Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Here we go...

“Have a great trip, BJ!” 

Forgive me for sounding like I should be a hemp-wearing hippie with only open toed footwear in my possession and a proud owner of a ‘magic happens’ sticker on my zombie... but this is much more than a 'trip'. It seems like its even more than a ‘journey’. Or maybe these words just don’t seem to cover it properly in my head. 
I am normally pretty good with travel and flights and this time of the year, but the last couple of weeks have been odd. It’s not really nerves, so much as a lack of knowledge of how I am ‘supposed’ to prepare myself for this time I have ahead of me. Making the Olympics is not only a goal reached, but something that will be carried with me in some way for the rest of my life. The nature of the attainment of this goal and what happens in London will essentially dictate very much how I approach my goal setting until I breath no more. 

This is a fair bit of pressure, and probably a great example of the far-too-in-depth way I tend to get from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to have a ball, and feel like a child most of the time getting to play with the big kids and do all this awesome adult stuff! But I guess I am aware of this being the story I am going to most often tell for the rest of my life. I love talking shit and I love telling stories, so I am hoping that it’s going to be a sweet story, not one where my grandkids nod off as the climax of the story doesn’t really go anywhere. 
“What bedtime story do you want to hear tonight, kids?” 
“Tell us your London Olympic story, Pop. That always puts us to sleep.”

The good thing is now that I am all packed, sitting at the Qantas Club in Sydney (pretty much paid for itself already) and awaiting my flight to Europe. The majority of the hard work has been done, we just need to sharpen out pencils and start writing history. I couldn’t ask for a better lead-up really. I have been injury free for the past 3 years, I have done a great base after Olympic Trials, I have my super-coach and great mate MattyB coming over, as well as my super excited and talented training partners Loz and Mel. I can’t wait to hang out with Steve (Hooker) in Germany and catch up with the rest of the team as the tension and excitement builds over the next month. 

My aim is just to keep my head on shoulders, my legs painfree and on the track, and my heart open to the experience that awaits. Words will not come close to describing my travels over the next 5 months (I have a 3 months trip planned post-games; i’ll chat about that later), nor will images, but I will do my best to use both  give some insight into the experience. 

A quick thanks, and one of many to some of the amazing people who helped mould the athlete and man that steps on the plane in a couple of hours. My beautiful, generous and insightful parents, Anne and Barry. Jacqui (and Nathan), and Tim - the bros and sis’ that keep me real. My pre-mentioned coach MattyB, Loz, Mel and the entire MattyB DEPT back in Canberra. The AIS Physical Therapies dept, my home of work and support for the past 3 years, particularly Ari Takkinen (ninja master) and Ben Raysmith (best physio in the world under 5ft tall). The two boys that started my aths career with me 25 years ago, Pete and Sim, and all my amazing mates back in Melbourne. My two mentors and blokes who build me up and shoot me down at perfect times, Steve Hooker and Benn Harradine. 

And a big cheers and look-the-hell-out to all the people I haven’t met that will be on my epic adventures and part of the stories I will tell for years to come. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An Ode to Little Athletics

On the verge of the final selection announcement for the London Olympic Australian Athletics Team, I thought it refreshing and possibly distracting to go back to some roots of the sport for me from a recent trip home...

I was back in Melbourne for my last visit before I head overseas to London. It was great seeing my family and a few friends, but it was a trip to my old athletics club - Waverley Little Athletics - that was a real highlight for me. I had just flown in on the red-eye from Korea, but still had a training session to do so thought it a good opportunity to head back down. I love running on the grass there, too.

After a reasonably good session, I found the lack of sleep from the night before creeping up on me like a hungry feral cat - ready to pounce at any moment my guard was down. I decided to just sit on the bend in about lane four and think about what this place meant to me. I have no doubt that the fatigue that was slowly taking its grasp was having an impact, but I found myself in quite a profound state where I was taken back to the days where my love for athletics began. I had to fight back tears as I remembered what it was like back when Zooper Doopers were 20 cents, when I ran in bare feet whenever I was allowed, and when I couldn't wait until 9am Saturday morning.

