Saturday, June 30, 2012

Run, Jump, Throw

Getting to the Olympic Trials on Thursday was an easy process. I scooted to Autzen Stadium around 4 p.m. for free parking.

I tried one spot, but didn’t fit because one car was cattywampus, taking more than one space. I moved to the next aisle and looked around. I don’t like parking next to big vehicles, but pulled into the space next to a white Ford 150 King Cab anyway.

The truck’s lights were on. I saw no one near, but figured the lights would go off on their own. I put my hand on the truck grille. Still warm. I waited several minutes. The lights stayed on.

Finally, I wrote the license plate on a piece of paper. At the shuttle pickup, I gave the bus driver my note. He got on the mike and announced license and description. Nothing.

Disappointed, I headed to Hayward Field on foot, planning to pass the information to an official. I breezed through security and wondered whether I’d arrived too soon.

This is track and field, I reminded myself. There’s always something going on. Besides, it gave me time to gobble down a scoop of espresso ice cream, buy a bottle of water and find a good spot to hang in the Festival area. All thoughts of the pickup vanished.

The Festival area is free, and big screens provide fantastic shots of the action, both as it happens and then on instant replay.

What a day. What amazing athletes. And they do it no matter the weather. A light drizzle and swirly breezes must have affected pole vaulters, high jumpers and even hurdlers. Yet no one complained. Before each race, each jump, each throw, we witnessed—through the camera lens—the deep concentration necessary to reach Olympic levels. We saw the thrill of victory and the disappointment of defeat.

We applauded when Lance Brooks, on his last throw, heaved the discus beyond the Olympic qualifying mark to earn his place on the team.

We roared at Kim Conley’s lean at the finish to edge Julia Lucas in the 5000.

We cheered for Evan Jager, winning and grinning down the stretch in his fourth-ever steeplechase.

We exploded when Galen Rupp sprinted the stretch to catch and pass Bernard Lagat in the 5000, breaking Pre’s long-standing meet record in the process!

And then it was over. Energized, I made my way back to Autzen on foot.

About halfway back, I remembered the pickup. As I came to my car, the pickup door closed. I hurried around the truck and called to the man walking back toward the stadium.

“Your truck,” I said. “Is it dead?”

The guy turned. “Yeah. I left the lights on.”

“I know. I had the shuttle driver announce it, but I guess you weren’t on the shuttle.”

“No, I wanted some exercise, so I walked.”

We chatted a bit about track and field. All the while, I knew I had jumper cables in my car, but I’ve never used them myself. He didn’t seem upset about his situation. Still, it was getting dark. The parking lot was rapidly emptying.

I asked if he had Triple A. He didn’t; this was a company vehicle. He would have to call someone in Corvallis. It could be two hours before he’d be home. I hesitated. He started toward the stadium again.

“Wait,” I said. “I have jumper cables, if you know how to use them.”

From the look on his face, he might have hugged me. Instead, we turned my car around and hooked up the cables.

Run, jump, start!

“Have a nice evening,” I said with a wave and watched in my rear-view mirror as his lights came on and the truck moved toward the exit.

The space next to him had been my second choice of parking spots. It was the right choice.