier System” that puts athletes into brackets based on their “World Ranking”. However, the current World Ranking System awards performances at Diamond Leagues only. Outside Diamond Leagues, you of course have the World and Olympic Games, but those are only 1 meet per year, so if you are not on a World or Olympic Team, and do not compete in a Diamond League meet, you virtually have NO chance at securing enough points to get a high enough world ranking for USATF to fund you in the tier system. For example:

I received a grand total of 100 bonus points for winning our National championships this year. Think about it, 100 points for winning nationals...winning Nationals for the "Worlds Greatest Track Team?" That’s the same amount of bonus points for getting 6th at a Diamond League event...so basically, if I hung around the Diamond League Circuit all year and got between 6th-8th place with the exact same throw that I had at Nationals, my world Ranking would jump 20 places and I would be top 10 in the world. However, I won several meets in Europe or placed in the top 3 with the same distance, and earned only 10-15 bonus points. The same throw, same places, 80-90 points less...that equals a drop in the World Ranking and a drop in funding. Just another awesome idea by USATF.

As I wrap up this final blog entry, I want to make it very clear that I would have not changed anything that I have done, and am truly blessed and grateful for all the opportunities that have been provided to me. I have had an enchanted athletic career thus far and I look at where I am now and where I came from and it gives me great pride. I look at it this way, I love my job… I just hate my boss!

I learned something a few months back, that the greatest energy of all is gratitude. But gratitude comes from the heart, not from the head. And that being said I would like to sign off once and for all with a heart felt thank you to Amory Rowe and In the Arena for all of her help and support the last few years. No words can explain the depth of heartfelt gratitude that my family and I have for Amory and ITA.
A huge heartfelt thanks to Tom Jackovic, Jack Wickens, Larry Litzky, Mark James, Willie Banks, and the rest of the USATF Foundation. Unlike USA Track and Field, the USATF Foundation actually understands what development is and targets potential athletes who not only possess the physical talent but the drive, character and determination to push through the numerous difficulties that accompany post collegiate athletics. They do a great job of identifying athletes who have the intangibles and make future Olympic Teams – these are the outliers who don’t fit into the USA Track and Field traditional “development” model. Without the support of the USATF Foundation, I would not be where I am today.

My coach, Ty Sevin...The only coach I have really ever had. Ty let me crash on his couch for almost 4 months in 2003 while I tried to figure this sport out and look for a job. He put up with my techno music before and after practice and my OCD, and his patience with me is a virtue that not many people posses and to him I am unbelievably thankful. I only wish I had a federation that wouldn't take away his coaching stipend that I and he rightfully earned through hard work, because he is technically an employee of USATF.

The State of our Union is dying...but with the help of Amory Rowe, the USATF Foundation, the Professional Athletes Association, and athlete ambassadors such as Adam Nelson, our sport may have a chance. But the change must start at the top.

Dear USATF:
"Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
—John F. Kennedy

Sincerely,
Mike Hazle

2008 Olympian
2011 USA National Champion
Top 10 Performances Ranks #3 in American History
2 Times Ranked Top 10 in the World
3 Times Ranked #1 in USA
4 Times USA National Championship Silver Medalist
2 Time World Championship Team Member
2010 World Cup Team Member
2007 Pan American Games Silver Medalist

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Luzern / Stockholm and The French Fighting

Well, I just have to do this... I pretty much feel obligated too, this past weekend I was trying to find a link to watch the best training partner in the world, my training partner, Kara Patterson, throw in the Monaco Diamond League. While I was cruising the internet to find a way to watch it, I stumbled across one of the funniest videos I have seen in quite a while.

Below is a clip of 2 French dudes going at it after a run in circles, the 60k jog/race or something boaring like that... what unfolded was pure knee slapping entertainment... enjoy: video

you have to give it to them, over the next few days, more people searched that love spat on youtube than the actual Diamond League event itself! Well done boys! I mean... at least its nice to see the French fight SOMETHING!

