Once again CU Track & Field/Cross Country star Jenny Barringer will be blogging from Europe leading up to the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships August 15-23. Barringer returns to the Buffs in August for her final cross country season this fall. (Check out www.Flotrack.org for interviews/race coverage and much more.)
Have you ever played a musical instrument? Take the piano for example. You sit down at a bench and press the keys. Really, how hard could it be?
First, there's the craft. When you plop down on the bench and raise one finger to strike your first key, lying before you are eighty eight keys to choose from. Each of those eighty eight keys is attached to a hammer that then strikes not one, not two, but three finely tuned strings. That's 264 strings. Then, there are three pedals on the floor that can be skillfully timed and negotiated to reduce the number of strings the hammer strikes (by shifting the entire keyboard), or increase resonance by eliminating the stop. See, it's all very intricate once you look inside.
Second, there is the execution. Anyone, from a toddler to a virtuoso, can take a perfectly tuned Steinway and produce dissonance. But, someone that is knowledgeable about the instrument, the patters, the rhythm; a person that is a student of the discipline, can also navigate those keys to make beautiful music. Further, there are some who will work their entire lives slaving at the craft that they love and will never be a protege or a virtuoso. They will put in their 100,000 hours and never be called a savant. Practice and passion but is this their purpose?
This season behind me is one to savor. Those who know the sport or know me are aware of the leaps I have taken and the pride with which I will be returning to the States tomorrow. The road from Beijing to Berlin has been long but I'm sad it's already over. I'm still learning, I'm still practicing, I'm still finding more within myself. The best is yet to come, I know that for sure, but I also know that while I still feel the vibrations of the final note to my song this year, no other future music will be quite the same.
August 8th, 2008 I stepped into my very first Olympic stadium. I marched into the “bird’s nest” accompanied by hundreds of other USA athletes and following the Stars and Stripes, carried by our own Lopez Lomong. It was such an incredible experience of pride and opportunity. I could hear the booming fireworks, see the crowd of thousands, feel the expectation, and smell the competition ahead. The noise was deafening as the Chinese and Olympic crowd welcomed us into the stadium. We walked a lap of the track and circled the very place where champions would be made in the coming weeks. The memory that sticks with me a year later is the emotion rather than the sight. It was truly a “moment” to remember over just a visual memory.
August 15th and 17th, 2008 I reentered the stadium to lap the track a total of fifteen more times. Despite being far out of the medals, those laps resulted in two great runs and an overall performance I could be very proud of.
July 31st, 2009 I raced in the 1912 Olympic stadium in Stockholm, Sweden. It was my first Super Grand Prix race of my life. It was a dramatic run inside my head. Nothing happened as I expected. As I clipped off one lap after the other I was experiencing an emotional rollercoaster. After leading, I was swallowed up by a pack of runners and had to fight against the emotional white flag I was ready to hoist. That temptation was sufficiently pummeled when the final lap bell sounded, triggering a bell in my own head to finish strong. The victory was sweet because I knew I had beaten my toughest challenger- my own mind.
Yesterday, I entered the third Olympic stadium of my career and all in just the past year. I raced in Beijing, then in Stockholm, and yesterday I went to visit the stadium here in Berlin. The site of the 1936 Olympics with such greats as Jesse Owens, it was an honor to walk the long tunnel from the practice fields into the stadium. What I noticed right away is that the stadium feels like it has a Greek feel but at the same time it’s very modern. I took a lap on the bright blue surface and watched the busyness of set-up. Cameras being positioned, children being taught how to walk the baskets to the finish line, banners being hung, the steeple barrier yet to be put into place. It was fun to see the seats empty and all of the energy concentrated right around the track. The stadium is beautiful. It has long straights and the open oval sky is gorgeous on a clear day.
I’m so excited and energized about this weekend. I’m coming down a little though. I’ve got a lot to focus on. There’s a job to be done. It’s fun, but it’s got to be total business for the next few days. If things play out right, I hope third’s the charm.
