Aug. 24, 2009
Former Husky nine-time All-American Ryan Brown earned a spot on Team USA this summer and traveled to Berlin, Germany for his first ever World Championships appearance. He graciously agreed to document his trip for GoHuskies.com. Below is the second installment, covering his 800-meter race on Thursday and another Usain Bolt world record.
Hello again from Berlin. It's been quite the trip so let me get started.
Since Tuesday, when I last wrote, quite a bit has happened. I raced, saw another world record and experienced much that Berlin has to offer. So I'll start with Wednesday.
Wednesday was the day before my race so it was my plan to just relax and try not to think too much about the prospect of running in front of 50,000+ people. I did a little sightseeing which included seeing Checkpoint Charlie, a monument to the cold war era of Berlin. It basically turned out to be little more than a check-in booth in the middle of a busy intersection. I don't completely understand the history behind it, but interesting nonetheless. I took a quick glimpse at Brandenburg gate and the German Reich Stag, kind of like their Washington monument and Capitol building, respectively. Despite the temptation to go all tourist, I still had to race so just a quick couple of snap shots and I went back to the hotel to relax.
After what amounts to months of anticipation and preparation the day had finally arrived. Thursday I would make my debut in major international competition. It's the pinnacle of the sport of Track and Field so I was very excited to get to it, like getting my first start in the big leagues. My race was at noon, so I had to get up pretty early to eat and just make sure my body was alert and ready to perform. That was a plus for me because anyone who runs track will tell you that one of the hardest parts is waiting around all day thinking about your race. It's nerve racking. So as soon as my feet hit the floor it was one task after another until I got down to the bus at 8:30 to roll to the track.
Obviously the meet is a pretty big deal. With that comes the unwritten rule in track that, the bigger the meet, the earlier you get called in to the tent to go race. At the world championships it turns out they need you a full 40 minutes before the gun goes off. So at around 1:20 a.m. in Seattle, I began jogging to warm up for my race. It was 10:20 here, but it seems more dramatic when I put it the other way. During the warm-up I felt great, but I wouldn't say so whenever coach Metcalf asked. It's a superstition I have and I think he understands. I was even excited to get out there and run. Having the best guys in the world around can get you pumped up. After being called in, you are marched down this loooooooong tunnel which takes you into the bowels of the stadium and led into a little room where they basically read you your rights and you put on your shoes and jerseys. Then we were marched out of the tunnel and around the outside of the track to a waiting area by the starting line. When we came out of the tunnel, I felt like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. You can feel the energy flowing through the stadium, it's no wonder why such big performances come from meets like this.
I drew the third of seven first round heats for the day. The top three in each race automatically qualified to the next round and the three fastest times after that got to advance also. The main goal was to get top three. That would be a tall order considering I was ranked 5th of 7 runners in my race. Included in there were a former Olympic Gold medalist from Russia, and the silver medalist from the last World Championships, Gary Reed from Canada. So in my mind I was running for third, which made it seem easier because now I only had to beat 3 guys. There was the only German 800 runner in the competition in my race as well, so I had to be wary of him since the Germans have done some pretty crazy things off the energy of their hometown support.
The race went out fast and was going well until about 450 meters in, when the German runner tripped over his own feet and took a spill. I happened to be right behind him at that point and channeled my inner Barry Sanders to get around him. I regained position close to the leaders but they were a little too much for me at the end. I ended up 5th in my race with a time of 1:46.92. Not bad. At the time I was ranked second and slated to advance on time. I was pretty pessimistic about my chances of that holding up since there were so many heats left. My time held up until the very last heat where I ended up being bumped out by 0.26 seconds. Probably the amount of time lost when I made my hurdle. Either way, the racing experience was FANTASTIC. The energy in there made it feel like I was floating around the track.
After the race you go through a media area and I told anyone I could how happy I was to be there. But the German media wanted to know why I knocked their runner down. I said emphatically that I didn't touch him (which I didn't) because I've seen those fans and I wanted to make it out of the stadium alive.