Me on the left, and Pete

I remember my Dad, bless his heart, who became the club president because of my involvement in athletics through my youth - always there, with words of support, or to chastise us when we went 'missing'. I remember going 'missing'. It always seemed to be around the time when the 800s were on, for some strange reason. Little Aths was always about mass participation, but TWO laps? You're kidding yourself Dad.

I remember the walks. Simon and I always used to get in trouble because we would take our Walkmans on the track whilst we raced. That's right, I said Walkmans. We would walk alongside each other with one earphone each from the tape player, listening to Nirvana or Offspring and bopping away (with flawless technique of course). It was all about getting enough points on your card so that at the end of the year you got a gold sticker for each of the disciplines.

Another Simon, and me at Olympic Park

I remember my first ever state medal. It was the under 11 100m, and I wasn't expected to do that well, and with good reason. I clearly false started, but those were the days when you just ran, so ran I did and only got beaten by one other kid. I felt a bit bad, but I had just made a national championships, so bugger it! I didn't do so well at Nationals, though. Haha.

I remember the girls of Little Aths. In under 14 and 15 this was my first real exposure to girls who were fit and somewhat developed. Monica and Emma were the two that us boys were after. Emma and I went out for an eternity of 3 weeks and I think my first ever poem that I wrote was to Monica. The first line vaguely resembled 'I think I love you, but I can't be sure...' standard 14 year old musings. At the end of the year we would have fights with shaving cream and water bombs. You'd run away from the girls, but something held you back just a little in the hope that they would catch you and smear having cream all over you. The cream would clean off, but the memories remain. Lets just say I think I got to second base with Monica on one of those fight days.

I remember Pete and Sim. My two best mates in the world from under 7s. Pete was Simon's best man last year, and I watched proudly as a groomsman - these blokes remain two of my best and certainly my oldest friends today. Every week without question after aths finished we'd be back at Simon's place close by and scheduling our afternoon of shenanigans. Always on our bikes, we'd be off creating mischief and adventures until dark. Or until one of us got hurt. Or hungry. Both happened quite often.

I remember relays. Mrs. De La Haye (Pete's Mum) would have us out there every Thursday afternoon for training, drilling us hard as we defended our state titles from year to year. I was a good athlete, and we had some good depth behind me, but we had the ultimate weapon. My mate Pete De La Haye was like the Usian Bolt of little aths. You'd just give him the baton and watch the magic happen. 10m behind before the final leg? No problem. Early puberty with a an amazing amount of talent meant our not-so-seccret weapon would dominate relay after relay. The rest of us must take some credit, of course. Just like the shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls can take credit for their wins over the LA Lakers in the early 90s NBA finals. Not Jordan. What is his name....??? Anyway...


I remember Melbourne Olympic Park. Hallowed ground for any Victorian track and field athlete, and where dreams were lost and found (thank you again, Eddie McGuire and Collingwood, for taking that away.) God knows how we had the energy, but we always used to be found on the steep grassy hills, behind the back straight grandstand. We'd find cardboard from somewhere and surf our way down the hills, hurtling at stupid speeds towards the black bitumen that awaited us at the bottom. To this day I have no idea how a) we didn't shatter more bones, or b) our parents allowed us to do this!!!

I found myself a bit lost after Little Athletics. I went and played basketball at a moderate rep level, but it was only a very lucky course of events that brought me back to athletics around the end of high school. Having said that, these memories of athletics are the purest and most golden of the ones in my mind. Athletics is such a beautifully simple and rewarding sport, even as a gateway of skills towards other sports. It teaches our kids some of the best and most lifelong of attributes as they develop. I urge any parent and any child to do athletics from the bottom of my heart.