His six-course brunch was fit for a king - and his court. It was followed by a three-hour nap, but gluttony and sloth are not what made Michael Phelps a celebrated athlete.
A day in the life of the fastest all-around swimmer ever consists of intense hours of training and an equally serious commitment to caloric consumption and rest. His day develops like the directions on a shampoo bottle: awake, eat, train, eat, rest.
From the mountains of Kenya to America's suburbs, the rhythm is familiar to endurance athletes. Marathon runners, cyclists and swimmers practice, then replenish their bodies and resume a horizontal position as quickly as possible.
His training base, the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, has a track record of producing Olympic gold, so how does Phelps' routine differ?
Phelps, 18, lives in Rodgers Forge with his mother. His transportation is distinctly American, a sport utility vehicle with a sound system that elicits admiration from fellow teens and glares from middle-aged motorists.
Phelps was still settling into a new schedule on Sept. 16, when The Sun trailed him through a typical day on the road to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he expects to have a starring role.
Some of his friends from Towson High's Class of 2003 are college freshmen, away at campus. Phelps had planned to take a course or two at Loyola College this fall, but demands on his time increased after he made history twice in the span of three days in July at the world championships in Barcelona, Spain.
In this pre-Olympic year, there aren't enough hours to be a part-time student. Two years after signing an endorsement deal with Speedo, he is a full-time professional athlete.
"I get more sleep now," Phelps said. "Theoretically, that should turn into better practices, which hopefully will turn into faster times."
That splash you heard is world-class swimmers diving for cover. There are 13 individual events on the Olympic schedule. Over 18 days in the just completed summer, Phelps set world records in four of them, and the American mark in two others.
Phelps descends the staircase of his Hopkins Road townhouse and offers a groggy good morning. For five years, an average of four times a week, he has practiced twice a day.
A bowl of cereal quiets his stomach, then goes in the kitchen sink, where the milk is lapped up by Savannah, one of his two cats. Phelps pulls on a fleece to ward off the pre-dawn chill, steps into a pair of sneakers, grabs his keys and heads to work.
The accessories on the dash of his 2000 Cadillac Escalade include a touch-screen CD changer and television. He does not check traffic reports or drive-time shock jocks. Phelps' psychological preparation in Barcelona included an Eminem track on his Walkman; this morning, he slips in a Notorious B.I.G. disc.
"Too early for the other stuff," Phelps said. "Compared to that, this is relaxing."
The late rapper weaves an ominous tale of drugs and violence, a vicarious brush with street credibility for Phelps. It's 3.4 miles from his home to the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center, and by 6:50 Phelps is stretching on the pool deck. As a masters group concludes its practice, he jokes with coach Bob Bowman.
More than 550 times a year, Phelps and the other members of the NBAC's senior elite group do interval training. There are infinite permutations involving distance, the number of repetitions, the target time for each repeat, the stroke used and gadgets employed. The particulars of a set are written in grease pencil on a board, albeit in a language foreign to non-swimmers.
The fifth of sixth lines reads "400 PB LB By 100 5:30." That's 400 yards with a pool buoy between the upper thighs. Each 100 yards, the number of strokes per breath increases, hence LB, "lung buster." The set must be completed in 5 minutes, 30 seconds. That is one portion of the morning's warm-up.
"I'm sore," Kevin Clements says.
"You are?" Bowman answers. "Congratulations. Goal attained. Everyone should be sore today, because yesterday was hard."
A native of California, Clements was third at the 2000 Olympic trials, a spot shy of going to Australia. Now, he is the second-fastest American ever in the 200-meter individual medley, behind only Phelps, the world-record holder.
The session also includes Marianne Limpert, a 30-year-old Canadian seeking her third Olympics; Timonium's Emily Goetsch, the reigning national champion in the 100 butterfly, who has delayed her freshman year at the University of Southern California to prepare for 2004; and Jamie Barone, a breaststroker who has qualified for the U.S. trials.
Sunlight finally peaks over a ridge in Roland Park, down into the Jones Falls Valley, through a stand of sycamores and into the indoor facility where the NBAC trains. The real workout begins.