I really hope that I am running out of trips that could double as cheap horror flicks…After I returned home from “The Doha Disaster” (see previous blog entry), I figured that the worst was behind me, that it couldn’t possible get worse than that…well you guessed it, the week and a half journey to Brazil to hit the 3 Brazilian Grand Prix’s was nothing short of a test of my every last nerve. In fact, it was as a result of these 3 meets that I have decided to start my own website that will be dedicated to “rating” or scoring track and field competitions all over the world. Sure it will take massive amounts of time to get up and running, but the premise is to eventually be able to sell it to a 3rd party sometime over the next few years. This website will be accessed by athletes and managers alike that can log onto the site and rate the competitions that they were just in. These competitions will be rated on the following categories;
Travel, Accommodations, Food, Competition and Training Facilities, and last but not least Financial Arrangements.
These categories will be scored something like 1-5…1 being horrible, 2 below average, 3 average, 4 above average and 5 being great. After each category is ranked, the meet will receive a final grade, maybe something like a A+ to F or Failing with flying colors. I hope that this holds meeting directors and officials to higher standards when it comes to taking care of some of the most basic requirements, especially when the IAAF puts a “Grand Prix” status on a competition. I hope that athletes and managers alike will find this useful when picking meets at the beginning of the season and allows them to make well-informed decisions and what to expect from certain competitions. I will give you a few examples, there are a few meetings in Europe that are typically great places to compete with good venues, however, these few meets are notorious for not paying their financial agreements to the athletes (Ostrava and Tallinn). This information should be made known so that athletes and managers are aware of this before scheduling those competitions. There are also instances where competitions do a great job in every detail of running a world-class athletics competition, but lack proper competition facilities. This is also very helpful to know ahead of time.
I am now sitting on a train en route from Frankfurt to Berlin Germany. I am amazed at the differences in every aspect of life in Europe compared to South America, the organization, the cleanliness and the overall quality of life…I am competing in the Berlin Golden League Meeting on June 1. This will without a doubt be the largest competition of my career as the eyes of the entire athletics world are fixed upon 6 meetings a year, the Golden League Meetings…they take place in Berlin, Oslo, Paris, Rome, Brussels and Zurich. I am hoping with a good performance in Berlin, I will be able to get confirmations for Golden League meetings later this summer. These meetings are absolutely killer for World Ranking Points so it’s a great opportunity to jump a few people who I have been behind all year. The new World Rankings were posted just as I left Brazil, I have now cracked the elusive “top 10” list and am sitting comfortably atop the World Athletic Tour Standings with an almost 30 point lead…however that lead will diminish extremely quickly and will likely disappear all together as the Scandinavian guys bring their A games this summer.
My stop is coming up next, gotta pack my stuff and hit the next connection to Berlin. Catch yall later! M++
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Before you get to deep into this blog, let me just warn you in may take a while to dig through all this past week’s adventures. That being said, its now 2:30am San Diego time and I am somewhere between Northern Ireland and Greenland, I just flew directly over London and just north of Limerick. Here’s some fun facts just to kill some time:
Altitude: 36,000ft, Outside Temp: -60C, Air Speed : 548 mph, Tailwind: 32mph
I am returning from the 1st Super Grand Prix of the year in Doha Qatar. I have been trying to figure out an easy way to explain some of the madness that went on the last 4 days, and I’m not sure I can fit all the details in but here it goes.
I left the training center in San Diego Tuesday around 11am for my flight from San Diego to DC to Doha. It was only supposed to be 18 hours total travel time, which is really good for going to the other side of the world. The 1st problem of the trip was a busted panel on the bottom of the United plane that couldn’t be fixed, so after sitting on the tarmac for 2 hours, we were moved to another plane. About 1 hour into our 4 ½ hour flight, an elderly lady had an medical emergency, presumed to be some sort of heart attack which only added to the delay of the already 2 hour late flight. Oh yeah before I forget…after de-boarding the original flight and prior to boarding the new one, I noticed that there would be almost no way that I would be able to make the connecting flight. In fact, “if” the new flight left on time and had no other delays I would have exactly 27 minutes to make the connection in Washington DC. I proceeded to ask the gating agent if “in your professional opinion, should I risk taking the flight to DC and not making the connection, or take a later flight that goes through San Francisco and London before getting into Doha 6 hours later that the original flight.” She said not to worry that the flight should make it to DC in plenty of time to catch the one and only flight to Doha…well as I’m sure you have guessed, that didn’t happen. So I waited in DC for 7 hours before boarding another flight to London at 7AM and then on to Doha.
As I arrived in Doha (14 hours later than scheduled…oh yeah 32 hours later!), I was met by a baggage claim representative that told me that my bags didn’t make the connection in London (not to my surprise) as that has happened to me 3 of the 4 times I have been through London. They then said that the bags should arrive by 4pm (Thursday)…being that it was 6AM Thursday morning, I didn’t think that was too bad of a deal…but as I’m sure you guessed, again, that wasn’t the case, I suppose I can try to make a long story short.
