Saturday, February 27, 2016

Converting road runners to track -- well, maybe!

Anne Sluder speeding over hurdle

SouthEast Region Masters Indoor Championships were coming up at JDL Fast Track on February 21, 2016.  Back in September, I sensed a spark of interest in track from some of my NCRC road running colleagues after they attended the NC Senior Games.  However, all are distance oriented road runners, a few already living on the dark side, in the ultra marathon world. 

Nonetheless, I talked track to them.  The object being next year’s NC Senior Games.   I knew better than to work on the dark siders.  After all, someone who runs, trots, staggers, through 100 miles is loaded with slow twitch oriented muscles.  Their fast twitch muscles have probably atrophied!  You nurture what you need for your favored events.  Two of the marathon runners, however, were considering maybe trying track – but only if it did not interfere with their marathon goals.

So, much to my surprise, a week or two before the JDL event, three of the road runners decided to try it, just to get the experience.  One is not only a marathoner but also a tri-athlete and has, ugh, ventured into the dark lands of ultra.  Two are in the process of training for and hoping to qualify for Boston, so this would just be an excursion for them.  Two of the three are graduates of The Scream and other exotic  events.

I will call these road runners Pandora and Clarise. (to preserve them from harm by my wit - they are road runners, after all, with stellar creds!) 

The Friday before the event, Pandora and I went to NCSU track so she could try out her new track shoes  on a suitable track and I went to experiment with starting blocks (again!)  I was changing my stance from left block forward to right block forward, now that my right knee seemed a little better.  However, I found that in order to push off with the right foot, I would have to hold it adjacent to the block until the SET command, at which point I could raise up to the start position, reducing the acute angle my knee takes when the foot goes against the block.  While I was fooling with this, Pandora was trotting the track in her shoes, getting a feel for the spikes and making sure they would not hurt.  We did not run much or hard, since she had an eight mile training run the next day and I still ached from the prior day’s Camp Gladiator session. 

Saturday evening, one of the threesome decided to abandon the track expedition, suffering from “lead” legs after her long marathon training session earlier.  Pandora wasn’t feeling tip top either but was raring to go. 

 Clarise was scheduled to run the 60m, 200m, and the 3000m.  Pandora was signed up for the 200m, 400m, and the mile.  I was doing the 60m, 400m and 200m, in that order. We got there in plenty of time to settle in and warm up.  The 60m event was the first event any of us would be running.  Clarise looked real snazzy in her compression shorts and colorful over shorts. We both had on neon green tops, hers a Nog Run Club shirt and mine the Piedmont Pacer singlet.  Because not as many folks were here (sidelined by injury), JDL dispensed with the declaration sheets and had us check in just prior to each event.   My Piedmont Pacer teammate, Angela Staab, and I remarked at how amazing the memories of the folks at the check in desk are.  They remember us before we can get our names out! (In my case, perhaps because I am one of the few ancients who sometimes runs in the All Comers Meet in November.) 

We were queued in race session order.  For the 60m there were three sessions.  Usually, the aged precede the younger in these events.  Not this time.  I figured Clarise would be nervous, this being her first track event as a Master (maybe since high school?) She would be running with three competitors who were in the next lower AG.  While waiting, I saw Pandora come over and talk to Clarise as the officials were lining up her heat. I’m edgy, thinking she would not get in position in time.  Oy!  But she did and off they went.  About ¾ of the way down the track, (about 9 seconds into it), I see Clarise raise her hand and wave to the stands, as if running by pals watching a road race! I was flabbergasted, thinking of the seconds lost! Then I started to laugh (and am still doing so at the memory.) Turns out, she did this because Pandora had told her another ultra runner who had come to cheer us on was going to try to get a photo of her running.  Nonetheless, Clarise ran a respectable time. 

I was the only one in my AG in my three events, so when I ran my 60m, I ran with four others, representing two lower AGs.  I just barely escaped being last.