Alas, I feel obligated to explain my position... allow me:

...enough said

Oh yeah track news, threw in one of the coolest meets of my career last Thursday, The Luzern Spitzen Leichtathletik, in Luzern, Switzerland. I threw below my seasons average, but could care less because I had a blast. All of my close friends and competitors where there and it was just a great time. The Meeting director, Terry McHugh did an amazing job...probably because he is a former javelin thrower! Thats just how we roll! Up next is my 1st Diamond League Meeting...Stockholm, which is a nice treat because it just so happens to be my #1 all time favorite place to throw..see
http://in-the-arena-mike.blogspot.com/2011/06/to-do-or-not-to-do-and-then-some.html

After Stockholm, its home to reload for worlds...and then, who knows ;)
M++

(yeah I know there is no mag in there...thats why I said its time to re-load, duh)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The infamous Top 10 ...

I thought it would be fun to reflect back on the last 7 years of my career and make a top 10 list. I don't think I have seen a list like this so far from anyone else...but then again I don't read any blogs or look for things like this, so maybe that explains it? However, I have met more people in the last week who have said that they have been entertained with my last few blog entry's and they have thanked me for "keeping it real" and saying what so many people have wanted to say for so long... So, why not run with it for now.

I have been blessed beyond belief to have traveled all over the world throwing a stick, and below is a list of my top 10 favorite meets. My criteria for ranking these meets is compiled on the following criteria:

1) ease of travel, location of the airport from the meet (hotel ect.) and transportation to and from the airport to the hotel and to the competition.
2) accommodation... the quality of the hotel, the food, the rooms, view, A/C ect...
3) the meeting itself... the quality of the track, the crowd, the money (if any) and the local organizing.

*** It may have been a few years since I have been to some of these meets and some of the meet directors could have changed as well as hotels ect, but I'm going to give you my fill... the lowdown...no filter...and I'm going to call people by name, so this could get fun! So lets take a quick ride down memory lane!

Here is a list of my Top 10 Favorite Meetings:

#1 Stockholm DN Galan (Stockholm, Sweden)
Every thing about this meet is amazing. From the time you arrive at the airport to the time you check into the hotel (you get your own rooms! :) everything is extremely easy and flawless. The Hotel is awesome, great food, great people. The Swede's are a very knowledgeable track crowd and the meet is run to perfection, no wonder it is now a Diamond League Meeting. Hands down, my favorite meet of all time! Well done Rajne!


#2 Athina Tsiklitiria (Athens, Greece)
I don't think this meet is running anymore, and thats a shame. The Athens GP was my 2nd favorite meet. I mean, come on, its Athens...the Olympic Stadium...the history, just an amazing meet. My buddy Georges was the meet director when I was there and he went out of the way to make everyone as comfortable as possible and he was a pleasure to be around, generous is an understatement! The hotel was amazing, right across the street from the Acropolis, the food was awesome, just an amazing meet over all. The only down side of that meet was that sometimes you didn't get paid (so I heard) and there was almost no one in the stands... But after getting to visit Athens for free, Ill take that trade.


#3 Huelva Meeting Iberoamericano de Atletismo (Huelva, Spain)
My 1st time to hit the Olympic "A" standard was in Huelva back in 2007. Even if I hadn't have thrown well there, it would still rank among my favorites. We stayed at a 5-Star beach resort! On the water! The food was top notch and the crowd was amazing, packed to capacity. The Local Organizing Committee even made nice little to-go breakfast and lunch bags for the people who had to leave early in the morning...nice touch!


#4 Rovereto Palio Città della Quercia (Rovereto, Italy)
Speaking of food and wine...hands down the best food and wine on the circuit! Rovereto is one of the most beautiful and amazing places I have ever been...The hotels are quaint bed and breakfasts, the stadium is brand new mondo, and your basically hanging out in the most beautiful part of Italy. The drive from any airport, be it Milan or Venice is amazing! Little villages with coffee shops and the most beautiful lakes you have ever seen...oh yeah you are at the base of the Swiss Alps! Great meet!


