Thursday, August 6, 2015

Awesome Hodges, Brutal Humidity: 2015 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships.

Hot, Humid, and Unpredictable  - JAX 2015

Last year was my first Outdoor Nationals (and this year my first Indoor Nationals).  Both were local (in-state) which was why I had decided to participate.  I had nothing to lose. I suspect that new participants, local to the venue, show up each year.  I was not sure I would venture out of state for another meet, but the fun bug had hit and so I put my dog in his luxury accommodations (cabin with windows, patio, and twice daily walks) and took the trip to Jacksonville.

Prior to leaving for the 2015 USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Jacksonville, Fl. July 23-26, I kept checking the weather forecast. It was pretty consistent: the percentage of rain during our running events went from 50 to 71% during the times of our races.  Angela Staab’s 800m on Thursday was the exception, with a prediction of 17%.  I was prepared for wet shoes.

But Thursday when I arrived at Univ. of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium to watch the 8 a.m. race, it was sunny.  I was worried that I would be late but got there before race start.  I watched the W70, (Barbara Hensley won in 4:31.51; Angela Staab got 3rd), W55 (Leslie Chaplin, winner in 2:35.43), W40 (Sonja Friend-Uhl won in 2:16.54), then the M65 race (Tim Wigger in 2:35.96.)  Towards the end of one of the men’s 800 races, M70?, a fellow, who was about 40m from the Finish, fell.  He was next to last in the race.  He got up and began trotting again, but fell once more just short of the Finish.   Meanwhile the last runner was almost upon him.  Folks urged the prone man to get across the line and he did, just in time.  That’s putting in the effort!  (On my way out later, I noticed another man in an ambulance, conscious and looking okayI  Perhaps feeling the heat.) I returned later with Becky Simers  (SoCal Striders) who wanted to check out the starting blocks that would be used.  It was still sunny.

 The track itself is beautiful.  The color is similar to UNC-CH but Becky thought that the lanes of the nine-lane Hodges track were wider.  I couldn’t tell.  It is described as a Mondo track SX.  The stadium itself is huge.  I have never been in such a huge venue. It seemed larger than Wake Forest’s stadium. 

  We took a look at the adjacent three-lane practice track.  Nice!  And convenient.  I did not get a chance to check the blocks out as we were shooed away at that point. That was okay since I had not really decided if I would take a chance using them.  I had only done so twice before during competition (the 100m at NC Powerade Games and 100m at Southeastern Masters.)  Not great for building confidence.    

The natural area surrounding UNF’s Eco Road fascinated me.  It was sort of an orderly, yet, not, mix of trees and green stuff; forbidding in the sense that walking through it might leave one bloody from scratches and cuts.  Turns out it is or may be a wetland area harboring wonderful plants, but snakes as well. Had I realized, I might have spent some time Thursday taking one of the walking paths adjacent to Eco and near the track.  It is a photographer’s delight.

My meals on Wednesday had been less than satisfying.  Quite the opposite.  Finding places to eat was not an easy task.  Better put, driving in the area near Salisbury Rd and the whole crazy 202 directional thing was stressful. It took until the last night to get it all straight in my head as to which was the correct exit etc for returning home from some eating place -- in the rain; at night.  And, while on this subject I have never seen such odd left turn lanes.  (I am used to orderly cross roads and highway entrances  such as in NYC or even Raleigh) While stopped at a light in the left turn lane, planning to get on 202 or similar roadway, I would look ahead and see dotted lines curving as if on a track.  But curving to where?  They appeared to curve right into the curb on the other side of the road.  I was lucky that the first time I encountered this, there was a car in front I could follow, discovering that, yes, there was an entrance, sort of diagonal from the stoplight.  This is the state to which old folks flock.  Jacksonville must be mostly populated by young, more mentally nimble, folk!

Back to the food issue.  Thursday, the 23rd, was hotel convenience fare in the morning, snacks (apple etc) during the day, with soup and salad at Maggiano’s with Becky and Barbara Hensley (SW Ohio TC) at night.  Friday morning two eggs, bacon, and toast (carb and protein loading) at Wafflehouse, race not until 3 p.m.  Soup and salad again at Mimi’s with Becky and Joyce Hodges-Hite (ATC) at night.  Saturday, with a 10:30 100m awaiting, coffee and cereal sufficed until evening with a very tasty, carb loading, penne Ryan dinner at Enza’s, with Becky’s SoCal Strider team.  Sunday morning we barely got in our coffee.


