BEIJING — Unable to call on uncooperative legs to deploy his patented late-race kick, Josh McAdams accepted well before the finish of 3,000-meter steeplechase heat that Saturday morning's qualifying effort would be his sole Beijing Olympics track experience.
McAdams, who won the 2006 NCAA steeplechase while at BYU and later added the 2007 U.S. Outdoors and 2007 Pan American Games titles, finished ninth in the third and final steeplechase heat with a time of 8:33.26.
South Africa's Ruben Ramolefi won the heat at 8:19.86, and Ethiopia's Yakob Jarso posted the day's best time at 8:16.88. The top four in each heat advance to Monday night's finals, along with the three next-fastest finishers overall.
"It went perfectly, the race was just the way I wanted it ... it went out slow, playing to my kick," McAdams said. "But with three laps left, I just didn't have it.
"My legs ... I don't know if it was the heat," he added, "and I think part of it was I may have been a little dehydrated. By now, I should have known better."
He went NASCAR to find an analogy.
"Just like a race car, every now and then you get a little bit of engine trouble, or the tires aren't working right or out of balance."
But his attitude is far from the pits.
"A fantastic experience," he said. "I'm not going to let (the race results) spoil my Olympics experience. Just to make it here was a great feat. I've got two or three days here with my family, and I'm going to make the best of it."
McAdams stated the race towards the back of the pack in the field of 13, staying within 10-15 meters of the leaders for the first five and a half laps.
With less than two laps left, the gaps became more substantial — and more difficult to overcome.
"I tried picking it up the last lap," he said. "As soon as I finished, I could feel that my calves weren't there."
McAdams hopes to return for a second Summer Games, having learned from his debut and wanting to be at top form.
"That's what separates the good ones form the great ones," he said. "The great ones — the top four guys today — they had it, and they have it every day. That's what I'm working towards, feeling great every day.
From Beijing, he'll take home two memorable National Stadium experiences — the opening ceremonies and his race.
"The opening ceremonies really were something spectacular," he said, "coming out from under the tunnel and then looking and seeing all the people the stadium — that was incredible."
It was a similar sight coming out on the track for his heat.
"I took a minute and looked around and noticed all the fans again," he said. "I don't think it got my nerves. I think I was ready for it, and that's what made it spectacular — to go out there and see it and soak it up."
McAdams returns to Provo on Aug. 22, and within two days heads off with his wife, Whitney, who is expecting their first child, to Memphis, where he'll start optometry school less than two days after their arrival.
And then it's back to logging base mileage by the fall, striving to sustain a pro career and hopefully return for the 2012 London Games.