#5 Daegu Colorful Athletics Meeting (Daegu, Korea)
Not sure if they will have a meet after this years World Championships? But I hope they do. As most Asian meets, the people make it worth the trip. I am always amazed at how polite the Asian culture is, and Daegu is no exception. The hotel is HUGE and the rooms have COLD AC! the stadium is of course top notch and the crowd is excited and packed. They dont really have a clue as to what they are watching, but the seem to be happy to just be there! They hold a nice banquet the night before the meet and a raging party afterwards...all in all a fun place to be!


#6 Kawasaki Super Meet (Kawasaki, Japan)
Again, Asia...amazing people! I had the privilege to see Japan about 2 months after the earthquake and tsunami disasters. It reminded me of the USA post 9-11 and I was proud to see how upbeat and determined the Japanese people where to get things back to normal. Return to the "positive flow" as Koji put it. The meet, awesome as expected, the stadium is perfect and the crowd just the same. Karla, the meet director takes great care of the athletes and is a pleasure to be around!


#7 Pátra Tófalia (Patras, Greece)
Another greek meet, another beautiful city, great stadium. Georges again running the show and doing a great job. Anytime you can get to Greece to compete, you should do it. If not just go for the food, wine and the Mediterranean!


#8 Doha Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix / Diamond League (Doha, Qatar)
The travel to Doha sucks a bit as you can imagine. But the fact that you will probably never go to the Middle East for any other reason kicks this meet into the top 10. The hotel is the best as is the food and pretty much everything else you can think of given the economic state of Qatar. I even saw gold plated floors in the mall...overkill. The stadium is small but they usually have a good wind but no one in the stands. But still, its Qatar...why not.


#9 Roma Golden Gala (Rome, Italy)
What else do I need to say, its Rome...its Italy...wine, coffee, sun, the Colosseum...Its like competing in a museum! About the only bad thing I can think of about the Rome meet is the traffic to and from the stadium. Gigi puts on a great meet and I hope I get the chance to go back one more time.


#10 Melbourne Telstra A Series (Melbourne, Australia)
Aussi Aussi Aussi ... what a fun city, of course the travel sucks if you coming from the states, but if you get the chance to hang out for a month its well worth it. Melbourne is a rocking city and the meet itself is pretty nice. The meet director, Maury Plant is a non stop riot, could be one of the funniest guys on the planet and he looks after the athletes well! He hooked me up with a hell of a hotel and all the perks that came with it, he knows what I'm talking about! ;)


Now for the bottom feeders, and if there happens to be any rookie track guys reading this...trust me, you should steer clear of these meets:

#1 Moscow Open (Moscow, Russia)
No amount of money could get me back to Russia. Everything about this meet was garbage, the travel, the accommodations, the food, the weather, the people... you name it, it sucked. Never again, you cant buy piece of mind!

#2 Zhukovskiy Znamenskiy Memorial (Zhukovsky, Russia)
Again...Russia, enough said, read the previous meet and that should do it. Oh, if you want to take some illegal drugs and get some ridiculous marks, then you should go here, I saw some freaky stuff go down there. F-R-EEEeaky stuff, girls that looked like guys, mustache's and all...no thank you!

#3 Riga Cup 2008 (Riga, Latvia)
Basically the armpit of Europe, the hotel sucked, the meet sucked, the weather, the crowd, the food, all SUCKED! You spent most of the day in your hotel room telling the drug dealers and prostitutes in the hallways to stop knocking on your door. Then you have to deal with Baltic Airlines who likes to break and loose your luggage...Then they act like they don't understand English when you go to file a claim. Hey Latvia, you suck!

#4 Sao Paulo GP CAIXA de Atletismo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
#5 Belém GP Brasil CAIXA de Atletismo (Belem, Brazil)


Sao Paulo and Belem have pretty much the same problems. The travel, hotel, and food are all down right dangerous. Its hot and there is a water and toilet paper shortage...both of which you need when you are dehydrated and have a case of the mud butt, which is about an 80% chance that you will get that there, just ask anyone who has been.


#6 Villeneuve d'Ascq Meeting Lille Métropole (Lille, France)
What can I say, its France...Do I really need to explain? Maybe its because I cant speak French? Actually, I know a little bit of French ... "I surrender"
enough said.