The Events

My 400m was scheduled for 3pm.  The forecast was still calling for rain, but when we arrived around noon or so, it was clear.  Neither Becky nor I had slept well.  Becky was disturbed by the TV in the adjacent room and I don’t sleep well normally.  The 400m race kept going through my mind and I kept throwing it out.  Nothing like running a race that never ends all night long.  We toured the USATF tent, surveying the wares.  About an hour before the 400m, I decided it was time to warm up.  This is always a slow process, one that starts off feeling already out of energy.  I did this and that, trying to remember all the various warm up exercises I had researched. I probably did three of them!  Back and forth I trotted, wondering if it was too much or too little.  I did maybe two “strides” – which to me is a partial sprint.  I was still putting on my shoes when the call came for the two oldest age groups to collect near the front of the check-in tent.  My memory is a bit foggy, but I think they combined three age groups, totaling four people, ahead of us.   Rose Green, the speedster, was paired with Hodges-Hite and an 80 and 87 year old. (Daprano having bypassed the Meet, saving her energy for the WMA meet in Lyons.)  87 year old Sumi Onodera-Leonard used starting blocks, then  trotted to the first curve. She began walking on the back stretch. The temperature at this point was close to 97, and the humidity was unbearable, though only 51%.  One could see she was struggling, understandably.  She picked up her pace on and off until getting to the final 100m.  When she came down the home stretch, folks cheered her on.  This made her start to trot again on and off.  I worried that she might over exert in response to the crowd.   But she made it!

  Then it was my turn.  I was in lane 5, Mary Robinson in six I think, Angela behind me in maybe 3.  I did not know the other competitors.

  At the start, I was still wondering if I would go out as planned or not.  Becky tells me I hesitated.  Slow brain reaction.  I got going, followed my plan to just short of the curve, then concentrated on breathing in synch with my left foot, not trying to go hard but probably going faster than I would under normal circumstances.  Who am I kidding?  Under normal circumstances, I would not choose to even do the 400m. It is not a pleasurable experience.

  I came up on Mary and passed somewhere on the back stretch.  Thoughts raced through my mind that this was not a good idea, maybe I was going too fast and would soon run out of steam.  Nonetheless, I tried to keep whatever pace I had.  At the turn to the final 100m, I felt Mary on my right shoulder. I could have sworn I heard her breathing, or her feet.  I did not know where any one else was, but I knew for sure Mary was closing.  My only objective now was to get to the Finish without going into extreme oxygen deprivation.  I could not go any faster than I was going, despite Mary being right there.  When I crossed the Finish, I wasn’t staggering as I did last year, but I could not catch my breath. 

I got to a side fence and tried to pull in as much oxygen as I could.  Nope.  So I walked a little, ending up by the fence alongside the Medical tent. (Not looking for them.)  Some waiting runners thought I was in distress.  No; just slow to get breathing under control.  Once that was done, I could grab water.  Most runners, after crossing the Finish, still have enough left to be courteous and congratulate the other runners.  I wish that was me. (A long time ago, I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma and prescribed Albuterol.  It made a difference in my road races, but I stopped using it in 2007. I was glad I had when I saw all the hassle surrounding its use in track.)  So I sometimes wheeze, always gasp, and on occasion go into coughing fits (which I used to attribute to track dust.)    

I was one relieved person after the 400 was done.  The rest of the events would be fun, regardless of how they turned out.  Did I say I groused about the 400m before and then again after?  There is something about doing anything longer than 200m on a track that is worse than doing the same distance on a road.  I think it is because on the road, I don’t try to go any faster than comfortable.  On the track, one is almost forced to go too fast for comfort. Okay – you true track folk would say that what else is the purpose of being on a track than to go fast?

The next day, both Becky and I had the 100m to look forward to.  This time, our sleep had been disturbed by the lady in the adjoining room getting an early call from her mother.  Family dynamics took hold and she began shouting (before 6 a.m.) I could repeat the entire conversation from her end and what I deduced from it, but I won’t.   So not only was Becky tired, but she had a swollen knee that was giving her trouble.  We grabbed coffee (Becky two cups) and got to the track. Once at the track, I went into my warm up, jogging back and forth, trying lunges, my dunking duck dips and whatever I could think of.  I did try a few sprints but not all out and not too far.  I had not yet decided about using blocks.  I made sure that this time I had my shoes on before we were called to queue up.

Infield Fox
 One curious item in the warm up infield, which had intrigued me the day before, was a replica of a fox, with a ribbon around its neck.  I did not have my Canon with me while warming up, so Becky took a phone photo for me.  The fox added a nice touch.  Warm but not fuzzy!  (UNF’s mascot is an Osprey, not a fox.)  Turns out that it was out there purportedly to keep geese away!

