My flight boarded at 3:37 pm from the Portland International Airport. I left work early but spent enough computer time on Monday and Tuesday so that I wouldn’t need to take vacation time for Wednesday. Gate D3, which contained about two hundred people headed to Minneapolis, harbored the standard assortment of air travelers – some flying with Twins hats affixed to visit family and some venturing to the similarly-sized city of Minneapolis to experience non-northwest breweries. There were also some donning the middle-aged sales executive uniform of slacks, a crew cut, and a nondescript blue collared shirt while yell-speaking into their AirPods about “the IBM contract.” Get this. I was headed to Minneapolis to head to Rochester to head to Des Moines for the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Ryan Sterner met me at the MSP airport and we drove his grandmother’s grocery-getter pick-up to my parent’s house in Rochester. The plan was that we would sleep briefly and then finish the drive to Des Moines in the morning. It is there I would meet with the rest of the CITIUS MAG crew, along with my girlfriend, Eleanor Fulton, who is racing the 1,500m and 5,000m.
In the few days leading up to the trip, it had been warm in Portland, about ninety degrees, coupled with cumulus clouds and a disparate smog-like shroud of atmosphere that somehow changes the tint of sky blue to a slightly more dull-metallic celestial blue. I was reminded of the Midwest which cued the prospect of discussing weather specifics with acquaintances and strangers; “a thunderstorm may roll in around two o’clock,” “it’s supposed to be less humid tomorrow,” and moving from the strictly prescriptive to the vaguely opinionated “I can’t believe they aren’t moving the 10,000m back in this heat.” Sunscreen will serve as one of the main olfactory prompts throughout the trip, along with whatever is the scent obtained by a human after sitting or standing in the sun for more than three hours. In the end, we will finally be rewarded with That Hotel Smell.
I’ll be splitting time between the CITIUS MAG house that the writers/bloggers/photographers/podcasters will be staying and the confines of Eleanor’s moderately-dingy hotel. This marks Eleanor’s fourth consecutive track & field Championships. Despite being 25 years-old and recently PRing in the 800m, this will be her first Championships without a contract. I go into this meet with the same level of brimming optimism for her, because when you witness her put in 20+ hours of training per week while also working a part-time job you are compelled to believe in someone who works that hard. Some pros nap at from noon to two, Eleanor falls asleep on the couch from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. You’ve got to interject some humor into the day-in-and-day-out fatiguing regimen and she’s come to affectionately refer to these as “night-naps.” She’s burdened a bit by not getting paid to run, all the while feeling some pressure of “getting a real job” and “having 4:05 talent” with a 4:10 PR can; I imagine this would weigh heavy sometimes. She’s optimistic about running fast but when you’re in that position of expecting big things from yourself you’ve got to possess a hint of delusional optimism that things will start to click.