The weather in Leuven has been less than ideal. Going to Dublin I was only expecting it to get worse. We got off the plane to what I would have considered to be a typical Irish summer day. It was cloudy, looked like it had just finished raining, and looked like that rain was about to start up again any minute.
Next big question: Where were we staying and how were we supposed to get there?
Answer: Irishman with huge smile waiting for us with sign outside of baggage claim. Awesome.
This guy looked way too excited to see us. Then we found out that his radiant smile and overall happiness weren't because of us, it was because it wasn't raining. Once again, awesome.
Things just started getting better from there.
We ended up staying at a Radisson right by the airport. A bit noisy, but quite a step up from the dorms in Leuven. We walk in the door and the meet director, a young guy in his late 20's, greets us with money for lunch. Did I mention we were starving? This catapulted him to A+ status in our books very quickly.
This meet, the Brother Ireland Morton Memorial Meeting, certainly knew how to take care of the athletes. We were about 30 minutes, by bus, from Dublin city center so going down there for food or entertainment was going to have to wait until after the meet. Luckily the hotel had a pretty damn good restaurant which was free to us. Booya.
Clean sheets, warm showers, and free, good food. Life was good for those couple of days.
So about this meet. This was basically an attempt to get high quality, professional athletics (otherwise known as track & field in the US) back to Ireland. Santry Stadium was once host to a number of high class meets. The stadium record is 3:53.8 in the mile, held by former American Record Holder Steve Scott.
For all of the information you could possibly desire about this meet here is the meet webpage.
The men's mile run was the marquee event of the evening, turns out I was running in it. The field was pretty loaded, 11 of the 13 athletes competing were sub-4 guys. We had rabbits whose job it was to take us through 1km in around 2:25. Despite perfect weather conditions, this did not happen.
We got off the line pretty quickly and probably ran our first 200m in close to 27 seconds. Things started to deteriorate after that. I was not too concerned about the pacing since I knew I could struggle through a fast pace or unleash a good kick off a slow pace. We came through 400m at 57.8 or so for the leaders. I was tucked in on the rail, in 6th or 7th place, closer to 58.5. Given the quality of the rabbits I knew we needed to be faster to hit the desired 1km split. Nothing really changed over the next 400m other than the rabbit slowed even more. 1:58 at 800m. And we were still slowing. I could visably see the rabbit struggling to maintain form now, his tight shoulders a clear indicator of the required effort to hold pace. All the while we have the meet director screaming at us to pick it up from the inside of the track at the top of the turn and another gentleman encouraging us to keep the pace moving halfway down the backstretch.
Once the rabbit dropped out it required a gametime decision from fellow American Brian Olinger (steeplechase specialist) to move to the front and keep the pace going. Olinger was one of the three guys in the field who had not yet broken 4-minutes.
I could feel runners bunching up behind me as we pounded towards the bell lap. Rob Myers, whose kick I know all too well (see US Indoors results), was seated nicely in second place. I on the other hand was running like an idiot, boxed in on the rail in about 7th. 2:59 for the leaders with 400m to go. I was at least a full 0.5 seconds back with no way in sight of getting out of the box.
Once the pace quickened at the front I knew I had to be at full alertness to find my way out to get some running room. Then it happened. With 300m remaining, Graham Wells, the tall Canadian wearing his bright yellow singlet, made a hard move on my outside opening just enough space for me to hop out to lane two and shadow his move. Everyone was in full flight now, given the slow pace the first three laps, and all I could think about was how good I felt. This came as a surprise since I had felt as though I was struggling to hit 60 for the entire race. At 250m to go I could see Rob was in the front and pushing hard. I didn't quite know how I was going to make it all the way up to him, since I was still in 5th, so I waited. This turned out to be my downfall. The pack was sprinting 3-wide going into the final turn. I kept hearing my high school coach, Jeff Renlund, explaining that for every lane out you go on that final 200m, you add on 2 extra meters. All I wanted was to run the shortest distance and power home the final 100m. And that is what I did. I swung wide and went into full sprint, really starting to "lift" and "squeeze it" is Gags terminology. I was inching closer and closer to Rob with every stride. But he had too much ground on me. I had to settle for second.
Rob Myers had beaten me again, this time covering the distance of one mile in 3 minutes, 56.25 seconds. Unhappy with losing the race, my spirits were lifted by the knowledge that I had run a personal best at the distance. It wasn't until after the awards ceremony that I found out my time. 3:56.76! And I was pumped.
Ireland turned out to be a great experience for me and I fully plan on returning next year!