Whenever I travel I can’t help but notice what other people are wearing. I speculate at whether the horrors I see are what are soon to invade the US or the dated looking trends are in fact the garb we trashed two seasons ago. I remember when I was in Paris two years ago Heather and I were on the subway and we kept running into women with large crimped hair and brightly colored tights. We couldn’t help but fear that the 80’s were going to cycle back! Since I’ve been here in Germany there have been some other trends that have been just as shocking. Immediately, the gladiator sandals jump out as a very popular trend here. I know they’ve already made their way to the states and along many red carpets but I’m from Boulder; my shoe fashion sense is sheltered by a population of clip-on cycling shoes, keens, running trainers, and climbing gear. Until the fall semester when the trendy Cali students get back to campus, we won’t know of the latest and greatest. Another frightening encounter was when Heather and I were in the largest department store in all of Berlin, KaDeWe. We bumped into a rack of pants that looked oddly shaped. Holding them up we realized that they were quite literally, hammer pants!!!! It wasn’t an hour before we were back on the subway and started noticing women donning the cumbersome coverings. Look out Boulder, in September it might be Hammer Time!
Another German “fashion”, the way they go about things, could be described as curt, without hesitation, and always adequate. The way things are done here are with purpose and without distraction. Driving here is an aggressive sport. You’ve gotta be on your toes (partly meaning toes to the floorboard) and aware in order to navigate the roads. Drivers don’t hesitate, especially for pedestrians, but at the same time they are 100% compliant of laws. They don’t run red lights or even risk it and they will shake a finger at jaywalkers. Cyclists are similar. Stay out of their lane, don’t expect them to yield, but they too play strictly by the rules. On the same note, I’ve found that the German waiters and other service people are always on top of their job and willing to help but they are brief. They’re never rude, so maybe curt isn’t fair. They offer every service but often without the smile.
My own fashion has been totally focused on training the past few days. I had a lot of fun touring around Berlin the first week I was here and now I’m ready to buckle down and get this thing started. I had a good session on the track this morning and I’m feeling psychologically ready to go. I’m excited about where my fitness is and what it can do for the steeples coming up. I’m beginning to miss the team though. Ladies, I miss you tons. I found some rice krispie treats, so I’m going to be ok over here.
So, I heard the word is out. I ran 2:02.56 tonight in Cottbus and got third in the race. I'll give you the play-by-play but with the understanding that when you're IN the race it's sometimes difficult to know exactly how the race is unfolding. So, I'll give you my account conceding that it's my own perspective and not objective:
The gun went off just in time to prevent the ulcer that was beginning to develop in my stomach while I was waiting for the race to begin. I was as nervous as ever. Everyone took off, a lot faster than I'm used to, and I was in close pursuit. It got pretty physical up front, as is to be expected, but I was in a good position and able to ease my way onto the rail and tuck right onto the shoulder of the rabbit just before the 200m mark. I had to make a critical decision in those first 28 seconds over whether I was going to be aggressive and really put my nose in it, or let others dictate the race. The start list had several sub-2 women and a few 2 minute women. So, to little surprise and the delight of my coaches, I chose to put my nose in it. I came through right behind the rabbit in about 59 high, a little slower than the rabbit was instructed but probably perfect for me. The next turn I just tried to stick to the rabbit and then she pulled off shortly after 500 meters. I pushed the straight as best I could and was surprised at how well I could hear my coaches with 200 meters to go. The clock clicked over to 1:30 and with Mark's brief encouragement I just tried to hold my form and hang on. With about 70 meters to go a group of women surrounded me and we all fought to the finish. I didn't have quite enough to pull off the win but came through in a time I was very happy with. I've been training for the steeple and just a few weeks ago I PRed in the 5k. To come out here tonight and run an aggressive 800m (in just my fourth 800 ever) and run another PR in a very very different race, I was really happy with that. I ran through the line and immediately started paying the fines of oxygen debt. I felt like I was having a heart attack and milled around for a while like as lost 5k runner that was just experiencing the pain of an 800m race :).
