'1998 Nike World Masters Games'..my top of the mountain on my idol 'Pre's track !
I hope that everyone in their competitive running & racing careers gets to achieve their own particular 'Holy Grail'..I was blessed to achieve this for myself in the summer of 1998...keep it in mind that my running career essentially started in 1990 with a 4.41 marathon in New York. The journey to that (my first marathon) started with a mile time trial of ten minutes on an indoor track in March 1990....In early 1998 I was reaching new levels and starting to realize my potential with the help of my great training partners, Jose Aispuro, Danny Gruber, Jimmy Clarke, Barb Acosta, Albert De La Torre, Javier Naranjo, Tim Nash, and my best friends Michael Lawrence and the incomparable 'Hammer Man' Mike Johnson. I/we trained under the amazing guidance and coaching of Greg Brock. In March of that year I ran a 2.34 marathon in Napa Valley and Greg and I set our course for the Nike World Games 1500 in Track Town USA (Eugene Oregon) scheduled for August 1998...this was a 'Rite of Passage' for me, a pilgrimage if you will, to honor and pay tribute to my running idol and the idol of so many a runner, one Mr. Steve Prefontaine...the race would take place at Hayward Field, Eugene Oregon at the very heart of running history in the USA....Ever since choosing this sport I had become immersed in its history and anecdotes worldwide and none more so than the legend that was known as 'Pre'..Once my entry was accepted into the meet, we set to work did Greg and I for a summer of training and racing that I will never forget.....that summer in the races I entered on the track I was undefeated in the 1500 and mile races I entered around the Bay Area, most notably in Los Gatos.. I had been beaten in a couple of 800 meter races, specifically by Joe Carnegie, a phenomenal runner but I had run a PR of 1.57 for the 800 in the process...earlier in the Spring I was beaten a few times, including by my teammate Jimmy Clarke, an outstanding middle distance runner who helped me in training, was vastly more experienced than me, albeit younger and whom inspired me to be the very best that I could be every day. I would eventually get the better of Jim in a 1500 but he had a much better winning record against me on the track, road and XC than I did against him and we had a blast together all the way- Jimmy taught me the art of hill repeat workouts and so much more.Always grateful for his grit, determination, knowledge and friendship. I went to Sacramento to race as an invited elite in the Capital Mile early August 1998 against the best of the best from the State of California....I hit the front at the 1200 meter mark having hit the first quarter mile in 59 seconds, in the end Joe Carnegie and Olympic Trialist Jim Sorenson bested me but I had a great road mile PR of 4.21....A week later and a week before leaving for Oregon I raced the 1500 against some terrific runners including Dave Lucas who was a friend of mine and who I would be competing against in Oregon. Dave was always a very fast starter. You couldn't let him get away from you, you better be ready to mix it up......a gorgeous night in Los Gatos, California but I felt lousy in the warm up. Greg asked me what was wrong. I said "I don't know? I feel dead, Like I am getting the flu or something" ..What do you want to do he asked? "I want to race, I am here, I am going to go for it" ...I completed my strides and a hard 300 as I would always do minutes before the race...Adrenaline took over and the race began.....DL took it out hard real hard and I was soon in 5th place, the first 400 in 62......"he'll come back, he has to come back"....Hammer encouraged me at the 700 meter mark with two laps to go and the flu feeling was forgotten and I felt relaxed and ready...I had to run well, this was the last memory I will have before Oregon.....I inched closer in the penultimate lap, sitting in 4th place at the bell and I unleashed with everything I had, hitting the front with 150 meters to go and winning going away.....Greg asked me if I knew what my last lap had been? I confessed I did not..."60.00 flat" he said....."You are ready" That meant the world to me......I ran a PR 4.01 that night....
Track Town USA
It was a dream for me to finally get to see the University of Oregon Campus...I had read and seen so much about it....my coach Greg was 5th here in 1972 in the Olympic Marathon trials, minutes before Pre won the famed 5,000 meter trial to send him to the infamous and tragic Munich Games..
I felt calm and assured come race time for my Heat..Top two from each heat and the next fastest six runners advanced to the final the next evening....just keep out of trouble and let DL lead you to the promised land I told myself and it played out beautifully in perfect weather...DL and I essentially crossed the line together although they gave the win to me by a hair (see below)....we embraced post race and cooled down together after watching the second of the two Heats. The winner of the other Heat Scott King ran a tad slower than us in 4.18 but looked effortless in so doing....On the cooldown I told DL that King looked dangerous....
It seemed to be an excruciatingly long time for the next evening to come...I completed my warm up, strides and 300 on the warm up track and then gave my girlfriend Kathleen a hug and a kiss and made my way to the staging area to wait our turn....the time was here and it was great temperatures but considerably more windy than the night before with a gusty swirling wind mostly in our faces on the back stretch....Each athlete was introduced by name and country.. there were athletes from across the world, specifically I remember Russia and Peru.....We were off and DL took off and I settled into third place and tracked DL all the way..Scott King and Steve James were off my shoulder..I was not prepared for what happened next..suddenly and inexplicably my friend and fellow Californian Dave Lucas stepped off the track at 500 meters with a 1000 meters to go...to say it spooked me is an understatement..the next 200 was just a matter of trying to recompose and at the 700 meter mark with two laps to go I surged to the front...it was a mistake....I wanted to push the pace which felt a little slow but the wind was strong and I was using energy I did not need to use, heading down the back stretch for the penultimate time, King was on my shoulder, I had not shaken him so I eased back and settled for controlling the race from the front.....around the turn and headed down the home stretch with approaching a lap to go I could see Kathleen in the stands in the front row adjacent to the finish line, screaming....this was it GP, this was your time, your chance, your moment,to emulate your idol on the track that he had built, that he owned....I surged with 400 to go to the 300 meter mark, I opened up a step on King but he was there, but I had the step and I had the inside track....down the back stretch and into the wind for the last time- many races this past summer and well over a thousand miles of training for a 1500 meter race that was truly years in the making- I had come a long way since that ten minute mile time trial in March of 1990- I knew if I got to the 200 meter mark first I could close in 29 seconds, I had done it time and time again in training- King would have to run 28 high, almost world record pace and I did not think he could do it, 200 to go and I took off, fired 'one bullet' and did not look back.....I drove for home and I could see Kathleen jumping up and down with her arms held high, I could see the shadows on the track and I was not going to be denied, I closed in on the finish line and whooshed past the line in 4.07.64 and King held on for second in 4.08.28... I had done it....I had reached the top of the mountain- I had achieved my own personal Holy Grail and it felt fantastic and to do it in the House of 'Pre' was more than I could ever have asked for or dreamed of... I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kathleen, to Dave Lucas, to Greg Brock and all of my amazing training partners without whom I would never even have made the starting line and of course to the legend for showing me the way, Mr Steve Prefontaine !
Walk in peace and let the good times roll !
Prep races for the Nike World Games
The morning after I won my heat- the final was a few hours later after this picture was taken
There was some hellacious workouts that summer to ready for the track meet
Paying homage to my idol !
Was it real? Had I really one...and was I really alone on my cool down after all had left after the closing ceremonies...
Some tough races along the way in prep for the 1500
I had to work hard outside the lines to optimize my strength
A Mizuno photo shoot from that time period
Relaxing after a track workout in Santa Cruz, California
Wharf to Wharf Race 1998
Surreal to see my name at the top of the famed scoreboard after my Heat the evening before the final
I achieved my 'Holy Grail' ..the top of my mountain, 1500 Meter Champion with my fantastic opponents Scott King and Steve James- This won is for you Pre...thanks for the inspiration !