My bags ended up arriving at 3AM Saturday morning into Doha, which doesn’t do much good when you fly to the other side of the world to compete in a track competition that is on FRIDAY NIGHT!. Needless to say after about 35 calls to London, DC, and Qatar Baggage Services, and a 300$ phone bill in 24 hours, the panic was starting to set in.
I did have a few pieces of luck that went my way. An American friend of mine that is now coaching for Qatar, Todd Henson, was able to shuttle me to a few malls on the morning of the competition so that I could buy a few needed items…underwear, socks, toothbrush, deodorant, a few red bulls and a truck load of ibuprofen! Unfortunately, when you are in the Middle East, javelin spikes and competition uniforms (the most important of all) aren’t easily found at your local sports store. I was able to borrow a Qatar National Team Uniform, which I found amazingly ironic, as I was now competing for the home team…and another good friend of mine, Andreas Thorkildsen (2004 Olympic Champ from Norway) let me borrow his extra pair of practice spikes…even though they were a size and a half too big, they still were better than throwing in tennis shoes (which I also had to buy because I thought I would try to look cool and wear dress shoes on the plane…. dumb move)
Well, as fate would have it, after all the stress and agony over not having the luxuries that most of us are used to when we travel…I was able to pull my head out of my butt and compete. I ended up setting a lifetime best of 82.31m which also moves my World Ranking to #14 and #1 on the World Athletics Tour points standings. However it was a bitter sweet competition for me, I was mentally totally unprepared and felt like crap the entire competition, not to mention that I missed every single one of my throws, even the 82.31m (I am not looking forward to the technical analysis when my coach sees the video footage). The one bright side to that competition was that I had an easy warm-up from ½ approach that was at or near the 85m mark. That being said, its always nice to get a personal best (even if everything you had on was either to big, to small or had you competing for a foreign federation)…but not as sweet as it would have been to throw to your true potential on a massive stage such as a Super Grand Prix. I have been typing for almost an hour now, so I’m going to take a small break and reflect on a few things then come back and wrap it up….hang in there.
So here’s lesson #1 from this week: You are not a special circumstance and will not receive any extra effort on the part of baggage claim representative, there are others that are in the same situation, even if they don’t have thousands of dollars and points on the line that you bust your ass everyday for over the last 5 years… you just take your number, and wait along with everyone else…and if you feel the need to express how important or different your case is, all it will do is get the same response that is practiced a thousand times by these “robots”….I’m so sorry sir, I promise that we are doing everything possible to find you luggage and get it to you …” grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
Lesson #2, this one is easy; pack your competition gear in your carry one bag…duh! I used to do this but got lazy and it screwed me, big time…lesson learned, that wont happen again.
Lesson #3, this one may fall under the common sense category, but when your blind with anger and frustration, common sense sometimes takes a back seat. Do not take for granted that when you are in a foreign country, you must abide by their rules, which means that some things that may be said or done inside the USA, may not…scratch that, WILL not be tolerated. I wont go into to details, but I almost found myself “escorted” to a place that I think I would not have wanted to go…3 TIMES in 48 hours. Remember this is that same country that cuts of fingers and hands for stealing…lesson learned.
Lesson #4, “…don’t sweat the small stuff.” I learned this way back in high school from my football coaches and I hear it weekly from my Sports Physiologist. No matter how bad things are or how bad you want something done, even something as easy as a phone call with an update (talking to you Qatar Baggage services!) Some things are out of your control and you cant possibly influence the factors that determine the outcome, so its best to save your mental energy for other things…such as what to eat for dinner in Qatar…beef or....beef, oh and there’s also some beef, to go with your side of, yup you guessed it…beef!
Lesson #5, I guess I will save this one for last since it should be the most important one and it is also the one I have the most trouble with…stand up for what you believe in!!! Im not necessarily talking about going to a Muslim country and arguing religious tactics, I’m just saying stand up for something if you feel strongly about it and don’t just be a bystander in the crowd attempt to blend in with the conversation. When I was in Australia this February, I happened to stumble into a political debate with a few of the locals and they began to rip president Bush and the entire USA government a new backside…I just sat there quietly and nodded my head and even smirked at a few of their lame wise cracks. After this conversation ended I was nauseated because I didn’t stand up for what I felt then, and feel very strongly about now. I had another similar situation in Qatar and I made sure that my previous mistakes weren’t repeated. I think everyone involved in the conversation now knows how this Texas boy stands. So for those of you who are George Bush haters and for those of you who cry about how bad we have it in the USA and how messed up the government is, go ahead and sign off now…and don’t bother to check this blog ever again. Somehow I always end up these blog entries with something political/patriotic…not sure why it always comes back to that. I suppose its because I saw a culture this weekend so amazingly different but yet awesome from ours today and it made me realize how good we have it. So I guess I will take a line out of my last blog entry…”love it or leave it!” I also heard another great quote this weekend, it was said during a discussion over some of the issues in the Middle East… “Leaders will do work when there is work to be done…and this place needs work.”
Only 13 more hours to go until home…Greenland is now off in the distance to my back right, bearing down on Goose Bay Canada…almost home…sort of
Altitude: 36,000ft, Outside Temp: -51C, Air Speed : 555 mph, HeadWind: 9mph
Until next time…