Friday, August 8, 2014

USATF Masters Outdoor Championships

The Races and ugly endings

July 18-20, 2014

                                The 400m (did I say I really dislike this distance?)

Warming up is always a quandary.  Will I do too much or too little? Too little and I would be quickly gasping for breath during the race and too much and the legs would just as quickly burn out.  I found a practice football field behind the stadium.  First, I did some of the moving stretching routines I’d found online.  I remembered three -- walk and touch the ground in front of the forward foot; lie down and stretch one leg across the other to the side to stretch the hips, and drop to hands and knees and kick back, slowly (not fast donkey kicks).  Then I started slow trotting around the circumference of the field.  I did that a few times, ending with one short sprint. I was careful not to do any all out sprinting.

On return to the spectator stands where I was hanging out with the Piedmont Pacers and had stashed my gear, I consumed a packet of 2nd Surge Double Expresso Energy gel, then on the track drank some water.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate had been the advice I’d found online along with the pre-race warmup exercises.

There were two race check-ins: the first to declare you were there for the race, and one must do so no later than an hour before the race OR be eliminated, and the second, about twenty minutes before the race.  The various age groups for a race congregate to change shoes and wait until the officials call out the age groups, two at a time.  So I’m carrying my regular shoes, looking for a place to put them when a pal tells me, no,no, we carry them to the start area where we can put them in a basket associated with ones assigned lane. Well, alrighty! 

When I saw that Irene Obera (who has umpteen records) was in the group before mine for the 400m race, I was star dazzled. Previously, I’d encountered her name as a record holder with fantastic times in various age groups.  Their group was a mixed age group (the older one gets, the fewer there are in your AG). There was Obera (80), West Valley Track Club, and Jeanne Daprano (77), Atlanta Track Club (another record holder who, though older, has always beaten me.) I watched them run and Daprano came in first followed by Obera.
Jeanne Daprano Jun 2014

Irene Obera July 20,2014
 I was assigned lane 5, with two competitors to my right, ahead of me, and three behind me to my left, including Mary Robinson, last year’s champ who has faster times than I do.  I had no plan in mind other than to not get too far behind.  At the “Set”, I was not in a classic middle distance runner stance.  Nope.  I knew I would not be tearing up the track, so why burst out? Besides, I wouldn’t last if I did. 

 Bang!  I set out at a pace that seemed okay (I could breathe!) and had passed the two to my right by the first turn.  Along the straight away near the stands, I heard pals urging me on, and the announcer saying I was in the lead (Oh, great! This won’t last long!)  This was disconcerting.  It was not my plan to be in the lead 1/3rd of the way through the race!  I was probably at about an 80% pace, hoping not to experience a loss of energy before the end. There was a long way to go.  I was expecting Mary Robinson to catch and pass me.  As we approached the far turn, I hear that I am in the lead and Mary is second.  (It is odd to hear one’s name in that way!  Especially after watching earlier events and seeing and hearing how the leader was over taken!) 

1/3rd-1/4th done. LG, Robinson, Primmer

 In the turn, as motivation, I intentionally called up the image of a Carolina Godiva pal urging me on as she does during Wednesday night track meets.  I sped up as best I could.  (Good thing, because the video shows Mary right on my heels at that point!) 

Mary Robinson, inner lane,  closing gap

 With about 40 to 50 meters left, the legs began giving out. They burned and felt tight and resistant, with turnover slowing.  Oh, no! By 20 meters out they essentially froze.  I could barely get them to move. Worse than walking, I was going to come to a stop, they were so locked up. Mary was coming on.  I just knew she would pass me any moment as I slowly stumbled forward. The legs were turning to cement.  I was so close to the Finish line but I wouldn’t make it!  By this point, I normally would have given up at a Godiva meet. But this was Masters.  Gasping for air, I willed myself onward, one leg at a time.  I looked down as I stumbled forward.  Aaargh!  I was too close to the right lane line! I swung my right leg wildly over, avoiding going out of lane. Off balance, I stumbled across the Finish before Mary.

 Do you remember Gabriella Andersen-Schiess in the 1984 Olympics Marathon?  She weaved and stumbled to the Finish? That was me.  I wobbled forward, hyperventilating, hoping not to collapse.  Ugly finish.  My worst ever.  I’ve had dead legs before and been gasping, but this was beyond anything in the past.  Far from elegant! I was still off balance even after the finish. (To add insult, photos of my awkward, ugly finish, turned up online on a race site!)  

My time was a PR, beating my prior best from 10 years ago! (1:27.83) But what an ugh! feeling.  

From, photo by Ken Stone of the ugly end to my 400m, with Mary Robinson coming up on me. 

The video from USATF TV

100m Saturday July 19, 2014

My next race was at 09:40 the next morning.  My last minute decision to stay the night equals a decent but non luxurious motel, about 10 minutes from WFU.  No wake up call capability.  I set my cell phone to go off at 07:00.  I did not plan to eat. (Atkins protein shake would do.)  At 07:22 I woke to a distant buzz.  Up I jumped – the cell had been going off since 07:00 but not loud enough!  I got to the track by 8:00, feeling hyper.

