Saturday morning broke wet, windy and cold. Francie Larrieu sat at a window table of a downtown Des Moines hotel coffee shop. She was having breakfast and watching Mann and his parade pass on the street outside. Mann was in the lead car, a maroon Eldorado convertible. For the first few blocks the top of the car was up. Tired of trying to wave at the crowd through a window, Mann ordered the driver to lower it. Then he stood in the rain and began waving to the people along the street.
The convertible, thoroughly soaked, passed a squad of small boys standing on a corner. One of them shouted, "Get that car out of the way. We wanna see the clowns."
"Hey," Mann yelled at the driver. "Put the top up, it's raining."
Larrieu had ordered two cups of tea, a bowl of oatmeal and a quarter section of honeydew melon and said that she heard the rain was scheduled to fall all day. "I don't mind that, but I hope it gets warmer," she said, "I can do all right if it isn't too cold."
She also had just discovered that there was a women's 800 on the schedule as well as the 1,500. She checked her airline tickets and figured that if she had a cab waiting after the race, she could run in the 800—an hour after the 1,500—and still make the airport in time for a flight to Los Angeles. "The 800 would be a fun race," she said.
Not too far away, in the hotel lobby, George Woods, too, was thinking about the rain. "It's kind of risky to waste yourself on a meet like this," he said. He shrugged his massive shoulders. "But I guess I have to start somewhere."
It was early in 1975, after finishing third at the AAU indoor championships, that Woods decided to take the rest of the year off. "I just didn't have it," he said. "I didn't feel like putting out any effort. I spent my time experimenting, in building up my antagonistic muscles. It was good for my speed but I found it hurt my timing. It has only been in the last two or three days that I've hit upon a pattern of throwing that feels comfortable."
Two weeks ago in an exhibition at the University of Illinois, Woods put the shot 65'9". He was just trying to determine his condition. He liked the way the test turned out.
"You can't do much this early," he said at Des Moines. "In this country we have a system where you have to peak for the Trials and then try and hold it for a month. The Olympics become almost anticlimactic. That hurt us all at Munich. And anytime you have to live with Brian Old-field for two months, it's got to hurt you. I think he knew he couldn't beat Al [Feuerbach] or me so he was trying to wear us down. We should have turned him loose on the Russians or the East Germans. He was our secret weapon and we used it on ourselves."
That off his mighty chest, Woods watched Larrieu win the 1,500 in 4:18.8. Madeline Manning Jackson finished seventh, but an official, missing the sixth-place finisher, thought it was Jackson.