The race was a lot of fun and let me tell you, Cottbus thought they won the lottery. The USA men's and women's 4x100 teams came and ran at the meet as well. The men ran right before me and it was fun to watch them before I took off. I figured that they would quickly be loading the bus and on their way back to the hotel (I drove separately with my coaches). I was humbled and elated when I came around that first curve and both teams and some of the USA staff were right there on the rail screaming their lungs out for me. When I came back around at 450m and in the lead, they were as loud as ever. It really meant the world to me that they were there cheering for me and excited about my race.
As I have elevated through the levels of Track and Field in many ways it becomes a totally different sport. The time that separates the good and the great becomes more narrow. That little extra effort can pay out a lifetime of glory. The time between intervals becomes less and the time you improve from race to race becomes smaller. The stress is high and the expectations have no limit. Different things shift and become more narrow or less forgiving. It can seem like a different world. But, there are some things that never change. It was so great to have my USA team cheering me on in my race today, even though it was a dinky meet. I still want the comfort and consultation of my coaches before a race no matter how big or small. What is it like to be in Berlin preparing for the World Championships? It's a lot like your favorite week of traveling with the track team to the state meet or those college cross country meets with team meals and the guy's and girl's teams cheering for each other. It's a team here and a lot of the things we appreciate are not far removed from our own high school and college years. As the level changes so do many aspects of the sport but, for me, there's a familiar thread that runs through it all.
I moved into the athlete hotel yesterday evening. It's fun to watch the athletes and staff all begin to gather in one place. The atmosphere of the World Championships really begins here in the hotels with the athletes in lounges, playing the Wii, typing away on the internet and physio in the next room. There's nothing like being with the whole team preparing for our events, watching each other race and just experiencing the whole trip together.
I went out to the track for an easy shake-out today. I'm excited to race tomorrow but I know it's far from my specialties and it's going to hurt a lot differently then my usual events. My understanding is that it's a small meet though so the low-key atmosphere and the presence of both of my coaches should make it a fun event.
Being here in Berlin has been more interesting than I imagined. It's really an incredible city to be in and travel around. There really isn't a central part to Berlin. There are a lot of things to see and a lot of history to learn about and explore but it is spread out all over the city. I've had a lot of fun navigating the subway system with Heather and seeing a lot of the landmarks I briefly scanned in high school history books. I've been reading a little about the history of Berlin including the Prussian history, WWI and WWII, the Wall and the communisty East bloc. This place is rich with reminders and relics.
My 800 is tomorrow in the evening, 5:45 last I heard. So, send me some good vibes and I'll do my best. After that I hope to put up some stories to make you laugh. I'm usually good for a few of those. As for now, I'm about to embark on my first laundry attempt.
To my family: Sorry it has taken me so long to get to a computer. I have had very limited internet access up to this point. But, here I am :) and I'll take a minute to catch everyone up.
Heather and I left Boulder on the 26th of July and flew into Stockholm, Sweden. We traveled and settled in with ease. My first race was the D.N. Galan Super Grand Prix meet on the 31st where I competed in the 5k. I experienced a really fun success being able to pull out a win despite getting caugh by a pack, ending my early lead, in the late stages of the race. The only tiny hint of disappointment was in missing the sub-15 mark. At this point, I was hoping to be able to write 14:something in the record books, but the pace was never up to that speed. With a 15:05 and the victory, we roamed and enjoyed Stockholm for one more day before flying down to Berlin, Germany.
I'm here in Berlin now and am preparing for an 800m race in Cottbus, Germany before I race in the Worlds the following week. The 800m race will be on the 8th of Aug. Things are going really well. I'm happy and healthy and excited for what is to come.
Today is a bit busy. Coach Wetmore arrived as I am packing up to leave my current hotel to move in with the athletes for the Worlds.
Sorry this update is all business and no fun. I'll try to get some stories in soon.