I took my warmup to a new field, where others were also busy getting ready.  Some were jumpng practice hurdles. I went through the same routine of walking touching hand to ground, but no lying down and stretching because the grass was too wet.  I jogged, again wondering if I was doing enough.  I took about three trots around adding about two very short sprints.  Enough.

Today, I took a Stinger honey gel about 40 minutes before my event.  Then, down to the track for the second check-in and to change shoes.  I brought my camera to stick in my regular shoe so I could get some photos of the youngsters running after me.I chatted with other runners and met Kathy Bergen (Southern California Striders, aka SC Striders), who was running this event. 

ESPN photo of Kathy Bergen

  This time, as we were being led to the start for the 100m, I see that my compatriots are not carrying their shoes.  Maybe no basket?  So I dropped my shoes along the base of the spectator wall and trot back to the group. Ack! I still had my ball cap on.  Run back to my shoes, drop the hat and run to catch up with the others.  Pros are disciplined and focused.  Not me.  I got lane 5 again.  Each age group started about 3 minutes apart. I watched Obera race ahead of her competitors. One runner (Marion Coffee) suddenly went down.  Tripped on her feet?  She was eventually carried off the track.  This time, Ann Carter (Atlanta Track Club)  was in lane 6 to my right; she has beaten me in the past and also competes in many more events than I do.  Mary Robinson was to my far right in lane 8 and Kathy Bergen to my left in lane 4.  Of the six entered, three of us do not use blocks. Now is the first time I put my new 3-point start to a real test.  Bam!  Off  Kathy Bergen darts.  No chance to get near her. But I knew that ahead of time.  Ann and I are about even, Mary ahead of me. I have no strategy for the 100m, just go as fast as I can and hope to catch up.  I pumped my arms, held my head up to get air and churned. It takes me about 10 meters to get going.  I pass Ann but Mary is still ahead.  I push hard and get even with Mary.  We run like this for about 20 meters it seems and just before the Finish line, I edge ahead of Mary, just crossing before her. Kathy 1st by a huge margin, me 2nd, and Mary 3rd. Tough race but at least I wasn't physically undone as I had been the day before.

100m finish - Kathy Bergen, LG, Mary Robinson,Ann Carter

200m Sunday July 20, 2014

I had driven home Saturday night and returned in the morning for my 11:05 race.  I checked in, dropped my stuff off at the Piedmont Pacer area and went off to practice.  Again, I went through my routine of active stretching and jogging to get my blood flowing and breathing evened out.  With this event (and the 100m) I at least knew I would finish.  Though, there was a time two years earlier, where, at this very track, I had almost come to a walk in the 200m!  During the 2012 Powerade NC State Games, which I was insufficiently trained for due to an ailing Achilles. I’d run an earlier 100m.  By the 200m my legs weakened with 40 meters to go.  I barely managed a slow jog to finish. Nonetheless, it had happened.  I did not think it would today.

Time came for the 200m race.  I carried my shoes, with a camera tucked inside, to a far wall near the Finish line (so I would not have to later run all the way across to get the camera) before walking with the group to the start area.  I got lucky lane 5 again, Kathy Bergen on my left and Mary Robinson on my right. Ann Carter had just come off a triple jump and was still thinking about it.  3-point start position again. Stable. On your mark; Set, Boom!  Kathy led the way to the curve and beyond (bye, Kathy!) I huffed and puffed to try to catch up to Mary, who was way ahead.  It did not seem possible. Head up, arms pumping like mad. It took most of the last 100m to catch up, inching past just before the Finish. Real close!   

200m finish - Kathy Bergen, LG, Mary Robinson

The video

Mary Robinson, Angela Staab, and I were to run the 4x100m with a younger runner, Kathy Jacobs, who is 61.  This put us in the non Club W60 age group.  The relays are the last events of the Meet.  But when time came to check in, Kathy was not there. With no earlier race, she was in church in the choir!  We needed to check in an hour before the race. No Kathy.  (Angela, who really wanted to run this race, had not realized that Kathy would be in church!)  Fortunately, there were so many teams checking in that Kathy got there before they had finished processing them all.  We had about ten minutes before we had to run.  Our team ran with teams ranging from 30-years old to 50s.  Oh, yeah, we got in last.  But we were the only non club 60 AG. Fun!

Guardino, Jacobs, Staab, Robinson

 I watched the 90 year old men do their relays as I waited for the W40 Club relay team of Carolinas Track and Field with some of my idols.  The 4x100 was a beautiful race to watch.  Anne Sluder led off, Melanie Walker had the second 100m, near the spectator stands, then Kris Kazebee carried to the baton to the anchor, Toccata Murphy. Getting the baton a little late, Toccata Murphy brought it home for the win.  They subsequently ran the 4x400.  Fine ending to a fun meet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Louise, I enjoyed announcing you at Winston-Salem outdoor nationals, at various Southeastern Masters meets, and elsewhere.

I had no idea you were in such distress in the 400 at Winston-Salem nationals, but you persevered and won it.

You are a fine writer, Louise.

Peter Taylor
Masters announcer