Where to begin?
Mark has been racing, and training, and clinicing (definitely not a word--until today because my Dunkin Donuts coffee just kicked in and I'm on a roll). Mark raced in Columbia, MO at the Missouri Grand Prix. Columbia is my hometown, therefore it is Mark's hometown-in-law. So the pressure was on. Well, not really... or at least not because of his Columbia connection, but because of all of the hard work he had put in the weeks prior.
Mark had been in Miami for about a week and a half training with a French team (coached by an old college friend) and David Marsh and some of the SwimMAC swimmers prior to the Missouri Grand Prix. He had a blast. And, trained hard. He was in his own world. Eat, sleep, swim, repeat. No wife (nagging or otherwise), no baby, no taxes, no bills, no real life. He loved it and got a chance to really focus on him. He told me yesterday that one of the highlights of the training trip was going to IHOP at 2pm after a long, hard, 11am workout.
So, in Missouri he wasn't quite sure how the hard training (and exhausted body) would fare. Well, it fared well. Mark was second in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke behind Ryo Tateishi. He swam well--looked good. He always says, "Did I look 'long'?" looking for my approval. So, without really knowing what I am talking I always say, "Good race. You looked long."
After swimming the 100 and 200 breaststroke, Mark swam the 200IM (some might find this event strange for Mark, but really the 200IM was Mark's third event in college and he is actually pretty good at it), Mark decided to scratch the finals and spend the afternoon golfing with my father, brother, and Tyler McGill. Fred Bousquet, who was also staying with us at my parents house, did not play golf and instead hung out at the house and helped my mother with the baby as I had already left to come back to Auburn (and work). The next day Mark, Annabelle, and the other Auburn pros came home. Our little family was together for almost 2 full weeks.
A couple of weeks later Mark flew to Indy for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Another good meet and another couple of great swims. Mark beat Kitajima. When I asked him about it he said, "That was fun." We watched from home. After racing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning, Mark drove to St. Louis to watch the last day of the NAIA swimming National championships--his little sister, Cindy, was swimming in her last meet. It was important to Mark to be there for her (go ahead... in unison... "awwww, so sweet!").
(please ignore the Christmas table cloth-our regular is in the wash-and the left over Valentines day decorations around the candle sticks and the less-than-healthy mac-n-cheese and diet coke. This, however, is real life.)
This weekend, because of the lack of together time, Annabelle and I decided to join Mark on the road and attended a clinic that Mark and Josh Davis hosted in Albany, GA. We left the house at 5:45am with a baby (still in her PJs), a box of books (you still haven't purchased one?! Click here), and a trunk full of, well, crap (cooler with the antibiotics for an ear infection, blocks, baby dolls, pak-n-play, swim bag, suit case, yadda, yadda, yadda). After almost 3 hours in the car, we dropped Mark off at the pool in Albany. Annabelle and I went shopping. After a cranky shopping trip we headed back to the pool to catch the tail end of the clinic. We listened to Josh pump up the kids, we watched Mark demonstrate drills, and we watched them both poke fun at each other--what great rapport they have.
During the autograph signing session, a parent (who was wearing an Auburn shirt, so I automatically liked him) came up to me. He said, "Mrs. Gangloff?" Yipes--I felt old. I corrected him. "Ashley." He continued, "Ashley, Mark talked to my son on the pool deck at a meet in Auburn a couple of months ago and it made his day. His year. He came home and called his grandparents to tell them that Mark had talked to him." After a little chit chat the Auburn fan and his son were on their way. Later in the car (we were next on our way to Atlanta to welcome a friend's baby--another Olympic baby--into the world) I told Mark about the Auburn fan and his son. Mark simply said, "This world is too small to not be a good guy."
BAM! It hit me. Mark is a good guy. And he inspires people. And, every once in a while he beats Kitojima. Wow.