Alan Webb, Version 2.0

Photo: Steve Bonini

The talented track star is hoping to revitalize his career by moving up to longer distances.

During a five-week altitude stint at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Alan Webb and his new training partners are playing volleyball according to their own rules. Instead of hitting one leather ball over the net, they are two-handedly tossing, and trying to catch, three 10-pound medicine balls at a time. The contest is a strength-training workout disguised as a game, one of a variety of cross-training schemes employed by coach Jerry Schumacher. The group’s accomplished elder statesmen — Matt Tegenkamp, Chris Solinsky, Lopez Lomong and Webb — have been pitted against its younger but very talented core, which includes Evan Jager, Chris Derrick and Elliot Heath. Neither side is particularly graceful — nor overpowering, given their skinny physiques — but these grown men in spandex are taking the game seriously enough to keep an official score.

Webb’s team is losing badly, and let it be said he hates to suffer defeat — in anything. Once, after being dominated by his pregnant wife, Julia, in a game of UNO last summer, Webb was so upset he threw the cards down, cursed and stormed out of the room. Nothing like that is happening here. In fact, Webb appears to be grinning. It’s one of those half-cocked smiles that display more amusement than genuine happiness. He seems to have already rationalized his team’s loss — lack of proper coordination and height — and appears to be asking himself if this made-up game of volleyball can possibly provide any sort of workout. Sure, he decides. It’s awesome, actually, and if it’s good enough for Olympians Tegenkamp, Lomong and Jager, and the hard-knuckled Solinsky, then it should work for him, too. At this point in his 16-year career, Webb is ready to try something new.

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