Reviving the Dream: Episode 5

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Although this Dickensian phrase serves as the opening line of the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, it very well could be used to describe my fitness test results on Saturday at Dynamo Trials 2011 presented by Lloyd’s Register.

It was at least three months ago that I first joked that I wanted to participate in Dynamo Trials, but it was not until a few weeks ago that I really decided to commit myself and work hard to improve my fitness. Looking back, I probably could have used a few more weeks of intense workouts to prepare myself for the tryout.

As you probably have guessed by now, I did not advance beyond the fitness portion of the Dynamo tryout, let alone make it to the stage where I could play a game against the Academy U-18 squad, the very squad that helped me get in shape for my tryout. That is not to say, though, that I didn’t have what I consider a respectable showing. I certainly left the Houston Amateur Sports Park with my head held high and my pride still intact.

I had three goals heading into Saturday’s tryout. The first goal was to not quit. The second goal was to not throw up. The third goal was to advance to Sunday’s skills competition. Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

The first test on Saturday was a speed/quickness test. Trialists were asked to run five yards (and back), 10 yards (and back), 15 yards, 20 yards, and 25 yards, before sprinting back to the starting line. To receive a perfect, five-point score on this run, you needed to finish the course in 25 seconds or less. If you finished the test in 26 seconds you got four points, 27 seconds equaled three points, 28 seconds equaled two points, 29 seconds equaled one point, and 30 seconds or above equaled zero points. I knew going into the tryout that this would probably be my weakest exercise. I have short legs and can move them quickly over longer distances, but my agility needs a lot of work, and I wasted a lot of time on the turns, especially after five and 10 yards.

I finished this first test in 29 seconds, so after one exercise I had one point. I knew going in I needed at least seven or eight points to advance, so with two tests left, I really needed to step things up.

The second test was a speed/endurance test. It was similar to the first test but over a longer distance. We started off by sprinting 50 yards (and back), 40 yards (and back), 30 yards, 20 yards, then 10 yards, and back to the starting line. I felt a little more comfortable with this exercise, since I knew I would not have to make sharp turns after the shorter distances. I finished this test in 57 seconds, which was good enough for a full five points. Through the first two exercises, I had six points, with only the five-minute run left.

The five-minute run was a true test of endurance. In this test, each person had to run 50 yards and back as many times as they could in five minutes. Every 100 yards that you ran counted as one lap. In order to receive even one point on this test, you needed to complete 13 laps.

Although my tryout was not scheduled until 10 a.m., I arrived at the park around 9:15 a.m. and I had the opportunity to watch some of the earlier groups run. I found this beneficial, because I was able to watch others run the five-minute run and work on my own strategy. Some participants went out strong from the get-go hoping to finish as many laps as possible before fatigue kicked in. Other participants went out at a slower, more steady pace, hoping to conserve their legs for a final kick. To get the two points I would need to put myself in a position to advance, I needed to complete 14 laps, which was an average of 21.4 seconds per lap.

With Dynamo co-worker Adrian Moses as my coach, I set out on the five-minute run. Every time I completed a lap, Adrian would tell me my pace. I managed to finish my first three runs at a pace of 21 seconds and felt great. Over the course of the next few runs, though, my times got slower and slower to the point where I was averaging 28 seconds per lap. At this point, I was just concerned with finishing strong and getting to my original - more achievable - goal of 12 laps.

With less than 25 seconds to go, and 11 laps under my belt, I turned for what I knew would be my last lap. At that point I would have been happy with just reaching the other side and finishing with 11.5 laps. My feet were really dragging, and by the time I reached Adrian at the turn, the clock was at 4:50. By the time I was able to turn, the clock was at 4:53. I'm not sure what happened at this point - it's possible I blacked out - but with Adrian screaming words of encouragement, I mustered enough energy to hit the nitrous oxide button and finished the final 50 yards as time expired.

As soon as I crossed the line, I collapsed on the ground, knowing I did not reach the score I needed, but happy that I gave it my all and never stopped running.

By the end of the day, 31 participants had recorded a score of eight points or more and had advanced to the skills test on Sunday. I offer hearty congratulations to those participants, as I know from personal experience how difficult it was to achieve that type of score.

Although I wish I could have advanced to the skills test on Sunday, I knew by the time I crossed the finish line of my five-minute run that it was not in the cards. While I’ll never know if my skills were good enough to advance to the game against the Dynamo Academy, I do know that after the past couple weeks of training, my fitness is light-years ahead of where I was previously. That was evident when I played an outdoor game Sunday morning, an indoor game Sunday night, and felt fresh by the time I woke up Monday morning.

In the end, I accomplished two of the three goals I set for myself, and I came close enough on the third that maybe the dream isn’t dead yet. With that said, it’s time to get back on the horse, continue my training, and I’ll see you next year at Dynamo Trials 2012!

I would like to wish a special thank you to James Clarkson, Scot Fraser, John DeWitt, and the entire Dynamo Academy for allowing me to train with both the U-16 and U-18 squads. I learned a tremendous amount about fitness training, as well as the game of soccer, from both the players and coaches, and without them this venture would not have been possible.

Related articles:
Reviving the Dream: Episode 1
Reviving the Dream: Episode 2
Reviving the Dream: Episode 3
Reviving the Dream: Episode 4