Wow. All I can say is wow.
I’m currently flying 30,000 feet in the air, on my way back from Portland, and I’m still grinning ear-to-ear. This is my fifth year on the Brooks Run Happy Blog Ambassador team and I was honored, yet again, to be invited back for the annual ambassador trip. This year we packed our bags and headed to TrackTown USA for the 2016 USATF Olympic Trials.
Seeing a portion of the Olympic Trials in person has definitely been on my bucket list for a while. I’m an avid fan of the Olympics, and I knew watching some of America’s top athletes punch their tickets to Rio would be an emotional, inspirational experience.
I flew out of Tampa super early Friday morning and met up with the rest of the ambassador crew (shout out to Janae, Tina, Anne, Jesica, Lora, Kristen, Emily, and Dorthy!) in Portland. From there we hopped on a shuttle to Eugene, where we stayed at the “Brooks Party House” on the University of Oregon’s campus.
Since lodging is so limited in Eugene, Brooks had rented out an entire frat house for the trials. I can’t even begin to tell you how nostalgic it was to stay in a frat house for the weekend. Thanks to the twin bed, roommate, communal bathroom, and many rounds of flip cup, it was the complete college experience.
Also, the location of the frat house could not be beat. We could see Hayward Field from our window and it was less than a two-minute walk to the main entrance. Once we arrived in Eugene, it was easy to quickly drop our bags off at the house and head to the trials on foot. We only had a few hours to catch opening day and we didn’t want to miss a minute.
Day 1 featured the 800m & 400m preliminaries, the men’s 10000m finals, and various field events.
To qualify for the 2016 USATF Olympic Trials, athletes had to meet certain qualifying standards at a USATF event between May 2015 and June 2016. Hundreds of athletes started in the preliminary rounds and are slowly whittled down to claim the dozens of spots for Rio later this summer. The trials feature the top track and field athletes in the country and the span of age and experience among them was impressive. Among the Olympic-hopefuls competing, there was a good mix of current college athletes representing their schools, recent college graduates also representing their school, and professional athletes who represented various sponsors.
The speed and athletic ability of all the athletes was simply incredible. How many of us watched the Olympics as a young child and dreamt of one day making the Olympic team? This was their chance to make it a reality, and I can’t even begin to imagine what an emotional experience that must be. Hell, I was getting choked up for them.
We were admittedly partial to all of the Brooks athletes (collectively known as the “Brooks Beasts”) racing. You may recall I recently had the opportunity to interview Brooks Beast, and Olympic-hopeful, Katie Mackey. Unfortunately her event (the 50000m) is on July 7th and I left very early the morning of the 3rd so I never had the opportunity to watch her compete in person. However, we watched other Brooks Beasts move up to the finals and whooped and cheered with every victory.
As hunger and thirst began to creep in, we took a break from watching the trials to wander the surrounding TrackTown village. After grabbing a bite to eat we stumbled on an interactive Heptathlon with stations around the stadium. Apparently it was set up for the kids, but why let them have all the fun?! 😀
Anne and I were both blindly following the rest of the group with our heads in our phones. We must have been posting an Instagram at the same time, and by the time we looked up everyone was gone and we had no clue where we were. Luckily, getting lost worked in our favor, as we found ourselves right next to track for the men’s 10000m finals.
Out of all the track distances, I have to say the 10000m is the most inspiring. I’ve run numerous 10ks on the road, and I can’t imagine running that long of a distance on a track. Lap after lap, at a nearly 4:00 min/mile pace is just incredible. And when the stakes are a spot on the Olympic team, you can bet you’re in for one hell of a race as all of the runners leave it on the track.
Galen Rupp scooped up the lead and won the 10000m with a late charge. This was his second qualifying event, as he also nabbed a spot during the marathon trials months earlier. I remember watching him take home silver during the 2012 Olympics for the 10000m and look forward to watching him again in Rio.
After the trials, we ended our evening with an amazing meal at Excelsior.
By the time dinner ended I had been up for a full 24 hrs and crashed hard as soon as we got back to the frat house. It was a full, long day but definitely a fun one.
I’ll be back with Part II of my Olympic Trial adventures. I’m also working on a complete separate post that will discuss leaving Annalynn for the first time (it was TOUGH) and how I managed to pump/ travel with milk while away. Stay tuned!