I had noticed that Kathy Bergen arrived in the warm up area about a half hour before the race.  I did not watch her but when I commented that that was not much time for a warm up, the response was that she usually just walks!  Well, gee!  World record holder speed demon and she hardly warms up!  Or, does she secretly hide out somewhere, doing magical warm up routines and stretches, getting a massage and chiropractic treatment, before appearing  in public cool and ready?  Yeah, I bet that’s it!

While we waited under the shade of a tent behind the 100m start line, we watched the older runners.   An official asked those preparing to run, who would be using blocks.  Well, Onodera-Leonard had used blocks in the 400m (the only one of us in the senior generations to do so, I think.)  She started to move forward, but another, younger, lady took charge, thinking that she was confused, and that, surely, she did not intend to use blocks.  After a bit, the issue was solved and Onodera-Leonard had her blocks. In fact, when I saw her use blocks during the Indoor Meet, I too was shocked. That’s when I decided I should  again try to learn how to use them.  I can’t say who won that heat but I can say who won the, much anticipated by me, race between Rose Green and Kathy Bergen. Kathy won in 15.70.  She had already broken the world record in an earlier California event with a time of 15.31.  The wind for most of the events here was higher than the legal  limit of 2m/sec applied to the 100m and 200m related events.  Some of the younger runners who had great times had to contend with the disappointment of not getting a legal record.

Magnificent 70s -- the crone; Angela Staab, Mary Robinson, Ann Carter

I had decided not to use starting blocks.  In a 100m, there is not enough recovery time, or distance, after a screw-up.   Alta Rose and Mary Robinson were to my right. I got into my 3-point stance on the SET command, forgot to inhale, and then boom!  Off we went. Wow, Alta and Mary took off.   After the first 10 meters or so, I could not keep up with them. The announcer had said it seemed to be a three person race.  I thought, nope, two person, as I watched the other two scream down the track and I struggled to catch them.  No way!  I have in my mind the image of the two of them quite a bit ahead of me. They were across the line with me maybe 10 steps behind. Mary Robinson won it.  When I saw the video, I was impressed by  Mary’s surge to take that race.  She was determined. 
Mary Robinson won this. Alta Rose still charging forward.

 Now that was a race I enjoyed, though I straggled behind.  I ran as fast as I could, didn’t get rubber or log legs, and did not get serious oxygen deprivation.  I watched the subsequent 100m races with Jane Barnes (W60), who won hers, and the next group with Amanda Scotti and Becky Simers (W55), who, in matching knee wraps, could have been twins.  Neither was feeling 100%.  When they came down the track it was hard to tell who was leading until the end.  Amanda came in second and Becky third. (Daphny Sluys, unattached, won it in 13.97.) 

Sunday morning arrived without an evening disturbance.  Well, there was a party going on on a lower floor. Tolerable. Our 200m race was early in the day.  It was a little cloudy which was good.  This time, I cut down on my warm up.  I did not really feel energetic.  Why waste what little I had on excessive warm ups.  But I did practice a simulated starting block start, three or four times. I was in my spikes before they called us to queue up.  Again, I watched the match up of Rose Green and Kathy Bergen. Kathy led all the way.  It came time for our group to line up. There were eight of us, including Angela Staab who never runs a 200m but was doing so at the request of her daughter, who was in attendance. ( I think Jane Simpson was out there in lane 9, Ann Carter in 8, Mary Robinson in 7, me in 6, Alta to my right was in 5, JoAnn Sampson in 4, Angela in 3 then Barbara Hensley in 2.) When they asked who was going to use starting blocks, I decided I had nothing to lose.  Alta and Mary had whooped me substantially in the 100m.  I expected the same in the 200m.  All I would be risking was a potential chance at 3rd. I figured this would be my last chance to use blocks in a National event, and why not. 

I don’t think I thought about all the things I should be doing when the gun went off, I was so concerned with getting out of the blocks without face planting.  Mary was way ahead of me.  As we approached the turn, I think I came up on the others to my right except for Mary, but Alta went blasting by on my left. She was moving!  As we rounded the bend, it was Mary and Alta again.  Once again, I heard it was a three person race. I was lagging, thinking again, that, no, it was a two person race.  With about 50m to go, I began running as fast as I could.  Maybe my legs would lock up, maybe not.  I got up to Alta with not much track left and sensed her fading.  When I got to Mary it was as close to the Finish line as one could get.  We crossed together and I was as surprised as everyone else when I heard my name mentioned.  Another squeaker between Mary and me. (and was that Peter Taylor announcing?)