#7 Baie Mahault Meeting International Guadeloupe (The middle of the Caribbean)
I have mixed emotions about this one... Your in the Caribbean, which is cool, but it takes forever to get there. Its a 3rd world country, so you have the food and water problem, but most of all, they just dont know how to run a track meet. The Hotel is nice, but its just not on my list to do again. Oh yeah, the speak French there...figures.

#8 Tallinn Meeting (Tallin, Estonia)
Not too much bad to say about this one, just a dull meet, and the meet director Aivar is a jerk. The hotel is lame and so is the food, good luck with the weather, you never know what you are going to get. Only good thing I can say about this meet is that the Estonian people as a group are awesome, very polite and hospitable.

#9 Linz Gugl Meeting (Linz, Austria)
There is a reason this meet isn't around anymore, the meet director Harald Edletzberger is a crook. Hey didn't pay a large number of athletes, including me! Hey Harry you owe me about $1,500! Not only did you not pay me for Linz, but you screwed me on Zagreb as well, maybe thats why you got fired...jerk!

#10 Göteborg Folksam Grand Prix (Gothenburg, Sweden)
Threw here this year, pretty lame meet for the Swedes who have such a deep athletics heritage. Nothing stands out as terrible about this meet, just an overall dull, boring meet with nothing to get excited about. There is almost no money available and chances are you will spend more on food than you will get for winning...sigh


Well, that was fun...looking forward to doing that again soon, or another top 10 list in the future...

Track updates, I won nationals last weekend, finally! I'm in Edmonton, Canada for a meet today, so far this meet has ALOT of work to do or it will be bumping Gothenburg off the number 10 spot! Stay tuned!

M++

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oslo / Dessau / Gothenburg

Heres a first…writing a blog on a train, with wireless internet. I'm on the way from Gothenburg to Oslo and was just video skyping my parents in Texas. Technology sometimes just amazes me. After shuffling in and out of airports all over the world, and being crammed into seats in the back of planes, I actually prefer this whole train thing…its pretty nice. Got plenty of room to stretch out and walk around and no stupid seat belt signs!

I’m really biting my lip while typing this blog… I want to speak my mind about some of the stuff that’s happening in the track and field world, but I will hold my tongue…for now. I have been in Europe for a few weeks now and have watched the Prefontaine, Oslo, and most recently the New York Diamond League meets. After watching these meets, I feel discussed with this sport. Not from the athletics perspective, but from the “politics” of the sport. I am actually looking forward to the day when I can walk off the runway for the last time and speak my mind. You should mark the day on your calendar because that blog entry will be biblical! It will be the stuff that they write books about! I should probably do so now, but Ill hold off…for now.

I threw on June 1 in Dessau Germany (77.57m) for 4th place and 1st place in Gothenburg with 77.37m yesterday. Not big results if your looking at the top lists, but I’m a few meters ahead of where I was in 2009 heading into USA Champs, where I went 82m into a nasty headwind, so all things considered… Ill take it. Actually, even if I was throwing 50m right now, I would still take it. It absolutely doesn’t matter to me how far I’m throwing…I sleep the same every night! You might say that its easy for me to say that since I am “ahead of schedule” as far as my performance goes. But you will see, I can guarantee you that I will have a few ridiculously bad meets coming up, thats just the way the javelin is...and my tone will be the same.

My countdown to the exit from this stage is ticking and its what comes after that countdown is over that carries importance to me, not what some pathetic meet director thinks about my last throw. Quote it, tweet it, or write that on your wall/mirror or wherever you fell the need.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Until next time
M++

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oslo

Im sitting here in Oslo typing up my blog, trying to come up with a theme, and Im looking out my window and noticing that the sun isnt quite down yet and its almost midnight (thanks jet-lag)! So how about this: This blog is about thankfulness, a.k.a gratitude. Thankful that back in San Diego, the sun sets in the evening, bringing a bit of closure to the day...thankful that back home oatmeal/raisins and 2 cups of coffee doesn't cost $50. Thankful for good friends who let me crash in places that I have no way of affording them! There is plenty more but for time sake Ill cap it at that.