In the 400m, there were three of us in my heat: the oldest folk. And, as I slogged around the backstretch the first time, Peter Taylor, master track announcer, announces that I am “.. At 75, the oldest woman in the race!” (ha ha! Thank you, Peter, my pal!)  Watch out! Ancient on the track! The 400m is not fun.  Chug chug, I run like an old lady: short steps, arms paddling.  Not a pretty sight.  At least this time, after passing the cones about 120m into the 400, I cut over to lane one without worrying about cutting another runner off. (Unlike last year’s Indoor Nationals, where I did not cut in and continued in lane two for another 200m or so! Duh!)  Despite running in lane one this time, I was way slower than last year.  Better than the November All Comers time, but still falling short of where I need to be. (Actually, where I need to be is on the sidelines.)  I watched as Atlanta Track Club’s Lesley Chaplin (National Champ in the 800m and 1500m, as well #2 in the World in the 800m) ran the 400m with one other runner. Peter Taylor announced Lesley’s accomplishments as she zoomed around (a 57 year old setting records!). The expression of joy on her face when she saw her 1:09.89 time on the screen was a photo moment.

  Pandora ran next, with a group of seasoned runners, including Carolinas Track and Field’s Lane Wilton.  Lane, as well as her slightly younger Carolinas Track & Field teammates Toccata Murphy and Melanie Walker, of relay record fame, is speedy.  I did not forewarn Pandora of this.  No reason to encourage a negative mindset.   When she was making her last turn on the back stretch I yelled “Push it!”  Though it was quick, I perceived a slow turning of the head and evil glance come my way. 

Next up was the 200m, which all three of us were running.  In this case, I ran in the first group and screwed up badly at the start.  There were no starting blocks on the track in my lane, so I reverted back to my three-point start.   I had my right foot forward and left back. At the SET, my left arm went back and up  – and boom! I was off balance. I was in recovery mode when the gun went off.  It wasn’t until I viewed the video (and a video from another event in which I’d used the 3-point start without problem,) that I saw what had gone wrong. Wrong arm back and up! And so it goes.  One never knows when a start will go bad, a foot might trip over the other, or for those running longer events in a mass, another runner clipping one’s foot.

Though running against more experienced and trained competitors, who whizzed right by, my road running  pals did well in their races, both beating my time. (On slow twitch trained muscles!)

Panera was there for those who could eat between events. (Unfortunately, when I was ready to eat after my last event, they had already packed up!)  I munched on trail mix and a few energy bars. 

Pandora ran the mile with a full range of ages. 
Women's Mile start line
Eight times around the track.  We yelled as she passed by the stands, around and around.  One of her competitors was a 31 year old who finished in just over five minutes. Pandora made great time, exceeding her goal and coming in under eight minutes, at 7:35.

We watched the renowned 66-year-old So Cal Track Club’s Nolan Shaheed, here with his offspring, run the mile in 5:43.84, along with Piedmont Pacer Carl Dixon Cook in 6:06.53. 
Nolan Shaheed in Mile race

Dixon Cook in Mile race
Earlier, I caught a glimpse of another track notable, 68-year old Charles Allie run the 400m in 1:00.77.  Tall, with a long stride, he was a streak in black on the back stretch, heading for home.

 Our last single event was Clarise's 3000m. Fifteen times around the track. Ugh.  All the women running the 3000m ran as one large group, mixed ages.  We watched as after the first circuit or so, Clarise moved up to pass the last runner.  The women continued around the track and as the remaining laps got fewer, the pace slackened.  At the end, Clarise beat the other woman in her AG.  But coming off the track she was dizzy -- all those round and rounds!

The road runners did great in their track outing and did not let running with or against the “pros” intimidate.  This is good.  They will return to track one day, maybe as a break from all that distance training.


Anonymous said...

testing comment capability.

Paula Oneal said...

Great story with interesting cast of characters. My favorite part was where you were "flabbergasted" with the wave. I am glad Pandora's ball cap did not traumatize you. It was fun to be there and I think you hooked at least one of them.

Paula Oneal said...

Great story with interesting cast of characters. My favorite part was where you were "flabbergasted" with the wave. I am glad Pandora's ball cap did not traumatize you. It was fun to be there and I think you hooked at least one of them.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting story, Louise. I was glad to be mentioned twice, by the way.

One minor correction: Charles Allie, of Pittsburgh, is not tall. In fact, he's about 5-8, I would guess. He seems tall because he "runs tall" (has a big stride for his height).

Peter L. Taylor*

* Still on the list of your eight favorite announcers in track and field.