Right after the 200m, we all had to rush over to the Javelin area, which was scheduled concurrent with the 200m.  Angela had checked with them before the 200m and said we would be okay.  Well, not quite.  We did get to throw some, due to the courtesy of the other throwers and officials and then four of us had to rush off to do the 4x100 non club relay.(Mary Robinson won the AG  javelin with a 16.35m throw.)  Mary Robinson was our lead off (superb job). She handed off to Angela who ran her 100m well and handed off to Barbara Hensley who passed to me . I ran the last 100m, not feeling too swift.

I walked back to get my gear (I’d had no time to change into spikes before the relay but had dropped my stuff by the back fence.) While in the warm up area, I saw some of the SoCal Strider’s 55-59 relay group through the clutter of folks in the check in area. I was able to see anchor Jane Barnes fly down the track.  They ran it fast enough to break the Club record: 58.53.
Amanda Scotti, Karen Maxwell, Becky Simers, Jane Barnes

One of the most exciting events I watched on Sunday was the W60-W69 300m hurdles.  I was interested in this one because Betty Schaeffer (66), SoCal Striders, had decided to compete, though she had only done hurdles once before.  Boom!  Right off the bat she ran into the first hurdle, knocking it over.  I cringed but then, delightedly, watched her pick the hurdle back up, go back around it and start again, hurdling it and proceeding on down the track, hurdling all the rest of the hurdles effortlessly. Such spirit and gumption!  Her reward? She won the event in 1:15.81. That’s the joy of Masters!

The videos

(if you click the red diagonal arrow on lower right, you get full screen)




Betty Schaeffer's 300m hurdles (whtish hair, inner lane, red top, dark shorts)


Anonymous said...

Wonderful account, Louise, and I will read it again several times. Yes, I announced all of your races, and yes, I went for the "three-person" comment. Not mentioned by you is that I called you a great strategist, or some such, when you cleverly won the 200 after appearing to be a non-winner even 15 meters from the finish.

I had a poor meet overall, but what can I say? I announced about 55% of the races, while Tony Dunning announced about 45%. As you know, I was originally scheduled to announce none of the meet, but certain forces combined to get me a partial role. The heat was tough, we were too high up to see well, etc. I was probably higher up than at any other meet I've announced.

The meet director from next year's nationals (which will be just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan) attended this meet and signed me up for his championships. Thus, I want you to be there. From Cary it's about a 15-hour drive, I think, and thus you should fly. I can get a nonstop from Wash. Dulles to Grand Rapids, but I think I will drive.

Did I tell you that for Jacksonville I drove from Fairfax, VA, rather than fly? On the first day I drove to Savannah, and then on the second day I made the short drive to Jacksonville.

Peter Taylor

One of your biggest fans in North America

Louise G said...

Oh my gosh, Peter It blew my mind because I kept thinking that the announcer sounded like you AND, the intro to the 400m was a Peter Taylor type intro!

That was no strategy on my part as regards the 200m. It was pure luck that I was able to dredge up some energy at the end. Not planned at all. Had I planned, I would have run a different race .. and probably lost! At the end, I was making so much noise breathing that, beyond my name, I could not hear what was said.

So -- you were up in the tower. Of course. I had forgotten that in Winston, you were also up high. I was used to SEM where you are on the field.

After dropping my dog off in Pittsboro (Chatham county NC) it took us 7 hours or so to get to JAX with various stops to eat etc. IF I go to MI, I would probably fly since driving would mean leaving the dog for a longer time. (Twice, now, I've found that he has gnawed at himself during his separations.)

I am glad that you will continue to announce. You add pizzazz to the events.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was pretty funny, Louise. I can imagine your consternation -- Peter Taylor is not here, but that sure sounds like Peter Taylor. Am I demented? Note that I supplied the other announcer with some useful facts that only I could have known for the races he handled, but I did announce all of your events.

At the Penn Relays in April I worked, as per my usual, with the announcers. One of the competitors, who just happens to be the most beautiful of all the women currently competing in American masters T & F, insisted on getting a photo of the two of us. I later asked her by e-mail to send me a digital copy, and she responded in 4 minutes, adding her congratulations on my doing a great job at Penn.

I told the announcer that she was making a big move in the 4 x 400 (which she was), and that must have helped convince her that I was announcing (which I wasn't). I printed out the photo but had to throw it away, as standing next to her made me look terrible. But the main point is that sometimes it's hard to tell who's announcing when you're at a big stadium.

I hope you will make the Grand Rapids meet, but I hope to see you before then in Feb. at the regional indoors in Winston-Salem.

Peter Taylor

Thank you for your nice comment about my announcing.

Anonymous said...

And if you'll e-mail me at I'll send you the photo that I had to put in the trash.