Im in Europe for a quick 2.5 week trip to hit 2 maybe 3 meets, Im confirmed for Dessau, Germany, June 1 and Gothenburg Sweden, on June 11 and hopefully if the business end of the sport goes well I will get to sneak in the backdoor meet of the Oslo Diamond League on June 9....all sounds good huh, hold that thought. I took another synvisc injection in my knee the day before i was to come over and the night before I got on the plane my knee doubled in size and looked like a strawberry, red spots and all... I almost bailed on the trip but then decided to do it anyways, and it turned out to be the most interesting, challenging flight I have had in quite a while... Some good mental practice on meditation and pain management...."jedi mind tricks" as a super close friend would say. I'm learning some really cool stuff on how to deal with "feelings" and associations of certain feelings and how we react to them and it has made a big difference in some of my last performances... It is even more helpful in allowing me to focus on what lies ahead for me after my track career is done...those close to me know where I am headed, and in time you may too.

Last week I hit a meet in Tucson AZ and let one go out to the right side...still not connected with the jav as I would have liked to be, but given the fact that I have almost never broken 70m in training, I was comfortable...not happy...not mad...not satisfied....just comfortable with an 81.09m throw and 2 others over 80 and a 79.97m toss....all in all its just part of the process and makes no difference in anything else in life...its just the smoke that goes along with the mirrors...I hope to have more comfortable news from Europe this week...stand by
M++

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tokyo / Kawasaki

no big news from my 1st meet of the season over here in Japan... 75m all over the place, lots of power and no control...not surprising though. Japan is amazing and the people are in great spirits here given what the have been through the last few months. In fact, I love it here, the people are amazing and extremely polite! Nice change of pace from so-cal... Home in 21 hours... bonzai! M++

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Fitting In or Standing Out"

This weekend I went to a collegiate track and field meet for the 1st time in several years. What stood out to me most was what seemed like the overwhelming and glaring need for most of the people there to be associated with some sort of group...in most cases a team, and in some of the unattached cases, some kind of affiliation with a shoe company. It brought back memories of my earlier years of competing on the circuit without sponsors and support and the need that I had to be associated with some sort of group or company.

I can remember trying to find out what the Nike/Adidas/Asics competition kits looked like and then I would go out and try to buy something as similar as I could to their kits. I also remember borrowing or trading for USATF National Team gear when I went to meets when I was in college. At that time, I thought it meant something...like you achieved something, if you had national team gear on...like "look at that guy, he has been on a team".

Its ironic how your view of what "successful is." I remember seeing guys who I watched on TV in the Olympics and World Championships, guys who had medals, money, sponsors ect... and I was always amazed at how little they cared to show off their accomplishments. I remember seeing a high school kid training at the Olympic Training Center last fall...the kid actually made the World Junior Team and actually did quite well. He came to the track about 3 times a week and every time he came, he wore his full national team gear, head to toe! Fully decked out... I can relate to him being proud of his accomplishments and wanting to "show" the athletes at the training center that he was legit and wanted to be accepted there.

I'm guessing he didn't realize that as you get older, its not the actual teams that you make that makes you value those National Team kits... Its all the teams that you sold your soul for that you didn't make. The years of living on couches, nursing injuries with no medical insurance and raking up debt...searching for the elusive secret or holy grail of your event. Putting all your eggs in one basket and watching them all crack one by one... but then having your 5 minutes of fame where you make that team, and you realize how special it is. I often think that the few lucky guys and girls who sign big sponsor deals and make World and Olympic Teams their 1st year out of school miss out on those times. Thats not a bad thing, it just makes me understand why they probably don't care that much for those Team USA kits, because it was just another team...

So you see kid...I see you with your USATF team jersey...the one that you probably bought on the USATF website, and its ok. Because I know given the opportunity to do so, you would probably sell your soul as I did to earn you own Team jersey.

I'm looking at a massive box of Beijing 2008 Olympic gear that got worn almost everyday for at least a year. That box hasn't been opened in at least 2 years now.

Until next time,
M++