Saturday, July 21, 2007

It Takes A Village To...

Yesterday morning David and Tracy Smith who sails on the Snipe team went for a run at 6:15 in the morning. Truth told, David and Tracy have been doing it since they got here. I just got up early enough to join them. Running around here is interesting. As with every activity, we are aggressively encouraged by our coaches and the USOC to "STAY WITHIN THE SECURITY PERIMETER." So when running, this means we do laps of the village. Each lap takes you around all the buildings in the housing complex and between those dorms and the dining hall and the International section where everyone goes to watch music and hang out. Each lap is about a half a mile. It gets pretty dull…except for those people you see also running. First thing you notice is those with the highest potential to become a heart attack victim, the coaches. Can you imagine being down here with 5000 athletes, most probably you were an elite athlete which qualifies you to do your job and everyone's a freak of nature in some way and also in incredible shape. Every fiber of your being is screaming at you, "C'mon, you still got it. You should really consider a comeback. You still got a few good (runs, swims, games, chuckers) left in you. Get out there and rededicate. No wonder there are defibrulators everywhere. The coaches are plainly the most dedicated people here. They sleep least. They worry most. They're like cub scout leaders…except their cub scouts can throw a shot put 69' and have been drafted by an NFL team. Back to my point. Those coaches are running.

Then, there are the runners-of-shame. Actually, it's still known as the walk of shame. Running, early, you do see some people coming home from evenings that turned into whole nights. It's part of my role as a quasi-journalist to report that some people are doing more with their evenings than sleeping next to some guy named Augie coughing up a lung. Some day these kids are going to have incredible kids.

Then there are the race walkers. They're out there walking. They walk faster than most normal humans run. It's neat to watch. I recommend when you see one out there, you immediately turn around and run counter-clockwise. It takes enough motivation to get up and run at 6:15 in the morning. Nobody needs to get passed by a 5'2" actuary from Guatemala who is walking.

Then, sometimes the runners are running. Watching the Chicago marathon, these people run by where you're standing in 13 seconds and you can't believe how fast they go. Here, where they've got lots of work out locations better suited to their preparation, so you can't imagine they're out there with you. These are some of the most incredible, purpose-built runners bodies on the planet. They gotta be out there running for the pure joy of it. Or else they're just bored.

Part of being here in the village is that it is fundamentally duller than watching a sailboat race. This is not a complaint it is another fact. Mostly what people are doing here is just waiting to go compete or come down after competing. Reality is that most athletes are encouraged not to go outside the fences or pass the guys oiling their machine guns. Imagine caging in the most athletic 20 and 30 somethings in the hemisphere. In order to keep the lid on, the organizers have put in 5 swimming pools. There's a big gym that gets totally packed with people who are better at whatever machine you are using then you are. Then there's a disco which I haven't seen yet. But I'm sure old wrinkly white dork night is coming up so I will make it down there sometime. Then there is the incredible dining hall which is really amazing. It's 2 blocks long. All under a very large white tent. It feeds more than 7,500 people a day as much food as they want. They want a lot of food too. You should see the plates of food that come out of the diner line. 90lb girl swimmers eat almost as much as former weightlifters who are now coaches from Cuba. Anywhere but here Jenny Craig would have a stroke just looking at the dessert plates. Remember Fogo de' Caio or whatever that Brazilian Steakhouse is called in Chicago. Well, this is its home country. There is more steak being grilled and eaten here you can imagine. Marty, you would like chow line #3. Here, most of all that is burned off before the plates are put into the recycling cans. Heck, people here are so lean they wear coats to the dining hall and it's 75 degrees in there.

Back in our building it's pretty cool too. We live on the 10th floor of a 10 story building. Ours is a three bedroom apartment with 2 bathrooms and one central room. There is one master bedroom that has a bathroom adjoining. There are two balconies. There is one kitchen that has a large open window…without a window. This is apparently the long-term plan. Kitchens are often open-air here in Brazil we're told. In the kitchen there is a water purifier. We only drink or brush teeth using this water. The rest of the water is only for showering or rinsing. Nobody's gotten sick from either food or water. We're told that all the food is rinsed with purified water and that it's all safe. We're getting to believe this more and more. I will eat anything that looks good now without concern. The whole space is about 800 square feet. It's nice and it's brand new. These apartments have all been pre-sold for after the games. We keep this in mind so we try and not mar up the floors or dent the walls.

Then there's the computer room/athlete's lounge. We have them in every building. There are big screen tvs to watch events and about 12 hard wired computers for email, myspace, face book or whatever people do on line. Then in addition, the whole first floor and the courtyard is covered with wifi. So into the night, people in USA team apparel can be seen sitting in the lobby or out in the courtyard or by the pools on laptops. I've noticed that our two USA building s lead the village in laptops. I can't get video I-chat to work, but SKYPERs are everywhere talking and smiling at people back home. I thought my mac was supposed to be able to do that. Hmmm…maybe Steve Jobs should buy SKYPE.

My suitemate has 3 Olympic medals. What does yours have?
Paul Foerster has won Olympic medals at three games in the Flying Dutchman and the 470. I can't remember if it's 1 gold in the 470 and silvers in the other two tries. I’m not going to wake him up to check my facts just now. He's here sailing the Sunfish. Paul likes to sail so he tried out another boat and he's got here yesterday. Maybe the next boat he will try will be the next AC boat design.
He's got a 2 and a 3-year-old who may have ideas about that.

Our Team:
I don't know if this is necessary, but cyberspace is cheap so here you go:
The members of the 2007 Pan American Games Sailing Team are: _• Hobie 16 (Multihull Open) – Bob Merrick (Branford, Conn.)/ Eliza Cleveland (Branford, Conn.)_• J/24 (Keelboat Open) - Daniel Borrer (St. Augustine Beach, Fla.)/ Nate Vilardebo (Tampa, Fla.)/ Patrick Wilson (Savannah, Ga.)/ Josh Putnam (Augusta, Ga.)_• Laser (Single-handed Dinghy Men) – Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif.)_• Laser Radial (Single-handed Dinghy Women) – Paige Railey (Clearwater, Fla.) _• Lightning (Multi-crewed Dinghy Open) - David Starck (Buffalo, N.Y.)/ Jody Starck (Buffalo, N.Y.)/ Bill Faude (Chicago, Ill.)_• RS:X Men (Windsurfer Men) – Ben Barger (Tampa, Fla.)_• RS:X Women (Windsurfer Women) – Nancy Rios (Cocoa Beach, Fla.)_• Snipe (Double-handed Dinghy Open) - Augie Diaz (Miami, Fla.)/Tracy Smith (Newport, R.I.) _• Sunfish (Single-handed Dinghy Open) – Paul Foerster (Rockwall, Texas)

Tonight's "Neatest Thing That Happened Today" Dedicated to Camryn and Sabrina:
This one happened in the dining hall. There are rows of those drink fountains with the clear sides that bubble up what's inside there so you can at least tell the color. Here, there is a dizzying array of choice. I've drank Guava juice. I've had papaya juice. I've had juice from things I've never gotten juiced about before. Yesterday, I had a big glug of cashew juice. It totally sucked. Worst stuff I ever tried to drink. But I acted like it was pretty 'interesting' and pawned some off on everyone else sitting with me. Imagine all of us looking like we'd just drank the water from inside my chuck taylor high top. That was the highlight of my day yesterday.

Today is the practice race. Weather is beautiful and clear. We can see mountains we haven't been able to see all week. The tide goes out for 53 minutes after our start and then starts coming in. Jody's going to ask me that and I'm going to be ready for her.

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