After getting my clothes on and getting back to the warm-up area, it hit me that my racing experience here was over. I was pretty disappointed because the next round was during a night session, where the spotlight is even brighter and the atmosphere more intense. But beyond that I was extremely happy to have gotten the opportunity, so you can't be too upset when it doesn't completely go your way.
Usain Bolt broke another world record. This time in the 200. I say it so casually because it seems like he can do it at will. The meet is by far the coolest and best meet I've ever been to. At first I credited this to the fact that I had never been to one like this before, but everyone seems to be saying that this event is top notch. Another event that highlighted the night was the women's high jump. It is where I saw something that I never thought was possible.
In track, especially the field events, spectators customarily participate by rhythmically clapping for the athlete as they throw or jump. This night, the high jump was getting hot and there was a German involved, so everyone was into it. On her final attempt at clearing a height that two others had already cleared, the German jumper had the attention of the whole stadium. All 70,000 clapping in unison. It was a deafening noise. As her face appeared on the big screens in the stadium, she looked focused and determined. Then she put her finger to her lips to quiet the crowd. I guess she wanted complete concentration. It went from crazy loud, to scary silent in two seconds. And she made the height. It promptly went back to crazy loud and the series of events in total was epic. It was like someone had written that scene for a movie, except that it was real life and nobody saw it coming. I can't really do it justice other than to say that I guess you had to be there. This meet is awesome.
I guess the silver lining of getting knocked out of competition was that now I could finally be a tourist. There's a ton to see in Berlin and I wanted to at least see half of it. Friday it rained, so I relaxed and recouped from the emotion of competition and the high drama watching the meet. But Saturday was a whole different ballgame.
I have a friend, Stacy, who is staying in Holland this summer so she made the trip to come to my race. So we decided to "do" Berlin. The marathon was on Saturday morning, so we started with that in Pottsdamer Platz, basically the city center of Berlin. From there we made a trip to the Kaiser Wilhelm church I had discovered earlier in the week which is a super place. There's a new church next to it with all these small stained glass windows and a big crucifix scene that is really cool to look at. It's like an LCD screen but glass and huge.
After that we decided to go to see the Berlin wall and I was somewhat disappointed. It is just, a wall. There was some cool murals that had just been done on parts because it's the 20 year anniversary of the end of the cold war, so that made it a little better. While we were down there, there was some headbanger festival going on where they had these big trucks full of speakers with a DJ on the back just rolling down the street. They were pounding that crazy German techno thunder music with hundreds of people walking behind the trucks wearing all black, drinking beer and moshing. I was afraid for my safety so we cut our trip a little short there.
After all that noise and the gravity of the cold war, we felt like we needed to escape. Stacy kept dropping hints about this beer garden in Tiergarten park that she read about in her Berlin guide book. Beer gardens are very common here. Every restaurant seems to have a patio and many places just have a beer garden. They are very liberal with beer here in Germany. The stereotypes seem to have been founded in truth. You can buy beer at the train station, drink it on the train, drink it in the park, on the sidewalk, anywhere. They even sell beer out of little carts on the road like espresso stands. Anyway, Tiergarten Park is huge, like Central Park, but it looks like the arboretum by UW. The beer garden was tucked in a little corner of the park next to a picturesque little lake, complete with rowboats, swans and beach chairs. I felt like we had stumbled upon paradise. It was quiet, there was food, beer, kids running around and no waiters to bother you. It was cafeteria style, but a nice cafeteria. We hung out there for hours, rode a row boat. But I somehow dropped and lost 50 Euro, so that hurts a little still. But in retrospect a small price to pay for paradise.
When it was dark, we went back to Pottsdamer Platz to have dinner at the Sony center. A cool building that from the inside kind of looks like the space needle suspended upside down in the sky. It changes color every couple of minutes and is just cool. We checked out the Brandenburg gate lit up at night, and took more pics of the Reich Stag. And then back home. A grand total of 12 hours straight. Berlin had been officially "done".
I leave for Seattle in a bit and I'm sad. I have had such a wonderful time seeing Berlin, watching the meet and just soaking up the experience. The slogan for the event this week was "Have a good time." I can honestly say I did just that. Thanks, bye!